Monday, August 31, 2009

'Tis the Season - for Submittals

I had good intentions of blogging over the weekend. The wife is away, I've kept the house neat, and had no major yard work to do. But a summer cold hit, and I found myself with no gumption to write much of anything. By Sunday evening I felt much better (thought my scratchy voice belied that), and I finished a difficult article at and came close to finishing a second. Today I'm much better, at work, and have energy for writing.

At the Absolute Write forums I responded to a post titled "when you fell in love with poetry...". I explained my hatred for poetry for many years, brought on by a series of English teachers who insisted on interpretation of poems I didn't see--but I don't really want to get into that today. I got over my hatred of poetry, rather late in life I'm afraid, but not too late to embrace it for appreciation and try it for a writing outlet. As I wrote that post at AW, and as I thought about when it was I began enjoying and then writing poetry, it suddenly dawned on me that it was August 31, 2001 that I began writing my first serious adult poem. Eight years ago today. I remember it well, sitting out in the grassy area near the pines on the north side of our former house. But I prate.

The other important thing about this date is actually tomorrow, September 1. That is the day that many, many literary magazines open up again to submissions. Most of these are associated with universities and colleges, and close down during summer. September through May submission periods are quite common. Last spring I sent out six submissions for my short story, "Mom's Letter". I think I missed the submission window by a couple of days on one of them. Heard back on three or four--rejections.

With the new submissions season, I need to decide what to do about the short story and about submitting some poems. I didn't submit any poems anywhere in 2008. I think I need to make some submissions this year. So over the next couple of weeks I'll be reviewing my inventory, seeing which ones seem most promising to me. Then I'll have to get back to work researching markets and see which ones look most promising to me. Then I'll have to marry the two.

This isn't the type of work I enjoy about writing, but it's necessary, so I will do it. Now, back to engineering for a couple of hours.

Friday, August 28, 2009


That's how many page views my articles at have had: 3,329. As I mentioned a few days ago, someone is reading my stuff there. I've written a variety of articles. I have forty articles posted: 10 in Civil Engineering; 10 in two poetry topics; 13 in three history topics; 4 in Bible studies; 2 in personal finance topics; and 1 in genealogy. I have two articles partly done in draft that I hope to finish and post today, and about six in mind to write next. I hope to do two or three of them over the weekend.

On the revenue side of content writing, things are still slow, but beginning to pick up a little. I keep a spreadsheet of some basic statistics. Each day I enter how many page views I had and how much revenue I earned. The spreadsheet calculates a few things, including a projection of how many daily page views I'll have a year from now if the current growth continues, and how much revenue I'll be earning a year from now, again with the same trends. I also calculate annual revenue projection at the current rate of earnings. With recent averages for page views and revenue per 1000 page views, I could be earning, a year from now, at an annual rate of $2,242 dollars! That includes posting more articles at a good pace, and making those articles a combination of good information excellently written with search engine optimization techniques added.

I wouldn't exactly call that a "platform" as editors and literary agents would want, but it's a start. Some thoughts on how to go about this platform-building thing over two to three years is beginning to gel. I may write more about it, or maybe not.

And, it now looks as if I will get a paycheck from this month. You need to accumulate $10 in revenue before they pay you. As of August 26 (last day posted) I had accumulated $9.47. So I only need to accumulate 53 cents in five days. That's not for sure, but it is likely. I wonder what I'll do with the money?

I still don't know whether all this effort is worth it. At the current rate I'm earning revenue, I'll earn $124 in a year--with no more articles posted. All my articles are what they call "evergreen", that is, they are not tied to current events, and should continue to earn at the same rate theoretically forever. Actually, all the veterans say articles tend to earn at a somewhat larger rate over time. I'll believe that when I see it, but it's something to hope for. And hope makes many things worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back in the Writers Group?

I went to the writers guild tonight. I went last Tuesday, but nobody showed up. Since I'm not a regular, they wouldn't have thought to call me when they decided to cancel for a week. I was the first one there, and waited ten minutes, till about 7:05 PM until someone showed up. Three retired ladies who rode together came in, then one more. We started out by reading one of theirs, then had just started on another when another lady came in. That made six of us, a good number.

This is the writers guild I went to for about five years when we first moved to Bella Vista. Most of the time I was the only person in the group who wasn't retired, though from time to time another working stiff wandered in. I left the group because no one besides me was writing with the goal of seeking publication through a royalty publisher. I say that not to demean their writing goals, but rather to say we were not like-minded and so approached things differently. At the Spavinaw Writers, which I attended for about six months until dropping it earlier this year, they were all seeking royalty publishing, but we were not like-minded in other ways (politically, that is).

I suppose finding a writers group close enough to attend regularly where everyone is reasonably like-minded will be next to impossible. So I think I will go back to this one. Part of the night we discussed promoting the group, including what to call it and how large we would want to get. I'm not sure we were all like-minded in that. Four of us read something. I read the latest article I'd written for, the third in the series on George Washington's presidency. You can see the link in the box widget at the right hand side of the page. One lady read four pages from her latest novel-in-progress. Another read a short poem and then a brief selection from her journal; she doesn't intend to publish either. Then a lady read from her novel, but she didn't have copies for anyone.

It was good to be with this group again. Three of the others were attenders before I left the group; two were new to me (well, one was there when I attended a month ago). It was nice to be in fellowship with other writers again, in real life and not merely on-line.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Someone is reading my stuff

As I feared, my work writing articles for has consumed most of my creative writing time. It's even consumed most of my pleasure reading time. It's even consumed my recreational time. Last weekend, for example, Lynda and I made a quick visit to Hobbs State Park in eastern Benton County. We went through the newly opened Visitors Center and walked the Van Winkle Hollow historical trail (just a half mile). After we got home, I realized I could write two articles on our visit for Suite 101, which would allow me to count the mileage as a tax deduction. Of course, I didn't think to bring our camera to obtain pictures to illustrate the article.

As another example, take the book I reviewed recently on this blog, The Presidency of George Washington. As I was reading it--which I intended strictly for pleasure, ideas for five articles on the history of this period came to mind and found their way to a sheet of paper that served as an idea capture medium. I've written and posted two of those articles at Suite. The other three are rolling around in my mind, waiting for their chance to get out.

Or, take the Harmony of the Gospels I recently finished. I've pulled two articles out of that, and could easily pull out a hundred or two.

All of which makes me wonder: Will I ever be normal again, doing things just for enjoyment and not to serve as freelance fodder? Will I ever get back to that point in the yellow wood, where the two roads diverged, and get back to the type of writing I want to do, rather than writing I'm doing for platform building and a little bit of money?

I've only been down this path for two months. I've written 38 articles at Suite, probably about 27,000 words. I haven't yet earned $10, the threshold at which they pay-out your earnings, though I'm getting closer. I don't know that I'll reach the threshold before the end of the month cut-off, so my first Suite paycheck might not be until October.

But in the process, my articles at Suite have had 2,630 page views during that time. For the seven day period ending today, for the first time I will cross the 500 mark for page views in the period. I don't think that counts mine, which the software strips out. I don't have many page views from family, because none of them check it much if at all. So this for the most part represents page views resulting from search engine searches. People searching for "FEMA flood maps", and my article URL ranks high in Google, and I get a read. Or any of the 37 other articles. That compares to about 545 page views on this blog, which includes my own page views. So at least at Suite I'm getting some readers. Maybe not followers, but at least readers.

I'll continue writing at a good pace at Suite 101 for a while yet, for sure till I reach 50 articles, and maybe till I get to 100, then I'll evaluate whether the time has been well spent, and whether I should continue at a good pace, possibly try to accelerate, or back off some. I can still see the fork in the road, over my shoulder, whereas I don't see the roads converging up ahead. Not yet at least.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Addiction

Last night we moved books. First we took them out of the bookcases. Then we moved the bookcases. Then we moved other bookcases into the spots where the first bookcases were. Then we put the books back on the shelves.

Well, the whole process is not yet done. We did get all the bookcases in their new places. One short one was replaced with a tall one next to another tall one, except those two didn't match, and one of them (the one already in place) matched two or three on the other side of the room, and another bookcase in a semi-used state in a spare bedroom matched the tall one replacing the short one. Are you with me so far?

First, the short one went on a wall where there was no bookcase, under the high school graduation pictures of the kids. The same books went back in that one in the new location. Then I took the encyclopedias off their shelf and set that bookshelf to the side, for two other shelves had to be moved four inches first to increase some space for the encyclopedias. The tall one being moved to its two (or three) matching brothers, where the encyclopedias had been, went next, but those books were not necessarily going back on to it, so they had to stay in piles for a while. That all happened Monday evening, along with vacuuming vacated places and spraying for bugs.

Then yesterday evening I moved the unused one from the garage to where the short one had been, went to writers guild, came back from writers guild when no one else showed, moved (with Lynda's help) the other matching tall one. We then unloaded two other tall ones and moved them four inches. Except that proved to be a little too much and so we moved them back one inch. Then the encyclopedia case went in its new home, right by the door into the Dungeon (as we fondly call our walk-out basement where all this was taking place).

Then the slow process of moving books began in earnest. Christian fiction, alphabetical by other first, then Biblical fiction also alpha by author, then secular fiction alpha by author and collating two groups, then non-fiction (Christian and secular mixed), except how to organize the non-fiction? Alpha by author wouldn't work. It has to be topical. I worked on that some, until it was after 10:00 PM and time to wind down for the evening. The few remaining piles on the floor, and whatever the final look of the non-fiction will be, can wait for tomorrow.

All of which says: I have an addiction to books. It's very difficult to pass any up at a sale. At least, to pass up any I'm truly interested in. The list of books I blogged about a couple of days ago had all come from used book sales over a month's time. That's too many books to be adding to an already over-stuffed collection. So as of now I am swearing off used book stores, thrift stores, garage sales, and even new book stores. The library? I'll still go there, but only at times when that little used book store in the entryway is closed.

Now I have to read them, all 4,000 of them (my best estimate). It might take a while, especially with finding a couple of articles in every book. More on that tomorrow--if I'm not too busy shelving books.

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Book Accumulations

I almost wrote book "acquisitions" in the title, but that would be misleading. The term acquisition regarding books in the publishing industry normally refers to a publisher acquiring a new book from an author, i.e. making an offer for publishing a book and having that author accepted.

Nothing like that going on in this writers life. But I continue to accumulate books to go on already filled bookshelves in our house. I quite buying used books for a while, or bought them at a very slow pace. For a while I didn't even go to places where used books were being sold, as my powers of resistance are fairly low were book buying is concerned.

Over the last month I picked up the following books.

  • The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1
  • A Manual For Writers
  • Jews, God, and History
  • Handbook of the Pentateuch
  • The Adams Chronicles
  • the search for JFK
  • War Letters (from American wars)
  • Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain
  • Mart Twain: Letters From The Earth
  • Foxe's Book of Martyrs
  • Great Voices of the Reformation
  • Assumed Identity, by David Morrell
  • The Haldeman Diaries
I'm not quite sure yet how I will work these into my reading pile. I'm not quite half-way through the reading pile I established last August, and will probably go a book or two into the second half before I make any changes. I bought the two Mark Twain books because I enjoyed his Letters from Hawaii so much, and in truth I've read little by Twain except his major books for children (Tom, and Huck). I have enjoyed the two David Morrell novels I've read, so couldn't resist buying a third.

A Manual For Writers is more of a reference book, sort of a poor man's Chicago Manual of Style. I've already used it for reference a couple of times. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha book is probably nothing more than an academic affectation for me. I read about 25 pages in it over the weekend and found it enjoyable, but I'm not sure I got much out of it. I'm not going to read any more at this time. Well, maybe I'll just finish the introductory material of 1 Enoch. But then I'd have to read at least five or ten chapters of 1 Enoch. But I can't do that and write articles for and track freelance queries and research and send out more and start reading Steinbeck.

What's a writer to do?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book Review - The Presidency of George Washington

This was not in my reading pile. However, after I finished Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels, I wasn't quite ready to tackle the next book in the pile, which is Steinbeck's East of Eden. But I had in the pile of books on the end table between Lynda's and my reading chairs a thin volume she picked up somewhere, The Presidency of George Washington, by Jack D. Warren, Jr.; The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, 2000, ISBN 0-931917-34-4. Warren is one of the major modern editors of George Washington's papers, which will run to twenty or so volumes when done. Actually, since that was written in 2000, that editing might be done by now, I'll have to check.

This book is a cross between scholarly and popular. Warren's work is almost all from original sources, both Washington's outgoing correspondence, and some incoming. Official state papers were another source, as were newspapers and pamphlets from the period.

I suppose I haven't read much about George Washington's presidency. I remember reading a book about the first Congress, which would have touched on it, but that was long ago. Washington's main task was to start the new nation off on a sound footing and hold it together. Fears of it splintering into multiple nations was real. The government under the Articles of Confederation was a disaster. Already sectionalism and partisanship were beginning, as the agrarian South and the commercial North distrusted each other, and the growing West distrusted them both. The national debt was sky high as a result of the revolutionary war. Some of the problems he had to face were:
  • Establishing precedents for almost everything, and to do so in a way that befitted a representative republic, to downplay fears that the American experiment would fail and a monarchy would be the result, also in a way that made the nation respectable to the European monarchies.
  • Establish sound government financial policies.
  • Provide governance for the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains.
  • Avoid being drawn in to the European war that started as a result of the French Revolution, which happened just a few months after he took office.
  • Sooth over the conflict between his two most important cabinet members, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.
  • Establish the national capitol somewhere.
  • Give his citizens reason for hope that they could truly govern themselves.
I think we tend to forget that the government established by our founding fathers in the Constitution, after trial and error, was a huge experiment. At that time no such government existed. The British parliamentary monarchy was much different government. Perhaps Washington's biggest task was simply to prove that the experimental government would not collapse. That it didn't collapse is shown, in Warren's words, to have been much the result of Washington's leadership in those crucial first eight years.

The book is only ninety-six pages of text, with four pages of end notes, two of suggested reading, and a decent index. The book reads longer than its pages, however. The margins are somewhat small, and few illustrations are used. The scholarly language does not lend itself to a long session of reading. I was able to get through a chapter a night, or at times only half a chapter--if I waited until too late in the evening when my brain couldn't handle it.

This one is a keeper. I'm not sure whether I will ever read it again, but it is a good reference book, and perhaps I could pull some articles from it, or use the footnotes and sources as springboards for additional research. If you run across it, get it and read it. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

An Anniversary Missed

I've neglected this blog this week. The busyness of life has crept up on me. Been writing, just not here. At home I had some family financial things to worry about. At work it was the usual crush of people wanting me to do their work for them, and me trying to train them how to do it. Yesterday I was concerned with an ethical lapse by one of our younger engineers, and trying to decide what to do about it. And I taught a noon hour brown bag class yesterday.

July 9 was the 30th anniversary of my being a licensed professional engineer. I remembered in May that this was coming up, and planned to do something special for it, maybe Lynda and her mom and me going out for a nice meal somewhere. But the day came and went with me not remembering it.

I took the exam in Topeka, Kansas in April 1979. That was six months later than I could have first taken it, but at the earlier time I was taking two evening courses to try to complete my masters degree, so I put off the exam. I left the exam feeling pretty good about it. A month later I received a letter from the Kansas licensing board--the afternoon portion of the exam was lost and I would have to re-take it. So it would be back to Topeka.

I debated whether to study again. I think I did some, but not a whole lot. Charles was an infant at the time, so he was taking some attention. I wondered if they would have the exact same exam, or have a new one. After all, if the same exam you would mostly remember the problems you worked and could over-study in that area. I didn't particularly want to gamble on that, so whatever studying I did for this second exam, I distributed among all the problem types I would want to answer.

The day of the exam, the board secretary explain how some Kansas exams were found in the South Carolina post office of the town where they are graded. About 60 percent of the afternoon exams were lost, 20 percent of the morning, and 4 poor schmucks had both parts lost. The fault was with the PO, for she had packaged them well. She passed out the exams for re-taking, and they were the same as the first time! So I was able to go straight to the problems I picked and did before, whipped through them, and was out in an hour instead of four. On July 9, 1979 the letter I was really wanting came, declaring a passing grade and that I was a P.E. as of that date.

The 40th anniversary will come in 2014. I should still be working as an engineer then, at least based on how my writing career is not taking off. Maybe I can talk the company to throw a small party in my honor on that day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Debate Almost Over: Probably No to

I didn't get much time during the weeked to consider my inner debate from last week about whether to apply to to be the Christianity Examiner for Northwest Arkansas. The time wasn't there. I don't much remember what I did Friday evening, but I wasn't on the computer much. I think I was close to brain dead after an intensive week at work, and just read for the evening. On Saturday I did the usual yard work in the morning, got tuckered out doing it, and did things in the house at diminished capacity. With Lynda laid up with a cold (or possibly flue), I was chief cook and bottle-washer for a few days. I worked on my latest article, but didn't post it. I also prepared to teach life group on Sunday.

Sunday morning, of course, was tied up with church and life group. Sunday afternoon I rested some, then tweaked and posted my article at Suite. I spent some time trying to figure out Facebook, but gave that up as a young person's game. I read, searching for my next article to post at Suite, but did not find it. I think my brain needed its Sabbath rest yesterday, and so I did little to enhance my writing career.

The evening included watching Shooter on A&E. This must have been in theatres some years ago, but I never heard of it before. I multi-tasked as I watched, having a new idea for a freelance article for a print genealogy magazine. Okay, it wasn't actually a new idea, but this is the first time I put it on paper. I didn't finish it (multi-tasking doesn't work well for me when the television is one of the tasks), but at least I got started.

All of which lead me to conclude by 12:30 AM Sunday (actually Monday) when I went to bed that there's no way I could adequately do what I'd want to with Examiner. Everything I've investigated tells me it would be an excellent platform-building pursuit, but I've neither sufficient hours in the day or brain power to do that at present.

I'll futz around with this debate a couple of days longer, but almost certainly I won't be adding Examiner to my too-full schedule. I'll revisit that decision every couple of months as I see where my writing career is heading, but probably it will be no for a while.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What One Thing is Strongest of All?

Today I started teaching a new study in our Life Group, a five week series titled "What One Thing is Strongest of All?" I haven't spoken about it before on this blog, mainly because I was involved in posting other things. This is a different study in that it comes from the Apocrypha, not from the Bible.

About a year ago (or maybe it was two) our pastor did a Wednesday night series on the canon of the Bible. During that he discussed the Apocrypha and explained how it is considered useful for instruction, not for doctrine. So I thought it would be good to do a lesson series on it.

Lynda and I read 1st Esdras (called 3rd Esdras for those of you with Roman Catholic Bibles) together, and in the midst of it was a story about three Jewish bodyguards of King Darius of Media-Persia. The king held a great banquet, then afterwards had insomnia. His bodyguards spent the time with him and suggested a contest. Each of them would write what he thought was the strongest thing of all, seal it, and put it under the king's pillow. The next morning, when the king woke, he would take the three sealed suggestions, call some other Persian judges, and read the statements. Whichever statement was considered the wisest, the bodyguard who wrote it would receive all kinds of good stuff from the king.

The king must have agreed to this (the text doesn't say so) for they did just that. The three bodyguards made their three statements and slipped them under the pillow. Actually, one of them cheated and made two suggestions. Not stated in the text but implied, somehow this must have helped the king's insomnia.

This week, I gave the class some general information on the Apocrypha, then read the start of the contest. I then had each member write on a slip of paper what they would write if they were in the position of the Jewish bodyguards. What one thing is strongest of all? We had a variety of answers, both serious and humorous. I then had each of the two tables take time to list three answers to the question, then we discussed it.

It seemed everyone enjoyed it. We had three visitors in attendance, family of one of our regular couples. I'm not sure what they thought about it. And, I'm not sure how well this study will be received by all. Hopefully they will see it as a good break in the routine.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More Internal Debate: What I Could Accomplish as a Christianity Examiner

Back to my debate with myself about whether to pursue a second on-line writing gig, this one with I made two posts about this yesterday. I don't know what to do here. I had a second article at selected as an editor's choice, which will mean more page views and maybe some more revenue. But I'm day-dreaming more and more about what I could accomplish at Examiner.

As I said yesterday, if I do this I would apply for a position as Christianity Examiner for Northwest Arkansas, which, because Examiner doesn't have a NWA site, is a position not even created yet. That's a minor hindrance, however, and I believe they would very likely create the position in anticipation of a local site.

As a Christianity Examiner, I would try to post articles that would cover the complete Christian community in these parts, not just on the evangelical community. Some types of articles I dream I would include are:
  • News of churches: who's having VBS? When is everyone's Christmas program? What is the pastor's--any and every pastor--sermon series? What new adult Sunday school series are about to start? What are the teens doing next? This could be many, many articles.
  • Devotionals, maybe most days of the week. I've never written devotionals, so this would be something different for me. Probably a good writing skill to have.
  • Interviews with pastors and other clergy, including associate ministers.
  • News of Christian schools, including interviews with administration and staff.
  • News from Christian bookstores and other businesses.
  • Bible study stuff, either a few things I think of or analysis of some Bible study out there ready to purchase.
  • Excerpts and analysis from Christian classics.
  • Evaluation of Sunday School curriculum, non-denominational type, that is.
  • Church history articles. This would be a never-ending series. Most of the source information is now on the Internet, usually scanned.
  • Book reviews of Christian books, both fiction and non-fiction.
  • Maybe even an occasional--or weekly--guest article from the clergy. I don't know if this would be allowed per the Examiner rules.
  • Any special programming on Christian radio and television available in the area.

As I've daydreamed about this, I've had more ideas pass through without capture. I imagine I could expand this list by 50 percent, easy. Actually, here's some more that just came to mind.

  • News articles (not necessarily local) of interest to Christians. This could be anything from the SCOTUS decisions on church-state issues to cultural stuff.
  • If I could get them, interviews with ministers who have a national audience.
  • Interviews with Christian writers. I've met a fair number of these, and they are always looking for ways to promote their books.
  • A survey of the contents of the current issue of Christian magazines.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I would not have a shortage of material to post. Variety should be easy. The posts would be a mixture of current events, which will bring one type of page views, and "evergreen" content, which will bring another type of page views.

It seems to me that this would work, given the right amount of work on my part. I would have to figure out the data gathering part, and see if the time is available to do even a fraction of all I can dream. But meanwhile the dream is good. Every writer wants their writing to have an impact on an audience, be it big or small. This could work toward that purpose.

Stay tuned, for the debate is not over yet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Debate Continues: To be an Examiner?

When I drove to a noon hour meeting of an engineering organization, I had time to thing about pros and cons of applying to I'm no where near making a decision yet, but more arguments concerning it are buzzing around in my head, and I'd better get them out in this hour I have before I'm due at church.

For: The visibility will be great. Since is like a newspaper, it will have people subscribing to the topic and checking it out daily. Traffic is not based on search engines alone.

Against: Since it's like a newspaper, the writing work will be more journalism than essay and general articles. It will involve interviews, perhaps sometimes attendance at events, variety. At variety is of less importance than conforming with the house style.

For: The position I would apply for is Christianity Examiner for Northwest Arkansas. This would be a great position. I believe, with the right combination of articles, I could really impact people. I don't know that it would lead to conversions, but it would likely strengthen Christians, even if in just a small way. I would have no shortage of articles. It could include: church news, interviews with clergy, news of events, devotionals, Bible analysis, Christian issues, perhaps some editorials. It would not really have to be exclusively about northwest Arkansas. I could write about almost anything Christian that would be of interest to northwest Arkansans. I could even invite local pastors to provide guest devotionals and sermons. I would think with the right mix of articles, and with a good posting frequency, I could establish a popular site.

Against: The work would almost be more that of a reporter. I'd have to learn new skills. I'd have to do interviews. I'm not sure that's what I want.

Against: I would be quite exposed. I'd have to make sure, really sure, I was right in what I post.

Against: Examiner doesn't have a site for northwest Arkansas.

For: They would probably let me piggy-back on the Little Rock site for a while, perhaps a long while, until we had enough examiners to justify a local site.

For: The pay would likely be better than Suite 101, and probably more consistent. Since the traffic will be more predictable, I suspect I would make more total money, faster than at Suite 101. Examiner pays about 1 cent per click, or $10 per 1000 page views. Right now at Suite 101 I'm in the neighborhood of $1.45 per 1000 page views. The Suite 101 income will likely continue to rise with time, regardless of whether I have more posts or not.

Against: With the pay being better, you have to wonder if Examiner has a long-term business model that can sustain that rate of pay. With Suite 101, since my income is based on Suite's income, which is all on advertising dollars, the long-term prospects for continued pay seems viable, so long as the entire Internet advertising scene doesn't collapse. But Examiner's paying per click, the payment is based on traffic not revenue. Can it be sustained?

Against: What happens when I want to quit Examiner sometime in the future--if I want to quit? Since the site would be based a lot on current events and less on "evergreen" content, the clicks might stop and with them the revenue stream. At Suite 101, if I quit today my articles, which I've tried to make "evergreen", would continue to earn revenue at their slow pace, even increasing at least for a couple of years.

For: Not everything on Examiner has to be current events. I can mix in some "evergreen" topics and keep some level of page clicks coming.

That's about it for now. More debate coming later.

Debating Myself About a Possible New Writing Gig

I've been publishing at for just over six weeks. It's going well, I think. I have 30 articles up and running. I'm getting about 60 to 70 page views a day (not great, but I'll take it). I'm earning a little money, emphasis on the little right now. I have no shortage of topics to write about. I've written in five categories so far, and have a couple more I could tackle with almost no research. Fulfilling my ongoing contract commitment of 10 articles every three months should be a breeze.

Yet I'm starting to wonder how posting at this site will help me with my stated goal of building a platform to enhance the chance to publish my books with a royalty publisher. A platform in this sense would consist of two things: a ready-made audience, and a history of successful publishing. Suite 101 sort of fulfills the second. While my articles are not edited before I post them, they are subject to an editor's scrutiny after posting, and the editor can call for edits or even disable the article if the writing isn't up to expected standards. So I see these as (somewhat) real publishing credits.

On the other hand, I don't believe this is bringing me any audience. Almost all my Suite 101 articles are accessed from search engine searches. Someone looks into a topic and they Google it or Bing it. If I've done my writing correctly, using multiple key words in title, subtitle, lead paragraph, and subheadings, I'll show up on the first page of hits and someone will click on my article. But no one is out there thinking, "I like Dave Todd's articles. I think I'll go to Suite 101 and see if he's written anything new." Ain't gonna happen, even after I get to 100 or even 1000 articles. This is because Suite 101's strategy and publishing model is based on search engine dynamics, not on loyal following. Nothing wrong with that. It's a valid strategy.

Other alternatives exist for Internet publishing for pay, which I have been slowly evaluating. Some pay up front for targeted articles. Some pay based on page views. Some pay on a mixture. Each one seems to have a different strategy, though all include some degree of search engine optimization.

One site that seems to be a little different from the others is This is set up as more of an on-line newspaper. When you click on the home site, you will be automatically be re-directed to the Examiner site nearest your location. In their model, the freelancers are identified by topic: the Boston Sports Examiner, the Denver Food Examiner, the St. Louis Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner, etc. They have numerous topics and numerous locations, and are expanding both all the time. Examiners post articles in their topics, each article generating a new web page. The site looks a little like a blog, but also a little like an on-line newspaper. People actually subscribe to the feeds, either through RSS or other means. The articles receive comments.

It appears Examiner is shooting for a combination of loyal reader following and search engine optimization as the means to attract readers. They pay based mostly on page views, but also on unique visitors and length of visit. Ad clicks don't seem to enter into writer payment. Writers are less essayists and content writers than they are reporters. In fact, many examiners say they obtain press passes and get to attend events as the media. It's a different model, and would seem to better fulfill the developing a ready-made audience than does Suite 101. Nothing wrong with either, just different approaches.

For a number of posts, not necessarily consecutive, I'm going to publicly debate this site as an alternate to Not in terms of abandoning Suite 101, but rather as a second venue to better work on the dual planks of platform development. I don't know how long this debate will last, but I'm thinking a week or so. If I do this, I want to do it fairly quickly. If anyone wants to look at either site and give me some ideas via comments, please feel free to do so.

I'll start the debate now.
Objection: I don't have time for another activity! What am I thinking, considering a new writing activity when I can't get to the ones I have now. As I feared, most of my time available for writing has been consumed with writing for Suite 101 or pursuing freelance writing in print media. I would be out of my mind to take on something else.
Answer: I can easily back off on the time I spend with Suite 101. I posted 30 articles in just over six weeks., or five a week per average. I only need to publish less than one per week. So the time is there, I would just need to prioritize.
Answer: I actually have found time to write on other things. I'm working on my Harmony of the gospels, on Bible studies, and a little on my novel. I even squeezed in some poetry writing and critiques during this time. So I suppose I can't really say all my creative writing time has been tapped out.
Answer: Even if I have to spend more time on freelancing to be able to write for Examiner, wouldn't the time be well spent if it leads to 1) revenue in the short-term and 2) enhanced book publishing prospects in the long-term?

More debate in other posts. Let me hear from you.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Book Review: A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ

No, this is not the harmony that I'm writing. This is the one prepared by A.T. Robertson, published by Harper & Row in 1922. The book I picked up at a thrift store (for a dollar) was printed by H&R in 1950.

Dr. Robertson's work was based on that of Dr. John A. Broadus, published in the mid-1890s. Robertson was a student of Broadus, and took over and expanded on his work whenever some discovery of a new Biblical text came to light, or when new textural criticism better explained the difference between the different gospels.

I bought this book after I had finished my own harmony, while working on appendixes and passage notes (still an on-going, off and on effort). The is a parallel-column harmony. Neither Broadus nor Robertson believed that the texts should be interwoven, for to do so would eliminate the distinctness of the language each gospel has. My harmony is the interwoven type, with each gospel compared to the others and the different texts blended into one (hopefully) seamless narrative. But I thought this would be a good book to review to see how the chronology of the professors compared to the chronology I came up with (with the assistance of some study Bibles).

The book does a couple of things I like. First, it is not based on the King James Version, but rather the Revised Standard Version. This is still difficult to read compared to my preferred NIV, but it's an improvement. Next, it gives the Gospel of Mark the left hand column, believing, as I do, that Mark's gospel was the first one put in final form, and that Luke and Matthew used Mark as one of their sources. Next, it does not waste a lot of blank column space when less than four gospels cover an event. If only one covers it, the text of that one utilizes the full width of the page. If two cover it, wide columns are used. If the number of lines needed to show parallel passages differs greatly, narrow columns start out and then wider or full width is used later. This is all done in such a way that the reader has no problem figuring out which gospel contributed which text. Not only does this save paper, it makes reading much more enjoyable.

The end of the book contains a number of discussions, equivalent to the appendixes I'm writing, to explain decision making that went into the Harmony. This is in addition to many footnotes added to passages to clarify, cross-reference, and explain something in a way that doesn't require a long note at the end. In these end discussions, Robertson explains not only the way he thinks the harmony should be but also the main competing theories, and explains why he chose the route he did.

I did find a couple of negatives with this book. First, the font is small, very small by today's standards. The main text is probably an 8 point font, Robertson's footnotes 6 point, and the RSV footnotes 5 point! Too small on many evenings for my $5 reading glasses from Dollar General. Next, Robertson (probably after Broadus' example) is overly concerned with exact dates. One of his notes goes into considerable length to discuss what year Jesus was born in; another into what year he began his ministry. I'm not really concerned about the exact year so much as the exact order of events in Christ's life. Then, the footnotes and end discussion are perhaps too brief. Many decisions on order of the gospels, for example how Matthew seems to be non-chronological whereas Mark is chronological, could have been much better developed.

I found this book most useful in explaining Jesus' movements. When was he in Galilee? When in Jerusalem, or Judea? How does Jesus' statement in Luke chapter 9 about going to Jerusalem make sense in light of all the rest of the material in Luke 10-21? How did Jesus' trip to Tyre and Sidon happen relative to other departures from Galilee? These relative movements are nicely explained. I will have to review my chronology and see if I need to make any adjustments. Of course, Robertson doesn't agree with some of the decisions I made. I probably should re-think those areas, but I won't. I feel pretty strongly about some of those.

This is a keeper for me. It would be a good book for anyone who is a serious student of the Bible to have.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August Goals

Well, I've had two fairly productive months, and hope to make it three in a row. Here's what I have at present, subject to editing, of course.

  1. Write 10 articles for
  2. Blog 12 to 15 times.
  3. Study: search engine optimization; sources for royalty free pictures; and picture types for digital photos.
  4. Finish chapter 7 in In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People; Begin chapter 8
  5. Finish one appendix in a Harmony of the gospels; also one passage notes section.
  6. Complete the engineering article on storm water detention that is due Sept. 1.
  7. More work on Good King, Bad King. Try to identify and outline at least four more lessons.
  8. Work on The Strongest of All study from the apocrypha. I have the five lessons prepared, but need to add some lead-in and conclusion discussions.
  9. And, based on my incomplete goals from July, get some more work done on Life on a Yo Yo, in an attempt to make it a publishable study.

The July Report

Okay, let's see how I did relative to my goals.

1. Blog at least 12 times. Did this. I think I was at 15 or so.

2. Post 15 articles at I beat this, posting 17.

3. Research, prepare, and submit 2 other freelance queries. I got the research done, but not the queries themselves. I drafted one but haven't yet sent it. I had to re-query one from the previous month, due to it being lost in that magazine's system.

4. Complete one set of passage notes for my Harmony of the Gospels. Got this done, as well as proofing and editing the appendix I almost finished in June.

5. Complete the first two lessons in Good King, Bad King (already started and maybe half-way done) and outline the full series. I can report only partial progress on this. I got the lessons done, and taught them last week and today. However, I have not yet outlined the rest of the series. I've brainstormed it a little, but brainstorming without getting something down on paper doesn't count.

6. For Life on a Yo Yo: Write a "sell sheet" for the Bible study; complete the first four lessons in publishable form. I totally dropped the ball on this, not even thinking about it all month. And it's not even in my draft goals for August. I may have to amend them.

7. Complete the new chapter of In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People that I got half-way done in June. It would be nice to both complete that and start another chapter, but I'm not making that a goal, not with everything else I have going on. Plus, I'm a freelancer not, not a novelist. I did a little more work on chapter 7, but I cannot say it's done. I imagine it needs another hour or two to be called done. I sent the book as is on to a new beta reader who requested it. We'll see what he says.

So, I hit some things but missed others. All in all it was a productive month. I'll next post my goals for August, a month which I hope will be even more productive.