Sunday, February 14, 2016

"That's A Pretty Thin Production Level, Borg..."

I've been putting out one book a year for quite awhile, now. I often think I should be writing faster. Certainly, many professional writers do two books a year, and sometimes three or more.

Recently, the subject came up again, this time in connection with a TV show. First, some background so you will understand why a TV show that the whole world knows about could be new to me.

It's true that my wife and I haven't had TV ever since our 13-inch black-and-white died back in the '70s. (I know, I'm dating myself.)

So we're pretty disconnected from pop culture. However, we do have a DVD player for watching movies, which we get from Netflix. We've also occasionally rented TV shows that people have recommended.

When I heard about Castle, a show about a mystery writer, I was naturally intrigued. When actual mysteries were published that were supposedly written by the fictional Castle, I was doubly intrigued. Partly, because they sold very well, partly because the real ghost writer was a closely-guarded secret, and partly because I loved the idea of a fictional TV show cross promoting a fictional writer and the result was very real books.



If it's possible that any of you haven't seen the show, it depicts a writer working with the New York police and helping to solve murder cases. The writer gets source material and hands-on research, while the police get helpful (although sometimes outlandish) ideas from a creative writer. The shows each start with a murder (sound familiar?), they move fast, they are sometimes funny or clever, and they end well. Some viewers might think that part of the appeal is that the episodes showcase the beautiful woman (Stana Katic in tight jeans and high heels) who plays the homicide detective that Castle works with. Realistic? Probably not. But eye candy helps sell...

The clever additional component that motivated me to give the show a try, was that the fictional Castle (played by Nathan Fillian) periodically gets together with his writer buddies to play poker. Those writer friends are played by the very real Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and others.

During one of those poker games, the other (real) writers are giving Castle grief for only writing one book per year. Castle seems a bit taken aback when Patterson (who produces about a dozen books per year) says, "One book a year is a pretty thin production level, don't you think?" Connelly, who seems to be writing two or three books a year these days, agrees.

Meanwhile, as we were watching, my wife was laughing and slapping my thigh.

Yeah, I have to agree. One book a year is a pretty thin production schedule, Borg.

I suppose if I turned off Castle, I might have more time for writing...



Sunday, February 7, 2016

How To Prevent Attitude Sickness

In last week's post, I talked about altitude sickness and what to do if it strikes. This week, we look at the reasons why we get altitude sickness and how to prevent it.

The Earth's atmosphere is very thin. Compared to the size of our planet,
the atmosphere is as thin as the skin on an apple. You don't have to go
very high before you climb a substantial part of the way through that skin.

While nearly all of the Earth's atmosphere is below 100,000 feet, gravity compresses the atmosphere close to the Earth's surface. The air gets denser the closer you go to sea level. As a result, about half of all our planet's air is below 18,000 feet. 30% of the Earth's atmosphere is below 10,000 feet, and 20% is below 6000 feet. So just going from sea level up to 6000 feet, you have 20% less oxygen available to your lungs. Lake Tahoe, at 6230 feet, is higher than that. And all of the roads into the basin except one have passes over 7100 feet. The Mt. Rose highway crests at almost 9000 feet. It's very easy to get into territory with dramatically lowered oxygen levels. (Note that the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere stays consistent at about 21%, but as the atmosphere thins, the oxygen "partial pressure" drops accordingly, and you get an equivalent drop in how much oxygen gets into your blood.)

If you're skiing at 10,000 feet and sleeping at 8000 feet (as in a Kirkwood vacation home), you are putting your body into a substantially hypoxic environment. Our bodies struggle when we don't have enough oxygen. The struggle can be very stressful.

If you want to acclimate without stress, what should you do?

A huge help is to spend a night at altitude before you start skiing or riding. Twenty-four hours without physical effort is even better. Staying in a lodging near 6500 feet (close to lake level) instead of one at 7500 feet also helps.

Where are the highest lodgings in the Tahoe area? The town of Kirkwood sits at 7800 feet, which is where you'll find most of its lodgings. But some of its homes - available on vacation rental websites - sit substantially higher. Many vacation homes on upper Kingsbury Grade - some near Heavenly's Stagecoach and Boulder access points - are also around 7800 feet. There are also vacation homes up above Incline Village that are at the same altitude. Don't avoid these wonderful places to stay, but consider allowing an extra day at that altitude before your first day of skiing.

At the minimum, try to get a night's sleep at altitude before hitting the slopes. You will find life at altitude much more comfortable.

How long does it take to fully acclimate?

It's been estimated that those of us who live at 6500 feet eventually produce extra blood (perhaps a pint or more) and we possibly develop the ability to carry more oxygen in our hemoglobin. How long does this adaptation take? Some estimates suggest one month. Anecdotally, many of us will attest to the fact that when we first came to Tahoe, we got out of breath just brushing our teeth. But after one month, life was back to normal.

What happens if Tahoe locals go down to sea level? We immediately start losing those adaptations. If we spend a month or more at sea level, we have to re-acclimate all over again when we come back up to Tahoe.

Bottom line? If you want to prevent altitude sickness, go slowly. Stay near the lake level, especially during your first day. Sleep overnight before doing lots of exercise. If you're planning on riding multiple areas, start with areas at lower elevation, such as Homewood. Or the lower slopes at Squaw Valley. As the days progress, move to the other areas, saving the highest areas, Mr. Rose, Heavenly, and Kirkwood for last.

These simple steps will give you a great winter vacation!

P.S. People who've lived for thousands of years in the highest areas of the world, like Tibet, the Andes, and the Ethiopian highlands, have evolved several different adaptations including genetic differences that allow them to better absorb oxygen at high altitude. So don't think, "Hey, sherpas can hang out at 16,000 feet, so I can too...!"

P.P.S. If you want to see dramatic evidence of the effects of thin atmosphere on living things, just look at the WhiteBark Pines at the top of Sky Chair at Heavenly (10,000 feet above sea level). Talk about scrawny plants desperately trying to eek out a living where the air is so thin.

These Whitebark Pines are old but no taller than the skier who's using them for slalom poles.
Photo courtesy of Skiheavenly.com






Sunday, January 31, 2016

Who Can Suffer From High Altitude Sickness?

The short answer: Anyone.



You wedge an opening in your schedule to make a ski getaway and come to Tahoe, leaving the Bay Area or Sacramento early in the morning. The slopes have awesome snow, and you hit them hard that first day, maybe a bit too hard. That night, as you are about to fall into the sack, you start to feel sick and you wonder if it was your over-exertion or your celebratory beer or wine.

Probably, it was neither. It was altitude.

Altitude sickness can hit anyone, even people in very good shape. Typically, it strikes when you live near sea level and go up to 8000 feet or more. While most of the lodgings in Tahoe are below 7500 feet, much of the skiing and boarding is above 8000 feet. For example, if you go Heavenly, Tahoe's highest area, and ride the upper mountain on either the California or Nevada side, you will spend much of your day above 9000 feet. At Kirkwood or Mt. Rose, it's also possible to spend much of your day above 9000 feet.

A body has a strong reaction to being deprived of oxygen. The reaction can even be dangerous. Altitude sickness will initially manifest as a major headache. I don't want to scare you, but if it progresses to nausea and vomiting, you may be at risk for pulmonary edema or cerebral edema. It's time to get down to lower altitude fast! Seriously. Otherwise, you could suffer a cascade of events that lead to coma and death. A drop of 2000 feet or more will make a big difference. If altitude sickness strikes in Tahoe, taking an hour to drive down to Reno or Carson City (both around 4500 feet) can make you feel much better and can even save your life. Even if you only go down for a few hours, it can revitalize your brain and body. (Of course, if you are really sick, seek medical attention.)

Why does does altitude sickness happen and how can you prevent it? Tune in next week...




Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Ski Weekend In Tahoe? There's Something You Need To Know...

The word is out. Tahoe has snow, and lots of it. So you may be planning a ski weekend.



We're so glad about that! But you should know that a hundred thousand other skiers and boarders have the same idea. So here are two simple things that will make the difference between a great vacation break and a frustrating struggle dealing with traffic.

1. If there is any possible chance of controlling when you come and go, do not plan to arrive on Friday afternoon or evening, and do not plan on leaving during mid-day on Sunday (or Monday, if it is a three-day weekend like Presidents Weekend in February). Whatever it takes to adjust your schedule will pay you a hundred times over in lack of traffic frustration. I strongly recommend coming up Thursday night and leaving Monday morning instead (or leaving on Tuesday morning if you visit on Presidents Weekend).

2. If it is snowing, don't try to Google-map your way around the highways and chain-up areas. Locals have been trading stories of the masses of cars on the back roads that have spun out and slid into ditches all because they were trying to avoid the main highways and instead found themselves on hills that are undriveable in major snow. Most of us locals have 4-wheel-drive, and we don't even go on those roads during storms. Last week, hundreds of people spent huge amounts of time in ditches while the cops tried without luck to unsnarl masses of traffic that couldn't move because the back roads were covered in wet black ice and cars were scattered in all directions like a hundred toys some kid had kicked across the room. If you stay on the highway, at least you have the benefit of graders and rotary plows and dump trucks spreading sand.

Even AFTER the snow melted and the countless spinouts were towed away,
there is still gridlock on Sunday afternoon with everyone trying to get out of the basin
at the same time, especially on the back roads. Choose to drive home after 5 p.m. or,
better yet, Monday, and you'll have a much better weekend. Good luck!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Flurry... No, A Storm Of Good Weather News

As we face another series of storms lined up out in the Pacific, it's interesting to note where we're at as we approach the half-way point in our winter season. One of the best ways to get a basin-wide picture is to look at what the ski areas have received at various locations around the lake.



Of course, ski resorts may spin how they present their snow totals, but I can say from personal experience that their reported figures seem pretty accurate. For example, during the last few years, they were quite frank about the lack of snow.

Here's a list of the "year to date" total snowfall as of Jan 16, 2016 for various ski areas. The total snowfall can vary significantly at different points in a given resort, so I'm just reporting the highest figure. You can assume that some locations at a given resort will have had less snow.

Sugar Bowl  281 inches

Boreal  243 inches

Squaw Valley  237 inches

Alpine Meadows  231 inches

Northstar  246 inches

Mt. Rose  210 inches

Diamond Peak  163 inches

Heavenly  201 inches

Sierra At Tahoe  241 inches

Kirkwood  243 inches

(You will notice I've left out Homewood, Donner Ski Ranch, Tahoe Donner. This is only because I couldn't find year-to-date totals for those areas)

Bottom line? We had a lot of snow so far - 20 feet in several places! - significantly above average for this time of the season. Thank El Nino or good luck or those pagan snow dances some people have been performing.

And more storms are on the way. As I write this a few hours before it posts, it is snowing again, and the National Weather Service shows a significant chance of snow for the next few days. Not bad, eh?

Come on up the mountains to play in the snow!




Sunday, January 10, 2016

Young Writers, And Mustangs, Too

Last week, I drove to Fernley, Nevada to give a talk about writing to 8th graders in the library at the Silverland Middle School. It was a great time.



I always love talking to kids because they are much more willing than adults to say what they think and ask the questions they are wondering about. So our conversation ranged over a wide territory. I was especially pleased when I asked if any of them had written fiction, a short story or otherwise, and most raised their hands. When I asked how long these stories were, the shortest number of pages I heard was 6 pages, and the longest number was 15.


In a world where we Boomers often think of younger generations as being hopelessly stuck on their video screens, it’s a great reassurance to be in a library surrounded by books (including mine!) and hear kids interested in, and talking about, reading and writing stories.


Writers know, of course, that stories will never go away. But we sometimes wonder if the future of storytelling is going to be exclusively in movie or video form. Once again, kids have given me reassurance that my ancient craft is not moribund. Yea!


Now comes the other cool part of going to Fernley. (For those of you who are curious, Fernley is about 30 miles east of Reno on Interstate 80, deep into the mountains of Northern Nevada.) To get there from Tahoe, I drove to Carson City and then turned east into the desert mountains, drove past the turnoff for Virginia City and continued east until I got to Silver Springs. From there it’s north a dozen miles to Fernley.


I knew this was Mustang country. And there were signs along the highway warning about the presence of wild horses. Even so, I didn’t expect to actually see wild Mustangs. But I saw 4 HERDS OF MUSTANGS! Gorgeous, majestic, frisky, energetic horses. The smallest group was 4 horses, the largest was 12 or 15 horses. Three of the groups were on nearby hillsides, and one was right next to the shoulder of the highway.





I’ve always thought that horses are the most beautiful animal on the planet. And, truth be told, Mustangs are probably no more beautiful than domesticated horses. But there’s something about their wildness… I think it may just be that when you see horses out on the open range, not fenced in, their striking beauty is more dramatic.





What a treat that day was! Talking to kids who are eager book readers and seeing Mustangs.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What, No Parking, No Carts, No Food?!

Here's what great snow will do in a ski resort town.


The week before Christmas, I had to make a delivery over by the Raley's Supermarket near Stateline on the South Shore. The parking lot was full. I drove to the farthest corner up behind the supermarket. 

Nix. Nada. Nope. 

Driving across town, I noticed that the Safeway parking lot was also full. I needed some groceries, but I didn't even try.

A week later, right before New Years, we'd run out of some basics. I went to Raley's at "The Y," also on the South Shore That lot was full as well. Lots of cars covered with snow, some that hadn't moved for hours. I would have left, but I was desperate. Gotta have something to eat.



So I loitered in the driving lanes with all the other cars. Eventually, someone pulled out right in front of me and I got a space.

Inside the store, there were no shopping carts. There were no hand baskets. The mass of people in ski clothes was impressive. I saw no locals because I was apparently the only local who'd forgotten the rule that says shop before 8:30 a.m. or after 9 p.m. during holidays. 

The produce section and the dairy section had entire shelves that were empty. The wine section was getting thin. The bread shelves were as lean as I'd ever seen. There were no employees roaming the aisles because they were all up front tending to the long checkout lines. 

When my turn came, the checkout man looked harried. "Busy, huh?" I said.

He made a weak grin. "Job security," he said. "There's a few skiers in town." An impressive understatement. "But we love 'em."

"Yes, we do." I agreed.

No parking, no carts, no food. Tahoe's tourist life blood has arrived.





Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dogs Don't Use Tools, Or Do They?

Do dogs use tools?
Everyone who studies animal intelligence makes special note of species that use tools, something once thought to be the exclusive domain of people. (Oh, our hubris!)

First, what is it that qualifies as this special thing we call using tools? One of the basic tool usages is manipulating an object (a tool) to achieve some goal distinct from the tool. Usually, the tool is used to get food.

For example researchers started noticing that Chimpanzees make spears to use in hunting smaller primates. They strip certain twigs of leaves to use for fishing termites out of holes. They use stone hammers to crack open nuts. They even use some kinds of leaves to make sponges and then use the sponges for washing.

Gorillas cut sticks of certain lengths to use as walking sticks and as gauges to measure water depth.

Sea Otters use stone hammers to crack open shells.

Elephants make fly swatters. They plug up the openings to narrow water holes to keep other, smaller animals from drinking all the water. They drop logs over electric fences to short them out.

Crows drop walnuts into intersections so that vehicles will drive over them and crack them open. Then the crows watch the stoplights. When the light turns red and stops the traffic, the crows fly down and safely get the walnuts.

Dolphins pick up marine sponges and use them to sweep the bottom of the ocean to stir up prey that is hiding in the sand.

Orangutans make whistles out of leaves to use in communication.

But do dogs use tools? Yes, they are man's best friend, and we love them dearly. And we know that it is easy to teach a dog to pick up an object and do nearly anything with it. But what about a dog that dreams up some kind of tool use on its own? Come on, really? Tool use? Taking an object, doing something with it to turn it into a tool for a specific use?

Watch this video of a Beagle when its owner is gone. He moves a kitchen chair across the floor so that he can use it as a step stool to get up on the kitchen counter, open the toaster oven, and steal the food inside. It will remove any doubt you may have about dogs using tools!

Here's the link: 

Beagle When Owner Leaves

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyQiPWufjwU

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tahoe Blue Fire Kindle Version Free On Christmas


FREE KINDLE BOOK ON CHRISTMAS!

"A Gripping Narrative... A Hero who walks confidently in the footsteps of
Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, and Lew Archer." - Kirkus Reviews

Each of the past few years I've given away my latest book for free on Kindle. This year, the Kindle version of Tahoe Blue Fire goes free on Christmas morning and stays free through December 29th.

Tahoe Blue Fire currently has 186 5-star reviews on Amazon, and it spent months on Amazon's Top 100 Private Investigator bestseller list.

Already read the paper version? You may want a copy on your Kindle just for, I don't know, when you're out of town and your paper version is at home and you want a Spot fix...

Please spread the word and tell your friends about the free version.

Here's the link: Tahoe Blue Fire

And if you come upon this blog after December 29th, check back next year. I will likely have a new book out, and it will likely be free once again.

Thanks so much for your interest!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dogs Keep Getting Smarter...

You dog owners know this feeling. You come home after a long day at work. When you open the door, your dog doesn't have her normal enthusiasm. One look at her face tells you that she got into trouble when you were gone. Her look of guilt is obvious.




But until now, scientists were almost unanimous in claiming that your perception that your dog felt guilty was nothing more than anthropomorphism, ascribing human emotions to your dog, emotions your dog isn't really capable of.

Except, oops, it turns out that those scientists are probably wrong.

Many of these questions and their answers hinge on a concept called Theory Of Mind. It is an awkward phrase that refers to the ability of humans - and elephants, dolphins, and some other primates - to understand that different individuals have different points of view. Different minds. And when one animal understands that another animal has a different perspective - a different mind - they respond accordingly, often with empathy, acknowledging and caring for another creature who may have different desires. Another individual who may, let's say, not appreciate that you ripped up the bed while they were gone.




This is important stuff, and scientists have devised lots of tests to figure out which, if any, animals might have this Theory Of Mind ability.

One of the reasons that scientists haven't spent a lot of time testing dogs may be that they simply take dogs for granted, assuming that dogs are fun, loyal pals who love to play and will learn nearly any trick if rewarded with a treat but that may not be worthy of much research. Another reason dogs may have been overlooked by scientists is that dogs are clearly not as brilliant (IN SOME WAYS) as a few other creatures.

For example, dogs fail the "mirror test." If a dog walks into a room where one of the walls is a solid mirror, he will see his reflected image, realize it is a dog, and respond with interest. But when he walks over to "that dog," he discovers that it isn't another normal dog and that it is on the other side of glass. Soon, he loses interest, because that other dog doesn't have dog smells and doesn't act much like a dog, i.e., sniffing him all over, etc. So the dog acts as if the dog in the mirror is some strange quirk that doesn't keep his interest. Most importantly, the dog never realizes that the dog in the mirror is his own image reflected back at him.

Elephants and dolphins and multiple primates DO understand mirrors. So any scientist who doesn't look at dog intelligence with awe might be forgiven. Even so, researchers kept finding evidence suggesting that dogs do understand Theory Of Mind issues. 

One of the best indicators is a series of experiments that have been done. There are lots of variations, but a typical version involves two people, let's call them Joe and Paul, a few buckets, and a treat. The basic principle is that a dog sees Joe come into a room and drop a treat in one of the buckets, let's say, the left bucket. The dog is allowed to go to the left bucket to get the treat. If Joe leaves and then returns, the dog will respond in some fashion that indicates he remembers what Joe did. So he'll likely go over to the left bucket and beg, look into the bucket, then look up at Joe, and wag, making it clear his wish for another treat.

But what if a different person, Paul, comes into the room? Will the dog engage in the same behavior, going over to the left bucket and begging for a treat? No. The dog doesn't act the same with Paul because he knows that Paul never previously brought a treat and put it in a bucket. The dog knows that Paul has a different mind than Joe. Just because Joe leaves a treat in the left bucket doesn't mean that Paul will do anything similar, and the dog understands that.

The dog knows the difference between different people, understands that each person has their own perspective, their own "mind." Dogs may not "get" mirrors, but they "get" those aspects described by Theory of Mind.

As I was researching this, I came upon one of those "Hello, duh, how did we miss the obvious" moments. While researchers were painstakingly demonstrating that dogs can understand  the concept of different "minds," they noticed something very basic. 

Your dog exhibits bad behavior now and then, but he won't get into trouble if you are in the house because your dog knows you will catch him. Leave for any length of time, however, and watch out. Not only that, but your dog can usually tell how long you will be gone.

If, when you leave your dog alone and he recognizes the signs that you are going to the corner store, he knows that you'll be gone an unpredictable length of time, and he won't get into trouble. But if he knows you're going to work for the entire day, he may well get into trouble. This clearly shows that he understands what you want and that if he's going to succumb to the temptations of trouble, he'll choose to only do it when you're gone long enough that you won't catch him in the act. 


Great Dane stealing a steak defrosting on the top of the fridge
As any dog owner knows, your dog sometimes acts guilty because he knows he's done something you don't want. He anticipates your displeasure before you even come home to discover his bad behavior.

Once again, the more we learn about dogs, the smarter they get.

Many of you also have cats, and you know that even while cats don't have the enthusiasm and the "I'm-so-eager-to-do-stuff!" attitude of dogs, they are smart. How smart? Well, those researchers made many attempts to put cats into the same scenarios as the dogs, hoping to discover if cats have "Theory of Mind" capability.

What did they find out? Nothing, because not one of the cats they tested could have cared less about the researchers' objectives. They refused to care about the treats, or look in the buckets, or pay any attention to whether Joe or Paul was in the room! No matter how smart cats are, they won't submit to what they must think are silly research projects.

Among hundreds of videos that demonstrate just how well dogs understand that what people want is not the same thing that dogs want, this is a great one: A Pit Bull waiting to be sure that his owner is gone for good before he gets up on the bed to play.
Here's the link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7D5bPLxU8U8

P.S. Watch the cat, too.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Your Novel Doesn't Sell? You Can Change That. (Final Installment)

This is the final installment of my little treatise on what a writer can do to power-up one's novel so that it becomes a good seller and an anchor point for your future books.

H) Make sure you have an Author Page on Amazon. They're easy and free to set up once you have a book published. Just Google Amazon Author Pages to find information on how to do it. Readers increasingly go to an author's Author Page to see a list of the author's entire bibliography. The Author Page provides a "big picture" look at any given author.

I) Find every possible opportunity to get yourself and your books (notice the plural) before the reading public. This means giving talks and presentations at libraries, service clubs, schools, book clubs, festivals, street fairs, writers conferences, getting yourself on author panels, participating in every kind of book celebration. Get yourself some book stands, signs, and a table. Seize every opportunity to get in front of people, hold up your books, and say, "Hey, I wrote these books, and I think they're pretty good, and they've got great reviews. I'd love to have you check them out!"

I've written about this before. Click on the "On Writing" label on the right sidebar of this blog and peruse the many blogs I've written about this topic. Also, go to the "Events Schedule" on my website to see the kinds of events I do and have done over the years.

In sum, here is the list of things from this series you can do to make your novel stand out in what has become a ridiculously crowded marketplace:

A) Get multiple critiques of your book from other writers in your genre.

B) Move Life-Or-Death trouble up to the first paragraph, or, better yet, the first sentence of your book.

C) When you've rewritten your book, get it professionally edited.

D) Get a cover designed by a professional book cover designer.

E) Get a dot-com website (not dot-net or dot-biz, etc.) that uses your author name as its domain name.

F) Once your book is published at an affordable price ($4 or less on Kindle), you need to get reviews, especially consumer reviews on Amazon.

G) Continue writing books in the same genre, and, if at all possible, have all of your books be in a series.

H) Make sure you have an Author Page on Amazon.

I) Find every possible opportunity to get yourself and your books (notice the plural) before the reading public.

I believe that if you do these things, you will be well on your way to success. Even more, I believe that if you don't do these things, you may be operating with an insurmountable handicap.

These things are basic and were done by nearly all successful authors when they started out. Yes, this is all work, but none of these things is complicated. And compared to any other work, this is kid stuff, the easiest job in the world. Just by writing a novel, you've already demonstrated that you can take on, and succeed at, a huge challenge. 

As I said in a previous post, the hardest part of being an author is writing a really good novel. But the most important part is getting that book in front of readers. The points in this series belong to both parts.

Good luck!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Your Novel Doesn't Sell? You Can Change That. (Part Seven)

This is the penultimate post in my series about what to do when the love of your life (your novel) has been disappointing you...

G) Continue writing books in the same genre, and, if at all possible, have all of your books be in a series. (Note that the series need not be the type where the books have to be read in order, as with a trilogy. The important thing is that readers get to revisit the world of characters they've come to know and care about.) Books in a series reinforce each other. Books in a series give readers a subliminal sense that each book is more important than they would otherwise think if it were a standalone. Books in a series need only be sold to a reader once, and, if that reader loved the book, they will likely buy the rest in the series.

Multiple books are critical to success as a writer. Despite the few exceptions you can think of, nearly all successful authors have written multiple books. All other things being equal, (and assuming an author's books fit these conditions I've been writing about), the more books an author writes, the more successful he or she is.

Think through the basics of your series before you bring even your first book to market (Or before you change-up and re-market your first book).

Two more things to do: Make certain that your book covers communicate the "series" aspect. You want certain graphic aspects to be shared by all of your books, same size titles and font, same design theme, etc. The other is to have a "series identifier" in the title. The goal is that when readers of one of your books see another, they immediately recognize it as part of a series with which they're already familiar. To get a visceral sense of these series identifiers, spend some time looking at the "author pages" on Amazon of your favorite authors and see how the titles and graphics relate.

Stay tuned for the final installment of what to do about an under-performing novel.