She tilted her head to one side. “Would it be possible to see the dragons?”
“I will walk with you to the Dragon Riders’ staging grounds. We’ll beg permission.” Gwenda practically shivered and squealed with excitement, putting Catriona in mind of a giddy teenager being offered the opportunity to meet her favorite rock star.
She finished her breakfast, drank her morning cup of sparkling water from the Pool of Dreams, and submitted to a quick wash before Gwenda brought over a forest green gown, brilliantly white shift, and soft, brown leather shoes. She allowed Gwenda to dress her and then obediently sat still while the maid brushed out her long, long hair and wove the length into a complicated plait.
She availed herself of Gwenda’s support as she rose from the padded stool and reminded her wobbly legs that walking was not a lost art, but something she’d been doing regularly since she was fourteen months old. Their progress was slow, interspersed with frequent rests.
“The Palace aids you,” Gwenda said in a confidential tone. “It must approve of you to be so solicitous to your needs.”
“That’s…” Catriona let the expression of disbelief die a quick death. After all, she apparently now lived in the land of the impossible. She started again, “That’s very kind and generous of it. Everything I’ve seen thus far has been beautiful, so lovely and elegant.” It helped that the praise was honest; the edifice indeed exemplified the very notions of elegant and lovely as applied to architecture. She imagined she could feel the palace’s pleasure in her compliment.
Well, that was weird. Very weird.
As they walked, Catriona noticed the sidelong looks she received and wondered at them.
“Gwenda, have I offended or is my face smudged?”
“No, my lady, why do you ask?”
“People keep looking at me strangely.”
“Oh, it has been centuries, perhaps millennia, since a moon-born has walked these halls. None but the most ancient of the palace’s residents would remember it.”
“And what does moon-born mean?”
“That, my lady, is a question for the captain. Oh, look, there is the gate to the southern courtyard! We are nearly there. Would you like a short rest?”
“If there’s a bench outside where I can sit down, then I’d prefer to do that. I’ve not been outside since I... er... came here.”
“If there is not a bench, I will ask the household staff to bring one for you,” Gwenda said stoutly. “Here, lean on my arm. I shall support you.”
Catriona’s breath panted harshly as they passed through the gate into soft sunshine. A breeze, fragrant with the scent of earth and wildflowers, caressed her flushed face and neck. She lifted her face skyward, simply enjoying a moment in the sun.
Then she looked across the staging area and, unfortunately, there was nothing to see other than a handful of whipcord men dressed in tight leather. It was then she realized that every person she had seen had hair ranging from pure white to palest gold. With her midnight tresses, it was no wonder people cast her odd looks.
The snap of leather wings disrupted her thoughts. She followed the sound and gaped at the sight of the descending dragon. Its scaly hide showed scarlet at muzzle and shoulders and the tip of its long, snakelike tail. Scarlet blended to brilliant orange and then to green.
“It’s beautiful,” she breathed in awe. Then another thought occurred: “It won’t eat us, will it?”
In an unstable gig economy, a freelancer writer and/or editor might be tempted to take whatever comes along, to accept paltry wages in order to build a portfolio, to perform work that makes one's stomach churn.
In a word: Don't.
I've posted ludicrous RFPs for gigs and pointed out why no self-respecting freelancer should accept them. Those who do grossly undercut the value of the service they provide. That results in gross devaluation of the profession as a whole. It reduces writing and editing to commodities: writers and editors become widgets, not craftsmen. Competent writing and editing require sophisticated skills, critical thinking, and a touch of artistry. First and foremost, it's based in craft. Any craftsman knows that practice doesn't make perfect, it makes excellence.
I'm a professional. My skill and time are worth more than pennies per hour, so I negotiate fees commensurate with that. That means service gets expensive, especially on larger projects. That does not mean my skilled service cannot fit into a client's budget. I often work with clients to complete their projects in piecemeal fashion. This has two benefits: 1) the client receives the complete service for fees that don't break the bank and 2) I have a predictable income for a certain number of days or weeks. Especially when working mainly with one-off projects, a predictable income offers reassurance.
Taking whatever comes along oftentimes translates into researching subjects about which the writer knows nothing for the purpose of writing intelligently on the topic. This scattershot approach to career development imparts no in-depth knowledge that specialization confers. The writer cannot address any topic in-depth: it's all surface content. I've learned in the past few years which subjects to avoid. For instance, I don't bid on projects that require in-depth technical knowledge of, say, the latest smartphone apps. I have neither knowledge nor interest in such things. However, if someone wants a case study on a particular product or an article on a specific dog breed, then I'm all in. Let's get it done!
Writing nonfiction is pretty much cut-and-dried. It doesn't have much wiggle room, except for, perhaps, opinion pieces reviewing the pros and cons of said topic. Writing fiction spans a whole range of gray. I've learned--and continue to learn--through experience what I will and will not write or edit.
Take horror, for instance. Horror stories prey on my impressionable imagination. When I already have trouble sleeping, deliberately immersing myself into something disturbing and grotesque is just stupid. I don't edit horror stories and I certainly won't write them.
Recently, I received an RFP from someone seeking a ghostwriter who presented his story summary. It's basically a rape fantasy from the rapist's point of view. Such things crash against my moral boundaries. It's sick and disturbing. I fear that buyer needs intensive therapy and heavy duty medication. I cannot and will not write something like that.
Another potential client asked me to rewrite chapters of several well-known and popular books for his motivational guide. I declined that project, too, as it came way too close to plagiarism--another hard boundary in my code of ethics. Other ethical quandaries hit my desk: someone who wants a freelancer to write his ethics paper, someone who wants a freelancer to copy and paraphrase someone else's content, etc. Such project requests abound. I refuse to bid on any of them.
Like everyone else, I need money. I have to earn a living. Unlike some colleagues, I have standards and ethics that protect my self-respect and peace of mind. Professionalism doesn't only encompass skill, it also covers ethics. Oftentimes, it includes tact; however, I've never been accused of tact. Do you want to know what it's like to work with me, with a writer/editor who focuses on the quality of the project? Then take a gander at my client testimonials.
The gig economy is unstable and I'm accepting new clients. I won't say you can't do better than me, because there is always someone better. There is always someone who's more skilled, cheaper, faster, more knowledgeable, etc. However, I offer good value with a combination of acknowledged craftsmanship and steady professionalism. You could do a whole lot worse.
Every word counts.
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About Dan Long
I was raised on a hog farm which had wide open spaces and some woods to wonder in. I was in the first ever complete the criminal justice class to graduate from Licking County Joint Vocational School where I was inducted into the National Vocational-Technical Honor Society. I received my associate’s degree from Central Ohio Technical College in criminal justice and I am currently taking classes to earn a bachelor’s degree in public safety management and leadership. I have spent my career in law enforcement as a police officer and security. I’m an avid outdoorsman and love to hunt and fish. I owned my own video production that showcased my activities on DVD and on YouTube. I am a vintage toy dealer on the side and vendor at many toy shows throughout Ohio.
One of my pet peeves from the publishing I experienced was trying to find anyone interested in my work. I sent out over 40 letters to literacy agents and always got the same response that it was not for them. That is why I went into self-publishing. I do like history, and I found Harry Turtledove who has the gift of being one—if not—the best alternate history book authors. When I read Guns of the South, I was hooked. I’m not taking his style, but I like the notion of “What if?”
As of right now, I am working on two new novels. One is the sequel to my first novel and the other is about a young boy dealing with loss and bullying.
My first novel is set in 2023, and the US government is on the verge of bankruptcy. To cut costs, the president suspends unemployment and welfare services. Some state governors comment that their state governments will help where the federal government will not, but some of those governors get assassinated mysteriously. With ongoing rioting, the president decides to constitute martial law and suspends the Second Amendment. Some state governors think the president has gone too far and decide to secede from the US, creating a whole new country called the Free States of America holding true to the meaning of America and whom it’s supposed to support: “the People.” The president, with an army split into two, doesn’t have enough manpower to overcome the rebels and asks the United Nations for help; but, only one country is willing help—Russia.
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Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
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Looking for a place to swap blogs? Holly Bargo at Hen House Publishing is happy to reciprocate Blog Swaps in 2019.
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