2012 Writer’s Market Shillin’ It Up on Amazon

This post could also be titled, Why It’s Important to Check a Reviewer’s Profile Before Clicking the Buy Now Button.

So, it’s that time of year again…the time for all the aspiring authors to go out and purchase their appropriate Writer’s Market title which has all the goods on the people who might one day publish their work. That means it’s time to head over to Amazon.com (or your favorite online seller) to see what the guinea pigs who pre-ordered the books have to say about it before you shell out the cash.

And that’s exactly what I was doing when I came across an interesting trend: A flurry of 5-star reviews. One in particular made me lift an eyebrow and wonder, did she even read the book? A little bit of digging later, I’ve come to realize she was a shill.

(Update: After being called out in one of her reviews about her shill-iness, looks like Ms. Donahoe deleted all her reviews. Thank goodness I took a screen shot.)

Stacy Donahoe's Amazon Writer's Market ReviewsIt’s  possible that Ms. Donahoe spent over a hundred dollars purchasing each copy of the Writer’s Market books she reviewed, but something tells me she hasn’t. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s reviewed the Writer’s Market basic and deluxe editions–the exact same books, except one comes with an online subscription–plus every review was posted on the same day (today) with the exact same title and pretty much the exact same review (weighing in at less than a hundred words) with only slight variations.

And hers aren’t the only ones I’ve found, either. A few of the individual books have reviews published from people who’d never reviewed a single item prior…plus they weren’t listed as Amazon Verified Purchases and the reviews read like adverts. I know that people don’t always purchase directly from Amazon the items they review and I know that people have to start somewhere and that people like to gush when they love something, but coupled with the Donahoe flood above, I have to take those particular reviews with a giant grain of salt.

If this was, indeed, a ploy by Writer’s Digest (publisher of the Writer’s Market books) to game the system, then shame on them. I mean, really? It’s not like the books won’t sell (granted, for the past couple of years, the quality has been declining and the reviews have shown it, but still…).

I’ll just finish up with a public service announcement for anyone else thinking about purchasing a Writer’s Market book: before you assume that review is legit, check out the reviewer’s profile and review history…it also doesn’t hurt if the reviewer has the verified purchase tag.

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SFP: Night Princesses, Chapter 13

It’s about time I break out of my writing funk and reacquaint myself with The Night Princesses. Chapter 12 is done, but in sore need of some serious editing. However, the goal here is to keep moving forward. I can always go back and fix later, so, at most, the only thing I can do is go back and jot little notes in the margin for things I want to change.

And without further ado, the SFP for chapter 13, in which Bria is now striking out on her own and Ivor becomes a tyrant…oh, how exciting! (Eventually I should start drawing little pictures that go along with these snippets.)

The laden basket weighed down Bria’s arms. She wished she’d have taken up Ilear on her offer to send Res and Revi. They were young and thin, but surely they were able-bodied enough to handle the load, at least partway. But it was too late and bellyaching would get her nowhere. She could only hope her meager provisions would be enough to sustain them a while longer, at least until Ilear was able to afford her own provisions.

It’s clear from that opener I was in a writing funk, but as I worked through the chapter, I slowly came out of it and sure enough, I’m proud of what I have so far. Although I didn’t intend it to be, it’s turned into a mini character study revealing who these two characters are at their core, and it turns out Bria is much stronger than I thought and Ivor much weaker.

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The Spoils of Bookbinding (or The Evolution of a Handmade Journal)

When I decided to bind my first book a few days ago, I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d immerse myself in the process. After the second book I decided I wanted to include a pocket to store found media and other ephemera.

Mini Envelope TemplateSome time ago I’d purchased a stencil for making the most adorable mini envelopes–I figured I could just glue one of those envelopes to the interior back cover of the journal and be done with it.

However, there were a couple problems with the idea: 1) the envelope would have to be glued with the seam facing out so the flap could closed, which meant any cute designs on the front would be concealed; and 2) even the largest size was still too mini for my journal.

What to do? What to do? Simple: Create my own template. And after a bit of calculator magic, I had an envelope that could be pasted on without ruining the design with unseemly seams and large enough to accommodate most pieces of scrap.

Journal PocketIt was basic, but it worked. A couple more journals later, I decided I wasn’t content with the 3 hole binding method–not for such large journals–and expanded it to a 7 hole method using the 3 hole principles.

But it still wasn’t quite good enough. Something was still missing. The journal could still be improved. So I decided I’d like to create a 7 hole bound journal with pocket using only a single sheet of paper. With a little more calculator magic, a straight edge ruler, and a sharp pencil, SUCCESS!

Finished Journal with Pocket
Finished Journals

Now I really must stop making these journals and actually start writing in them. (Or, at very least, decorating them.)

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SFP: Love, In Reverse (Novella) Chapter 2

Time to get back to writing…

I’ve been procrastinating long enough and I haven’t posted up a Shitty First Paragraph in a while, so, now is as good a time as any. Since I’m finishing up the last few chapters (bouncing around) of Love, In Reverse before I move on to editing, it seemed like a good candidate.

Saturday, 2 July, 8:12PM

“You look gorgeous.” Tessa started and turned around. Her mom leaned against the doorframe, smiling. Tessa had only seen that look on her mother’s face a few times before, a mixture of pride and awe. And each time, it left Tessa with knots in her stomach. She smiled and set the brush down on the dresser. Her mother straightened and continued, “Although I don’t think your father’s going to be too excited to see you in that dress.”

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Bungling My Way Through Bookbinding

At Home with Homemade Books: 28 Extraordinary Bookbinding Projects Made from Ordinary and Repurposed Materials by Erin ZamrzlaIf I’m going to be an author, I should probably learn how to bind a book, right? At least it seemed logical when I was purchasing At Home with Handmade Books by Erin Zamrzla, and the hemp cord, and awl, and bone folder, and other bookbinding supplies.

Some Bookbinding Supplies

The first book I attempted to make was one that didn’t require any stitching. (Frankly, the various Japanese stab binding methods looked tricky.) It was the Sketch, Jot, Journal which looked so adorable in the picture…

image …and making it was a borderline disaster.  The hiccups were many and varied. I mean, who has a 46 1/4” length of scrap paper just lying around? No problem, glue a bunch of sheets together, which is all well and good until one of the glue seams ends up smack dab in the center of one of the pages, thus destroying the allure of the book.

My Half-Ass Attempted at the Sketch, Jot, Journal Book

As if that wasn’t enough, when I began flipping through my finished book, I was a little sad—the entire backside of that long piece of paper would go unused (read: wasted). I hadn’t thought about that when I decided to make the book.

But I was not to be deterred. Next, I tried a stitched book, so the front and back of each sheet could be used. Surprisingly, the second attempt was far more successful even though I thought the stab-binding techniques would be more difficult than good ol’ fashioned glue. It probably helped that I used one of the easier binding techniques requiring only three holes—a modification of the Recycle Bin Memo Pad. (Basically, I just made another Sketch, Jot, Journal book using the Recycle Bin Memo Pad instructions.)

My Journal, Stitched

Inside My Stitched Journal

One thing I can say about this new endeavor is that it’s rather eye-opening. After these two attempts, I realize there is nothing to fear from bookbinding. Depending on what you’re hoping to do, it’s actually rather simple. I now look at handmade journals much differently (and with more reverence), and I also feel confident enough to make my own in a pinch should the day every come when I’ve used up all of my journals (highly unlikely).

For now, I’ll simply use all that extra paper I have lying around (and I do have lots of extra paper) and create a variety of handmade books in which to write original short stories or novellas. I might even give some of the handmade journals away. (As if I really needed yet another creative outlet.)

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Writerly Thought 003

With all the books about writing lining my shelves, I should be a phenomenal author by now. I’m beginning to think mastery via osmosis is a myth.

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In Less Depressing News and Painterly Things

It’s been quiet around here—no reviews, no reading or writing updates, no artwork—for the past couple of weeks because I’ve been dealing with some personal issues that cropped up. But rather than let myself wallow in my festering pool of self-pity any longer, I’ve decided I need to start moving in the forward direction.

About halfway through my swim (through the festering pool of self-pity), I realized that I’d packed on more pounds than my delusional self would care to admit and as part of the forward moving plan, I’m juice fasting. Sort of.

The plan is to gradually replace my solid meals with vegi-juice blends and then juice fast (i.e. no solid foods) for 10 full days before gradually re-introducing solid foods into my diet. I’m hoping the process will reset my taste buds so the withdrawal symptoms from my sugary substance addiction won’t be so horrible.

About three quarters of the way through my swim, I realized that I’d made absolutely no progress on any of my writing projects. Oh no. That simply won’t do. So along with juice fasting for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be camping out in my closet with my favorite pen, notebook, and a flashlight…writing. I might emerge every once in a while to provide updates, but all other minutes will be spent writing.

In better news, I found some amazing inks! And technically they aren’t inks, but liquid acrylic. The first color is Daler & Rowney Pearlescent Birdwing Copper and Pearlescent Silver Moss. Plus I also found some black cotton paper. I’m so in love with these two colors and my paper that I can’t wait to use them for an art project. Maybe the art project will become my next Wordless Wednesday (which is woefully behind). Happy days are here again. I know it’s silly to get this excited about liquid acrylic and cotton paper, but I have so very little in my life, let me have this.

Thus ends the update.

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I was abandoned.

Abandon, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “to leave completely and finally; forsake utterly; desert.”

My father and I have an altered relationship. We don’t speak daily, or weekly, or even bi-weekly. Months can drift by without hearing each others’ voices or speaking each others’ names. But right around the three month mark, one or the other picks up the phone.

This time it was my turn.

On father’s day, I found the name “Daddy” in my contact list and dialed. I expected my father’s deep and accented voice to answer, but instead I heard a keening tone followed by a robotic operator tell me the number was no longer in service.

Maybe he missed a bill, I thought.

Two days later, the same robotic operator answered.

I piled into the car for a two hour road trip. The house was a different color than I remembered with an unfamiliar car in the driveway. Strangers answered my daddy’s door and told me, “The previous owners are gone.”

Where? I wanted to ask, but knew they wouldn’t have the answer. All I could think was that my daddy slipped away, no phone call or good-bye.

My father may not be much, but he’s mine and he’s gone and it hurts.

When I pass those people on the street begging for spare change or bumming a ride, I wonder if they’re someone’s father, or daughter, or uncle, or cousin, and if that someone wonders where they are, reaching for them like a phantom limb that still itches.

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