A Content Mill Example

I enjoy writing for Catalogs.com. Some derisively call such sites content mills. But as a writer they are an opportunity to take on a variety of interesting and challenging work. Below is a recent article of mine. The assignment required certain key words and a link to the featured merchant but nothing more. The article title was “Creative ways to decorate with museum replicas.”

This article took two to two and a half hours to write from scratch. It may not be perfect but that’s not what I was aiming for. I want the piece to be in “substantial compliance” with what the editor wants. And I want to be efficient with my time with respect to what I am getting paid. The less time the better, unless the writing suffers.

Creative Ways To Decorate With Museum Replicas

Decorate with museum replicas to enhance your home or office. Well curated pieces bring a style and élan no local import store can match. Classic jewelry, sculpture, mobiles and more, will make an impression on you and your guests. But don’t limit looking to yourself. Think about a handsome gift for a friend. Or just a bracelet to brighten their day.

Stunning sculpture demands the right presentation. If you have a grand piano to place a Beethoven bust, great. If you don’t, think about a stand. An import store might have something appropriate but don’t stop there. The proper stand takes some looking for but that’s part of a process, a fun one, that matches your collectible to found items. Besides flea markets and thrift stores, consignment stores often have odds and ends that might work. You say the kids will knock over a stand? What about a different approach?

Does your home or office have any wall niches or alcoves? They’re not terribly difficult for a cabinet maker or a skilled handyman to make. Basically, you remove the drywall between studs, leaving a 16″ to 24″ gap in the wall. At this point a decorative shelf can be installed, with a backing of whatever material you think would make the alcove attractive. A rounded top to the alcove is a fine touch, instead of simply squaring up the opening. Small doors can be added to really bring attention to your alcove and your artwork.

Of course, no house altering work is required if you are thinking of photographs, prints, or posters. Hanging most artwork is fairly straightforward unless you have a heavy piece or are attaching art to something like a brick wall. Then, a knowledge of anchors is essential. You still have that handyman (or handylady) around, don’t you?

To decorate with museum replicas means thinking like a museum and using any and all spaces. Hang a mobile from the ceiling to float and twirl above your guests, giving movement to an otherwise static room. Pick a theme like art exhibitions do. Perhaps a room dedicated to a hobby like aviation or horses. And then start assembling your collection over time.

You don’t need a room of pieces, of course. Sometimes just one thing will do. Like a large table globe for the study or office. A scale model of a helicopter to grace a work desk. Perhaps a classic, ornate chess set sitting on a simple table. Or a peaceful Buddha resting on the third shelf of a bookcase.

Speaking of cases, presentation cases can be found through certain dealers. Sometimes jewelry fairs have people selling exhibition boxes to the trade. You can buy these to show off your museum replica necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. A lighted display box with a mirrored interior would be a spectacular case to encase your treasures. And what fun lighting it up for your guests!

You are limited only by your imagination once you start thinking of possibilities. You can begin with the house entrance and work inward. Does the door itself need a detail? Or would a pair of lions, sitting like bookends, one on either side of the door, perform a welcome for your guests? While a standard import store will provide only limited choices, and many bland at that, a museum company store is well worth checking out for the fun, the unusual, and the well-considered piece.

Good article on content mills here: https://thewritelife.com/why-writing-for-content-mills-isnt-as-bad-as-you-think/


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Current Clichés and Ugly Words

Can we please avoid these? Ready made words and phrases are poor substitutes for expressing real ideas. If, in fact, there is a real idea to be expressed.

game changer

Get your game face on.

killing it

bringing it


disruptive technology

Taking it to a whole new level.

Thinking out of the box.

The new normal.

At the end of the day.

The X is the new Y. As in, Orange is The New Black. Fifty is the new forty. And so on.

best practices

double down

iconic (internal link)

Speak truth to power.

issues (instead of saying problems)



buzzed driving

takeaway (as in taking away the best idea — although I’ve used this word)


He made a statement with that play.


A boatload of money

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Physical Books Making a Comeback. At Least in The UK.

The Telegraph has an interesting read today. Hardcopy books are coming back into style. It reminds me of vinyl records enjoying a resurgences. I think, though, that there’s little hope for hardcopy books in general as the “shelfie” trend the writer describes would favor boutique presses and handcrafting publishers. There is a forecast, however, for e-books to drop in sales as people turn away from screens. That might be the biggest take-away from the article.

E-books Sales to Drop as Bookshelf Resurgence Sparks ‘Shelfie’ Craze

by Katie Morley, Consumer Affairs Editor

Bookshelves are making a comeback in living rooms as a “shelfie” interior design craze is sweeping the UK.

Brit’s increasing desire to show off their personality and intellect through their book collections is boosting book sales, but will see sales of e-books fall for the first time ever, consumer analysts have predicted.

According to Mintel sales of physical books are forecast to rise by 6 per cent this year to £1.7 billion while sales of e-books are predicted to fall by 1 per cent to £337 million in 2017. . . .

Click here to read the rest of the article (external link)

Photograph from here: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/12-of-the-worlds-coolest-builtin-bookshelves-212556?crlt.pid=camp.fsuJbLNRC3SI

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Good Help With InDesign — A Recommendation

I’ve been battling InDesign lately and getting some good help with it. In publishing, half your time is in writing, the other half is in figuring out a layout program.

Bhim Singh has created an excellent template for me to follow in my Nevada Almanac project. (internal link) Although I am modifying it a bit, Singh has done the heavy lifting.

Chief problem so far? The fonts I have on my Mac aren’t the exact ones as on his computer. So specify in advance what you have on your machine, perhaps he can come up with equivalents.

Bhim Singh’s e-mail address is bhimsingh.nuaon@gmail.com (e-mail link) That’s also his address for PayPal payments. Be generous.

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Organizing Thoughts

Organizing one’s thoughts in a straightforward manner is key to any successful nonfiction magazine article. You start with a loose assemblage of ideas, then you add to that collection when you do your research. One idea leads to another. Facts build on facts. Eventually, you put a hundred different points together in a cohesive way. It’s the same way with a book. Just a much bigger job.

I’ve done a little more research on writing a Nevada Almanac. Based on the California Almanac I described in a previous post (internal link), I came up with a preliminary table of contents. See the image below. That framework may indeed encourage me to follow through with this passion project. With contributors helping, I may be able to write the book in one or two year’s time. It would take away time from my paid work, however, perhaps I could economize for the length of the writing. I am still thinking about it. And yes, Nevada’s Pyramid Lake is considered a fishery.


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First Look At Amazon’s Fire 7 With Alexa

Available almost everywhere for fifty dollars, Amazon’s Fire 7 is a great buy. It’s a definite upgrade if you use a small screen phone to access the web, and a book reader that is on par with much more expensive tablets like the iPad. Really, there’s not much to dislike when you are spending only fifty dollars.

Although I don’t own an iPad Mini, casual users thinking Apple may want to try the Fire before they spend hundreds of dollars on the Mini. Base model storage is only eight gigs to begin with, but you can boost it with a memory card to get what you need. The Fire 7 is WiFi only and it connects easily to your home network. Video playback is good.

Setup is amazingly easy and quick. In a creepy way, it knows if you are an Amazon user and suggests quietly that it has your purchase account information ready to go. I didn’t even have to enter my Amazon password. To help you along, you can hold down on the home button for a second or two and it will call up Alexa to answer your questions. It also accesses any Kindle e-books that you’ve bought from Amazon. They appear on the Fire with little to do on your part.

Text resolution is excellent. A good book reader as long as your book does not require a great deal of pan and scan. Photos are bright and cheery although the built in camera is not on par with the Apple. What is? Sound is poor. I’ll continue to experiment with the Fire and let you know what I find.

Below: the Fire and my old iPad2. Screen resolution on the Fire is comparable, although probably not as good as Apple’s new “Retina Display” on current iPads.

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I Did It!

I passed my amateur radio General exam today! It’s an upgrade to my current technician’s license. (internal link) That means I am licensed to carry on my ham radio hobby for communications around the world. It also means a month of study is behind me and I can now concentrate on work and my upcoming move.

While I was driving back from the exam site I was humming a tune from My Fair Lady. If you have never seen the film you must put it on your list. It is shamelessly romantic and dated and wonderful to behold. For us writers, Harrison’s character is a grammarian whose demands on poor Elisa Doolittle for perfect pronunciation reminds us not to judge someone by their speech. Even if we continue to do it.

You Did It

Pickering Tonight, old man, you did it!
You did it! You did it! You said that you would do it,
And indeed you did. I thought that you would rue it;
I doubted you’d do it. But now I must admit it
That succeed you did. You should get a medal
Or be even made a knight. Henry It was nothing.
Really nothing. Pickering All alone you hurdled
Ev’ry obstacle in sight. Henry Now, wait! Now, wait!
Give credit where it’s due, A lot of the glory goes to you.
Pickering But you’re the one who did it,
Who did it, who did it! As sturdy as Gibraltar,
Not a second did you falter. There’s no doubt about it,
You did it! I must have aged a year tonight.
At times I thought I’d die of fright.
Never was there a momentary lull Henry
Shortly after we came in I saw at once we’d easily win;
And after that I found it deadly dull. Pickering
You should have heard the ooh’s and ah’s;
Ev’ry one wondering who she was. Henry
You’d think they’d never seen a lady before. Pickering
And when the Prince of Transylvania
Asked to meet her,
And gave his arm to lead her to the floor…! I said to him:
You did it! You did it! You did it!
They thought she was ecstatic
And so damned aristocratic,
And they never knew
That you
Did it! Henry Thank Heavens for Zoltan Karparthy.
If it weren’t for him I would have died of boredom.
He was there, all right. And up to his old tricks.
Mrs. Pearce Karparthy? That dreadful Hungarian?
Was he there? Henry Yes.
That blackguard who uses the science of speech
More to blackmail and swindle than teach;
He made it the devilish business of his
“To find out who this Miss Doolittle is.”
Ev’ry time we looked around
There he was, that hairy hound From Budapest.
Never leaving us alone, Never have I ever known
A ruder pest Fin’lly I decided it was foolish
Not to let him have his chance with her.
So I stepped aside and let him dance with her.
Oozing charm from ev’ry pore
He oiled his way around the floor.
Ev’ry trick that he could play,
He used to strip her mask away.
And when at last the dance was done,
He glowed as if he knew he’d won!
And with a voice to eager,
And a smile too broad, He announced to the hostess
That she was a fraud! Mrs. Pearce No!
Henry Ja wohl! Her English is too good, he said,
Which clearly indicates that she is foreign.
Whereas others are instructed in their native language
English people aren’t.
And although she may have studied with an expert
Di’lectician and grammarian, I can tell that she was born
Hungarian! Not only Hungarian, but of royal blood,
she is a princess! Servants Congratulations,
Professor Higgins, For your glorious victory!
Congratulations, Professor Higgins!
You’ll be mentioned in history! Rest of Servants
(Simultaneously) Congratulations, Professor Higgins!
For your glorious Victory! Congratulations,
Professor Higgins! Sing hail and hallelujah!
Ev’ry bit of credit For it all belongs to you!
Footman (Simultaneously with Rest of Servants)
This evening, sir, you did it! You did it! You did it!
You said that you would do it And indeed you did.
This evening, sir, you did it! You did it! You did it!
We know that we have said it,
But-you did it and the credit
For it all belongs to you!

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