29 December 2009

Thoughts and prayers

I found out today (as I was getting caught up with all things Facebook) my favorite college professor and former academic advisor was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Fortunately, it's very treatable, and he plans to be teaching his spring classes after the first three weeks off.  He's currently taking chemotherapy and radiation.

Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.  He is the life-force of the English Department at MacMurray College.

23 December 2009

My Writing Time

Christi Corbett has a guest post up at Pimp My Novel about writing time/space.  I admit, I also had her romanticized vision of a writer's space/time before I became a full time writer.  Now things are very different.

I will admit that I usually get anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half of uninterrupted writing time in the afternoons (during the week, at least) while Bean naps, but in the evenings and on weekends when Hubby is there to help so I have extra writing time, I actually get less done.

I'm going to do what Christi did and keep track of my writing time interruptions to share with you next week.

Do you get uninterrupted writing time?  If so, how much?

Working at home for the holidays

When you have a traditional 9-to-5 job, usually you leave at the end of the day on Dec. 23 or Dec. 24 and you don't have to think about work until you go back after Christmas.  If you're a writer working from home, or if you moonlight as a writer, though, things may be a little different.  So how can you work from home during the holidays and still enjoy time with friends and family?

(Continue reading)

22 December 2009

10 on Tuesday: coffee-stained Christmas traditions

Hubby and I are working on creating traditions for our family now that Bean is here.  There are things his family does and things my family does, and we're blending some of those and creating our own traditions.  Here are some of the traditions from our families:

  1. Reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas as a family on Christmas Eve (Hubby)
  2. Pizza for supper on Christmas Eve, saving a couple of pieces for Santa (NP)
  3. "Stocking gifts," which consist of a paper grocery bag full of gifts all $1 or under (Hubby)
  4. Including at least one enormous candy bar in the bottom of each stocking (NP)
  5. When recording the festivities with the camcorder, including the year and location, which comes from moving so often (Hubby)
  6. Opening gifts from the family on Christmas Eve, leaving the Santa gifts for Christmas Day (NP)
  7. Opening all gifts on Christmas Day (Hubby)
  8. A more recent tradition: steak rolls for Christmas dinner at my mom's house (NP)
  9. Watching Christmas until Christmas Day beginning the day after Thanksgiving (Hubby)
  10. A more recent tradition: finger-foods all day for Christmas Day at my paternal grandmother's house (NP)

Pimp My Novel says...

There's a great (guest) post over at Pimp My Novel today.  Definitely worth a read.  I'll wait while you go check it out.

No, really.  Go read it.

This is a bit of advice I've gotten many times before.  Whenever I read it, I take it in appreciatively, remember it when I sit down with a "new" story idea, and don't fully get it.

Until my coffee house book, that is.

Now that I've really figured out how I want to write my coffee house book, I'm really excited about it!  When I'm not working on it, I'm thinking about it.  When I'm not thinking about it, I'm talking about it.  I haven't been this excited about a project in a long time, and it's even led me to my next project which I'm equally excited about.  I think this is what Lydia Sharp is getting at in her advice.

We write because it's fun!  It's a way to be creative and share stories and all that.  But if you're not true to yourself in your projects, it won't be fun.  Don't worry so much about the getting published part of writing and focus on the creating worlds and sharing stories fun part of writing.

So don't just scribble.  Enjoy scribbling!

Happy scribbling!

21 December 2009


My little elf!

This Week's Task List

Hooray for the week of Christmas!  I'm really excited to be celebrating Bean's first Christmas!

Thankfully, I don't have much to do in the way of work, so I can concentrate on getting ready for the end of the week.


  • Finish up content for the website renovation
  • Do some coffee house book background work
  • Write article for Examiner.com


  • Finish up content for the website renovation
  • Do some coffee house book background work
  • Write article for Examiner.com


  • Finish up content for the website renovation
  • Do some coffee house background work
  • Write article for Examiner.com



Setting writing goals

As December draws to a close, people are looking ahead to 2010, and thinking about what they want to accomplish in the new year.  This leads to creating resolutions or setting goals for the year, and writers are no different.

19 December 2009

Reading Challenges

Looking for a reading challenge for 2010?  Jen Rose of Divinest Sense pointed me in the direction of a blog, which has quite a long list to choose from for all your reading challenge needs!

I will be working on increasing my reading for 2010 by trying to read at least two books each month (bedtime stories don't count), but I'm not quite ready to commit to a challenge.

Here's the post about reading challenges.  Let me know if you choose one!

18 December 2009

Industry news: Agents and Editors' Blogs

Getting information from people in the industry is a good way to keep up with publishing information.  That's why blogs by agents and editors can be an excellent resource for writers.

(Continue reading)

15 December 2009

10 on Tuesday: things to remember during the holidays

  1. It's a good time of year to make amends.
  2. It's a good time of year to be nice.
  3. If you're in cold weather, it might be a good idea to make yourself a hot cup of coffee, wrap up in your Snuggie, and scribble.
  4. Time off from your day gig is a great opportunity to scribble.
  5. Writing can be an excuse to slip away from the chaos of family.
  6. Don't forget all the end-of-the-year tasks you've been putting off!
  7. Christmas songs can be writing inspiration.
  8. There are only nine shopping days left for those celebrating Christmas!
  9. It's not the only time of year to make amends.
  10. It's not the only time of year to be nice.

14 December 2009

Avoiding home office distractions

When people with traditional jobs hear that you work from home, they usually only think of the glamorous aspects of a home office.  After all, you can make your own hours, work in your pajamas, and even watch your favorite soaps while you work!  How could it be anything but great, right?  Unfortunately, what a lot of people don't see is the many distractions that come with a home office.

(Continue reading)

This Week's Task List

Lots of my time this week will be spent on my personal task list, but I do have a few office-related things to do before Christmas.

  • Write website content
  • Finish up end-of-the-year stuff that's been lingering on my desk
  • Finish December prep for the coffee house book

13 December 2009

The 10 Best Books of 2009

The New York Times Book Review printed the 10 best books of 2009 today, Dec. 13.  According to their website, creating the list was not easy, but it provides a good starting point for 2010 reading lists.

(Continue reading)

11 December 2009

Children's Book Recall

A children's book published by Simon & Schuster has been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

(Continue reading)

Industry news: Publishers Weekly

The Internet age has made it much easier to keep up with industry news.  Between blogs and websites, email updates and newsletters, you can get up-to-the-minute publishing industry information.  As a writer, it's important to utilize those resources so you can learn as much about the business of writing as you do about the craft of writing.

(Continue reading)

08 December 2009

10 on Tuesday: coffee house book characters

In the coffee house book, characters are often known by their favorite drinks (particularly customers).  So in addition to giving you the names of ten of my characters, I will share a little insider info with you by sharing their drinks of choice, as well.  Enjoy!

  1. Piper, espresso macchiato
  2. Sandra, skinny vanilla latte
  3. Michael, espresso
  4. Devon, chocolate raspberry latte
  5. Jeffrey, "the Jeffrey" (barista's choice)
  6. Vivienne, mineral water
  7. Willow, soy cappuccino (iced in the summer)
  8. Jonathon, double-shot hazelnut cappuccino
  9. Martha, chai latte
  10. Lucas, black coffee
More secret coffee house book information to come!

07 December 2009

This Week's Task List

  • Content articles for a client (several topics)
  • Content writing for my new and improved website (to be revealed Jan. 2010)
  • Work on schedule for coffee house book (and other big projects for 2010)
  • Work on character biographies for coffee house book
  • Work on outline for coffee house book

06 December 2009

100 Notable Books of 2009

The New York Times Book Review selected its list of 100 Notable Books of 2009, based on books that were reviewed from December 7, 2009, when last year's list was published.

(Continue reading)

05 December 2009

For your publishing news needs...

As always, Nathan Bransford has given some great reading links from the publishing world this week.  After reading his post I have so many tabs open in Google Chrome that all I see is little icons!

Be sure to check out this week's post!

04 December 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Results

The numbers have been tallied, and the results are in!  Orlando was NaNoWriMo 2009's 48th wordiest city!  That's right, ladies and gentlemen: Orlando made the top 50!  Congratulations!

(Continue reading)

Industry news

When you read about writing, a lot of emphasis is put on the craft of writing.  That is, sentence construction, voice, style, genre, etc.  And it's true that this is an important aspect of a writing career.  But anyone who wants to be published should also remember that the publishing industry is a business, and needs to be treated as a business.

(Continue reading)

03 December 2009

My writing plans: December 2009 and on

As I mentioned before, I'm refocusing my writing career.  I'm still working out details and scheduling, but I thought I would share with you the aspects I've already worked out.

Obviously, my focus is going to be on fiction.  Specifically, I'm turning my full attention back to the coffee house book which has been sorely neglected for far too long.  (I have good reason, though.)  I have some new ideas for it, though, so I'll be taking some time to go back through the material I have, then reworking it for what I want to do.  Once I go through the material, I'm going to create a timeline for writing the story, as well as rereading, editing, and rewriting.

Along with my fiction pursuits will be quite a bit more industry research.  I know a very, very little bit about the publishing industry, and I'm finding the more I find out, the more interesting it is to me.  So I'm finding industry blogs and podcasts to add to my life that will help me learn more about the business of publishing.  I will definitely have a lot of podcasts to listen to, as well as blogs and articles to read!

I'm also going to work on changing my website.  I already have the ideas of how to change the content, so I'll be doing some content writing this month and making changes, so in January, the site will be all new and shiny.  And you may even be able to get involved in the new website, so watch for requests from me here on the blog!

I'm really excited about getting back into fiction, of course.  As much as I enjoy my life as a freelance writer, fiction is where my heart is.  And, of course, I already have ideas for a couple more projects I want to work on after the coffee house book is finished.  In the meantime, though, I plan to jot down those ideas so I don't forget them down the road.  And perhaps once I've finished writing the first draft of the coffee house book, I can start working on one of those other pieces.

2010 is going to be a great year!

02 December 2009

NaNoWriMo: now what?

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has officially come to an end for another year.  You may have hit (and surpassed) that magic number of 50,000 words, and you may not have.  Regardless of how many words you wrote in November, though, you may find yourself a little unsure of what to do now that the wild, crazy adventure is over until next year.

(Continue reading)

01 December 2009

10 on Tuesday: what to do with your newfound free time

  1. sit for a moment and revel in the fact that you do, in fact, have free time again.
  2. sleep. (Remember that?)
  3. reconnect with your friends and family.
  4. go outside.
  5. alternate heat and ice on your hands and wrists.
  6. read for pleasure.
  7. think about something other than how you can turn a phrase into more words than it needs to be.
  8. give your poor eyes a break!
  9. don't start a new project yet.
  10. hold on to the motivation you had in November!

December 1

NaNo is over.
Exhaustion is catching up.
Time for me to slleeeepzzzzzzzzz....

You Did It!

Even if you didn't hit 50,000, you made it to the finish line.  Good enough, innit?  Come over here and have a well-deserved drink!

Salud, NaNos!

30 November 2009

There's still time to hit 50,000 words!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is quickly coming to a close.  Thousands of writers... (Continue reading)

November 30

Today's the last day,
and I'm procrastinating.
Back to the novel.

One. Day. More.

To those of you who haven't crossed the finish line yet: Don't panic.  Take a deep breath.  It's just you, the keyboard, and the last few thousand words now.  You have until midnight.  You can do this.

I'll be here with the drinks December 1st.  Until then, NaNo sufferers, keep on!

This Week's Task List

Ladies and gentlemen, NaNoWriMo is over for me!  I "won" last night at about 1:30 a.m., and after taking a break today, I'll be jumping back into the writing world tomorrow with my new focus on fiction!  Yay!

  • Write a set of articles for a client (due by end of business Saturday)
  • Start writing content for my renovated website
  • Outline my coffee house book (I'm kind of starting from scratch so I need an updated outline)
  • Work out a writing schedule for my coffee house book
  • Start writing character biographies for my coffee house book (this will be a big task considering the changes I'm making to the story)

With a whole day to spare...

Tomorrow I'll give my poor hands and wrists a break, and on December 1st, it's back to work!

27 November 2009

26 November 2009

November 26

Relatives invade.
I don't have time for this now.
Turkey to go, please.

Push Through the Pain

This photo symbolizes two things: what I'm thinking when I contemplate donning a cheerleading outfit, and what you're probably feeling right now.  The last days of NaNo are among the hardest.  I know - I've been there.

I've been staring down the barrel of an anemic word count, convinced I won't make the goal, and wanting to do anything rather than put fingers to keyboard and push out another single damned word.  Yes, anything - even don a cheerleader's uniform and shake pom-poms.

But you don't stop now. 

You down an energy drink.  You put your fingers to the keyboard.  You type one word, and then another, and then another.  You push through the pain.

You do it every day, as many hours as you can beg, borrow or steal, until 11:59 pm on November 30th, 2009. 

And you will either hit 50,000, or you will come so close as makes no difference.  The point, ladies and gentlemen, isn't to win, but to play the game.  My heart sister's absolutely right.

The journey is the reward.  So keep walking.  You can do this. You're a writer, darling!

Never give up.  Never surrender!

Happy Thanksgiving!

25 November 2009

Pushing through NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming to a close, and in just five short days, the last of the WriMos will be submitting their novels for word count verification.  If you're looking at your word count and find that you're behind, take heart.  Lots and lots of people are.  In fact, chances are there are even lots and lots of people who are further behind than you are.  But that's okay.

(Continue reading)

November 25

Crackers for dinner.
Eat while typing one-handed.
Don't stop to swallow.

24 November 2009

November 24

They say, "Life happens,"
and word counts are sacrificed.
Write more tomorrow.

10 on Tuesday: yummy Thanksgiving foods

  1. turkey (or for those who prefer: tofurkey)
  2. honey-baked ham (since Hubby doesn't like turkey)
  3. stuffing made from scratch
  4. green bean casserole
  5. sweet potatoes with lots of marshmallows
  6. mashed potatoes and gravy
  7. carrots (cooked with a little brown sugar)
  8. corn
  9. fresh dinner rolls
  10. pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream

23 November 2009

November 23

Only a week left.
Tell me: where did my time go?
Can I win this year?

This Week's Task List


  • Work on articles for a client
  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNo


  • Finish articles for a client
  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNo


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNo



  • Write at least 4,000 words for NaNo


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNo

21 November 2009

20 November 2009

November 20

L&O is on.
It's my biggest temptation.
Why must I give in?

NaNoWriMo update

You can see to the right where my word count is for NaNo.  I update it regularly, so it's probably accurate.

I'm not where I wanted to be by today, but that's okay.  In addition to working on pieces for clients, I've been busy at my other job.

I'll have this weekend to catch up, as well as the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Since Hubby and I are not traveling for Turkey Day this year, I'm hoping the weekend will be nice and relaxing for us.  And since Gma P7* and Auntie M-- will be here, I'm guessing I'll have Bean-free moments I can use to write.

I'm really enjoying writing this novel, but I also know it's one I'll probably never revise or really work with again.  The story is fun and pretty easy to write, so when I do get a bit of time for NaNo, the words come easily.

To be honest, I'm eager to get back to my coffee house book, as well as brainstorming a few other ideas I've had (although my coffee house book is the priority project beginning December 1).  Once NaNo has passed, I'm going to spend December tweaking my website, working on my new and improved writing goals and schedule, which will be broken down month-to-month as well as week-to-week.  Then, beginning January 1, 2010, I'll be jumping full-force into fiction scribbling (when I'm not playing the role of a Fforde Ffan, that is).

I really think 2010 is going to be an exciting year for the Coffee-Stained Writer!

*For info on my family abbreviations, go here.

19 November 2009

18 November 2009

Keeping a personal journal

You already know it's important to keep a writing journal, but you may also find it helpful to keep a personal journal.

The purpose of a writing journal is to keep track of ideas, background information, bits of dialogue, setting, or whatever else that might be useful in your writing.  The purpose of a personal journal, however, is different.  People keep personal journals to remember what's important in their personal lives: relationships, events, thoughts, people, etc.

(Continue reading)

November 18

New character time:
Description, background, quirks.
Should pad my word count.

17 November 2009

Writing prompt a la Cassy

Oh happy pig. So content as you wallow, far from sorrow in the deep cool mud. Roll. Delight yourself with the rich dark liquid. Never take pause and give thought to what lies ahead. A white marble counter top. A glistening knife poised mid-air. Possibilities may be endless, but don’t matter. Now matters. Now makes sense. So dip piggy toes in the froth while you can. Soon is a distant thought. Soon has no meaning.

Writing Prompt Response

My heart sister Dana has decided to use this week's writing prompt.  Apparently, my word choices tempted her too much.

Be sure to meander over to the cantina and check it out.

If you decide to use a writing prompt, post it on your blog and link it to me, or send me your scribbling and I'd be happy to post it here!

November 17

Dear NaNoWriMo,
I think we need to break up.
It's not me. It's you.

16 November 2009

Why television is helpful to writers

Nathan Bransford has an informative and fun post up about publishing that's definitely worth reading, if not bookmarking.

I bookmarked it.  You should, too.

Shifting my writing focus

I love freelance writing.

I love that I can write about different topics and work with different clients.  I love that the pieces I write are shorter so I can jump around when I write.

But my heart will always be in fiction.  And I've been really neglecting my fiction pieces lately.

NaNoWriMo has reminded me how much I really love writing fiction, so beginning on January 1, 2010, I will have a new and different set of writing goals for the year.  I am shifting my writing focus back to fiction where it belongs.  I will still be doing freelance, of course, but the bulk of my writing time and energy will be devoted to getting my coffee house book back on track, as well as making sense of the other ideas floating around in my head.

If I can write a novel in November for NaNo, there's no reason I can't get my coffee house book written and edited (or at least in the editing phase) by May 2010.  So that will be my goal, and when I sit down to create my writing goals for 2010, that's what I'll have in mind.

And in the meantime, I'm filling pages by breaking up compound words, not using contractions, adding flashbacks.

Happy scribbling!

Your mid-month NaNoWriMo pep talk

Half the month is over already, and you should be about halfway through your novel.  If you're following the writing plan that gives you the goal of 1,667 words a day, you should be at 26,672 words by the end of the day today.

I'm here to tell you, though, that no matter what your word count, you're doing great!

(Continue reading)

Having trouble boosting your wordcount?

Take a hint from InkyGirl!

NaNoWriMo Day 15

Debbie Redpath Ohi is posting a new comic every day for NaNoWriMo.  Thanks for the encouragement, Debbie!

This Week's Task List


  • Finish up articles to send to a client
  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo


  • Start working on next set of articles for a client
  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo


  • Continue working on next set of articles for a client
  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo


  • Continue working on next set of articles for a client
  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo


  • Finish working on next set of articles for a client
  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo

November 16

It's "manic Monday."
Can I get paid for NaNo?
That would be awesome!

14 November 2009

12 November 2009

Writing in public

During November, writers are out in full force.  Between official write-ins and free time to write, it's likely that coffee houses and bookstores are home to "WriMos" every day.

Whether you decide to go to any of Orlando's write-ins or just go somewhere and write on your own, there are  a few things you need to keep in mind before you set up your laptop (or open your notebook) and boost your word count.

(Continue reading)

November 12

Dear NaNoWriMo,
Why am I so addicted?
I love you. Love, Me.

11 November 2009

For those at home and overseas...

...for those serving, those who have served, and those who gave their lives in service, I thank you.

And for those who love those who serve, thank you

I know (first-hand) that soldiers aren't the only ones who serve.

Keeping track of projects

Every writer needs a filing system.  Between research, queries, samples, and archives, it helps to have a system to keep track of everything.

And just as important as keeping track of the things you've written is keeping track of the things you are writing. That's why every writer should also have a system to keep track of active projects.  Not only will it help you to know what you're working on and what you need to work on, but it will help you to keep your clients updated on your progress.

(Continue reading)

November 11

Yesterday's hurdle
has been overcome today.
New hurdle today.

10 November 2009

10 on Tuesday: things that can wait until December

  1. your other project
  2. your reading list
  3. cleaning your closet
  4. catching up on TiVo (or Hulu)
  5. your blood elf priest
  6. updating your Facebook status
  7. sending out Christmas cards
  8. dusting
  9. Tweeting
  10. everything else!

November 10

My M. C. is stuck.
My plot is in a corner.
Should I start over?

09 November 2009

How to pad your NaNoWriMo word count

The first week of National Novel Writing Month is over, and the second week has begun!

If you are keeping up with your minimum word count, you should have 13,336 words written by the end of the day today. If you have been excited about your story and had some time to write this weekend, your word count may even be higher than that.

(Continue reading)

This Week's Task List


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Continue addressing Christmas cards for PWT
  • Continue working on set of articles for client


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Continue addressing Christmas cards for PWT
  • Finish up set of articles for client


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Finish addressing Christmas cards for PWT
  • Begin stamping Christmas cards for PWT
  • Set of articles due to client
  • Begin next set of articles for client


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Continue/finish stamping Christmas cards for PWT
  • Work on set of articles for client


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Work on set of articles for client


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Work on set of articles for client


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo

November 9

I sat down to write.
And now the sun has come up.
What day is it now?

08 November 2009

07 November 2009

06 November 2009

05 November 2009

04 November 2009

03 November 2009

Silencing your Inner Editor

The goal during National Novel Writing Month is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. To do this, writers have to set aside their habits of writing well and simply get words down on the page.

It's a difficult thing to do, but once you're able to set aside your need to reread your work as you write it, it's a skill you can carry to your freelance career, as well.

[Keep reading]

November 3

Are you writing fast?
This is NaNo honeymoon.
Take advantage now.

10 on Tuesday: ways to boost your word count

I'm sure you'll use these techniques more as it gets closer to November 30th and your word count needs padding a little, but I'm offering it now just in case.

Good luck!

  1. Don't use contractions.  Instead, write them out ("do not," "I will," etc.).  It gives you one extra word each time you would normally use a contraction.
  2. Separate compound words ("some thing," "any way," "night stand," etc.).
  3. Use full names of things and places rather than shortening or abbreviating.  This is especially useful for things that would normally be named using an acronym.
  4. Omit hyphens.  Use spaces instead.  ("Mother in law" instead of "mother-in-law")
  5. Use more "formal" writing to add words.  For example, instead of saying "She wrote formally so she could pad her word count," say "She wrote formally in order that she could pad her word count."
  6. Go into as much detail as you can.
  7. If you're writing third-person limited or first-person, let your prose have a little of a stream-of-consciousness vibe to it.  Let your characters ramble (internally and externally) for a while.
  8. Introduce a new character, and describe him or her while employing #6 and #7.
  9. Take your characters to a new place and employ #6 and #7.
  10. Add flashbacks.

02 November 2009

NaNo NaNo Rah Rah Rah!

I hope not, because I haven't got a mop (or a mop dog) to shake for ye.  But I'm here to cheer for all you NaNo sufferers participants!

Remember: you can do this.  You will do this.  You'll doubt you can do it, at some point, but doubt doesn't mean you won't cross the finish line on November 30th waving a fistful of fifty thousand words.  You will.  And then you'll need treatment for all the muscles pulled by your disbelieving grin of total success.

If you need some words o' wisdom, here they are:

1.  Keep energy drinks to hand.  Lots and lots of energy drinks.

2.  Eat good food.  Fifty thousand words require plenty o' fuel.

3.  Never give up, never surrender.

I'll see you along the route.  I'll be the one in the Goth Cheerleader outfit.  And I'll be there to greet you at the finish line.

Here's to a fantastic Week One!

All Souls' Day

Today is All Souls' Day.

According to About.com's Catholicism site:
Often overshadowed by Halloween (October 31) and All Saints Day (November 1), All Souls Day is a solemn feast in the Roman Catholic Church commemorating all of those who have died and now are in Purgatory, being cleansed of their venial sins and atoning before entering fully into Heaven. The importance of the feast was made clear by Pope Benedict XV (1914-22), when he granted all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses on All Souls Day: one, for the faithful departed; one for the priest's intentions; and one for the intentions of the Holy Father. Only on a handful of other very important feast days are priests allowed to celebrate more than two Masses.
All Souls' Day is not a holy day of obligation, but many use this solemn feast day to remember their friends and family members who have gone from this life.

Prayer for Eternal Rest:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

This Week's Task List

NaNoWriMo has begun.  (Good luck, everyone! And be sure to head over to the cantina for a break from time to time! Dana's a great cheerleader...and bartender.)

Since this month is different in the office, I thought I'd change things up on my task lists this month, as well.  If it works for me I'll keep it.  Otherwise, I'll go back to the way things were.  Enjoy!


  • Write at least 2,000 words for NaNoWriMo (I only got 1,400 words yesterday.)
  • Work on the Christmas card envelopes for Mom-in-law's office
  • Write a NaNoWriMo piece for Examiner
  • Write at least 1,600 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Work on the Christmas card envelopes for Mom-in-law's office
  • Write at least 1,600 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Finish up the Christmas card envelopes for Mom-in-law's office
  • Write a non-NaNoWriMo piece for Examiner
  • Write at least 1,600 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Write at least 1,600 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Write a NaNoWriMo piece for Examiner
  • Write at least 1,600 words for NaNoWriMo
  • Write at least 1,600 words for NaNoWriMo

November 2

WriMos excited!
(Maybe from the coffee buzz?)
Lots of time to write!

01 November 2009

All Saints' Day

Today is All Saints' Day in the Roman Catholic Church, a holy day of obligation (although since All Saints' Day falls on a Sunday this year, the Mass for All Saints' Day will take precedence over the regular Sunday Mass).

This feast day is a beautiful one.  It gives the faithful the opportunity to celebrate all the saints we pray to every year.  From St. Therese of Lisieux to St. Anthony to St. Francis de Sales, there is someone in Heaven who can intercede for us in every area of our lives.

According to Catholic Online, All Saints' Day started as celebrations of martyrs of the Church.
In the fourth century, it was common practice to mark the anniversary of a martyr’s death at the site where he or she was martyred. But there were more martyrs than days in the year — and many were martyred together in groups. In order not to miss anyone, it became necessary to establish a general memorial. In the ninth century, Pope Gregory IV declared Nov. 1 as the day for the entire Church Militant (those on Earth) to honor all the Church Triumphant (those in Heaven).

My husband and I are going to an evening Mass today to celebrate the feast day, and I'm excited about it.  I pray to saints throughout the year, and this will give me an opportunity to thank them for praying for me and watching over me.

More than any other saint, I find myself praying to Mother Mary, especially since Bean was born.  She was a mom, and her life as a mom was much more difficult than mine will be.  If she could maintain her patience and grace in the midst of all she went through, I certainly can do the same in my life.

And as I've grown closer to Mary, I've learned why the saints are so important to so many of the faithful.

How you find the saint and connect with him or her doesn't matter too much (although I'm sure it does to you).  Sometimes it will be a saint whose life reminds you of your own.  Other times, it will be a saint who has qualities you admire.  Or perhaps a saint whose patronage or heritage is important to you.

Yes, they intercede for us and pray for us, but they also provide examples for us.  You find a saint you connect with, and strive to be like him or her.  The saint becomes a sort of spiritual advisor, a friend, and someone you can count on in your faith life.

I think saints are more "accessible," too.  Of course we pray to the Lord, but the saints were, at one time, just normal people.  That's encouraging to normal people like me.  Kind of the way people like to see celebrities in sweat pants with no make-up on, I guess.

What saints are you celebrating today?

Prayer Requests

This week, please pray with me:

As always if you have any prayer requests you'd like added to this post, feel free to add them as comments, or email me.  You can also add unspoken and/or anonymous prayer requests.

Peace be with you!

November 1

Clock hands point straight up.
Keyboards everywhere: active.
Writing commences!

Happy Scribbling!

27 October 2009

10 on Tuesday: ways to procrastinate during NaNoWriMo

You know you're already thinking about it.  I know you're already thinking about it.  So why don't we just cut through all the pretending you're going to write non-stop during your writing time and talk about procrastination techniques.

  1. Edit your outline.
  2. Tweak your character biographies.
  3. Make a snack.
  4. Tweet your word count.
  5. Organize your writing space.
  6. Eat the snack you made.
  7. People-watch and claim it as research.
  8. Meet a fellow procrastinator writer for coffee.
  9. Brainstorm future projects.
  10. Scrap your whole project and start over from scratch.  (I don't recommend this.)

26 October 2009

This Week's Task List

It's the last week before NaNoWriMo begins, so I have just this week to finish getting everything organized both in and out of the office so I can focus on the 2,000 words a day I need to write during November.

I do have a lot going on in my personal life for the next couple of weeks, so some of my writing life will have to be set aside a little.

  • Finish NaNoWriMo prep (add a few more details to my outline, develop new character bios, etc.)
  • Write blog posts ahead a little so I can get a little extra NaNo scribbling time in.  (Readers are in for a treat during November!)
  • Work on the website. (If I can--this could also wait until December)

25 October 2009

Prayer Requests

This week please pray with me that:

  • Hubby has a very happy birthday on Thursday!
  • Hubby's sleep study next week goes well, and that we get good news
  • my sister finds a home that's perfect for her and Ashlie, and she's able to get it
  • Frazzoo and Gazdzoo's house-buying process continues to go smoothly
  • my cousin Joey finds healing
  • my cousin Mollie finds healing
  • I can continue to make positive changes in my life and stick to them

23 October 2009

Fiction Friday: NaNoWriMo research

I haven't been so good about the updating thing lately.  Part of it is due to articles I've been writing on HULIQ, as well as the articles I've been writing for Examiner (which are all writing-related, so if you want some good info, feel free to check them out!).

That said, I'm going to direct you to my latest Examiner article for a couple of tips about research for you NaNo novel.


20 October 2009

10 on Tuesday: things to do to pass the time before November 1st

  1. Write today.
  2. Make sure you have your outline and character biographies ready to go.
  3. Get in the spirit of writing by challenging yourself to write to a certain word count in a certain length of time.
  4. Get acquainted with Dr. Wicked's Write or Die.
  5. Spend all the time with friends and family that you can.
  6. Stock up on caffeinated drinks and power snacks.
  7. Get any household chores done that can be done.
  8. Catch up on your email, phone calls, and other correspondence.  (Be sure to take this opportunity to let people know you'll be busy during November.)
  9. Take a few pictures of yourself so your children and spouse don't forget what you look like.
  10. Sleep!

19 October 2009

This Week's Task List

  • News articles (2 a day) for HULIQ
  • Articles for Examiner (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday)
  • Write up and send out invoices
  • Update CSW's financial ledgers
  • Continue with NaNo prep

18 October 2009

Prayer Requests

This week, please pray with me that:

  • Hubby's blood work comes back this week with good news.
  • tests that were performed on the baby of some friends of ours come back with good results.
  • Mom- and Dad-in-law have a safe and very fun trip (they're leaving on Saturday and will be gone for two weeks).
  • my cousin Joey finds physical health.
  • all continues to go well as Frazzoo and her hubby buy their first house.
  • the changes I'm working on continue to go well.

16 October 2009

14 October 2009

"Rolltop" computer

Professionalism in freelancing

About a year ago, I wrote a post about professionalism in freelancing.  I definitely think the topic is worth revisiting, so I present (most of) the post for you here.  Enjoy!


When many people become freelance writers, they fall into the pajama-dress-code mentality, which leads to being unprofessional in their business dealings.  After all, when you're casual at home while you work, it's easy to feel casual in all aspects of your work.

The Internet has only compounded people's casualness.  E-mails are often much less formal than memos, faxes, and phone calls, and even some of the most professional business people will add smiley faces at the ends of their e-mails.  So for freelance writers, who often work entirely online, there's one more element to combat in trying to maintain professionalism.

Freelance writers especially need to be professional.  Some clients see freelance writers as being less professional from the start because of the nature of freelancing, so it's important to show them that professionalism is still very much a part of your work ethic.

You may work from home, but you're still working, and you're still dealing with men and women who dress in business professional attire and go to an office every day.  That's the level at which you need to meet when you work with clients.

And yet, many writers have incredibly casual websites.  They use their pet's pictures as profile pictures on freelance sites, and their e-mail addresses are things like "turtleluvr316" or "princessgia."

That may be the image you want to portray with your friends and family, which is fine, but when you're seeking clients and networking contacts, it's not the best idea.  Since your online image is what you use to represent yourself, it needs to be as professional in appearance as you would be if you met with a client in person for lunch or for coffee.  (You wouldn't wear your pajamas to meet with a client, would you?)

How do you want potential clients to see you?  You never know who might be reading your blog or looking at your profile, wondering if you would be a good team member for a project.  You can work from home and still be professional.  You can work in your pajamas and still be professional.  The important thing is to think about the image you portray online.  Treat your business as a business.

13 October 2009

10 on Tuesday: pictures of my son

I think I've done a pretty good job of keeping the pictures of my son on my personal blog, but what kind of mother would I be if I didn't brag here a little?  So enjoy!











12 October 2009

Balancing work and family

Most freelance writers work from home.  Sometimes they have a home office, a room or space set aside specifically for work purposes, while other times they use whatever space they can find at home in which to write.  Regardless of the space used, one challenge in working from home is balancing work and family.

It's true that nearly everyone has to find a balance between work and family, but it can be more difficult for those who write from home.  When you work in the same place that you spend time with family, the line between professional and personal can become blurred.

Lots of people have tips about how to keep your work life separate from your personal life if you work at home.  Here are a few that seem to come up often.

Have set work hours.  If you worked outside the home, you would have set hours that would make you generally unavailable.  By setting specific work hours at home, you help reinforce to your family that you are working, so they'll give you time and space to work.  Conversely, setting work hours will give you a stopping time.  That way, you spend time with your family, too.

Have a set work space.  If you sometimes work in an office, other times in the kitchen, and still other times in the living room, family may be confused as to when you're working and when you're not.  By having a space you always use as your work space, even if it's the kitchen table, your family will know that when you're set up there, you're working.

Have flexibility.  Your dream may be to work, for example, from eight in the morning until one in the afternoon, and then again from three in the afternoon until six in the evening.  In reality, though, you may find that you get most of your work done in thirty-minute bursts throughout the day (and night).  As long as you're willing to adapt to your family's needs and still keep up with your work, you'll find a system that works for you.

Happy scribbling!

This Week's Task List

  • News articles for an online news site (one business article and one health article each day) this week for a new/ongoing client
  • Finish editing two articles for a client and send them off
  • Continue NaNoWriMo prep

11 October 2009

Prayer Requests

This week please pray with me that:

  • my cousin Joey finds healing.
  • Baby M--'s test results come back with good news.
  • Baby M--'s parents find comfort as they wait for test results.
  • Frazzoo and her husband get everything worked out so they can move into their new house!
  • an unspoken prayer request gets resolved soon.

09 October 2009

Fiction Friday: writing character biographies

As writers prepare for NaNoWriMo (just a few weeks away!), writing time is spent preparing to write a novel.  Since you can't actually start writing until November 1st, all you can do right now is organization/pre-writing.  Hopefully, you already have a story idea, and maybe even an outline (or a rough idea of your plot, at least).  But there is more to pre-writing than knowing your story.

Just as you need to know where your story is going, you need to know who's in your story.  That's why lots of people take some of their writing prep time to create character biographies.

The idea behind a character biography is to develop your character before you start writing.  That way, you know your character much better, and can write your characters better, making them more believable to read.

So what goes in to a character biography?

Obviously, the basic character information should be included.  The character's name, age, spirituality, ethnicity, etc.  This is the kind of information that would go on a census.  Beyond that, though, think about who your character really is.  What are his/her hobbies?  What is s/he passionate about?  What is his/her biggest pet peeve?

And once you've thought of all of those types of things, go further.  What is his/her favorite book?  If s/he was stuck on a desert island, what five things would go, too?  If your character were a coffee house table, who would s/he want to sit at him/her, and why?

It's strange, but these are the kinds of things you should think about when creating your characters.  After all, if you don't think of them as three-dimensional, how can you expect your readers to do the same?  So when you write your character biographies, don't just write the bare bones of a biography.  Come up with every possible detail you can.  Answer the strangest questions you can think of that would help you (and your readers) get to know your characters.

Something that may be helpful is to get one of those fill-in-the-blank books about yourself.  The types of prompts and questions that are in these books can help create great biographies for your characters.

One of the biggest things to remember is that you shouldn't sell your characters short.  If you don't know them, your readers won't, either.

07 October 2009

Finding your freelance specialty

When you begin to look into pursuing a career in freelance writing, you may feel a little overwhelmed in your research.  Not only is there a lot of information, but "freelance writing" covers a wide array of writing and job opportunities.  So many freelance veterans will recommend that you choose a specialty as a freelance writer.

Finding a specialty or fitting into a niche is good for a freelance career, particularly once you've established a portfolio.  Regardless of what you choose, a specialty simply narrows your focus as a writer.  Instead of writing anything about anything, you've chosen areas that you prefer to write in, which gives your career a direction, and helps establish you as an expert in that area.

There are many ways to define a specialty.  You may choose to specialize in a medium, such as website content writing, brochure content, magazine articles, or newspaper writing.  Often, if you choose a specialty based on medium, your decision will be driven by your experience.  If you have a journalism background, for example, it makes sense that you would want to write for newspapers as a freelance writer.

Another way to determine your niche is by subject area.  You may choose to write about health and fitness or animal rights or technology and gadgets.  These specialties are usually determined by your passions, as well as your background.  If you have a nursing degree, you'll probably be drawn to write about health topics.  The nursing degree gives you credibility as a writer in that area.  However, you may choose to write about technology because you love the latest gadgets, and find yourself reading and researching technology just for fun.

When you're first building your portfolio, you may do projects that cover a wide variety of mediums and topics, and that's fine.  However, as you move forward in your career, you should think about your focus so you can start seeking projects in that area.  Remember: when you specialize, you don't limit yourself as a writer.  You simply focus on an area so you can be the best writer you can be in that area.  And that makes you an asset to clients.

Happy scribbling!

06 October 2009

10 on Tuesday: places I've lived

My father was in the military through much of my life, so we moved every three years or so.  Here's a rundown of different places I've lived:

  1. Rockford, Illinois (I was born at Rockford Memorial Hospital)
  2. Biloxi, Mississippi
  3. South Dakota (I'm not sure of the city; my brother was born in South Dakota.)
  4. Enterprise, Alabama (My sister was born in Alabama.)
  5. Clarksville, Tennessee
  6. Katterbach, Germany (I was in 4th grade when we arrived; I wish I'd been older so I could've appreciated the experience a bitteen more. Also, my mother got pregnant with my other brother while we were in Germany.)
  7. Byron, Illinois (I graduated from high school here.)
  8. Charleston, Illinois (This was for a very brief time.)
  9. Jacksonville, Illinois (I met Hubby here.)
  10. Orlando, Florida
I've moved more times than this, but lived in some cities more than once.

05 October 2009

Keeping a prayer journal

I don't know if you know this or not, but I'm a writer.

That means that, often, I think better on paper.  So I keep a writing journal and a personal journal to help me think things out, but I've also started keeping a prayer journal to help think out that aspect of my life.

My prayer journal is in the same book as my personal journal (since many times what I'm writing about in my personal life leads to prayer), and it's both prayer request lists and actual written prayers, as well as helpful verses, quotes, and clippings.  Whatever I find spiritually helpful goes into my journal.

Starting a prayer journal was not a big leap for me because I do keep a personal journal.  And I do still pray aloud or silently without writing the prayers, but sometimes writing prayers helps me really think about what I'm praying and meditate on the issues at hand.

One of the big benefits I've found in keeping a prayer journal is the lists of prayer requests I have.  The physical act of writing prayer requests helps me remember them, and when I get my prayer journal out to pray, the lists are right there in front of me.  It works well for my prayer life.

I recommend that anyone who prays regularly keep a prayer journal.  You may not want to write out prayers in yours, but even if you just have a place to keep your prayer requests, your prayer journal would be a help to your prayer life.  (You could even get a notebook small enough to fit into your Bible bag.)

Do you have a prayer journal?  If so, how do you use it?

This Week's Task List

Much of this week will be focused on personal tasks I have to do, but I'll still have some writing/office-y stuff to do, too.

Prayer Requests

I wasn't feeling very well this weekend, so I didn't post.  My apologies.  So I'm posting my prayer requests this morning.  If you would like to add your own prayer requests to this post (even anonymous and/or unspoken), simply comment on this post, or email me with your request(s) and I'd be happy to add them.  God bless you!

This week, please pray with me that

  • the baby of friends of mine is healthy and all is well.
  • an unspoken prayer request gets resolved quickly.
  • Bean's doctor's appointment (with his new pediatrician) goes well today.
  • Hubby's doctor's appointment goes well today.
  • my appointment goes well on Tuesday.
  • all those touched by domestic violence in some way may find a safe place, peace, and healing.
  • those with breast cancer can find healing.
  • all life is given equal respect and honor not just during Respect Life Month, but every month.

03 October 2009


It was brought to my attention recently that someone was "borrowing" my post ideas for his/her own blog about writing. After looking at the posts that were linked to me, I realized it was probably true, but the person's posts were different enough that they *could* have been original.

Obviously, I can't control what people post on their own blogs. However, I would ask that anyone who decides to use any of my posts as inspiration for their own, please let your readers know where you got the idea (including a link to my blog). This is what I do if someone else's post inspires me.

Writers share ideas. And that's great. But you wouldn't want someone to steal you idea and pass it off as his/her own, so you certainly shouldn't do it to others. Let's have respect for each other, shall we?

02 October 2009

Fiction Friday: NaNoWriMo outlines

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's that time again!  Writers everywhere are signing up, ordering shirts, and declaring their participation in NaNoWriMo 2009.  And in their excitement, they're thinking about their novel idea for this year.  (Do you have yours yet?)

I'm a bit of an organization freak, so every year I create an outline for my NaNo novel.  Even if you're not a big fan of outlines, it might be a good idea to create one for NaNo.  It'll help keep you on track as you're writing, since time is such a factor in the event.  I can't speak for you, but many times when I'm writing without an outline (even a very rough one) I tend to ramble and end up in a very different place than I intended when I began.

The good thing, though, is that outlines are very personal things.  Yours can be a very detailed and elaborate outline (as mine usually are) that gives information about what happens in each scene, or a very generalized outline that just gives a sentence or two covering each of the major plot points.  Or it could be something completely different.  You have to figure out what works for your writing style.

Regardless of what kind of outline you make, though, I do recommend that you create some sort of outline, even if it's just some notes jotted to help you remember what your plan is for the month.  It will give you a writing plan, and help you flesh out your story idea a little bit.  Sometimes I've had ideas and, after outlining, I've discovered that the idea is better as a short story rather than a longer project (or vice versa).  Or I've figured out that the idea isn't developed enough.  Outlining now will help keep you from getting to November 20th and realizing you really have a problem with your novel.

It might help get you excited about the month, too!

So take out a piece of paper, make some notes, and see what develops!

30 September 2009

Finding peace in the midst of chaos

In addition to being a freelance writer, I have a husband, three cats, and a six-week old baby boy at home.  My husband works outside the home, and we're very close to his parents, with whom we spend a lot of time.  So my schedule is a little crazy sometimes.  And I'm the type of person that can handle that craziness, but if I don't get at least a little time now and then of quiet, I start to get frustrated.

My challenge lately has been to find peace in the midst of the chaos of my life.  When everything is in upheaval, what can I do to have a peaceful heart?

Of course, the first place I turn is to prayer.  Prayer has always been a comfort to me, and I'm sure it always will be.   Sometimes, all I need is to whisper a short prayer to center myself, and I feel much better.

Sometimes, though, I feel like I need a little more than a whispered prayer to help me find peace.  And at those times, I often need to walk away from whatever I'm doing for a few minutes and find a quiet moment to myself.  It can be something as simple as walking to the mailbox and back or going to unload the dishwasher while everyone else is in the other room.

Once I pull myself away from the situation that's frustrating me for just a moment, I'm able to regain my perspective and jump back into it with a much better attitude, and I can keep that feeling of peace through the chaos.

What do you do to find peace in chaos?

29 September 2009

Prayer Request

Friends of ours had a baby around the same time Hubby and I had Bean.  Lately, they've been asking for prayers through Facebook.  I don't know what's going on, but I would ask that you pray for them, as well.

I wish I could give more information (mostly because I wish I knew what was going on), but the Lord knows their needs.  Please, please pray with me for this family.  They are amazing people, and deserve every happiness.

Thank you so much!

Dana Sez, "You're Crazy! Do It Anyway."

You're contemplating doing NaNo.  You're actually thinking you'll subject yourself to 30 days of frantic writing and feverish word counts, the sleep-deprivation and the wild swings between ecstasy and despair.

Are you nuts?


Do it anyway.

As a three-time survivor of NaNo (although only once officially), I can tell you there's nothing like it for motivation.  Even if what you write that month is 50,000 words of unpublishable drivel, you've still gotten something of worth out of the process.  You'll have found ways to carve out writing time you never suspected existed.  You've met a deadline.  You've survived the blood, toil, sweat and tears to squeeze out that 50,000th word, which means you can do it again, and again, and again, until a big fat novel is whole and complete in your hands.  You've proved something to yourself.  You've been a writer, damn it.

And it feels good.

You may wonder, if NaNo's all that and a box of chocolates, why I always swear "Never again!"  It's because it's a damned lot of insanely hard work and I like being dramatic about it.  Besides, this year, I'm not wanting to tear attention away from ye olde current project, and ye olde current project does not fit NaNo's criteria.  My current project and I are going to take it nice and easy while the rest of you sweat.

I say that now.  But for the last two years, I've ended up shadowing NaNo, writing 50,000 words whether they fit the criteria or no, so don't be surprised if you see me running alongside the NaNoThonners.  If you don't want to become an official participant, there's always that option, you know.

Go.  Do NaNo.  Do it for yourself and your craft and your bragging rights.  Do it to give yourself that desperately-needed shot in the arm. 

And afterward, yes, I'll have the tequila shots lined up.  Or other shots, if tequila's not your friend.  We shall drink to 50,000 words in 30 days.

It's crazy.  But it'll be worth it.

10 on Tuesday: reasons to participate in NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is nearly here again, and it's time to start planning!  You can register on the site beginning on October 1st, and on November 1st, the sound of thousands of writers scribbling will be heard across the globe!

If you're on the fence about whether or not to participate in NaNoWriMo, here are some reasons you should.  And after you read this list and decide to join in the craziness with me, don't listen to Dana.  She'll tell you you're crazy.  Just ignore her.  She'll have tequila shots lined up for us on December first.  That's when we can listen to her again.
  1. It makes "someday" today.  How many times have you said, "I'll write a novel...someday"?  And there's always been a reason not to do it.  Well, NaNoWriMo is just the motivation you need to actually do it.
  2. A little healthy competition is good for people sometimes!  In addition to battling the clock to hit that magical number, you can use the website to check your progress against other writers or check your region against other regions.
  3. What else do you have to do?  Sure, your life is busy, but you can spare a couple of hours a day, can't you?  That may be all you need to crank out 2,000 words.  So you miss a couple of episodes of Snapped.  They'll be on again, I'm sure.
  4. It can be a good excuse.  If you're looking for a way to duck out of lunch with an annoying coworker, or you'd like to slip away from the family on Thanksgiving, you can use your WriMo status as a reason to be alone.
  5. Coffee!  Even the most casual coffee drinkers turn into jittery java junkies (like the alliteration?) during November.  So if you love coffee, what better excuse to load up than staying up late to write?
  6. It brings people together.  If you've participated in NaNo, and you see someone on the street wearing a NaNo shirt, or you see the logo on someone's blog, you feel a connection with that person.  You know what they went through in November.  And you feel their pain.
  7. You'll never know if you can do it until you try it.  Can you write 50,000 words in a month?  Can you finish your novel?  November gives you the chance to find out!
  8. What will you do in March if you don't write in November?
  9. It can be a great refresher for your normal writing life.  If you can find time to write a novel in November, why can't you make time for your other projects?  Maybe NaNoWriMo is just what you need to remind yourself that, yes, you can be a writer no matter what else is going on in your life.
  10. Who else is going to tell your story?

p.s. This is my 500th post.  Coolio.