Sunday, August 26, 2012

Off to Istanbul

In a couple days my wife and I will leave for Turkey and Spain for about four weeks. I'm dragging Steve Dancy along with us. Hopefully I'll find some quiet moments to make some progress on the next Steve Dancy Tale. The working title for the next installment is The Return. After some shenanigans in Leadville, Steve and a few friends will travel to Menlo Park to get a license from Thomas Edison to use his inventions in mining. I'd sure like to find some excuse for Steve to visit Istanbul. Then part of my trip would be tax deductible. Unfortunately, he seems more and more attached to the Wild West. My bet is that he doesn't even stay in New Jersey long.

I'll write a post about our travels when I get back.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vintage Photograph to Western Book Cover

I have been asked by several readers if the image on the cover of The Shopkeeper is authentic. 

It is. 

L. A. Huffman was a famous frontier photographer in Miles City, Montana. The photograph below is marked, "L. A. Huffman, Miles City, MT" which stands for Montana Territory. This means that this photograph was taken prior to Montana becoming a state in November of 1889.

To add a sense of mystery, the photograph was cropped for cover of The Shopkeeper. Add professional typesetting some color adjustment, and you have a distinct cover.

The intent was to identify the book as a Western, but signal that it was a fresh take on the genre. I think the designer did an excellent job.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's All Good!

The difference between reality and imagination is an important distinction for me. Especially since I make my living writing fiction. The great thing about storytelling is that you can make up new friends and enemies, embellish the truth, or even bend time.

I started writing fiction when I was a consultant with a lot of idle time in hotels. After a stressful day, I could come back to my room and after a few minutes of writing I was completely at ease, transported to another place and time. The imaginative had become reality.

I'm seventy years old. My brain still feels fresh and young, but the reality is my body is sore and not always willing to do what I bid it to do. A while ago, I rode the wave in the top photograph. My son, with a little Photoshop magic, turned it into the bottom picture. I'd like to be able to ride a big wave, but in truth, I'm happy as punch to get any rides at all. A couple years ago, a ruptured disc made it impossible for me to get from my bed to the bathroom without a walker. Now, every wave is a blessing and I'm thankful I can still get up and down the hill to the beach. I have as much fun at my local beach break as I used to have in more challenging surf. Beside, I can always sit at my keyboard and imagine it to be whatever I want. 

And that's the point … it's all good.

(Here's a recent surfing video made with a GoPro.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

King Maker

John Wayne was not only a great star, he was a king maker. Louis L'Amour had been selling well, but was hardly a household name prior to Wayne approving a blurb for Hondo that said, "Hondo was the finest Western Wayne had ever read." 

Wayne also endorsed a TV Western that was somewhat successful. (Gunsmoke still holds the record for the greatest number of episodes at 635.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mark Twain on Heroes

“Unconsciously we all have a standard by which we measure other men, and if we examine closely we find that this standard is a very simple one, and is this: we admire them, we envy them, for great qualities we ourselves lack. Hero worship consists in just that. Our heroes are men who do things which we recognize, with regret, and sometimes with a secret shame, that we cannot do. We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be like somebody else. If everybody was satisfied with himself, there would be no heroes.” 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The eReader revolution is accelerating

I've been tracking print versus eBook sales for years. In 2008, my print sales were four times my eBook sales. In 2009, three times. By 2010, sales were almost even between the two formats. As you may have guessed, 2011 was the year sales flipped upside down--with a vengeance. In 2011 my Kindle sales alone were three times my print sales. To my surprise, the shift in format continues to accelerate. This month my eBook sales were eight times my print sales.

Is this good or bad? Let me see. I earn a higher royalty on eBooks, I can monitor my sales in near real time, and I'm paid monthly with only a sixty day delay. That's the good side. The bad side is that I've participated in a couple of recent book signings at Barnes and Noble. Both were duds. Book signings used to be fun ... and educational. Now I drive home wondering if they're worthwhile. Probably. I see eBook sales go up after an event. I'm not sure what this tells me except that my signature is not worth six dollars--the difference between the print cost and an eBook version.

There's an old saying in investing: Don't fight the tape. It means don't buck the trend. I'm personally on my fifth Kindle. When I took my first model on an airplane, people would ask what it was. Now, every reading passenger seems to have an eReader. I used to see a book cover I recognized and asked my fellow passenger how they liked it. Now what we read  is a big dark secret. In a way I like it because I imagine they’re all reading one of my books.

It appears the print format for narrative books may go the way of the 8-track. Some will lament the good ‘ol days, but what really counts is that people read. And it certainly appears from my personal sales that the Kindle and like-devices are causing people to read more. Hurrah for that!