Saturday, March 29, 2008

Maiden voyage to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

This week, we drove our new (to us) RV up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings in south central New Mexico. Technically, it can be a day trip, but we have friends who left Las Cruces at 6 a.m. and returned at 10 p.m. Much of the trip is on narrow, winding roads with occasional steep drops. We had to avoid a stretch of Highway 15, because it is closed to vehicles over 20 feet long, and our vehicle is 25.

Both elevation and latitude increase on the trip, and the vegetation changes gradually from sere desert with dried-up arroyos, creosote bushes, and prickly pear cactus to ponderosa pines and streams with honest-to-goodness water in them. The cacti never completely disappear, but they become much less prevalent in the upper elevations.

I will hold back on many of the details, because I have an assignment to write an article about it for Southwest Senior. But the dwellings were briefly the home of the Mogollon Indians about 700 years ago, and were abandoned for reasons unknown. The area was the home of the Chiricahua Apache, whose most famous member was Geronimo.

An Amazon plot?

Jeff Bezos
On my favorite writing list, The Internet Writing Workshop, there’s been discussion about what Amazon is supposedly doing to self-publishing outfits such as iUniverse and PublishAmerica. Angela Hoy wrote a lengthy story outlining Amazon's supposed malfeasance. As the story goes, bad boy Bezos (see mug shot) is protecting his own BookSurge by removing the “Buy” buttons on listings for competitors’ books. In a variation of the tale, competitive listings themselves are being removed. I read that “all 1500” PublishAmerica authors have been affected. When I expressed skepticism, saying that my iUniverse offering, When Pigs Fly, is still available for purchase on Amazon, a correspondent said I would pay for my smug refusal to read the whole Hoy piece, and my day of reckoning would come.

Yeah, well. Allow me to quote my favorite B-movie actor, Ronald Reagan: Trust, but verify. In the small sampling of PublishAmerica, iUniverse, and BookSurge listings I checked on Amazon, all were treated the same.

Maybe there is something to the claims, but I don't see it. If you want to scare me, do it with easily verifiable evidence. At least do some minimal fact-checking before you pass along a rumor.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A trip to Arizona

Last week I finally met my friend Kate Reynolds after corresponding with her for years by email. She and her husband were gracious hosts to my wife and me when we went to Arizona to pick up our RV. Kate is a fine writer who has contributed to The Insider’s Guide to Phoenix and The Insider’s Guide to Tucson.

The timing of the trip was great, as poppies and bluebonnets are abloom in abundance. This is a photo taken at the Tonto National Monument, said to be the last stronghold of Cochise. Note the blanket of poppies on the mountainside:

Roadside bluebonnets, my moms favorite flower:

Poppies and saguaro on a hillside:

Bergaalwyn blooming in Tohono Chul Park, Tucson:

And bougainvillea at the Holiday Inn, Mesa:

Thursday, March 06, 2008

“Ve have our vays”

In my research for an article about self- and subsidy-publishing, I came across the name of iUniverse’s #5 best-seller, which I won’t name here. So I bopped on over to Amazon to see what its ranking is, and wouldn't you know, it doesn’t have a ranking. A quick email to Amazon confirmed that no ranking means they haven’t sold at least one copy. So I called iUniverse’s marketing department to inquire about it. The author lives in Florida and apparently has pretty decent sales on Amazon UK, but none at all in the US. The guy I spoke to at iUniverse had been curious too, and called the author to learn his secret, but apparently the author refused to reveal his methods. He has his vays...

The iUniverse guy did mention that for some of their best-selling non-fiction, an institution might purchase a substantial number of copies and distribute them to members, thus creating the high sales numbers.