Category: reference

Policy on Product Reviews and Plugs

For some reason, I have been getting 3 or 4 requests per day to review some productivity product, service, or website. The requests are almost all extremely polite, professional, and the products almost always interesting. But with so many requests coming it, I figured it was time that I put up a post that I could point people to about my policy on product reviews and plugs. If you are not interested in this, you can stop reading now. If I’ve directed you here, please continue.

For the vast majority of the requests I get to review or plug a product, the answer, I’m afraid, is no. Why?

1. Time. I have a very limited supply of time, and like everyone, that supply dwindles with each passing day. After family, and the day job, my main priority, as far as time goes, is my writing. My writing almost always eats up the remaining time I’d have to do things like reviews products. I won’t review or plug something I haven’t had the time to investigate thoroughly, and I rarely have the time do that these days.

2. I am not a product reviewer. Let’s face it, my job is not reviewing products. I am a software developer by day, and writer and blogger by night. Strictly speaking, product reviewer is not in my job description.

For over a year, I had a book review column at InterGalactic Medicine Show, where I’d review a book per month on average. That was a paid writing gig, but I have it up because it was eating into my writing time too much. Bottom line: while I do write the occasional odd review, I don’t particularly enjoy that work, and would prefer to spend my time writing other things.

3. But you do occasionally review products. On occasion, I’ll review something here on the blog that I find interesting. Usually, it is something that I have been using myself long enough (and happily enough) that I think a review is worthwhile. These reviews are almost always written without a request. That is, no one is asking to write them. I’m writing them because I found something useful on my own. I can count on one hand the number of times over the last few years when I have reviewed something that someone asked me to reviews.

4. Ah, but what about Evernote, aren’t you their paperless ambassador? Yes, I am. But if you go back through the history (all of which is documented here on the blog), I was writing about how I used Evernote on my own before Evernote approached me and asked me to join their ambassador program. I should also point out that being an Evernote ambassador is not paid gig. They give me complementary Evernote Business account and that is something I would be perfectly willing to pay for myself.

5. So then what does it take for you to review and/or plug a product? Most products I have reviewed have been things I have found on my own. They are things in which I see a clear and obvious benefit over my current way of doing things. Let me emphasize that the benefit is clear and obvious to me. In almost every case, the product simplifies or automates something I was doing manually before. Some examples:

  • My FitBit made it painless to track my activity.
  • My Automatic Link made it painless and effortless to track my driving and mileage.
  • My Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300i made it effortless to scan documents to Evernote
  • Gina Trapani’s todo.txt made is easy for me to manage my to-do list in the way that I want to work.
  • RescueTime made it painless for me to track where and how I spend my time on the computer.
  • CrashPlan made it painless and effortless to ensure my data is backed up.

Consider that it takes time to test out a product, time to switch to a product, and more time to integrate a new product or service into your system. Only those that make these painless and simple, and have a clear and obvious benefit over what I am currently doing are potential candidates for a review.

How I Work, September 2013 Edition

I get asked with increasing frequency (and incredulity) how I manage to do everything that I do. One of the key things I do is attempt to automate those things that I find myself repeating. To that end, I thought it would be useful to have a reference post to point people to when this question gets asked. I do have several posts about how I do this thing or that thing, but I find that the way I work evolves and changes over time, and some of those older posts are now out of date1. So, consider what is contained in this post how I work as of September 2013. As things change, I’ll create a new post with a new date. I’ll link to the current version of the post in the sidebar. If you are ever curious how I work2, you can find my most recent methods there.

My computers and mobile devices

  • Home office: 27″ iMac (circa 2011) with a 1 TB external hard disk.
  • Laptop: Samsung Google Chromebook
  • Phone: iPhone 5
  • Tablet: iPad 2

Other gadgets I use regularly

  • Bose QuietComfort 15 noise-cancelling headset
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300i scanner
  • FitBit Flex

Frequently-used apps

  • Gmail. The hub of my communication system. I use it in Chrome on my iMac and Chromebook. On my iPhone and iPad I use the Mailbox app.
  • Google Calendar. The hub of my scheduling system. I use it in Chrome on my iMac and Chromebook. On my iPhone I use the Sunrise app.
  • Google Docs. The hub of my writing system. I use it in Chrome on my iMac and Chromebook. I rarely use it on my mobile devices.
  • Evernote. The hub of my paperless life. I use the Mac client on my iMac, the web client on my Chromebook, and the app on my iPhone and ipad.
  • Kindle App. Where I do the bulk of my paperless reading. I read books there, and also PDFs of my story drafts, or other stories I am reading for comment.
  • Audible App. Where I do the bulk of my reading while doing other things (like walking or chores around the house).

My workspace

I’ve posted pictures of my home office before, but the best current picture is the panorama shot I took for the header image of the blog.

Click to enlarge

What doesn’t show in this picture is the large bay window just to the right of the desk, or Kelly’s desk, which is behind mine, on the opposite side of the room. I don’t work in here as much as I used to.

Read more

  1. A topic for a post in and of itself, sometime in the future.
  2. I love Lifehacker’s How I Work series, and while this post is not modeled on that series, I am borrowing elements of what tends to show up there because it is a useful guide for what kind of information to provide here.

[Reference] What You Can Expect On My Twitter Feed

(This is one of my reference posts that I can refer people to when questions on the topic arises.)

If you have recently followed me on Twitter, or are considering doing so, this post describes some of what you might expect to find there. First thing’s first, I do not auto-follow. My Twitter feed is hard enough to keep up with as it is. I do follow feeds I find interesting, but I don’t follow someone automatically just because they followed me.

Common Tweets

Each time I make a blog post it is automatically announced on my Twitter feed:

I occasionally Tweet about what I am currently reading:

I also usually Tweet when some piece of writing of mine appears in the wild:

Less Common Tweets

I sometimes tweet pictures of what I happen to be doing, but I try to do this sparingly:

And I occasionally post trivial milestones:

Questions and Discussion

I do response to questions about areas in which I have some knowledge or expertise (writing, technology, paperless lifestyle), and I do carry on discussions in Twitter, mostly with people I know.


I retweet those things that I find interesting. On very rare occasions, I’ve been asked to retweet something on behalf of someone else. I consider those on a case-by-case basis. If  you are unsure of whether I’ll retweet something, you can always ask, but I’d use my history of what I’ve tweeted in the past as a guideline for the kind of things I’m likely to tweet in the future. Some examples of the kinds of things I retweet:

Scheduled Tweets

I have a very busy schedule, what with a full time day job, two little kids, blogging, and lots of freelance work writing fiction, nonfiction, and book reviews. In order to maintain a “virtual presence” even when I’m not online. I use Buffer to schedule tweets. Usually, I only schedule the type of tweets that fall into the first class of “Common Tweets” above. On rare occasions, I may buffer other types of tweets. I mention this because sometimes a scheduled tweet goes out and I get some replies, to which I can’t respond right away. I do try to respond to these as soon as I can.


My tweets are automatically relayed to Facebook so if you are friends with me on Facebook, you are likely to see the same thing there that you see in my Twitter feed.

FAQ: Will You Read My Story/Refer Me To Your Agent/Help Me Write A Query Letter, Etc.?

It would seem that I have reached the stage in my writing career1 where I am receiving more and more questions about becoming a writer, selling stories, getting agents, and all of the other stuff that I imagine many of my more senior2 writer friends have had to deal with for some time now. Generally, I empathize with the people asking the questions, although I am suspicious of a certain breed that seems to believe there is some sort of short cut or magic formula to getting published.

For the record, once, very early in my writing career, when I was a junior in college back in 1993, I sent a story I wrote, unsolicited, to an author I admired at the time. That author was Piers Anthony. I had no idea that this was Not Something You Did. But Mr. Anthony was gracious and understanding and wrote me back with a fairly detailed critique of what I’d sent him, telling me that while the story was not publishable, my writing was promising and I’d likely be published some day. Looking back on that event, nearly 20 years ago, I am horrified that I committed such an obvious sin, and utterly astounded at Piers Anthony’s even-tempered and helpful response. But you can bet I never made that mistake again.

I preface with this story so that folks reading this who have committed a similar sin, unknowingly, won’t feel completely foolish. I’ve done it, too. That said, I learned quickly the rules of the road and for the next 14 years, I worked hard3 to become a professional science fiction writer. Now, it seems, I am getting similar requests to what Piers Anthony and many of my other writer-friends must be inundated with pretty regularly. And so this post in an attempt to answer the most frequent questions that I get, so that I may direct all future inquiries to a consistent set of responses.

1. Will you critique my story?

Sorry, but no. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I write part-time. This time is limited by two main factors: (a) a full-time job that keeps me busy; (b) a family that also keeps me busy. In addition to my fiction writing, I also write some nonfiction, like my book reviews for InterGalactic Medicine Show. I have to spend time reading books for those columns. And then, of course, there is time to do my own reading. Whatever is left–and there is often little time–is for my own writing. There just isn’t time for me to read and critique other people’s stories.
  2. I believe that writing and critiquing are two entirely different skill sets. Being good at one does not necessarily mean being good at the other. I think I have gotten handle on writing short fiction, for the most part, but I still think I have a long way to go when it comes to critiquing other people’s stories.

There are exceptions, but they are few and far between. They almost exclusively include a small group of other professional writers whose opinions I trust and who seem to find my critiques of their own work helpful. Even in these cases, the number of critiques are few and far between.

2. Will you tell me how to get an agent? Can you recommend yours?

I can’t tell you how to get an agent. The reason is that I have no idea. I can’t recommend mine because I don’t have one. I am a short fiction writer and in the world of science fiction, an agent is not required for short fiction sales. From what I understand from friends who have agents, there are generally two ways of getting them: (1) Research and find one that represents the kind of fiction you write; (2) write short fiction, sell some stories, win some awards, and wait for an agent to contact you.

Read more

  1. Such that it is.
  2. In experience, not necessarily in age.
  3. On and off.

Guest Posts and Site Advertising Policy

[This post is part of my series of reference posts that I can point people to later when the subject comes up. I’ve been getting quite a few requests lately for people wanting to provide content for the site or pay for ads on the site. This represents my policy on both these items.]

Guest Posts

At present, I do not accept unsolicited guest posts and articles for this site. All of the content here is generated internally. I may, on occasion, invite someone I know to write a guest post for the blog, but in each of these cases I explicitly invite someone to write a post. If I don’t know you, if we have never met, and if you are wondering whether I accept guest posts or articles for this site, you can safely assume the answer is no.

Link Exchanging/Sharing

Recently, I’ve been getting requests to participate in “link exchanges.” I do a lot of reading online. When I discover something I find interesting enough, I’ll write about it, usually linking back to the original post. I do not participate in link exchanges for the sole purpose of building followers or broadening reach.


At this time, I do not put advertisements of any kind on this site. This includes paid links to other sites.

Book review policy

[This post is part of my series of reference posts that I can point people to later when the subject comes up.]

I review books both here on this website as well as for science fiction magazines and other science fiction venues. Books that I review on my blog are not always current books. Books that I review for other venues are current and tend to fall in line with the release of the books being reviewed.

If you are interested in sending me a book, please contact me at the following email address for information on where to send it:

jamie at

Before sending me a book for review, please consider the following items:

  1. This site averages between 2,500 – 3,500 visitors/day, many of whom are science fiction readers.
  2. I only have the capacity to review between 15-20 books/year.
  3. Sending me a book for review does not guarantee it will be reviewed. I will, however, do my best to post a list of the books I receive in a given month.
  4. I do not review self-published books. There are simply too many traditionally published authors that I do want to read and my supply of time is limited.
  5. I generally review science fiction or non-fiction books about science fiction. Sending me books on other subjects lowers (but does not rule out) chances for review.
  6. I am open to reviewing short story collections and anthologies in addition to novels and non-fiction.
  7. Want to know what I read? Find out here.
  8. Want to know what I’ve reviewed? Find out here.
  9. Yes, I will accept electronic versions of books for review if they are in either Kindle or iBook format.
  10. Sending me a book 2-3 months prior to publication helps me slot a potential review to coincide with the release of the book.

If you have any questions about this book review policy, please feel free to contact me at the email address listed above.