I have had an insanely frustrating day

And, in return, I would like to present you all with a very simple life hack. I tweeted about this earlier and I’d like more people to be aware of it.

You may have gotten a Visa or MasterCard gift card for Christmas, and you may have been frustrated upon trying to use it at an online retailer, because you either have to leave a small amount of money on the card or somehow manage to spend exactly the amount on the card, because most online places won’t let you split a purchase over more than one card.

If you’ve got a $50 Visa gift card, and you want to spend $60 at, say, Amazon, then what you do is you first use the Visa on Amazon to buy a $50 Amazon gift card. This will be emailed to you as a code and you can then immediately use that code plus your debit card or whatever, and boom– $50 off whatever you wanted to buy, with no money lost to transaction fees and no money left on the card.

You’re welcome.

My most ridiculous review yet, and a site disclosure

Sometime last year, I think, I decided to simplify my life a little bit and threw out nearly all of my socks and bought about three weeks’ worth of new ones, all from the same brand and style. Since then I’ve just been tossing my socks in my sock drawer unpaired, where previously I had to laboriously pair every set of socks while putting my laundry away, a chore I despised. Now, with nearly every sock matching every other sock, that was no longer necessary.

The only exceptions: I kept a few pairs of ankle socks and I couldn’t make myself throw away a certain set of socks that were both pretty new and really comfortable. And, in fact, when I went out to buy a mess of new socks, I went looking for more of that kind, and couldn’t find any. So, whatever, they’re socks; I bought another kind.

And then I discovered something about the new socks that I didn’t think was possible: they were too tight. I’d never had sizing problems with socks before. Sometimes the elastic died and they became too loose, but that was a wear and tear thing. I’d never managed to buy socks that required even a small amount of effort to put on. These felt fine once I was wearing them, but putting them on was more of a pain in the ass than I was willing to tolerate while putting on socks.

(That is, as you may guess, an area where I don’t have a lot of tolerance for being annoyed. Putting on socks should never be even a little annoying.)

Every so often, when I was in a place where I could buy socks, I’d go looking for that white whale style, and I could never find them. Making things worse, I couldn’t identify the logo on them, which seemed ridiculous– helping you identify the brand is literally the only purpose of a logo. And the other day I lost patience with the entire process after yet another trip to Target revealed that Target basically only carries Hanes now, and took a picture of one of the Good Socks and posted it to Twitter, thusly:

It took less than five minutes, because Twitter is awesome; that is Champion’s logo, but of a special no-longer-existing Target-specific Champion brand called C9. I hadn’t been able to find the socks anywhere because that logo only existed for Champion socks sold at Target, which it doesn’t do any longer.

It’s also upside down.

But Champion still makes socks, right? Surely the socks Champion makes under their own name aren’t inferior to the ones they were only making for Target.

I immediately ordered twelve pairs of Champion Men’s Double Dry Moisture Wicking Logo 6-Pack Crew Socks. And I’m about to throw out twelve pairs of the too-tight ones, because these new socks are the shit. If you have the patience to do so, look closely at that picture up top. See how they’re ribbed (for your pleasure, uhuhuhuhuhuh) along the long axis of your foot right along the arch? That shit is genius, and it makes the sock both fit better and feel more comfortable while it’s on, and the fact that the soles are double-padded too is just icing on the sock cake. They’re also double-reinforced at the toe and the heel, and while I suspect they’re a touch more expensive than other socks it’s certainly not bad enough that I’m going to notice it.

(I am not Googling “sock cake,” because that will make one exist.)

So, yeah. Throw out all of your white socks, buy as many as you need of these, and just toss them into your sock drawer with wild abandon, because you don’t need to match them anymore.


Let’s talk about that link for a second. I doubt anyone actually has, but you might have noticed that the frequency with which I’m linking to Amazon has gone up a bit around here recently. I have joined the Amazon affiliates program, so if you purchase something from their site through a link here I get a tiny piece of the sale. For example, someone read my review of Scarlet Odyssey and bought a book through that link. It made me twenty cents!

To be perfectly clear: this isn’t going to change what I think of anything; it’s going to take a hell of a lot of twenty-cent referrals before I hit the $10 threshold where they actually pay me, and I decided to go ahead and take my payment in gift cards, so any money I make from book referrals (which are most of what I review) through this site is going to go right back into buying books. It’s not worth it to me to fake enthusiasm for something I didn’t like in order to make a fiftieth of a gift card. It is worth it to occasionally put a link somewhere I might not have a few weeks ago, which is, for example, why the Monthly Reads post today has some links in it. For that matter, too, I have to make a certain number of sales in the first three months or they cut me out of the program, and that one copy of Scarlet Odyssey hasn’t quite done it yet. I also don’t know if they’re going to get pissy about referral links to my own books, so we’ll see what happens if people start buying books by me through affiliate links.

(See what I did there?)

If y’all think it’s important, I’ll throw a disclaimer at the bottom of any post that includes an affiliate link. I’m not sure it’s necessary, but I’m happy to do it if folks think I should. At any rate, that’s going to be the deal for the next little while, at least until I know whether they’re going to keep me or not.

In which I am real, real dumb and make dumb decisions like a dumb guy

It is known: I am a giant fat guy. I’m five feet ten inches tall and somewhat– I’m honestly not sure how much– north of 300 pounds. Every so often I get tired of being a giant fat guy and try to do something about it, with varying degrees of success, and generally a few months after trying whatever that was I end up fatter than I was when I started, which, frankly, is the main reason I haven’t tried to be less fat in a while.

But, Jesus, this quarantine is too fucking much. I’m barely leaving the house, because disease, and I’m getting zero exercise. I have never been much of a snacker, believe it or not; my issue is that I’ve never been a regular exerciser and I eat a lot at meals, but other than empty calories from pop I’ve not been a guy to eat a lot of sweets or snacks between meals.

I cannot run, and I will never be able to. My knees and legs are all fucked up, and even if I wanted to take up running it would be a terrible idea. I really enjoy swimming, but that would require a gym membership, which is, well, impossible right now, and the last time I tried the only place I could get into didn’t end up working out very well.

So … a bike? My wife and son have bikes. I could ride on a bike with my wife and my son! That would be a thing, right? Pay no attention to the fact that I haven’t been on a bike since I was, like, ten— I learned how to ride, mostly because my brother wanted to and I couldn’t yet and as the older brother I couldn’t allow him to know how to do something I didn’t know how to do– and I’m pretty sure once I knew how to ride on a bike I stopped doing it and that was the end of that. They say you can’t forget how; I don’t believe them.

Turns out that bikes that guys my size can ride can be really fucking expensive, and I fell down a hell of a rabbit hole today trying to order one. An anecdote, if you don’t mind: I drive a Kia Soul. I very much like my Kia Soul, which does everything I ask of it and is missing exactly zero features that I would like for a car I’m driving to have. However, if you read reviews of the Kia Soul from Car People, it will not do well, because car people are Car People and they frankly have vastly higher standards than I do for their cars.

Compounding this is that it turns out that bikes are a rather popular purchase right now, because it turns out I’m not the only person who is noticing that they are rather more gelatinous than they were in mid-March, so they’re sold out everywhere. And when you look at non-Amazon reviews of bikes I can both afford and find, they tend to be from Bike People, and I would like the Bike People to just tell me if the bike is a Kia or not so that I can move on with my life. I called an actual bike shop and talked to a dude for a bit, and he was super helpful but he also said that all of their lower-end bikes were sold and that the one he’d try to steer me towards given my circumstances was going to be a $1200 bike.

Which, no. I just spent just south of $400 on that giant red thing up there, because it’s getting good enough reviews from non-bike people that I think it’ll be okay. (The price aspect is interesting. All of the reviews that mentioned the price mentioned prices considerably lower than I can actually find this or any similar bike for anywhere.).

But, yeah. The Bike People? Jesus. All of the YouTube reviews of it from Bike People are basically “yes, this is technically a bicycle, but only if you replace these seventeen components of it immediately, and then take it apart and dip it in fairy dust and put it back together, then perhaps you could ride it a mile or two if circumstances required it,” and I’m like dude I’m probably going to abandon this idea in a month anyway I’m not spending $1200 on a lark.

Just tell me if it’s a Kia.

I will admit that I also ordered a new seat for it, on the spot, because … well, yeah, that all makes sense, and I want the seat to be as comfortable as possible, and it was $35 so fuck it. The seat will be here on Saturday. The bike … well …

Two different bikes gave me that nonsense upon being put in my shopping cart. I assume it’ll be closer to now than later; if it hasn’t shipped in a week I’ll just cancel it and move on with my life. I know Amazon is kind of slammed with coronavirus stuff right now, but if it’s in stock I’m pretty sure it’ll be here before fucking October.

I look forward to the odyssey it will require to get a bike helmet that will fit my enormous head. I can’t buy hats in stores, y’all. This will be fun.


5:46 PM, Friday, May 15: 1,439,231 confirmed cases and 87,184 Americans dead.

In which I announce a goal …

… one which I’m never, EVER gonna pull off.

My unread shelf has been out of control for months (pictured: not my unread shelf) and I have noticed I’ve begun stress-buying things lately; witness my investment in AirPods yesterday and the obscene amount of money I’ve poured into dice in the last week. I have, even considering how fast I read and the fact that I’m not currently leaving the house, far more unread books than I really should have right now.

In the interests of keeping my bank account solvent and my shelves from collapsing, to say nothing of the health of the people working in Amazon’s warehouses, I have decided I’m going to do my damnedest to not order any more books until I have cleared my unread shelf. I do have one currently in transit that I pre-ordered months ago (Daniel M. Ford’s Cheap Heat, out this week and ordered by me in December) but I’m not ordering anything new until my resolve breaks or I clear the shelf. I think it will be the second time in my adult life I have managed to do such a thing.

How long until I break this resolution, do you think?


12:00 PM, Tuesday, April 28: 990,135 confirmed cases and 56,475 Americans dead.

Saleswanking 2019, and Writing 2020

Don’t worry, this will be brief, because there’s not a whole damn lot to talk about: I sold exactly 114 books in 2019, 91 of which were in person and a whopping 23 on Amazon. I had no new releases of any kind this year. I intended to spend most of the summer broadening the places where my books were available (I went off KDP forever ago, so I’ve been Amazon-exclusive with no real benefits for it since then) and working on a new novel (I have three in various stages of not-finished) but the Ongoing Medical Calamity derailed the fuck out of that. I’ve written some microfictions and maybe a couple of short stories this year over at Patreon and that’s it. I went to … three cons, I think? Four? Kokomo-Con, InConjunction, ConGlomeration, and Hall of Heroes con. So four. I know I canceled at least two because of the Calamity, and right now I’m only scheduled for one in 2020– Indy Popcon, which was one of the two I cancelled last summer.

I said this yesterday, and let me repeat it: there is no risk– none– of the blog going anywhere, because it’s too important to my ongoing mental health even before you get to the part where I like writing here. But for the first time in several years I’m thinking about deliberately hitting pause on calling myself an independent author for a while. I’ve mostly been ignoring my books on here except for the occasional Station Identification post on the weekends and the static links on the right; I may as well put them back on KDP if I’m not going to do the legwork necessary to have them available all over the place. I don’t write a lot of fiction any longer because with everything going on in my life I haven’t had the mental space for it, and I require an enormous amount of headspace to be able to write fiction. Nonfiction? Blog posts? Dead easy. But I don’t like writing fiction, and I never have– what I like is having written fiction, which is an amazing high that unfortunately requires me to spend hours pulling teeth first. I think about writing fiction all day, every day, I just don’t actually do it.

It might be time to put it away for a bit and not think about it at all. I’ll either get my mojo back, which would be good, or I won’t, which really won’t be any different from now except for the guilt. My family’s health situation isn’t getting better anytime soon– there is no silver lining to this cloud and no light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s not depression talking, it’s unfortunate and inevitable fact– so the only thing to do is decide what to do about it. I can make a serious effort to reprioritize my fiction, which means finding some other things to put away, or I can put it away. I just need to decide which one I’m going to do.