Sunday, January 25, 2015

Note To Writers - Beware Of Plot Phobia

In previous posts, I've mentioned how literary writing has as its focus writing as art. Whether or not it entertains or sells is a lower priority.
The pursuit of literary writing in the last half century or so has de-emphasized plot to the extent that some literary writers disparage plot and treat it like unwanted frivolity.
Common mainstream literary novels often seem to have realistic, sometimes bleak scenarios, i.e., similar to real life, and little in the way of story. Such novels are often categorized as character-based fiction.
Nothing wrong with that. And if you want to write those, great.
Beware, though, that novels with weak plots don’t generally sell well, regardless of how strong the characters are. The bestseller lists don’t feature many literary novels.
But there are some literary novels that do make it onto the lists. They generally have strong plots.
Turns out you can have it both ways.
Many, if not most, of the novels that are considered the greatest novels of all time are literary novels, and it's true that a fair number of them don’t have much in the way of a plot. And to this day, most of them still don't sell well in spite of their greatness.
But some of those great books have huge plots. In fact, many of the stories - books and plays - considered to be the greatest literary achievements ever have over-the-top, killer plots.
From Sophocles and Euripides, to Marlowe and Shakespeare (any one of Shakespeare’s tragedies has more plot than any six modern novels), to countless modern novelists, a big story is the central feature of their work. 
I Googled “Greatest novels of all time,” and “100 greatest novels,” and other similar search terms. There were tons of lists, but the same books appeared over and over. Of the lists proclaiming the greatest novels, I certainly did find some great character studies that are real yawners when it comes to plot. (Novels where one is tempted to ask, “Did anything happen in that book? Maybe, but I can’t remember.”) But there were others with serious plots.
Here’s a few that jump out:

Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
Huxley’s Brave New World
Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath
Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind
Golding’s Lord of the Flies
Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice
Melville’s Moby Dick
Atwood's The Blind Assassin
Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five
Dickey’s Deliverance
Hammett's The Maltese Falcon
Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange
Fowles’s The Magus
McCullers's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land
London’s The Call of the Wild
Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451
Orwell’s 1984
Chandler’s The Big Sleep
le CarrĂ©’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
Amis’s Lucky Jim
Dumas’s The Three Musketeers
Eco’s Name of the Rose
Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles
Morrison's Beloved

You get the idea. Don’t have plot phobia. And don’t let writers who look down on plot get to you. You can have great characters and a great plot.

Go for it.

P.S. Why aren't there more female authors on these lists? I don't know, but the usual suspects probably apply. For decades, even centuries, women weren't encouraged to write or rewarded for doing so the way men were. And perhaps there is some unconscious bias on the part of the people making the lists. But I'm confident that these perceptions are changing. Also, there are some female writers - Virginia Woolf, A. S. Byatt, Zora Neale Hurston, Willa Cather, Muriel Spark, Jean Rhys, Zadie Smith - that are on the "greatest novels" lists but not on my sample above because their books aren't noted for their racing plots, and of course you may disagree with me on that!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Book Publisher In Tahoe? Yeah, A Great One

In the community of Meyers on Tahoe's South Shore is Bona Fide Books, a fast-growing publisher of fiction, poetry, essays, nature writing, and nonfiction on subjects like farming. They've even started a series of comic books on Tahoe's history called, simply, Tahoe History Comix. 

Bona Fide Books is run by a creative force of nature named Kim Wyatt, a writer herself, who has transformed Tahoe's writing scene with her support and enthusiasm. In addition to publishing several volumes a year, she hosts a wide range of writing-related events at her company's offices in Meyers as well as at other venues such as the South Lake Tahoe Library. 

Bona Fide Books also has another imprint called Cherry Bomb Books, the first publication of which is a collection of essays on women's rights and reproductive health.

Bona Fide Books has a national reach. Each year, Bona Fide hosts the annual Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize. The winner gets publication of a collection of his or her poetry, and Kim brings that writer to Tahoe for the book launch. 

Bona Fide Books reaches out and provides space to other community groups. For example, our local writer's group Tahoe Writers Works meets each month at Bona Fide's offices.
Tahoe Writers Works is a separate group that holds meetings at Bona Fide Books.
Unlike many publishers who operate in private behind locked doors, Bona Fide Books has an open-door policy. They're at 1069 Magua Street in Meyers, just four miles south of the "Y" intersection in South Lake Tahoe. Feel free to stop by and check them out. Their number is 530-573-1513 if you want to check their hours.

My wife and I have several of Bona Fide's titles. We've enjoyed them a lot. They also make great gifts. You can order Bona Fide Books titles here. And of course you can also get them at Amazon.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wow, The Power Of Molly Greene's Blog!

Last November, a writer named Molly Greene wrote me. In addition to having written several novels, she said she wrote a blog about writing and, sometimes, about other working writers who are earning a living from their work. She wondered if she could do a blog about me.

Okay, let’s parse my feelings about people focusing on my work. I’m a writer. Anyone willing to engage in the questionable activity of spending ten or twenty years learning a strange craft like novel writing and who then spends another year per book to produce some titles either wants an audience for those books or is a candidate for serious medicinal intervention.

I’ve tried medicinal intervention - Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - which works great for a wide range of maladies. But it doesn’t mitigate a writer’s DNA-driven desire to find readers who enjoy what comes out of the writer’s twisted imagination.

So when Molly contacted me, I looked her up, read a range of her work, and was impressed. I could tell that she was a pro. Naturally, I was happy to have her feature me.

What I didn’t know about Molly was that she was a big deal.

Molly gave me some smart questions and some thoughts about what she was after. I wrote some stuff about my writing experience and she edited it to fit her concept.

Her blog came out last Monday. That morning, I got up, poured my first cup of coffee, and looked at the computer to see how her blog turned out.

I was amazed. Not just because she did a great job but also because people from across the country - and from other countries as well! - were posting comments, asking questions, wanting to know more about my books and how I produce them and promote them. A day later, another big blog, The Passive Voice, re-posted it, and then a couple of smaller blogs re-posted it.

Molly’s blog about my books has now had thousands of page views.

The power of a blog and how its reach spreads through cyberspace is impressive.

So thanks, Molly! My hat’s off to you!

If you’d like to read it, here’s the link:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Why Is The Full Moon Higher In Winter Than In Summer?

Tonight, January 4th, the moon is full. Yea! 

At 8:53 p.m. on the West Coast, to be exact. (On calendars, it says the full moon is January 5th, but that's because the official date of the full moon is based on the time in Greenwich Mean Time, otherwise known as UTC - Coordinated Universal Time.) And when it is 8:53 p.m. on the West Coast, it is 4:53 a.m. the next day in London. Which explains why we often look up at the moon on the "calendar date" of the full moon and think, "I think it was fuller last night." Because, for us, the full moon was the night before.

In Tahoe, we often notice the full moon because:
1) Our nights have less light pollution, so the moon is brighter
2) We're at high altitude, so there is less atmosphere above us to dim the moon
3) The snow on the mountains is spectacular in the moonlight, begging us to notice

This is from a cool website called

If you notice full moons, you can't help wondering why the full moons of winter are way, way up high in the sky, making it so bright on the snow that you can easily read by moonlight. By comparison, summer full moons are low in the sky.

Ever notice how the full moon track is just like the sun's track, only the summer and winter tracks are reversed?

I wondered why that is, so I looked it up.

It turns out that it has to do with the fact that the Earth is tilted on its axis (which is what gives us our seasons among other cool stuff). And when the moon revolves around the Earth, it doesn't stay over the Earth's equator, it stays on the same plane as the Earth's orbit and the sun and most of the planets. 

That plane is called the ecliptic, and all the stuff that stays on the ecliptic plane got that way because when the solar system first began to coalesce, the material that eventually became the planets contracted into a spinning disc. The spin and plane of that disc has stayed the same ever since.

Here's an easy way to visualize why the full moons are higher in winter than summer. 

First, remember that when the Moon is full, it is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, so its entire surface that we see is illuminated.

Now think of a globe sitting on a really large table. The table represents the ecliptic, and most of the stuff in the solar system stays on that table. As you know, a globe accurately depicts the Earth at a tilt. The Earth, like the most of the solar system's inhabitants, also stays on the ecliptic plane as it orbits the sun. It just stays tilted as it moves around. 

When the Earth's North Pole is pointing toward the sun, it makes for the long days of summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere. But when the Earth rotates so that we are in the dark of night and we look up to see the full moon, it is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. So when the sun is high in the summer, that means that the moon is low.

In winter, the opposite is true. The Earth's North Pole points away from the sun, so the sun is low in the sky. The full moon, on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, is now high in the sky.

So enjoy the glorious full moon tonight. Along with the full moon we had in December, tonight's full moon will be higher in the sky than any other until next December. And with the snow on the mountains, Tahoe's full moon is a real treat!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

How Much Longer Does Each Day Get Over The Course Of Winter?

Tahoe is at 39 degrees of latitude, so our winter days aren’t nearly as short as in places farther north like Seattle or Minneapolis or “the Portlands,” either Oregon or Maine. Even so, I love longer daylight, and I wait for the days to start stretching out again after the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. But how much is the increase in daylight every day?

The answer would seem to be easy to calculate. One could take the difference in day length between the Winter Solstice (Dec 21st) and the Summer Solstice (June 21st) and divide by the number of days in that period (about 182).

In Tahoe, our shortest day is about 9 hours and 28 minutes. Come the Summer Solstice, our longest day is about 14 hours and 52 minutes. If you divide the difference (5 hours and 24 minutes) by 182 days, you’d think that our day length increases by about 1 minute and 46 seconds each day.

But that isn’t the case! In fact, the amount of the day length increase changes dramatically depending on the time of the year. For example, in the days right after the Winter Solstice, the day length increases by only a few seconds with each passing day. But come the Vernal Equinox (Mar 21st), the day length increases by 2 minutes and 31 seconds with each passing day. Why the disparity?

I did a little research, and here’s what I learned.

To help illustrate why, visualize a clockface.

Pardon my scratchy, hard-to-read printing!
(You can see why my wife is the artist in the family!)

The Earth is tilted about 23 degrees. In December, when the Northern Hemisphere tilts away from the sun, we get a shorter day. In June, the opposite is true. The Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun, and we get a longer day.

As the Earth moves, it travels counter-clockwise when viewed from above. The closer the Earth is to the bottom of this sketch, the shorter the day in the Northern Hemisphere. In contrast, the closer the Earth is to the top of the sketch, the longer day.

But consider this. As the Earth moves from December 21st to January 21st, it's mostly just moved to the right on the sketch. It's gone very little toward the top. So the day length has increased just a smidgen in an entire month. 

But when the Earth gets to the part of its orbit from mid-February to mid-April, a month's worth of movement takes it much farther toward the top of its orbit, thus increasing the day length a lot!

Here's an example of what a difference that makes. In the ten days after the Winter Solstice, the total day length increase is only 2.5 minutes. But in the ten days after the Equinox, the day length increases about 25 minutes. Ten times as much! As represented on the sketch, that's because the Earth has moved ten times as much toward the place where we have the Summer Solstice.

So the next time you wonder how much day length increases or decreases, remember that it's completely dependent on the time of the year. At the Equinoxes, day length changes a lot every day. At the Solstices, day length barely budges.

Whew! Glad we figured that out, huh?!

P.S. I always wait for Owen McKenna's Ten/Ten Rule Of Sunlight to kick in on January 21st. Here's a blog about that.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tahoe Ghost Boat Kindle Will Be Free On Christmas

Hi Everybody,

Beginning Christmas Day, Tahoe Ghost Boat will be free on Kindle, and it will remain free for 5 days.

As of this writing, Tahoe Ghost Boat has 175 reviews, 155 of which are 5 stars, which gives an overall average of 4.8 stars. Thanks to all of you who have posted reviews!

For those of you who are wondering why anyone gives a book away for free, the answer is that it means that many people who don't know my books will try this one. Last year, my free book at Christmas was downloaded 95,659 times. A bunch of those downloads probably got lost in people's large Kindle libraries never to be seen again. But a lot of people read my book and loved it. And, yes, you guessed it, they bought my other titles.

The other reason a book giveaway is good for me is that last year my book went to #1 in the Kindle Free store across all categories and stayed there for 36 hours. That gave me a lot of exposure and made people curious. If they had never heard of me, they probably thought, who the heck is this guy at number one when I haven't even heard of him?!

So if you or someone you know is interested in a good, free Kindle book, please go to the Amazon page on Christmas. Here's the link: Tahoe Ghost Boat Free On Amazon 

Thanks very much for your interest and support!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Surfing Lake Tahoe!

I was at a book club a few months ago when someone asked me if it is really true that we can get five-foot swell on Lake Tahoe as is depicted in the Prologue of Tahoe Ghost Boat. I explained that we can and that it isn't that rare.

Last week's storm brought big winds (147 mph on Mount Lincoln at Sugar Bowl) and waves that were even higher than five feet. Some were reported to be seven feet.

Which, of course, brought out surfers!

You think surfing the Pacific is cold, wait until you surf Tahoe in the winter!

Here are photos from the Sacramento Bee.

Looks like waves on the North Shore of Kauai

This is a baby wave

The next wave coming looks perfect

Real wind

Waves like the ones depicted on the cover of Tahoe Ghost Boat

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Harvest Festival: Authors, What Are You Waiting For?

In the world of books, authors struggle to score a booksigning event. If they are lucky - there is a good crowd and the author is in good form - then he or she often sells just ten books. I know, because I've been there many, many times. Yes, I've had signings where I sold much more. I once sold 110 books at the Borders in Carson City. But I also once had a signing where I sold just one book. Ouch.

Then there is the world of festivals. No one goes to a festival to buy books. But thousands of people go, and some of them read books or have family and friends who are readers. Festival goers need presents for those on their gift list.

Here's the line waiting outside before the Sac Harvest Festival opened!
Unbelievable. The tickets aren't cheap, either.

The king of festivals may be the Harvest Festivals. There are nine of them and they are held in Northern and Southern California. They pack in the crowd. This year, I was able to fit in two of them, Sacramento and San Jose. I sold 174 books in Sacramento and 175 books in San Jose. Sweet. And during some of the past Harvest Festivals, I've done even better, as much as 193 books. And that doesn't count the hundreds of people who took my postcards and went home to (Hopefully!) download my books on their Kindle. 

Double sweet.

This is my booth. Nothing fancy.
A table, a banner, some signs, postcards, and books.
Because I was the only novelist (there was a woman with a cookbook),
every reader in the place stopped by. Some bought books.
Others pulled out their phones and got the Kindle version on the spot. 

Hey authors, I'm giving you the inside scoop, here. You simply won't find a better way to move books.

Is it expensive? Yes. Does it involve a big time commitment? Yes. Do you have to haul a lot of stuff to set up a booth and stock it with books? Yes. Is there any other way to sell more books in three days? Pretty much nope. And even though you won't make a profit in the beginning (Did you when you sold ten books at the bookstore? Or when you hired the publicist? Or when you placed that ad?), you will grow your audience, which will grow your career, which will eventually make you money.

Every aisle was crowded for most of three days.

Is there any other benefit to taking on such an exhibit? Yes. A decent number of people will go home and read the book they bought and then order all the rest of your backlist. (You do have a backlist, right? Or, if not, you are working on a backlist, right? Of course you are.) A decent number of people may be so charmed by your book's fantastic cover and your winning charisma that they decide to buy books for everyone on their gift list. Or include your book card with the Kindles they are buying for presents.

Want to read more? Here's another post about festivals.   And here is another.

P.S. Is there any reason you shouldn't exhibit your books at festivals?
Yes, if any of the following apply:
*You only have one or two books and no plans to quickly expand your offerings. 
*Your books aren't in a series or don't have some other obvious cohesion among them. i.e., when someone loves one of your books, they'll automatically buy the rest... if they're in a series. If no series, they won't assume they're going to like your other books.
*Your covers only look great to you.
*Your books have not yet gotten great reviews on Amazon (where everyone checks).
*You don't believe you can be charming, smiling, engaging, and positive.
*You don't have a compelling pitch that convinces readers that you have compelling books.

If you don't fit the exclusions above, go for it! You might find the experience to be the single best way to find new readers!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Wild Daily Temperature Swings Of Tahoe

A friend in Portland told me that he has often noticed that the weather report for Tahoe shows large temperature differences between the daily highs and the nighttime lows. I've noticed it too, but I never really paid attention to it. For those of us in Tahoe, we just love the way summer nights cool down into the upper 30s even when the daytime highs sometimes get into the upper 80s. The winter swings are not so dramatic, but they are still significant.

With the fall nights getting down into the teens, I was reminded of my friend's comment. Here's a screen shot of the National Weather Service website from last month. Three days in a row, we had a 50-degree temperature variation from high to low.

The question is, why do some places (like Tahoe) have such large temperature swings and others (like Portland) do not?

So I did some research. What I learned is that it's all about humidity. 

Water vapor is a Greenhouse gas. Which means, it keeps heat it by letting sun rays pass through during the day to warm up the earth. Then at night, when the earth is radiating its heat back into space in the form of infrared radiation (a substantially different wavelength than much of sunlight), water vapor bounces that radiation back to earth. So water vapor is relatively transparent to much of sunlight but relatively opaque to infrared radiation.

The bottom line is that moist climates don't lose anywhere near as much heat during the night. Dry climates like deserts lose a great deal of heat during the night because there is almost no water vapor in the atmosphere to bounce that infrared radiation back to earth where it came from.

You may be thinking, "But Tahoe isn't a desert." It's true that most years Tahoe gets a lot of precipitation, mostly in the form of snow. But what's interesting is that Tahoe's precipitation comes in storms, or waves of storms off the Pacific. We rarely get moist air masses that just hang out and drizzle on us. Our storms come in fast and move out in a day or two. During those times, we have high humidity and thus we have small daily temperature swings. 

But when we don't have storms, we get the same dry climate as the high deserts of Western Nevada.

It's a great climate. We get storms maybe once a week during the winter, and the rest of the time, summer and winter, we have dry air which brings us our amazing sunshine.

It also brings us wild daily temperature swings, warm sunny days with cool nights.

Those of us who live here think it's perfect.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

13 Things I'd Want To Know If I Were Beginning A Writing Career

Okay, you’ve written your masterpiece. What next?

Here are 13 things I believe are critical to know.

1. Slow down. I know you’re excited to see your work in print. But don’t rush to publish. If you do, you will likely regret it. (A bad cover, lack of editing, and the wrong publishing approach won’t just prevent your book from selling but will lead to a preponderance of bad reviews, which can ruin your career.)

2. Work on your platform before you publish. If you want to get an agent and pursue a traditional publishing deal, may the force be with you. But realize that for New York publishers, the quality of your book is much less important than your platform, i.e., how many people can you reach and entice to buy your book? If you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company with 25,000 employees who might buy your book or you have a popular syndicated newspaper column or radio or TV show, your book will find eager publishers. But even if you’ve written a masterpiece, if your email list is only 43 people, you won’t find a publisher. In which case…

3. Consider self-publishing. The possibilities today are endless. But don’t fall for a slick website sell-job. Do your research. Stay away from internet publishing service companies like iUniverse, Xlibris, Author House, Publish America and a thousand others… Many companies like these have been sued for a wide range of false promises. They sell you on a cheap publishing concept and then try to up-sell you on publicity packages. They provide little or no editing without a huge expense, bad covers done by a college intern even when you pay well for it, and no effective marketing despite what they promise. The stories I’ve heard from authors with these outfits and the books I’ve seen from these companies are astonishing in their ineptness. Before you pick a publishing service, try finding an author who is actually making a living working with the company you're considering. Try finding a reviewer who will give serious consideration to a book from one of these companies. Find one person who actually sold two or three thousand books after paying thousands for their publicity package. Look at the Amazon sales ranking for books by these companies’ authors. You will be amazed at how lame internet publishing programs really are. The only thing most of these companies do really well is make money by sucking in naive authors who are blinded by the stars in their eyes.

4. Bottom line? If you self-publish, either start your own company or go with Amazon’s Create Space. They do the same thing the so-called self-publishing companies do, only they do it for free. (Note: Amazon also offers upgrade services at high prices. Don’t do it.) When you need an editor (you always need an editor!), hire two or three yourself. When you need a cover designer, hire one yourself. You might ask, "Is starting a business easy?" Of course, not. Writing a book wasn't easy, either. "Is starting your own business worth it?" Of course it is, just like writing a book was worth it.

5. You’ve spent a thousand hours or two thousand hours writing your book. Spend at least a week or two researching the business. (A savvy author spends as much time at the business of writing as she does writing. Maybe much, much more. Yes, hundreds, even thousands of hours.) Read blogs on publishing, self-publishing, selling books. Read books on the same. I recommend Marilyn Ross's Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and Dan Poynters Self-Publishing Manual. Put some serious effort into learning about the business. And if you are like me and sometimes miss the obvious, here's a tip. The simplest and most effective way to research anything is to go to Google and type what you want to know. "What are the downsides to internet book publishers?" "Pros and cons of Kindle publishing" "Best way to market ebooks" etc., etc.

6. Note: Many, many successful self-published authors point out that unless you own your ISBN number, you aren't really self-published, and you won't have the control you need to be effective in your publishing. If you don't understand all the implications of that statement, your research will explain it all.

7. I've already mentioned your platform, which is those people who know about you and to whom you reach out when you come out with a book. After you figure out how you're going to publish - and before you actually start the process - it's time to get really serious about your platform. Work on your email list. Trade business cards with every person you meet. Get their email address. Same for your snail mail list. Write a blog. Post at least once a week. Make it interesting and connected in some way to your book. Don’t make it a navel-gazing exercise about yourself and your inner world of writing angst. Save that for your writer’s support group. If you provide useful information on a weekly blog post, people will find your blog. In fact, after a year or two of weekly posts, you will likely be amazed at how many readers find your blog. (I was.) And once they appreciate your writing, they will try your book. Plan an email and postcard snail mail campaign. Plan a newsletter. Plan promotions, giveaways, and other ways of getting readers to try your book (and future books).

8. Set up your public Facebook page and your website. Make sure your website name is a dotcom based on your author name, i.e., MarieRodriguezAuthor .com. If you don’t know how to do a website, don’t hire it done, learn to do it yourself. If you hire it, you will pay large amounts of dollars and you will never be able to tweak it and update it yourself, and there will always be a lag time before your hot new information gets posted, because your web designer will be on vacation when you most need help. Websites are not hard to do. I know because I learned. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier than cooking a comprehensive Thanksgiving dinner for 12. I bought several books on it and took a class at the local community college.

9. Start on your next book and the next after that. Except for Margaret Mitchell and Lee Harper, no author makes it with one book. And today, more than ever, an author needs to have many books. Restaurants can’t make a living with one entree. Neither can you. Get the next book and the one after that under way.

10. Read blogs on writing and marketing. Many authors write about a wide range of topics. But most do occasional entries on the business of writing. Here are my blogs on writing. 

11. Find successful authors who are relatively new to the business, i.e., their first book came out in the last three or four years. Mimic what they do. Study their books (cover, size, interior formatting, price) study their publishing model, study their website and their Facebook page, study their events schedule, how they do their talks and what they talk about, their book signings, etc. (For example, you will learn that most events done by most successful authors are not connected to bookstores. I’m not talking about famous authors who have hundreds of fans following them wherever they go, authors who get sent on vanity book tours by their publishers. I’m talking about the rest of us working authors who are not celebrities. Bookstores are great, and you should support them, but more than anything an author needs to get in front of large numbers of people, and, most of the time, bookstores don’t provide large numbers of people. This correlates to the fact that well over half of all books sold are not sold in bookstores. They are sold at gift shops and Target and Sam’s Club and Walmart and Costco and, most of all, at Amazon.)

12. Focus everything you do, from book design to marketing, on Amazon. Love it or hate it, Amazon now sells about half of all books sold, and that number is climbing. You simply cannot afford to ignore Amazon. In the world of ebooks, which is how most fiction is now sold, Amazon sells approximately 65% - 70% of all ebooks sold. An author can survive even if she pays no attention to other outlets for book sales, and many such authors thrive. But no author can survive by ignoring Amazon. So learn to work with them. Read blogs on the best ways to market your books on Amazon and the best way to put your books into the Amazon system. (I use Amazon Advantage to sell my paper books.) 

13. Last, but most important of all for fiction writers, study up and learn how Amazon’s Kindle program works. As mentioned in point #12, whether you are published by a Big 5 publisher in New York or going it alone, Kindle is now where the money is made. I strongly recommend formatting your own books to Kindle and uploading them yourself. Like building websites, it’s not hard to learn. It’s tedious, but not hard. NEVER pay a percentage to some company who says they’ll format and sell your Kindle books for you cheap. Yikes! The beauty of Kindle, in fact the whole point of Kindle from an author's perspective, is that you can get real-time information on sales not just "sales ranking" but actual sales numbers. You do a talk, then you go home to see what kind of bump you got in Kindle sales. You exhibit books at a festival, and you check your Kindle numbers to see how effective your free postcard handout is. You do a radio interview, you judge its success by your Kindle numbers. You use Kindle’s various promotions to acquire hundreds or even thousands of new readers. You adjust prices up or down and see how readers respond. But if you give up Kindle control to a third party, your hands are tied and you can’t do any of these things. It could be said that if you are in control of your Kindle program, you are in control of your career. If someone else is in control, well, you've given them the only keys to your vehicle.

In sum, this is the greatest time in history to be an author. There are no more gatekeepers deciding who gets to be published and taking most of the profits at the same time. Any author can now make their book available to the world. And (as in any line of work) if that author is knowledgeable, focused, and willing to work very hard, that author can have a writing career, the best job in the world!

How bad do you want it? The spoils go to those authors who want it the most. If you are one of those, go for it!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Outdoor Tahoe House Tour

As you would expect, Tahoe has a whole lotta spectacular houses. People of means from all over the world often choose Tahoe for their nice second (or third or fourth) homes. Of course, the rest of us are curious about these abodes that belong to people with everything. As long as we don't cause a problem, and as long as we stay on public property, there's nothing wrong with looking from the public street.

For the big picture, take a drive around the lake. Clockwise is best because then you aren't looking across traffic to see the lakeshore homes. Going during the shoulder season (October, November, April, May) will give you the least traffic to deal with.

Many of the nicest homes are on the lake and out of view from the road. But it is still fun to see the area and peek through the gates. If you have access to a boat, you can see these houses that are out of view to everyone else.

People often wonder where is the greatest concentration of spectacular houses. That would be Lakeshore Blvd. in Incline Village. You can find it on Google Maps. 

This is Incline Village from above (The overlook on the Mt. Rose Highway).
Lakeshore Blvd. runs along the lake on the lower right side of the picture.

This is a 3-mile piece of road, sometimes referred to as Billionaire's Row. The houses on the "mountain side" of the road are generally very nice. The ones on the lake side of the road are mostly out of view. They are mostly owned by business and tech titans. You would recognize many the names. Some are Wall Street fund types, and a few own big companies in several areas of business. Perhaps the most common category are the software moguls, from the companies whose products and services you use.

Some people imagine that this is where the movie stars have houses, but these out-of-view houses are mostly too expensive for movie stars.

The Eastern end of Lakeshore Blvd. starts near this sign on Hwy 28 
I made a quick check of Lakeshore Blvd. on (zoom in until the map turns to satellite photo, and each lot shows a price) and saw the following prices: $17.8M, 20.9M, 23.2M, 16.6M, 32.6M, 10.5M, 10.4M, 21.4M, 32.9M. Yes, the M stands for millions. And those prices are for individual properties. Some owners have two or three or even four contiguous properties. Not long ago, I saw a sales listing for 65M. For perspective, Zillow estimates that the mortgage payment on a 32M property would be $123,000 a month. That would give a $65M two-lot property a mortgage payment of a quarter million dollars. A month. (I wonder what brand of Scotch the owner drinks.)

There is a nice sidewalk path that runs most of the 3-mile stretch.
You can park at one end and have a beautiful 6-mile round trip hike.

There are many nice houses you can see...

And there are many more hidden behind gated drives...

Lakeshore Blvd. makes a nice hike or drive. Enjoy.

Just after this blog posted, the Wall Street Journal ran a story on a property that is just a bit west of Lakeshore Blvd., one that used to be owned by the Hills Brothers Coffee people. Here's the link:

Here's the pic by Jarvis Photography: