The Death of eBay

 

After people bid on items and then backed out after winning got me to asking why.

eBay enjoys success for two main reasons.  One, much like Amazon, the service makes it easy for people to shop.  Within moments of a simple search with the ‘buy it now’ filter enabled, people can find what they are looking for, and it is already sorted with the lowest prices first.

After a quick look at their ratings and possibly the shipping time, a few clicks later, the item is purchased, and you are done.

This might be what saves them from demise.

Q. Why do you think they would die?

eBay started with the premise of an auction.  This is not an auction for new items, but old.

‘Old,’ as in items that have been around for a very long time and usually passed through the hands of several owners, possibly for generations.

These auctions allow people to part with ‘treasures’ that were once treasures of someone else.  ‘Treasures’ are emotional purchases.   Allow me to explain or, as Ricky Ricardo used to say to Lucy, ‘You got some Splaining to do.’

My grandparents had this cheesy clock on their mantel that had a faux fireplace in it.  That clock intrigued me as a child.  I was told that they would ‘will it to me.’

As a five-year-old at the time, I had no idea what that meant, I just remember that at some time in my life it would be mine.  Well, it never happened.  Sad, I know, but there on eBay you can find that same clock, which is ‘very old’ now in different states of disrepair.

My only reason for thinking about spending money on it would be as a reminder of my grandparents every time I saw it.  Those types of purchases take you back to sometime in your life that hopefully was pleasant.   I am assuming that one would not purchase or own something that brought them back to a horrible time in their life.

eBay recently succumbed to the taxing authority, where Sales taxes are now assessed on all purchases.  If I sell an item for $100 and then out of state shipping is $30, and…now they collect a tax on it, the person buying it is looking at $140.  Rounded.  This happened, and the person backed out of the deal when they saw the final price tag.  Can you blame them?

eBay is about getting a good deal, not spending tons of money on taxes and shipping.

Working this in reverse eBay takes a percentage of the sale price the seller gets less than the $100, has to have an item that is worth more than the $100 and go through the trouble of listing, packaging and managing the transaction.

The taxing authority is the beneficiary of your work or your purchase, and I am sure eBay cut a deal with them to go through the trouble of collecting and remitting the tax, so eBay makes more money from the purchase.

My sales on eBay have all but stopped because of this and I would imagine that others who sell on eBay as a hobby or business have seen the same types of changes.

Here is what I think needs to happen.

Once an item is no longer ‘new,’ they should not be allowed to charge sales tax on it again and again and again.  That is absolute bullshit!

I would encourage you ebayers and, for that matter, antique mall shoppers and sellers to write your congressmen a letter objecting to this practice.

The problem with taxes is they only go up; they never go the other way.  States and other taxing agencies will tell you how much your tax dollars help, but in truth, they just rob the taxpayers of funds.  Municipalities, much like you and I, need to budget their dollars like you and I do.

The more they make, the more bloated and inefficient they become.  Taxes choke businesses, and in the end, it is you and I that pay the price.

While eBay resembles Amazon more and more, I suspect that soon you will find other auction sites or people figuring out ways to market their ‘treasures’ not using eBay.

We the people need to push back, and it is past time.

Re-press this post or forward it if you are like me and happen to enjoy shopping for Trinkets and Treasures.  Yes, that is going to be a business name for such artifacts.

If you know of such places, please let me and others know.  The system only seems to work for the government.  The way they waste your money, they do not deserve it.  Some things should not be taxed, and I happen to think old tchotchkes should be exempt from further taxation.

My proposal will be this; you collect sales tax if you offer new items where you have in quantity, which is indicative that it might be a business.  If, on the other hand, it is an actual auction, there should be no taxes.  That is also true of flea markets, antique malls, and yes tailgate sales where like-minded people gather to swap stories, tell jokes, and yes, trade junk.   We need to get some common sense back in our government, and it starts with you the people telling them enough is enough.

Folks, they work for you, we are not a serf class. Push back or be plowed under.

Much Love -TW

The Death of Alexa!

You can take control of your environment, do it!

I did it; I killed her!

Ok, I pulled her plug, removed her source of power; I disabled her ability to distract me.
As we sit in our homes worried that some sneaky Made if China virus will attack us, do we really need more distractions? If you are like me, you are a writer. We create worlds and characters and all sorts of things, including widgets for solving complex problems. Do we really need the constant distractions from mechanical things advertising stuff to us?

I think back to when I put in my first phone. Wow, that was some time ago, but I still remember it. Shortly after I paid to have it installed along with gas, water, and electricity, there was the phone. Long before cable and the internet. During dinner, your favorite show on TV or…something more intimate the thing would ring. This was a time long before answering machines. There was no screening of calls back then, you either ignored it or picked it up. Yes, there was no caller ID, either.

There are you paying damned good money each month for people to have a way to bother you.

Today we have smartphones, tablets, and yes, Alexa, all sitting there along with your computer just waiting to distract you.

Turn it off!

Whatever machine you are using to write with, disconnect it from the internet. Take all the other stuff and remove it from your office. Put a do not disturb sign on your door. Be grouchy if someone ignores that sign, they will stop soon enough. This is your time to create. Don’t let the spoilers of your creations invade your space.

A word of caution, don’t do this too much. Set aside a few hours that you intend to be away from the world. Give fair warning that unless the place is on fire, don’t bother you. After that, be available to those that love you, or they may not like you too much longer.
The point I am making is, you can control your environment if you so choose to do so. Often writers come up with excuses for why they did not get something done. If research is your thing, when you hit that bump in the road, make a note ***research this*** and move on.

As we push through this time of uncertainty, don’t allow this opportunity to go to waste. Write and live in that other world. I promise you will find it liberating.

Much Love -TW

Know the Rules, and Break Them!

Make it your story.

As writers, we are ever cognizant of the rules.

From show don’t tell to use simple sentences, we have all heard them.  There are even books on the subject.  “Shocking!”

One of my readers contacted me to tell me that ‘big’ words threw him out of the story.  My first response was, ‘only in my head, of course, was’  “bless your heart.”

That begs the question, do we dumb our writing down to appeal to the masses?  Is the reading public getting dumber?

Personally, I would rather lift people up than encourage them to read at a fifth grade level as adults.  It used to be that we would write for a seventh-grade level which is still insane but, to lower our standards to a fifth-grade level, one has to wonder.  Why are companies hiring from other countries instead of America?  Could it be that we are saying it is ok to stagnate at a fifth grade level of reading?

Here is another rule. ‘Simple sentences work best.’ Pro Writing aid will tell you many things, including identifying such sentences.  To me, this rule also has to do with the pacing of your story.  We want people to turn the page, not struggle over complex sentences.  Does that hold true for words like perpetuity?

Should we not endeavor to leave people a little more educated than when they found us?  Kindle makes it so damned easy to look up a word.  Personally, I rejoice when I read a word that I have not heard.  Possibly that is a quirk but I will own it.

As a child, I kept a dictionary close and looked up every word that I did not know.  I used a word in my second-grade class that the teacher called me on.  I mentioned that my sibling was obstinate.  She peered down over her long nose through her poorly fitted readers and pointed her crooked finger straight at me. “Do you even know what that word means?” She crowed.

“Stubborn, pig-headed, inflexible.”

This person was not impressed.  This individual should have retired years ago but ‘loved’ kids. PFFT!

I was ‘that’ child in school.  The precocious child who used words better suited for late teens, possibly college kids.  When you read, you tend to have a respectable vocabulary.

I wrote in a previous blog about how you get a glimpse into the heads of the author by reading what they wrote.  This is especially true for children and ‘stories.’

An astute teacher can glean much from those short stories, including trouble at home.

I learned the rules.  I know them, so now I break them with impunity.

Thunder over the water sounded like two pirate ships in a heated battle; before one of them would meet Davy Jones.  The crusty old captain was not going down without a fight.  His younger rival had studied him, and knew what his moves might be.  This was the first time a woman would lead men into battle, and she was untested.

Her red hair blew about her, as the acrid odor of gun powder filled their noses. The splinter of wood sounded like the thunder itself, as the mainsail was the first casualty of the battle.

Susan saw the story in her head as she sat on the screened-in porch watching lighting dance in the clouds well in the distance.

Her mother was due home at any moment.  She could see down the mountain road and there were no lights from any cars.  In fact, there had been no traffic for what seemed hours.

A chill caught her attention as the winds from the impending storm blew through the screen, with a whistling sound that reminded her of the sounds coming through the open canopy of her father’s aircraft.

Never start a story with the weather… Hmmm, I think that start gets your attention.  This open or prologue took less than three minutes to concoct.

  • Who is Susan?
  • Where is her mother?
  • How old is she?
  • What about her father?
  • He is/was a pilot. Where does the story take place?

While allowing the reader to do some of the work, we the writer have this picture in our mind.  We know it is a cabin perhaps, in the woods may be up a mountain next to a lake left over from the glacial days.  We know that Susan has an imagination and pirates play into it.

I like strong women and red-haired women at that.  Wonder why?

Know the rules and then write the damned story.  Make it your story.

Comments?  I love to hear from you as always.

Much Love -TW

 

Is Linux the Answer?

Is Linux a threat to Apple or Microsoft?

 

Hello my friends, I hope you are having a great start to yet another week!

Many out there in the writing community are truly starving artists.  I say that because they feel like they must have a state of the art computer and all the great software to accommodate their writing.

I don’t like excuses.

If you want to do something badly enough, you will find a way.

Tonight I wanted to tell you about what you can do with an older laptop that still functions, but just possibly, it is Windows 7 and does not have the spiz to go to Windows 10.

I recently took my laptop and cloned the hard drive to a new SSD drive.  My trusted HP with an I3 processor was destined for the shelf when it occurred to me that an SSD drive might breathe some new life into it.

A three-minute boot-up time went to thirty seconds.

Applications that would take forever to launch, now open almost instantaneously.

While it is outside the scope of this blog to go into the different types of SSD drives, the ones I bought are three-layer and a Terabyte for under $100.00 US.   ‘Don’t buy used.’  The care and feeding of SSD drives are different from regular drives. For instance, you do not ever run defrag on them.

Today I met an old friend for lunch who had upgraded their laptop.  Handing me the old one I was told the operating system was messed up.  This too was an I3 HP with 6 gigs of ram.

Ok, I have been dying to play with Ubuntu so…Here is where the story gets good.

Taking the hard drive out and tossing it into the recycle bin after it fell onto the cement once or a dozen times, I replaced it with a new Tera Byte SSD drive.

Downloading Ubuntu for FREE…I burned it onto a DVD ISO file and went to work.

Booting from the DVD, in no time the software was loading away into RAM.

A little history of me.

I was working with computers before the PC was truly a thing.  Home computers were unheard of and the Radio Shack TRS 80 was just released for around $5K

Bill Gates was buying DOS for $5,000 from a person in Washington State, and Steve Jobs who I met, was a criminal, making and selling devices in his garage that would defraud the phone company out of revenue from long distance calls.

Fast forward a few years.  I do forensic computing and on rare occasions, can be sucked into assisting companies with infrastructure and so on.  Truthfully, I want you all to buy my books so I can just write and entertain you…

Ok, that is not the total truth as many of you are already buying my novels.  I need one of them to go viral.  Tell a friend… 🙂

Ok, enough about me…Why am I going on about Ubuntu?

I am a PC person, I have been with DOS 1.0….  Someone at Microsoft figured out that all of their applications should be intuitive and of course that came with the invention of the WYSIWYG  …and, of course, the GUI.

While I think they got the idea from XEROX, who tried to re-coop their entire development cost in the sale of one of their computers, I digress.  If memory serves, some college kids came up with the GUI and the mouse, and Bill went and made a deal or something.  Not sure how he managed to get the rights to it.  Possibly becuase it was open source he just took it.  Who knows…

Anyway, Steve and Apple finally came around after his run at NeXT Step.  That is how I met him as I supported the NeXT Step computer and OS for years.  Steve has always charged too much for his products but, in spite of that they still took off.  I think it was the iPhone that was the secret of his success.

Those two giants own the industry until Linux came about.  Linux or Ubuntu looks a lot and feels a lot like Apple.  Unlike Apple, I have about $100 invested in an old laptop that is very functional with Linux and several free apps.  From Libra Office to a French program I just downloaded for writing novels called Plume Creator.  For a free program, this thing looks pretty doggone good!

With the SSD drive, I opened the lid and hit enter and it was ready to go.

eBay has older laptops on it all of the time for minimal amounts of dollars. My other HP I3 processor laptop I upgraded to Windows 10.  It loads and is ready in thirty seconds.

When this laptop that I am talking about was new, it sold for about $400.  Linux based OS with open source apps is a super way for anyone who can’t afford a newer machine and $400 or so for Office to get going.

Yes, you can load Linux on a regular hard drive and still have a functional computer.  Why?  Invest in an SSD and WOW!

Had I not had experience with Apple, the Linux OS might have been a little challenge but honestly, it looks and acts so much like a MAC it is scary.  I, in fact, read that you can run Linux on MACS.  I have a MAC desktop I am seriously thinking about putting one of those SSD drives and loading Linux on it.  This thing has like 32 gig of Ram and a nice video card.  Goodwill and other thrift stores have these things as well.  If you can spend less than $100 and get a fast computer for writing and such, why not?

I would love to know about your experience. If you are a Linux user let, us know any hacks you might have found. By ‘us’ I really mean me but, I will share it… 🙂

 

Much Love -TW

 

 

 

Are you writing For Free?

Are you tired of spending four hours on query letters?

 

I stood in front of a group of writers and told them the following…

It is tough to get the attention of an agent because everyone in the world from Grandmothers to third graders think they can write.  Many of those same folks Query agents, creating a slush pile that may or may not get the attention it deserves.

Days later, I was told I should not have stated the ‘facts’ as I discouraged writers.  Some of those in that group might have been those ‘writers.’

“Yeah, so what?  I didn’t tell them not to write, I told them why it is so hard to get an agents attention.” The Jack Nicholson line played through my mind as this person was genuinely upset with me.

“You can’t handle the truth!”  I deal in reality, and I have no illusions about the craft of writing.

How do you sugarcoat the truth?  Should you?  No.  If you have cancer you need to know you have it, what is it going to take to cure it or, you should work on your bucket list before you are bedridden.

It is perfectly ok to get inspiration from others.  When you talk about querying agents just possibly, you should run your work by others in the group for some fact checks.  Did people who you are not related to like your writing?  Did those same people tell you how to make it better?  Did they treat you like your mother might?  “Oh, honey this is the best thing ever!”

I deal in reality.  I write in fiction and fantasy, but in life, I deal with ‘what is.’

I am not going to lie to people.  If you intend on your novel being on the bestseller list, you must be exceptional.  ‘Exceptional’ is subjective.  Your book must not only be extraordinary, but the subject matter must be timely.  One day the clearance racks at Half Price Books will be loaded with 50 shades as that will no longer be the shiny penny. Harry Potter books will line the shelves of clearance books.

It happens; Cussler, Ludlum, and Brown are all easily found on the clearance racks.  Movies that sold millions of tickets are on blue ray, sitting in the clearance section.

Attending one writer’s conference after another, you meet all kinds.  Hundreds attend, and there are all kinds. From the super hubris to the serious introvert, they walk among us.  They are there because they feel they can write.  Maybe they can, and perhaps they can’t.

KU or kindle unlimited is an excellent repository for their attempts at conjugating a verb or in extreme examples, using a noun and a verb in the same sentence.   The winner in this slush pile of reading material is Jeff Bezos.

Therefore, here are some more facts for you to consider.

If I have a ‘one of a kind’ item, say a rare coin minted for Caesar and maybe that coin was a ‘double strike’ meaning the person making it hit it twice to get an imprint, causing two distinct images to appear, it would be worth a ton of money.

If on the other hand that were the preferred method of making their coinage back in the day, to keep it unique, the coin would not be a rare antiquity.  It would be much like our pennies today, just old.

KU is training the reading public to value our work as the American Penny.  For a few dollars a month, an avarice reader can consume several books.  To the reader they feel as if it is free, ergo when they see eBooks for sale, they will most probably look at KU first for a substitute.

Jeff gets the ‘subscription,’ you provide the material, and those readers enjoy the fruits of your labor free of charge.  If you ask them for the favor or a review they won’t even do that, as they are too busy reading the next free book.

It is not their fault.  There are providers and consumers.  They are programmed to consume. Until you put pen to paper, and spend four or in some cases thirty years, creating a novel to have people read it for free, you just don’t know.

To have your novel on KU, Amazon has exclusivity. You cannot make it electronically available anywhere else as long as it is on KU.  Now you can make a print version of it available, but, not an e-version.

Who do you think is going to spend $25 for a print version, when they can read it for free?

Printing a book adds ten or more dollars on average to the cost.  Amazon only pays 60% royalties on printed books, meaning you make less money when they buy a printed novel than an e-book.  Buying Create Space, they have taken the competition away, thus making it harder for the creators, ‘us’ to make money from our work.

The bottom line is this.  If you are writing to get rich, leave your day job, and be the next Hemmingway or Cussler, you may have missed your opportunity.

Those who make money in this game are the people selling services.  Creating the ‘perfect’ cover or editing your book so it is ‘perfect.’

Attending conference after conference, you see hundreds if not thousands of people who all have the desire to be the next ??? Whatever.

Recently I sent some work to an editor.  I was curious.  This young woman holds herself out there as a professional editor.

Using the Chicago style manual as the standard, she formatted my manuscript, put a few commas in and took a few out. She contextually made the story different in meaning from what it should have been.  She did not have the wisdom and history to understand that what I wrote, and what she created were different. I could have gone back and forth with her, but she would have been the beneficiary, and I the SME, (subject matter expert) the teacher.

Discouraging a writer is not the intent of this blog.  Keeping it real is.

  • Write to escape.
  • Write for the passion.
  • Write because it means something to you.
  • Write to have something you enjoy reading.
  • Write to keep your mind agile.
  • Write to be happy.
  • Write to work out your frustrations.
  • Write to entertain.
  • Write because you can.
  • Don’t write because you are confident that your writing is the best in the world. That millions will be waiting with baited breath for you to submit it to some editor or agent.
  • Don’t write solely for pecuniary interests.
  • Go to the writer’s conferences and groups.  I have, and I genuinely like most of them.
  • Go find your tribe, and enjoy the friendships you will undoubtedly make.
  • Don’t trade life for days and weeks staring into a screen waiting for those magic words to fill the screen.
  • Carry a notepad to jot down ideas as you ‘live’ your life.

If you write and think that this one will give you financial independence, save your time and purchase a lottery ticket.  After you have paid the ‘stupid tax’ of a dollar, go fantasize about what you will do with all of those millions when you win.  Too Harsh?

The truth is this, most people who publish a manuscript online might make $10 the first year.  I have over 30 novels out there.  Last year, 2018 is the first year I had to pay taxes on what I made selling books.  That number for those of you who don’t know is 600.  I made over $600 in 2018. Bezos, Corker, and other etailers made the real money.

Take care when you pay money to someone to fix your manuscript.  Many out there only make money by selling services to hopeful writers.  As writers we are blind and emotionally invested.  ‘This is going to be the best…fill in the blank!’

Since Amazon and other ebook sellers devalue what we do, and set the stage so the reader believes what we do has no value, selling your book means you have to create the next Harry Potter or Christian Gray.  Since that has been done, maybe Christian Potter should be your goal.

A magical interlude between a billionaire sex-starved wizard who blows fairy dust up young girls bottoms to make them ‘Sparkle.’

No, wait…

Here is the next bestseller…

A magical interlude between a trailer trash wizard, and grandma.  Tony the wizard blows fairy dust up old women’s bottoms to make them young again.  Charging them their life force after one year of living like a queen, the wizard trades that soul to the devil for more magical powers which elevate his status as a result.

After many women die by unknown means, a detective from a magical province in Mexico is called in to use his gifts to find the murderer.  

The wizard tries to escape the shaman, but his magic sleuthing dragon is hot on the trail. Unbeknown to Tony, he leaves an evil residue behind him, much like breadcrumbs, Slinko the dragon is hot on his trail.

 

Much Love -TW