Category Archives: Other Reviews

This is where I review things that are not necessarily entertaining, but probably still deserves an opinion or a score.

The Chill Writer: Using Frost Writer and Virtual Cottage

Do you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the bells and whistles that Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or other countless writing apps throw at your feet? Do you wish there was a writing app out there that could strip away the distractions and just put you in the mood for writing? Do you wish that such an app was available to you for free?

Well, there is.

Last week, thanks to an article by the Reedsy blog listing eleven apps and programs for writers, I discovered my new favorite writing mood app, Frost Writer. And now it can be your favorite, too.

What is it, exactly?

Well, it’s a website that can store your writing in the cloud. All you do is show up, pick your theme, select a music track if you want background ambience, then get to writing. There’s even an option to save your work as a text file to your Downloads page if you want to transfer your work to another app for formatting once you’re finished or want to start a new project in the same theme.

Image of Frost Writer 3.0's "Room" Theme, with a sample writing.
Screenshot of Frost Writer 3.0, using the “Room” theme.

It’s really as simple as that.

But what it can’t do is store your entire project in any meaningful way, or retain formatting of any kind, at least not as recently as version 3.0. Therefore, my advice is do your distraction-free scene or section writing in Frost, save to your drive (via text file) once you’re done with your current session, then open your note in MS Word or whatever formatting/editing tool you use for revision and storage, make your quick edits to retain your style and/or emphases (italics, bold, etc.) while you’re thinking about them, then go back to Frost, delete the session, and start over again with the next scene or idea.

Or, maybe just copy/paste your Frost writing to your MS Word document or whatever you use for formatting, since saving to a text file will also eliminate your paragraphs, which you probably won’t want to do. You could save to the text file as a backup or if you’re using Frost only to write your tweets before sending them.

It may not be the most efficient way to manage your work, but it’s a darn good way to make sure the work gets done. The music that comes packaged with Frost Writer will get you in the mood every time. Even if you write in your app of choice but leave Frost’s soundtrack on in the background, you can still get in the mood. However, the advantage of writing inside of Frost is you get to use its specialized thematic backgrounds to keep you in the mood. Are you writing a historical novel and need to write directly on the vellum page? Then Frost Writer’s “Vintage” theme is your choice. Or are you crafting your romantic scene and you’re about as romantic as a tree stump? Then select the “Love” theme and discover your attractive side with the pastel shades and romantic comedy score that makes you forget just how bad you are at romance.

I mean, if it works for me…

There’s even an RPG theme called “Room” that gives you a study room background and your choice of four individual or combined sound effects: coffeehouse background, grandfather clock, thunderstorm, and fireplace. Pick one, or pick them all. The choice is yours.

But Frost Writer isn’t the only free app available to those of you who want to write or study in the mood. There’s also a program called Virtual Cottage that you can find on the gaming sites Steam and*

Image of Virtual Cottage, showing how to set up the timer and intended session.
Screenshot of Virtual Cottage, at the project planning stage.

Virtual Cottage is not like Frost Writer. There’s no writing involved here. It’s strictly a background program that sets a timer and plays music while you study, read, do the laundry, or whatever you’re doing that you’d normally find boring or otherwise unappealing. Once the timer expires, it plays a sound effect, telling you it’s time to stop (provided you check the box, which I forgot to do for the screenshot).

The nice thing about Virtual Cottage is that you set the parameters and make yourself accountable to them. Do you want to read for 20 minutes? Then say so on the project page, adjust your timer, and hit “Start.” Don’t stop until the timer rings. Do you want to study during a rainstorm? Then select the atmosphere button and listen to the pitter-patter of raindrops as you hit the books. Do you want 90 minutes of uninterrupted chill music (or is it 15—I can’t remember now) while you organize your filing cabinet? Then click the music note and submerge yourself into that sweet coffeehouse vibe.

And you can do it all for free.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what you really want in a productivity app?

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used these apps and how they’ve helped you improve your productivity.

Oh, and if you want to see these in action, I’ve featured them in this week’s video review. Check it out.

As always, like and subscribe below. And if you want to stay up-to-date with all of my latest articles, videos, books, and so on, please join my new newsletter, available now. And don’t forget that my official author site will be live to the public soon.

Thanks for reading.

*To run games and apps on Steam, you need to first download and install the Steam App. Consult the header on its store page for more information on how to do that.

The Case for Leaving a Product Review

Did you read a good book lately? Review it. How about a bad one? Review it!

Why should you post a review of that book you just read?

Because we all benefit from reviews. The writer benefits because it shows the world whether he or she is any good at this. You benefit because more reviews means a higher likelihood that the author can afford to keep providing you with new stories. And, the world benefits because robots can’t yet tell the stories that authors can tell, at least not as well.

So, in short, don’t let the robots win. Leave a review of that book you just read at your preferred retailer today. I, you, other authors, and the world would be grateful for your input. But it’s up to you. Silent praise is still praise. Written or spoken praise is a little better. A wise man of undetermined time or origin once said that, probably. Remember, he is wise for a reason, also probably, so I hope you listen to the assumed wise man today. Leave that review and stick it to the robots.

Remember, you can give public feedback in the form of a review on your favorite retailer’s website. You can also review books on Goodreads (and, perhaps, network with other readers to find your next favorite book). You could also give the author direct feedback through his various contact channels. For example, here’s my contact channel in case you’d like to give me feedback.

As a writer of books that need reviews, I’ll say thanks again for the time you took to read the book, but I also thank you for the time you took to review it.

Note: Some retailers have specific rules for leaving reviews. For example, Amazon requires that you spend at least $50 that year before leaving a review. We all want reviews, but we also want ethical and rule-abiding reviews. Please familiarize yourself with each site’s or retailer’s review policies before placing your review. Violating rules doesn’t help anyone. Thanks.

(This post adapts and modifies the Review Request section of most of my e-books.)

Cover Image: Pixabay

Improving Your Lunch Life: OliveOnion

Last month, the college where I work lost its cafeteria staff. It was a planned loss, mind you, with the current vendor’s contract expiring and a new vendor due not to arrive until the fall semester, leaving a summer-long gap for the school to reconstruct its cafeteria, hopefully for the better. But, this move didn’t ignore the need for faculty, staff, and students to eat, especially when there’s so little time in a lunch break to go off-campus for lunch, so the school was nice enough to bring in food truck vendors from all over south Florida to service its lunching needs. One such food truck was from Chick-fil-A. The rest were from vendors I’d never heard of before, at least not until they came back for seconds.

This past week, one of these unknowns caught my attention. It had an attractive food menu that looked like it wouldn’t saturate me with grease and leave me feeling sluggish the rest of the day (unlike the all-fries food truck that was booked to provide food at the other location). It featured unique hits from gyros to salads (what, no burgers or hot dogs?), and listed three distinct sauces: yogurt (meh), tahini (eh?), and pepperoncini (yay!) as its choice of toppings.

This unknown French-Mediterranean restaurant on wheels is called OliveOnion, and I’d spent all week waiting for it.


Thursday Lunch Surprise:

The day of the OliveOnion truck had finally arrived. It was on a Thursday. Due to conflicts with other items on my schedule that day, I had to move my lunch ahead 45 minutes and ensure that I got my food, returned to the office, and finished eating by 12:30. It would be tight. But, it was always tight. I was prepared to buy now and eat later if necessary. I wanted to enjoy this one.

I went to the fountain plaza first and saw the food truck that sold only fries. Not what I wanted. So, I changed direction and headed for the other location at the other side of campus, passing by an old friend I hadn’t seen in months along the way. No time to talk! Must get food! We said hi, so I wasn’t a jerk. Anyway, minutes later, I reached the other truck. High-top tables were erected around it. A handful of people were loitering as they waited for their orders. The olive-colored truck stood against the clear noon sky. The backdrop was set. I was ready.

“May I sample the pepperoncini sauce?” I asked the man who was sitting at the front of the truck when I got his attention.

All business, the man agreed, then ducked into the truck’s production cavity and returned less than a minute later with a small plastic cup filled with pepperoncini sauce (a green sauce with “medium hot, fresh herbs”) and a pita chip dipped inside. I scraped the chip through the sauce, getting as much of it on there as I could, and took a bite.

By this point, the higher-than-desired lunch prices, which had been in the back of my mind until now, were no longer a factor. I’d come for the sauce, and the sauce delivered. I was convinced. Now it was time to order my food.

“I’ll have the chicken gyro,” I told the man.

He held up his hand.

“Hold on, just one second,” he said.

He ducked back into the production cavity. What just happened? Was someone else’s order ready for delivery? Would I now have to wait my turn?

No, the man came back with another cup, this time filled with a juicy beef brisket topped with my pepperoncini sauce that I couldn’t wait to consume more of. He also gave me a plastic fork.

“The chicken is okay. Try this instead.”

Not one to deny a free sample if it looks delicious, I took the bite. I immediately handed it back to him.

“Okay, you made your point,” I said. “I’ll take the brisket.”

It was an extra dollar, but let’s credit the man on the upsell. A good business man knows his customer’s heart, and my heart was in my stomach. Pretty soon the beef brisket gyro with the pepperoncini sauce would be in there, too.


I ordered the gyro with everything but the tomato (I usually order food without tomato), swiped my card, added the 25% tip because the sample was just that worth it, and headed for the window where my food would be coming to me. The other man on the truck, the one who was preparing the food, apologized for the wait (I’d been waiting maybe a minute), and was going to have my gyro ready as soon as possible. I probably waited no more than three minutes between order and delivery. The weather was warm and the sky cloudless. The handful of people hanging about were mostly quiet. I still had plenty of time to get back to the office. All was well.

The second man stuffed a foil-wrapped brick into a paper bag and handed me the bag.

“There’s pepperoncini sauce on this, right?” I said.

Yes, there definitely was. Satisfied, I headed back to the office, entered the breakroom, rolled out a layer of paper towels across the table, then watched as extra virgin olive oil leaked out through the foil and the paper bag and onto the table. Guess I’ll need a plate, I thought.

The brisket gyro came on a pita (I chose white, or maybe it was wheat, but I had the option for grain), and was topped with lettuce, black olives, onions, cucumbers, feta cheese crumbles, extra virgin olive oil, and pepperoncini sauce. Every bite drizzled onto my tongue with juicy, meaty flavor. By the time I’d taken my last bite, the clock struck 12:30. Finished right on time. I smiled. Then I retrieved a breath mint and popped it in my mouth. I’d definitely need it.

All told, I’d spent about $15 (including tip) for restaurant quality food, even though I didn’t order any sides or drinks (the drinks in the vending machines are a bit cheaper). On my way back to the sign-in computer (where I get paid), I approached my coworker whom I had been talking to about the food truck schedule and simply nodded.



Expensive, a little bit, but definitely worth it. If I’m ever down in the Hollywood region (Hollywood, Florida), I know where to go for lunch. Hopefully I won’t have to wait that long. Hopefully they’ll come back. I keep saying the same thing about that Chick-fil-A food truck that came to school that one time several weeks ago. But that’s a story for another day.

Photos Retrieved from Pixabay.

Review of Dunkin’ Donuts Hazelnut Coffee and Other Related Items

So, every once in a while I write a blog that’s actually about coffee. I know, that’s unusual, seeing as how I’ve named my blog after the act of drinking coffee, yet for some reason I never actually write about coffee or drinking coffee. So, I understand if it surprises you that today we are talking about coffee. But, you shouldn’t be surprised. Anything goes on this blog. If I were to write about ant food or beach sand, you should think, That’s about right. So, today we’re talking about coffee. Specifically Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

Or, am I talking about Dunkin’ coffee?

First of all, before you start reading this blog, or at least read more of it, you need to find yourself a good sandwich because, after all, drinking café latte at 1pm often means you should have a sandwich, too. What’s today’s sandwich? I recommend a croissant, toasted, with some kind of cheese, cheese at which you can pick for yourself, and we’ll say, er, ham. Actually no, bacon. Yes, you should be eating a breakfast sandwich today. Maybe one from Dunkin’.

creamer small

On Tuesday morning, I went to my usual Dunkin’ café on the college campus where I work and ordered my usual drink, a coffee with cream and caramel. No sugar. The workers there know who I am, and sometimes they’ll even have the coffee waiting for me when I get there. I don’t know if I like the idea of people knowing me so well that they know what I’ll order before I know. But, in the Alexa generation, I suppose I should get used to things like that. It never hurts to prepare for the robot apocalypse a bit early.

So, on Tuesday, when I got into line and approached the register, the girl taking my order, before I could even give her my order, said, “We are out of caramel today.” I looked at her for a moment and said, “Okay, that’s fine.” Then, of course, she asked me what I would like instead. I thought about it for a second and told her I don’t know. I started thinking maybe I’ll take pumpkin, but then I remembered that we’re in April right now, and April is not the month for pumpkin. So I had to give it more thought. Thinking about what I want in my coffee when I don’t have what I want for my coffee can be difficult.

I knew I didn’t want vanilla, which was one of the flavors she offered me. I didn’t want the other things she offered, either, which I no longer remember, but hazelnut sounded pretty good, so I ordered that. Now, to be clear, I’ve had hazelnut many times before, usually at home, but I rarely get it at Dunkin’. There’s no reason for that rarity, except that I prefer caramel or pumpkin, and if I’m feeling ambitious, caramel and pumpkin. But, today I had to get hazelnut because it was the best option I had and, in an industry that has sketchy flavor consistency, I didn’t want to take a chance on ordering something too bitter. After all, I had two dollars at stake! A couple of minutes later, I got my coffee and my food, two bacon, egg & cheese wraps, and it was good.

I got back to the office, ate my wraps, and started drinking my coffee. And let me tell you, it was actually pretty tasty. I admit that sometimes Dunkin’ is hit-or-miss, which is why I get the flavors I know. Hazelnut is not a flavor I drink enough to form a consistent opinion about, so I can’t say if Dunkin’s treatment is generally bland or flavorful, but I can tell you that for that one order I rarely get, I got a good one.dunkin small

The hazelnut was sweet, with a little bit of woodiness, and it definitely complemented the coffee flavor that Dunkin’ is best known for, which is, of course, tasting like coffee. I know this sounds obvious, but this is a review, and coffee, from a place that everyone has ordered from many, many times before, needs a fair hearing as much as the next beverage. But, if you’re still reading this, then I think you’re here more for the entertainment than the actual review.

This means that my actual review is not on hazelnut coffee at all, because it’s not new and I’m sure you’ve had it before if you have any coffee knowledge whatsoever, but on the new brand name Dunkin’, as opposed to the original, and far superior, Dunkin’ Donuts, which the company has been called for many, many years, well beyond my childhood, well past my, well, I don’t know how far back it goes, but it’s been Dunkin’ Donuts for decades, if not generations, and now it’s this new thing called Dunkin’, which is some short, sweet, brand name that maybe is hip, maybe is unifying, but it just seems not quite the same as what I remember as a kid or as an adult, and really where is the coffee and where are the donuts?

So my review of Dunkin’, the name, is that I can say it faster, and honestly that’s how I’ve been referring to it for a while anyway, as Dunkin’ Donuts really does take too long to say. So, at the end of the day, I approve of the name change, but I wish they’d kept all of the original branding on their bags, because I’m a creature of habit, and what I’m familiar with it is not Dunkin’ but Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m only familiar with Dunkin’ when I’m calling it by name, in a hurry, because I need to go, get coffee, and come back, and I don’t have the time to waste talking to you about where I’m going; I just want to get it over with and get to where I’m going, which is Dunkin’. Dunkin’ Donuts.

Okay you should probably check on your sandwich now. I’m sure it’s well toasted. Enjoy your lunch. Go to Dunkin’, get some coffee. I’d recommend the hazelnut.


Interesting Article about the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists

First off, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are moms. Thanks for all you do and put up with. We’d be worse off without you.

Secondly, I just read an interesting article about how books are selected for The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists and thought I’d share. Whether you’re an author or a reader, I think you’ll find the article interesting, especially if you’ve ever bought a book based on the list and thought, “Why are people buying this garbage?”

Obviously, some books deserve to be on these lists, and sometimes we find our new favorite authors as a result of reading them. So, there’s no lesson here. Just an interesting read for your Sunday afternoon.

Note: This article was written a couple of years ago, but I’m sure it’s still relevant today.

Article: “The Truth about the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists” by Tim Grahl

Enjoy your afternoon. Hope you’re reading this with coffee in hand. It’s raining where I am right now, so you know I’ve got mine (actually, my cup is empty, but I’m about to go for my second round).

I hope to have new and interesting content for you in the coming days.

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

December 14, 2015

Disclaimer: I am posting this review four days before the movie comes out. So, I have not seen it. This is fake. It’s for the purpose of parody. Please do not take this review seriously. If you’re looking for a real review, check back in four days…on someone else’s blog. This one will likely spoil moments that aren’t actually in the movie. If this offends you, then you’re probably camping out in line as we speak, reading this through your Stormtrooper helmet as you eat marshmallows in your tent.

 Movie: Star Wars 7

Release Date: Friday

Runtime: I don’t know

Review: Okay, so there’s a lot of hype going into George Lucas’s abandoned child, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and let me tell you, as a fanboy, it is so worth it. It’s got stars, and it’s got wars, and it’s got lots of fighting in space, and it’s just awesome. J.J. Abrams really got this one right. It’s got Spock fighting Captain Kirk, and Yoda drinking a soda even though he’s a ghost (spoiler alert!), and Chewbacca, let’s just say, is so hairy. It’s amazing how much detail they put into these characters.

I know what you’re thinking. What about the prequels? No, they aren’t awesome. Episode III is kinda okay. But it doesn’t have enough Jar Jar. You really can’t have too much Jar Jar. Everyone who thinks Jar Jar ruins the movie ruins movies. If I can’t have my Jar Jar, then I don’t want my Star Wars.

The Force Awakens does not have Jar Jar, and it’s better for it. What it has instead is a talking Monkey named Hans. Spoiler Alert! The monkey is played by none other than Harrison Ford. They call him Hans YOLO! and he has a sweet ride. It goes so fast. In one scene, he beats Vin Diesel and the Rock to the finish line. It’s amazing. Really, you should see this movie.

Now, I can’t talk about this movie without discussing everyone’s acting abilities, but I must say, I see an Oscar in R2D2’s future. He’s really got the whole droid thing down. Come on, Academy. Stop ignoring trash cans on roller skates! It’s bad enough you’ve ignored Jim Carrey for The Truman Show and Man on the Moon. Don’t snub the R2!

So, what’s my final verdict? Star Wars: The Force Awakens is awesome! How do I know? Because I’ve seen the trailers for it, twice! Five stars (and three wars)!

The new Star Wars opens this Friday. But you already knew that because you’re yelling at me for writing this crap.


Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Macchiato: A Review

October 12, 2015

So, I give Dunkin’ Donuts about $20 of my hard-earned money every week. I shouldn’t, but I do; I have what some might call a coffee addiction. Now, I know this is odd to think about, given that the title of my blog is Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm, but I have yet to write anything about coffee in the ten years or so that I’ve had this blog (with just over one of those years existing here on WordPress).

But that’s about to change!

This morning I went to get my coffee, Monday Edition, when I saw that Everything Pumpkin is back on the menu. Now, I’ve been getting my pumpkin coffees religiously for the last few weeks (I usually get caramel coffees the rest of the year), but today I was stunned to see that DD (cool speak for Dunkin’ Donuts) has introduced a new brand of coffee, the Pumpkin Macchiato. When I stood in line this morning, its picture in the marquee spoke its thousand or so words at me, and all of them said, “Buy me!” My thought: “Yes, please!”

The picture showed a coffee with three layers of coloring: a milky layer on the bottom, a regular brown layer in the middle (the estuary layer?), and a dark layer on top for the espresso.

Ah, yes, there’s espresso in this bad boy. Two shots if I’m not mistaken. Pumpkin + espresso = coffee dream.

Now, I think the drink comes in one of two ways. Apparently, if you don’t specify how you want it, it comes to you iced, which is fitting because iced coffee is generally more expensive than hot coffee, since, you know, ice is costly. If you get the drink by itself, it comes with a cup holder (like a warmer for cold coffee). I got mine with three other coffees, so I just carried everything in a crate.

(Just to clarify, the four coffees weren’t all for me. Just one of them.)

The Review:

So, you’re probably wondering what I thought. Okay, here’s the breakdown.

Well, it was made of pumpkin, so right off the bat it was awesome. As a rule, if it has pumpkin in it, it’s awesome. Case in point: 1. Pumpkin pie = awesome. 2. Pumpkin cheesecake = super awesome. 3. Pumpkin coffee = awesome. 4. Pumpkin sneakers = weird but awesome. See my point? It’s hard to say anything bad about pumpkin anything. Unless, of course, you hate pumpkin. If that’s the case, then how dare you!

The coffee power is marginally high. Normally, coffee is a quick stimulant, fast to get me going, but just as fast to tire me out. It’s one of the reasons I can drink coffee at night. It does little to keep me awake. In fact, I think it’s more psychological than anything. For me, coffee is more of a stimulant for my brain. If I have a cup of coffee beside me, my IQ goes up about 10 points.

Obviously, the amount of sleep I get the night before is a factor in coffee’s general success. I tend to buy coffee anyway (or make it at home if I have the time), whether I need it or not, but on mornings when I get my average sleep, which is to say hardly any, then I definitely need it. This morning was exceptionally difficult to keep awake, so the need for coffee was higher than average.

Fortunately, the double-shot espresso makes waking up so much easier. The downside: the crash is so much harder.

Normally I get sleepy around lunch time. That’s just how my body works. By 1pm (hence the blog title), I’m dragging my feet. On a regular cup of coffee, I’m groggy but coherent. On the pumpkin macchiato (and its two shots of espresso), I am passing out and speaking nonsense. Because I read papers and tutor college students for a living, this sometimes makes giving good advice challenging. Part of the challenge is reminding myself that the dream I’d just had while struggling through a student’s second-to-last paragraph has nothing to do with what he or she has written in his paper, and I should probably give advice that’s relevant only to his paper. The pumpkin macchiato, while brilliant in the morning, was a complete letdown in the afternoon. I’m sure I nodded off in the middle of the conversation at least a couple of times.

Lastly, the pumpkin taste is sweet, maybe even too sweet when you consider the cream, the syrup, and the sugar (sugar being the one thing I never put in my coffee anymore), but the espresso is sufficiently bitter. If you’re going to order a cup, be sure you carry some Altoids with you. You’re gonna need them if you want to talk to anyone later.

Final verdict: Worth buying, unless you feel that spending three dollars on a cup of coffee is outrageous.

If you would like me to review anything else, let me know.

Three Weeks Later

Three Weeks Later

June 19, 2015:

It’s been three weeks since I’ve taken the chance on ebook publishing with my short story, “Shell Out,” and favorite one at that, and now it’s time for a post-mortem.

My intention here is to show a breakdown of what could happen when no one outside of your circle of friends and family actually knows who you are, or what you write about, or that you write at all, and certainly whether or not you’re any good. Though, I would contend that not even friends or family would probably know that last point since they’re either impressed that you have written something, don’t care enough about reading to care about this, either, or care that you’ve written something but don’t actually have the time to experience your talents for themselves. Oh, and sometimes they will read your stuff. Many times they’re so impressed that you’ve written something, anything, that they forget to check whether you’re actually any good, which brings us back to the first point. Needless to say, it takes a wealth of complete strangers to prove whether or not you can build and sustain an audience and a fanbase, and when you’re essentially starting from scratch (because no one is reading your blogs, either), you’re in the perfect position to see exactly what kind of field you’re playing in.

So, here’s what three weeks of publication sandboxing has looked like for me:

Shell Out:

Shell Out Cover Image
Shell Out Cover Image

Price: Free

Word Count: 25,710 (11,965 devoted to story, remaining word count to future book previews and other front and back matter)

ISBN: 9781311264060

Categories: Fiction, Literature, Coming of Age, Humor & Comedy, General

Tags: money, aspiration, twenties, college age

Distributor: Smashwords

Available at: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, and everywhere else Smashwords has a distribution relationship with.

Published on May 29, 2015.

Premium Catalog Accepted: June 2, 2015.

Available at all retailers by June 4, 2015.

Uploaded update #1 on May 30, 2015.

Uploaded update #2 on June 17, 2015.

Have not changed the store’s front matter or description.


First update fixed the NCX menu for the table of contents. One of the titles was broken due to my using quotation marks to begin the heading. Note to potential ebook publication adventurers: Don’t use quotation marks to start your table of contents headings.

Second update changed the formatting to include page breaks between chapters and sections. Also included a few very minor changes to the first section. Also updates my contact information to include Facebook and Twitter. 6/19 Note: Retailers outside of Smashwords are still carrying the older version.

Story Note: Part 3 contains no dialogue.

Current Total Downloads: 130 (120 at Smashwords)

Peak Download Day: May 30, 2015 (27 downloads)

Driest Download Day: June 10, 2015 (no downloads)

Average Downloads Per Day: 0 – 7 since June 4, 2015

Highest Downloads Since Decline: 7 downloads on June 15, 2015

Promoted on Facebook: May 29, 2015 (Smashwords); June 4, 2015 (Barnes & Noble, Apple)

Promoted on Twitter: June 15, 2015

Current Number of Reviews: None

Current Kobo Rating: #1666 in fiction & literature, humorous

Eleven Miles from Home:

Eleven Miles from Home Cover Page
Eleven Miles from Home Cover Page

Price: Free

Word Count: 12,380 (11,495 devoted to story, remaining word count to front and back matter)

ISBN: 9781311197627

Categories: Fiction, Literature, Coming of Age, Themes & Motifs, Psychological

Tags: narrative, relationships, doom, jet ski, breakups, introspective, pov, choices and consequences

Distributor: Smashwords

Available at: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, and everywhere else Smashwords has a distribution relationship with.

Published on June 7, 2015

Premium Catalog Accepted: June 9, 2015.

Available at all retailers by June 11, 2015.

Uploaded update #1 on June 17, 2015.

Changed the store page’s long description on June 8, 2015.


First update changed the formatting to include page breaks between chapters and sections. Also updates my contact information to include Twitter. 6/19 Note: Retailers outside of Smashwords are still carrying the older version.

Changed store page’s long description to better include elements from the existing story rather than to focus almost entirely on the backstory.

Story Note: Contains no dialogue. Strictly narrative between two characters.

Current Total Downloads: 84 (78 at Smashwords)

Peak Download Day: June 8, 2015 (17 downloads)

Driest Download Day: June 16, 2015 (1 download)

Average Downloads Per Day: 1 – 4 since June 14, 2015

Highest Downloads Since Decline: 4 downloads on June 14 and 17, 2015

Promoted on Facebook: June 7, 2015 (Smashwords); June 10, 2015 (Kobo); June 11, 2015 (Barnes & Noble, Apple)

Promoted on Twitter: n/a

Current Number of Reviews: None

Current Kobo Rating: #708 in fiction & literature, psychological


Amusement Cover Image
Amusement Cover Image

Price: Free

Word Count: 14,790 (13,312 devoted to story, remaining word count to front and back matter)

ISBN: 9781311070029

Categories: Fiction, Thriller & Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Literature, Literary

Tags: tragedy, happy, marketing, psychedelic, cartoons, professionalism, theme park

Distributor: Smashwords

Available at: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, and everywhere else Smashwords has a distribution relationship with.

Published on June 12, 2015

Premium Catalog Accepted: June 16, 2015.

Available at all retailers by June 17, 2015.

Uploaded update #1 on June 12, 2015.

Uploaded update #2 on June 17, 2015.

Changed the store page’s long description on June 15, 2015.


First update made some changes to the opening paragraph. Didn’t think it was streamlined enough. Other minor changes in the first section. Note: The first section was added at the last minute to give the story context. Until June 2015, the story had always started with Sammy in the parking garage claiming “he is not amused.”

Second update addressed a couple of character glitches that showed up only in the Nook app, where the accent in cliché was broken and an apostrophe in the final section was screwy looking. I’m sure both were tagged with some hidden Microsoft Word tattoo that the Nook file didn’t like. 6/19 Note: Retailers outside of Smashwords are still carrying the older version.

Changed store page’s long description to sound more polished. Didn’t like how the original version sounded.

Story Note: First section before original parking garage sequence contains no dialogue.

Current Total Downloads: 53 (49 at Smashwords)

Peak Download Day: June 13, 2015 (13 downloads)

Driest Download Day: June 16, 2015 (3 downloads)

Average Downloads Per Day: 3 – 5 since June 15, 2015

Highest Downloads Since Decline: 5 downloads on June 15, 17, and 18, 2015

Promoted on Facebook: June 16, 2015 (Smashwords, Apple, Kobo); June 17, 2015 (Barnes & Noble)

Promoted on Twitter: n/a

Current Number of Reviews: None

Current Kobo Rating: #1061 in fiction & literature, anthologies

So, how does that all translate into a career development standpoint? Well, obviously, the fact that all three books are free (and short) means that my actual paid career hasn’t yet begun. I suppose I could write up another post-mortem once I release future books and begin to charge for them.

But it’s good to note that Smashwords (the distributor) is ultimately the best resource for the newest and most accurate representation of each ebook. It reflects the author’s changes immediately, and offers the greatest number of download options. What it doesn’t offer is use of each of the other retailer’s special apps (as far as I could tell). The others are certainly good, but they may not have the most recent versions of the books. Also, I have yet to verify if those other retailers automatically update user libraries with new changes, or if the user has to redownload the book. With Smashwords, the user has to redownload. But that’s okay because once they own it, they can download as much as they want. For free books (like mine), it doesn’t matter if they have to redownload since the price is the same.

Lastly, part of my publishing adventure involved me testing e-reading apps that I didn’t previously have. This gives me perspective on what potential readers might encounter. Keep in mind that I do not have an iPhone, iPad, Nook device, or anything other than a PC. For things like phones and tablets and such, I had to look over friends’ shoulders while they downloaded and opened the books for me. Here is what I’ve discovered:


Best source for anyone who wants to read off of a PC. Provides all filetypes, including a copy of the original Word document, so there is no shortage of ways to read the ebook on a PC or laptop. It is also the best resource for Android and other phones that do not belong to Apple. The other retailers seem to focus primarily on their own devices.

Barnes & Noble (Nook):

I admit that this is one of my preferred retailers, but I have yet to be impressed with the functionality of their Nook app on the PC. As I said in “Amusement’s” breakdown, the file conversion corrupted two characters, which makes the book feel only 99.9 % professional – ironic given the book’s theme. I’m also disappointed that my library view keeps trying to open the preview versions of my books (all three of mine, and another free ebook I downloaded when I was testing the app called Skip: Episode One by Perrin Briar), and won’t let me access the full versions without having to redownload them, which I can’t do because the system recognizes that I already own them. As it stands, I’d have to delete them and redownload if I want to read them. Not a big deal for free ebooks, but a huge deal if this is consistent with paid books, since deleting a book from the library is equivalent to throwing it away, which means having to buy a new one. On the plus side, Nook looks really nice. I also like that it saves your book to your onsite library, which means you could access your book on any device that lets you access your Barnes & Noble account. It’s basically cloud-friendly.

And I can’t confirm this without an e-reading device, but I think Nook is the device that actually looks like you’re turning the page when you swipe your finger across the screen. Really cool. (That could also just be a standard function of the .epub file. I’m not sure since, again, I read my ebooks on a desktop.)

Apple iTunes:

This has the largest market for readers, according to what I’ve read and heard, but given that only two of my 267 downloads came from them, I don’t yet know how to reach those readers. As far as my own experimentation goes, I cannot form an accurate opinion since I do not have a dedicated e-reading device or iPhone, iPad, etc., and Apple is the only retailer on the Smashwords distribution list that does not cater to desktop reading (on PC, at least). Basically, I can’t read any of the books I’ve downloaded from them. I’m also no fan of their search engine—seems difficult to search for authors if you don’t know they exist—but I do like very much their widget system. I think the ability to create buttons for your book page is great. If only I could figure out how to make my blog display them.


I actually just downloaded the Kobo app for PC yesterday, and I gotta say that this is probably my favorite of the e-readers. Reading an .epub on Adobe Editions is nice and a .mobi on the Kindle app is pretty cool, too, but Kobo does the best job, in my opinion, with navigation and presentation. If you break your book into chapters, they actually label the chapter at the bottom of the screen and display with it the current page within the chapter and the total number of pages that make up the chapter, so you always know how close you are to the end of that segment. As someone who likes to read books a chapter at a time, this is very attractive to me. I also like that they display a book’s ranking within that genre combination. The downside with Kobo that I’ve noticed, however, is that their propensity for accuracy is a little low. In its first week, “Shell Out” had shared the same ranking and category as my favorite book, Syrup by Max Barry. It’s possible that many books can share the same ranking if they’re all tied for that spot. And if that’s the case, then there are a bunch of books without current download stats ranked at #1700 in literary fiction and humor. Given the vast numbers of ebooks in existence (and likely on the Kobo site), this feels highly misleading. But maybe Kobo’s algorithm is superior to all the other retailer algorithms that factor in 500,000 other ebooks and rank accordingly. For a reader, this means nothing. For an author, it would be nice to know how well his book is really doing in the marketplace.

Unlike the other retailers, I have yet to receive a recorded download count from Kobo. As of this writing, I’m still recorded at zero downloads for all three of my books. This is suspicious given that I downloaded all three of them myself yesterday, yet my numbers don’t reflect that. It’s possible that Kobo doesn’t credit a download when the author downloads it himself. But I’m not sure what magic variables they’re using to determine that I, the downloader, am the one who actually wrote the books. I need to get someone else to download them, too, just to see if the numbers change. But I’ve promoted these books across all platforms so much in the last three weeks that I feel like if no one I can ask has already downloaded the books, then they’re not going to. Maybe I should just ask them to download from Kobo, just to be sure the numbers are getting recorded. My other issue with Kobo is that they’ve misfiled “Amusement” as an “anthology.” Not sure how that happened. It’s been almost a week since they’ve received the book, so it might be time to contact Smashwords support and let them know. I think I’ll wait until I can verify the truth behind my download count, though. If that needs reporting, too, then I’d rather kill two birds with one stone.

Oyster and Scribd:

These are subscription sites that I cannot adequately comment on since I do not have a subscription with either. What I can say is that their storefronts look very, very nice. I can’t decide which one I like better. They both scream “fancy” at whoever visits the site. I wish all the retailers looked this good.

Other Retailers:

Smashwords distributes to a number of additional retailers, such as Flipkart, Overdrive, txtr, and others. Again, I have no comment on these since I either can’t find my books on their site (Flipkart), or they’re responsible for library distributions (Overdrive), or they’re closing their doors (txtr), or they offer some other service not directly related to selling my books. For these sites, I’ll have to hear about them from outside sources.

Amazon (Kindle):

Smashwords distributes to Amazon, but Amazon carries only the higher-rated books at the moment, so I do not have any opinion formed here, either. I just know that if I want to cross-distribute with Amazon (something I plan to do later this year when I release my longer works and need a printing venue), I have to match the current prices for each book I upload there, and I have to avoid KDP Select if I want to freely distribute my book to other retailers (including Smashwords). At this point, I’d rather wait until my publishing roster is a little fuller and more profitable before I go to Amazon. Or, if Smashwords and Amazon strike a new distribution deal, then maybe I won’t have to wait until then. We’ll see what the future holds.

So, that’s my experience with ebook publishing so far. Not sure if this is normal, or weak, or exceptional. The only thing I can say is that this is my experience. Maybe yours will be different. Or the same. I’d still like to hear about it regardless.

I hope the technical talk didn’t bore you too much. I promise my ebooks are more exciting, and you should go download all of them right now. The links to their respective store pages can be found by clicking on the cover images in the right sidebar.