Category Archives: gear

10 Unique Christmas Gifts for Writers

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.


This week, Catherine embraced the Christmas Spirit of Marketing (yes, Virginia, apparently holiday goodwill can be harnessed to help you market your writing!), and I, too, must get my ho-ho-ho on.

(Yeah, I’ll wait while you realize that didn’t sound right….  )

Today, I bring you 10 gifties for you and your writer friends.  May the delight of giving lead to milk, cookies, and a  Grinch-y ”heart that grows three sizes that day.” 

#10  Punctuation Saves Lives

I think we know this deserves a t-shirt.  Why, look at that!  A t-shirt perfect for gift giving.

punctuation saves lives

This shirt is yours for $15.99 over at Cafe Press.

#9  Going Straight to Hell

Some clients, some projects—they’re hell.  Just sayin’.  Why not get a passport to make your trip easier, something that doubles as a journal for these trying times? 

Yes?  Hells, yes!

Hell Passport

Travel instructions included.  Just $2.95 at The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild.  Wild site.  Fabulous gifts.

#8  Everything is Better if It Looks Like a Book

I sob at the practical nostalgia of BookBook, a case/wallet for your iPhone.

Book Book for Iphone

I found it at that gift-giving-extravaganza that is Amazon, just $59.95 for iPhone 4 & 4 S, same for the new Iphone 5.  Suddenly you’re not working, you’re spending quality time with books.  Totally different.

#7  Old Book Smell

Many of us fell in love with writing as a child, in a dark musty library (one of the 2,509grand structures built by the Carnegies, no doubt, where the motto “let there be light” made every reader feel heroic).

If you miss that good ol’ musty book smell, good news, you can buy it and successfully make the transition to electronic books smell intact.

Smell of Books

Smell of Books offer Classic Musty and New Book Smell for $9.99 each.

But be careful.

Please use in well ventilated area.

May cause dizziness and hallucinations. May cause itching and runny nose.

If symptoms persist for longer than eight weeks please consult your physician.

Not for use on “real” books.

Do not use while riding public transportation.

Discard empty container with hazardous waste.

Not for use as a room deodorizer.

Not for use on burning books.

Do not use on a Zune.

Keep away from the Kindle Fire!

(Plus, it’s not a real product. But the hilarity of this site alone should inspire you to pen your own faux site as a Christmas gift to those you love.  Or even customers and readers.  Everyone needs a good laugh for Christmas.)

#6  Paint a White Board on Your Wall

IdeaPaint is proof science makes the world a better place. Proof, I say!


It comes in clear, white, and black.  Enough to cover 50 sq. ft. is $225.00; 100 sq. ft. is on sale for $315.00 (for clear).

I found this goodness at an equally awesome site called Idearella: Creating Glass Slipper Ideas in a Wicked Stepsister World. Their 2010 list of Christmas Gifts is super-awesome-sauce.


clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

Freelancing in 2012

Joe Wallace Vinyl Collector and authorby Joe Wallace

About 20 days ago, long before 11:59 PM on December 31, a lot of freelancing blogs made predictions about the freelance landscape in 2012.

And the same as every year, a lot of predictions basically read, “more people will start freelancing, more people will quit freelancing, and more companies will hire more freelancers than ever before.”

You don’t have to be Nostradamus, really, to issue predictions like these.

I ignored all that sort of thing this year in favor of looking at the freelance landscape from a completely different perspective, thanks to a blog post by Dave Allen at the Portland-based brand agency North.

Allen was talking about an experiment he started in early January to work with all-mobile tools, namely the iPad2 and the iPhone.

He writes, “Since January 2nd I have been attempting to live without my MacBook Pro to work exclusively on my iPad2. I can honestly say that for 90% of the time the iPad is the perfect tool for my daily work activities. As an added bonus it’s many pounds lighter than the MBP and the battery lasts hours longer. Yet, as to be expected, there are some shortcomings that are holding me back from becoming a 100% mobile user.”

If you want a prediction about the state of freelancing in 2012, you need look no further than mobile–for some of us, it really is going to be the future of the business in terms of the portable office, working from the road, and making the most of every given second when needed.

I was on the fence about the iPad2 as a freelancing tool until reading Dave Allen’s post, and while he points to a few shortcomings, I personally believe–and here’s my prediction for 2012–that these issues can and will be addressed by some savvy developers who know the need to do business on these lightweight, flexible, and highly desirable platforms.

Freelancers, writers and editors in particular, are often stuck in the previous decade when it comes to technology. But the business is evolving as fast as the new toys hit the market. Are you keeping up? Treading water? I’m trying to get out of the wading pool and into the deep end with this stuff…it seems like the best way to survive.

Joe Wallace is an author, professional blogger, and vinyl collector. He blogs about rare and strange vinyl records at, sells vinyl records at horror and sci fi conventions across the USA and is currently photographing more than 100 record albums for his forthcoming book WTF Records: The Turntabling Guide To Weird And Wonderful Vinyl. He is very busy but does consider freelance writing and editing gigs on a per-project basis. Contact him at jwallace (at) turntabling (dot) net.

Google Docs Vs. Hard Drive Storage For Book Manuscripts

book and script editor for hire Joe Wallaceby Joe Wallace

I’ve been trying an experiment in the last eight weeks as I work on my book manuscript for WTF Records: The Guide To Weird and Wonderful Vinyl.

Instead of doing what I used to do, which was writing and editing directly in Word, I’ve been using Google Docs to do first drafts, then save them to the hard drive at the end of the session using the Download As feature.

I’ve got several chapters I’m working on at once because the book, whichWTF-RECORDS-COVER-E-BOOK-by-joe-wallace-e1319727695223 is a collection of reviews of bizarre and strange vinyl records, has a variety of categories. I put on the records and re-orient myself with them as I’m writing and the pile always crosses several categories, so it’s not quite a linear book writing experience–definitely one that is assembled from its various components.

In other words, FRANKENBOOK!

The experiment is going well–the most valuable thing in Google Docs when working this way is the ability to download several documents all at once as a zipped file. I find that when I’m off in a coffee shop somewhere or on the road and want to do a quick revision on a section I wrote earlier, having it all in Google Docs is a major convenience. Also, it eliminates the worries about hard drive crashes and the like since I always have a copy backed up online.

Of course, if Google Docs crashes AND my hard drive dies, I’m stuck–but that’s a good argument for using a zip drive to backup the backup.

So far, so good.

Freelance Income Diversification – Now Easier With Square

Square Payments by iPhoneby Joe Wallace

For a couple of years now, I’ve been supplementing my freelance income–diversifying my income portfolio, you might say–by selling vinyl records, custom silkscreened tees and other fun things. I sell hard-to-find records on, eBay and at conventions like Flashback Weekend, Cinema Wasteland and elsewhere.

Basically, I wake up, work all my freelance clients by day, and transition into the selling after the day’s work is done.

Lots of my fellow freelancer friends do this on Etsy, eBay, etc. But now the income diversification game just got a whole lot easier–especially for people doing book tours, conventions, in-person speaking engagements, anything a freelancer might do to train, teach or sell.

Square is a credit/debit card reader which plugs into the audio port of an iPhone or Android. There is no monthly fee to sign up, the reader is free, and Square takes a small percentage of each sale as the fee for using the service. In short, you can accept credit cards or debit cards (as credit cards) anywhere you have a cell phone signal.

I just received mine and will be using it at my vinyl record booth at an upcoming convention. But Square has much more potential than just selling crafts, t-shirts, vinyl or other merchandise. Imagine what would happen if you showed up for your next teaching gig “Freelance Writing 101” with the ability to collect your teaching fee right then and there? Or sell your latest set of teaching materials for that class? Or sell a promotional tee for your blog?

You could take Square with you to the workplace–imagine being able to offer a client the option to pay you on-site with a company credit card the next time you are asked to do a consultancy, training, or team building. Fiction writers can benefit, too–try taking a book tour to a local convention and selling your book with Square. No need to go cash-only.

There are too many creative things you could do with this portable credit card reader–which even accepts Amex and Discover at no additional fees–to boost your freelance income. The possibilities? Endless.

Jumping On The Mobile Bandwagon?

Joe Wallace freelance social media.jpgby Joe Wallace

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with Dave Allen of North in Portland, an agency that specializes in brand engagement across the spectrum of traditional and digital media.

One of the highlights of the conversation was a discussion of companies who come looking for help with their image campaigns. “What’s your website about?” these hopefuls are asked. “Well, we’re like BIG ESTABLISHED SERVICE NAME”.

So what are you offering that Big Established Service is getting wrong? “Um, well, nothing. We’re just like Big Established Service Name. Except it’s US.”

By now you’re getting the picture. Why reinvent the wheel? It’s one thing to offer a different-tasting cheeseburger. It’s another to offer the same widget with only a different picture where the logo goes. Continue reading Jumping On The Mobile Bandwagon?

Freelancing Blizzard-Style

freelancing during a blizzardby Joe Wallace

At the time of this writing, the great midwestern snow-ma-geddon hasn’t happened yet, at least not in Chicago…but I thought it would be a great idea to discuss how a busy freelancer can stay on top of those deadlines, two feet or snow or no.

I’ve prepared myself on both the high-tech and low-tech fronts. On the stove I have a massive pot of homemade chili simmering away, which should last the next three days all by itself, never mind the other groceries. Tomorrow, blizzard day if the weather forecasters are to be believed, will be a productive day free from food prep concerns altogether.

On the high-tech front, I have just finished charing up my iPhone and a snazzy new external battery iPhone case to go along with it. I’ll review my new Mophie Juice Pack Air for the iPhone 4 after I’ve put it to the test

Morphie Juice Pack Air iPhone 4during the blizzard, but for now I’ll just say that I am very happy to have the Mophie’s estimated nine to 12 hours of additional online time should I need it.

I’ve also got my external bluetooth keyboard synched to the iPhone, ready for writing should I need it. When I write on the go, I like to compose articles in Gmail using the Rich Text feature, then copy and paste them into blogs or send them to myself for later conversion to Word files.

On the iPhone I have all my social media tools installed including the mobile version of Hootsuite, Facebook and Twitter accounts, I’m basically ready to fall back on my mobile device in case the power goes out here for an extended time and I need to fall back on the iPhone to get work submitted.

It’s not the quickest or most productive way to submit freelance projects, but I have the tools at my disposal even in the worst case situation with power outages or other problems. Going on the offensive is the best way to handle the weather. Deadlines will still get met–and that’s my security even as the white stuff starts piling up round here…