An Observation Concerning… Verified Purchases

“You’ll never hear so much as a complaint from me, as long as, baby, you don’t lie to me.”
-The Fratellis, “Baby Don’t You Lie To Me!”

It’s probably not the wisest decision to target a corporation that’s well on their way to taking over the world, but no one is listening anyway, so why not.

As you may be aware, I’m an author. If not, then I suggest you click on another menu item on my site. No, I don’t have food available. Stop multi-tasking while at a restaurant, you’re confusing all of us! Authors don’t make a lot of money—the successful writers are a misrepresentation of the general wordsmith mass. For example, I can probably afford something off a value menu at a fast-food restaurant while someone like Dan Brown is eating somewhere classy like, oh, I don’t know, Olive Garden or Chili’s. There are a lot more starving artists than there are successful ones. Don’t worry, I’m eating just fine, let’s not take that out of context and label me “insensitive” or whatever other terms people use to blow things out of proportion.

The over-saturated market has created two constants: an author needs quality reviews, and to hit social media harder than a teenage girl. Wait, the phrasing on that seems wrong. You know what I meant though. Regarding the former, the catch-22 is that you need reviews to get sales, but sales to get reviews.

There’s something I can tell you from experience: People used to take advantage of the system by paying for fake reviews. As a ghostwriter, a company once reached out to me to write multiple reviews for a wage for each post. I didn’t want to do that, no matter how much I wanted to join Dan Brown at Olive Garden. So Amazon cracked down on these trends and put into effect a new review policy. Good, right?

Yes. They became stricter on where IP addresses and email accounts originated, and also started fully implementing the “verified purchase” requirements. Still good, right?

Yes, in a way. Sure, people can buy your product, but not everyone gets to review it. Here are two examples that aren’t allowed:

-“A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales”: As many authors know, especially ones that are trying to break into the industry, your family will probably be the first people to know about your published work, and they will buy it, no matter how dysfunctional they appear to be. They will read it, some will be more honest than others, and then they will want to help you out. Fantastic! So Amazon is essentially saying that your mom can’t tell you that you’re the best at everything. However, this just says “five-star” which makes it possible for a jealous sibling to give a sub-par or slanderous review just because. How is that fair? Still, it’s understandable in a way.

-“You must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months”: This right here irks me a bit. I had two excellent reviews by people who bought my book off Amazon, but since they hadn’t spent $50 yet, they weren’t eligible to post a review. Why does it matter? They bought a product, and wanted to review it. Sounds like they were verified purchasers, but I guess Amazon just needs to get paid.

This is where I don’t think it makes sense. Say you’re a self-published author who has used Amazon’s service to put their book out. Amazon gets a hefty cut as part of the sale, so wouldn’t they want more verified reviews to gain more revenue? I’m all for making sure the reviews are valid, but when they obviously are, but Amazon wants even more money on top of what they made from the purchase, then I believe they’re crossing a line.

Here’s an eye-opener for you: If an author sells a paperback book on Amazon at $8.99 the author receives a little over $1. Yum, that’s McDonald’s money right there.

Here’s another eye-opener for you: Amazon’s sales of products, which includes books, rose 25.5% in 2017, to $118.5 billion.

But people can’t review something unless they spend $50? It doesn’t seem like Amazon is hurting that much to purposely hinder the sales of their own authors.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to not buy anything from Amazon because they had messed up my last 6 orders of 2017. That’s pathetic for a multi-billion-dollar, industry-leading corporation if you ask me. I will tell you this as well, their screw-ups accounted for more than $50 easily. Interesting.

Despite what I said, there are some exceptions to what I will buy now on Amazon, but I better damn well spend $50 before I can say what they are. Uh-oh, Is there a drone outside my window right now? Shh!

Oh what the hell. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Hi Jeff!

I’m just saying there needs to be a little bit of flexibility here, but sadly, this isn’t all Amazon’s fault. If people were just decent to begin with then this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, there’s no way to monitor that without it affecting everyone from the big guy to the little guy, from the fraudulent to the honest.

A Setting Entry

The first frost on dying brown, once a representation of flourishing life. Soft white flurries take their time to drop, but leave little evidence of their brief ambush other than the dark naked twigs under a thick gray. The frigid air suggests winter is coming, or is it here and I have missed fall? Another indicator life moves too fast, but at least the snow soothes.

A “Crooked Gold: A Jack Swift Case” Excerpt (Travelogue)

TRAVELOGUE

Jack Swift rested his laptop atop his tray table as his long fingers glided over the keys, balancing with ease during any and all annoying turbulence. He learned to have steady fingers and deep concentration from his years of piano lessons as a youth, and was a product of his parents’ talents and modest morals, yet was never shaped to use his strengths in route to becoming a career criminal. They did everything they could to steer him in the right direction despite their struggles, but he grasped the hand he was dealt, for values can be altered through vengeance. Swift had come a long way from rags to first class.

He composed an email with a soft grin and tapped a gold coin next to his computer between thoughts, keeping the beat with the rhythm that flowed through his headphones.

The refined older woman next to him couldn’t stray her attraction from the beautiful piece. Her delicate touch reached Swift’s shoulder. “Excuse me, son?”

Swift removed his headphones and smiled, “Yes, ma’am.”

“I don’t mean to be a bother—”

“Oh, don’t be silly, how could you be a bother? I’ve had the pleasure of sitting next to a lovely young lady such as yourself this entire flight.”

The woman blushed. “Oh stop. I haven’t been called a young lady since my third husband.”

“He must’ve been a lucky man.”

“Meh, he was just after my money.”

“Despicable gold-diggers. Always wanting something that isn’t theirs.”

“Isn’t that the truth.”

“How can I help you?”

She pointed at the gold. “That coin you have, it’s gorgeous. What currency is it?”

“Oh this,” he held it up, “this is Spanish. I’m a coin collector and I’ve been searching a great deal for this very piece.”

“A coin collector? That’s an interesting hobby, Mr.—”

“Smith. John Smith.”

The woman extended her hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Smith. Is that why you were in San Francisco?”

“For the most part.” He took her hand and kissed the back.

The flight attendant served glasses of champagne to both, smiling seductively at Swift and admiring his chivalry. She strutted down the aisle with a spread impossible for a man to ignore; the older woman took notice with her tongue pressing against her teeth and an idea in mind.

She said, “I think that young beauty has a thing for you, John.”

“She’s probably just jealous that I’m taken for the next half an hour.”

She leaned her head back and laughed, gently slapping his arm with playful flirtation. “If I was forty years younger.”

Swift held up his champagne and clinked the rim of her glass. “Well, here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.”

The woman laughed again and sipped her drink. “You’re young enough to be a flirt, but too young to know that song.”

“Music has always played a huge role in my life; my parents made sure of it.”

“Well, they’re smart people.”

Swift broke eye contact to reflect. “They certainly were.”

The flight attendant announced over the loud speaker, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have begun our descent into Las Vegas. We ask that you please turn off your electronic devices, make sure your seatbelts are fastened, and return your seats and tray tables to their upright positions.” She simpered at Swift as she slid the microphone back into its holster.

“I guess she means me.”

“I’m sorry to have distracted you, Mr. Smith. Would you like to finish that email really quick? You can blame it on me if you get in trouble with your lady friend there,” the older woman said, her eyes suggesting a tryst for the two.

“Oh, that isn’t a problem at all. It was just a draft anyway.”

Swift shut down his computer and followed the other standard requests. He held the gold coin in his hand and grinned, then finished the remainder of his champagne in one gulp and handed the flight attendant the empty glass accompanied by a warm beam and wink. She raised her eyebrows in return and dropped a folded cocktail napkin in his lap, coy enough to keep private. Swift opened the note. It read:

 This is my last stop. I’m staying at the SLS. Perhaps we’ll run into each other at the bar.

TO CONTINUE READING “CROOKED GOLD: A JACK SWIFT CASE” PLEASE CLICK HERE!

An Observation Concerning… The Washington Capitals Winning the Stanley Cup. Wait, Really?

“Not a trace of doubt in my mind.”
-The Monkees, “I’m a Believer”

Yes, really. Don’t worry about that unseasonable chill outside either; it might just be the cold rising from the caverns of Hell.

Eesh, I thought this was supposed to be a happy post. It is! So it has been a few days now, but I still haven’t caught my breath—I still can’t believe that the Washington Capitals have won the Stanley Cup.

This is the type of moment that will stand still in time for fans of the franchise—and I’m sure NHL.com’s shop profits have proven that thus far. I know I’ve contributed to keeping some of their employees employed over the course of the weekend.

If you’ve read my posts consistently, and I know there are very few according to my stats, you can pick up a few things here and there about my life. I keep my internet presence fairly simple and my personal life separate, but here are two freebies if you didn’t know this already: I’m a huge Washington Capitals fan and I’m not 44-years-old, but am within a decade.

Why is that important? Well it explains some ailments and losing a step and some hair, but that’s not the reason nor is it a cry for sympathy, just a reminder I need to accept the aging process. Okay, we’re getting off track here… the mind seems to wander, you know. The reason 44 years is important is because this is the first time in that period that the Washington Capitals have won a Stanley Cup. Think about that; people were born and have already started their midlife crisis during that span.

Now, I think we’re well aware that hockey is the fourth most popular of the four major sports in this country—and that’s only because it’s considered one of the four major sports. If NASCAR was in that category then hockey may not even be recognized by many. However, if you watch the NHL you realize that every player on every team works harder than most other athletes (I’m definitely not saying that other athletes don’t work hard, so let’s not let sensitivity kick in and concentrate on a minuscule statement while losing focus on every other sentence in this entire post). In hockey there isn’t a pitching staff in which each member throws a few innings every few games, there isn’t a rest for the defense while the offense is on the field and vice versa, and there isn’t more than half the team sitting on the bench in their warm-ups as a handful of superstars spend a majority of the time on the court. In other words, it’s the epitome of what a team represents and how hard work by each individual is the only way a moment can bring so much boyish joy to grown men.

Quick team note: I called Billy Baldwin a prick on social media because he didn’t even wait a day to preach his political agenda after the Caps won the cup. People waited 44 years for this, and he ruined it in less than a day just to try and get some chuckles from all his followers who accidently thought he was Alec. With that being said, politics needs to stay out of it, and Devante Smith-Pelly, please be the bigger man here and attend the White House ceremony. Be there for your team, for your city, for the hundreds of thousands of good and average people who just want to enjoy their interests without a social asterisk for once. You’ve earned this and the fans love you just as much as they love every player on the team. That certainly trumps (wow, what a poor word choice) the opinion of one person who you disagree with.

Moving on.

No disrespect to other sports; I enjoy every league and obsess and stress over my loyalties equally, and that’s why this championship run means so much. I went out to DC for Game 3, and though I wasn’t able to get into the stadium, the excitement that spread over the city was an extraordinary moment to experience, and the spontaneity was worth every cent. People in the District were actually friendly with each other, they strode down the streets with smiles and glee, saying hello, shaking hands and high-fiving others, shouting their support for a team destined to change the entire outlook of great city starved for success. It had been since 1992 that a Washington franchise won a championship in their respective league—sorry, DC United, people still don’t take the MLS seriously I guess, but I see you and your four titles!

I know a Caps fan who cried for 30 minutes after the team lifted the cup and I’m sure there were thousands more and for longer stints; people said most others in DC weren’t at work on Friday because the celebration went through the night, and you know what, it was a free pass; and even congress could agree on one thing while “working” late hours: The Capitals.

For everyone who believes sports are merely recreational and lack deep meaning, watch the footage of the 6-block radius that was dedicated to fans on foot around Capital One Arena, watch the reactions of desperate individuals finally reveling in a moment that has plagued a community for 44 years, and think about the last time that many people gathered together with the same thing on everyone’s mind. You have to remember that a sporting event is the one thing—with maybe the exception of a concert—where a massive amount of people come together and share a common interest no matter their sex, race, age, political or religious affiliation, or whatever difference a person has with another. Tell me that’s not meaningful.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights had a wonderful season and did so much for the city of Las Vegas, especially following one of the most tragic events in this country’s history—again, tell me sports aren’t meaningful. What those players did for the community was amazing, and on a lighter note, after those fantastic pre-game productions, I’m sold that major professional sports in Las Vegas is a great thing.

The Caps worked harder than I’ve ever seen them this season, and Alexander Ovechkin has worked as hard as any player in any sport I’ve ever seen over his last 13 seasons—I mean he had to if he eats a chick-parm before games still for being in his thirties. Seriously, I can’t even have a turkey sandwich before I exercise without becoming bloated and sluggish, and I bet nutritionists and personal trainers hate him because he’s bad for their business.

TRAINER: You need to go on a diet.
CLIENT: I’m good. Ovi eats chick-parms before a game so I did before my workout, and I will after, and probably have one for dinner as well. That’ll make me three times in shape than he is!
TRAINER: He’s playing professional hockey and you’re doing a couple lunges and hitting the elliptical for 15 minutes.
CLIENT: Exactly! It’s like we’re twins!
TRAINER (whispering to self): With a huge weight and overall health discrepancy. CLIENT: What was that?
TRAINER: You’re doing great! Only four more lunges! You can do this!

The Washington Capitals deserved this championship. The players deserved it, the organization deserved it, and the fans deserved it. Cherish it forever, Caps fans, and always rock the red!

Now they just have to go and do it again. How hard is that?

A “Forgotten Kids” Excerpt

It was strange that I had succumbed to depression in what should have been a jubilant occasion, but other than my close friends, no one noticed. I sat on that cold bench – every adjustment I made gave me the chills from the squealing sound and rough base – and watched my fellow students break away from the standard control that was required while on campus. The scene rivaled a riot, but with smiles and hugs instead of flaming objects and punches. Crushes came close to each other, friends built their relationships, teammates strengthened their bonds, and faculty members were proving they weren’t as dull as many of the students assumed them to be. In fact, I believe I even saw Father Schuler having a raucous time – as in raucous I meant he was smiling, laughing, and not judging the actions of the students. It was one of the few times we had been allowed to be kids while on school grounds.

I stood, but yet remained unnoticed. Scotty was the center of attention, receiving all the praise for essentially doing nothing and relying on his teammates to bail him out. Wendy and him were close, grins across their face as if they had always been sweethearts and nothing and no one could break their romantic destiny. They kissed amongst the joyful chaos. It was a scene that belonged fifty years in the past; the moment was actually tender – however, I would be lying if I thought it to be charming.

A “Crooked Gold: A Jack Swift Case” Excerpt

Beckett smiled, almost admiring his adversary’s boldness.

He set the high-priced booze on his desk and reached into his file box, pulling out an almost-empty fifth of Jack Daniels. He placed both bottles in an unoccupied drawer and locked his vice before digging deeper into Swift’s package.

“Holy riches of regret,” he said, staring down at stacks of neatly bound bills–hundreds of thousands worth. “Fucking Jack Swift.”

Beckett appreciated the gesture, even pondered what his life would be like if he had just got up and left Interpol right that instant with a bottle of Clase Azul in his clutch and enough money to retire resting under his arm. He was too good of a man though.

A Setting Entry

Dirt land. There isn’t much other than twigs, tumbleweed, broken branches, and layers of llama feces. The animals follow their owner; a plump man from age, but his long gray hair expresses a youthful, rebellious spirit. Steel sheds and trailers clutter the plot, as does vehicle junk and the bodies it fell from. A creek gently flows behind his property and through native land – a peace that can be easily disturbed by a buyer. He lets a part of his past go.

An Observation Concerning… Changing and Napping

“So we keep waiting (waiting), waiting on the world to change.”
-John Mayer, “Waiting on the World to Change”

I’m an author. I’ve been known to read and understand words from time to time. I know how to put together a few complete sentences despite what some people claim and Microsoft decides to point out with their stupid green lines. With that being said, with all my experience in fiction and journalism, I will admit that some stories and linguistics trip me up – it’s just a little degrading when it happens to be a children’s story.

This isn’t just some random story thrown together by a couple of people trying to figure out what they want to do with their life, this is a classic: Rip Van Winkle. What? Can’t a grown man, an adult – or of adult age at least – capable of making his own decisions read a fairy tale for whatever reason? It’s better than living in a fairy tale like the heartbroken dreamers who convince themselves that Disney stories are a factual way of life or some 20-something-year-old who scrounges for something to eat in their parents’ fridge to fuel the late hours they spend thinking about working on a children’s book.

Most people know the legend of the sleepyhead, but like most childhood stories, there’s usually a more advanced, darker take to the fairy tale. Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Irving short:

“Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace or domestic tribulation…”

And another…

“The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance…”

Okay, this didn’t necessarily trip me up as I claimed earlier, but the language was rather unexpected. Say you’re reading this to your child –  Are they going to understand it? Probably not – and don’t say, “Well the doctor said that my kid is so smart, more advanced than most others their age.” Spoiler alert: your doctor probably says that to a lot of parents. And we wonder where the modern mentality of delusion and regression begins.

On another note, maybe stories like Rip Van Winkle do explain a child’s fashion sense at times:

“They were dressed in a quaint, outlandish fashion; some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts, and most of them had enormous breeches, or similar style with that of the guide’s. Their visages, too, were peculiar: one had a large beard, broad face, and small piggish eyes; the face of another seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted by a white sugar-loaf hat, set off with a red cock’s tail.”

And another….

“There was one who seemed to be the commander. He was a stout gentleman, with a weatherbeaten countenance; he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger, high-crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes with roses in them.”

Oh, those crazy Dutch killer gnomes. Also, if I may point out, I think this commander might be suffering through an identity crisis. Wait, am I not supposed to say something insensitive like that? Good, I didn’t think it was insensitive either, but you never know who’s reading.

Perhaps the tales were meant to build a child’s vocabulary, but let’s face it, these stories are a thing of the past and don’t translate to the modern era. People had better control of the language back in the day. Case and point: my writing now. And to think, they didn’t have the dependency of autocorrect or dictionary apps on their phone (what phone, am I right?) or the ease of right-clicking for synonyms to make them sound smarter. They actually knew the meaning of certain words and how to use them correctly.

Things have changed, that’s for damn sure. Are we happy with the direction we’re going or would we rather distract ourselves with petty indifferences, avoid major conflict by presenting meager complaints, and wait for a solution?

Moral: Get black out drunk and pass out to avoid your troubles. We all have our own Dame Van Winkles, am I right, fellas? I’ll pay for that one.

Better Moral: The world is going to keep changing whether or not you stop or whether or not you like it, so you need to adapt.

Bonus Moral: Don’t listen to John Mayer and wait for the world to change; if you don’t like it (whatever your world may be), don’t be lazy, and do something about it.

Bonus Bonus Moral: 20-year naps only grow beards, and most people have those already anyway.

Okay, I’m done. I need to make a change and progress. Do you?