Category Archives: Blogging

The Policies of This Website, Upcoming Changes, and One Last Personal Opinion

It has been over a year since I made any sort of announcement about the policies and changes for this website, and I realized (thanks to the advice of the person who helps me run this site) that I need to do so again.

1) I stopped blogging back in January 2012. There has not been a single blog post about writing or any other issue since then, and that will not change going forward. (Hmm, I spoke too soon. Item #4 on this particular post turned out to be one last personal opinion I needed to get off my chest.)

This website will be morphing over the next 18-24 months into a website for readers due to upcoming changes in my writing career. That means the website’s main focus will be on soon-to-be published stories and novels.

For now I will leave the past posts up, as well as the page of “Advice for Writers” that gives links to some of the most useful stuff. But the blog posts themselves have been archival material for nearly a year now–i.e. the old posts are there, but they will not be updated.

2) Comments for all the blog posts were turned off back in March 2011. Since then all new posts have automatically had comments turned off. However, my website helper has pointed out to me that by “grandfathering” in the comments that were made before March 2011, it gives the mistaken impression that comments are still open for the particular posts that have them.

To prevent future confusion, all comments have been pulled and archived, including my own comments. Comments have been closed since March 2011, and remain closed.

3) All blog posts were my unpaid personal opinions and thoughts. My blog does   not give legal advice, nor am I a lawyer. I was not, and am not, a reporter. This website is not a newspaper, news journal, newsfeed, or magazine, nor has it ever portrayed itself as one. It also does not publish other writers’ articles.

4) I can now go into more detail about a volunteer job that had a major impact on how I view financial irregularities, since enough time has gone by since I stepped down.

I used to be a Treasurer for small non-profits.

There were times as a Treasurer I handled about two thousand dollars in cash during a day’s fundraiser, and during a business year, tens of thousands of dollars in small checks and cash passed through my hands.

There were good bookkeeping practices in place to keep track of the money, as well as special checks and balances to make it hard for me to embezzle if I had ever been tempted to do so. These procedures were neither difficult to enforce nor slow to implement, even though we were a small non-profit made up of only volunteers. A lot of the procedures were just plain common sense.

I have very passionate personal opinions on embezzlement and financial mismanagement–and I have expressed them in the past–that are based on my experiences in being entrusted with other people’s money: large checks, small checks, thick stacks of twenties, a few quarters, and everything in-between.

People trusted me to do things right. To protect their money not only from others, but from myself.

L. M.’s Personal Opinion:  Anyone entrusted with others’ money has a serious moral obligation to put in place sound bookkeeping practices from Day 1, and must include checks and balances in the system that protect against mismanagement due to illness/death, and embezzlement. Those checks and balances protect those who have chosen to risk their (or the company’s or organization’s) livelihood.

There is NO excuse for not having these protective systems in place. Absolutely none.

For example, the best financial managers I know don’t even *allow* client money to pass through their firm’s accounts. They manage clients’ funds through a third party (such as Fidelity) who holds onto the actual money. This creates a “firewall” to help prevent accidental mixing of client funds or embezzlement.

Treasurers swap horror stories. Horror stories about embezzlement and gross financial mismanagement in non-profits … of clients … in school districts … in government agencies … in companies.

What really gets me seething is what I call “the silent losses” that happen behind the scenes in these stories…

Money to pay employees’ salaries: gone.

Money to pay for training and equipment: gone.

Money to pay for health insurance: gone.

Money to pay for kids’ clothes and groceries: gone.

Money to start a business or fund a new project: gone.

Money to pay the vendors and suppliers: gone.

Et cetera.

Almost never is stolen money willingly paid back to the victims by someone caught in embezzlement. Typically it takes an arrest and/or court filing to have any hope of getting a small fraction of the money back.

However, once money is stolen, it’s usually gone for good. The damage is done, and is sometimes so severe that the victim (or company) is forced to go bankrupt.

Sometimes a victim commits suicide.

I have zero tolerance for shoddy, sloppy bookkeeping and accounting practices since they make it too easy for gross mismanagement or embezzlement to occur.

There’s no excuse for shoddy accounting. None. Zip. Zero.

Thoughts on How Instant Feedback Can Impact the Voice of Some Writers

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how I turned comments off on my blog back in November 2010 due to severe time constraints:

I didn’t know what impact it would have, but one of the surprising results was that now my blog thoughts sometimes dig deeper into things.  The time I used have to waste wading through spam in the queue instead gets spent thinking and writing the post instead.

Since writing those words, I’ve been mulling things in my mind, and I’ve come to realize that there’s more to this than having more time to think now that I’m no longer babysitting a blog comments queue.  (I do, however, still have comments flipped on in Facebook and a Contact Me page so people can talk to me direct when they need to.)

There’s the issue of a writer’s voice, or what I’ve nicknamed the “Aw, crap” factor–as in, “Aw, crap, if I write about that, I’ll have to deal with too many comments. I want to spend that time writing instead.”

So instead of writing the post that might stir things up, I’d write something bland that would have no risk of being interesting enough to trigger responses from people.

Writers who have the extra time to referee a comments section don’t have this “Aw, crap” problem. But it’s become clear to me that I do.  And I suspect there are other writers out there as well who are subconsciously making their posts bland because they also have time crunch issues.

A few months after I turned off comments, I finally felt comfortable enough to do livelier blog posts, and my web traffic jumped. I also started writing things that would unexpectedly catch the eye of other, more established, bloggers. It’s too soon for me to tell what the permanent increase in web traffic will be since the spikes in traffic happened so recently. I’ve seen spikes as high as 10x the November traffic.  Maybe 2x – 3x? I’m guessing at this point.

So if you’ve got a severe time squeeze, you might want to give flipping comments off on blog posts for a few months a try to see if the “Aw, crap” factor has been in play.

Also, the same “Aw, crap” factor can come into play if a writer posts fiction online with comments flipped on. I’m never going to post fiction with comments turned on, since I’ve already learned I’m too likely to self-censor myself to avoid comments.

I can easily imagine myself thinking, “Aw, crap, I don’t want to write that story idea because it will piss off too many people and I’ll have to deal with too many comments and fights between readers who either love it or hate it. I don’t have the time for that. Let me write something soothing instead.”

And so I’d end up writing something so boring it would put everyone to sleep. I’d stifle my voice as a writer for fear of having to deal with too many comments.

Hmm, I think this happens quite a bit to writers even outside the world of posting fiction online. It’s so much easier to write stories that are bland and soothing and make everyone go “Zzzzz…” so that one can tiptoe away before they wake up. Stories that are lively stir everyone up like bees so that they break into camps and start fighting about the story (some love it, some hate it).

Of course, some writers thrive on controversy and fistfights and instant feedback.  Their writing gets better, instead of worse. So it’s important to experiment and see what works best since each writer is different.

Good luck testing all of this. May you find the path that suits you best.

A Talk on “The Benefits and Perils of Websites and Blogging for Writers”

I’ve been asked by the Los Alamos Writer’s Group (LAWG) to give a talk, so on Thursday, March 10th from 7pm to 8pm I’ll be talking about “The Benefits and Perils of Websites and Blogging for Writers.”

Here’s the details:

Do writers need a website?  Is blogging optional?   How does one go about setting up a website when one can’t afford a web designer?  How can a website be used to market one’s work?  We will candidly talk about the benefits and perils of the internet age for writers.   Participants are strongly encouraged to bring to the meeting a device (laptop, PDA, cell phone, etc.) that allows them to browse the web so that the group can compare well-known writers’ websites together.

There will also be a drawing for a Jane Austen action figure.

The location of the talk is the usual meeting place for the LAWG, the Morning Glory Bakery in Los Alamos, NM.  Business address is:
1377 Diamond Dr
Los Alamos, NM 87544

Using the Internet Effectively: Simon’s Cat

I just discovered animator Simon Tofield’s short films online, and I think he does a great job of using the internet effectively to reach viewers.  Take a look at the Simon’s Cat website, which I’d like to point out:

1) Makes it easy for viewers to watch his all films and purchase his books.

2) Makes it easy for visitors to quickly find whatever they are looking for.

3) He does not waste his time blogging since that is not an interest of his.

4) The whole website does a great job of showing his sense of humor.

If you’re planning on doing YouTube broadcasts, also check out the Simon’s Cat YouTube Channel. A nice clean design that is easy to navigate, with obvious links to his website and Facebook page.

As a cat owner, I also recommend these sites simply because his short films about his cat are hilarious.

Scrivener’s Error: Blog on Publishing Law

I’ve discovered an amusing website for keeping up with publishing law news.  Lawyer C. E. Petit has a site called Scrivener’s Error where he blogs about many things related to publishing gossip, especially anything involving publishing law.  Well worth reading.

Also, be sure not to miss Petit’s rants about the terrible contract terms being offered to want-to-be-published newbie writers by James Frey’s book packager Full Fathom Five, especially his post on this from November 13th called “The Million-and-First Little Lie.”