Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Virginian—The Inspiration for The Steve Dancy Tales

The Virginian was published in 1902, by Owen Wister (1860-1938). The novel received critical acclaim and was a huge bestseller, eventually spawning five films, a successful play, and a television series. The Virginian was an instant success, selling over 20,000 copies in the first month, an astonishing number for the time. It went on to sell over 200,000 copies in the first year, and over a million and a half prior to Wister’s death. This minor classic has never been out of print. Beyond the multiple works that carry its name, The Virginian has inspired hundreds of stories about the Old West.

The Virginian is a story about people, people who happen to have been transplanted from a more civil society to the frontier. It’s basically a fish out of water story. The narrator of this classic was Owen Wister himself. As I read this book, I thought how cool would it be for the Easterner to be more than an observer. What if he became personally involved in the adventures of the Wild West? And that’s how The Virginian inspired the Steve Dancy series. As homage to the original, the first scene of The Shopkeeper opens with a whist card game—the same game Wister's cowboys play in the bunkhouse.

This link will take you to my book review of The Virginian.

Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

eBooks Changing More Than Just Formats

Beyond reading articles touting the eBook phenomenon, I have personally witnessed the shift in book sales from print to eBooks. In the first half of 2011, 72% of my book sales were eBooks. This contrasts with eBook sales of 33% for the first half of 2010. This is not a shift, this is a stampede.

There is an aspect of the eBook trend that is less obvious than the change in format: eBooks are shifting the timing of book purchases. In January of 2010, my total book sales dropped to 45% of my December sales, but my January 2011 sales were 81% of the sales in December of 2010. If eBooks alone are evaluated, the shift to after Christmas sales is even more dramatic. People who own eBook devices are voracious readers and what they want more than anything else is a gift card for their favorite online bookstore. For 2010, my top selling week for the year was the seven days after December 25th--almost all eBooks.

What does this mean for authors? It means authors need to reassess the timing of their promotional efforts. For example, I'm wondering how the heck do I get to readers on Christmas day, Father's Day, Mother's Day, and on their birthday?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Murder at Thumb Butte Available on Kindle and Nook

Murder at Thumb Butte is now available on the Kindle and the Nook. The print version is in the layout stage and should be available shortly.

From the back cover

In the spring of 1880, Steve Dancy travels to Prescott, Arizona to gain control of a remarkable invention. But on his first night in the territorial capital, his friend, Jeff Sharp is arrested for a midnight murder at Thumb Butte. Dancy launches a personal investigation to find the real murderer, only to discover the whole town wanted the victim dead. For help, he turns to another old friend and associate, Captain Joseph McAllen of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

Can Dancy discover the true killer before his friend stretches a rope on the courthouse square?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Father's Day Tribute

I never met my father. He died in WWII in the cockpit of his P-51. I wouldn't be here, except for a brief leave between flight school and his assignment to Iwo Jima.
iwo jima
I don't have many pictures of him, but this one was posted to a website honoring the 506th Fighter Group. My father is the furthest out on the wing.

I'd like to wish him and all of his compatriots that helped to keep us safe and free, Happy Father's Day ... and thank you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Murder at Thumb Butte

It's coming slow, but the next Steve Dancy is making progress. Cover design is now complete, but editing is still in process, and then there's proofreading. Looks to be about two more months.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What would the Founders think? Balances and Checks

“The powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.” Thomas Jefferson
The phrase checks and balances has become so commonplace, it is often spoken as if it were a single word, but in the eighteen century, it was two distinctly different concepts. John Adams may have been the first to put the words together in his 1787 publication, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States, but balances and checks is the phrase used in The Federalist, and that is the sequence Madison would have thought appropriate. First balance powers between the branches of government, and then place checks on those powers so they are not abused.
A Defense Of The Constitutions Of Government Of The United States Of America, Against The Attack Of M. TurgotThe Federalist PapersTempest at Dawn

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jane's Fame, How Jane Austen Conquered the World

I like to read author biographies and this is a fascinating book about a fascinating author. The first quarter is biographical, and then Claire Harman explains how Jane Austen's fame grew through the decades and centuries.

Is fame important for an author? Mass market writers aim for a huge audience, but literary authors are frequently content with select readers that can appreciate their art. Austen was undoubtedly a literary genius, but as Raymond Chandler wrote, “It might reasonably be said that all art at some time and in some manner becomes mass entertainment, and that if it does not it dies and is forgotten.”

Jane knew the secret of great writing—revision. Perhaps she had no choice. Fifteen years or so elapsed between the writing of her first novel and publication. In the meantime, she honed Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibilities to perfection.

During an earlier time in my life, I spent a lot of time in Concord, Massachusetts. The biographical portion of Jane's Fame reminded me of Louisa May Alcott. They were each encouraged to write by their families, grew up surrounded by literary people and artists, and both read their stories aloud to family and friends.

Speaking of similarities, another one struck me while writing this post: Austen, Chandler, and Twain wrote contemporary fiction, but we now read their books as period fiction. Viewing their work as historical novels makes them timeless.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New post at What Would the Founders Think

Tempest at DawnOur Constitution created a limited representative republic.  A republic is different from a democracy.  In a democracy, the majority can directly make laws, while in a republic, elected representatives make laws.  Basically, in a pure democracy, the majority has unlimited power, whereas in a republic, a written constitution limits the majority and provides safeguards for the individual and minorities.
In the United States, we actually have both systems.  There is no way for Americans to directly enact legislation at the national level, but half of the states allow ballot initiatives which, if passed by a majority of the voters, have the force of law.