Monthly Archives: August 2017

Sunday Inspiration: Tattoos

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I got two new tattoos today. I haven’t had a new one since May of 2009, so they were long due. The husband found a great artist in a great studio here in town, so I asked about having work done, too, and because what I wanted (just words) was so simple, his apprentice did them for me. I love them. In honor of them, I’m sharing the tattoo ideas search on Pinterest. I went through pages and pages of the search to decide on the final placement and get the font idea. I feel… so much better. I feel like me again. Some people get massages, I guess, and some people get tattoos.

Five: Inspiring Places (U.S. Edition)

Setting is such an important part of a story to me. A lot of times, I build whole stories from the inspiration of a setting. I think I’ve probably written entire fictional worlds based on mental or real pictures of a single place. Here are some of my favorites.

1. New Orleans

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Mid- and southern Louisiana, too, but New Orleans mostly. I don’t know if it’s all the unsettling history in the still air and rising water, I don’t know if it’s the French influence, I don’t know if it’s the mélange of culture and beliefs, all I know is that for about two years in college, I didn’t write anything that wasn’t set in New Orleans or surrounding it, and most of what I read was set there, too.

2. Washington State

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When I found out Twilight was set in Washington, it made perfect sense to me. Better with You (oh man that one needs an edit bad) is set in Washington, too. It’s beautiful and cool and relaxed, and the geography lends itself well to adventure. Plus, there’s an abundance of my favorite kind of house, giving my heroines cute, cozy places to live and make their lives.

3. Isolated stretches of New England coastline

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed New England every time I’ve been. One of the drafted novellas I have is getting a change of setting, and it was finding out about the lighthouses that finally flicked on the light in the dark room of my mind called How To Fix This Vexing Story.

4. Desert

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Hot and dry and, at first glance, dead, the desert is a good place to keep secrets and to find history and to get lost. It’s a good place to put characters to see what happens.

5. Big Sky Country

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There’s something really liberating about wide-open spaces, and Montana has them in abundance. It’s so expansive. It’s ready for small stories with a big backdrop, for cowboys and cowgirls and people looking to pretend, for isolation and character exploration.

Adventures in Job Hunting: Updates!

Wonder

  • I got my first five-star rating on a sourcing job this weekend. That felt really, really good. Of course, the next job I was assigned was one I couldn’t figure out, so I had to release it, and that didn’t feel great. I love being able to read what other analysts are thinking and doing, and I especially love all the examples of five-star work available on the dashboard. I feel like I’m catching on. I think it’s reasonable to expect I could take a sourcing job 3 – 5 times a week before bed, and while that’s not a ton of money, it’s not bad, especially since the work feels so good.

UserTesting

  • I haven’t qualified for another test since my first one, which is pretty disheartening, but it still doesn’t seem like a bad side gig. I tried applying for TryMyUI, but my oldest decided to have a post-bedtime meltdown about five minutes into my attempt, so I had to stop and go help her, effectively failing my test. It looked pretty comparable to UserTesting for anyone else interested.

Leapforce

  • I failed the third part of the exam. I knew I’d failed it by the second question in the third part, so I just did my best from there, but it wasn’t enough. On the plus side, I do have the chance to re-take it, so I think I will simply because I’ve already invested several weeks into getting this side gig so I’d like to exhaust all of my chances before I give up.

Mturk

  • I’ve been busy, so I haven’t done as well as I’d have liked. A lot of the HITs this week seemed way out of scope, but there have been a few fun ones, so the work I have done has been engaging and rewarding. I think it’s reasonable to assume I’ll be able to earn enough to make a minimum credit card payment, which is certainly nothing to dismiss easily.

The husband, of course, has had much better luck with Uber and Lyft. Just a few hours a night and he’s earned about $500 over the last two weeks.

Sunday Inspiration: NASA Image & Video Library

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In honor of tomorrow’s total solar eclipse, today’s inspiration comes to us from NASA’s Image & Video Library. Space is terrifying and beautiful.

On Writing: At Least I’m Thinking About It?

It has been such a busy week.

School started, so getting the oldest set up and into the habit of doing her schoolwork was a priority, but her computer died and mine frustrated her, so I had to order her something that both fit into our budget and did the things she needed it to do. (I’m so grateful for clearance sales right now.) The notary I paid to help me with my I9 didn’t do half of what she was supposed to, so I had to have a friend help, and it’s always awkward asking for an official favor like that. Realizing that the kid needed her own workspace for school and I need my own workspace for, you know, work led to a total-house deep-clean and rearranging the Lady Cave (the family room; since the husband has his man cave, the big one decided to call our girls-only family room the Lady Cave… yes, I know what it sounds like, and that’s the whole reason I agreed to call it what she calls it) and the guest room. The weather has kind of wreaked havoc on the pool, so evenings have been spent trying to keep it from getting too bad, since there’s only another six weeks or so of regular swimming available. And in my spare time (lol what is that) I’ve been pursuing side gigs: website user testing, search engine evaluation (I’m in the middle of the exam part of the application for that, and there’s a LOT of studying to be done), research (I failed one task request and just straight up couldn’t do two more, so I’ve been doing a lot of studying between attempts), and Mechanical Turk (lots of small tasks, but finding the right ones to do can be kind of time-consuming for the payoff, so I’m still trying to learn that). So I haven’t had a lot of time for writing, not even for editing, though I’ve definitely been thinking about it.

Cass, for example, seems to be gently reminding me about the planned sequel, Cass and the Girls Next Door, and letting me know she’s really pretty interested in it if I don’t mind. 

I stumbled across these lighthouses for sale. Once I accepted that the husband probably isn’t ready for that much isolation, I’ve been wondering how I could use it in a story. Maybe a story about an adventurous cook from the Southwest interested in a change of scenery and challenging her recipe-building skills? She doesn’t seem to have any interest in romance which will be new for me, too. Not that romance and smut are in everything I write, but, let’s be real, it’s in most of what I write. 

The novella draft I’ve had sitting in Yarny and on my hard drive and now in Google Docs for years might have just solved itself. It has so many problems. I’ve poked at it over the last few years, but I haven’t been able to fix it. Until I was washing dishes this week and thought, “What if I just make it gay?” Changing my hero into a heroine fixes so much of it and makes it so much more interesting. I already had most of the reason behind their being thrown together worked out; making them lesbians works out the rest of it, eliminates a major problem, cleans up the drama, and makes the whole thing seem neater and more pull-together. 

Digging around in old fic for a friend brought up some gems I’d completely forgotten about that don’t really feel like they belong in fandom, so it may be worth it to explore how they fare as originals.

I also ordered a nifty lighted cover for my five-year-old Kindle. UPS lost the first one, so I had to buy a second one, and it came in today. It’s so pretty. Now I can turn the lamp off and read in bed!

Sunday Inspiration: MCAD Library on Flickr

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The MCAD Library on Flickr has some incredible pictures. First, I checked out Art of the Poster 1880 – 1918, but I ended up staring at the flint knife for so long my screensaver kicked on, and the modern amate bark paper is beautiful.

Adventures in Job Hunting: When You Want to Work from Home

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I’ve been at this for about a month now, and despite the existential crisis, I have learned some things. I’ve been sharing them with a friend, but as I did I realized that what I know might be helpful to other people in our position. So here’s a roundup of some of the most important stuff so far.

AS A CSR

When Indeed and CareerBuilder only turned up responses from work-from-home jobs that required I pay for my own training, I got creative. The way the world is now, I knew there just had to be better options for at-home customer service positions.

Before I go on, though, I’d like to take a moment to talk about paying for your own training. It’s not as scammy as it looks at first glance. Paying for your own training is a good way for companies to keep costs down while reducing the impact of high turnover on their bottom line. Before you commit to anything, do your research. At the very least, read reviews from current and former employees on sites like Indeed and Glassdoor.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of places are not hiring employees, they’re hiring contractors. You’ll be responsible for your own taxes. If you’re not familiar with paying your own local, state, and federal taxes, you’re going to have to hire someone, or invest the time to learn.

But there are other options for at-home CSR work! I actually found some really great ones in a negative review for Arise, and when I explored them, I was much happier and much less skeptical of what I found.

Things to Know:

  • You have to meet their basic requirements. I had to bump up our Internet speed tier with our ISP to get the required upload speed for Sitel. It was an extra $15/month ($10 for the next speed tier + $5 for the wireless router modem with the extra ethernet port), and the job Sitel hired me for is full-time at $9/hr, so it’s cost-effective for me.
  • My equipment met the requirements for Convergys before the bump, but my ISP did not. That sort of compatibility requirement may eliminate a lot of people in areas with only one ISP option (like for us, here; when we first moved to Lawton, Fidelity was our only option, and they’re a local-to-several-states ISP), so that’s something to be aware of.
  • Some positions/companies require hardwired landlines, either Plain Old Telephone Service or VoIP lines, without any added features. I’m going to be honest, I have no idea who to even contact about getting a POTS line, but had I not gotten a response from Sitel I probably would have at least gotten a VoIP line just to qualify for other positions. If you already have a POTS, you’re probably ahead of the curve.
  • You’re probably going to need a wired headset. I bought this one from Amazon and I love it. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can use it on your phone (awesome for while I’ve been job-hunting and needed my hands free to write down info) and a USB plug so you can use it on your computer. The USB attachment has volume and mic control right on it, so you can adjust volume and mute/unmute the mic. The noise-canceling is fantastic and the mic only picks up your voice, not background noise. (For an added bonus, I paid for it with a couple of gift cards I earned taking surveys through the QuickThoughts app.)
  • If you need or want a new computer, but you’re looking at new computer prices and your face looks like you’re having a stroke: refurbished work computers. If you’ve ever held an office job you know what workhorses those can be, and refurbished usually means upgraded, and it’s possible to get a whole system (monitor included) for $200 or less. Sitel requires I supply a monitor for their equipment, so I ended up getting another one from the same guys I bought my computer from, and a nice big flat-panel monitor was $65.
  • Apply to all of them! The absolute worst that can happen is you get job offers from all of them and have to decide who to go with, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a bad problem to have.
  • Get on their notification lists. If you don’t see the job you want currently listed, let them email you when they might have something.

 

OTHER WORK

My favorite resource: The Penny Hoarder Work-From-Home section. I’ve gotten two extra gigs so far from here, plus an invitation to go further in the application process for another.

Outsourced, in-depth research and analysis. I just started this and my first job wasn’t accepted, but there are so many tips and guidelines, and I got great feedback, so I’m pretty comfortable with my ability to learn and succeed here. The group chat is really nice, because you immediately get to see what other researchers are doing and how they feel about the work. You can also get immediate help and support, so you’re working at home, but it has the useful social component of office work.

I did my first test for them and got a four-star review, and for a first test? That’s not bad. Tests pay about $10 each for about 20 minutes of work and you get paid seven days from approval. It’s not steady work, but I keep checking back and taking screeners, so it’s probably going to be a nice way to just get a little extra. You could also check out this list from The Penny Hoarder.

I just got my invitation this morning to complete the testing for a client here. I’m pretty excited about it because I keep thinking about my parents and grandparents and how they use search engines, and the idea of making the experience easier and better for people who aren’t as serious about research and finding the right information, but still need the right information, is incredibly appealing. There are other search engine evaluators, and for most of them you can only work for one at a time, but it’s like with the CSR job: apply to all of them, the worst that can happen is you have to decide who to work for.

These HITs are a lot like the surveys and videos you do on survey sides like InboxDollars in that they don’t pay much per HIT. The work is way more interesting and engaging, though. You won’t get rich and it probably won’t pay all of the bills, but over time it’ll add up pretty decently, I think. I mean, $5/day isn’t a lot of money, but $5 every day for a month is a phone bill. (And for at least the first ten days, you have to complete HITs every day.)

Things to Know:

  • These side gigs in particular require attention to detail and even some studying.
  • Read instructions.
  • Give yourself time to learn what they expect of you, and use all the resources they offer you.
  • Ask for clarification if you need to, but there are so many opportunities that you’ll find the right one, so if it’s too difficult, move on.

Work is out there, and it pays well enough to make it worth your while, it just depends on your skills and interest and how far you go in your searches.