Sunday, October 14, 2018

Kids And Horses

One of the cool things about being an author is participating in charity-name auctions to raise funds for a worthy charity.

I've done this a few times. The way it works is an author agrees to allow a charity to auction off the right to have one's name used for a character in the author's upcoming book. The winning bidder gets the fun of having their name applied to a fictional character, whether it be a wonderful heroic character, an evil bad guy, or somewhere in between.

My most recent title, Tahoe Skydrop, had two characters named for auction winners. One provided funds for the Women and Children's Center in Reno. Another provided funds for the Carson City Friends of the Library.

Last summer, I was approached by the organizers of a fundraiser for the Kids & Horses charity in Minden, Nevada. They provide therapy for kids that revolves around getting those kids into contact with horses. It turns out that many kids with problems strongly connect to horses, whether riding them or simply being around them.

The fundraiser auction was held in Incline Village a few weeks ago. They auctioned off two names for me to use in my next book.

How much did those two character names raise? $5,000!

Wow, I guess I better do a good job with those characters!

Here's the link to Kids & Horses

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Jackie, The Very Nice Ski Instructor

Last weekend, I exhibited my books at the Candy Dance Festival in Genoa, Nevada. It was, as usual, a mob scene.

One fun experience was when a charming woman with her two sons in tow came to my tent. She introduced herself as Jackie, and she explained that 28 years ago, she'd been a ski instructor at Heavenly.

The view from Heavenly

That was the year my wife and I moved to Tahoe. We wanted to take a break from the real world, so we decided to try the "ski bum" life for a season and got jobs at Heavenly. I worked as a "liftee" helping skiers as they rode the lifts. I asked the supervisor if I could be assigned to the "Mighty Might," a type of rope tow on the beginner hill where skiers grab onto "paddles" attached to the tow.

To give you some perspective, the total vertical drop at Heavenly is 3,600 feet. The total vertical drop of the Mighty Might hill was 10 feet. But you'd be amazed at the trouble (and fun!) beginning skiers can get into with just 10 feet of rise and drop.

The Mighty Might assignment was considered the lamest, most uncool job in the lift department. But I saw an opportunity to make it my own. I put up a blackboard and wrote down the names of countries that the beginning skiers came from. Dozens of countries every day, from all over the world! I put up fun quotes. And when I wasn't busy, I sat in the sun (or in the storms!) and wrote.

When ski instructor Jackie introduced herself in Genoa, she said how she still remembered me on the Mighty Might hill, writing every day on my yellow pad of paper. She was so glad to see that my writing had turned into something.

Then I suddenly remembered her from 28 years ago. And I recalled that my singular impression of Jackie was that she was the nicest, smiling-est instructor at Heavenly. And like me, she didn't consider working the Mighty Might as lame at all. She saw it as an opportunity to help brand new skiers get a great introduction to a fantastic sport in one of the world's most beautiful areas.

As my memory of her came back, I told her two sons about how nice and kind and generous Jackie was with her ski students.

They looked a bit doubtful.

Jackie said, "See boys? I CAN be nice. I HAVE been nice.

What fun!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Great Danes At Book Signings

This weekend, I'm exhibiting at the Candy Dance Festival in Genoa, Nevada's oldest town. Yesterday, people brought four Great Danes. One couple had two, a Brindle and a Fawn. One man had a Black. Another had a Merle. All quite large. All very calm and well-behaved.





Of course, the dogs were mobbed by the crowds, getting hugs, pictures, pets. Very fun.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Oh, Yeah, Time To Revisit...

There are many places in Tahoe worth revisiting again. And again. This is one of them.

The Rubicon Trail is accessed from D.L. Bliss State Park on the West Shore, just north of Emerald Bay. Because Rubicon Point is the tallest underwater cliff in the lake - 1000 vertical-foot-wall dropping under water - the depth gives the water an amazing color.

Note the two stand-up paddle boarders off the rocky point.

Much of the hike is substantially above the water, so you have many opportunities to look straight down into that amazing blue.

If you want more details, here's a link to a post I wrote four years ago:


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Why You Should Come To Tahoe In September

It doesn't get better than this. High temp of 73, high 74, high 70...

And the forecast is calling for more of the same for the rest of the week. Add to that the fact that the tourists have largely left. Yesterday, we walked out to Pope Beach. It was deserted. The water was an amazing transition of intense blues. The beach sand was hot. And no one was there.

Time to come up the mountain and enjoy it!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

What Your Dog Can Do That Chimps Cannot

Chimps, Bonobos, and the other great apes are our closest relatives. They are highly intelligent and have complex societies that are surprisingly like ours. Yet there is something that your dog gets that they don't.


With very little training, your dog knows what you mean when you point at something. It will look where you're pointing because it knows that you want it to. Maybe it's which cup to knock over to find a treat. Or maybe it's a bird off in the next field.

But despite lots of effort, researchers can't seem to get our primate cousins to understand this basic skill.

Sure, there are no doubt lots of perfectly good reasons why chimps and bonobos don't understand pointing. Or maybe they do understand it, but don't care. (Cats, anyone?)

Two of our Great Danes got excited when we pointed. It didn't matter if it was a squirrel in a tree or a plane in the sky or a tennis ball in the grass or a treat we'd hidden. When we'd point, they would immediately turn and stare, frowning, focusing, looking for whatever it was that we were trying to indicate.

Smart animals, those dogs we all love.

Sunday, August 26, 2018


We were hiking in the woods the other day and came upon a couple with two German Shepherds. The dogs wore goggles.

While we watched, one of the couple held the dogs while the other person hiked far into the woods and hid a blue "bone." When that person rejoined the spouse and dogs, they waited a bit, then gave the command "FIND."

The dogs raced off into the forest. A short time later, the dogs ran back. One of them had the blue bone in its mouth. A great game of course. The first time we'd seen it with dogs wearing goggles.

If your dog has a head injury you don't want it to scratch, you put a big cone collar on it. The dog will of course try to get that cone off.  I would have thought that once out of the observation of humans, the dogs would shake and paw-off those pesky dog goggles as well. Shows what I know.

The people explained that the dogs like the goggles because, as with people running through trees and brush, the dogs don't have the stress of branches poking at their eyes.

Wow, and I thought the dogs I've seen wearing sunglasses just did it to please their owners.

Another example of dog smarts.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Cool Tahoe Hiking Website

Local writer/artist/photographer Jared Manninen has a newish (at least to me) website about trails in the Tahoe area. It is called Tahoe Trail Guide dot com. Whether you're a hiker or skier or snowshoer or backpacker, or you just want to look at the gorgeous pictures, you will enjoy this site. Here's the link:

If you want to learn about its creator... Another link:


P.S. I've met Jared. In addition to his generosity - obvious from the effort he's put into making all of this info available to the world for nothing - I can also attest that he is a Nice Guy.

P.P.S The pic above is a Pixabay image, as I did not feel I should grab one of Jared's off his website. Better to go to the website and see Tahoe the way Jared presents it.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Single Most Important Tip About Tahoe

Go early.

For driving, parking, hiking, boating, biking, eating.

In the first seven days of my new book launch, I've been around the lake twice. And I've seen what most locals avoid. Which is tourists trying to get someplace - anyplace - find parking, beach spots, hiking trails, dinner reservations etc. Many are frustrated and get turned away by the various gate-keepers.

But even at the busiest times of the year, Tahoe can be a great experience if you simply go early. For hiking, try to be at the trail head by 7 a.m. For the beaches and parks, show up at the entrance gate 15 or 20 minutes before they open. (Google your destination to see what the hours are.) For a deli sandwich or other groceries and picnic supplies, get to the supermarket by 8 a.m., or much earlier if possible. Again, look up the hours online. 

Locals have to get their daily supplies, too. But we know that during summer one should be done with all errands and be off the road by 9 a.m.

If you get to your destination early, you'll be much happier.

Tahoe Beach before the crowds arrive.
Enjoy Tahoe!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Red Flag Warning!

The last two days, Cal Fire and the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for extreme fire danger. Not just Tahoe, but most of Northern California and Northern Nevada.

The warning comes when humidity levels are very low and wind predictions are very high. Even the tiniest spark can start a fire that grows explosively into a blowup. (Oh yeah, I wrote a book about that.)

So no yard work (a shovel hitting a rock can cause a spark), no campfires or barbecues (a hot ash can drift into vegetation), no parking off paved roads (a vehicle's exhaust and catalytic converter can ignite vegetation) and no cigarettes smoked outdoors.

Please stay safe.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Best Place In A Heat Wave?


While the rest of the West and Southwest bakes in monster heat (Sacramento, CA 105 degrees, Redding, CA 112 degrees, and Palm Springs, CA 117 degrees!), Tahoe hit 90. We think that's a major heat wave.

But here's a Tahoe secret. Even when it gets to 90, at night it drops down to the lower 40s.

We open all our windows at night. By morning it's 59 degrees indoors, and we wear sweatshirts with the hoods up and drink hot coffee to stay warm.

Add to that an occasional afternoon thunderstorm that produces cold downdrafts and hail (A few days ago, we were at Camp Rich on the South Shore and we got an inch of hail while we shivered under an overhang at Valhalla estate. It looked like winter on the lawn.

So come on up the mountain and cool down!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Writers, Beware How You Spend Your Time And Money

Writers are eager - sometimes even desperate - to find help with all aspects of writing and publishing. As a result, we often sign on for, and even purchase, "Questionable Help" that is usually presented in attractive packaging but in fact offers little reliable guidance.

Here are some "attractive" concepts that often require needless time and expenditure. They are enormously popular. They are also often overrated, sometimes seriously so.

Where appropriate, I make suggestions for alternatives.

Questionable Help: #1: Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) is increasingly assumed to be necessary to find readers and sell books. Yes, an active social media presence probably helps. But studies show it is an enormous time-suck. If you like social media, do it for the joy it gives. (It does bring you joy, right?) But you probably shouldn't do it because you think it will make your writing career. Full disclosure: I don't do social media. You may think that proves that I don't have a clue about its effectiveness. Can't argue with you there. But I've built a career without it. And I've met numerous authors who say that while social media does a great job of connecting them to readers they already have, it doesn't seem to be so successful finding new readers.

     Suggested Alternative: Take some, or all, of your social media time and energy and use most of it to write more good books and the rest of it to go out and give talks at libraries, service clubs, book clubs, and any other event where you actually meet readers face-to-face. My experience suggests that meeting readers in person is by far the most effective way to get them to try your books. The quality of the book they try determines if they read your other books.

Questionable Help: #2: Purchasing a publication package from an internet publisher. These people are in the business of taking money from writers with stars in their eyes. They are not in the business of selling books. You can check this by looking up their authors on Amazon and seeing their usually-dismal sales ranking.

     Suggested Alternative: Find an agent who will find a real publisher who pays you an advance instead of taking your money. Or publish your book with real self-publishing. According to several sources, 25% of all Amazon bestsellers are now self-published. I don't believe any of them were published by one of the internet publishing companies. According to some of those sources, over half of all authors making $100,000 per year are now self-published (using real self-publishing). (How is it that the self-published 25% of bestselling authors can comprise half of $100,000-plus earners? Because self-published authors keep far more of the sales income. Thus a smaller number of self-published authors end up making more than a larger number of New York-published authors.)

The following three posts give some explanation about self-publishing.

Questionable Help: #3: Purchasing books and/or consultations by so-called experts who describe themselves as book doctors or book coaches or "how to write" experts. How-to books and consultations have the potential to be helpful, but notice one very important thing. Many of these "experts" have little actual experience. Look to see if the author of the "how to write" book has had any significant success writing. Same for the authors of "how to get published" books, or "how to sell" books. I've seen books about writing mystery novels written by authors who appear to have written very few mystery novels. By their lack of sales, it appears they thought it might just be easier to write and sell "how-to" books. Yes, I know that some good coaches exist in arenas where they've had little experience. But in the absence of that experience, you should look for testimonials about their expertise, testimonials from best-selling authors.

     Suggested Alternative: Join writers groups and critique groups. Go to their meetings. Get to know other writers. Go to writers' conferences, especially the ones that offer critique.

Questionable Help: #4: Many authors write a book or two and then try to chase down marketing gurus and publicists to help them turn their book into a bestseller. This is putting the cart before the horse. (Remember, writers should never use cliches!) The most important component of building a writing career is more good books. After you have a bunch entrees on your menu - I mean, a bunch of books out - then is the time to start big-time publicizing of your restaurant.

     Suggested Alternative: See my two posts on finding Success at Writing.

As one of those posts explains, do like Hugh Howey and write ten or twenty books before you get all focused on marketing. If you wait, you will become a much better writer and have a much better likelihood of success.