Posted in The Writing Corner, Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesday – A Year of Butterflies

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It was right after her grandmother passed away. That’s when she began to notice the butterflies. They were everywhere she looked.

Over by the kittens’ house, there abounded a kaleidoscope of blue butterflies. Red-spotted purple butterflies they were called, but they were actually beautiful shades of blue with a a few orange-looking spots near the top tips of their wings. The dotted lines that spanned around the edges of their wings made them look like cutouts from a child’s coloring book. Beautiful flying creatures that God had cut out of the clouds and gently sent off his hand to flutter down to comfort her.

red-tipped purple butterfly

Down by the swimming pool, she saw yellow butterflies. Pure yellow with maybe a few little orange markings on them that she couldn’t see unless she held still enough for one to land close to her where her wide eyes would gaze upon its papery thin, lemony yellow wings. Cloudless sulphurs.

cloudless sulphur butterfly

Someone once told her that seeing yellow butterflies meant the spirit of a deceased love one was near. She didn’t know, but it was a lovely thought. A yellow butterfly greeted her down by the pool every day that summer. It’d flit back and forth over the pool as she floated atop the crystal clear water on her pink floatie, gazing up at the clouds through her sunglasses, daydreaming of days gone by and things to come in the afterlife. She knew it likely wasn’t the same butterfly every day. The average lifespan of a butterfly was only a month, but she liked to believe that for that month it was the same one – a kindred spirit that’d taken a fancy to her and checked up on  her every day. Hello, my dear friend. How are you holding up today? 

Once it even shared her floatie with her. Landing gently by her foot, it perched and floated along for the span of a minute or two before fluttering prettily along its way. She didn’t feel so alone in those minutes, and her heart was lightened. Thank you, my dear friend.

Flitting about the rest of the yard, she observed orange and yellow monarchs with their beautiful contrast of bright colors amidst their dark outlines. Had there always been this many butterflies across the yard every summer, or was she just now taking notice of them?

When her birthday rolled around, one of her dearest friends from across the country sent her stationary decorated with beautiful images of butterflies along with some 3D butterfly stickers. She loved to watch the wings of the stickers flutter, as if a real butterfly had landed upon her page.

Butterflies…

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Posted in The Writing Corner, Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesday – Trixie Gets a Sister

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Trixie’s ears perked up as she heard the slamming of something outside. She’d bet her last bone it was her humans back from wherever they’d been. She stood, gave a long yawn and took a luxurious stretch on the rug she’d been laying on in the kitchen while she’d waited for them to return.

Her tail gave an expectant wag as she stood still, ears perked, listening for the sound of footfalls coming up the steps of the porch on the other side of the door. Yep. There they were. She heard them clomping up the steps and talking.

“Just wait until Trixie sees,” the mom said. Wait until she sees what? Oh boy. Trixie’s tail began to wag more. Maybe they’d bought her a new kind of treat.

“Oh my gosh, I wonder what she’s gonna do,” Trixie heard the daughter say. What’d she mean what was she gonna do? She was going to eat whatever it was.

“Y’all let me see Trix first.” Her tag wagged emphatically at the sound of her name coming from her favorite human’s voice. Trixie was touched that he wanted to see her before anyone else. She felt that way too.

Just then the door opened, and there he was. Trixie jumped up and down, barking at him enthusiastically to let him know just how much she’d missed him. He scooped her up in his arms and started petting her, telling her what a good girl she was. Yes, I know all that. Now where’s the new treats? She peeked over his shoulder to look back at the two female humans and then stilled at what she saw.

Instead of a bag from the store, in the daughter’s arms was something that looked like…Wait a minute…was that fur? As if in answer, the bundle stirred and gave a soft “yip.”

Trixie sniffed the air, and her suspicions were confirmed. Another animal. No, not just another animal. Another dog. Her heart dropped within her. Why had her humans gotten another dog? Were they replacing her? Had she done something wrong?

She put her paw on her favorite human’s shoulder and reared back to peer into his face, looking for answers. How could you? 

She began kicking to be set down on the floor, and he obliged while saying soothingly, “Now, look, Trixie. It’s just another puppy. We still love you.”

The daughter walked towards her, holding the black fur out to her. Trixie saw the creature’s eyes looking at her curiously, and she reared back as its scent assaulted her. Stinky thing. It certainly did not have the good, clean dog smell that Trixie so prided herself on. “Trixie,” the daughter said proudly, “meet Mixie.”

Trixie jerked her head back around. Mixie? What? They gave this mutt a name almost just like hers? The daughter held the black furball out more, moving her closer to Trixie, and Trixie voiced her displeasure with a low growl.

“Aw, come on, Trix,” the daughter pleaded. “Don’t be like that.” Trixie growled again, lower this time. It was bad enough they brought that thing into her domain, but to give it a name so similar to hers? Talk about adding insult to injury. Trixie didn’t know what the insipid human expected her to do with the pup, but she swore if she put that thing close to her again, she was going to…

“Okay, that’s enough,” the male human said, moving to take the black fur from his daughter’s arms. She watched as the pup reached up to lick his cheeks.

That did it! Trixie turned tail and went underneath the table where she laid down and glared out at the four of them. They began to beg and plead with her to come out. No, no. They’d made their choice. She wasn’t enough for them. They had to bring in an intruder. Well, she was having none of it, especially after her male human had let that impostor lick him when she herself hadn’t even done so yet.

Trixie cut her eyes as she sized it up. What was it anyway? It wasn’t any sort of breed she recognized. Certainly not of the royal Pomeranian line she came from. I mean, look at its fur – if  you could even call that matted up mess fur. It didn’t look fluffy like Trixie’s, and Trixie bet it wasn’t as luxuriously soft as hers either. Its fur hung limply down its back in straight lines. It looked more like human hair than animal fur. Trixie wrinkled her nose as she was assaulted by its smell again. Putrid. Trixie didn’t know where they’d gotten this thing, but it was going to stink up the whole house with its revolting scent. None of them would be able to stand living there after long.

The daughter placed it on the floor and oohed and ahhed over it as it pitter-pattered around on its tiny paws. So it could walk. Big deal. Trixie fumed.

“Who’s the cutest little yorkiepoo in the world? You are! You are!” the daughter crooned to it.

Trixie thought she was going to be sick, and then her brows furrowed as what the human called it registered. Yorkiepoo? Yorkiepoo! She was right then! It was a mutt! A filthy half-breed. Trixie narrowed her eyes as she thought of ways to eliminate the intrusion on her happy life. There was only room for one dog in this house, and that dog was going to be her.

“Come on, Trix,” the daughter tried again to supplicate to her. “She’s your new sister.”

Sister? Sister! Trixie ran out from under the table barking furiously. That mutt would never be related to her. To even suggest that it was on the same level as her was ludicrous! It didn’t even have a pedigree for crying out loud!

The puppy started skipping up to Trixie, it’s tongue hanging out of its mouth stupidly. Before it reached her, the daughter grabbed the mutt up in her arms and held it to her chest while the stupid thing tried to get down. Trixie guessed the human was afraid she’d bite the dumb mutt, and good thing she’d grabbed her because Trixie just might have.

She watched the pup continue to struggle to get down. Moron. The stupid mutt obviously didn’t realize yet that Trixie hated it. That was okay.  Give them time to make their proper introductions, and she’d make  her intentions known.

“I think we need to just give her some time and some space,” the mother human said.

Trixie huffed. They could give her all the time and space in the world. That mutt would never be her sister. In fact, she decided that from that moment on she would refuse to acknowledge the mutt’s existence. She wouldn’t get anywhere near it or have anything to do with it. To heck with introductions. She wouldn’t speak to it. She’d simply act like it didn’t exist, and she wouldn’t be the same happy dog that her humans were used to either. She knew they liked for her to wag her tail and be a good girl, but until they got rid of that mutt, she was going to ignore them all.

They would have to make a choice. It was her or the mutt. Let the games begin.

Posted in The Writing Corner, Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesday – Trixie’s Family Comes Home

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Trixie laid on the soft kitchen mat where she could keep an eye on the backdoor her family always returned home through. She hated when they left because she never knew how long there were going to be gone. She glanced over at her food and water bowls. She had plenty of sustenance to last her a few days, especially when she found it hard to eat much when she was filled with worry. She didn’t understand why her humans couldn’t just stay in their home with her where she could keep an eye on them and make sure they were safe.

She inwardly fumed at their insensitivity. How dare they leave her here all alone this long! She had no idea how long they’d been gone, but it seemed like forever. Okay, she knew it hadn’t even been a full day because she could tell by her biological clock that it wasn’t nightfall yet, but still. The point remained. She had no lap to lay in, and they knew she slept better when she was warm and curled up with one of her pack.

She stared at the door forlornly. She wasn’t going to forgive them for a while this time. When they walked in that door, they’d get no enthusiastic greeting from her. No wagging tails. No jumping up and down. She’d look at them, stick her snout in the air and present them with her tail as she walked away. It would serve them right and would let them know in no uncertain terms just how she felt about being left alone so long. They’d have to come to her, begging her affections back. Maybe after they coaxed her with a treat or two she’d relent. Her mouth watered at the prospect. She hoped they had plenty of those Little Caesar treats she loved left. Small, soft and meaty, those things were delicious. She wished they’d just fill her food bowl with those instead of those dry balls of dirt they called kibble.

Click. Trixie’s fluffy, cinnamon-colored ears perked up. She heard the doorknob turn and stood to her paws. Her tail gave a wag, and she caught herself. No. She said she wasn’t going to show excitement.

She heard the whoosh of the door as it was pushed open and counted her humans. One, two, three. Her tail began to wag with abandon. Oh, who was she kidding? She couldn’t stay mad at them when she was so happy they were okay. She ran over to them and began jumping up and down, barking. Hey, just because she was so happy to see them didn’t mean that she couldn’t give them a good chewing out for leaving her alone for so long.

Her humans laughed, and her favorite one, the male, scooped her up in his arms. She planted licks all over his face while he walked them to their chair. It was her favorite spot in the whole house. Her male human would sit there, and she’d sit on his lap. He’d watch some box called “the TV” (She had no idea why humans were so enamored with that box. She looked at it sometimes, but for the most part it was boring. Most of the time it just showed a bunch of super tiny humans moving around on it, but sometimes it showed other animals, which Trixie found curious. How did they get in the little box? It confused her to say the least, so she chose to ignore it. Besides, she had more important things to do.) while she napped and kept watch for intruders.

Her second favorite human, the male one’s mate, walked over to the cabinet where Trixie knew her treats were kept. She stood up on her human’s thigh and wagged her tail. Could it be? Yep, the female human turned around and said the words she longed to hear, “Trixie, want a treat?”

Trixie gave a jump and barked. Her favorite human winced as she jumped on his leg. Oops. She turned and placed a paw on his chest and she reached up to give his cheek a lick. Sorry. He patted her head, letting her know all was forgiven.

She turned back around to her other human holding out a couple of the tasty little treats she’d been dreaming about earlier. She gingerly took one in her mouth, laid it on her human’s knee and then took the other proffered treat and did likewise. Then she settled down to savor the little morsels. Trixie refused to scarf them down like some common mutt. After all, she did have a pedigree.

As she munched (Mmm…delicious. They were a mixture of chicken and something else she couldn’t identify. Heavenly…), she glanced over at the third human. The younger one, the offspring of the other two. She walked up and patted Trixie on the head. Trixie accepted the recognition graciously even though she was chewing. She looked up at the curly-furred human and gave a couple tail wags before turning her attention back to her treats.

All her humans were home, and she had treats. Life was good again.

Posted in The Writing Corner, Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesday – The Yellow Butterfly

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Tears stung her eyes as she floated around the pool, the floatie leaving soft ripples in its wake. She gazed up at the robin’s egg blue sky dotted only by a few cottony clouds. The sun shone down upon her exposed skin, kissing her with warmth and making the droplets of water glisten. Yet despite the warmth of the beautiful summer day, she felt cold inside.

Her chest felt tight as memories of other summer days when the sky looked just like this assaulted her. The treetops swayed just so, the same tempo they’d exhibited so many years ago when those who’d passed on where still living. The feeling in the air was the same, and yet it wasn’t. There was no way to describe it but bittersweet nostalgia and saudade.

She wondered about where they were now. It pained her to think that they had merely faded into a state of nonexistence. Surely there was something more. A heaven, perhaps, where there was joy and peace forevermore. She liked to think that, but sometimes doubt crept in, tormenting her.

A lump gathered in her throat. She couldn’t breathe. Although she was floating atop the water, she was drowning – drowning deep inside the depths of her soul that was muddled with confusion and pain.

Please…show me a sign…something to let me know that they are okay, that there’s something after this life. The plea ran through her mind unbidden, torn from her bleeding heart.

She took a deep breath, willing herself to breathe, to calm, and opened her eyes. There in her peripheral vision was a brilliant yellow butterfly the likes of which she’d never seen ’round these parts before. It flitted over in a zigzag to hover directly above her in her direct line of vision, fluttering steadily in place, as if it had paused to look down at her.

She stilled and stared up at it – its bright yellow wings unmarred by any other color or markings she could see. The seconds ticked by until in the strangest phenomenon, it swooped down directly in front of her eyes for just a millisecond before rising up and fluttering away across the yard.

She floated in a stunned silence, contemplating the strange appearance of the yellow butterfly. When a yellow butterfly appears, a deceased loved one is near.

A soft smile lit her face. Coincidence? Perhaps, but she had just enough hope to believe the odd yellow butterfly was the sign she’d so desperately prayed for. The lump in her throat subsided, and peace filled her soul again as she was filled with a rekindled faith. Thank you, her mind whispered to the divine source that had sent the fluttering of hope.

Posted in The Writing Corner, Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesday – The Masked Calico

In an effort to vary up the writing on this blog a bit, I’m launching what I’ve dubbed Writing Wednesdays. As the name implies, these are short writings that I’ll submit on Wednesdays (when my time commitments allow, that is). They’ll typically be short stories that will vary in nature, and I might occasionally include excerpts from my books. Anyway, on to the first one…

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A male calico crouched in the bushes where he peered out at two white kittens. Brothers. They were jumping and rolling, tails swishing in their playful frolicking. The calico noted their crystal blue eyes and unmarred fur, as white as the driven snow. Their bright coats stood out in stark contrast to his dark patches, and he sneered (well, as much as a cat could sneer). Good luck blending into the grass with that fur, he thought.

In contrast, his fur consisted of beautiful patches of gold, cream, brown and black, and his eyes were a startling shade of gold. Fortunately, he possessed more black than any other color, and one entire side of his face was covered in black, giving the appearance that he was wearing a mask. As a male calico, he was a rarity of his breed. Only 1 in 3,000 calicoes were males, and he happened to be one of the chosen ones – an honor he didn’t take lightly.

He watched the kittens run up the wooden porch that led to the humans’ dwelling. One brother pounced on the other, effectively knocking the tackled brother off the porch. Clumsy. He wasn’t many months older than these kittens, and he already knew how to fend for himself.

Of course, he’d been born in the wild. Instilled in him from birth were the ways of survival. He’d had to claw his way through life (literally), but not too long ago, he’d landed a sweet deal here near where these humans dwelt. They frequently threw out tasty morsels of food (wasteful creatures, humans), and plenty of mice congregated near their dwelling, so he’d set up his own dwelling in an old shed out back. The humans here didn’t bother him.  He knew at least one of them had seen him before, but they didn’t try to catch him and trap him. Still, he kept his distance.

Now here were these whippersnappers running right up to where the humans lived. Didn’t they know they were supposed to sneak up and look for scraps with stealth? He shook his head.

Just as he moved a paw to step out from his covering and school the kittens in the ways of the world, he saw the door open. Uh-oh. Human. He quickly pulled his paw back and retreated further into the bushes. Just to be safe.

The human with the thick, curly mane of fur on its head stepped out and crouched down. “Tom, Jerry, what are you two up to?” she crooned at the little blue-eyed kittens. To his horror, the kittens ran right up to the human, rubbing their entire bodies along its ankles, purring. Shameful behavior. The human laughed, a light, tinkling sound, and scooped them up in her arms where they vied for her affections, rubbing their heads along her chin.

Cats with names. No respectable cat went by a name. The calico had no name. If anything, he was simply referred to as the masked calico, but cats didn’t needs names. They went by their senses. Cats knew one another by their scents. That’s when he realized what the two little white, blue-eyed kittens were. House cats. Even if they didn’t live in the house, house cats were any cats that threw their lot in with humans, allowing humans to run their paws along their bodies and submitting to all kinds of handling – and purring throughout the entire awful experience no less!

There was no way the masked calico would ever allow a human to touch his fur. It was just unnatural.

He continued to watch the exchange between the kittens and human. She ran her paws from the tops of their heads down to the tips of their tails while they arched up into her paws like…well, he didn’t want to say what they looked like. Suffice it to say their behavior was disgraceful.

When they finally rolled over onto their backs, exposing their underbellies to the human, the masked calico had to look away in disgust. Just like dogs. These kittens had obviously never been instructed in the ways of feral etiquette. There they were exposing their most vulnerable spots to the human! All it would take is one bite or one swipe of its paw, and there they’d be.

When he turned his head back, his eyes widened. What was this? He watched as the human crouched down and placed bowls in front of each of the kittens. He could smell the contents all the way across the yard…

The human was giving them food! And they didn’t have to sneak up to get it! Soooo…that’s why they submitted to all the handling. The masked calico’s tummy rumbled with hunger. Sure looks good…maybe those kittens are onto something…

No. He shook his head as if to clear it. That’s how they draw you in. He knew better than to trust a human. The last one he’d let touch him had caged him up for days until he’d finally outwitted it and broken free. No. Never again. No matter how hungry he got.

He laid down on the grass, still watching the scene played out before him. He’d wait for his scraps like usual. No need to get greedy and risk his freedom. He’d rather go hungry than live in a cage.

He watched the human stand back up from her crouched position. She tossed her mane over her shoulders and looked in his direction. He sat very still. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought she’d spotted him. He started to bolt, but then he relaxed as she went into her dwelling.

He’d just relaxed again when a moment later she reappeared with another bowl of food. The masked calico eyed her warily from his position in the bushes. He was sure she saw him, and he tensed his haunches in case he’d have to make a run for it.

The corners of her mouth lifted up, and she walked very slowly towards him. Was she stalking him? He really didn’t understand the ways of humans. They were odd creatures to say the least. For instance, why didn’t they walk on all their paws? They could run so much faster if they would.

Now he knew for sure that she’d seen him, so he dropped all pretenses of hiding and stood up, still taut and slightly crouched. She stilled in response and then crooned to him, “Hey, kitty. I’m not gonna hurt you. Just brought you some food.”

He watched as she kept her eyes on him and slowly lowered the bowl to the ground. He crouched lower and considered growling, but didn’t, saving it. He was going to have to bolt. He just knew it.

But in a surprise move the human backed away. Again, slowly – just like she’d come. He blinked. She kept her eyes on him until she’d taken several steps backwards, and then the most miraculous thing happened. She rose to her full height, turned and walked back into the dwelling.

The masked calico continued to half-sit/half-stand in his crouched position. Was that is? She was gone? No trying to catch him? He waited what seemed forever before he finally relaxed. Did the human just give him food without asking for anything in return? He put a cautionary paw forward and looked around to make sure it wasn’t a trap. Another paw. And then another. It seemed the coast was clear, so he made his way to the food bowl and took a bite.

Heaven. It was meat! Oftentimes the humans threw out mixtures of plants. He was lucky to find a scrap of meat in the mixtures sometimes, but this…this was pure meat!

He sat before the bowl and dug in, savoring the life-sustaining taste, and despite himself, he purred. Maybe humans weren’t half bad

Posted in The Writing Corner

Writing Prompt – Tell a Story Day

It happens to all of us. There’s always those times when writers hit a roadblock and think they’ve run out of things to write. However, there’re so many topics to write about. Maybe you’re just having a brain freeze and can’t think of anything at the moment. When that happens, there’re plenty of writing prompts out there to assist you.

For instance, today is Tell a Story Day. There’s a national day every day, and you can always have a topic to write about by following the National Day Calendar. The calendar tells what each day celebrates and how to celebrate. Today, for example, you can honor Tell A Story Day by telling a story. You can write your story or speak it, and one way to get a topic for writing is to write a story about your everyday life. On other days, you can write about the history behind the day and so on. It doesn’t matter what you write about so long as you write something to keep honing your craft.

Check out the short story I wrote for today on my author blog at the following link:

Mixie’s Morning: A Short Story

See how you can take something from your everyday life and write about it? In this example, I took one of my puppies, Mixie, and wrote about mornings from her point of view. Not only was this approach a great practice in personification, but it was fun to write as well.

 

Posted in The Writing Corner

Writer Debate: The Oxford Comma

If you’ve been writing for very long, then you’ve undoubtedly heard about the debate over the Oxford comma. To use it or not to use it? That is the question.

From a young age, we’re conditioned to use the Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma. In fact, I think in grade school most of us are taught to know it as the serial comma. I didn’t even know it went by another name until I encountered the debate about it online over my years of freelancing.

However, as we get older and begin looking for work writing in the real world, we encounter varying opinions over this little comma. Some employers want you to use it, and others don’t. It’s frustrating to say the least because it can be difficult to keep the rules for each client straight.

The Oxford Comma Defined

Before we go any further, let’s clarify for any of those who aren’t clear on it, just what the Oxford comma is. The Oxford comma is that last comma that’s used in a series or a list. It comes right before the conjunction and indicates that there should be a pause before the connecting word.

Here’s an example with the Oxford comma:

Lisa, Stephanie, and Denise are all fans of musicals. 

Here’s an example without the Oxford comma:

Lisa, Stephanie and Denise are all fans of musicals. 

Notice how there’s a comma before “and” in the first example but not in the second one? That last comma is referred to as the Oxford, or serial, comma. This little guy (or gal, depending upon how you want to view it) has been the source of much contention among members of the literary community ever since the Internet came to be.

Elementary Grammar Tells Us to Use the Oxford Comma

But we’re taught to use the Oxford comma in elementary school! Surely they wouldn’t teach us something that was wrong?

It’s true that it’s technically correct to use the Oxford comma if we’re going by the traditional textbooks and rules laid out for the English language. However, therein lies the problem: in the rules for the English language.

English is arguably the most complex and frustrating language in the world to master because there’s many exceptions to grammar rules. There’s words that are pronounced just like other words but have different spellings and meanings, and now we find out that there are commas we’ve been taught to use our entire lives and they’re telling us not to use them in our professional writing? Which way is correct?

In short, and as confusing as it may sound, both ways are correct in the appropriate environment. The style guide that you’re using for writing determines whether or not you should employ the Oxford comma.

AP Style: The Style Guide for Online Content

The reason why the Internet is so often to blame for the omission of the Oxford comma is because it’s on the Internet that we first started to see it not being used. However, it’s not solely the Internet that’s to blame for the omission of our beloved Oxford comma. Rather, it’s the style guide that’s commonly used on the Internet.

If you attended college, you undoubtedly quickly learned which style guide your university preferred. While some colleges use APA style, others use MLA or Chicago. Whatever writing style your institution chooses to adhere to determines how your references should be formatted and denotes other stylistic preferences for academic papers.

Just like colleges, other educational institutions and other organizations in general have their preferred style guides, so does the Internet. AP style (not to be confused with APA style) was developed by the Associated Press, and it’s the style that is most commonly used for online content.

Reportedly, the reasoning behind getting rid of the Oxford comma per AP style was to simplify web content into an easier-to-read format (as if that one little comma caused a bunch of hubbub, but apparently it did). I remember when I first read articles published online (and from major news organizations and scholastic journals too!) and saw the omission of the Oxford comma, I thought they were just grammatical errors. However, when I kept seeing a steady exclusion of these serial commas, I eventually figured out that it was done on purpose, which led me to learn about this source of contention.

What’s the Verdict?

So what’s the verdict? Do you use Oxford commas or not? The simple answer for me is to always consult with the organization you’re writing for. If no specification is made and the writing is going to be in an online publication, then I defer to AP style and don’t use the Oxford comma. However, if the writing is for a print publication or if it’s for my own personal writings, then I go with the old-school method of using the Oxford comma.

Honestly, though, were it up to me, we’d embrace the Oxford comma and love it until the end of time. Lol.

What are your views on this topic? Do you favor the Oxford comma or not?

 

Posted in The Writing Corner

Working at Textbroker: Writing Orders

Once you select an order, then you can begin writing it. Click on the order to open it, and then you’ll be presented with something like this:

OrderInstructions

Here you’ll find everything you need to know about the order. The Order ID is the number ID that Textbroker has assigned to the order for internal purposes. (You won’t need to concern yourself with this too much unless you ever have to email support with a question about the order, in which case it can certainly prove helpful to provide the support team with the order ID of the article you have a question about.)

Next is the Client Title. This is the title that the client has given the article. Sometimes the clients want you to use their provided titles as the titles of  the articles you write. In other cases, they might want to you to create your own creative title. Unless the client states otherwise in the instructions (that we’ll get to in a minute), use the client title that’s provided.

The Deadline lets you know when the article is due back to the client. Most articles have a turnaround time of 24 hours, but some might give you as long as 3 days to complete the order before it’s due.

Directly underneath the deadline is the Time Left. This tool’s pretty helpful since it essentially serves as a countdown clock letting you know just how long you have left to write the article before it’ll expire. If you don’t get an article turned into the client before the time left countdown is up, then the article will automatically be removed from your queue and sent back to the open author pool for other authors to claim.

Next, is the Word Count. This lets you know how many words your article has to be. You’re usually given a range of words that your article must fall in before you’ll be able to submit it back to the client. You can go above the suggested word count but not below. Minimum word counts are hard, which means that Textbroker’s system won’t let you return the article to the client until you’ve written the minimum word count. How hard or soft the maximum word count is depends on the client. Some clients don’t mind you going above and beyond the maximum word count to an extent, but others want you to stay within their specifications.

The Current Word Count is self-explanatory: it gives you a word count of how many words you’ve written thus far.

The Current Earnings for This Article is probably what’ll you’ll be more interested in. It’ll show how much your earnings increase with each word that you write, so you can see how much difference there is in writing just the minimum word count and the maximum.

Last is the Client ID and My Note. The client ID is the ID Textbroker assigned to the client. This is actually a useful feature because if you click on the client’s ID, you’ll be taken to the client’s profile where you can sent the client messages, sent a different pay rate for that particular client, see previous orders you’ve written for the client and so on. (All of which we’ll talk about at a later date). The My Note feature is one that I’ve actually never used, but it’s designed so that you can input a note about the order if you see fit. For instance, you might want to add a note if the title has an error in it.

Next is the Keywords section. This is one of the most important parts of the order instructions since it lets you know what keywords you need to use in the article and how many times you need to use them. In fact, Textbroker’s system won’t allow you to submit the article to the client until the keyword requirements are met. You can easily keep track of the keywords you’ve used by clicking on the checkbox in the Manual Keyword Tracking section. Check the box next to ‘Check this order for keywords automatically’ to make Textbroker’s system automatically tally up the keywords for you as you write. Alternatively, you can wait until you’re done writing and then click the ‘Check Keywords Now’ button to check them. I always track them as I go, but it’s a matter of preference.

Sometimes you’ll see “Connecting Words Allowed” in the keywords section, and this basically just means that you can use connecting words when appropriate with keyword phrases to help them fit naturally within the text and make sense. For instance, the keywords for this example are “Miami allergy doctor.” You could also write “allergy doctor in Miami” using “in” as a connecting word, and the phrase would still count towards your keyword count.

Next, you’ll see the Client Briefing, which looks something like this:

ClientBriefing

As if you haven’t already discerned that this section is important, Textbroker draws your attention to it with its ‘Important!’ exclamation heading. Click on the down arrow located next to ‘Show’ to expand the box and show the full client instructions. The specific way the client’s instructions looks depends on the client. Some might offer detailed list style instructions like these, and others might only write a sentence or paragraph or two. Still others (like this one) might include a link to a GoogleDocs file where they have a complete list of their instructions with a style guide and examples. Read all instructions carefully before proceeding to write the order.

If you see anything in the client briefing that violates Textbroker’s terms of service, such as asking for contact with writers outside Textbroker’s system, you can report the briefing. You can also rate the briefing, giving clients who offer clear instructions 5 stars and those who are vague 1 or 2. You don’t have to rate instructions, but it can be helpful for letting clients know how clear their instructions were.

Next is the Text Input space. This is where you’ll do your writing, or rather (if you’re like me) this is where you’ll paste your written content. I prefer to write my article in a word processor like Microsoft Word and then copy and paste the written content into Textbroker when I’m done. The reason for this is because when you write directly into Textbroker’s system, you’re at risk of losing all your work if you accidentally refresh or close the page or if you experience a connection issue. I’ve written articles directly in the system before and then when I clicked to submit them, my internet went out and I lost the articles. Frustrating does not begin to describe it when you lose a 1,000+ word article in such a manner.

Still, if you choose to write directly in Textbroker, the text input field keeps track of your word count as  you write, and there’s a toolbar for formatting text and inputting lists and hyperlinks. You can also click the ‘Save Manually’ button periodically to save your work as you write, but again if there’s a connection issue when you click the button, you’ll be directed to an error page, meaning you’ll lose all your work so far.

When you think you’re done with the article, click the ‘Preview and Submit Text’ button. You’ll be presented with a view of what your article will look like as it’s formatted. If you want to make any revisions, you can click on the ‘Revise’ button, but if you’re satisfied with the text, then simply click the ‘Submit’ button.

If for some reason you decide you don’t want to write the order, you can click on the ‘Cancel’ button to release the order back to the order pool.

Once you’ve submitted the article, then your queue is opened back up to claim another one.

Posted in The Writing Corner

Writing for Textbroker: Claiming Orders

Once you’ve applied for a position as an author at Textbroker and have submitted your sign-up article and gotten accepted, then it’s time to begin writing orders.

When you first log into your Textbroker account, you’ll be presented with the homepage dashboard. The homepage features your profile and numerous tabs running across the top of the screen. Within each tab are links to different places within your account. To begin writing orders, you’ll be concerned with the ‘Assignments’ tab.

To see all the current orders available for you to write, move your mouse cursor over the ‘Assignments’ tab. When you do so, you should see several sub-menus appear below that tab. Click on the first option in the menu, the one that says ‘Show Orders.’

 

order

You’ll be redirected to another screen where there’ll be a list of categories and different numbers under sub-headings for each star rating level. The numbers under each category represent how many available orders are in that category to be written at that moment. For instance, if you see the number ’47’ in the ‘Business’ category under the 4-star column, then that means that there are 47 Business articles currently available to 4-star authors to write.

OrderSelection

Click on the number within the category that you’d like to write about to view a list of all the available orders to choose from.

*Note that you can only select articles up to your star rating level. For instance, if you’re a 4-star author, then you can write 4-star, 3-star and 2-star articles but not 5-star ones. In other words, you can write below your star rating level if you wish, but not above it.*

A list of all the available titles will appear. Click on a title to read the instructions, and then either click the button saying that you want to write the article or click on the back arrow located at the top of Textbroker’s category screen (not the back arrow on your Internet browser).

OrderOverview

When you click on an order title, you automatically lock the title for 10 minutes until you release it by clicking on the orange back arrow or claim it by clicking on the button that says “I Want to Write This Article.” This 10-minute lock is to make it so that no one can claim the article right out from underneath you while you’re reading the order instructions and trying to determine whether or not you’re interested in fulfilling the order.

Within the order headline, you’ll find all information you might possibly need to know (and some that you might not) about the order, such as what the maximum possible earnings are, how many words it needs to be, any keywords you have to use throughout the article, how many times you have to use them, the deadline for completion of the order, the client’s ID number and so on.

When you find an order that you want to write, be sure to claim it. *Please note that Textbroker only allows you to claim one order at a time. This helps prevent authors from claiming tons of orders and not fulfilling them or keeping them from other authors who need work.* 

wanttowrite

Once  you claim an order, then you can proceed on to actually writing it, which we’ll discuss more thoroughly in the next article…Working at Textbroker: Writing Orders