Ebook Ghost Writing

I set myself a challenge.  I took a gig at oDesk to ghostwrite a cookbook.  It was to have a specific format in MS Word.  It needed to be 20 recipes and about 25 pages in length.  I completed it in roughly a week.  I didn’t do it for the money, about $22.50 after fees.  I did it to see if I could write more than a product review, and have a deadline.  The ebook also had to pass Copyscape, which it did very nicely.

My other blog at Paladin Cooks illustrates the way I think about food.  While I can’t publish any of the recipes on my own blog, it did give me some ideas about writing my own cookbook, built from recipes on my blog.  The ebook that I wrote had no pictures.  I love looking at food porn.  I’ll need a better camera and a lot of practice if I want to produce the gorgeous pictures I see on other food blogs.

An icon for food recipes on Wikibooks.

An icon for food recipes on Wikibooks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other thing I discovered in the course of this writing job is that I can create recipes very easily.  I read several published recipes, then altered some ingredients, spices, and even cooking methods to come up with a unique recipe.  I lacked the time on this project to actually test any of my recipes.  If I put together a cookbook, the recipes will be tested and fine tuned.  After all, what’s a family for?  They’re my “test subjects”!

I’ve also decided to take a short time away from freelance writing, like ebooks, product reviews and such.  I want to concentrate on my Etsy shop, gathering products to sell.  I also want to spend some time on my two blogs, and on doing some art.


Craigslist as a job board

Can you really get work via Craigslist?

I’ve been using Craigslist in Chicago, Writing gigs; there are several each day. Some are a bit specialized, like grant writing or editing a book. Some are about leaving YELP reviews.  I picked one for writing book reviews.

I go in spurts, where I’ll read a series of books, and not do much else.  Then, I won’t read a book again until 4 months later.  The idea of reading a book and then leaving a review harkened me back to my grade school book reports.  It wasn’t always the most pleasant exercise.  When you’re in school, teachers already know what the book is about.  They know what you are supposed to learn from the reading.  It is almost never “for fun” reading.


Craigslist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading “for fun” though, is a different endeavor altogether.  I read mostly novels, rarely any non-fiction work unless it is a cookbook.  My first review as a budding book reviewer was for a non-fiction work.  I have done reviews for other non-fiction work, but, they were about in my field of work.  This one was different.

Part of the job description was to buy the book via Amazon.  Since it was an ebook, I read it on my tablet.  It was very short, less than 100 pages.  The other factor was that if I couldn’t leave a positive review, I shouldn’t leave a negative one.  I won’t name the book here, as I couldn’t leave a positive review.

The book’s subject was one that I wouldn’t be interested in reading, normally.  I had no personal familiarity with the subject; it was a how-to manual.  It wasn’t very technical, and I did learn something that I didn’t know before.  Unfortunately it was laced with anecdotes and stories that had very little to do with the subject except in the most oblique ways.  If that was the worst, I could probably overlook the “asides” and leave a positive feedback.

Unfortunately, I hate when writers feel the need to lace their work with obscenities.  In some scenarios, I guess it could work.

A Game of Thrones (comic book)

A Game of Thrones (comic book) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Game of Thrones author, G.R.R. Martin, tends to write some very graphic sex scenes in his books.  I couldn’t finish the third novel because they got too offensive.  The author of this book did about the same, except it took less than one book to make me want to put it down.  I did finish it; and I learned some things, but I didn’t enjoy it.

I wrote back to the Craigslist email address to explain how I felt about the author’s work.  I was not going to be able to leave a positive review.  He’s yet to get back to me, and hasn’t paid me for the book yet either.  I’ll update this post, if I get paid.

Freelance update

Progress toward leaving my corporate job behind

The job at my Fortune 500 company is still a grind, but, I don’t need to go into details.  Anyone who has worked for a large company or even a smaller one knows that there is very little one can do to alleviate the frustration with playing the game to get ahead.

Product Reviews

I’ve done several product reviews, as mentioned in previous posts.  Recently, I’ve done a couple more where the hiring manager offered to pay for the product on Amazon via gift certificate.  I’ve done this twice.  The first one was for a product that has no science behind it; it does have a great deal of testimonial evidence on the web.  At best it’s alternative medicine.  I stated this observation in my review and gave it 4 stars, since it seemed like a nice product.  I’ll probably give it away as a gift, since it’s not useful to me.

I’ve been contracted for another product where the hiring manager is furnishing a gift certificate to buy the product.  It’s for something that I don’t think I’ll use, but, could.  I will probably pass it along to someone who would put it to more use.  I’m still looking for bigger freelance jobs and have expanded my search to Guru.com.  More about that site in another post.


I’ve also been adding inventory to my Etsy shop, and going to estate sales to find bargain priced treasures.  I now have 10 items in my shop; but I don’t want to carry a ton of inventory, so, the limit will probably be 20 or so until that business takes off.

Branding this business has also taken up some time.  I’m trying to design a logo, and a catch phrase too.  There are any number of logo design web sites that allow you to design your own logo for free.  The problem is that you can get only a low resolution image.  If you want something you can use on the web, a higher resolution comes with a price.

Digital Art

Painting and drawing have been another passion of mine.  I’ve sketched via pencil, charcoal and pastel.  I’ve also done some oil painting.  Some art, worth framing, is hanging on my walls.  Oil painting though can be a messy pastime.  It requires space, materials, and the willingness to clean brushes, and dispose of all the solvents, etc.  I’m not sure I have the time or energy to devote to something like that until I’m ready to retire.


Wacom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently bought a Wacom graphics artist tablet and stylus.  Not a top tier one, but, nice.  It came with an older version of Sketchbook by Autodesk.  I’ve since upped the ante and bought a subscription based version of the latest Sketchbook software.  Lynda.com has training available for Sketchbook, but, they have also released the Introduction set of videos to YouTube.  Sketchbook has a steep learning curve, so, it’ll take a while to know the ins and outs of the software.  So far, producing digital art is part science and part art.  The tool, Sketchbook, is very feature rich.  However, it also needs an artist’s eye to produce good digital art.

Why am I trying to even learn?  Art has progressed greatly in terms of technology, and I love technology and I love art.  This just seemed to be the next logical step.  I plan to produce some art for my various “businesses” like the Etsy shop.  If they are worthy of framing, I may put up a print on my wall.  If I get really good, I may even offer some for sale.

Estate Sales, Yet Another Passion

Estate Sales!

In some ways, they’re kind of sad. The person’s belongings that are being sold has either died, or is downsizing for one reason or another. The positive side is that the heirs will get a reasonable price for all of grandma’s treasures.
The other upside is the these antiques and heirlooms re-enter the market place.

Austrian Beer Stein

Austrian Beer Stein

In my case, I like to collect beer steins. Now that I’ve been collecting them for about 3 decades, I find that there aren’t too many places I can really display them. It’s time to clear house.

Antique-creamer-sideI’ve also picked up the odd piece of silver plate. I have no real knowledge of silver or silver plate. My eye is drawn to the unique and artistic. I’ve also bought art and books at an estate sale. I only buy what I like and can afford.

So, what do I do with all of my new-old possessions? I started an Etsy store! Of course! I could do it on Ebay, but, I like the eclectic nature of Etsy. Kind of artsy-fartsy.

The other business idea I’ve been thinking about is to be a shopper for others.  Perhaps someone is looking for a particular item, maybe an antique watch or depression-era glass.  I see it as a kind of personal shopper.

The point of all of this is that the list of opportunities to be a freelancer extend way beyond writing.  If I could create music, or sing or make stunning photographs, I’d be trying those too.

My First Two Freelance Jobs

English: Open book icon

English: Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Job #1 – Technical Book reviews on Amazon

I reviewed four technical books on Amazon.  All were similar to each other; books to prepare people for a certification tests.  Fortunately, it was an area where I have a couple of decades experience, making it rather easy.  The only way to get a verified review was to buy the books; the employer would reimburse me.  I really didn’t want the books, and would have either needed to ship them to the employer, or sell them or donate them. I had to write a fifth review for a book which did not need to be published.  Each review needed to be between 350 and 500 words.  It was very easy to do.

I was hired via oDesk for this gig, and was paid a net of $10.80.  oDesk got their cut too.  There was even a little “tip” money included, which was nice.  I hope they contact me again.



English: The EMHS iPhone app screenshot

English: The EMHS iPhone app screenshot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Job #2 – iPhone App reviews

The second job this week was reviewing two slots games for iOS.  Part of the job description was to download the app, play it, and download at least 4 apps offered as ads in the first two games.  This meant two original games, plus 8 more game apps.  I only needed to review the first two games in iTunes.  I don’t play too many games on my iPhone or iPad, but, it was easy work, and I earned $4.50 after oDesk took their 10% cut.

Total earnings this week: $15.30

Not a living wage, certainly, but, pretty easy money.  I wouldn’t mind doing more Amazon reviews.  I’d rather be writing about food, if I had my way.  Who am I kidding, I’d rather cook and eat!  Go see my Paladin Cooks blog!