Sunday, December 9, 2018

It's Christmas. Top Dozen Tips for Book Gift Giving

A book is always a great gift … especially if you take the time to match the recipient’s taste in fiction or nonfiction. Suddenly, your thoughtfulness becomes part of the gift. Whether your relatives or friends are interested in the Civil War, literature, romance novels, westerns, paranormal fiction, railroads, guns, cooking, collecting old comic books, antique automobiles, or anything else, there's always a book that will bring a smile to their face.

I'm giving my granddaughter a unique gift this year. She's twelve and wrote a short story as a class assignment. The six thousand word story received a 100% from her teacher. My gift is that I published it on Amazon as a 5X8 paperback and a Kindle book. She'll be surprised to find the paperback in her stocking on Christmas morning. Cool, huh?

The episode reminded me that the most popular post on this blog is my Top 10 Tips on book gift giving. I decided it needed updating ... so here are my twelve tips.

Top Dozen Tips for Book Gift Giving
  1. There are books about every hobby and interest in the world. Picking the right book shows you care.
  2. Write a personal message on the flyleaf that won't get tossed out like last year's Christmas card.
  3. Write surprise messages in the margin of random pages.
  4. Search out an author signing for your recipient’s favorite author, or give a collector’s version of the recipient’s favorite book.
  5. If you need professional help or want something unique, shop at an independent or specialty bookstore.
  6. If you subscribe to Amazon Prime then shipping is free, or mail books early to take advantage of media class at the Post Office.
  7. Give a book as a piece of art, like a fine print book, unique coffee table book, favorite book as a child, or collectible cover art.
  8. Make a highly personal photo book with ShutterFly or Apple Photos.
  9. Give a bookseller gift card for e-book and audio book enthusiasts.
  10. College students will appreciate a gift card for their campus bookstore. For fun, you can put it inside a trash novel.
  11. Tuck crisp currency into the flyleaf as a bookmark.
  12. If your friend or relative already owns piles of books, give a unique set of book ends to hold them in their proper place.
One final tip that comes close to re-gifting—find an Amazon print book that includes a “Match Book” deal. Gift the printed version and download the e-book for yourself.

Children's books are also great gifts. We search for autographed storybooks for our grandkids. Bookstores always have children book signings around the holidays, and this is one area where we join the crowd. The icing on the cake is that we get to read from one of these books when we visit.

Books are a great entertainment value. They provide hour upon hour of personal pleasure, and then they can be passed on to another person. What could be better?

You might even gift one of these.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Road Trip From Seattle to Omaha

My sister lives in Long Beach, California and my brother in Kailua, Hawaii. I live mostly in Omaha, Nebraska, but spend winters in San Diego, California. We managed to get together at least once a year, usually in San Diego and Long Beach. This year, my brother-in-law talked us into a road trip. I'm glad he did.

Since he and my sister would be in Washington visiting his family, my brother and I decided to fly to Seattle and do a road trip to Omaha. After seeing our itinerary, my wife decided to join us, making five in one car. In those kind of close quarters, you need to get along.

Great trip. (If you're into family movies, here's a video recorded for posterity.) We traveled through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska. Actually, my wife and I traveled through those states, but we chose to remain at home while the remainder of our crew drove back to California.

This is a big and beautiful country. If you haven't leisurely traveled the northwest, put it on your bucket list.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sisters Brothers—The Movie

Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly

This weekend I saw Sisters Brothers. I write westerns, so I’m critical of Hollywood ventures into the genre. They often mess it up by leaning toward the politically correct or destroying the story with CGI. This time they got it right. The Sisters Brothers is a good western film worthy of the fine novel by Patrick deWitt. That’s saying a lot. Except for Lonesome Dove, most directors view a book as a loose guide, rather than a roadmap. (hint, hint)

Great Cover
The Sisters Brothers is a character study ... and a study of not particularly admirable characters. The appeal is in the dialogue and humor. Thankfully, there are few special effects to take the viewer away from the story. I might be tempted to think Hollywood has learned a lesson, but I suspect this is a one-off because the novel’s author is Canadian and the film’s director French. Leave it to foreigners to revitalize an American genre. Jacques Audiard keeps the film within the spirit of the novel and directs a true western without relying on grandiose landscapes, unhistorical duels, or CGI. He does include a lot of killing, however. After all, the Sisters Brother are assassins.

The film is rated 85% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

Here is the New York Times review.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety’s Chief Film Critic seemed more interested in virtue signaling than critiquing the movie, but here is his review as well. I find Gleiberman’s review interesting because it displays many of the biases which keep Hollywood from making more good Westerns.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

ebooks vs. print—Who Won

This weekend, I ran across this cartoon. At one time, everyone predicted the electronic books would supplant the printed variety. I think we can see the future and it's here. Every book format appears to have found its natural level in the order of things and percentage changes from this point will probably be in single digits.

I suspect my experience is representative of the industry. All of my books are available in print and electronic formats. Most of them are also available in audio and library bound large print. Although my books sell in every format, there are differences in the distribution of sales. 

My westerns sell overwhelmingly in the ebook format and are trending toward the subscription model. Voracious genre readers are perfect customers for books available inexpensively for a monthly fee. The mass-paperback industry has been pretty much devastated by ebooks. Audio books are also popular with genre readers.

Readers of my history books and historical novels prefer printed books. Large print books are popular with libraries.

It should have been obvious from the beginning that the perfect ebook market was mass paperbacks. A cheap, portable, and disposable reading format. But pronostators love to take a trendline and extend it to the stratosphere.

In truth, I don't care which format my readers prefer, only that they keep reading.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Deluge: A Fictional Account of What Would Happen if Extreme Weather Hit California

atmospheric river

Deluge is a disaster story. A real potential disaster is bearing down on the East Coast, and people would be wise to take every precaution. Everyone stay safe.

 Here is an snippet from the book that tries to put moving water in perspective.
Evarts examined the sky. He could discern not even a dull glow where the sun would be at this hour. He swiped water from his eyes.  The rain was bad enough, but the wind made the ocean surface bumpy, and the nose of his surfboard kept splashing salt water in his face as he paddled. He wanted to keep a clear eye out to sea, so it presented more than an annoyance. The larger, outside waves could be brutal, and he didn’t want to be caught inside in what surfers called the impact zone. People generally thought of water as benign. It watered gardens, you could drink it, bathe with it, freeze it to chill a drink or a sore back, swim in it, or laze on the surface in a boat or on a floater. Water was an essential element of life, useful and often great fun. But surfers knew water could also be a killer. No one who had been hit by a huge wave disrespected moving water. You couldn’t fight it. You couldn’t beat it. You could only get out of the way or let it throw you around like a rag doll in a Rottweiler’s grip.

Storms,politics, and gangs pillage California but that isn't the scary part.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

God Created Men and Sam Colt Made Them Equal

samuel colt

In Hartford, Connecticut, Samuel Colt built the world’s largest private armament factory. The factory was not only the largest, it was probably the world’s most advanced manufacturing facility. As a precursor to Henry Ford, Colt used interchangeable parts, production lines, and standard work. In 1856, the company could produce 150 weapons per day.

Samuel Colt was an engineer and mechanic who continually refined his designs. For his famous revolvers, he obtained dozens of patents. In 1873, after his death, the Colt’s Manufacturing Company introduced the iconic Colt Single Action Army revolver, also known as the Peacemaker, which has since been in continuous production except for a short hiatus in the 1940’s and 50s.

The Colt’s Manufacturing Company has produced more than 30 million pistols, revolvers and rifles. Samuel Colt, one of the richest men in America, once wrote, “Money is a trash I have always looked down upon.” There are several ways to get rich, but fun way is to do something you love, and doing it so well that customers flock to your door. These people built empires that last generations, and they didn’t do it for the money. Money was a byproduct of their passion. If you don’t believe me, ask Samuel Colt, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Coco Chanel, or Bill France (NASCAR). Steve Jobs and Bill Gates fall into this category, but I'm not sure about the current generation of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. They seem to be in it for the money.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

4,000 Goodreads Ratings. Cool!

Woke up this morning and went through my normal internet routine with my first cup of coffee. I check Twitter, Facebook, and my book sales and reviews. At Goodreads, I saw something that made me smile. I had hit exactly 4,000 ratings for my books for 4.0 stars. Thank you to all my readers, especially those who take an extra moment to write a review or rate the book.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Why do my characters boss me around?

No Peace starts at del Monte Hotel in Monterey (photo circa 1880s)

In a previous post I wrote that I had started the next Steve Dancy Tale and the title of the seventh book in the series would be Coronado. I had a plot outline, a nifty cast of characters, and enough research on San Diego history to fill a nonfiction tome. Steve had other ideas. I started the story in Monterey, California, intending to travel down to San Diego by way of Redondo Beach and Pasadena. Don’t ask. I won’t tell you the storyline because I’ll probably use this material in the next book. Suffice it to say that Steve got himself into so much trouble in Monterey that he can’t go anywhere until he cleans up his mess.

Wait a minute, isn’t Steve Dancy a fictional character? Yeah, that’s what irks me. Who gave him the right to change my story? When I start a new work, I know the beginning and how it ends, but allow the characters to show me the way to get from one end to the other. Many times, I put the characters into a scene, give them a couple lines, and then transcribe the rest of their conversation. I know them so well that I trust them. But never has a character taken me off the rails and done his own thing. This is outrageous. Perhaps he’s miffed that I abandoned him for a spell to write Deluge. Hell, I thought Steve and Virginia wanted to be left alone on their honeymoon. Which brings to mind the first time I knew something was going haywire. The new book starts about two years after our newlyweds rode off into the sunset. I’m writing the first chapter and Steve and Virginia suddenly announce they have a one-year old son. I’m typing away, and suddenly Jeffery Joseph Dancy enters the story uninvited. Cute kid, though.

The bottom line is that I’ve changed the title for the book. It is now called No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale, but who knows, it could change again. Now I have a true appreciation for what it means to have a character driven story.

One last thing; because of my recent focus on westerns, I was concerned that Deluge might not be accepted by my readers. It was contemporary, and although there were horrific gunfights, the main antagonist was a nasty storm. I’m pleased that the initial reception has been great. The ratings on Goodreads score it 4.4 and the initial Amazon reviews rank it 4.6. Thanks to all of my readers.

Gotta go. Steve's telling me to get back to work.