Review: Heart-Shaped Box

Heart Shaped BoxHeart Shaped Box

by Joe Hill

This is a book that I might never have picked up if not for one little secret that got “revealed”. Joe Hill, the author, is really the son of Stephen King. Yep, his real name is Joe King. One look at the artist portrait on the back inside cover will assure you of that. The family resemblance is pretty strong. Knowing that, I put this book at the top of my list.

And I couldn’t be any more happy that I did. Heart-Shaped Box is an absolutely amazing book. It reads quickly and easily. And best of all? It’s extremely reminiscent of an early Stephen King work. And I’ve gone on record as saying that the newer King works lack something that the early works had. Joe has picked up on that (undoubtedly from years of hanging out with his dad) and made it his own. In fact, I still harbor a few suspicions that the book was really written by Stephen King about 20 years ago. There are too many new references for that to be true, but it’s that close to the original writing style of the elder King.

The book follows a hard rocker named Judas Coyne. Get it? Judas Coin. Well, I didn’t get it until about half way through the book, but I find it very clever. It seems that Jude has a bit of a reputation as being a dark fellow a little bit like Ozzy. His assistant finds a genuine dead man’s ghost for sale on a “eBay knockoff” auction site. He buys it, and then all hell breaks loose.

The spoilers begin about here, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you should probably stop reading.

When the ghost arrives in a heart-shaped box, some funny things start to happen and Jude starts seeing the ghost at night. After a little bit of looking into it, he finds out that the person that sold him the ghost was the sister of an old girl-friend that he kicked to the curb and the ghost is her step father out for a little afterlife revenge.

Joe takes us on several twists and turns throughout the book and by the end of it, I had to struggle to put it down and not finish it in one session. I nearly did anyways.

It’s an amazing story and I couldn’t recommend it any more. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next Joe Hill novel. Now, I’ve got a few of his fathers books that I need to read. 😉

You can buy Heart-Shaped Box at Amazon!

TNX.net: Text Link Disruptor?

What follows is a review of the new text link system/service called TNX.net. I have been paid to do this review. As usual, I’ve tried to stay neutral despite the money and I hope you’ll see that in the review.

I’ve seen the many other reviews of TNX that have been floating around the web since it’s release in the last few weeks. Generally, it seems to have received some pretty good reviews. Of course, I signed up to give it a spin.

The Sign Up

Sign up is fairly easy. Less info needed than most places, which I would attribute to the lack of “paying” for the links. Once you’ve gotten the info entered, it’s as simple as logging in. Once you’ve logged in, the first thing you’ll want to do (assuming that you’re “selling” links and not “buying” them) is add your site.

Things are a little backwards here. You’ve got to add some (I use that word loosely) code to the pages on your site before you try and add the site. The code is somewhat cumbersome. Extremely long for code for a service of this type. I think the service would be better served by a simple widget or bit of javascript that would only require the adding of 4-5 lines of code. With all that code, the service is leaving it’s users open to easily screwing it up and causing errors.

Once you’ve added the code and the site, all that’s left is to wait for approval of the site by the administrators. According to the site, that can take 1-2 days. While I realize that there is going to be a need for some sort of oversight, that seems like a long time when most site owners are used to web2.0 speed. Especially when you learn that even after getting approved, you’ll still have to wait for the site to be indexed. I would have thought that some of the indexing could have been done while waiting for approval to help speed up the process.

The Links

“Buying” and “selling” links is a little bit different too. Instead of buying the links outright, like you would with a service like TLA, you use a custom economy of “TNX points” to do transactions. Depending on the rank of the site, you can earn anywhere from 1 point per link on a PR0 site to 5000 for a link on a PR7 site. I’m assuming at this point that it goes off of the PR of the actual page that the link will be placed on. Yahoo backlinks factor in there somewhere as well, but I haven’t been able to figure out how.. The folks at TNX only take a commission of 25% which is quite a bit better than most of the link services around.

Making Money

With all those points floating around, how do you make money? As you begin “selling” links and caching points, you can sell them back to TNX at a current rate of $0.62 per 1000 links. You can also transfer points to other users, so a potential for a private TNX points exchange does exist. And of course, you can use your points to “buy” links on other sites. Many SEOers and website owners should like that option. I know I’ll be attempting to take advantage of that. In the first few days, I’ve managed to get a few pages indexed and sell a few links to the tune of about 5100 points. I’ve also created a campaign to buy some links, which is currently waiting for approval.

In the end, the service is really just a weighted link exchange with the added benefit of buying a little extra weight at the current rate of $1.2 per 1000. I like the service itself a bit better than that of lavalinx, which I’ve been trying out as well.

There are several things that make me hesitate here though. Based on my experience and some of the pages on TNX, TNX needs to make use of a lot more automation. The manual approval of sites may be necessary, but the points you buy also need to be manually added. It would make sense to automate that so that buyers are able to spend their points nearly instantaneously. The other thing that bothers me a little is the increase in the cost/value of a thousand points. According to the site, the cost increases by at least 2% each month. What happens when the market will no longer bear the value? Luckily, there is a bit of room since a link is only about $2 vs somewhere between $15 and $25 on sites like TLA.

Summary

Overall, TNX has some growing to do and has the potential to be a pretty decent service for attaining links and taking full advantage of the ability of your site to earn based on links. I’ll be continuing to test the system out and watching to see how it improves (or doesn’t) over the next several weeks. Now, off to buy links.  I do like the fact that TNX sells links only on a page by page basis and doesn’t do the site wide links that are most popular at sites like TLA.  It gets right down to the long tail of my site and helps me make money with it.

If you haven’t signed up for TNX yet and plan to, I’d appreciate you signing up under my links here as they do have a pretty good affiliate program. Once you do sign up, go to the TNX announcement thread on digital point and get yourself an extra couple thousand points.