Monday, March 23, 2009

Writing For Payment Or For Art's Sake?

"For free or not for free - that is the question?"

Whenever the 'P' word -- PAYMENT -- gets a mention, writers are frequently up in arms. There appear to be two camps of thought: those that think we should all write for free, 'because it is our art', and those who want to get paid what they are worth as a writer. Of course, you yourself, might fall somewhere in between where you prefer to get paid, but will write for free for good causes or if it is to promote yourself.

Recently, I queried a new national magazine and submitted three articles for the editor to peruse. She was looking for columnists as well as article writers. Within the hour an e-mail arrived in my mail box, [the fastest response I have ever had from an editor], to say that she loved one of my articles and wanted to publish it in the following month's debut issue of the magazine.

Warning bells started to ring at her swift response. After all, most of my magazine queries have taken days, weeks or even months for replies. And as any serious writer knows, magazines work months, not days, ahead of time. Not only did she want to publish my article, she wanted to work with me for a further four editions of the magazine.

Sounds fantastic, right? Not so right. The snag was she didn't intend to pay me a single, solitary cent for my time, effort and expertise. It was a case of, 'We'll see how it goes and if we can pay you sometime in the future, then we will!" Well stuff that for a game of soldiers, which is almost what I told her, but not quite. Instead, I told her I thought that writers deserved to be paid and sent her a few helpful links so she could read up on why writers deserve payment. Cheeky, on my behalf, I know, but I was spitting feathers at the time. I didn't need the clippings that bad.

Now, all this is well and good, but when I pointed this out to one of my Yahoo writers' groups, apart from having a cyber pat on the back from some of my contemporaries, I was flamed off list for daring to suggest writers should be paid.

We're back to that art thing. I shouldn't be surprised. I recently attended a writers' workshop. One of the exercises was to write a poem or story in a short space of time. A writer sitting next to me, who I vaguely knew, came up with a fantastic poem off the top of her head. I said, "You are so talented. Have you been published anywhere?"

"No, certainly not!" she replied as if I had said something I shouldn't.

Then I made the mistake of using the 'P' word. "You know, you could get published and PAID for poems like that."

You'd think I'd hit her in the face with a wet fish. When she had got over the initial shock, she replied, "I couldn't possibly take money for something I love."

I just don't get it, but then again neither did she. Are some writers so precious about their words that they feel it is degrading to sell them? When I told her about some of my own publications, I got the distinct impression she thought I was some sort of writing floozie spreading it around a bit, and horror of horror -- for money, too!

You'll know you're being ripped off when:

1. You're writing for free for a magazine that runs paid advertisements or that sells a subscription, products and/or services.

2. You've brought your expertise (teaching, counseling, nursing, computing skills, etc.) into the article and you're still not offered payment.

3. Everyone else at the magazine is being paid. This includes the Internet provider, phone company, electric company, photographers, models, and editorial staff, right on down to the cleaners. Why should everybody else get paid and not you?

4. The magazine says they are giving you plenty of exposure, so why do you need to get paid?

5. Or, as one high profile website put it a couple of years ago when they suddenly stopped paying writers, 'If you were learning to play golf you'd have to pay fees, so why should you expect to get paid for something you love doing?'

You're not being ripped off when:

1. Your writing will help a charity or good cause close to your heart.

2. It will help further your career as a writer by advertising a product or service you're selling.

By the way, the editor of the new national magazine recently contacted me to say they would now be paying writers. Whether this was as a direct response to my cheeky e-mail, I don't know, but it couldn't have hurt, could it?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Sad Day

I was sad to hear that Jade Goody passed away in the early hours of this morning, ironically on Mother's Day. I read reports yesterday that it was hoped she would be conscious enough to spend today with her boys.

Although people have criticised her for being famous for being a celebrity who hadn't done much, except to go into the Big Brother House a few years ago, I think they are wrong. Jade has been an inspiration to women, not just because of her public battle with cancer, but she was a business woman too. It's true, she was the brand, Jade Goody, but there was no one quite like her. She didn't always get her words right, but told it as it was from the heart. She also kept herself in the public eye while she went through her illness via Ok! magazine to build up funds for her boys.

The woman had courage.

Before Christmas I watched her on This Morning on ITV talking to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby about her cancer. She looked quite well, except a little thinner. She was enthused with energy for the panto she was about to go into: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Lincoln Theatre where she was to play the wicked queen. She had plenty of fight in her and told Phillip and Holly: "I am bigger than cancer!"

And she was.

Although she has passed away, she left a legacy of cervical cancer awareness, particularly for young women in this country. It has been reported that there's an increase of 20% more going for smears.

Jade Goody lived up to her name in my book and has done good for both her boys and the public and will continue to do so after her death, by saving more women's lives while sadly losing her own.

Today I am going to appreciate every moment of Mother's Day, hug my children as much as I can while remembering the rug can be pulled away at any time. It's not how much time we have here that counts but what we do with it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Excerpt # 3 Watching You

Angeline was pleasantly surprised by the

man’s appearance, she’d only been able to make out his

silhouette as he stood at the window, but now she slowly

drank him in. The newspaper picture didn’t do him

justice. He was far more attractive. His hair was dark

brown, almost black and he had the most vivid jade green

eyes she’d ever seen. He wore a light pink, expensive

monogrammed shirt with a grey silk tie and gold cufflinks.

Suddenly, she felt very small and insignificant.

“Mr Johnson, my P.A., explained that you were sent

last minute for the interview with me.”

Interview. Cripes. She rather hoped it would be the

other way around and it would be she who was

interviewing him with regard to his intentions towards

the old house.

“What is it you wish to know about me?” she asked in

a forward manner, something she would never do in an

ordinary interview. But this was hardly likely to be an

ordinary interview.

Sitting forward in his leather chair, he steepled his

fingers, all the while still looking through her.

“I’d like to know why you think this position might

suit you?”

She straightened. “Oh. I see. Well I think it might be

a challenge for me. I like a good challenge.” That was a

laugh, she didn’t even know what the position was in the

first place.

“Give me an example of a recent challenge you’ve

taken and overcome.”

Now what was she going to say?

“Well, let me see. I recently needed to leave my home

and look for another and also a job, too.”

“And?” he leaned further forward.

“I had to give up my home so that some stranger with

an eye for business could move in and do what the hell he

likes with it!” Angeline surprised herself with the strong,

passionate tone of her voice.

“This stranger,” Sebastian Tremaine asked, now

leaning back in his chair, “did he evict you from your own



“Then why do you appear to dislike this person?”

Angeline felt that lump return to her throat.

“Because he’s taken away all that I have left, the

memories of my parents for his own selfish ends.” She

heard her voice tremble with emotion and regretted her

decision to come.

Mr Tremaine fell silent for a moment, as if deep in

reflection. “You are Angeline Hamilton, aren’t you?”

She nodded between sobs.

He raised his voice an octave. “Well, is that the case?”

“Yes, it is!” She stood, about to leave his horrible


His face flushed and she noticed a muscle twitch at

the side of his jaw. “Look here. I bought this place and all

the contents fair and square. It was my understanding

that it needed to be sold to pay off all your father’s debts.

You can’t blame me, it’s just not cricket.”

“I know,” she said, heading for the door. She reached

out and found the door knob, comforted to know at least

that’s where it had always been. She turned it a fraction

with bitter regret, knowing she had made a big mistake in

coming here to confront the man.

Sebastian Tremaine stood, then stumbled towards

her. Was he drunk or something? She spied a crystal

decanter of whisky or some other liquor on his desk. It

was then she noticed the white stick in his hand.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Excerpt # 2 from "Watching You"

Angeline was so busy job and home hunting that the

idea almost left her mind, but not completely. It came to

the forefront again when she caught sight of Sebastian

Tremaine on the front page of the local paper, The

Bridgeford News, one evening as she purchased a copy at

the local shop to look out for the latest jobs.

There, standing proudly, holding up a large prize fish

with a big grin on his face was the man responsible for

turfing her out of her home. She’d never seen him before,

but could make out how handsome he was even though

the picture was slightly blurred and in black and white.

The headline read:

Business man, Sebastian Tremaine, Takes over

Tarrington Manor House.

Angeline gasped in astonishment as she read the

article which made it sound as if Mr Tremaine would be

an asset to the local community. Fiddlesticks, he was no

more an asset than one of those large out-of-town

hyperstores was to Bridgeford’s retail community. He’d

probably turn the Manor into some sort of a holiday park,

encouraging bus loads of undesirables to flood the village.

What poppycock!

She knew immediately upon reading the article, she

wasn’t going to like the man. Wasn’t going to, never

would. She clenched her fists at her side, feeling as

though she were about to explode into tiny pieces all over

the shop floor.

Count to ten, keep calm. Buy the newspaper and leave

the shop.

She did as her inner voice suggested, intending to

walk back to her cousin’s flat, but instead, found her feet

leading her in the direction of a taxi rank. One of the cabs

displayed an illuminated ‘For Hire’ sign in its window.

She lowered her head to ask the driver to take her

immediately to Tarrington Manor. If the driver was

surprised by her choice of destination, he didn’t show it.

She settled herself down in the back seat of the cab,

wondering why she was returning to her ancestral home

and what she would find when she got there.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Excerpt # 1 from "Watching You"

** I'll be posting up a few excerpts from my latest novel, "Watching You", this week. Here's excerpt #1:

The man hid behind a tree, watching the funeral guests as they left the big house, his heart beating a tattoo beneath his shirt. He extracted a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and patted his brow. Must be all the adrenaline flowing around his body, he surmised. This was such an exciting day for him, better than winning any lottery. Ah, yes, revenge is sweet.

Most of the guests wouldn’t want to stay now there was nothing in it for them. Little did they realise it was because of his plan. Oh yes, he’d finally got his hands on the Hamilton money. Not only got his hands on a fortune, but made money on the money by investing it wisely, and now it was stored away securely where they would never find it. Especially that snooty cow. She deserved nothing.

He drew a silver hip flask from his inside pocket, unscrewed its top and took a long swig, gasping as the alcohol took his breath away. He had every right to celebrate--it had been a good day. Especially now he knew the bitch had lost it all. After all, it was the law of the universe, wasn’t it? Karma. What goes around comes around and all that. She’d really done a hatchet job on him some years back. His future was mapped out at the time: a wife, children, and Angeline’s inheritance when her old man snuffed it. But that was all taken away when she left him.

He took another sip of the amber fluid, feeling it hit the spot, right at the back of his throat, warming him to the very core. He drank a lot of whisky these days after what Angeline had done to him. He needed warming up the way she’d turned cold on him. Frozen him out, she had. If she hadn’t abandoned him like that, they would be married with children by now. Only she’d cheated him out of what was rightfully his, both his offspring and the money.

There had been no other women since, none of importance anyway. Most of them were interchangeable bimbos he met in pubs and clubs for a knee trembler up against the wall of some filthy alley way. Or if he felt generous and they looked fairly decent, he would book a hotel room for the night. If they were fortunate enough to share his bed, the following morning he neither cared for them nor wanted any more to do with them. It gave him a kind of kick that most of them wanted to see him again to start a relationship. He rejected the silly cows before they rejected him. Just like Angeline Hamilton had done to him. Well, someone had to pay, didn’t they? They were all bloody whores, the lot of them. Women couldn’t be trusted.

There was only one woman he trusted, the one who gave birth to him, and he hadn’t seen her for some time. No woman could compare to his mother. He thought Angeline had, but he should have known better.

He unlocked his car door and sat behind the wheel then slammed the flask down on the dashboard and stared at his trembling hands. Well, there was already blood on them and no doubt, there’d be blood on them again, sometime in the near future...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

When the kissing has to stop!

As a romantic novelist, I often write about kissing. In general, most of us like to be kissed one way or another, whether it is passionately by our partner, or a quick peck on the cheek from an old friend or relative.

However, whilst reading some of the Yahoo news headlines today, I came across two kissing stories that were horrific. The first one because of the drink and probable violence involved, and the second, because of a kiss that should have been the most harmless thing in the world from a mother to a young baby that turned out to have deadly consequences.

Here's the first story, entitled: 'Woman 'bit off boyfriend's tongue'

And the second story, the saddest of all: 'Mother's kiss 'killed newborn tot'

The first story sounds to me as if it was a premedicated action on the girlfriend's part and the second, something that in a perfect world could be avoided. A lot of people with cold sores might not realise the harm they are doing if they kiss a vulnerable person like a young child or someone with a lowered immune system. The good thing to come out of the second story is the fact that the mother now wants to campaign to get the message out not to kiss people when you have a cold sore.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I'm Back

Okay, I apologise. I have been away from my blog for quite some time. I was ill before Christmas with stomach problems and although I am a lot better now, I am still not back to normal.

Before Christmas I had a gripping stomach discomfort accompanied by bouts of vomiting, thankfully that has now gone, but I still have some problems which I think might be to do with yeast. When I was at my worst, I couldn't touch any alcohol, my favourite tipple: a glass of white wine, was like poison to me. I believe that sometimes our bodies know what's best for us and for me it was to avoid alcohol like the plague during that time. White bread has also been causing me problems. I don't think I have Celiac disease, but maybe some sort of intolerence either to yeast or gluten found in wheat.

On a positive note, I have lost a stone in weight. So it's not all bad, and of course, I have the added benefit of not drinking alcohol. I drank a glass of wine last night and enjoyed it, but from now on, it will be only the occasional glass.