Friday, November 30, 2012

Tempest at Dawn: The real story of our nation's founding

The following is excerpt from my essay on the 27th Amendment for Constituting America.
"We often hear laments that our politicians no longer honor their pledge to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  This is backward.  The Constitution was not written for politicians.  Our political leaders have no motivation to abide by a two hundred year old restraining order.  Americans must enforce the supreme law of the land.  The first outsized words of the Constitution read We the People.  It’s our document. It was always meant to be ours, not the government’s.  It is each and every American’s obligation to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Most popular Constitution Books
Constituting America

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Looking for a gift?

Selling Books During the Holidays

Books are popular gifts, and the Christmas buying season has traditionally been the best month of the year for book sales. It still is ... for print sales. With the explosion in eBooks, post-Christmas is becoming another hot selling season. Not only are empty Kindles popular gifts, but Amazon gift cards frequently fill stockings and email in-boxes. These two trends are causing a flurry of eBook buying from December 25 through January.

(Please excuse my focus on Kindle. For some reason B&N and other booksellers have not been able to market gift cards with near the intensity of Amazon.)

The question for publishers is how to adjust their marketing plans to meet this shift in book sales. The simple answer is that pre-holiday marketing should focus on print format, and after Christmas marketing should transition to eBooks, preferably starting a bit prior to Christmas.

Gift givers prefer to wrap a physical item in shinny paper to be opened on Christmas, and many readers still like to hold a physical book in their hand. There is still good demand for print books, especially trade paperback and hardbound books. Publishers should focus their attention on print sales before the holiday buying season.

Sales of eBooks seem to get an up-tick as early as Christmas afternoon. My guess is that these are new Kindle owners who are playing with their new toy. To affect this market, eBook promotion needs to start before the 25th of December.

How do you change the marketing focus? One thing I do is set all my hot links on my various web pages to my print formats, and then the 22nd change the links to my eBooks formats. Not very clever, I know. But if I had this nailed down, I wouldn’t be posting this article in the throes of holiday shopping.

I’ll do better next year.

Related posts:
eBooks Changing More Than Just Formats
The eReader Revolution is Accelerating
Books Are The Perfect Gift

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Guest Blog Post: Meet Author James D. Best

Free Kindle Books and Tips

"Continuing the guest blog posts by independent authors, best-selling author James D. Best tells us the background of his novel, Tempest at Dawn, plus some other interesting facts about him I didn't know prior to reading this post. A friend of mine at work has read it and said it was great, and I have added it to my Kindle."

Monday, November 26, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

I haven't read a Stephen King book in a couple decades. 11/22/63 reminded me why I used to read King’s books as soon as they were published ... and why I quit reading them. King is a good writer, has a great imagination, knows how to pen an engrossing story, but is exhaustingly verbose. I wanted to make a little circling motion with my finger to tell him to hurry up, but of course he wasn't in the room to see it.

Fiction writers have the unique ability to bend time. We can do what we want because it’s our world. We make it up. The premise of 11/22/63 is that our intrepid hero discovers a time portal that takes him back to 1958. After a quick touristic holiday, he decides to go back to 1958 and wait until November 22, 1963 in order to save John F. Kennedy. King proceeds to tell us everything that happens in the intervening five years. Why? It was King’s decision to have the portal go to 1958. He could have chosen 1961 or 1962. I think he just loves to write.

That aside, this is a well told story. I like time travel because they are basically fish-out-of-water tales. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur'sCourt by Mark Twain is the apex of the genre. 11/22/63 may have been overly long (880 pages in paperback), but it was still a fun read with some creative twists on time travel. I didn't agree with his speculations about altered history, but they didn't interfere with the story. If you like to be immersed in Stephen King’s world, you can have an extended stay with 11/22/63.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The eReader Cafe: Author Interview with James D. Best

Interview with James D. Best at eReader Cafe Novemebr 11, 2012
Good Sunday morning, everyone! I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Historical author, James D. Best. Let's start off with The eReader Cafe's signature first question: 
Coffee or tea?

The Black Hills by Rod Thompson

As a writer of a western series, I don’t read a lot of Western fiction. In the past, I devoured Owen Wister, Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, Larry McMurtry, and even Max Brand. Nowadays, I find myself mostly reading western nonfiction to help me put accurate color in my books. The Black Hills by Rod Thompson is an exception. I read and enjoyed this book enormously. This is skillful fiction that should appeal to people of any age, gender, or interest. In other words, this is great storytelling that just happens to take place in the American Wild West. It’s a coming of age saga with characters you end up befriending by the end of the book. The Black Hills is the type of book that will help revive the Western genre—good storytelling with a solid plot, realistic dialogue, and characters the reader cares about.

This is a great Christmas gift or stocking stuffer for a Western enthusiast or picky reader. The Black Hills has 23 Amazon customer reviews for 5.0 stars and at the time of this writing is heavily discounted to $6 for the paperback edition. How's that for an entertainment bargain. And when you finish, you can pass the book along to someone else.

The Black Hills is touted as the first book in a trilogy. Let’s hope Thompson is feverishly working on the second in the series.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Books are a perfect gift ... and a great way to avoid the crowds

At times, friends and relatives can be hard to buy for. Some seem to have everything. Due to age or illness, others may be less mobile than in years past. Some don’t really want much. Families scatter across this huge country and selecting a gift, packaging, and shipping can be a chore.

A book, however, is always a great gift … especially if you take the time to match their taste in fiction or nonfiction special interest. 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.

Books are the best entertainment value. They provide hour after hour of personal pleasure, and then they can be passed on to another person. When I give a book as a gift, I  write a personal note inside that won't get tossed out like last year's Christmas card.

Children's books are great gifts. We search for autographed storybooks for our grandkids. Local bookstores always have children book promotions around the holidays, and this is one area where we actually like to join the crowd. A great find is when the author and the illustrator both sign the book. We've done this for several years, so now our grandkids' bedrooms have dedicated shelves for signed books. The icing on the cake is we get to read them a story from one of these books whenever we visit.

Here are Amazon links to bestselling books in a few categories. There are many more categories a click away, but you can also search for books on a specific subject.

If you have a Western enthusiast in the family, giving one or more of these books can bring a smile to their face … mine as well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone

"I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy."-- Anne Frank

I would add to Anne Frank's exhortation that we should also go to family. Thanksgiving is fun and a pleasant day to share with our families. There’s not near the commercialization that afflicts Christmas, and conversation is easier than on a boisterous Fourth of July. It’s a great time to catch up as we take a day off from our busy lives. Stay in the moment and enjoy the day … after all, the very next day is frantic Black Friday.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Is Pinterest Good For Anything?

When I get stuck writing, I find myself wandering over to Pinterest. What is it about this site that's so fascinating?  First, it's visual, so it gives me a welcome mental break from words, words, words. Compared to other social sites, it's easier to tidy up and tinker with so it looks the way I want. 

Although I've heard some get addicted, I find Pinterest a quick sojourner that refreshes my mental state for writing. Pinterest is like a shoe box where I collect odd things that interest me. It  accommodates some of my quirky interests, like Great American Tacky, Slightly Ill Humor, or surfing.  

For example, I think villains are a key element of storytelling. Heroics can be uplifting, but heroes need someone or something to fight against. Nasty villains, allow heroes to be heroic.

If you'd like, you can check out my rogues gallery on Pinterest by clicking over to Bad to the Bone.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writers in Hollywood ... Has anything changed?

Famous authors
Raymond Chandler is one of my favorite writers. To this day, he is well known for his novels and screenplays, but many don’t realize he also wrote magazine articles on writing and the popular culture. The following two links lead to prior posts referencing Chandler’s articles.

Here are a few excerpts from an article he wrote in 1945, titled, “Writers in Hollywood.”

Raymond Chandler
“Hollywood is easy to hate, easy to sneer at, easy to lampoon. Some of the best lampooning has been done by people who have never been through a studio gate, some of the best sneering by egocentric geniuses who departed huffily - not forgetting to collect their last pay check – leaving behind them nothing but the exquisite aroma of their personalities and a botched job for the tired hacks to clean up.”

“…writers are employed to write screenplays on the theory that, being writers, they have a particular gift and training for the job, and are then prevented from doing it with any independence or finality whatsoever, on the theory that, being merely writers, they know nothing about making pictures, and of course if they don't know how to make pictures, they couldn't possibly know how to write them. It takes a producer to tell them that.”

“I hold no brief for Hollywood. I have worked there a little over two years, which is far from enough to make me an authority, but more than enough to make me feel pretty thoroughly bored. That should not be so. An industry with such vast resources and such magic techniques should not become dull so soon … The making of a picture ought surely to be a rather fascinating adventure. It is not; it is an endless contention of tawdry egos, some of them powerful, almost all of them vociferous, and almost none of them capable of anything much more creative than credit-stealing and self-promotion.”

If you’re interested in writing or movies, you’ll find this article fascinating. Although written sixty-five years ago, it still rings true.

This link will take you to the full article in the Atlantic Monthly archives.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Big Thanks -- 50,000 Copies Sold

Last Friday, I received my annual statement from my large-print publisher. When I entered the sales into my ledger, the total copies of my books sold went over 50,000. Whoa! That may not be a number that would impress a New York Times bestseller, but it's a big number for someone like me who didn't start gifted, famous, or notorious. The best part is that my sales keep improving. It seems I'm gathering a bigger audience all the time.

When I started writing fiction, I was just an ordinary business guy who had written lots of technical nonfiction. I started writing fiction to escape the tensions of the day. Ten minutes at my keyboard and I was transported to another time and place. That was a reward in and of itself, but people I don't know have joined me in my stories. That is the greatest reward of all. Writers may love to write, but they really love to be read. So, thank you. I appreciate the company.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Constitution Rocks by Juliette Turner

I spent five years researching my novel on the Constitutional Convention, Tempest at Dawn. I wish I had made things as clear as Juliette Turner has done in Our Constitution Rocks. I should have known. My wife taught me that when I needed a quick, clear perspective on a subject, I should start with a book aimed at middle-schoolers. She was right. When they're done right, they are educational, concise, clear, and fun. Juliette Turner has hit all of these targets.

"This is an important book," is a cliche of the publishing industry. Nonetheless, Our Constitution Rocks is an important book. Understanding our constitution is important for every citizen, but crucially important for the young who will lead our nation in the decades ahead. If you're an adult, you can also take my wife's advice and start your own study of the Constitution right here with this book. In fact, there's probably few better ways to spend some time with your child. The Constitution is every American's birthright. We should take it out from under glass and examine it at every opportunity. Juliette Turner has done our nation a service.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was on a Glenn Beck program with Janine Turner and met Juliette at the taping. Since then, I have written articles for Constituting America, which was founded by Janine Turner and Cathy Gillespie. You can watch Juliette Turner read one of my essays below. Despite a distant professional relationship, I highly recommend this book and hope that many parents give a copy to their kids for Christmas.

Tempest at Dawn is a novelization of the 1787 Federal Convention that we now call the Constitutional Convention.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Internet is right ... except when it is wrong.

I made a significant error when writing Principled Action, Lessons from the Origins of the American Republic. I attributed a quote to James Monroe that was actually written by James Madison. When it was pointed out, I couldn't believe it. I had a solid source, the manuscript had been fact checked, footnoted, edited, and proofread. Through Google Books I discovered a James Madison paper that was the true source of the quote. About a third of the references in a Google search attributed the quote to Monroe. (You're right, that means two thirds of the references said it was Madison. Alarm bells should have gone off.)

An eBook can be corrected fast.
Darn. How does that happen? Through some additional research, I found the source of the error. Around 1900, a historian had written a serious academic book and mistakenly attributed the quote to Monroe. An easy error. The two neighbors share the same first name and the last names have similarities. The historian probably had a momentary lapse in memory and his editors missed the mistake. From that point forward, anyone who didn't go back to the original source document had a high likelihood of propagating the error.

I'm bring this up because I did the presentation on the hazards of internet research.
(This link will take you to some fun wisdom on the Internet.) 

The Internet may have accuracy issues, but relying on nonfiction books can lead a writer up the garden path as well. I guess if there is a moral to the story, it's that a careful writer should not rely on secondary sources unless absolutely necessary.