Showing posts with label stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stories. Show all posts

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Review: Grammarly Premium

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because they offered me $20 to try out their Premium service on my original 8/3/13. About 9 months later I received an email from the Grammarly rep I worked with noting:

"Would you mind removing the link to Grammarly from the sponsored blog post we worked on together? It's been brought to my attention that Google's Webmaster Guidelines don't approve of sponsored posts that include links to the sponsoring site."

Earlier this week, someone from Grammarly emailed me and asked if I'd be willing to allow them to sponsor a blog post in exchange for a $20 Amazon gift card. After a couple of emails back and forth, I decided that I'd go ahead. My son is dying for a water bottle rocket, and what better way to use an unexpected gift card than on something your kiddo really wants?

Before I agreed to allow them to sponsor my blog post, I did some research and was disappointed to see that they were asking for a credit card number to activate the free trial. Luckily, they didn't do that with me. They simply set me up with a username and password, and I was ready to put Grammarly through the paces.





After logging in, I was taken into the Grammarly program, where I can copy / paste or enter text to review for spelling and grammar errors.

40 of 100? Grammarly is very kind.
I decided to type a poorly written sentence to start out. I typed: "I definately love cHocolatechip Cooqies." It caught all of the misspellings and offered suggestions on how to fix them. To the left of the text box, there is a rating system based on the errors that were found. This sentence earned a score of 40 of 100. I'd have given it a much lower score, but that's just me. I'm a hard ass like that. So far, so good.

Checking for plagiarism.
The next feature I wanted to explore was the plagiarism checker. This is a valid concern for a writer. I like the idea of being able to upload my text and see if it's floating around on the internet without my permission. I know there are other programs that perform this function, but I thought I'd see if Grammarly worked for it as well. I copied and pasted my last blog post into the text box and hit the plagiarism button...

Gotcha!
It didn't take the program long to identify that I copied and pasted something directly from another website. All of the text that was plagiarized was highlighted in red and a window popped up encouraging me to credit the source(s). Very, very good! But a blog post is easy. I wanted to see what would happen if I checked text from one of my previously published e-books


Hmm.
I copied and pasted the text of an entire e-book and clicked the button. The result it kicked back was disheartening to say the least. Out of 3,736 words, only 2% of the document--the disclaimer--came up as plagiarized. I decided to remove the disclaimer and run the check again.

Not Good.
Nope. It came up as 100% original. This book can be found all over the place: Amazon, Smashwords, All Romance...Seriously, it's everywhere. Maybe because it wasn't published on a blog or website it didn't recognize the text as stolen. This isn't Grammarly's primary function, but I do feel that if they're going to offer a plagiarism function, it should at least identify eBooks. 


As far as the quality of the grammar checker goes, it's pretty basic. It notes the same things that my word processor notes. In some cases, it flags things that are correct or that fit within the context and writing style. In the above image, Grammarly had a problem with the sentence: "Isabel felt heat and moisture rise between her legs." and suggested I change it to "Isabel felt the heat..." I wholeheartedly disagree. I left that article out of the sentence because writing it that way perfectly expressed what was happening to sweet Isabel.

My overall impression is that Grammarly is easy to use, but that it's not much better than the grammar and spell check in my word processor. I could see it being a huge help to someone who doesn't have a basic grasp of grammar rules or who has a hard time writing, and it might be great for students who are trying to write a paper for a class, but it's just not right for me. If I, as a professional writer, incorporated all of Grammarly's suggestions, my writing would be stiff, too formal, and no fun to read.


While I've had a lot of fun playing with Grammarly, I think I'll stick with my word processor's functions. They're free and I don't have to copy / paste anything.

Have you used Grammarly? What do you think of it?


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Thoughts & Wishes from Alyssa Steel

This is a hectic time of  year for many people. There are so many things to be done, and it seems like there's just not enough time in the day to get everything that needs doing done.

My own life is a whirlwind of activity right now. Between homeschooling my son, (actually, don't tell him I said so, but my husband has now taken over homeschooling entirely so I can have more time to write) buying  Christmas gifts, making Christmas gifts, attending holiday parties, making cookies for friends and neighbors, and working on all of my various writing projects, I feel like I haven't gotten a decent night's sleep in weeks.

I know I'm not alone out there, feeling the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season, so I just wanted to take a moment to remind you that it's okay not to get it all done. It's okay not to buy a gift for everyone in your office or to attend every blasted party you're invited to. It's okay to curl up on the couch with a good book, a cozy blanket and a steamy cup of  hot cocoa and to just take an hour or two for yourself. Take time to enjoy your family, take time to laugh and sing badly. Take a moment to kiss your partner in the toy aisle at Target. Paint a picture with your child, let your cat cuddle on your lap and scratch your dog's belly. These are the moments that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives, so please don't let the frenetic pace of the season distract you from them.

Slow down and enjoy a cup of cocoa on me.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Things We Do for Love

Sometimes, when I'm hanging out with my mom friends, the subject of husbands comes up. Okay, the subject always comes up, just in different ways. Once in a while it's about a fight that just happened or what dairy or gluten does to their bellies. Sometimes it's about their relationships with their kids and sometimes it's about the things they do that show us they love us.

This post is about how my husband loves me.

Oh, sure, he's done the normal "I love my partner" stuff. He's held my hair back as I've vomited, he's rubbed my feet even though he has a distinct aversion to feet, he does 90% of the laundry because he knows that's the one chore I hate above all others.  He's thrown me a surprise birthday party, and has kindly refrained from drinking so he could drive my drunk ass home. You know, all that stuff a good and loving life partner should do.

But when I'm old and bed ridden and reviewing my life there will be one story that I will tell to everyone who will listen.  Okay, maybe not grand-kids, but everyone else:

Once upon a time, I decided that I wanted to write erotica. My reasons were varied. Part of me wanted a chance to explore my sexuality, part of me wanted a chance to be a bad girl and write all the stuff that I'd always imagined, part of me hoped to make enough money to support my coffee and vodka habits (though never coffee and vodka at the same time! That would just be a waste.), and part of me wanted to use it as an opportunity to get back into writing and to prove to myself that I could do it.

When I told my husband of my insane plan to start writing smut, he didn't laugh. He didn't judge. He hugged me and encouraged me. Then he cleaned out the spare bedroom and set it up as an office for me, so I could have a private place to think my depraved and explicit thoughts in private.

One day I mentioned to him that I wanted an anthology style book of erotica. Reading free erotica online is fun and all, but a lot of it was so poorly written. Wading through the mud to get to the gold was exhausting. 

And what did my honey do? He asked me to drop him off at a major bookstore while I took our son on a play date. Cool. I'll drop him off, he can work a bit, he can browse, have a coffee, take a couple of hours to himself.

I dropped him off, but what happened while I was at the play date is the stuff of legend.

He took himself straight to the Romance section and scoured, even down on his hands and knees, the shelves for some sort of erotica anthology. Coming up empty handed, he approached a twenty-something manager, adjusted the zombie messenger bag he was carrying, and asked her if she could help him find erotica anthologies.

Apparently she was a decent manager because she didn't bat an eye at the 6'2", scruffy bearded, army green shirt wearing, zombie bag toting, wedding ring-less, gorgeous man asking for written porn. She led him up the escalator and right to the Sensuality sextion section.They were both scouring the shelves, on hands and knees, looking for a book, just for me! After coming up empty handed again, she led him to the gay and lesbian section. That area came up dry, too, so he thanked her and she left.

Before we dropped him off, we had lunch. Indian. Lots of Indian. And it started to hit him after the manager lady took her leave. The poor guy tried to ignore it, but there it was. He had to use the bathroom. Although nobody likes going poo in a public restroom, he was stuck there until I decided to come and get him. So he headed back down the escalator and was about to turn down the hallway to the bathrooms when he saw the manager lady. She was looking at him and he was just too damned embarrassed to go to the bathroom.

How would it look? What would she think? Oh god! She'd think he was in there jacking off after looking for erotica! Looking for it, asking for it, searching on his hands and knees for it didn't phase him in the least. But the idea that someone would think he was getting off in public was just too much for him.

Fortunately, I showed up just a few minutes later, so he didn't have to hold it long and he didn't have to suck it up and use the public bathroom.

Some men will go and buy tampons for their wife, some men will make sure the car always has gas, but my man will go to great lengths just to buy me Erotica. That is love.

Incidentally, I did finally get an anthology. After dropping our son off with a friend, we spent a whole afternoon going to bookstores and porn shops. We found lots on interesting stuff but not what I was looking for. Until one amazing, women owned, women operated oasis was able to quench my thirst.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I Write The Stories That Turn You On. What's Your Superpower?

I think it's pretty clearly established that I write smut for a living. Okay, maybe not for a whole living, maybe just for cheap vodka money, but still. I write the stuff that, if done properly, will make the reader need some alone time to take care of urges. That is what I do and it's a helluva lot of fun.

But it's not entirely who I am. I am a wife, a mother, a homeschooling parent, and a leader in my community. I am a blogger, and a from-scratch cook. I am a friend, I am someone that people call when they are confused or have problems. I am someone that is always available to watch a friend's kids at the last minute.

But that's not it, either. I'm a liberal. I'm staunchly pro gay-rights, I'm an atheist, and I'm feminist. I'm strong, I'm a survivor, and I'm intelligent.

But that's not all there is to me. I was an English major with a focus on creative writing in college. I read to escape and I write to process. My husband knows whether I'm depressed, overwhelmed, or just chilling based on the author I'm reading. I have great conversations about Kafka and Bronte and Hardy with my fellow lit-geek girlfriends.

I have worked hard to develop a network of amazing and beautiful people, and to be brutally honest, I'm afraid of the raised eyebrows if it ever got out that I write erotica. I'm afraid that some of those great mom friends would stop letting their kids come over and play with my kid. I'm afraid that my liberal, feminist friends would be aghast that I write stories (and get turned on by them!) of being fucked by strangers or being tied up and made to submit to a man. I'm afraid that my lit-geek girlfriends will look down their noses at me for starting sentences with the word "But" and for writing things with no higher purpose than to make someone all wet between the legs.

Having a pen name allows me to let go of all those fears and all that pressure. Alyssa Steel is able to write the stuff she wants to write without fear of being ostracized or judged, and that is so god damned freeing! As Alyssa, I can say or do anything in my stories and I don't have to worry what my grandmother will think if she stumbled upon my them. I don't have to worry that my kiddo's friends' moms are disgusted by the bondage in my stories. I don't have to worry that all they're thinking about when they're looking at me is whether or not I really enjoy it up the ass. I'd imagine that kind of worry wouldn't make for a very fun moms night out.

When I go into my office to write, I set aside my real name and my real issues. I put on my headphones, turn on Alyssa Steel's Pandora account, put on my pouty lips, and become whoever the hell I want to be. Without my secret identity, I could never reveal this super awesome part of myself.

I write the stories that turn you on. What's  your superpower?