Monday, March 14, 2016

How I Finally Got Started in Freelance Writing


For the longest time, I thought the only way I could be happy writing was if I was writing Fiction. Novels, Screenplays, Short Stories, I wanted to write outlandish stories about people and eventually have the audience of Danielle Steel (That woman has a million books!).

It's amazing how things are so much different in life than they are in your imagination. Looking back at an old list of goals, I was supposed to have been at this year's Oscars. Considering I didn't even WATCH the Oscars this year, it's funny how things actually work out.

When I was in college, I was trying to figure out how to make a living blogging so I could quit my job at HyVee. I was extremely miserable, broke, and ready to take the next step in my life and career. 

My first stop was at one of those Examiner-type websites that you put in what you could write about, and they were *supposed* to find you work, if you passed muster. I didn't have any samples of my writing, except my papers for school, so I found my best ones and submitted them. I got a robotic "Thanks, but no thanks" email from the company within a day.

I had no idea about pitching to companies. I didn't know what I was doing, and with that, I decided to just accept a job at a call center (which turned out to be one of my favorite companies to work for. Loved them!), and continued with school, writing my fiction, and dreaming about the day I could be a writer.

One of the nice things about working in the call center, especially in 2009/10 when I started working nights, I had a LOT of time during the off-season (I took orders for textbooks) to read, write, and practice my craft. I all but forgot about freelance writing during that time, resting back on my desire to write fiction.

With the advent of Pinterest, I discovered different blogs sharing their own knowledge of how to start "Side-hustling" and Freelancing part time. Many even went on to make tens of thousands of dollars per month. Enough that they were able to quit their jobs, and write full time, anywhere they wanted. This appeals to me on so many levels, from the introvert to the girl who wants to work in her pajamas, or make her way to Starbucks to do some writing. It just seems like a fun idea to get to choose where, when, and how often you work. 

That's pretty much why I started this blog back in 2012. I wanted a place to write, where people might see it, and I'd be able to get some writing samples up. It took me a long time to figure out the kind of blogging I wanted to do, though. I originally wanted it to be a blog about writing, but I still feel like I know next to nothing, especially in regards to characterization, plot, theme, all those things that people tell you are important in storytelling. 

In my Pinning frenzies, I discovered the story of Gina Horkey, a mother of twins who started freelancing, and within a year was making $4,000/month. You see these headlines, and can't help but gape and go "How can I do that, too?!" Seriously. It's what I did. I gaped. I asked, "How can I do that, too?"

Luckily for me, Gina has a course on her blog, The Horkey Handbook, all about setting up your freelance writing business. She offers three different tiers for different levels, from very basic (The Starter Package), to pushing the limit (The Growth Package), to I NEED TO DO THIS OR I'LL DIE!!!!!! (Okay, maybe not DIE, but if you have the biggest passion, you'll want the biggest program, right? That one is called The Rockstar Package).

I opted for the Growth Package, deciding that it had everything I needed (and there are options to get the rest later if you want).

The course is an email course that you can set your own pace too. I finished it in three days and marked off everything I'd already done, which was kind of fun. I started searching job boards for potential places to work, and while I've yet to actually get responses from people who PAY (at least to the point of them offering me work), I will be writing for The Daily Megaphone, a blog on filmmaking, and Dig Omaha, an online magazine for people in the Omaha area. Neither pays, but at this point, I like the fact that I'll have samples of my work in places other than on MJA. 

I'm not giving up on finding paying work. I know it's out there, and since pitching is a numbers game, it'll come, eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but it will come. I'm positive it will. If nothing else, I now know what having a freelance writing business takes, and I'm excited to get myself there. 

I'll be sure to do monthly updates to let you know how things are going. I'm really excited about this new venture!

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a percentage.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekend Overview: Why I DIDN'T Watch The 2016 Oscars


I have to preface this by saying that I have been watching the Oscars on TV every year since 1998 when Titanic was the big winner.

The last several years the show has been abysmal. It's been, boring, the jokes have been pretty flat, and the only thing I enjoyed was the heartfelt acceptance by all the winners.

Okay, not entirely true. Last year, after JK Simmons won Best Supporting Actor, and Neil Patrick Harris sang the Farmers Insurance jingle with "He won an Oscar. Bom ba dom bom bom bom bom." My family and I still sing this when we see him on TV.

Comedy gold.

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Anyway, this year, when the nominees came out, I didn't think much of it. Certainly not of their race. Half these people I didn't know. I didn't see any of the nominees for the "Big" awards, just smaller ones for costumes, animation, and effects (Cinderella, Inside Out, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). With all of the controversy surrounding #OscarsSoWhite, and Chris Rock hosting, I just didn't really have any desire to watch. I didn't enjoy Chris Rock last time he hosted, and I'm sure I wouldn't have this time.

The state of relations in America is worse than ever. Personally, I don't know what to do about it, but I think that cutting news stories to fit a narrative (both sides are guilty of this) isn't the answer, and compassion is. Unfortunately, no one knows what compassion is anymore.

The Oscars used to be the creme de la creme of acting awards, showcasing artistry and innovation. I believe in certain awards, like costuming, music, and effects, they do still showcase this. But the big six, Picture, Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, and Director seem to be polarizing, and not necessarily the best job done.

I never really watched any other awards show, but I think watching The People's Choice and The Golden Globes would be a decent start, as the People's Choice are based on the viewers, and are movies people have actually seen, and the Golden Globes, which I always referred to as the Pre-Oscars, is a lot less stuffy and a lot more fun (See Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's hosting).

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(Basically Lauren and I)
When I was a kid, winning an Oscar was my dream. I went to the Donna Reed museum in Dennison, Iowa during the Donna Reed Festival in 2000, and saw hers in person, which only pushed the desire. In the last several years, with everyone in Hollywood getting on their soap box, and pushing a political agenda during their acceptance speeches, I'm not entirely certain I want to be in that group anymore.

I did catch the awards for Best Actress, Actor, and Picture. Brie Larson's speech was refreshing and genuine. She thanked everyone who took part in making a project she was proud of, and her friends and family who supported her. Leonardo DiCaprio had to make a political plea to the masses, which lost me.

It'll be interesting to see the ratings for the show. If there were a lot of people who boycotted because it was #SoWhite as they say, or because they're like me, and they like their drama to stay in the movies, and not in the real world.

  • Did you watch? 
  • Did you boycott?
  • What did you think of the show or the controversy?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Keeping Your Pet Healthy With Primal Treats (Sponsored Post)



I love my pets. They are my babies, and they make my heart feel light. I can't imagine ever being without a pet of some kind (preferably a furball).

My favorite would have to be my dog, Charmin. Charm was born in 1996, the youngest pup of my sister's dog, Rosie. Charm was my best friend, and I could never bring myself to imagine life without her.

Charm with two of her siblings.
One Sunday evening in 2010 my mom called me, sobbing, and told me that Charmie was sick. My dad and sister took her to the vet to see what was what, but she was suffering from Gastric Torsion, which is when the stomach fills with air and flips, cutting off circulation to her lower extremities. It happens without warning, and sometimes can be fixed with surgery, but Charmin's age and current physical health made it impossible (her lower spine looked like it had fused itself together). She probably never would've woken up from the surgery.


In the days that followed, I did as much research on Gastric Torsion that I could. I found out that it was a disorder that usually affects bigger dogs, and it's usually caused by diet.

Frisket is thirteen and a half, almost fourteen years old. He's definitely slowing down, but he can still be the rambunctious little pup that he used to be. Feeding natural, whole foods without fillers are always going to be best.

Turkey Liver Munchies by Primal Treats are just that. They're freeze dried, no added salt, sugar, or preservatives. Plus, they're for dogs and cats. Frisket loves them. Jane's not too sure about them, but she's finicky.

Frisket is mad about them, though. He can't seem to get enough, so it's probably good that we don't keep them where the other cats can reach them. Henry and Frisket seem to be in cahoots, where Henry tosses stuff from counters onto the floor for Frisket.

Charmie would've turned twenty this year if big dogs lived that long. I still miss her, and I sometimes wonder if I could've saved her, but thanks to the research I've done because of her, I think I can prevent it happening in another dog. At least, I hope so.

This post has been sponsored by Chewy.com. They provided the product in return for my honest review. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

When the Writing Gets Hard: 3 Ways to Refresh

It's been my goal this year (so far) to write a lot more than I did in 2015. Don't get me wrong. I did write a decent amount in 2015, even winning at Camp NaNoWriMo in July, but that story still isn't finished, and I've started other stories since that time.

Probably not a good thing to do when all I want to do is publish several books, and make a living from my writing.

Add to that, this month I've been battling a nasty cold and sore throat. It's absolute misery, and nothing sounds good, except watching TV and eating an excess of junk food. I did manage to get a decent amount of writing done when I stayed home from church with a fever, but fevered writing can sometimes be a bit jenky. Or absolutely brilliant. I'll let you know when I'm back in my right mind.

So what's a person to do when the "Muse" is being fickle, and not helping you do your job?

1. Sometimes, you have to kick her to the curb and write anyway.

When I was in college, one of my teachers told us that sometimes writing will suck. You will type out absolute garbage, but in a way, you're clearing the garbage out of your head to make room for the good stuff. Besides, first drafts aren't supposed to be good. They're supposed to be blueprints.


A few years ago, I had a story on this website, which is now defunct, Five Sprockets, that I wrote whenever I just had to clear my head. It was trite, annoying, probably took a little too liberally from where I wish my life was, but it helped me to get into a zone so I could transition into a story I preferred working on. That story eventually became Sugar & Spies, which is currently in the process of rewrites (and holy frijoles, does it suck!).

2. Get out.

Do it. Go out. Get out of your home, bedroom, office, wherever it is that you write, just leave. Try someplace new. 

My sister and I take sister dates, occasionally. We used to go to this coffee shop in Omaha, Legends, which is also a Comic Book store. We're super geeky, and enjoy looking at collectibles for sale, while also settling down to write. We're there with our headphones, our coffee, and Pandora, and just the change of scenery helps a lot.

I'm planning to test out my local library as a place to write very soon. But last time I was there, someone let their kids run and scream through the place. Not so quiet anymore, I guess? (And yes. I'm totally shaming people who let their kids scream in a library. Deal with it).

But if you're suffering from some kind of block, sometimes switching things up helps. It might be difficult, even in winter (especially in the Midwest, where we seem to be getting a blizzard every other week, which is really starting to annoy the hell out of me and my sinuses).


Go for a walk, go to the gym, go shopping, go to a museum, go to the zoo. Just get out, and get some air. Being cooped up does not help the artistic process. If you're in the Omaha Metro Area, the Joslyn Art Museum permanent exhibit is free, and they have some amazing pieces. They even have a Jackson Pollock! Art usually gets the juices flowing.

I also recommend finding a new book to read. Reading helps my writing more than not reading ever did. Comparing my manuscripts from when I've been reading a lot to when I've been watching a lot of TV, the difference is astounding.



3. Take some time off.

Yes, this contradicts the first two on the list, but hear me out. Sometimes, I will go for days without writing, because it is physically impossible for me to put words out into the universe. I know that sometimes, you just want to be hard on yourself, and like I said, write through it, but sometimes, it's physically impossible, and that is OKAY. Sometimes, you just need a break. Give yourself a day or two, but don't take too much time off. It's hard to get started again once you've stopped (like going to the gym.


Nine times out of ten, these tips really help me to decompress and get right back to writing. Sometimes, it's all the push you need.

  • How do you push past periods of hard writing?

Friday, February 12, 2016

5 Netflix Offerings to Watch on Galentine's Day.

In the past, I haven't tried to hide my distaste for February. Truly. Despite the fact that it's my dad's and best friend's birthday month, this isn't the best month for me.

Then, Parks & Recreation came around with the idea of "Galentine's Day." Galentine's Day is February 13, and is a day set aside to celebrate your best Gal Pals. My best Gal Pals are spread across the country, so I can't see them all at the same time.

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Starting last year, my sister and I celebrated with getting Marvel-themed Build-a-Bears (I made a Captain America dog, she got Toothless, the dragon from How to Train Your Dragon, and put him in Avengers pajamas). Afterward we went to Olive Garden for dinner (and they gave us ALL of our food at once. That was weird).

Anyway, I was thinking about how to celebrate this year (Kiri and I are planning on seeing Deadpool), but what I loved doing most in college with my girlfriends was watching movies. I thought I would list five things to watch on Netflix to watch with your Gal Pals. Make a night of it. Order pizza, drink wine, and have fun!

Parks & Recreation "Galentine's Day"

You can't experience Galentine's Day without seeing the episode that started it all! In this episode, Leslie treats her best friends to breakfast (the most amazing meal of the day!), and gifts. For her mother's gift, though, she tries to set her up with a lost love, who turns out to be insane. It's pretty epic. 




For a Good Time, Call...

FYI, this movie is rated R for sex and language. This is the story of two women who become unlikely roommates, and in the process of starting their own business, go from enemies to best friends. This is one I'd watch with Lauren (and all of our Stephens friends, actually). It's funny and quirky, and highly inappropriate. Seriously, unless you're over 17, and like raunch comedy, don't watch it.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

This is another quirky movie that puts to unlikely characters together. Yes, it's a man and a woman, but I think when it comes down to it, if the world were ending, I'd want to be with the people I love the most. My family AND my best friends. It's fun.  


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You're Not You

This film is about a concert pianist (Hilary Swank) who gets Lou Gehrig's disease, and while losing both her ability to care for herself, and also losing her husband, she befriends her ne'er-do-well caretaker (Emmy Rossum), who helps her enjoy her last few months. It's very sweet. Plus, it's about a classical musician, which is close to my heart. 

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Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2

Again, this one is rated R, but for violence. It's Quentin Tarantino, who loves his blood and guts. And while it might seem to be a bit odd watching a Revenge movie on a day celebrating Girlfriends, but before all hell broke loose, these women were close. It reminds you that you should keep your friends close (and your enemies closer). I would also watch this with my friend, Kaity, who introduced me to Quentin Tarantino (I still don't understand Resevoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction). 
So, those are my Netflix Picks for Galentine's Day! What movies or TV show episodes would you add to the list?


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Netflix Pick: 5 Romance Movies You Need to Watch

When I was a kid, I never thought I'd be a romance movie fan, but like a lot in my life, the big change happened when I was nine, when I saw Little Women for the first time (If you've been following me for any length of time, you know that my life seems to center around this film).

Just for fun, I thought I'd share my favorite Netflix Romance movies. Sometimes, when you're looking for a good romance, it's hard to know where to look. If you get too far down into the Bowels of Netflix, as I call it, you can either find a diamond, or nothing but utter crap. Unfortunately, the crap outweighs the diamonds, much like in life.

Without further ado.

The Decoy Bride

I know. I just wrote about it on Monday, but this film, starring David Tennant, Kelly MacDonald, and Alice Eve is one of my absolute favorites, ever.

In Case You Missed it, the long and short of it is that Alice Eve is Lara Tyler, film superstar who just wants to privately marry her boyfriend, James (David Tennant), a writer of a terribly long book about the Isle of Hegg, a fictional island in Scotland. When a famed paparazzo, Marco Bellani, invades their wedding, Lara's publicist, Steve, sneaks them away to the Isle of Hegg, where Katie lives, for a remote wedding with just the two of them. Upon discovering that their location has been sold to the press, and Lara has disappeared upon finding Bellani while on a hike, Steve hires Katie to pose as Lara in a wedding dress and heavy veil, to fool the press (and James).




Katie (MacDonald) is extremely likable and has the best lines ("I'm kryptonite to men. Kryptonite dipped in cellulite"). Her chemistry with David Tennant is the cutest thing on Netflix, honestly. And Lara is such a likable character that you root for her, too, despite wanting Katie and James to end up together.

Plus, it has blessed us with this gif:



TiMER

I don't know what I was doing when I found this gem of a movie, but it's been like six years since I first saw it, and it just hits me in the feels every time.

In a world where your DNA can tell you down to the day when you'll meet your soulmate, 20-something Oona has been waiting a long time. A company installs a timer into your wrist to count it down, provided your soul mate also has one. Oona and her stepsister, Steph, both fear and revere the Timer. It's what brought their parents together, and created their perfect family. Oona's TiMER hasn't lit up despite having had it since she was a teenager, and Steph won't meet her soulmate until she is middle-aged. The two have completely separate life philosophies, and after finding out their younger brother will meet his soulmate in a week, Oona throws caution to the wind and goes for a one-night stand with grocery checker, Mikey, who flirted with her early in the story. When Oona starts to really fall for Mikey, she starts to wonder if the Timer system could be wrong.


This movie really makes you think about the way the world ticks when it comes to love and relationships. Do soul mates exist? Is love something that is biological or is it a choice you make every single day. The ending is also open to interpretation, which is just like life.

In Your Eyes

Anyone who knows me knows that I greatly admire Joss Whedon as a writer. He's got the ability to pull on your heartstrings and make you cry in the corner for weeks (Still crying over Tara on Buffy, and it's been over ten years).

He wrote this lovely story about two people who are somehow psychically linked, and in the process of getting to know each other, make each other better, and fall in love.

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I love the movies that might not necessarily get a full-blown marketing treatment. It's sad, but sometimes, those movies that come around quietly and aren't pretentious in their intentions are the absolute best.

If I Stay

I'd heard about this one for awhile. I have a teenage cousin, and I'm sure she probably read it and told me about it. Or, maybe I just saw the trailer somewhere. When I found it on Netflix, I knew I had to watch it. I actually related to the musically inclined protagonist, though I'm not as great a musician as she is. 


This film isn't just about a young woman making a choice to not wake up from a coma, it's about her choice in staying close to home to be near her boyfriend, or following her dream to go to Julliard. We need to figure out what matters most to us, but there are always repercussions to any choice we make.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

You know I had to include this one, right? It's relatively new to the Netflix family, and while I was super jazzed to see it, I was disappointed at where the film ended. There are two different endings: One ends when Darcy and Lizzy ask permission to marry. The American version ends with Darcy and Lizzy at Pemberley. This one ends with them asking permission (The British Version), which, unless you're prepared for that, it comes as a shock. Or, at least, it did to me. 

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People do have very strong opinions about which version is best, and while story-wise, I think nothing can beat the 1995 version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, this version is just gorgeous. The music, cinematography, costumes, everything is beautiful.


  • Hit me! What movies do YOU love on Netflix that I should add to my list?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Why "The Decoy Bride" is the Movie to Watch this Valentine's Day

I'm in love with Romantic Comedies. With a blog called The Modern Jane Austen, you'd expect me to love them, and you'd be right. I like love and like comedy. Since Valentine's Day is coming up, I thought I'd share with you one of my favorites.

Have you seen The Decoy Bride starring David Tennant and Kelly MacDonald? If you haven't you're missing out on the best RomCom on Netflix. Want to know why?

David Tennant is absolutely adorkable.

Seriously. As a massive Whovian, I'll watch anything David Tennant is in (though, Jessica Jones might have scarred me for life). Plus, this movie gave us David Tennant doing this:


But he plays writer, James Arber, who is engaged to famous actress, Lara Tyler (Alice Eve), and they just want to have a private wedding ceremony, so they travel to the remote Scottish island of Hegg, which is the location for James' premier (and verbose) novel.


Kelly MacDonald is the heart broken single chick everyone relates to at one point or another.

Kelly MacDonald plays Katie who returns to her hometown to nurse her broken heart. She also arrives just in time to see the wedding of the last single man on the island, Angus, who had been carrying a torch for Katie and finally gave up.


But after returning home, she's at the point where we all are most of the time: ready to focus on nothing but bettering ourselves, because obviously nothing better is going to come along. Right? I know I'm pretty convinced that I'm not alluring to men. ;-)


It's written by Shazzer (Sally Phillips) from Bridget Jones' Diary.

Yeah. The same character who dropped lots of F bombs in Bridget Jones wrote and co-stars in this fun movie as the assistant to Lara's agent, Steve. 


Poor woman needs a vacation and a raise, but since she essentially is assisting the man who is running a Starlet's life, she doesn't get a break. 

Personally, I love it when writers take small parts in their own movies. Maybe it's a desire to do it myself, one day. ;-)

Katie's mom has the best bucket list, even if she goes about it the wrong way.

Katie's mom runs the local bed and breakfast, and is very sick. She can no longer walk, and believes that it's her fate to travel the world and be thrown into a volcano, to her death. She's a bit morbid, but she definitely has Katie's best interests at heart throughout the film. 


She even goes about blackmail to get what she wants. She's not perfect, but she knows what she wants.

Lara is a surprisingly relatable character, despite being the hottest actress in Hollywood.

When I first saw the logline to this movie on Netflix, I expected Lara Tyler to be an unlikable Diva, but she's absolutely not. She's kind and considerate, as well as talented and beautiful. I really wanted to hate her (so I could easily root for Katie and James), but I really liked her. She's sweet. You really want her to have the privacy she desires for her wedding, even when a group of paparazzi shows up on the island. She can deal. She even knows how to disguise herself to look old with basic cosmetics.


If you loved Michael Urie in Ugly Betty, you'll adore him in this. 

He's got some of the best lines in the whole movie. He's shrill, bossy, manipulative, judgemental, and doing the best he can for his client. You just kind of love to hate him. It's pretty great.


Katie is an awkward but loveable heroine. 

Despite being down and out, Katie is open to trying new things, even if she doesn't think they'll work. She goes back to working at a local bookstore, and at her boss's suggestion, she writes a guidebook to the island. This is suggested after stocking several copies of James Arber's book, The Ornithologist's Wife, which is not as accurate as the citizens of Hegg would want. 

She also tries to talk herself up, even if it comes out as the most awkward thing in the world. We empathize with her embarrassment. After meeting the first new man to come to Hegg in generations, she gives him this:


She's also not afraid to stand up for herself, her family, or her precious island. No one can make fun of it, except her. Don't we all feel that way about our hometowns?

If you have Netflix, I highly recommend this amazing movie. It's just fun, sweet, and absolutely hilarious. Plus, we could all use more David Tennant in our lives, since Doctor Who is no longer on Netflix. 


  • What movies on Netflix do you think I should watch?
  • Have you see The Decoy Bride? What did you think?