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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The Trouble with Clutter

via me.me

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 or Amazon, 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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2018 Amazon Promotional Credit for Starbucks

Your time to shop for Christmas gifts is running out… especially if you shop online like I do and can’t be bovvered to pay out for faster shipping. 😉

But there’s still time to get some good gifts in and get some deals on the side.

Case in point, the multitude of digital gift cards Amazon has to offer. These may not translate to a present under the tree, but you can email a little something to a friend or family member who enjoys picking out their own gifts (perhaps your friend or family member has student loans to pay, and their bank offers rebates to apply to said loan whenever they shop online…?)

While you’re there, make sure to keep an eye out of the Starbucks deal: buy a $25 Starbucks e-gift card and use coupon code SBUX when you check out, and Amazon will give you a promotional $5 to use on their own website… and I’ve still got plenty of ebooks to choose from for that price.
However, the email I received on the subject states that this is a limited time offer (though I can find no mention of when the deal ends), and it is definitely one per customer.

Links to the gift card category and to one of my wishlists both include Amazon Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission for purchases made through the link. (The Starbucks deal, however, is on their Affiliate Exclusion list and does not allow deeplinking to the product page; Amazon’s own site recommends linking to the general category.)
Please see my Privacy Policy for more details.

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Amazon Service (P)Review: Kindle Unlimited Trial

Well, my sporadic online habits means I missed advertising the “three months for 99 cents” deal, but new users can, as always, sign up for a free month of Kindle Unlimited to try out one of the various plans.
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.

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 have a specific system in place. I have, on my Amazon account, a slew of titles that I want to look for in a library–random books that I’ve come across in recommendations, or as titles I’ve entered to possibly win via the likes Goodreads, and which have no connection to any of the various series I’m already reading. Upon signing up for the trial period, I checked through that wishlist for anything that is enrolled in KU, shifted them to a new list all their own, and immediately downloaded ten items from the new list. I fully intend to go through these books, not as the temporarily borrowed books that they are, but as though they were samples of bigger works. Once I’ve decided whether I like a certain title enough to keep a permanent copy, I would either add it to a wishlist created for that purpose or remove it from my lists entirely, return the KU copy, and move on to the next title. Then I’ll begin again with the next group of ten books, and so on until I’ve finished everything in that list or my trial period is up.

If you are interested in giving Kindle Unlimited a try, I repeat, 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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Seller Feedback

I seem to be on a plushie kick lately

Shard is chatting up the other plushies about the Song of the Summer King book series.

which requires that I get rid of some of my old stuff… both so I can have space to store new stuff and so I have money to buy new stuff.

With that, I am adding some of the “statues” from various collector’s editions of the Elder Scrolls games to my online garage sale fodder. Most notably, I have Alduin and his Word Wall perch from Skyrim, and Molag Bal from the ESO Imperial Edition. (The Dwemer statue and Mephala from ESO Morrowind and Summerset will be added at a later time.)

And with that, I will also add a reminder to please, please provide feedback for the seller if you received good service. Yes, provide feedback if the service was bad, too, but especially if it was good.

Why? Because one single negative feedback left on the wrong order (which apparently is not a violation of Amazon’s policies and thus has no room to request removal) means a very different thing to a little seller who’s only received feedback 5 times than a big professional seller who’s received thousands upon thousands of ratings.

Case in point, my Amazon store

Yes, the one customer had a valid complaint and could very likely have provided negative feedback as a result. But their valid complaint was not the complaint they had left. The item I’d sent was received without problems, I’d received no communication from the buyer except to request the return due to that item being listed as the wrong variant (wrong size), the return was processed immediately, and there had never been any mention of anything being on backorder. I can only assume they’d had a problem with multiple orders and left that feedback on mine by mistake.

Perhaps if I’d paid closer attention and had replied right away I might’ve been more successful in persuading the buyer to remove the erroneous feedback and replace it with something more accurate to the problem that had occurred, but as it stands…. *sigh*

In the meantime, I’m off to figure out which “toys” I should list on eBay for a few rounds amid the Loot Crate shirts I’m still hoping to sell, since I have never sold enough at any point of my account to qualify to list them on Amazon during the holidays. And off to see which eBay sellers I can still leave feedback on before time runs out.

My eBay store

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Unconventional Dialogue Tags

Like any industry out there, the world of writing has several rules–and several “rules” as well–that we’re expected to follow if we want our intended audience to know what we’re doing.

I won’t go over these rules as any kind of professional but as an amateur, as someone who is still trying to learn them well enough to use them…. and to know when it’s appropriate to break them. As such, this post is meant to be taken as my personal opinion on those rules.

One such “rule” is the subject of dialogue tags: he said, she said, and the many ways to avoid using the word “said” all the time.

One of those “rules” is that the word “said” is an invisible word… that replacing it with something else purely for the sake of variety can actually be more distracting than simply using “he said, she said.”
Well, I have to say that isn’t entirely true. No, I do not think you should pepper your writing with other tags purely for variety, but relying on “said” all the time can be distracting, as well.

There are plenty of ways to get around this. Some of these methods are good, some…. not so much. Try them out for yourself and see what works for you.

One solution is to use action tags in place of dialogue tags.

Rip nodded. “Mr. Snart….” (etc.)

or

“You got no arguments there.” Sara approached another display case and caressed the recurve bow resting within. “But I think I’ll borrow this one.”

At their most basic, dialogue tags are intended to identify the speaker; if the speaker is performing a certain action within the same paragraph in which they speak, you have that requirement covered without any dialogue tag at all.

But please, make sure you have the speaker performing an action in the same paragraph, not someone else entirely. Do not make person A perform an action and person B say something in one paragraph and then switch to another paragraph to give person B’s action.
Do not, for instance, do this:

“Mr. Snart….” (etc) Leonard reached out for the rifle.

or the reverse. In that example it’s obvious that Len is not the one speaking (assuming he hasn’t started talking about himself in the third person 😉 ) but that doesn’t excuse this particular issue. Seriously, people, quit it!

Another option is to use dialogue tags other than “said.” Whispered, shouted, muttered, asked, replied and so on…. these are all perfectly normal tags that you can use, but they should still be used sparingly and only if they accurately represent how the person is talking.

And then there is the debate over words that are commonly used as dialogue tags but many an “expert” will claim are not dialogue tags at all!

“You got something to say,” Mick snarled, “then say it.”

or

“I would never risk losing something so valuable,” Leonard breathed.

And plenty of others I can’t be bothered to list.

The rationale behind eliminating these as dialogue tags is that they are, supposedly, actions the speaker performs in addition to speaking, not substitutes for “said” at all. (Also because it’s supposedly it is impossible to perform these actions while talking and I have to say that’s not true at all.)

Personally, I’ll agree to disagree. Grammatically that rule may well be correct; these tags are not synonyms for “said” and should never be used as common substitutes. But they are actions that affect how the dialogue sounds. Unlike admiring that recurve bow, these actions influence the speaker’s tone of voice.
In the above examples, Mick isn’t snarling and speaking as two separate actions… the fact that he snarled while talking completely changes how the comment sounds. And Len’s show of reverence for the value of the item he’s being offered requires a different tone of voice than, say, whispering the same statement, or being out of breath, or his usual drawl, or making the statement as if it was the most obvious thing in the world and why is he even wasting his breath explaining something that Rip should already know about him.

What do you think, my readers? What tags do you tend to use? Which do you prefer to avoid? And what are your personal likes and dislikes when you see another author’s tags of choice?

Characters in the examples are copyright to DC, CW, etc; dialogue examples are modified from one of my own Legends of Tomorrow fanfics-in-progress, “What If” from the (not completed at the time of this posting) Necropolis chapter.

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Photo Challenge Plans

Seen via slideshows on my YouTube channel in the following playlist:

(Disclaimer and ulterior motive: due to changes in YouTube’s policy, none of my channels are currently monetized. I would like them to be, if only to have access to partner-only tools such as the ability to link to external sites from within the video. YouTube’s new policy requires that I have at least 1000 total subscribers and 4000 annual watch hours to use those tools. But even before I reach those tools, there is the first milestone of 100 subscribers, required to give myself a custom URL. Care to assist?)

My plans for the random photo slideshow are going to go through some…. revisions.

Originally, I took occasional photos throughout the month and selected perhaps half a dozen of the ones I liked best to create a slideshow to represent my progress for that month (or my “progress,” such that it may be).
The new plan is this: the photos chosen will likely be just as random as in the current photo challenges, but the slideshows should be quite a bit longer. Should be being part of the goal, here; the new plan is to take at least one photo every day and include one–one!–photo from each day into that entire month’s slideshow. That “one per day” requirement of course means that if I take half a dozen great photos one day and a couple of really sucky photos another, that slideshow has to include one of those sucky photos. It also means I need to step up my game and actually get out and practice taking photos.

Hopefully this won’t result in a ton of near-identical photos, though since I’ll likely prioritize those taken along my walks over, say, random things I saw while at work or running errands, I can’t make any promises.

When do I plan to implement this change? Depends on how long it takes me to get through my current backlog–you’ll note the very last slideshow I uploaded before my computer had issues was April 2017 and I just haven’t gotten around to sorting through my photos since then. I hope to finish with the current incarnation of the challenge by the end of this year, but I also don’t want to spam my subscribers with long-overdue uploads and 2019 ain’t quite as far off as it looks.
We shall see.

Fellow photo-hobbyists: how do you prefer to, er, “encourage” yourself to practice? What methods do you find work for you?

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Author Newsletters: An Experiment

Also known as: Social Media Under the Influence

Last night about, oh…. shy of midnight, I decided, in a moment of cold-pill-induced lunacy, to finally make an attempt at creating my own email newsletter.

I’m thinking of calling it “Three R’s — Reading, Writing, Riding”.

The newsletter will showcase these three things:

  • suggested reads (which may or may not include whichever book I happen to be reading at the time and will hopefully focus on self-published works),
  • my own writing and/or publishing progress,
  • and a photo from a trip I’ve been on (many of which, though not all, would be by motorcycle).

Along with whatever random blurb I feel like giving that is hopefully unique to that particular newsletter instead of merely copying content on a regular basis.
Weirdly, but not coincidentally, this would also allow me to provide a link to each of my three blogs per newsletter to point to more content of a similar type. That is to say, a link to this site (because of book reviews), a link to Pioneers of the Shattered Waters (because of my own stories), and a link to Tamie’s Travels (because of the motorcycle and other trips).

Given my lack of experience writing newsletters of any kind, I located assorted websites that I think are good resources on the subject. I am particularly interested in the advice given on the I Need Coffee blog.
I still need to find information on doing a “first” newsletter, and a “thank you for subscribing” newsletter, as compared to the irregularly scheduled newsletters down the road. But I feel like my first newsletter ought to be about the workshop I’m going to this May…. writing and traveling all in one, yes?

Thoughts? Suggestions?
My account is set up to allow it now from my end, I just need to actually get started and set things up for subscribers.

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