Yet, Another Austin Fiasco

Today, I’m very frustrated with Austin. I live north of the city, close enough to be effected by their decisions. Yet, far enough outside their purview that I can’t vote on misleading propaganda. Usually, I try to steer clear of airing my political views, but this relates to so much more than politics. How about price gouging and monopolies? A taxi fare quote from the Renaissance Hotel to the Austin-Bergstrom Airport, an 18.4 mile trip — $95. That’s over $5 a mile, Compared to Uber and Lyft’s cost of around $1 a mile that is a significant jump in price.

I’m sure a lot of my American readers have heard of the recent troubles between Uber, Lyft and the City of Austin. After a little over a week of the community and surrounding areas suffering over the pullout of both companies from the city limits, several out of state companies attempted to fill the void.

Full disclosure: My husband quit his job to become a driver of both companies so that he might see his family more than 3 days out of the month. He was a truck driver for over a decade with 1 million miles of safe driving and was fingerprinted 2 yrs ago for work as a security guard. As a subcontractor for Uber, he was rated as one of their top drivers and earned the option to drive for their Select Services, up until the shutdown. So basically, he more than meets the requirements to chauffeur the visitor’s and public of Austin but can’t because the City hasn’t really decided how to implement their new rules.

Fare, an Arizona based company started negotiations last week and received the green light to launch operations and work within the Austin City limits. After paying for a multitude of adds for this weeks launch, they were notified today that the City had changed their mind, wanting to add further requirements to the already settled negotiations.

  1. They are requiring ALL drivers to be fingerprinted before they can operate inside Austin.
  2. They must shut down the app they had already launched until said fingerprints come back. A process that takes 7-10 days, sometimes longer.

The City of Austin has set up what they are calling a “Fingerprinting Event” starting Tuesday, May 17th thru May 19th. They promised to fingerprint over 10,000 drivers that lost their livelihood after Proposition 1 failed at the polls. That is 10,000 businesses that came to a halt with very little recourse because they were not employees, but sub-contractors. No unemployment compensation for them.

The truth: No fingerprinting will actually take place at this event. They are asking drivers to stand in long lines all day to fill out paperwork for the city to set an appointment – for a later date – that the driver’s may have the fingerprints processed. It will take 7-10 days from that date, which can be scheduled up to weeks in the future. It almost sounds like a way to scam these poor people who only want to pay their bills and take care of their families.

Drivers aren’t the only ones to suffer from this chaos. Public transportation in Austin is limited, which leaves little options for citizens who don’t have a car or can’t get a license because of a disability.

College students used Lyft and Uber to get around safely and at a reasonable price. Most students don’t work or only work part-time, how will they afford the exuberant prices offered by the taxi companies? Then you have those who made the choice to skip the expenses of a car and insurance so that they might survive on the minimal income they bring in from a job. They used the ride-sharing apps as a cheap alternative for travel to and from work. That option is now gone and they face the very real dilemma of resigning their position because of this lack of transportation. Travelers coming to town for events, have little to no options other than car rental to make their way through the city. Then you have those who used the services after a night on the town — drunk drivers anyone? No thanks.

To sum things up, I hope this fiasco is solved soon for the drivers, travelers and the citizens who all suffer because of decisions made – on their behalf and outside of their control – by others.


Affiliates and Thieves

I know pirating is a big issue with authors, and has been since nearly the inception of the e-book trade. As an author myself, I’ve ignored the download sites as nothing more than a nuisance in the past. My husband has even laughed at me on occasion because my biggest complaint was that they had a bad copy of my book, not that they actually were stealing it. Others might question my reasons for this, but my only defense is that the amount of legitimate downloads compared to pirated copies was not even a speck on the horizon.

As most know, retailers offer incentives to the public to promote their websites by allowing them to join what they call an affiliate program. The affiliate receives a small percentage of sales when customers follow a link from their website and then purchase an item. The idea behind it I believe is sound. A win–win if you will, for everyone.

What burns in my gut today though, is a trend I’ve just begun to notice in the industry concerning affiliate programs and pirating. Today alone I’ve come across two websites that offer my books as a free download, but also list a legit link to either Smashwords or Amazon. Both links are affiliate links. These type of links are easy to spot because they have additional references in them that are unusual to the website. In Smashwords case, it will be a ?ref=”name” at the end of the link.

So they are making money off my books, and stealing them? Do these retailers not monitor affiliates at all? That’s a disturbing thought, considering they are then linked to pirating by association. I don’t like the idea of thieves making money off my books period. As authors, we work months, sometimes years, to produce our work. I think we are due at least a token amount of respect for our hard work, and that is blatant disrespect in my opinion.

The thought that crosses my mind more abundantly than any other is this: Why do these websites offer both options? What incentive do they have to give a link to my book at an upload site? Are these pirating websites now offering incentives of their own to bring in customers? That’s not a question I myself can answer, but maybe someone with more research capabilities can find the truth. My only purpose in this post is to put the question out their, and make others aware of the possibility.

Like I said, I don’t begrudge others their affiliate links. Making legitimate money off of programs that authors opt in for is fair, in my opinion. In Smashwords case, they offer several choices for authors, one of which is an opt out option. So they’re not forced to participate. I myself, offer more of a percentage of my sales to affiliates because I consider it a type of advertising.

I don’t believe in throwing away the basket because of a few bad apples either. I want to make it clear, I’m a supporter of affiliate programs. The programs themselves are sound, they just maybe need to be monitored more closely.

Holidays and Family

All my life I’ve considered myself something more than ordinary. If someone told me I couldn’t do something then I set out to prove I could. Not really for their sake, but my own. In one thing I have and always will remain what some might call a traditional woman. My dad told me once I was born in the wrong time. While other girls dreams centered around a college and career my goals were much more simple, family.

My dream, a big family with plenty of rugrats running around.. I didn’t get the seven kids I imagined since a small child, but I came close with five. Being a mother was all I ever really wanted and my first husband did a great job of giving that to me before he passed away. Now my second husband shares in my adventures, both good and bad.

Throughout my life I’ve learned one valuable truth, family means everything. Whether they’re blood or not isn’t important. The great thing about family is it has no boundaries. Family goes beyond a simple bloodline it can be a friend, your spouse, or a child you’ve adopted in your heart. Family is who you love, not who you’re genetically linked too.

During this Happy Holiday season I wish the best for all and hope you remain safe as we move in to a new year. Even if you don’t celebrate any of the religious holidays like Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa you can still spend time with your loved ones.

I believe this time of year is more than what society has made it. It’s about family, a celebration of the life we share with our loved ones. I’ve lost many people throughout the years and though gifts are fun to receive, the greatest gift to me is my family and the life I continue to share with them. So no matter what you celebrate whether it’s Boxing Day, the Winter Solstice or some other religious holiday take a moment to remind those closest to you how special they really are.

Stay safe!

Choosing a Book to Read

I love reading in general. Romance of course is my typical read, but I do enjoy other genre. My favorite online hangout is twitter where I find new authors daily through the various tweets. I thought I’d share my process for picking books to read. For an easy generalization I’ve picked Amazon’s platform for this article.

My process:

The first thing I do is of course follow the link. After that I have a process I follow in choosing a new book to read.

  1. Book Cover – The idea of first impressions is key here. If the cover looks cheesy I will usually pass.
  2. Synopsis – This along with the cover is a very important market tool for authors. This tells us readers a little about the story and is a huge deciding factor on whether or not I buy.
  3. Price – For a new author I will never pay more than $4.99 for their book and that’s only with extenuating circumstances. I prefer $3.99 or less for an unknown. *
  4. Book Length – This goes hand and hand with pricing. If the book is 50 pages long and they’re charging $2.99 or more I will never buy it. **
  5. Reviews – There are two reasons I look at reviews. 1.) I will look for a 5 star review that gives more details on the story, using it like a more in depth synopsis. 2.) I look at the 1, 2 and 3 star reviews. I read each review noting what the complaints are. Things like: “I hate this book…” or any form of “I couldn’t even finish it…” automatically gets a No this wasn’t helpful vote from me. Things I’m looking for: An abundance of complaints involving formatting, spelling errors, wrong words used or continuity issues. These are my main pet peeves and I will pass on a book for any of these reasons.
  6. Look Inside – For an e-book this is the best option ever. It gives a reader a chance to sample a small amount of the author’s work for free. Then we get to make an informative decision and don’t waste time and money on something we wouldn’t be happy with. It helps if the author minimizes their front matter by shifting it to the back of the book. Most e-readers allow readers to access the table of content at any time so putting it in the back of the book is a win for everyone. Save all the flashy front matter for your print version.

Other factors:

While these factors will not stop me from buying a book they do show a certain amount of professionalism.

  1. Author page – I like to look at the author page reading the bios and taking a cursory look at other works they’ve written. Their twitter feed and any blog posts they have linked.
  2. Author’s webpage – A professional looking webpage goes a long way to bringing me back to an author. The first thing I go to is the bookshelf. If an author has a large list of books I like to see them separated in some way. Separations by genre or series are both good options. The other thing that drives me crazy: I want to see a buy link. Nothing worse than making your readers search for a book at retailers. You will lose potential customers this way.
  3. Author’s Blog – I know a huge emphasis is made on blogs, but honestly it’s the last thing as a reader that I look at. While a blog is helpful in building a following it’s not going to stop me from purchasing an author’s book if they don’t have one. Now let’s look at this from a different view: If I read a blog article from an author that I really liked I would be more likely to consider buying a book from them.


If they’re doing a free promo I will normally pick up the book and judge for myself on what kind of author they are. If it’s an author I’m familiar with 1-4 still applies.

*There is always an exception to every rule. If the book is priced to high, I’ll often look for another book of theirs that’s on sale. If I like their writing style I will go back and purchase the other book.

**Everyone has their opinions on e-book pricing, myself included. Since this post is based on my own opinions I will list those. I base everything on pages, but some sights don’t list page count. It’s generally accepted that 250 words = 1 page.

Less than a 100 pages = .99

100-200 pages = $2.99 or less

200+ pages = $3.99 or more

I don’t care what your name is, if the book is under 200 pages I won’t pay more than $3.99. For bigger named authors I’ve been known to pay as much as $7.99 for a book 200+ pages, but that’s rare. A perfect example is Sherrilyn Kenyon’s new book Styxx: 848 pages for under $8 is a steal. By the way that was an awesome book.


Halloween and Creepy Movies

Our Fright Night Fest

Tomorrow is Halloween a favorite holiday for horror enthusiasts. My oldest daughter and I both share an obsession for horror. We have a family tradition in our house that we have celebrated for years now. Each Halloween we go out and buy tons of candy put it in a big bowl and sit our butts in front of our big screen tv. No trick or treating for us.

I made the decision years ago that the stress and danger wasn’t worth allowing my kids to wander from house to house begging for candy. Each year I take them to a local carnival with games, face paintings, costume contests and hay rides to satisfy their driving need to dress up for just one night. We also try to find a local haunted house, something that has grown more difficult in recent years due to a lack of funding.

Halloween night in our family is celebrated with a horror movie marathon, a fright night fest if you will. It entails a list of our favorites from both the past and present.

Our lineup for this year’s fright night fest: We decided on Movies the majority has never seen before.

Psycho (1960) – A Phoenix secretary steals $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

An oldie but goody. Though this movie has been around for years my kids have never seen it so we found a copy of the original movie for our fright night fest.


Curse of Chucky
Curse of Chucky (2013) – After her mother’s mysterious death, Nica begins to suspect that the talking, red-haired doll her visiting niece has been playing with may be the key to recent bloodshed and chaos.

In my opinion the whole Chucky franchise has been overdone, but I got out voted by my own little monsters.


The Haunting in Connecticut 2
A Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013) – A young family moves into a historic home in Georgia, only to learn they are not the house’s only inhabitants. Soon they find themselves in the presence of a secret rising from underground and threatening to bring down anyone in its path.

This was my kid’s choice. While I generally like ghost stories I’ve never heard of this movie so have no opinion.


The Last Exorcism Part II
The Last Exorcism Part 2 (2013) – As Nell Sweetzer tries to build a new life after the events of the first movie, the evil force that once possessed her returns with an even more horrific plan.

The trailer for this movie prompted us to go back and get the first movie. It’s done along the lines of the Blair Witch Projects. I have to say I wasn’t really expecting the ending of the first movie. Horrible IMDB rating, but again kid’s choice.


Just for fun my family got together and voted on the creepiest movies of all times. Since we tend to be desensitized to horror in general it was a difficult process, but I think we did a decent job.

Dead Silence
Dead Silence (2007) – A widower returns to his hometown to search for answers to his wife’s murder, which may be linked to the ghost of a murdered ventriloquist.

I have a deep fear of anything doll or clown related. This movie scared the crap out of me.



The Ring
The Ring (2002) – A young journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone in a week of viewing it.

There was a unanimous vote 6/6 that this movie held a definite creep factor.



White Noise
White Noise (2005) – An architect’s desire to speak with his wife from beyond the grave, becomes an obsession with supernatural repercussions.

The idea of voices beyond the grave not only exist but can be picked up by certain electronic devices just left us a bit creeped out.


The Eye
The Eye (2002) – Originally titled Gin Gwai this is the Chinese version of the 2008 American movie by the same name. A blind girl gets a cornea transplant so that she would be able to see again. However, she got more than what she bargained for when she realized she could even see ghosts. And some of these ghosts are downright unfriendly. So she embarks on a journey to find the origins of her cornea and to reveal the history of the previous dead owner

We all six agreed to a high amount of creep factor when dealing with the ghosts from this movie. I have to say when it comes to horror/thrillers in most cases foreign films are just done better. American film makers tend to lean more toward gore than actual fear, which while still entertaining on some levels loses some of its spook appeal.

Two movies that stand out for me personally:

Black Christmas
Black Christmas (1974) – A sorority house is terrorized by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls and then murders the sorority sisters during Christmas break.

As a child I was obsessed with many horror/thrillers, but none left a lasting impression on me quite as much as this movie. For years it topped my list as the scariest movie of all time. Oddly enough I watched it again when the remake came out, a comparison if you will of old to new, but it didn’t affect me the same. I think it held such a huge impact on my childhood fears more because of the reality factor. Without a paranormal twist it left you wondering just how real something like this could be.

Mama (2013) – Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?

I found this recent thriller to have a decent combination of creep and entertainment without the slasher gore found in more modern films.