Notification: Migrating My Fiction

If you were directed to this site via one of my self-published works (there are some few copies still floating around with the link), the focus of this site has since changed.

Here I still write about writing, and include story prompts and the occasional book review (disclaimer, Amazon and Smashwords affiliate links included where relevant), along with assorted random topics. I am slowly trying to shift the focus towards those reviews and away from the random topics.
The sister site, Pioneers of the Shattered Waters, now bears the focus of my own stories, up to and including Nation Novel Writing Month competition data.

More details on this change can be found on the relevant page, “Migrating Certain Posts

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2020 “Spring” Cleaning and Redecorating

A follow up to Daydreaming about Free Time, in which the beginning of the lockdown had me thinking about what I’d want to do (and what I’d probably do instead) if I ever found myself locked down.

As it happens, some of those plans have come to pass, but for financial reasons others are very much a work in progress.


Disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate links (which earn me a small commission on sales) will be included on relevant products where such a link can be generated.


Computer Desk:

If you’ve looked at the post linked above, you’ve probably already seen my new computer desk. What you would not have seen is how cluttered that cupboard was before it became possible to organize things further.


The mess you see within would be most of my camera equipment: bags, spare batteries, GoPro mounting adapters, chargers, and assorted other accessories.

The smallest items are stored in the Mind Reader brand mesh 3-drawer storage container, while some of my very largest items still need to be stored in the “junk” drawer in my dresser.
(And here I immediately contradict my note about “where such a link can be generated.” At this time of writing the exact product is “currently unavailable,” but you might be interested in one of the other organizers offered by the same manufacturer.)


Given that the vast majority of my writing is done on the computer, I thought it best to keep my reference books and few notebooks in that little cupboard for easy access instead of on my actual bookshelves (what few shelf units remain).


Not only has the cupboard been decluttered, but I’ve managed to clear space off of the desk itself.


When I first started using this computer desk, this photo represents the tidiest I could get it as absolutely everything computer-related that I didn’t want to shove in some drawer was forced to share space here. As a result there was little room for desirables like a decent mousepad!


Even though decluttering is a considerable part of my goal, I will confess this photo gives me a sense of “something missing.” In truth, the only thing missing is my backordered graphics amplifier, which will begin its life as a glorified USB hub but eventually transform my computer into something more suitable for VR gaming…. at least until I’ve saved up for a new computer.

That mousepad, by the way, is the Logitech Lightspeed wireless charging mousepad. I’d like to do a product review at some point, but so far I’m loving it!


But where did everything else go? Surely you don’t think I was so obsessed with decluttering that I got rid of everything else.

Nope, I got myself a new shelf unit in the form of a:

Hobby Desk

Despite certain differences such as brand and coloration, I’ve had my eye on the Ameriwood brand hobby desk since purchasing the above Mainstays brand l-shaped computer desk.

This one proved harder to come by for a number of reasons, chief among which was the fact that it took so long for the parental units to allow me to donate my (or rather, their, since their permission was even required) full-size brass bed to the thrift store instead of waiting, and waiting, and waiting still some more, for a friend or family member to take it off my hands. (I could’ve had that thing gone and everything else set up before Christmas if it had been my decision, but it didn’t get donated until the middle of a pandemic because it took that long for them to even ask.) Since there was simply no space in my room to set up the new desk, and I did not relish having to put it together and take it apart again nor leave it boxed up in another room (and risk encountering problems too late to replace it), I waited until the oversized bed was gone before attempting to purchase the new desk… and by that point it had a maddening tendency to go in and out of stock on a regular basis, or for the price to vary wildly when it was only being offered by secondary sellers.

But buy it I eventually did. Not only does all of my camera equipment (except the largest tripods still occupying the junk drawer) fit without crowding the shelves, but I can keep my laptop and “fitness center”

charged and ready to go.

The empty space in the middle of the desk is reserved for those moments when I need an actual desk, for reasons ranging from “responsible adult” tasks like matching up my receipts with credit card statements, to hobby pursuits like practicing drawing, to providing space for my phone when I want to record anything without the use of a webcam. I’ve become so accustomed to clutter that it, too, provides a sense of “something missing,” but if I am to keep things organized that space should remain empty when I am not actively using it.

There was also more than enough room on the shelves both above and beneath the new desk for all of my non-electronic art supplies and odds and ends that had previously occupied plastic totes under my bed.


I may still find something among those odds and ends to donate or throw out, but I consider simply getting them out from under my bed is a win for reasons besides the need to organize. The reason is that, unlike the space under or behind the desk, the bed is taking up floor space I expect to use for VR gaming… once I’ve saved enough to replace it with a Murphy bed, that is.


YouTube Cleanup

While there is always the possibility of finding something else to reorganize or get rid of, there is one final “spring cleaning” that I have planned. Amid the backlog of videos in need of editing, I also want to revise my YouTube channels, make the main channel Side Quest Publications more writerly in nature, and also get more related content onto my other channels (most notably the gaming one, currently titled Unfashionably Late Gaming).

Since the relevant videos have very little engagement at this point in time, I consider it no great loss to delete them from the first channel for the purpose of migrating to another. The plan, therefore, is to remove all of the gaming-related unboxing videos (Build a Bear pokemon, Elder Scrolls collector’s editions, and gaming themed Loot Crates) from the main channel, edit them for various reasons such as giving them a proper outro (to better use the “end screen” feature), and upload them to the gaming channel. Whether I choose to do the same with the other Loot Crate videos to keep everything together remains to be seen, but I see no need to make such a decision for future videos; unless I happen to get a sponsor (dare to dream 😉 ), I don’t expect to make any more unboxing videos that are not either gaming- or book-related.


Just Keep Cleaning, Just Keep Cleaning

That takes care of the bigger messes, but there are other things in my room to declutter without simply getting rid of stuff. In addition to keeping these areas organized, the next step would probably be… hmmmm…..

Should it be the cubbies near the top of the desk? (Spare mouses, flash drives, memory cards, and assorted small items that might require the use of another desk organizer.)

Or my dresser? (Books are a “simple” matter of reading and redonating, and most of my usb cords are organized into those two boxes; the actual mess is the assorted health-not-fitness products.)

Decisions, decisions.


What about you, my readers? What organizational tasks would you most like to tackle, and how would you like to accomplish that?

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Using free time to daydream about free time

Disclaimer: Two different mentions of desks, given the absence of any photos I could take for the purpose, link to relevant product pages on Amazon. Both links, located towards the end of the post where I’ve included other photos of my workspace-in-progress, include an Amazon Affiliate code (which earns me a small commission if purchases are made through my link).


Thanks to the Coronavirus, a lot of people have found themselves with a lot of unwanted free time on their hands. (And by “unwanted” I mean that these people would probably like to continue earning a steady paycheck.) I’ve seen posts all across social media describing what people are trying to do in this free time: play games for their Twitch/YouTube channels, finish writing novels, finish reading novels, get working on insert-craft-project-here, and so on.

And that got me thinking. I don’t have that free time myself–I’m not sick, and my place of employment isn’t closed down because people need their groceries, so I’m still putting up with the 40-plus-mile round-trip commute–but if, hypothetically, I was stuck at home for an extended period, what would I do with that time?


Writing in progress

Part of me says I should work on finishing my current fanfic-in-progress. Or at least finish the current timeline. I mean, I’m only two chapters off from the end of that timeline (before a certain speedster in yellow changes things and Mr. Eidetic Memory has to figure out how to cope with those changes), and I know where I want to take those two chapters; I don’t even need to rewatch episodes to accurately recreate dialogue for this part, so theoretically I should be able to finish it soon.

There is also one of many original fiction projects, specifically the one currently titled The Graft, to complete. Though in this case that means completing the first draft… and then editing so that I have more than just the free prologue to upload to my Patreon.


Video Backlog

Speaking of my Patreon, there are also assorted video projects I want to try. Bad translator style “guess that book” descriptions from books I’ve enjoyed and/or excerpts from my own work, practicing drawing, things like that. Or there’s simply the fact that, for two of my YouTube channels, I still have that massive backlog in need of editing, plus I need to start playing games again if I’m to record anything for the gaming channel.

Book reviews, too–while I’m cutting down on the hodgepodge of random content, I’m trying to shift the focus of this site to reviews, with the admittedly ulterior motive of having a reason to insert Amazon Affiliate links and hopefully earn a small commission in the process.


And I think about this, and daydream, and wonder, and finally decide…. Who am I kidding? If I had that much time to myself, I’d probably just let myself get distracted by social media like I’ve been doing anyway.


Spring Cleaning

But since I’m not stuck at home and only have my usual two days off per week, what I really ought to do is finish the fanfic’s current timeline, edit and upload some of those videos… and continue working on cleaning my room to make it more, shall we say, compatible as a gaming room.

I’ve made quite a bit of progress already, clearing out one shelf unit enough to get rid of it (which surprisingly consisted primarily of reorganizing the contents of my other shelf units–which I had believed to be full before making this attempt–and very little disposing or donating of my property) and make room for a larger desk, but there’s still more progress to be made, especially if I intend to play VR games in here.


These are all old photos–it occured to me too late that I had never taken pictures of what my room looked like prior to acquiring the new desk–but imagine that vaguely beech-colored three-column shelf unit (clearly visible on the right in the first photo, you can just barely see it past the black shelf unit in the second) in the same corner as in the photos, and the rest of the wall in the first photo filled all the way to the doorframe with shelf units shorter than either of the others pictured. Imagine, also, a narrower student desk than the one pictured, just big enough to fit a wall-mounted 32 inch monitor (but only as long as I don’t toss and turn at night–I bought a 24-inch instead for the purpose) in place of the one in the final photo, and you have a good idea of how little floor space was available for things that are not my bed.

Game Room Step One: New Desk

There were several “first steps” to consider, including replacing my full-size hand-me-down brass bad with a twin-size Murphy bed. For that option to help, though, I’d need to be able to get rid of the brass bed, be able to afford a Murphy bed that’s to my liking (I’m thinking a freestanding one that has a small desk when it’s folded up), and be able to clear out all of the stuff that’s under my bed.

At some point I decided that clearing out enough wall space in the form of getting rid of that shelf unit, moving my bed from the center of the room to the wall, and replacing my student desk with a larger option would be an easier first step. Moving the bed significantly increased my floor space; adding a larger desk only slightly decreased it.

(That’s still the 24-inch monitor. I can now use a 32-inch without a risk from tossing and turning, but I won’t buy one until I’ve paid my bills down enough to justify the cost of a 4K, plus such a monitor would fill that cubby enough that I’d probably need to relocate my webcam.)

Future Plans

Obviously this is a work in progress. To really get things set up the way I want them, I still need a smaller bed (I’d like a Murphy but a regular twin size will suffice in the meantime), better options for shelf units (there’s a craft desk with built-in bookcase I have my eye on that could fit right next to the computer desk… but it will only fit once the bed is replaced with a smaller model), and continue keeping an eye out for things I’m willing to simply get rid of so I can clear out the boxes under my bed.

The shelves currently shoved in behind the head of my bed are the same ones that I’d mentioned as filling the east wall to the doorframe. They are mostly full of signed books, not reading copies, so the fact that they’re inaccessible is nothing to worry about before I’ve replaced my bed.

However, I will need to reorganize some of the things covering my walls (especially if I intend to get a Murphy bed, as the wall coverings would be in the way no matter what style I get), and see if I can reorganize the collectibles I’d moved over to the new desk. I’d underestimated just how much camera equipment I have (mostly tripods, cases, and spare batteries, but they still take up quite far more space than I realized) so I’ll either want to find a better location for them than the cupboard on that desk or acquire an adjustable shelf like the kind made for lockers.


What about you, my fellow bloggers? If you were stuck at home during this pandemic, what would you like to do with that time? Likewise, if you are stuck at home, how are you trying to keep yourself occupied?

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Amazon Service: 3 months of Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents

Another year, another 3 months of Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents, and this time it looks like I’ve remembered to post just in time for this year’s promotion (the last day to sign up appears to be Dec 31). Or of course there are the more ordinary 6, 12, and 24-month plans available.


Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans
The bounty link with my associate code (which earns me a small commission on paid memberships, see my privacy policy for details) expires December 30, 2022.

As a reminder for those who are not familiar with the system, Kindle Unlimited is a “subscription” service.
The standard service costs $9.99 per month (there are other plans depending on family memberships and student status and the like) and allows you to download, at no additional charge, any Kindle ebooks that have been published through the system.

There are limits, of course.
First, the books you have downloaded are essentially “borrowed.” Once you end your subscription (or your free trial, as the case may be), you will no longer have access to the books you acquired this way unless you buy them outright. In addition, you can only download up to ten free books at a time in this manner; you will need to return one of those ten before you can download an eleventh.
Second is a matter of selection. From the author’s point of view, Kindle Unlimited is an opt-in program; the author chooses whether or not to include their books in Kindle Unlimited. Some authors choose to make their books exclusive to Amazon, so that they are free for KU subscribers; other authors choose to make their books available at multiple online retailers, an option that is simply not possible for titles enrolled in KU.

But even within those limits, it is worth at least a trial period. You can get some use of it even for so short a time as one month.
For my part, I’m giving KU the same “extended sample” treatment I did last year. I sort through the multitude of ebooks I’ve been hemming and hawing about (at the time of this writing, that’s 358 to check according to the Wishlist Total browser add-on, plus another 227 that have already been sorted), titles that I’ve come across as recommendations or Goodreads Giveaways and the like, titles I thought were intriguing enough to keep in mind but with which I have no either prior experience and only a short free sample on which to base a decision. Once I signed up for KU, I began sorting eligible titles into a list all their own, after which point I could download my first batch of 10, skim through the books to see if I like them enough to buy a copy outright, return them, and move on to the next batch.

If you are interested in giving Kindle Unlimited a try, I repeat, not only is the 3 month 99 cent plan still available for a while longer, but there are multiple plans to check out based on family and student memberships:
Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans
The bounty link with my associate code (which earns me a small commission on paid memberships, see my privacy policy for details) expires December 30, 2022. Time’s a-wastin’! 😀

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“Spring” Cleaning?

Otherwise known as the perpetual need to declutter.

I couldn’t decide whether to write this one as a page or a post, and I’d originally uploaded it as a draft under my list of pages. In the end, I decided a “post” serves my needs better as it provides a long-overdue update on the blogroll to anyone who’s signed up to receive notifications from my site. That being said, I intend to post a link to it on the menu, because some of the content might require something more permanent than a post that I would inevitably bury under newer posts.

Anywho, despite the name, “spring” cleaning is a need that randomly pops up at any time of the year. Or at least it does for me. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a website to revise, personal files to organize, or the general decluttering of the house that the phrase normally implies–poet and don’t know it, and I swear none of that was intentional–I can usually find something at any point of the year that I need to clean up.

With that in mind, I’d like to describe some of the changes I want to make to this site, and, to a certain extent, how those changes relate to the other forms of decluttering.

I’ll edit the post as I create relevant links.


Just like my primary YouTube channel, this site is something of a hodgepodge of a variety of topics. Unlike the YouTube channel, it didn’t start out that way; no, this site started out as a means to track my NaNoWriMo progress (which has since been migrated to the sister site Pioneers of the Shattered Waters) and slowly turned into a hodgepodge as I commented on whatever random topic crossed my mind. Though the random comments will likely still occur, I am trying to return the site to its roots and focus on bookish content once again.

To that end, there are certain categories that must be reorganized, as well as older posts to be removed outright. Case in point, If I Could Sell One Thing will remain a subcategory of Business and continue to focus on the quest to sell off that assorted clutter; likewise I intend to keep fellow subcategory Amazon Deals which focuses on assorted offers that Amazon wants their affiliates to advertise. But in both case, I need–need, need, need!–to remember to delete pages when they are no longer valid. A thing I keep hoping to sell that finally sold (or that I finally donated when I decided the space was more important than the money), for instance, or an Amazon deal that has long since expired.

Physical Clutter

I will also begin adding a category and posts for books that I have donated (not sold) to the general community in the form of Bookcrossing drop-offs. Besides the ulterior motive that is “more affiliate links,” the eventual goal here is to include a map of where all I’ve dropped off books, though as there are a few things I’d like to try so such a map might undergo a few revisions before I develop a version I’m satisfied with. (Bookcrossing supposedly has a mapping feature that might work but it requires a Wings membership which I have not yet purchased… so I do not have a way to tell if it would meet my needs.)

As many of my Bookcrossing books were acquired in the same way as one another (thrift shop alongside with the occasional book that’s been in our house for ages) or dropped off in the same place (the only outdoor library within a short drive), one shouldn’t expect the content for each listing to change all that much–I’d copy much of it directly from my own journals and release notes on the official site, these pages do not serve the purpose of reviews, after all–but I will provide links to the title’s actual product pages as well as a link to that copy’s journal on Bookcrossing for anyone who might be interested.

And of course, I repeat the point of the “If I Could Sell One Thing” subcategory, wherein I detail a random personal belonging of mine that I would dearly love to sell on account of potential collector’s value and/or how much space it takes up.

And speaking of ulterior motives, reviews written about (print!) books obtained from the likes of Goodreads Giveaways or crowdfunding campaigns will be updated to include the unboxing video, if one exists, for the respective title. I want a custom URL on my channel, dagnabbit, but YouTube requires that I have at least 100 subscribers to use that particular feature.

Personal Files

More to the point, “personal documents” as Amazon Kindle classifies them.

According to one of Amazon’s help pages about personal documents,

“We may limit the number of documents you send or store through Kindle Personal Documents Service”

I have not yet found anything that identifies what that hypothetical limit is likely to be, either in terms of quantity as specified on the help page, or in terms of storage space. And at well over 600 documents on my own account (buying from StoryBundle will do that) along with the continued ability to upload more, I may well be far from even hypothetical limits.

But that they mention limiting the documents even as that hypothetical, combined with mild OCD, makes me want to attempt to limit my document library of my own accord. To that end I have created three collections on my Kindle strictly for dealing with “personal documents.” The “unread” collection of course applies to any ebooks on my account, but the three collections meant specifically for documents that I’ve already read are as follows:

  • Add to Wishlist:
    These would be personal documents that I would like to keep in some form and would most likely (eventually) replace with a copy bought directly from Amazon. The trouble, sometimes, is finding the correct edition; case in point, at the time of this writing this list is populated entirely by the Millennium Edition of the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane… an edition that doesn’t exist outside of Ms. Duane’s own webstore.
    I keep the books in this list at least until such time as I have bought a suitable substitute on Amazon, at which point the Amazon copy gets dropped into one of my “needs review” lists and the document deleted from my account.
  • Review and Delete:
    On the flipside, these would be those documents that I acquired via Storybundle or Prolific Works, or something of the sort, books that have an official presence on sites like Amazon, books that interest me enough to be worth reviewing, but not enough to keep.
    These are kept until I’ve written the review, after which point I delete them from my account.
  • To be deleted:
    These would be books that do not interest me enough to keep and I have no compelling reason (or ability) to review them. This list is mostly populated by ebooks I acquired as PDFs available for free from the authors’ own websites and have no actual presence on a store site, though there may be a few here and there that I simply chose not to review.
    The books in this list remain on my account for the shortest period of time once they’ve been read and categorized, as the only thing I need to do is access my personal document listing on Amazon’s website and delete them.

I also have a few wishlists on Amazon, centered around books that sound interesting but I haven’t even read a sample yet (I had to delete a ton of samples from my account and add them back to the wishlist just to get things under some semblance of control), books that I have read a sample for but would prefer to find at a library before I decide whether to buy them outright, and books I’ve read a sample of but could easily download via Kindle Unlimited (if and when I sign back up) before I decide if I like it enough to buy a more permanent copy.

Finally are the wishlists for books I know I want but simply have not yet purchased, categorized based on whether they are a continuation of a series I already know I like, print copies that I’m replacing with digital, or, as per the previous notes, “permanent” copies that I’m buying to replace either a personal document or a borrowed KU copy.

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The Trouble with Digital Piracy

As if the fact that it exists isn’t trouble enough? 😦

Now, when I say “digital piracy,” I’m not including all of those content creators who willingly put their own work up on torrent sites (which sites, while frequently used for piracy, do not exist entirely for nefarious purposes) or offer it as free downloads from their personal sites and things like that.
Contrary to the way the term is used on TVTropes, I don’t believe those examples are piracy at all, but rather that the person who actually has the legal right to decide how to distribute that work–the only person with that right–is deciding to distribute it in such a manner. That site’s choice of terminology resulted in a considerable amount of confusion that I’ve elaborated on elsewhere.

The problem is that the genuine pirates, and maybe a few ignorant-but-presumably-well-meaning readers, keep touting the same myths to justify their choice to keep on pirating with no regard for the damage they’re doing.

“If you don’t want your work to be stolen, you should—“

I’m going to have to stop you right there. Let’s stop deluding ourselves about that “should,” shall we? What you’re really trying to say is that if I don’t want anything to be stolen, I “shouldn’t” have anything you want to steal.

But that’s not how theft works. You’re the one choosing to steal; no matter what I put online, I am not making that choice for you. Unless you suffer from kleptomania, you and you alone are responsible for whether or not you steal… and if you do have kleptomania, you are fully responsible for whether you seek treatment, so, you know, your choice to steal is still your responsibility.

But let’s return to that “should” for a moment. If I don’t want my work to be stolen, I should continue making the art/stories that I enjoy and sharing/selling the work that I’m proud of, because nobody should be trying to steal it in the first place.

Yes, there are all kinds of things I can do to protect my work. But no matter what steps I take to protect myself from theft, the only person truly responsible for that theft is the person who chose to steal. It doesn’t matter whether the stolen product is as intangible as an ebook, or as physical as the pair of headphones someone had to break out of the Spider Wire to sneak out of the store. We are not responsible for your choice to steal. Only you can claim that responsibility.

This is not a question of having the moral high ground, either. This is simply being realistic enough to accept that no anti-theft measure is perfect, that the only way to completely put a stop to stealing is for people to stop trying to steal!, and that I’m not going to let some thief with a false sense of entitlement victim-blame me into giving up the things I enjoy.

“Information wants to be free.”

Ah, yes, that old chestnut.

To translate for those of you who have never heard the full context, information wants to be available. It doesn’t want to be censored, banned from anyone ever having access to it. It’s a statement that originates from a discussion of hacker ethics and companies that refuse to sell (sell!) software that they also refused to allow anyone else to distribute…. meaning, quite simply, that they refused to allow anyone to have the software under any circumstances.

But even if we assume that “free” in this context refers specifically to money, then we should consider the whole quote as given by Stephen Brand at the 1984 Hacker’s Conference.

“On the one hand, information sort of wants to be expensive because it is so valuable — the right information in the right place just changes your life.
On the other hand, information almost wants to be free because the costs of getting it out is getting lower and lower all of the time.”

And then there’s Woz’s own response:
“Information should be free but your time should not

“Someone who pirates a novel would never have bought it anyway, so it’s really not a lost sale.”

Wrong again!

And for proof, I offer… myself. That’s right, I have made mistakes, too. I have pirated books before. Namely, I’ve gone on torrent sites and the like to find:

  • Anthologies in which the officially available free sample consisted of an introduction, a table of contents, and maybe a few paragraphs of the first story if I’m very lucky.
  • How-to-books in which, again, the free sample never made it far enough past the introduction to decide if the book was the slightest bit useful.
  • Out-of-print books that are only available used and, in some cases, don’t even have a legitimate free sample.

Is any of that justification for piracy? Hell naw! That’s what libraries are for.
The point I’m making here is that my own excuses (and they are only excuses) boil down to pirating for only two reasons: to determine if I like the book enough to buy it–at which point I delete the pirated copy and replace it with an officially purchased one (and delete it anyway if I didn’t like it, because why would I want to keep it in that case?)–or to add something I know I want to my personal collection that isn’t available through official channels (like one saga that keeps waffling back and forth on whether a Kindle edition even exists)–and which, again, I will replace with a legitimately bought copy when a copy is legitimately available to buy.

Either way, the piracy happened on my end with the expectation that I would most likely buy the book.

But for every reader–every pirate–out there of my type, there are likely hundreds or more who would have willingly bought the book but who, having pirated it instead, will simply figure that they already have a copy and thus don’t need to buy one ever. And those hundreds most definitely do translate to lost sales.
Case in point:

“You should be grateful you have readers.”

I’m sorry, what readers are we supposed to be grateful for?

What readers?

The publishers keep track of sales figures, end of story. Library borrows count, regular buys count, gifted copies count. Pirated copies do not count. Ever. As far as publishers are concerned, as far as the numbers are concerned, the “readers” that pirates claim to represent quite simply do not exist. And publishers can and do cancel series and special editions and the like if there aren’t enough readers.

So why, exactly, should authors be grateful that pirates are willing to read their books if the publishers don’t ever see them?

“I can’t afford to buy it.”

I can’t afford a new motorcycle, but that’s no excuse to go out and steal one.

Smarmy retorts aside, there are other options:

  • Libraries
  • Asking your local library to acquire the book if they do not already have it available, either in terms of persuading them to stock new material or simply in terms of an inter-library loan
  • Joining reward programs that grant you money for Amazon and other purchases (Kasasa Tunes at the credit union gives me $10 per month just for spending $10 on the likes of Amazon, meaning come the end of the month I could have literally bought $10 worth of ebooks at no cost to me)
  • Books that are available for free through official channels
  • As a last resort, you might try asking the author—some allow freebies in exchange for honest reviews, and you at least show more respect by asking the author than just taking whatever you want. (You should be prepared to accept “no” for an answer, however; I call this one a “last resort” because many authors cannot afford to give up revenue by offering free copies no matter what your reason for wanting one, and no you are not entitled to demand that they “get a real job” when you’re so dead-set on getting that particular book that wouldn’t even exist without the work they put into it.)

What you should never do is accuse authors of being greedy or egotistical or any other manner of insults that implies that you think they don’t have the right to their own work. Because if that book isn’t valuable enough to buy, it isn’t valuable enough to pirate.

The fact that anyone would actively choose piracy over any of the completely legal options, and rant and rave about the pirate sites being shut down whilst ignoring the existence of those other options, and act like the authors are the bad guys in this equation, comes down to one thing, and one thing only… such a person as that has no respect for the author or their work. It has nothing to do with wanting to read the next book. A real reader–a real fan of the work–would be willing to see the difference.

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Book Review: The One by John Marrs

The One by John Marrs can be found on Amazon as a Kindle Unlimited title
(Amazon affiliate link included)

Full disclaimer: I received for free an uncorrected proof of this book on Goodreads Giveaways. I am not obligated to write a review; no compensation exists outside of my included Amazon affiliate link.

It is not often that I feel compelled to review a print book. Not that there’s anything wrong with print books, it is simply a matter of space restrictions. Due to my limited shelf space, any books I consider “keepers” I will eventually replace with digital copies, make the print copy available for some other reader (typically by releasing them into the wild via BookCrossing), and then review the digital copy at my leisure.

(This of course will change as I work through my backlog until I can begin exploring the world of ARCs… not so much the print versus digital part, though that may happen, but the “at my leisure” part.)

Rarer still am I compelled to review a book before I’ve even finished reading it.

But this one….? I think I got about halfway through the book before I started scripting out my review.

The first thing to note is that this is considered a psychological thriller. It is not fantasy in the traditional sense of the word, but the available genetics technology could give it science fiction leanings. This despite those being two completely different categories on Goodreads, and thrillers (psychological or otherwise) being yet another genre.
I point this out because there is simply not time enough in the world to read every worthy book, so my own giveaway entries are limited to the fantasy category. As a result, this book is well outside of my usual fare.

Anyhow, the book is a psychological thriller. This is immediately obvious in one character’s introductory chapter, and slowly becomes just as obvious for two other characters as their stories unfold. The other two major characters lean towards the romance genre, also outside of my usual choices.
And yet, I was compelled to keep reading to see how things would work out for the characters… or how events might blow up in their faces.

I found the story fast-paced, difficult to put down, even in the midst of getting ready to go to work or attempting to continue one of my own drafts. The length of the chapters, which provided a tidbit about a given character’s situation before shifting focus to yet another player in this game, made it easy to read for hours without noticing that so much time had passed. I was invested in finding out what happens next? There were a few typos to be found, noticeable while reading but too forgettable to go back and find them again.

And there was… inconsistency. But not inconsistency from the author. Rather, there was the same sort of inconsistency that I expect real people would display should such a DNA test ever be devised in the real world.

Case in point, we have the constant correlation between the influence your DNA has on pheromones…. and love.
I’m no scientist, but as far as I can tell these two are not the same thing. DNA is all about biology, what your body wants. Pheromones, likewise, are about attracting the person you are best suited to procreate with…. the need to pass on your genetic code to a new generation. Love is about how you feel, what your (metaphorical) heart and head want. And unless your religion teaches that the soul is found in the red blood cell, a DNA test could never identify your soul mate for you. And yet these people put so much stock into the test that even when they’re mis-matched, most of the time they fall in love because the test says they should.
DNA and love could go hand in hand, this is true, and I would not presume to judge someone who finds their perfect match from a science-based dating app. And there are certainly enough people that the app has helped that it bears serious consideration. But there were also far too many relationships that broke up over the app, with every such ex-couple rationalizing that “science says so” and completely ignoring the personal responsibility that it was their choice to break up. And if, as happened between two characters, my SO’s reason for pushing me into taking the test is that they’re not happy thinking we’re right for each other when we could know for sure…. that doubt tells me more about our compatibly than the DNA test ever could. As one (significantly absent) character was known to have believed, taking the test could take the fun out of building a real relationship with someone I love.

Speaking of pushing someone into taking the test…
Another inconsistency (which I expect would also exist in the real world) is that there is a fine line between supporting someone’s choice to take the test and encouraging that decision. And if you were to push someone into meeting their Match simply because “the test says so,” as one of Mandy’s sisters had done, then you are suggesting that any relationship would be lesser simply because it does not have the scientific backing. Mandy did not call her sister’s relationship “second best,” she called her own potential relationship with a non-Match second best…. and her sisters encouraged that line of thinking from the very beginning.

Then there is the question of being “in love with” someone you’ve never even met… or when you first become aware of that love.
Take Nick’s situation. He, and his DNA Match, are both men in long-standing relationships with other women. Neither of them are homosexual, at least until the DNA test tells them otherwise. And when they first meet they do not feel any of the internal fireworks often described to mean “this is my perfect partner.” No, it’s only when they meet each other’s eyes that they feel drawn to each other.
Or let’s return to Mandy’s situation, and her love for a dead man she’s never met. I’m calling hypocrite on the sisters again on this one; if you can be “in love” enough with your Match to meet a total stranger just because a DNA test says so, then you can be “in love” with a dead man you’ve never met just because a DNA test says so. And as for her pregnancy from that dead man? Yeah, I can agree that it’s a little weird, but ethically how is it any different, as Mandy had pointed out (based on what she was told of the situation), than pregnancy from an anonymous donor? And given the Match’s insistence on equating genetics to love, how is it emotionally any worse than that anonymous donor? Had Mandy not thought to contact the ex-girlfriend, I would happily have continued believing, as she had, that there was nothing wrong with her decision or her “in-law’s” support… until it was too late.

And one final all-too-real inconsistency, let us return to the subject of personal responsibility.
On the one hand, the creator of the app has truly only committed one crime in the pursuit of science, and that is building up her database by unethical and illegal means. And yet the people who are Matched according to this app–willfully or otherwise–take no responsibility for the choices they make after… including their choice to break up with a good unMatch or to remain with an abusive Match for no better reason than that a Match is supposed to be “perfect.” A good deal of the “thriller” aspect stems from this discrepancy, as one person is determined to have revenge against that creator for his own father’s choice to leave his mother in favor of his Match.
On the other hand, the creator has committed a serious error that is all too common in any leadership scenario…. she accepts the praise when things go well but refuses the blame when things go wrong. Sorry, sweetie, but you either take both or neither; either you are ethically and morally responsible for all of the relationship choices people make because of your app, or you are responsible for none of those choices.

Anyway, that was my dissertation on The One. 😉

If I could pick out just one single thing that I did not like about the book, it would simply be this: with the wide cast of main characters, none of their stories ever truly overlap. The closest we get is one of the main characters being the creator of the app, and another being a serial killer whose crimes are mentioned on the news now and again, but none of those main characters ever actually meet…. not even in passing. This book is, in effect, not one story but an anthology of five disconnected stories.

So, my readers…. How far would you go to find The One?

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The Trouble with “Thoughts and Prayers”

Imagine, if you will, that you receive a phone call from the hospital asking you to come by because one of your loved ones has been in an accident.

Pick your most likely reaction:

  1. Think “please, (name of deity of choice), let them be okay” while you run to the car so you can drive to the hospital.
  2. Think “I hope they’re okay” while you run to the car to make that drive.
  3. Thoughts and prayers are worthless; you drive to the hospital and immediately shove the trained team of medical professionals out of the way to tend to your relative all by yourself because only action is meaningful.
  4. You hang up the phone and go back to what you were doing because only direct action is meaningful and you don’t have the know-how to help, so why bother?
  5. You drive to the hospital in time to see your loved one make a full recovery. When you hear them thanking the nurse, the only other person in the room at that time, you immediately begin berating your loved one for the offense of thanking anyone who wasn’t the actual surgeon.
  6. Think “please, God, let them be okay” and then go back to what you were doing because you’ve done your part by praying.

If you’re a decent human being, I expect you’ll probably pick some version of one of the first two choices. (How close you come depends on factors like whether driving to the hospital is an option, not your motivation for doing so.) Which one you pick just depends on whether or not you believe in a higher power, but as far as the effort spent, those two choices are ultimately the same choice.

If you pick any of the other options…. let’s just say I’m going with Hanlon’s Razor to decide what kind of person you are. Because what many haters seem to forget is that the “thoughts and prayers” outrage was never about offering thoughts and prayers. It’s about what you are or are not doing in addition to those thoughts and/or prayers.

Apply this way of thinking to wide-scale tragedies, helping strangers, and offering those thoughts and prayers via social media, and I’ll say the same thing.

If anyone’s curious:
Options 1-4 were all created in response to complaints that prayer is a “waste of time” that’s better spent achieving whatever it is we’re praying for. Because the couple of seconds it takes to pray for help would obviously be more efficiently used to do…. what, exactly? Not shoving the doctor out of the way, that’s for certain. (Option 2 was added specifically to point out that this is not strictly a religious/prayer situation. The person who is thinking “I hope they’re okay” is taking the same action, and the same time to complete it, as the person who says “Please, God….” insofar as the notion that praying is a waste of time.)
Option 5 was in response to the outrage about people thanking God for the recovery of their loved ones. First off, there is the absolute nonsense that this outrage so often comes from total strangers who feel entitled to lambaste the very people who just went through a tragedy. Second off, in something as critical as surgery, medical professionals are trained to work as teams with each individual playing a different role; recognizing that the surgeon was not the only one to help does not mean you are ignoring what the surgeon did to help.
Option 6 is the only legitimate source of outrage against the “thoughts and prayers” scenario, because there are too many people and governments who do exactly this. They pray, they expect God to answer their prayers, but they refuse to be that answer because they think that praying is good enough.

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The Trouble with Clutter


You’re absolutely right, meme-makers. Nobody needs the negativity that comes so easily from misquoting and taking things out of context. (The actual recommendation is to get rid of things that do not bring you joy, and the ideal that works for her is to keep fewer than 30 books.)

Outside of my gaming style, I would never consider myself a hoarder…. though let’s be honest, does anyone consider themselves that? But I have little doubt I’m as bad as the next person when it comes to clutter.

In my case, one of the big problems is that so much of my clutter is stuff I want to sell–collectible figurines that I chose to get rid of to save space, blind boxed items from Loot Crate that I was never really interested in (but got because I “might have wanted” something else in a particular crate), stuff like that. And of course things that just plain cost me a lot of money when I had a use for it and is collecting dust now. And yes, even some of my books…. particularly hardcover books that may or may not be signed (but not personally signed) that I also have digital copies of.

The result is a lot of clutter that’s built up over the years, as I keep hoping someone will buy it from me on ebay, to the point that I barely have room for the stuff I want to keep.

In order to get rid of the clutter, I have to decide which is more important: getting money from it, or having that space back? What is the best compromise?

Last Christmas, when I once again did not qualify to sell anything listed as a “toy” on Amazon because I’ve never had enough sales to begin with, I went through absolutely everything I had listed, took down anything that was a common toy (e.g. not an “exclusive” or rare item from the likes of Loot Crate), donated anything that I had listed for under a certain dollar amount to the local thrift shop, and (temporarily) migrated the rest to eBay.

This year, I don’t think I’ll wait quite that long. I will not donate items en masse, as I prefer to give potential customers the opportunity to buy my clutter while it’s still possible to ship it out. But in the name of reducing that clutter, every week, I intend to take down one listing and donate the item in question to the thrift shop.

The tricky part is doing so without adding back to that clutter at the same time.

This stack represents three trips to the thrift store.

This plan does not apply to all of my clutter. I’ll hold onto motorcycle accessories, for instance, until they are sold or or offered up as door prizes at one of our meetings, whichever comes first. And I’ll continue to treat books as I’ve been doing–read the print copy, register it with Bookcrossing, drop it off at the nearest outdoor library, and replace it with a digital copy if I liked it enough to add to my permanent collection. Unless of course there is no digital copy available, or there’s something special about that particular print copy (signed, exclusive artwork, etc), in which case I’ll keep it until I have no choice but to reclaim that space. And some of those collectibles will stay for sale until they’re sold.

But even with all of the exceptions, I can find plenty of clutter left to donate.

So how about you, my readers? What’s you’re preferred method for decluttering?

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Perplexed About Amazon Customer Questions

Or virtually any site that allows customers to ask questions of random strangers.

And what I find perplexing is…. the people who answer–specifically those whose answer can be summed up as “I don’t know”–seem to think that they’re required to answer. That they can’t just leave the question to someone else who might actually know the answer.

I mean, fine, there’s nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know the answer to something… at least when the alternative is giving some BS answer that attempts to deflect from the fact that you don’t actually know. Or worse, when the alternative is “I don’t care” about something that somebody else wanted information for. (I asked the question, I want the answers, why exactly should I care about whether you care? Just say you don’t know and leave it at that if you can’t be bothered to provide anything more substantial.)

But if you weren’t required to answer in the first place, why bother?

I’ll grant, it may make sense on other sites. Some places “reward” you with points for every answer (or non-answer), you get more points if your answer is voted as a good one, and you need to spend those points if you expect to ever ask questions of your own.

But as far as I’m aware, Amazon doesn’t do this. From what I can tell, answering a question on Amazon can only benefit you in one way, and that’s by how it affects your ranking. And call me crazy, but it seems that if your “I don’t knows” get a ton of “unhelpful” votes, that’s just going to hurt your ranking.

Then why do people do this? Why do they go on these websites for the express purpose of answering a question that they don’t even know the answer to? Could it be that they believe they were required to answer? That Amazon implements a point system similar to those other sites? That the automatically generated email with a customer question–the same email received by everybody who showed the tiniest bit of interest in insert-product-here–was written specifically for that individual?

All I can say is…. I don’t know.

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Book Review: Petting Them Anthology

Petting Them: An Anthology of Claw-Ver Tails can be found on Amazon as a Kindle Unlimited title
(Amazon affiliate link included)

Before I begin my review, let me point out that I will not review books on my site if I did not enjoy them myself (or unless I got a free review copy, which this is not). Especially since I’m an Amazon Affiliate; I’m not going to spend time encouraging someone to buy something I didn’t think was worth buying, and I’m not going provide an affiliate link to a product while blatantly telling people not to buy it. I’ll reserve those “don’t buy it” reviews for actual review sites like Goodreads and Amazon itself.
That being said, I must confess that I am not into the “reverse harem” genre… or, indeed, any harem. I’m simply not keen on stories that focus on the sexual, on men and women whose first impressions depend on being “yummy,” and similar tropes.
Naturally, this means I am biased, and the result of this bias is that most of the stories within this anthology were somewhat forgettable. Forgettable to me, that is.

Why did I download this one, then? For a couple of reasons.
One is the magical/paranormal element involving the animals themselves. I’m nearly always up for a good “magic animal” story. And the second is that this is a charity anthology, the sales of which benefit Pacific North Pets.
And the third, of course, is that this is a Kindle Unlimited book. Since I am currently on KU for a three-month trial, the only thing it cost me to give this anthology a try was space in my library for a different title (so here’s hoping my download counts towards that charity 😉 )

And since I downloaded it via KU rather than as a truly free read, it would only be fair for me to attempt to give each story a read-through.
Like I said, my bias means that a good chunk of the stories found within were somewhat forgettable. I recall the basic plots but nothing suitable for reviewing purposes. But a few of the stories stuck out in my mind for assorted reasons.

First on the list is Ten Cats Paranormal Society by CM Stunich.
This one had a bit of crushing, hints (and sometimes more than hints) at a love triangle, and a classic case of a jerk with a heart of gold.
It also had an intriguing plot that ended on a cliffhanger.
The summary, or prologue, includes this little tidbit:

The King of Ghosts and Demons has cursed us, but also he wants me as his bride.
Oh, and I’m pretty sure there’s something fishy going on with that six-toed cat.
We trick people into believing our lies.
Now, our lies are nightmares turned reality.
If we can’t work our biggest con yet, we’re all screwed six feet under.
I never should’ve opened that damn box.

But the story doesn’t show the characters trying to work their biggest con. Rather, that part of the summary describes the end of the story.
I want to find out how the characters cope with learning that ghosts and demons are real, how they attempt to get out of the curse (successfully or not)…. and why exactly someone who pretends to hunt ghosts for a living deserves to be cursed by the King of Ghosts but someone whose idea of a fancy invitation is to glue a live butterfly to the envelope doesn’t? I can only hope that the cliffhanger is to create interest for an eventual novel or series and that the author will continue this particular storyline soon.

Next one that stayed with me is The Missing Wolf by G Bailey.
Like Ten Cats, this one ends on something of a cliffhanger. Unlike Ten Cats, Missing Wolf states right out at the end that there is a series in the works.
And unlike many other stories in this anthology, the sexual element was largely… absent. There was of course the obligatory mention of how hot the characters are, and one of the men accused the others of only being interested in sex with the new girl, but nobody ever acted on it. Whether that will continue to be the case in future stories remains to be seen.
For my part, I look forward to learning more about the Ancient familiars and how they compare to all of the other kinds, about the political and legal complications involved in the Familiar Empire and the characters’ struggle to survive in a world that fears their very existence. (I could not help but notice that the only person Anastasia’s wolf did not threaten at the beginning was also the only person who did not automatically assume that Anastasia herself was a threat for simply existing; there may be some merit to their fear, but it already sounds like so much of the anti-familiar campaign is a load of bigotry.)
I am also curious about the issue with Anastasia bonding to the wolf Shadow when her cabin mates insist that Shadow was supposed to arrive with someone named “Dawn.” I admit I looked up the name “Anastasia” at that point to see if the author might have tried for a symbolic name, but I found no evidence of such.

And the final story that caught my eye is Bethie’s Heaven by Cecilia Randall.
This one, I must confess, stayed with me for a completely different reason.
Yes, I am interested in finding out what becomes of Annabeth’s animal shelter and wildlife refuge. Yes, I am curious if anything will come of the lie she told to get rid of the guys’ ex-girlfriend (and whether she really will get to know Misty well enough to become friends). Yes, I love the idea of the soul leashes (and the dogs’ sensitivity due to their breed.)
And yes, I definitely felt the characters’ outrage when Annabeth got that letter from her mother (I don’t care that you’re mourning a lost son, who the hell refers to her own daughter’s inability to have kids as something the daughter “lacks”…. and in the context of sending out a baby shower invitation for the daughter’s ex, at that?).
But the story was marred by two points, both surrounding the characterization of Jake as an asshole. He did act like an asshole at times… after he was introduced. After Annabeth had already decided that he was an asshole. After other characters took her reaction as given and completely normal. After his brother Carter (who admits to being an asshole at times) had an “aha” moment on realizing that the reason she reacted badly on seeing him was because she’s already met Jake. But before all that…? Jake being an asshole was purely an informed trait; I must’ve read his introductory chapter half a dozen times and I could not find one single thing that would mark him as such except the author’s decision to tell us, via Annabeth’s perspective, that that’s exactly what he was.
On the flipside, when he does start acting like an asshole, one of those moments comes and goes without anything more than maybe a startled confusion on Annabeth’s part. (Confusion because she doesn’t realize she’s being propositioned to share herself with all three brothers.) I am talking, of course, about his reaction to learning that Annabeth can’t have kids. He is grateful that kids aren’t an issue… but she never said she couldn’t get pregnant, and wouldn’t miscarriages make things worse?

Biases being what they are, this might not have been the most useful review out there, but I am practicing.

And with that, on to the next book in my KU library!

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