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I’ve Moved!

From now on Blog posts will be made on my NEW Official website at


It was finally the right time to take that last big step toward becoming a “true” professional.  (Not that I wasn’t before…  But now I look the part too!)



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Posted by on July 9, 2011 in Uncategorized


Loving My Nook

Last Christmas, I was given what I consider “the best gift ever” (other than, you know, the gift of life…): A Nook from Barnes and Noble.  My Nook never ceases to impress and delight me.  I use it daily and I highly recommend it.  Why?  Strap in, Folks; this is going to be a long one!

I love my Nook

"I'm sorry, Honey; I'm leaving you for Nook..."

The Top 10 Things I Love About My Nook

  1. E-books are cheaper.  Even when they’re listed as the same price, e-books are actually cheaper because you don’t need to pay shipping!
  2. E-books don’t take up as much space.  I often like to think of just how HEAVY my Nook would be if all of the books in it were “real” books instead of e-books.  I’d need to buy a separate house just to shelve them all!
  3. Get books instantly.  A while back I needed to write a review on WordPress for Dummies.  The rub?  I didn’t actually own that book and the article was due that same week!  In the old days, this would have presented a real problem.  With my Nook, I was able to get the book instantly, read it, and write my review.
  4. Durable.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a total klutz.  I am so grateful that the Nook is so durable.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve dropped it (mostly because I have a habit of falling asleep with it).
  5. Super long battery life!  Like I said at the beginning of this entry, I use my Nook daily… But I only have to charge it once a week (sometimes less!)
  6. It reads PDF files.  This is one of the things that makes the Nook great for work as well as pleasure.  How many times has your boss sent you a PDF file to read?  I used to get terrible headaches trying to read page after page on my computer, but now I just load any PDF files I’m given onto my Nook (with no backlight and an anti-glare screen!) and I’m headache-free!
  7. Free books!  Just type in “0.00” into Barnes and Noble’s website search and you’ll have more choices for free literature than you’ll know what to do with!
  8. Memory space.  The Nook comes with 2GB of memory; however, you can add in an additional memory card for even MORE space.  (I have a 16GB memory card installed).
  9. Internet browser.  It’s not the best Internet browser…but does it really have to be?  It’s an e-reader!  If you want an Internet browser, use your computer (or your phone).  I adore this feature though.  It’s perfect for when I need to quickly check my e-mail (letters from my mom, work emergencies, etc) and don’t want to turn on my computer.  Or when I’m playing a computer game that takes up the full screen and don’t want to stop to check my e-mail.
  10. Great Customer Service.  On the occasions when I’ve had questions, I’ve always been provided with fantastic Customer Service.

Steff’s Thoughts

Steff loves Nook too!

Steff loves Nook too!

I know this is highly unusual, but, when I started talking about how great my Nook is, my best gal Steff Turner joined in on the Nook Love and dished about how great she thinks hers is.  We have the exact same model, but we use it in different ways.  Here are a few of her favorite Nook features:

  • Customizable with custom backgrounds.  Steff likes to use Nook-Look to make her Nook’s wallpaper extra cool.  The Nook itself is also customizable!  If you don’t like its original white, there are custom backs and frames you can buy.  Steff’s Nook is orange.
  • Supports audio books and music.  Steff says, “You can put audio books onto the Nook as long as they are in mp3 format. They will play in order, like a track listing on an album.  Many audio books come on CDs or can be downloaded and if they are not already in MP3 format, they can be converted easily.”
  • Games.  The Nook comes preloaded with Sodoku and chess.  Perfect for waiting around at the DMV!
  • Try before you buy.  Barnes and Noble lets you read excerpts of their books before you decide to buy one.
  • You can download books NOT from Barnes and Noble.  Unlike some e-readers who will remain nameless, the Nook does not discriminate against a book simply because it’s not from Barnes and Noble.
  • Free books at Google Books.  Related to the above, Steff says, “I’ve been reading almost exclusively free published books for the last 6 months!”
  • Everything that I said.  Steff also agrees with everything that I said above in my Top 10 list.  What a pal!

Special Steff Tip: “A great program to manage all your free Nook stuff—and convert some file types to others—is Calibre.  They are the only free-to-use service I have ever donated money to because I was so pleased with their product.”

A Book to Get

Blogging Book

This book is less than a dollar!

As long as I’m dragging one friend into this entry, what’s one more, right?  Adam W. Warner of WP Pro Business (that place I write articles for sometimes) has a couple of e-books up on Barnes and Noble’s website.  And one of them is only 99 cents!  I’ve read both of these books (and even contributed to one of them) and they’re both worth purchasing.  Check ‘em out HERE!


Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Working from Home: The Bad

Those of you who tuned in last week already know all the things I consider utterly wonderful about working from home.  But what about the icky horrible things?  Every job has some.  Even if you’re working from home.

Get a real job

How many times have YOU had this conversation...?

The Top 8 Worst Things About Working from Home

  1. Cabin fever.  All you think about at work is how you can’t wait to get home…  But what if you already are home?  Having no escape can be very stressful.  Now, there are things that can help with this: For instance, don’t work in your bedroom. (Create a home office, if possible!).  Keep your areas to relax and your areas to work in separate.  I, unfortunately, don’t have that kind of space right now; but, as soon as we move out, I plan to employ these tactics myself!  (And I can’t wait).

  2. Working from home doesn’t command the respect it deserves.  As shown in my illustration above, many people don’t consider working from home a “real” job.  No, not even if you make more than they do.  You’ll also have to learn how to say “no.”  A lot.  People will assume that, since you work from home, you’re free to help them move, chat for hours online, go out to the movies on a weeknight, and any number of other things.  But, you’re not.  And be prepared for the lesser of them to not understand and for the worst of them to resent you for it.

  3. Distractions.  I always try to get everything done in the early morning/afternoon when my roommates are out.  Once they come home, it’s loud talking, loud music, unwanted guests, and any number of other distracting shenanigans.  My guy is an artist (and also works at home) so he understands—but if you live with anyone else, especially if they’re one of the “norms” with an outside-of-the-house job, they’re just not going to get it.  No, not even if you explain it to them.

  4. It requires HUGE amounts of self-discipline.  There are many people who complain about “distractions” when working at home, but they’re usually referring to their own lack of self-discipline.  Personally, if I lived alone, or just with my guy, I would not only thrive but probably never stop working.  There’s no one breathing down your neck to get the job done which means that it’s all up to you.  You have to be diligent.  It sounds really lame, but I think my martial arts training helped me a little with this aspect of my work-from-home career…

  5. The work hours: They never end!  Yes, I have steady “hours” for my WTR job…but what about all the other jobs I do on the side?  Or my own projects (like this article you’re reading now!)?  Quite often I’m writing from the moment I wake up until the moment I crawl under the covers.  (Of course, this isn’t always the case–some weeks are worse than others–and with proper use of my dayplanner I can usually manage things all right)

  6. The final outcome is all that matters.  When your boss/client can’t see you, they have no idea how many hours you’ve put in or how much hard work and research you’ve done: All that matters is the final product—because it’s all they can see!  It might seem unfair, but can you really blame them?

  7. Even if you’re supremely organized with your work area, other areas of your home may suffer.  I did my laundry on Saturday…it’s still not folded and put away.  (Hey, at least it’s clean!)

  8. So. Much. Pressure.  Everything, all the time, it’s all up to me and only meeeeeeeee!  No job lasts forever.  If I get hurt on the job, I’m the one who has to pay for it.  There are no vacations, no bonuses, and no pats on the back.  It’s also up to me to do all my own marketing, bookkeeping, filing, and cleaning: It’s all up to me.  I am my own business now…and the only one running this business is myself.


When I mentioned that I was doing a sequel to my “Working from Home” article, this time talking about all the problems that come with it, my friend’s mom scoffed and said “luxury problems…”  While that’s not exactly true (a lack of respect and heaping amounts of stress aren’t what I’d call “luxury”), she does have a point: Working from home is pretty dang sweet.  And, if you go back and look, my list of GOOD things about working from home is longer than the list of bad things.

I know I’ve got it good.  However, if I weren’t insanely disciplined, that might be another story.  Not everyone thrives when working from home.  And it’s always good to know the whole story before leaping into anything.  Hopefully that’s what I’ve illustrated here for anyone out there thinking about quitting their “real” job. 😉


Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Working from Home: The Good

Now that I work from home, I’m constantly getting asked what the best and worst aspects are!  I decided to dedicate two full articles to the subject.  This week’s post focuses on the good.

Working from Home

Working from Home

The Top 10 BEST Things About Working from Home

  1. Our cat isn’t suffering from separation anxiety anymore.  From October-December of 2010, my guy and I were working outside our home…and it drove our cat absolutely insane.  Now that we’re home for most of the hours in the day, even if we head out, he no longer panics thinking we’re never coming back.  For those of you with “real” (human) children, staying at home will give you more time with them too!

  2. No more driving/riding/taking the bus/walking to work!  We’ve saved so very much on gasoline.  And it saves time!  (No more accounting for “travel time”)

  3. No more annoying co-workers. As shown in my illustration above, my main co-worker is our cat.  And my favorite person (my guy).  Except on weekends when my roomies are home all day, I no longer have to deal with someone in the cube next to mine cranking up their music (which was always, without fail, decidedly not my taste).  No more office parties.  No more office politics.  I’m free.  Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

  4. Flexible work hours.  I decide what to do and when.  I have regular hours for my job at WTR, but they were hours I chose for myself.  And I choose when and how to do my side projects.  I’m also the primary cook for my lil family and the one in charge of scooping the cat’s litter box.  Plus there’s always cleaning, bill paying, socializing, and grocery shopping to do!  It all has to be fit into the day somehow, and I’m the one who gets to decide how.

  5. I get to wear what I want.  No more suits, disgustingly bright polyester t-shirts (Del Taco, I’m talking to you), or uniforms in general…  If I want to dress up, I dress up; if I don’t, I don’t.  It’s wonderful.  If I’m feeling ill and all I want to wear is my comfiest p-jams, I can.  (Yes, unless I’m running a super high fever, I still work when I’m sick—I’m just that hardcore)

  6. I can get new equipment when I want/need it.  Raise your hand if you’re at a job where you have to report to the hierarchy whenever you need new office supplies!  Been there, done that.  If I need more pens, a stapler, or a new laptop—I go out and get it.  No more waiting around for someone, somewhere, deep in the bowels of an office building, to remember that “Oh yeah…Lauren asked for a new computer mouse about 2 weeks ago…”  (That darn thing was broken and the job ended before I ever got a new one!)

  7. I eat better.  Now that I’m at home, I get to cook all of my own meals.  Which, as we all know, are much healthier than going out to Jack in the Box or living off of whatever you can microwave in the office break room.

  8. I get to listen to the music I want to listen to.  At my last job, my co-worker was more than happy to “share” her music—which I hated.  I love listening to music: It puts me in a better mood, thereby increasing my productivity, and it helps me to stay focused.  But that only works if it’s music I like.  Now that I’m home, I get to listen to my own tunes.  But I still use headphones.  Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you get a free pass to be rude!

  9. All the gold stars go to me!  Ever had a co-worker take credit for your job well done?  I have and it really “grinded my gears.”  Now that I’m the only one doing the work, I’m the only one who gets the credit.  And if my work is good, I’m the one who gets the praise.

  10. Variety.  If you’re a writer (like I am) or a designer or an artist or any number of other jobs…  Your clients and projects are constantly changing.  And you get to go on all these adventures from the comfort of your own home! The idea that “you don’t have to deal with customers!” is a myth. My clients are customers. The only difference is, I don’t have to deal with them in person anymore. And that is very, very nice.

Tune in next Wednesday for my list of the worst parts of working from home!


Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Uncategorized


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What Martial Arts Taught Me About Freelancing

I spent just shy of 18 years studying Martial Arts (at Fred Villari’s Studios of Self-Defense in Glendale, CA).  While I wasn’t especially surprised that it ended up saving my life once, I was surprised that so much of what I learned transferred over to my freelance writing career…

Armen Heroian and Lauren R. Tharp

Master Armen Heroian and me

Rules of the School

My “system”/school of Martial Arts training has its students live by 5 “Rules”/words:  Effort, Etiquette, Sincerity, Character, and Self-Control.

These Rules continue to influence not only my life, but my professional career.


Definition: 1.) Strenuous use of energy. 2.) Attempt.

What it Means to Me:  Try.  Really try.  As Wayne Gretsky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”  Or, as I prefer, “You better work hard or you might as well quit!” as said by the lyrical wordsmith M.C Hammer.  We all know that “the only failure is to not try.”  This applies to your business as well.  No matter how daunting a task may seem, if you accepted to do it, then you should give it all you’ve got!  Make the effort.  Don’t be lazy.


Definition: Rules of correct behavior.

What it Means to Me:  Don’t be a jerk.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Manners!  All that good stuff.  Also, the rules of “correct behavior” tend to adapt and change depending on what crowd you’re with.  Learn how to best blend in with those you’re working for/with by socializing with them.


Definition: Without having pretence or deceit.

What it Means to Me:  Be honest.  There have been times that I’ve been described as “painfully honest;” but, trust me, I’d rather be brutal in my honesty than to live my life as a liar.  Living your life and handling your business dealings with honesty and integrity will not only make your life easier (the truth is easier to keep track of than a web of lies!), but it can also save your butt if something goes awry!  I had an incident a few months ago where a client was trying to give me grief.  The main thing that saved me?  The truth.


Definition: 1.) Qualities making a person or thing what he, she, or it is. 2.) Moral strength. 3.) Person in a novel, play, etc. 4.) Letter or sign used in writing, printing, etc. 5.) Noticeable or eccentric person. 6.) Reputation

What it Means to Me:  Be yourself.  Or even “be true” to yourself.  For me, this Rule is very connected to the Rule of Sincerity…  Never compromise your principles or who you are for anyone—not even if they’re paying you!


Definition: Ability to control one’s own behavior.

What it Means to Me:  One time, during a test, I was near-to-tears with frustration because I couldn’t do everything that was expected of me.  It was because of my bad hip—a birth defect I had no control over.  I was making the Effort, but because I couldn’t succeed, I thought it meant nothing.  I thought that I wasn’t exemplifying the 5 Rules of the School.  That’s when Master Dannon told me something I will never forget: “By not doing something that hurts you, you’re showing Self-Control by knowing your own limitations.”  I always try to keep this in mind with my work.  By knowing my own limitations—by exhibiting some Self-Control—I’m able to not get overwhelmed by my projects…which lets me put in the required Effort to do my best work for the clients I do choose to work for.  It all comes full circle.

Master Dannon Moore with Lauren R. Tharp

Master Dannon became a Master on the same day I became a black belt

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Posted by on June 8, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Freelancers and the Importance of Socializing

Socializing with “normal” friends can help ebb eccentric tendencies and keep you from alienating your clients.

I own that outfit in real life

A completely accurate portrayal of what I look like when left up to my own devices

 The Anti-Social Freelancer

Most freelancers, especially freelance writers, work from home.  They pick their own clients and plan their own schedules.  Unfortunately, many of us forget to schedule a little “free time” into our dayplanners, leaving us anti-social and isolated.  (Or, if you’re like I am, being alone for long lengths of time can lead you to start humoring your more eccentric personality traits).

The Problem with Isolation

Isolation might not bother you.  In fact, many of us enjoy being alone on our days off.  However, the problem with complete and total reclusiveness from your fellow humans is this: Your detachment will start to affect your work.

Think of it this way:

  1. Your clients are probably humans/people.
  2. If you have no contact with humans/people other than yourself, you probably can’t relate to humans/people (or at least can’t in a way that’s considered “normal”)
  3. If you can’t relate to humans/people, you can’t relate to your clients.
  4. If you can’t relate to your clients, they won’t hire/pay you!

Oh noes!!

Keeping in Touch: What Can Help

I’m not saying that you have to start partying or even that you have to go out and physically see your friends every week.  There are lots of ways to stay “in touch” with the human race…

  • E-mail.  Making an effort to e-mail a friend (or friends) each week—particularly one who’s on the “outside”—can help to keep you feeling “connected.”
  • Phone.  Same thing as e-mail, but with more talk-y and less write-y.
  • Watch TV.  No, they aren’t “real” people (I’m not telling you to start thinking of Quinn Fabray as your girlfriend and Barney Stinson as your best friend), but real people are watching these shows: By watching—or at least knowing about—what’s on television, you start to absorb the lexicon (most of humanity’s common “slang” originates from the media) and get to know what people are talking about around the proverbial water cooler.
  • Know the News.  One of the first “tip offs” that you’re “out of touch” is when you don’t know the news.  For instance, if I had made a comment like “If we ever catch Osama Bin Laden…” after the events of May 1, 2011, I’d certainly get more than a few funny looks.
  • Get Out of the House.  People are EVERYWHERE.  No matter where you go, you’re bound to run into someone.  Even a simple “How are you today?” exchange with the bag clerk at the grocery store can give you some much-needed human contact.
  • Hang Out with Friends!  Hey, sometimes the classics just can’t be beat!

Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Planning Your Days by Using a Day Planner

Even if you have a fantastic memory, you might get confused if you’re juggling too many balls at once.  I know I do!  And there’s nothing quite like that chill of terror that comes with suddenly waking up at 3am and saying “I forgot to do ___________!”  That’s why I’ve taken to writing down my day-to-day tasks in a day planner.  It works for me and it may work for you as well!

If you go against the planner, the planner means nothing!

I'm the first to admit that I can sometimes be hard to live with...

A Glimpse at my Private Life: A Day in the Planner

All right, all right…  I’m not exactly the most private person there is.  Many of you have come here from my Personal Blog (which updates every Monday with a blow-by-blow of my personal life); however, no one but my guy and me has seen the inner workings of my day planner.  Not so anymore!  Here is a peek at a page out of one of my most precious work tools:

How I spend my time


That’s actually only a small section of one of my planner’s pages (my planner is 10×8″).  And that first entry had a lot more tasks than what’s shown there!  Looking at my planner, you probably noticed a few things:

  1. I write down menial tasks as well as “important” ones – I have two reasons for this.  One reason is that I sometimes get so busy, I sometimes forget to do simple things.  The other reason is explained in the section below (“given” tasks).
  2. The entries are highlighted – They didn’t start out that way!  I only highlight the tasks that I complete successfully.
  3. My planner has advice on it – that particular week it was “Compromising your principles is never a good choice” (which is absolutely true!).  On that same page it also has encouragement (“Think win-win!”) and a fun fact (“There are twice as many chickens as humans in the world”).  And it also has a slot to write down what book you’re reading that week!  I try to read two books per week.  That particular week, I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (gotta refresh my memory for the last movie!) and The Bedwetter: Tales of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman (if you liked her show, you’ll love her book!).  Anyway, the point is: my planner suits me perfectlyFind a planner that suits your personality and not only will you use it, you will love using it.

My Patented Tips for Day Planner Success

Everyone has their own way of doing things.  As you get used to having a day planner, you’ll probably come up with your own methods for using it efficiently; however, here are a few things that I do that may help to get you off on the right foot:

  • Choose the right planner for you – I suggest one without too many bells & whistles.  For instance, I’ve seen planners with Velcro tabs and/or zippers…  Personally, I wouldn’t use one of these.  If your planner isn’t easy to access, you probably won’t use it very often.
  • Write down a few “given” tasks.  I always write down a few super easy tasks that I know I’m going to complete successfully that day.  Like cooking dinner or scooping out the cat litter box.  It’s a “given” that I’m going to do these things, but having them written down in my planner gives me a.) something easy to do when the rest of my tasks are “too hard” or unappealing and, b.) gives me that same sense of getting-things-done satisfaction when I cross it off my list as successfully completed.  For me, if my planner were composed of nothing but super hard or un-fun tasks, I would feel defeated before the day even started!  Having a few “given” tasks can be a great way to “warm up” to the bigger, more important, stuff.
  • Remind yourself of due dates ahead of time!  If you have something important due, don’t just mark it down on the date it’s due (though you should do that too), give yourself a reminder in advance.  You don’t want to turn the page in your planner and get a nasty surprise!
  • Write it down as soon as you think of it.  Or at least try to!  Your planner can’t help you to not forget if you forget to use your planner!
  • Leave some space for fun.  “All work and no play…”  Well, you know the rest.  Make time for yourself!

Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


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