Sunday, July 26, 2015

Can't Get Luckier Than This


Last night I had my inaugural signing of my new book TAHOE BLUE FIRE. The signing was held at Artifacts in South Lake Tahoe. I was so fortunate to have an amazing turnout. That so many of you had such positive things to say about my characters and their previous adventures was even better.

We writers build a fictional world, and we tell stories with elements of truth and reality embedded in that fiction. If we're very lucky - as I have been - people respond. When readers want to spend time in the world of Owen and Spot, Street and Diamond, it is the most wonderful, gratifying reward that I can imagine.

Thank you all for your support. I'm eager to dive into this book launch. My next event is Wednesday, July 29th. I'm giving a talk about TAHOE BLUE FIRE at the South Lake Tahoe library at 6:30 p.m. I know I'll see a lot of you there.

Thanks again. I'm a lucky guy.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Is Your Character Development Too Much, Too Little, Or Just Right?

Last week, I received an email from a fellow writer. This person asked how a writer knows when they’ve developed a character enough, not enough, or too much. I thought the question and my answer would make a useful blog post.



Here's the letter:

Todd,

Realizing you met several people at the Book Fest Solano in Vacaville this spring, I do not expect for you to remember me!

Having said that, I enjoyed visiting with you and purchased several of your books. All favorites. Thanks for writing!

If you have time, I have a fairly basic question that bugs me as I write my mysteries.

As a mystery writer, I find myself either not developing my characters enough (I don't want to bore my reader) or possibly too much. How do you know when too much is really too much? Does this apply to all characters in the same mystery or should it vary?

Thank you in advance...




My answer:

Hi Fellow Writer,

Thanks for writing.

Your question is a valuable one, but I don't think there is a black-and-white answer. So I'll toss out some general guiding concepts that I use.

Yes, I'd vary how much you reveal of character according to how important your character is to your story.

Deciding how much one should develop characters is probably best looked at by the principle of making sure that everything you write advances the story and moves it in the direction you need. No matter how interesting a particular character tidbit is, if it doesn't help move the story forward, then it should go.

Thus some characters need only the briefest mention with, perhaps, one telling detail. Other characters that are central to the story might need a great deal of development for us to understand where they came from and what is involved in their character transformation.

A critical aspect to how you reveal character is to try to stick only to dialogue and action and delete your exposition (the stuff you tell the reader because you think the reader needs to know it). Don't worry, we all write with exposition, but the more of it we can eventually cut out, the more interesting the story will be. (Readers are very smart. They can figure out all manner of aspects to your story without being told. All they have to do is read action and dialogue, and those reveal nearly everything the reader needs to know.)

This is another variation of the "show, don't tell" rule, i.e., don't tell us that your character is a fastidious dresser and might be a misogynist and that he smokes cigars. Instead, show him standing in front of the mirror adjusting his tie and picking at flecks of lint on his shirt all while saying disparaging things to the woman in the room. Then show the woman nearly gagging on the smell of the cigar in his teeth. 

If the nature of this character's personality is critical to the story, and if you show it instead of telling it, then we probably can't get too much of it. And we'll be intrigued to see every little aspect of this character as it is revealed.

Here are two editing techniques that many writers use to help with character development. I do both of these things.

First, when you are done with your first draft, go through and determine to trim it by 30%. Your goal should be to tell the same story as you go from, say, 500 pages to 350 pages. What happens is that you'll never throw out your best stuff. You'll automatically keep every passage that makes you laugh, or cry. You’ll keep everything that gives you anger or tension or fear. You'll keep your most scintillating dialogue and your most emotional scenes. As you force yourself to cut, you'll toss the weakest stuff, perhaps a bit of dialogue and a bit of action, and you’ll take out a whole lot of exposition. In the end, you'll have a much tighter story that will leave the reader wishing the book was longer (the best way to ensure that they rave to their friends and buy your other books).

Second, read your book aloud, imaging that famous book reviewers and English professors and New York agents are listening. That is a good way to identify unnecessary stuff regarding both characters and plot. As you read, you'll be proud of certain parts. You might also suffer hints of embarrassment at other parts as you think that your imaginary listeners are frowning or rolling their eyes. (At least, this is my response to the reading aloud exercise!)

Good luck, and keep writing!

Todd

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gotta Love That Drought Rain And Snow



We're almost four years into the worst California drought in recorded history, right?

Check.

Every winter since it began, we've had less snowpack than the year before.

Check.

The Jet stream has been shooting whatever moisture and cold it could to the Midwest and East Coast.

Check.

Tahoe and the rest of the West keep setting new high temperature records.

Check.

But...


After an almost-no-snow winter, May in Tahoe brought more snow than all the previous winter months combined. And the last ten days in July have been constant storms, rain and hail. At the end of June, we set another record high. Just this last Thursday, after a week of rain, our high temp was 63. Friday, it was 62. The storms keep rolling in, Monsoonal moisture pushing up from the Southwest deserts, they say.

We don't care how the moisture gets here. We're just glad for it. Maybe it's the beginning of something beautiful.


Remember, before the drought began, the winter of 2010-11 set snowfall records. 700 inches on the passes. Ten feet of standing snow in our yard. It could happen again.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Tahoe Blue Fire Signing Schedule


Hi Everybody,

I've got 20 signing events currently scheduled for my new book, Tahoe Blue Fire. I'll list them in order and put headings for locations, so you can scan down to see when I'll be near you. Hope to see you soon!



SOUTH LAKE TAHOE

July 24, 2015, 4 - 7 p.m. Signing my new Tahoe mystery, TAHOE BLUE FIRE, at Artifacts, 4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd (in the Raleys Village Center just southwest of Heavenly Village) (530) 543-0728

July 29, 2015, 6:30 p.m. Talk and Signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at the South Lake Tahoe Library, Rufus Allen Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA

TRUCKEE

July 30, 20155-7 p.m.signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at "Truckee Thursdays" downtown Truckee, CA

RENO

August 1, 2015, 11 a.m., Talk and Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE, Sundance Bookstore at 121 California Avenue, Reno, NV (775) 786-1188

TAHOE CITY

August 1, 2015 3 p.m. Signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at Geared for Games, Boatworks Mall, Tahoe City, CA

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE

August 2, 2015 8:30 a.m. Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE at The Red Hut Cafe at Ski Run and Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA

MINDEN, NV

August 7, 2015 6:30 p.m. Talk and Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE, at Shelby's Bookshoppe, 1663 Lucerne St. in Minden Village, Minden, NV 775-782-5484

CARSON CITY

August 8, 2015 8:30 a.m. Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE at The Red Hut Cafe 4385 S. Carson, Carson City, NV

RENO

August 9, 2015 8:30 a.m. Signing for TAHOE BLUE FIRE at The Red Hut Cafe 3480 Lakeside #1, Reno, NV

BURLINGAME

August 15, 16, 2015, Signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE and exhibiting all of my books at the Burlingame Art & Wine Festival, Burlingame, CA

PLACERVILLE

August 29, 2015 3 p.m. Talk and signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at El Dorado Arts Council Art Space at their new location in The Fausel House, 772 Pacific St., Placerville, CA

MOUNTAIN VIEW

September 12, 13, 2015  Exhibiting and signing all of my books at the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival, Mountain View, CA

PLEASANTON

September 18, 19, 20, 2015 Exhibit and sign books at the Pleasanton Harvest Festival, at the Pleasanton Fair Grounds, Pleasanton, CA

GENOA

September 26, 27, 2015 Exhibit and sign books at the Candy Dance Festival, Genoa, NV

CARSON CITY

September 29, 2015 6:30 p.m. Talk and signing TAHOE BLUE FIRE at Browsers Books, 711 E Washington St, Carson City, NV (Across from the Carson City Library)

SACRAMENTO

November 6, 7, 8, 2015  Exhibit and sign books at the Sacramento Fine Arts Show,  Sacramento Convention Center, Sacramento, CA

SAN MATEO

November 13, 14, 15, 2015  Exhibit and sign books at the San Mateo Harvest Festival, San Mateo CA

SACRAMENTO


November 20, 21, 22, 2015, Exhibit and sign books at the Sacramento Harvest Festival, at Cal Expo at the California State Fair Grounds, Sacramento, CA

SAN JOSE


November 27, 28, 29, 2015 Exhibit and sign books at the San Jose Harvest Festival, San Jose Convention Center, San Jose, CA

QUINCY


December 4, 2015 5 - 7 p.m. Signing Tahoe BLUE FIRE at Epilog Books, Quincy, CA


THANKS for your interest!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Downside Of Being A Writer - Outer Space Eggs

I spend a lot of time on the road. Festivals, talks, book signings. I always bring a cooler with my meals. I also bring a microwave. Yes, you read that correctly. I travel with a small microwave and bring it into my motel/hotel rooms to cook my dinner that I've brought from home. 

Sometimes in the morning, I venture to the "House Breakfast" room to consider an alternative to my mostly-coffee, in-room meal. Hotel breakfast meals are usually sugary muffins or sugary cereals with a choice of banana or orange. There is also what I call the "Outer Space Eggs" box. This is a plexi-glass cabinet. Inside are usually three trays. One has piles of sausage patties, and one has piles of bacon. The third has yellow, folded, half circles of spongy rubber material. Think yellow Frisbee heated up until it can be folded in half. And squirted into the folded Frisbee is a kind of milky, orange, polyurethane material that is a fourth cousin to imitation cheese sauce and served at four degrees above room temperature.

Please know that I appreciate that hotels provide food-like items. And I especially appreciate the efforts of the people who do the work of preparing and displaying the food. They do what they're told and work with what they're given. And after the groggy-eyed customers have attempted eating, the workers clean up the mess.

But Outer Space Eggs are to real eggs like colored water is to Scotch - a prop for a stage play that even a desperate actor wouldn't actually consume, a prop that the audience knows is a folded, yellow Frisbee.

Writing is the best job in the world. But even the best jobs have a downside.

Outer Space Eggs.






Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sneak Preview - Tahoe Blue Fire!

The new Owen McKenna mystery is in the pipeline, and I'm excited about it! It's called TAHOE BLUE FIRE. This is the 13th book in the Tahoe mystery series.






TAHOE BLUE FIRE is about a series of murders that appear to be motivated by an amazing artifact from the Italian Renaissance 500 years ago, an artifact that may have appeared in modern-day Tahoe. The number one suspect in the case is a former pro football player named Adam Simms who is suffering traumatic brain injury from his days on the gridiron. Detective Owen McKenna wonders if Simms is being framed. But he may also be a diabolical killer who is faking brain injury...

TAHOE BLUE FIRE will be out at the end of July. I hope you enjoy it!

Here's a link to more info: ToddBorg.com

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Being An Author: The Hardest Part vs. The Most Important Part

One of the most common questions I get is, “What is the most important part of being an author?” Another is, “What is the hardest part of being an author?”


Good questions. The answers are totally different.




Back in the early 1990s, Michael Pietsch gave a talk at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, a major writers’ conference. For those of you who are interested, I recommend it. I went and learned a lot. At the time, Pietsch was Editor-in-Chief at Little Brown (think James Patterson, Michael Connelly). Now, he is Publisher at Hachette, Little Brown’s parent company. Talking about the consolidation in the publishing business, which was getting to full steam right about then, Pietsch said that while a good book was important to publishers, an author’s platform was much more important. He explained that, in considering what books to publish, the focus of New York publishers was deciding which authors had a chance of selling 25,000 copies in hardcover. The main driver of what helps an author sell books is how well that author is known. Does he or she have a syndicated newspaper column that will help sell books? A radio show? Is she the CEO of a big company with lots of employees who might buy her book? Is her aunt a producer on Oprah? Is she a celebrity? Famous or infamous? Is he or she - sorry to say it - beautiful and charming and articulate on the fly? (Those qualities that draw lots of attention in a TV-focused world.)


The measures of platform helped to explain the rumors that Saul Bellow, who’d won the Nobel Prize for Literature and was arguably America’s greatest living writer, had a new novel he couldn’t get published while Paris Hilton could get a book deal well into six figures. Bellow was a wonderful writer but not someone that many people remember as being prime guest material for, say, Jimmy Fallon’s gig.


It all gets down to how big is your impact on the vast pool of readers.


By comparison, a good book, while important, was not as critical as platform. That was true in the early 90s, and it’s still true today. Which brings me to the focus of this piece.


The hardest thing about being an author is not the same as the most important thing. (Note that this all presupposes that the author believes that an audience is critical to the equation.)


The hardest part of being an author is writing a good book. The most important part is figuring out how to get that book in front of readers. Mr. Bellow nailed the hardest part. Ms. Hilton nailed the most important part.





Let’s revisit what makes a good book (focusing, for these purposes, on fiction). You need a gripping story, told with authority and flair. You need to find the magic that gets your reader to suspend their disbelief such that, even though they know your book is fiction, they “buy” into it and get as involved as if the story were true. You need characters that readers connect with, characters that we love or hate, cheer or hiss, worry about or hope will die. You need to have a rising plot curve that makes it difficult for readers to put down the book. You need all the subtleties of clear and lively writing. You need to have an unerring ear for the way people talk as well as the ability to describe action and emotion so that the reader is never distracted by the writing. You need to have mastered all the mechanics of prose, point of view, dialogue, action, and the dreaded exposition. You need to understand and employ foreshadowing for every critical scene in your novel. You need your writing to be intelligent. You may even need the subject of your novel to be educational for the reader who is looking to learn something from every book they read. Last, you need to imbue your writing with that undefinable characteristic of stickiness such that the reader will stay with your book and, when finished, will buy your other books.


This book writing stuff is easy if all you’re trying to do is get 350 pages of stuff down. But if you want an audience larger than your mother and your best bud, it is really quite hard. Think of the books you’ve read - or started to read - that just don’t do it for you. The author went through all the motions and tried very hard, but the book didn’t grab you. If you are the writer, this is a daunting task. Writing a good book is the hardest part of being an author.


But it ain’t the most important part.


Once you have some good books, you will badly want to find readers. I’ve heard of a few authors who wrote dozens novels without finding an audience. Apparently, they were sufficiently satisfied with the joys of writing stories. But they are rare. You should expect to publish more than one book before you find much of an audience. But after several books, most of us will start to develop a strong urge to see other campers enjoying the bonfire we’ve carefully built.


So how does one pursue this “most important” part of being an author?


You identify the people you know or sort of know and you reach out to them with mail and email and social media posts and tweets and Facebook posts and a blog and whatever else you can think of. You figure out how to get the media talking or writing about your book. You participate in blog tours and online discussions. You join author circles where each author promotes every other author’s book. You plan as many “events” as you possibly can, giving talks, participating in panel discussions, making presentations at service clubs, going to libraries and bookstores. In short, you make appearances of any kind where you can introduce your book. Then you introduce it! “Hi there. I’m here today introducing my new book. It’s about .... I think it’s good, and I’m proud of it, and I’d love to have you give it a try!”


Is this easy? No. It’s very hard. Especially for introverts who make up 95% of serious writers. (Because authors by definition need to spend most of their time alone, writing and thinking. The extroverted, life-of-the-party, office gadfly rarely makes a good writer because social interaction and writing are mutually exclusive.)

Jane Austen, drawn by her sister Cassandra.
Austen was likely an introvert. If she were alive today,
she probably would have a very hard time getting
published because she had no platform.

Hard as working your platform is, it’s the most important part of finding an audience for your books. You have to get tough and get to it. When you succeed at earning a living from writing, you’ll be ecstatic, because making up stories is the best job in the world.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The New Number One Rule To Writing Success

Find a narrow niche and own it.

You're a novelist. You want to find an audience beyond your mother and your best friend. (Because there's no greater thrill than having strangers write to you and tell you how much they love your books.) There's just one big - very big - problem.

The world of books is saturated. 



Amazon now has something like 12 million books available. But there are only about 12 million really dedicated, addicted readers in this country. If each of them read 100 books a year, and if all books sold the same, that would mean your masterpiece would sell 100 copies a year. That would provide you with one or two hundred bucks a year in income. Not enough to buy a Starbucks frap more than once a week. Double the number of readers, the picture doesn't change much.

What's worse is that the above scenario is very generous. The reason is that most of the books in readers' Kindles or on their bookshelves are written by famous authors. So unknown authors have a hard time getting anyone to look at their book. In fact, I looked at one of the popular internet publishers. (Note that I strongly recommend you avoid using internet publishers.) I divided the total books reported sold by the total number of titles available. The result? The average novel they publish has sold less than two copies. 

By contrast, I once read in Publishers Weekly that the average novel published by print publishers sells 80 copies. Big by comparison, but still very bleak.

Where are the authors whose books sell enough to earn a living? They're out there, and we know their names. But they are a tiny percentage of all authors.

Does this mean that all those books by unknown authors are no good? Not at all. Some are masterpieces. This is simply the reality of too many books chasing too few readers. Which brings us to the new number one rule of writing success.

Find a narrow niche and own it.

This is the big fish/little pond concept. Let's say you've written a romance or mystery or fantasy. Or maybe you've invented a new genre. Further, let's say your book is really good and has a fascinating, sympathetic character in major trouble going up against one of the all-time greatest villains. David vs. Goliath. Write a great book and readers will come, right?

Unfortunately, millions of other authors feel the same way about their book. Every year there are another million titles out there. Another romance or mystery or fantasy or mainstream novel has almost no chance of making a blip on the graph.

Which authors have the greatest chance of finding an audience? Those who choose a niche that is narrow enough that their book pops up whenever someone looks for something in that niche.




Let's look at examples. Let's say someone wants to read a great thriller with a racing plot and heroic characters and a world's-about-to-end story line. What would they do? Search for that description on Amazon? Or Google? Probably not. More likely, the reader would think of a subject they really enjoy and search for that. Religious mysteries. Or time-travel fantasy. Or archaeology thrillers. Or twisted psychological novels. If so, would your book pop up? No. More likely they would find a book by Dan Brown or Diana Gabaldon or James Rollins or Gillian Flynn. 

The problem is that general search terms only bring up books that are already popular. Most authors who try to write those kinds of books never find any audience. There is too much competition and the field is utterly dominated by current big-name authors.

If, however, you write a book series that has an unusual story thread about, let's say, a history book club of elderly women who find a way to time-travel to the time just before Christ and, using their knowledge of how historical movements survive, help Caesar come to power. If you write that, you stand a very good chance of owning that niche by the time you've published just a few books in the series. 

Is the audience for this subject large? Probably not. At least, not yet. But there are people who love to read about the Roman Empire, and there are readers who love time travel. Those readers will periodically search on such subjects. Whenever their combined search terms get close to your books, they will pop up, often at the top of the search results. The reason is simply that your books will be the only series with this unique niche.

Assuming your books are well written and professionally edited and have professional covers, those few early readers will spread the word. Eventually, your narrow niche will grow. It may even become popular enough that other writers will try to adopt your niche, which simply gives it more credibility. Whatever attention those writers are able to get will build your audience. Everyone will compare their books to yours because you created the niche. In any discussion of those other writers, you will get mentioned. You will own your niche.

You may be wondering, "But what if no one cares about my narrow subject and my book doesn't take off?" That may be the case. But if you try to be one more of the 12 million minnows in the big pond, that will almost certainly be the case. Choosing a narrow niche at least gives you a chance.

This approach doesn't just work with writing books, either. Jeff Bezos could have decided to jump into the big pond and open a regular bookstore just like everyone else. Instead, he chose a niche so narrow that no one had ever thought of it. Selling books online. What kind of nut case was he? But he immediately became the biggest fish in what was then a very small pond. Of course, that pond grew a bit. And every imitator that came along only boosted his rep.




So how do you pick a niche for your book series? The obvious ones are easy. 

Pick a setting that is not featured in any other series. (Just Google your idea to find out - "books set in Anytown, Arkansas." ) Every person who grew up in, or is otherwise interested in, Anytown will be intrigued by your books. And people who've never heard of Anytown will be curious about books set in such an obscure place. 

Pick an occupation for your protagonist that isn't featured in any other books. Yes, the obvious occupations, like Medical Examiner, are already over-represented. But has anyone written a series featuring an ex-convict woman who makes hand-built, wooden sailing yachts that are prized by smugglers? You get the idea.

Pick a time-and-subject combination that isn't featured in any other books. A gay circus strongman set in the 16th century. A woman physicist who was Einstein's secret paramour and who also gave him many of his best ideas. A mother who's never slept with any man but her husband but discovers that the DNA of her children came from another man. An astronomer who discovers an intelligent laser transmission from outside of the solar system, a transmission that comes from himself in the future. (Maybe that one's been done - I'm not a SciFi expert.) The point is that it's relatively easy to come up with unusual ideas that can be intriguing.



What if you've already written the first novel or two in a series? It's not hard to retrofit them into a narrow niche. Look at your story arc and your characters and consider how they might be changed to take your novel from one of the masses to one that's unique. You might be surprised at how easy it is. The reason is that all stories have similar basic components. Changing the costumes and the stage and some of the themes is not that difficult. Bringing your novel into a narrow niche will distinguish it from a million others.

If you find a narrow niche and own it, you will find an audience. Then the only question is how big you can grow it.




Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tahoe Farmers' Markets

As summer approaches, people start thinking about Farmers' Markets!


But can you find any up in the mountains?

Yes, you can! As of this writing, we have a bunch scheduled all around the lake! I've organized them by territory and weekday.



SOUTH LAKE TAHOE

FRIDAYS

June 5 - August 28 from 3 - 8 pm
Located on Ski Run Blvd, just up from Lake Tahoe Blvd.
South Lake Tahoe, CA

TUESDAYS
June 2 - October 5 from 8 am - 1 pm
Located at the American Legion Hall parking lot
2732 South Lake Tahoe Blvd (Hwy 50)
South Lake Tahoe, CA


STATELINE

WEDNESDAYS
May 6 - September 16  4 pm - 7 pm
Located at Kahle Community Park
236 Kingsbury Grade
Stateline, NV



INCLINE VILLAGE

THURSDAYS
May 7 - September 24  4 pm - 7 pm
Located at Tunnel Creek
1115 Tunnel Creek Road
Incline Village, NV


CRYSTAL BAY

FRIDAYS 
May 8 - September 22 (except July 3) 10 am - 2 pm
Located at the Tahoe Biltmore Hotel #5 U.S. Highway 28
Crystal Bay, NV



TAHOE CITY


THURSDAYS
May 28 - June 18 & August 27 - September 24  8 am - 1 pm
Located at the Tahoe City Commons Beach
Commons Beach Rd and North Lake Blvd.
Tahoe City, CA

Also on THURSDAYS
June 25 -  August 20, 8 am - Noon
Located at Tahoe City's Tahoe Lake Elementary School
375 Grove Street
Tahoe City, CA



TRUCKEE

TUESDAYS
June 2 - October 20  8 am - 1 pm
Located at Truckee River Regional Park
10500 Brockway Road off Highway 267
Truckee, CA

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Tao Of Tahoe

Okay, bear with me for a moment. 


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

My wife and I were out on a hike. We talked as we often do. But we also were silent for a few miles, she no doubt pondering the mountains, forests, lake, and art, while I ruminated on the same, mountains, forests, lake, and writing. Yeah, I know, it sounds pretty trippy.

But many times there is an amazing thing that happens in the mountains where swirling clouds that one would never notice on the flats are given dimension as they wrap around the mountains, drop some snow flurries, and then evaporate into the blue. Just as quickly, the snowflakes evaporate, never pausing for that middle step of melting into water drops. They even have a word for that, ice crystals evaporating. It's called sublimation.

When it happens - the clouds, the snow flurries, and other phenomena that is beautiful to the point that words are insufficient to describe it - and then that beauty disappears, it leaves you at a loss. At once, you are so impressed with what you've seen that you want to tell the person next to you.

But a moment later, you can't point it out to anyone because it has disappeared. 

Life is full of ephemera. Beautiful ephemera.

Half way around the world, there are Chinese monks that have taken the ephemera of life - the Tao of Life - and made it into something bigger. So when I saw the picture above, I was frozen for a moment. Here's a guy who is painting calligraphy with water on stone. The work is beautiful, striking, impressive. And in just fifteen minutes, it will be gone forever. Like those spectacular clouds hugging the mountains. In a fit of huff and puff, they hurl a soft, downy, white rain that blankets the world and entices us for two minutes.

Then it's gone. Beautiful ephemera.

The Tao of Tahoe.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The One Animal Whose Eyes Can Change Your Brain Chemistry

Yet another study is out showing the remarkable relationship between dogs and people.





This study got fancy. Japanese scientists found out that both dogs and people who gazed into each other's eyes developed elevated levels of a hormone-like chemical called Oxytocin. Sometimes referred to as the "Cuddle Hormone," Oxytocin creates a wide range of positive effects that lead to bonding, attachment, and it plays a significant role between mothers and babies.

The study demonstrates that dogs and humans have a special - maybe even unique - relationship. When we spend time with dogs and stare into their eyes as they stare into ours, good stuff happens to our brains and to dogs' brains as well. 

Here are links to information about the study:
Scientific American
NPR
Today Health
Medical Daily

All pets are valuable. But dogs provide something extra to celebrate. Dogs are good for us, and we are good for them.

Now go give your dog a pet, look into her eyes, and watch how she looks back at you. Aside from dogs and people, no other animals on the planet will ever look at you that way.



Sunday, May 10, 2015

Will The Drought Affect Tahoe Boating?

The short answer is yes.
But will there still be great boating experiences to be had on Tahoe in the summer of 2015?
Absolutely, but with a caveat. Read on...
Lake Tahoe is 1645 feet deep, so there will be water to enjoy no matter how long the drought lasts.
But the key to enjoyment is found in the size of your boat!
For those of you who like to bring your own boat to Tahoe, you need to know that the number of boat launches available to use this summer will be restricted. Some will never open because the water level is already below their ramps. For example, Sand Harbor State Park already announced that their boat launch will not open this year. Other ramps around the lake will be open but only for smaller boats.

The biggest issue is the draft of your boat. If it has very little draft like a Jet Ski, you will have more success. If you have a deep-keel sailboat, this is not your year for Tahoe.




There are multiple websites that provide boat launch information, but this summer it's especially important to confirm launch information by phone or email before you make plans. As the water level continues to drop, boat ramp availability will change throughout the summer. Here are some websites with launch information:

Cave Rock Boat Launch (East Shore)
El Dorado County Boat Launch in South Lake Tahoe (South Shore)
North Tahoe Boat Launch Facities (North Shore)
Obexer's Boat Launch (West Shore)


As always, remember that ALL boats (even kayaks and paddleboards) must be inspected at one of the inspection stations. To go out on Tahoe without an inspection is to risk infecting the lake with nasty foreign critters (mussels, fish, sea weed) that will spread through the lake and do it irreparable harm. (And of course, there are large fines and worse for interlopers!) Here's a blogpost on Tahoe Boat Inspections.

Another great approach this year is to rent your boat, i.e., a boat that is already in the water. There are many businesses around the lake that won't let you launch your own boat, but they'll let you rent one of theirs. An example is Camp Richardson.


Camp Rich is on the southwest corner of Tahoe. They have multiple kinds of boats to rent.
In addition to the marinas that rent boats, there are several "beach vendors" that bring kayaks to the beach so you can rent them there. Check out Kayak Tahoe.

Or, if you want to go on an organized kayak tour, check out Tahoe Paddle.

Tahoe Paddle will take you to great boating locations
Perhaps you want to get out on the lake in the easiest way possible. Consider taking a ride on a tour boat. Some tour boats won't be in operation this year because of the low water. But others will. 


The Tahoe Queen is just one of several tour boats that will give you a great tour.
Check out the Tahoe Queen. (South Shore and Southeast Shore)
Tahoe Gal (North Shore)
Safari Rose (Sails from Roundhill Pines Resort on the East Shore, but they have free shuttle service from many points around the lake.

The Safari Rose is an 80-foot luxury yacht that gives tours all over the lake.


Now comes important information to consider if you want to maximize your potential fun and minimize your potential frustration.

Consider making this season the year of the Kayak, Paddleboard, or Canoe. Why? Because then you can launch your boat without an official boat launch facility. You merely bring your paddle-powered craft (after you get your inspection, of course) to any lakeside park or public beach and carry your craft to the water! If you want to make it even easier, you can get wheels for your craft. Here's an example of Amazon's Kayak Carts.

Here's a post on launching a kayak from Baldwin Beach.


Paddle-powered craft are unaffected by the drought!


The bottom line is that, with a few adjustments in your expectations, boating on Lake Tahoe will be great during the summer of 2015!