Paid Advertising on Social Media

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social-media-management-1Paid advertising on social media is a tricky beast.

OK, let’s just be blunt – for the purposes of this post, “social media” means Facebook and Twitter. And let’s be even more blunt – don’t even bother with paid advertising on Twitter. Save your money, flush it down the drain, or – if you really must do something with it – send it my way. It’ll do you more good. At least I will say something nice about you for it!

I’ve worked with paid tweets on Twitter over three businesses now. It’s not so much that the results have been poor. It’s that the results have been nonexistent. That’s right: zero, zilch, nada – not a damn thing. Morgon and I experimented a fair amount with them and nothing worked at all.

With that said… I do think that someone with a larger Twitter following could see something from it. Even then, however, I suspect that the ROI would be atrocious. The short answer with Twitter is simple. Don’t waste your money.

Paid advertising on Facebook, on the other hand, has provided results. The ROI is not fantastic, but it’s been better than some other advertising we’ve done. The thing about Facebook’s paid advertising, however, is that you have to be smart about how you use it.

The main reason I think Facebook is more successful than Twitter on this front is because Facebook gives you – the user – far more control. Facebook actually gives you a lot of options. Too many options, in some ways. But what really makes it usable is the controls they give you for ad targeting. Specifically, Facebook gives you three kinds of control that Twitter simply doesn’t.

First, Facebook lets you target ads locally – not just locally, but hyper-locally. I can target ads to a country, state, or city. Nice, right? Or I can target one particular zip code. Or I can even give it a specific address and a radius around that address. For a local business this is phenomenal. I’ve seen research that shows that, on average, 80% of martial arts students pick a dojo within 3 miles of their home. So when I advertise my dojo on Facebook, I target that advertising to a three mile radius of the actual facility. It means I’m not wasting money on ads hitting people a continent away who would never possibly become students anyway. Hyper-local advertising is great.

Second, Facebook lets me specifically target ads to people who have already liked my page. Bonus: it gives me access to a secondary target group: people who are friends with people who have liked my page. This works great for boosted posts on Facebook. Fans of the page like the post early. Then their friends see it in their feed – and Facebook shows them that their friends have already liked the post and/or the page. It does this by name – you get a nice little marker “Russell Newquist and 8 others liked this post.” Preselection is extremely useful in marketing.

Third, Facebook has a lot of information about its users – and it lets you use that in ad targeting. For example, if I’m advertising a youth martial arts class, I can specifically target that ad to Facebook users who are parents. You can target ads in many other ways as well: age, gender, relationship status, language. I’ve had less luck targeting people by “interests,” but the feature is there.

These are just a few ways that I’ve used Facebook’s paid advertising successfully. There’s a lot there to work with – and someone smarter than me can probably make better use of it. I’ve also found that I get far better results for my dojo than I get for my books. However, I suspect that much of that comes from not having yet figured out how to maximize the available features for book sales.

Twitter has some middling location targeting features, and some middling user targeting features. But in the end, it has nothing like this. One partial reason is because Twitter simply doesn’t have this kind of information on its users in the same way that Facebook does. But another reason is that they’re not using what they have anywhere near as well. Is it any wonder Twitter’s stock price continues tanking?


Lyonesse Open Submissions – Holiday Stories!

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We’re now only a few stories away from meeting our launch goals for project Lyonesse – so please keep sending them in! In addition to our general call for submissions for Lyonesse, we are also looking for science fiction and fantasy short stories specifically themed around the holidays of New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Submissions should follow the previously laid out Lyonesse submission guidelines.

  • Science fiction or fantasy short stories of roughly 3,000 to 20,000 words.
  • Previously unpublished works.
  • There is no theme – topics are wide open.
  • This project is not specifically superversive. However, superversive stories are preferred.
  • The payment model for this project is royalty based. However, the model is somewhat unique. Details will be provided upon acceptance of stories. We expect this project to be able to at least provide payment comparable to old school short-fiction magazines (ie, within the range of $0.03 to $0.05 per word). In fact, we think it will eventually do considerably better than that. However, this is an experimental project and this is not guaranteed.
  • Stories that are part of a larger world or series that you’re developing are perfectly fine – even if previous or later stories are not published through us.
  • Authors whose stories are accepted will also have opportunities to advertise previous, current, or up and coming works as part of this project.
  • Submissions should be in Word format (doc or docx is fine).
  • At this time we’re ONLY looking for submissions for this particular project – but we will be opening up for more in the very near future.
  • E-mail submissions to submissions@silverempire.org.
  • Please specify that your submission is for Lyonesse!

Post Traumatic Stress – SAMPLE CHAPTER

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Since my first novel, Post Traumatic Stress, is finally nearing completion, it’s time to share a sample chapter. This chapter is from roughly the middle of the book. A bit of context:

Soldiers always bring demons home from war with them. But when Michael Alexander returned home from Afghanistan, literal demons followed him home. Michael must stop their reign of terror. The Army can’t decide whether to lock him up or recruit him. Meanwhile, his not-quite-father-in-law carries his own old war secret, and Michael must resolve the issues that sent him to war in the first place.

The following chapter takes place about midway through the book. It’s a tad light on the urban fantasy elements, but it makes up for that with a lot of fun.


The six cylinder, three point six liter turbo charged boxer engine let out a deep growl as Michael pressed the gas pedal to the floor. An all wheel drive system and four fat contact patches on eighteen inch tires helped transfer most of that power straight to the ground. Even so, the tires squealed for a moment on the wet pavement before they stuck.

The country roads just outside the Covington estate weren’t built for high speed traffic. The hills and trees impeded visibility and provided plenty of obstacles that the narrow, winding roads made it difficult to avoid. Fortunately, Michael had spent his teenage years driving these roads at a far higher speed than sanity would dictate. Even more fortunately, none of the neighbors seemed to be out on the road this late in the evening.

The bumps and potholes jostled them around but the 2002 Porsche Carrera 4 Turbo stayed locked to the pavement. Michael kept his eyes just as firmly fixed on the road. Through unspoken agreement, Peter watched for the Land Rover. It had enough of a head start to be well out of sight, and it had an engine almost as powerful as the Porsche’s. But it also weighed twice as much and couldn’t handle the curves of the country roads the way the German sports car did. If it went off road the story would be different, but Peter saw no signs that it had.

Their first challenge approached as the road ended into another unnamed county highway. They’d have to pick a direction. Michael prayed as he eased on the breaks and downshifted.

“There,” Peter called out as he pointed to his right. Michael didn’t even look, instead he simply threw the car into a hard right turn and gunned the accelerator again. As they power slid through the stop sign at a speed higher than the posted limit, Michael caught the flash of red light himself. The giant MagLite rolled around the floor boards.

Peter slammed his fist into the dashboard in frustration as the taillights dipped under a hilltop about a quarter mile in the distance. But Michael knew these roads. He knew that this stretch would be almost perfectly straight well past the horizon. He pushed his foot to the floor and the engine roared as the little car gave him everything it had. The road was in poor repair and hadn’t been paved in some time. At their speed, they felt every bump.

The car rocketed over the hilltop at a hundred and ten miles per hour. Peter gripped the sides of his seat for all he was worth as raw speed carried them airborne for nearly twenty yards. The landing was hard, but it was square on the wheels and barely interrupted their motion. They skidded for a moment on the wet asphalt, but then the tires found their grip. Michael kept the wheels pointed dead straight on the landing and they continued to rocket down the road.

Rain poured down on them and the wind buffeted the car around. On every turn, the squeal of tires pierced through even the overpowering sound of the torrential downpour. At the speeds Michael took the turns, the tires would have squealed even on dry roads. Lightning occasionally lit up the sky, but otherwise visibility was terrible.
“How can you see anything in this?” The nervousness in Peter’s normally unflappable voice stood out like a sore thumb.

“Last time I did this I couldn’t even see this well.”

Peter’s eyes popped out of his head.

“You’ve chased a Muslim terrorist down these roads at three times the speed limit in the middle of a rain storm at night before?”

“You think he’s some kind of Islamic terrorist?” Michael answered, genuinely surprised. Peter winced as they entered a windy section of road. Michael rode the center line, which allowed him to navigate the turns as an almost-straight line. Peter didn’t want to think about what would happen if they encountered an oncoming car in the other lane.

As they pulled out toward the end, Peter caught a glimpse of headlights rising over a ridge and whipped hard back into his own lane. he knocked his head on the window and let out a groan. He made a mental note to bring his motorcycle helmet next time he let Michael drive him anywhere. On second thought, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t let Michael drive again. Ever.

“Well, I don’t know if he’s Muslim,” Peter allowed

“As far as I know, he’s your typical non-religious, rich son of a rich oilman.”

“Fine, not Islamic! But those things at the house and that yellow eyed creature seem pretty terrifying to me!” Peter answered. Michael allowed that he had a point before responding to the charge.

“No, there was no rain last time,” Michael answered the original question in his calm voice. “And definitely no Islamic terrorists.”

“What were you thinking, man?”

“I was just driving fast for the hell of it… and maybe also because my blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit. So it was actually a lot harder to see.” Michael stated calmly. Peter stared at the crazy man in the driver’s seat, wondering if he really knew his friend at all. Michael didn’t take his eyes off the road – not even for a heartbeat – but he could sense the young man’s reaction. “I was also driving faster. But I know these roads like the back of my hand. We’ll be good, I promise.”

“Were you always so brilliant in your youth?”

“Oh, some of my youthful ideas were far better than that.” Ahead of them the road ended abruptly. The road it emptied into was technically a state highway. To Peter, it didn’t look like any improvement over the county road that was rapidly running out beneath them.

“How did you ever survive to adulthood?”

“I credit my guardian angel.”

“He must have put in a lot of overtime.”

“He never really stopped,” Michael countered.

A family of white tailed deer jumped out into the road in front of them. Tires squealed as Michael swerved right and brought the car to a complete stop. Peter’s face was ashen, but Michael never lost his cool. He’d trusted the German engineering, and the gigantic anti-lock brakes hadn’t let him down. He smoothly shifted back into first gear. The instant the deer gave him an opening, he pressed firmly on the gas pedal and released the clutch.

The engine stalled out.

His right foot continued to press down, but nothing happened. Something blocked the accelerator. He looked down to find that the MagLite had rolled under the pedal. He kicked it out with his foot, mashed the clutch in again, and restarted the engine. He revved the flat six engine high and popped the clutch out again. Four hundred and sixty two horses squealed through the tires at once. When the tires finally stuck, the silver car took off like a jackrabbit on steroids.

The Land Rover was once again out of sight. Michael pushed the car as hard as he dared on the wet country roads. It was faster than Peter would have liked, but he said nothing. Instead he resumed his scan, trying to pick up any trace of Khalid’s getaway car. Another intersection approached.

“Left!” Peter called out, pointing for emphasis. Michael lifted the parking brake handle and twisted the wheel throwing the Porsche into a hard sideways slide. Before they’d even slid through the intersection he gunned the accelerator again. The wheels screeched on the wet roads, fighting hard for traction, but eventually they stuck and the car rocketed out of the turn.

“I said left!” Peter shouted at him.

“These old roads all come out at the same spot,” Michael responded calmly. ” This way’s faster – we’ll shave off some time and catch up to him.” Without warning he braked hard and yanked the wheel hard to the left. Peter let out a small yelp and closed his eyes.

“Hail Mary, full of grace…” he prayed. To his great surprise they did not crash into a tree. The ride did slow a bit, but the extra bumps made up for it. The cavalry sabre rattled in it scabbard between his knees.

He finished his prayer and opened his eyes again. In the limited visibility, he could see that they were rocketing down a small dirt road – more mud, really, in this mess. Its single lane, if you could call it that, was barely big enough for the Porsche.

“I didn’t even see that road there,” he admitted to Michael.

“This place was still a working tobacco plantation up until the late 1950s. The farm hands had to get around a lot. There are Jeep trails like this all over the place out here.” He flashed Peter a quick grin. “I told you, I know these roads like the back of my hand.”

A moment later the dirt road ended. Michael took a hard right again. The smoother asphalt allowed them to gain speed, but the road wasn’t much wider than the mud path they’d just left. They drifted around another hard turn before the road opened up. The straightaway wasn’t huge, but it was significantly larger than any they’d had so far. Michael took advantage of it and opened up the throttle.

“There they are,” he pointed across the field at a pair of headlights moving at an oblique angle toward them. “We’ve got them now.” They could see the SUV clearly now, even through the rain. The Porsche’s headlights illuminated it enough to be sure it was the right vehicle. As Michael had predicted, the two roads converged at an intersection ahead. Peter flinched as he saw the stop sign approaching.

“Michael, that intersection is coming up awfully fast.” The bulky Land Rover loomed before them, growing quickly in their field of view.

“Yup,” the older man replied. “Please return all tray tables and seat backs to their full upright position and make sure your seat belt is secure.” His own already was.

“Huh?” Peter said, double checking his belt. With his right hand he fastened a tight grip around the handle above the door. With his left he grabbed the seat underneath him. The crash came a few seconds later.


Reader Praise for TREASURES OF DODRAZEB: THE ORIGIN KEY

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Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

Readers love S.D. McPhail‘s debut novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key. Since I didn’t have the foresight to film the wonderful gentleman who read the first chapter aloud at the Southern Authors Expo, you’ll have to simply take the written word of these other readers.

  • “Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key by Susan McPhail is a smart, intriguing tale that seamlessly melds historical fiction, fantasy, and suspense… Highly recommended for fans of history, fantasy, and mystery stories.”
  • “My ONLY criticism is that I was left wanting more. Luckily McPhail left the tale so it can be taken up again. Soon, I hope.”
  • “McPhail paints vivid pictures of the world she’s created and engages all of the readers senses in the story.”
  • Very descriptive. I could easily imagined being in some of the battles! I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great story teller!
  • More books, please.
  • WOW! Add Susan McPhail to your must watch writer list!

This book is definitively the best third century Persian sword-and-science novel I’ve ever read – and it’s now available FREE to Kindle Unlmited subscribers!


Why I No Longer Consider Myself A Libertarian

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libertariansDavid Henderson shares the following anecdote on EconLog. I hope he will forgive me for quoting it in its entirety. The context, however, is crucial for the point I’m about to make.

As such, those on the left or the right of America’s political spectrum may regard the proposals I offered in this book as an incoherent hodgepodge. Following my son’s advice, I totally deny that and instead make a counteraccusation: many on the right and left have made a fetish of what is nothing more than a problem of engineering: sometimes government is the right tool for the job, and sometimes it isn’t.My own thinking on this issue was strongly influenced by occasional debates I have had with two of my colleagues at the Naval Postgraduate School–Francois Melese and David Henderson. Francois and David are what you could loosely characterize as “libertarian” in their world view, and we often argue about the role of government in society. One particular “clash” stands out in my mind, because it helped me crystalize my thinking on this matter. So we were talking while eating lunch at the Taco Bell in downtown Monterey of all places. Suddenly David, a man in his sixties, excused himself, got up, and ran outside. What had happened was that he had seen several young men bullying and roughing up another young man, and David had gone to intervene.

In thinking about what David had done, I finally understood how he and other libertarians could see their vision of limited government as a viable means of running a society. Such a society would be entirely workable if most people behaved like David! And I realized then that no answer would ever emerge from ideological debates over the size of government because it was the wrong question to ask in the first place.

This is from the recently published book by my Naval Postgraduate School colleague Jonathan Lipow. The book is titled Survival: The Economic Foundations of American National Security. It was recently published by Lexington Press.Whenever Jonathan and I talk about economic policy or defense policy, we find ourselves disagreeing. But the conversation is always pleasant. You can see why from the above quote.

I don’t think, though, that most people would have to behave like me for a limited government to work. I think the number is well below half. And the main bullies we would have to focus on restraining are the ones in government.

For most of my life I have considered myself strongly libertarian. The story illustrated above highlights exactly the problem with libertarianism, although Mr. Henderson doesn’t realize it. I that the number of people who must behave as described is well below half. I’ve also been fortunate enough to know quite a few people who behave in that manner. I have some truly great friends. Now that I’m out of public schools, I seldom witness the kind of bullying described. When I do, I too try to behave as described. I leave it to others to decide whether I succeed or not.

Even so, the problem with libertarianism as a philosophy is exactly this. It’s not so much that it requires too many people to act this way. It’s that some parts of the libertarian philosophy itself actively reduce the number of people who will act this way. This kind of behavior is socially and culturally bred. The western world, and indeed the anglosphere in particular, developed a culture over the course of centuries that led to this kind of behavior. When you grow up and live your life surrounded by it, it’s easy to think that it’s universal to the human race.

The simple truth is that it isn’t universal at all. Outside of the western world, this kind of behavior isn’t developed and encouraged at all. Even within the western world, it’s strongest in the nations colonized by Britain.

That doesn’t mean you won’t find this kind of behavior at all outside the western world. You most definitely will find it. But not in anything like the numbers needed to sustain anything like a libertarian society. There’s a reason that libertarianism as a philosophy developed in the English speaking world, and a reason that it hasn’t spread much outside of that world. It requires cultural norms that simply don’t exist.

Beyond that, libertarianism leads to its own downfall through its insistence on open borders. If you import too many people who don’t act as Mr. Henderson, eventually you can no longer sustain your libertarianism.

To be completely clear, I personally still greatly prefer to live in a more libertarian world. I thrive in it. My friends and family thrive in it. But a perfect libertarian world must necessarily lead to its own downfall. The only way to maintain a libertarian-ish world is to maintain a culture that can support it. That’s why these days I consider myself not a libertarian but rather a Christian nationalist libertarian (in that order). The first two are an absolute necessity in order for the third to function.


The Anti-Hillary Preference Cascade Is Now In Full Swing

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hillarycollapseIn January I described the phenomenon of a preference cascade and posited that Hillary Clinton would eventually find herself on the wrong end of one. In February I noted that the cascade looked like it might have started. Indeed, a few months later it looked like that might have been the case – except that it proved to be too little, too late. The tide turned against Hillary at the end of the Democratic party’s primary process, but by then she’d secured enough delegates to win anyway.

Today, however, the situation has changed. The anti-Hillary preference cascade has blasted into full swing.

Five weeks ago the Real Clear Politics polling average showed Clinton with a 7.9% lead over Trump. Democrats and mainstream media sources declared the race over. Trump had no way to close such an insurmountable lead. He might as well pack it in, they told us. Nate Silver showed Trump at one point with just a 12% chance of winning in November.

Except that today the polls have narrowed dramatically. Today’s RCP polling average shows Clinton with a mere 1.8% lead over Trump. To be sure, that’s still a strong lead. Yet it is no longer a commanding lead. In a mere five and a half weeks, Trump has moved the polls by six points. To the best of my knowledge, this is unheard of in presidential politics.

Keep in mind, also, that this massive shift in the polls does not yet fully include any of the following:

  • Clinton’s “basket full of deplorables” comment – the 2016 version of Mitt Romney’s 47% gaffe.
  • Reactions to the news of Hillary’s health issues over the weekend.
  • Any new information from the 600+ megabytes of new information on the DNC leaked by WikiLeaks earlier this week.
  • Reactions to the child care plan Trump announced yesterday.

Most damning of all, it does not include the fact that Hillary Clinton has a proven history of choking under pressure. By next week the polls will factor in all of the elements above. As a result they will crank the pressure all the way to eleven.

This is the beginning of the preference cascade, not its end.


Lyonesse Update – Submissions are Still Open!

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Logo-01We’re closing in on a launch date for Silver Empire’s upcoming project, Lyonesse. We’ve combed through our first batch of submissions and found some really great stories. As of this morning, we have contacted every author we’ve received submissions from. If you haven’t heard back from us, check your spam folder. If there’s not a response there, we didn’t get your submission.

We’re working hard behind the scenes to get everything ready for a solid launch. Here are a few of the exciting things you can expect from this industry-changing project:

What’s In It For Readers?

  • Low price point. You’re going to love how affordable it is.
  • Support your favorite authors – not a big corporation. The vast majority of your money goes straight to the authors you love and read, not to one of the world’s largest corporations.
  • Lots of new short fiction. And we do mean lots. You’ll be amazed how much we’re delivering for our low prices.

What’s In It For Authors?

  • High royalty rates. At least 50% (our target is 75%!) of all Lyonesse revenue will go straight to authors.
  • Connecting with your audience. Our model pulls your story out of the crowd so that readers can find it, read it, and love it.
  • Promotion of your other works. And it won’t get lost in the noise – Lyonesse is not supported by advertising revenue.

There’s still time to contribute! We’ve gotten some really fantastic stories over the summer, but we need more – lots more! In case you missed it, here are our Lyonesse submission guidelines:

  • Science fiction or fantasy short stories of roughly 3,000 to 20,000 words.
  • Previously unpublished works.
  • There is no theme – topics are wide open.
  • This project is not specifically superversive. However, superversive stories are preferred.
  • The payment model for this project is royalty based. However, the model is somewhat unique. Details will be provided upon acceptance of stories. We expect this project to be able to at least provide payment comparable to old school short-fiction magazines (ie, within the range of $0.03 to $0.05 per word). In fact, we think it will eventually do considerably better than that. However, this is an experimental project and this is not guaranteed.
  • Stories that are part of a larger world or series that you’re developing are perfectly fine – even if previous or later stories are not published through us.
  • Authors whose stories are accepted will also have opportunities to advertise previous, current, or up and coming works as part of this project.
  • Submissions should be in Word format (doc or docx is fine).
  • At this time we’re ONLY looking for submissions for this particular project – but we will be opening up for more in the very near future.
  • E-mail submissions to submissions@silverempire.org.

And one extra requirement that didn’t make the first list: please specify that your submission is for Lyonesse!

Lyonesse is coming and it’s going to be awesome. Tell your friends about it!


The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel – BOOK REVIEW

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"The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel" by L. Jagi Lamplighter

“The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel” by L. Jagi Lamplighter

August was a great month for me, but it was also pretty rough. So after DragonCon last week, I took a bit of time to just relax. Outside of my day job, which I can’t really shirk, I didn’t do much “real work.” That will catch up with me later. I still have a ton to do. But I did get to read a few good books.

Last week I left a review of Christopher Lansdown‘s Ordinary Superheroes. Today it’s The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel by L. Jagi Lamplighter (aka the Mrs. John C. Wright). Full disclosure: Mrs. Lamplighter sent me a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. I had been prepared to buy it anyway, because I absolutely loved the first book in the series. Thankfully she caught me in time and saved me some money!

Like its predecessor, this book is a very fast and easy read. The language, as befits a young adult book, flows off the page easily and quickly – but it will still give younger readers enough new words to expand their vocabularies. It’s also immediately engaging, and the characters retain your attention throughout. In the first tale, Mrs. Lamplighter introduced us to the rarest of mythical fantasy creatures. Rachel is a believable thirteen year-old girl that doesn’t make you want to strangle her. That continues in this tale, and it’s the strongest part of the series. Rachel herself is immediately recognizable as a true-to-life young girl, and she’s extremely likable. All of her friends are fleshed out even further, and each of them continues to be an absolute joy to read about. The characters are easily the best part of this tale.

In a coincidental bout of timing, Morgon and I also watched the entire first season of Stranger Things last week. These two series shared something that I greatly enjoyed: both featured smart, interesting, and believable children doing heroic things – but heroic things that weren’t actually above their abilities to do as children. In our modern society of helicopter parenting and sheltered youth, it’s refreshing to see children let out of their shackles for a while to grow and thrive.

I do have two complaints about this book, however. First, there is a pretty fair amount of talking rather than doing. It’s engaging talking, and it’s fun. It never gets dull. But at the end of the day it feels like not much actually happens… until all of a sudden there’s a giant confrontation at the end. The first book suffered a bit from “talking rather than doing” syndrome as well, but not to this degree. And that feeds into the second problem, which is closely related. This book is a “middle” book, and it kind of felt like it. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to destroy the book – I still found myself so enthralled that I finished it very quickly. But it is enough that I noticed it.

Even so, the book was a lot of fun, with a little depth to it as well. I’d highly recommend it for any youth into fantasy stories, and most especially to young girls and Harry Potter fans. Adults will enjoy it, too, however. I don’t read a ton of young adult fiction these days, but this was a welcome bit of light fare. All told, this is a four out of five star book and I greatly look forward to finishing the series.


Flying Boutique

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Last weekend my wife and I actually flew to Dragon Con. This may not seem like a big deal to many of my readers. Some of you, I’m sure, fly all the time. I have friends who do. Hell, I used to fly a lot myself. When I was a child my father traveled a lot for work. We used his frequent flier miles… frequently. But as an adult, I haven’t flown much at all.

I have four children. Flying a family of six is expensive, even when the individual tickets aren’t that bad. Even though our youngest can fly free if she sits on our lap, that’s still five tickets. It adds up fast. Also, it means we pretty much need to rent a van on the other end, and that isn’t cheap either. Oh, and then we get to our destination without car seats. The law isn’t too happy about that.

On top of that, our nearest airport is Huntsville International – consistently rated one of the most expensive airports in the country. And it really is that expensive.

Our frequent vacation spots also happen to be relatively close by. We typically travel to Atlanta for Dragon Con every year. That’s only a four hour drive. Between arriving at the airport an hour early, an hour in flight, and then time in the airport on the other end, it doesn’t actually save much time to fly there. Our other frequent vacation spot is Orlando. It’s only a ten hour drive. Flying actually would save some time… but it takes it from a full day trip to a half day trip, at best. That’s nice. But not nice enough to be worth the cost. I have family in the DC suburbs… but the math there is very comparable to Orlando.

pc12This time, however, my wife stumbled across Boutique Air and we gave it a shot. We had to drive an hour to the airport. On the other hand, we basically showed up and walked right onto the plane. Lines? What lines? There were eight of us on the PC-12 we flew on – and we were the only eight passengers in the airport. The TSA check took about two minutes. Boarding took another two minutes. In essence, we traded the TSA wait for no line.

More importantly, it was cheap. Round trip tickets for both of us were only $250. Given that it would have cost us $25 a day to park at the hotel in Atlanta and more or less a full tank of gas to make the trip, flying proved to be only twice the cost of driving. On the trip out, it meant that we could wait until very nearly the end of the work day to leave, saving me the use of some precious vacation hours. And since we didn’t need parking at the hotel, we weren’t worried about the late arrival.

The trip home probably didn’t save us much time, since we had to get to the Atlanta airport so early. But I got to spend most of that time reading instead of driving, and I would’ve taken the whole day off anyway. And since we had no kids this weekend, and weren’t really driving anywhere, being without a car was actually convenient.

I have no idea how viable the Boutique Air business model is. But it worked really well for us. I only wish they offered service to more areas.