Solar Garden Light Hack — Dollar Store style!

Posted in (Almost) Totally Useless How-to Guide, My Opinion with tags , , , on July 25, 2015 by tgrey468

We have a simple back yard at the beginning of its evolution. We inherited a deck a rough shed, a patch of grass, and that’s about it. I am many things, but at the top of the list is ‘cheap’. I hate paying for electricity when I don’t have to. I wanted to string lights in the yard but was damned if I’d pay the bill to feed them as well as have to buy an expensive outdoor timer. Also, there was nothing in the middle of the yard to support a string. The crude solution? Use the old fence itself.

This is where the Dollarama dollar-and-more store came to the rescue. They sell a few types of solar yard lights, from $1.25 to $3.00. For this project I went with the cheapies. I started with five, to see whether the concept would work.

These little lights are simple—not much more than a tiny solar panel on top, a rechargeable battery, and an LED in a clear tube on top of a shaft and spike, to plant in the garden. My idea was to remove the spike, and attach the lamp itself to our fence.

We have harsh winds here so I decided to go with heavy-duty screws. Since I don’t believe in interfering with the neighbour’s enjoyment of their own yard, the lights had to be below the top of our 6′ fence. I needed the solar panels to be exposed to as much sunlight as possible, but I also needed the lamps to be mostly vertical so that rain and snow would pool inside and short them out.

The screw.

The screw, predrilled into the fence, below the top.

Here’s one of the screws in the fence. On about a 50-degree angle, 4″ down from the top. Being 1/4″ thick, I pre-drilled it to make sure it didn’t split the old, dry board. The cracks you see were already there.

The next step was to squirt hot glue into the base of the lamp and quickly slide it and seat it onto the screw.

Solar fence light.

Dollar Store improvised solar fence light.

Nice and simple. The black cap unscrews and there is an On-Off toggle switch inside. Remember to switch it on. I turned them all on before attaching them so that I didn’t risk breaking the glue seal. The other reason for the angle is so that snow will slide off in winter.

Here is the first row of lights… yes, the first screw isn’t on the same angle. If my limited OCD can’t handle it, I’ll fix it. In the meantime, it’s just fine.

Solar lights.

A simple, solid solution in a row.

Solar fence lights.

Solar garden lights screwed to the fence.

So, how does it all look? Well, this photo doesn’t do it justice, but now there’s a nice line of lights defining our yard. It’s just a start. The final installation is 17 lights on the fence, 53″ apart. I had to make sure that the ones near the gate were out of the gate’s reach, too.

The total cost, including a glue gun, glue sticks, screws, and sales tax, was just under $30. As soon as I put the winding pathway in, there will be five fancier lights to illuminate it, at $3 each. The total installation took less than fifteen minutes.

The best part is, there is no hit on our utility bill. Cheap can work. Once I add a pergola to the yard or deck, there will be more lights to come, but hopefully in a colourful string, to add some oomph to the space.

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now.


The Brilliant Banner for Writers…if I say so myself.

Posted in Books, My Opinion, Novel Process, Writing with tags , , , , , , on April 17, 2015 by tgrey468

Most writers I know are on a limited budget for advertising and promotion, especially the self-published ones. Even the writers with traditional publishers may have to foot the bill for some or all promotional supplies.

I, myself, am both self-published (4 books) and traditionally published. When I’ve done book signings in the past I had some nicely done 8×10 covers in frames on the table, with teasers about the book and even reviews. It looked well and good and…cheesy. At multiple-author events, the authors who got the most attention (and often the most sales) had a LARGE presence in the form of a banner.

Banners are great for signings, readings, and trade shows. The problem is that many authors have multiple books they need to promote, though seldom all at the same time. They might have a signing for their YA novel tomorrow, then a reading for their sci fi opus on Sunday, and have a table set up at World Fantasy Convention next week. You want your banner to promote your product, but that’s three products, which makes for three banners. Banners aren’t cheap. The stands can be reused, but a banner for each book gets prohibitively expensive.

My solution? An adaptable, multi-use banner.

STEP ONE: Design a banner that covers as many of your bases as possible, without using any specific titles. This is the hardest step. Many of you will want to get your banner professionally designed. I have a background in graphics, so I did my own.

My author banner. 30" x 72"

My author banner. 30″ x 72″

Here’s mine. It’s 30″ x 72″. I’ve cropped off the bottom because it’s not important right now. If you can’t read what it says, here it is:

“Timothy Reynolds. Spinner of Tales, Fabricator of Fictions, Twister of History. ‘Canada’s Modern-Day Aesop’ ~ Barbara Budd, CBC Radio.

That’s my name, a catchy/cute way of saying what I do, and the best promo quote I have. It also has my author photo, a moon with a bloody screaming face, and a generic city scape at night…to add atmosphere. Much of what I write has a dark element to it, so this is not a light and fluffy smiles-and-puppies banner.

There’s no publisher name at all. Not even my own company. Why? Because if I put Cometcatcher Press on it, then I can’t use it when I’m promoting “When Anastasia Laughs”, which will be published by Tyche Books in 2016, or “Tesseracts Seventeen” from Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, which contains my short story “Why Pete?”.


Covers as photographs mounted on foam core and laminated.

STEP TWO: Have your cover(s) reproduced as photographs, mounted on foam core and laminated for protection. Almost every film lab can do this for you. I use Western Canada’s best: London Drugs.

I had all four covers done as 5x7s. Why? Because 5x7s are lighter than 8x10s and will remain in place better.


Magnetic Tape

STEP THREE: You will need magnetic tape. It’s available at Michael’s Arts & Crafts and 10′ costs less than $5. Cut two 5″ strips for each cover. Because the strips will maintain their shape from when they were on the roll, take the strips and place them on a flat surface, under a heavy weight, overnight. Once they are flat, they are ready to use.

A cover and the magnetic strips.

A cover and the magnetic strips.

STEP FOUR: Working on a clean surface, place a cover face down. Peel the backing off of the magnetic tape, and place two strips firmly on the back of the cover, centred left-to-right and down a bit from the top.

Peeling Magnet Paper Off

Peeling Magnet Paper Off

Place the magnetic tape on the back of the cover. Press firmly.

Place the magnetic tape on the back of the cover. Press firmly.

STEP FIVE: While the banner is hanging, place the cover where you want it to be, then place the second magnetic strip on the back of the banner, directly opposite the strip on the cover.

Magnetic strips in place on the back of the banner, holding the cover in place.

Magnetic strips in place on the back of the banner, holding the cover in place.

When it’s all done, you have a banner with one (or in this case, two) covers on display. You can do the same with the publisher’s logo and even a sign with the times you will be present. Other possibilities include: “Coming Soon”, “New York Times Bestseller”, or whatever your heart desires. Reviews, quotes, anything. All I suggest is to not overload the banner.

Two light-weight but sturdy covers magnetically attached to a banner.

Two light-weight but sturdy covers magnetically attached to a banner.

The foam core is very light weight, as is the magnetic tape. I had considered using adhesive Velcro, but then the banner couldn’t be rolled up smoothly. This method with the magnets allows complete removal of the artwork and for the banner to be rolled and stored indefinitely without damage being done to its surface or shape. For a stronger attachment, put magnetic tape near the bottom of the cover as well.

(NOTE: I’m still not sold on the white borders I put on the covers, but with a sharp blade I can remove them easily.)

STEP SIX: Get yourself a 6×8 Rubbermaid lunch box for storing the covers, a hard plastic tube for the banner, and you’re all set for your next signing.

MATERIALS: Magnetic Tape: $5. Banner on heavy outdoor vinyl: $63 & Stand (includes carrying bag): $40 (both from Vistaprint), Plastic banner tube $21 from a local Digital Post store. BTW, VistaPrint is always having sales, so set up an account, do the design work, and wait. They will send you an email shortly with the latest sale. You can save anywhere from $10 to 33% of your entire order. Their online design & preview kicks ass, too.

Note: in some of the photos above you can see what look like creases on the banner. It was damaged in shipping. I called VistaPrint and explained the situation. Without seeing photos or getting witness statements, they immediately ordered a new one and it was shipped out the next day. It should arrive here next week. Their customer service is second-to-none.

I hope this gives you some ideas and inspires you to get out there and promote your writing with a professional presence. Other things to help are bookmarks with the cover, where to buy it, and your website URL. If you don’t have your own website…GET ONE!

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,


Easter Quicky

Posted in love it or leave it, My Opinion with tags , , , on April 8, 2015 by tgrey468

Being Christian, I have a problem with the phrase, “Happy Easter“. I find that the bunnies, spring, and chocolate part are fun and more universal, but I find that from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection, there’s nothing to be HAPPY about during the weekend.

For me it’s a time of reflection about what I can do better, what has been sacrificed for me, and what I can sacrifice for others. Big stuff, small stuff, all stuff.

Rejoicing that He has risen is not the same as being happy. We should be deeply saddened that it had to be done. This wasn’t a weekend whim by a bored God. As I support the ‘myth’, I am humbled, saddened, and ashamed.

Like Palm Sunday and Shrove Tuesday, I think the bunnies and chocolate part of the weekend should be near but not ON the weekend.

If you don’t celebrate the Christian Easter (no matter what you think its origin truly is), that’s okay. This is just my own rambling on a subject personal to me.

Ciao for now.


And Then the Work Paid Off! A Novel Sold!

Posted in Books, Books Books Books, My Opinion, love it or leave it, Novel Process, The Novel Itself, The Novel Process, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on November 23, 2014 by tgrey468

It is with great pleasure that I announce the acquisition of my somewhat romantic paranormal novel, “Waking Anastasia”, by Tyche Books of Calgary, for release in 2016.

For me this is a monumentous event, as it confirms that what I think of as a delightful story about life, death, and dying is shared by someone who isn’t a family member.

So what is “Waking Anastasia” about? Well, here’s the pitch that got the manuscript read in the first place:

Why should being murdered keep Anastasia Romanova from living it up a little? She’s just a ghost, floating in front of a boy, wanting to be loved.

When Jerry Powell inherits a torn, bloodstained book of poetry he has no idea that it contains the soul of Anastasia Romanova. But when he accidentally awakens the royal ghost, he discovers that death hasn’t dulled her sense of mischief and joy for life whatsoever. Now he just has to keep up with her while dealing with a new job, a new city, and the possibility of a brain tumour.

“Waking Anastsia” is a humour-filled, paranormal, love story pitting a dying radio station manager soured on love and women against the ever-optimistic, century-dead teenaged Grand Duchess.


Alexandra Romanova and her four daughters, including Anastasia, second from the right.

I will be blogging much more later on about how the story started as a dream, became a screenplay, and then morphed into a novel. There will be all sorts of stuff about the research to bring Anastasia to life “as never before” as one critiquer has said, as well as where the history and the fiction blend.

Film rights are still available, so hurry. 2018 is the 100th anniversary of Anastasia’s murder. :)

That’s it, that’s all. Watch this page for further details in the months to come.

Thank you for all of your support. For a complete list of my currently available stories, check out my Amazon Author page:

Ciao for now,


The Broken Shield for KOBO!

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it on November 22, 2014 by tgrey468

Yes indeed do, my earth-shaking (literally) urban fantasy e-novel, The Broken Shield, is now available for Kobo. Check it out at, where it has reached as high as #34 in Contemporary Fantasy.



This is a special announcement, because the book was written about and for a very special girl, Phoenix. Yes, to you who never met her, Phoenix was just a dog, but for those who met her and felt her energy wrap around your heart, she was something special. Unfortunately, four weeks ago Phoenix’ heart trouble resurfaced in a major way and she told us that it was time to let her go. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but it had to be done.

The Broken Shield

The Broken Shield, by Timothy Reynolds

I will dedicate an entire blog or two to life with Phoenix (and the pain of life without her), but suffice it to say, heart and soul, she’s a big part of The Broken Shield, and my life was all the better for having had her in it.

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now.


Remembrance Day & Politicians

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it on November 9, 2014 by tgrey468


A group called “Our Duty” has gone public with a request that politicians stay away from November 11th Remembrance Day events. They say it is because the day is about remembering and memorializing, not about photo ops and politics. Here is the original article:

Sorry, but I disagree with Our Duty. It IS about politics, because the men and women who have made wartime sacrifices did it so we could have the freedom to practice the politics of our choice. We elect politicians to represent us and speak for us on a global scale, and so this is right. Yes, remember the fallen, but allow the leaders who represent the nation they fell for to show solidarity and respect.

I would be more upset if our leaders did NOT show up at war monuments during this one solemn day a year. The elected officials who send our young people to die in foreign lands defending the rights and freedoms of others have a right themselves to publicly show that the decision is never easy and that they will not hide behind policies and committees.

Remembrance Day isn’t just about soldiers, it’s about humans, and what one human will sacrifice to defend the rights of another human. We should not forget the non-military personnel lost when the battles came to their homes and they stood beside the soldiers we sent over. Most of our troops get to come home…the locals ARE home.

So, let the leaders appear…but ban the media. It’s not a circus without the media making it so. The less-ethical politicians will keep themselves away if there’s no media, while the true leaders will still be there.

That’s my opinion.
Take it or leave it.

Ciao for now.


Free for Kindle?

Posted in Books, Books Books Books, My Opinion, love it or leave it, Novel Process, The Novel Process, Writing with tags , , on September 16, 2014 by tgrey468

I know I’m going about this in the wrong order but I finally self-pubished my novel “The Broken Shield” as an eBook exclusively on Amazon for 90 days.

The Broken Shield by Timothy Reynolds

The Broken Shield by Timothy Reynolds

Very quickly, the reason for an Amazon exclusive was to have access to the Kindle Select features, which includes the ability to do a free giveaway for one to five days. This past weekend (September 13 & 14) I had a two-days-for-free giveaway of “The Broken Shield”. The book launched on July 21 for $2.99 and between then and August 23rd, a grand total of 22 eBooks sold. Then, for the next 20 days, not a single damned copy was downloaded. That’s right, not a one. But that’s okay, because 21 friends and family had already supported me. I bought the 22nd copy, back when it was the first copy. I knew the steam would run out on the book eventually, and it did.

So, zero sales for the 20 days leading up to this past weekend. The Kindle Select program requires a Kindle-exclusive for 90 days, but offers up, amongst other things, 5 days total of free giveaway. Not having done this before, I decided not to use up all 5 days at once, but rather go for the entire weekend. Two day of free. Another goal was to keep costs to zero, because there’s no point in spending a fortune in order to give something away. In order to promote this, I decided to only use social media. Facebook and Twitter are my go-to social medias, and even Twitter is seldom used, by me, at least.

This was my first post on Facebook:

Okay, Kindle-owners (and app-users)… My urban fantasy eNovel is now free! Go get it! If you read it and don’t like it, I will give you your money back, but only if you get it this weekend!

Where else will you find a history-bending adventure in which the hero has MS, hangs out with a whistling pixie, and can compare Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler and make sense? This is NOT satire. It’s a story of the battle for our souls, with plenty of fighting, some humour, and warning about all those security cameras you see around you.

From Lake Louise to Tasmania to Tokyo to London to Chile to Holland to Central Park and even Mecca… can you handle the adventure, the danger, the broken hearts, and the sacrifices made for us by complete strangers?

The response took a few hours, but then the downloads started. Throughout the course of two days I made 9 posts on Facebook and 4 tweets. I also kept FB friends, apprised of progress, and made sure to express all the gratitude I was feeling.

On Saturday, downloads kept climbing, andI kept posting. On Sunday, I cut way back on posting to see the difference between heavy whoring and mild petting when the price is zero.

So, what happened once the freebee ball got rolling? Saturday saw 79 copies downloaded. On Sunday, 29 kind souls went for the download thing. That’s 108 copies! But it didn’t end there, because wherever Amazon is based out of, there were a few hours of Monday which were still Sunday for everyone else. Three more copies were uploaded. 111 total. Wow.

That’s 111 new readers. One cool thing about Amazon is that it lets me get a breakdown of which Amazon online stores saw which numbers. It doesn’t tell if if two buyers were from the USA and one from Mexico, but it does tell me that two used and one used

That said, here is how 111 downloads break down, by Amazon websites:

  • 57 Saturday + 19 Sunday = 76 Total
  • (Canada): 11 + 4 = 15
  • (United Kingdom): 9 + 3 = 12
  • (Germany): 2 + 3 + 1 Monday = 6
  • (Australia): 0 + 0 + 1 = 1
  • (Brazil): 0 + 0 + 1 = 1


And the next step is… Well, if this was just about selling/downloading, I’d move on to the next marketing tool, through Google or some such. But this is an experiment, a learning process. It’s sloppy experiment with no control group or true scientific method, but it’s still an experiment. The next step is to see if word-of-mouth can make any sales. Will anyone actually read it? Will they tell anyone else about it, and will any of those people buy the book now that the price has gone back up to the crippling $2.99USD?

“The Broken Shield” is a 101,000-word novel, so few people will read it in the next few days. When people do get around to reading it, not everyone will tell anyone or write a review. If they’re anything like me, they’ll take awhile to read it, and then they’ll forget to review it either on Amazon or on Goodreads, so I will remind them on a week or so.

My hope is that 20% will actually read it and maybe 25% of them will review it. That’s five or six reviews, and in the review world five favourable Goodreads reviews can start the ball rolling.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

In closing, here are the rest of the posts I put up on my Facebook wall and Twitter:

2: (Repeated on FB Author Page, too)  Money is just money, but a reader is someone you have touched with your words. My free-for-this-weekend promotion has just added 17 readers this morning. That’s as many as the total from July 21 to yesterday. I will make about $20 less in royalties, but 17 more people will now have a chance to join me in a story world where pixies are disguised as dogs, a Sasquatch is named Beauty, and the Shields of Light don’t just sacrifice their lives for us, they EACH do it over and over, for more than the last two thousand years.The Aussie link: (part of it is set in Tasmania!) US link (part is set in Central Park)
Canadian link (part is set in Lake Louise!)The UK link (part is set in London! 
3: It’s only available in English, but if your account is in Japan, here’s the link:  Part of it is set in Tokyo and one of the heroes is a Japanese woman living in South Africa.
4: Yes, my wall is full of my book today. It’s only a two-day promotion and I’m only using free social media to promote it. This is all part of my experiment, to see what can be done with a great story for little $$ outlay in marketing.
5: One last post before I leave you all alone and get some work done around the house…One of the favourite characters in The Broken Shield (free for Kindle today & tomorrow!!) with readers so far is Arvinder… a sassy, stylish, 2000-year-old gay East Indian living in London. You can call him any name you want, but don’t try to keep Arvinder from doing his duty for mankind—he’s a two-sword master and one of the deadliest people on the planet. Oh, and he has a wicked sense both of humour and style.


 6: I lied. A final book-whoring post for the morning, because people love dogs.This is Phoenix. She’s one of the heroines in The Broken Shield, and she’s not all she appears to be. Her story is free for Kindle today and tomorrow.
1: Free eBook! 2 days only! Check it out! An urban fantasy novel with a hero with MS, and a smartphone app from Hell. (Amazon Link)
2: 1 Japanese heroine & brief scene in Tokyo, my (free 4 Kindle 2 days) eBook should be avail. in Japan (in English) (Amazon Japan Link)

3: And for Australians (and everyone else) today, my eBook for Kindle is FREE! (Amazon Australia)

Ciao for now,



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