Posts Tagged With: Amazon

Unstoppable Leaders

When you  hear “history book,”  do you turn and run? Are these books the last on your reading list? Is your perception of learning history colored by memorization and repetition often utilized in schools? What if reading history could be every bit as exciting as fiction?

It can be.

There are some masters of narrative history out there writing the true stories that will compel you to turn every page. One of these authors is Candice Millard. Her books on two of the most influential and compelling leaders of the 20th Century — Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt — are gripping reads.

Continue reading

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lost City of Z

David Grann‘s book The Lost City of Z reintroduced readers to the true story of Percy Fawcett‘s epic search for the legendary Lost City of Z in the Amazon. Now, it is being told on the big screen this spring and may be a welcome respite to the same old, action films. Check out the trailer here:

Categories: Ancient America, Forgotten Places, History, Mysteries, Native Americans | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Join Your Side, the War has Begun!


Among the Shadows now on Kindle!


Categories: Books, Fiction, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take a Look Inside!

The Look Inside feature has been activated on the Amazon listing of Among the Shadows. Take a peak at part of the Prologue (it be nice if they cut the excerpts off where the chapter ends…maybe the rest will appear here) and see how it all begins…fullcvnewwbs

Categories: Books, Fiction, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Could Have Been

Not much holds my attention on television, creativity has plummeted. Leave to Amazon to change that with its original series A Man in the High Castle. Based on famed sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick’s novel, it opens with this disturbing premise:

The Allies lost World War II and the Nazis and Imperial Japan rule the United States.

A fledgling resistance and simmering unrest between Japan and Germany is set in a dystopian 1960s that isn’t exactly the ’60s we remember. The producers have put fort a movie-level effort in the reimagining what the country would be like. The production design, subtle FX and the historical allusions (like the disturbing cause of the “snow” on one scene of the pilot episode) combined with a well-realized plot for an immersive, and cautionary, tale.

Having watched Season 1 in its entirety, one thing is for certain: Amazon has officially put itself on the map for original television (networks take note).


P.S. Read more on the series here. And muse over the irony of a show on fascism having its ads censored.

Categories: Modern History | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Indie Bookstores “Rise Again”


According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of member independent bookstores has increased more than 20 percent since the depths of the recession, from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,094 in 2014. Meanwhile, Borders went bankrupt in 2011, and the fate of Barnes & Noble, which failed to make the Nook into a viable e-reader competitor with Amazon’s Kindle, appears murky. What happened?

Independent bookstores never had to answer to the dictates of public markets. Many of their proprietors understood, intuitively and from conversations with customers, that a well-curated selection—an inventory of old and new books—was their primary and maybe only competitive advantage. In the words of Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, “The indie bookselling amalgam of knowledge, innovation, passion, and business sophistication has created a unique shopping experience.”

In other words, the Big Guys got too big too fast and tried to be too much to too many people. People want bookstores, not warehouses.


Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Amazon a “Market Disruption” for Publishers

The war between Amazon (who has led the wholesale changes seen in publishing in recent years) and traditional publishers (currently Hachette Book Group) has come to a head over e-book pricing. Hachette’s position is that they have the author’s best interests at heart, but indie writers argue otherwise. One of them, Robert Bidinotto, explains that there is more to the story:

…even though publishing contract terms (including advances, royalties, and rights) are simply awful for 99% of authors, a relative handful of Big Name Authors do in fact benefit disproportionately from their alliances with Big Publishing. These “one-percenters” (to borrow a term from current political parlance) get extravagant advances from the publishing houses — advances so large that they don’t care much about other contractual terms, such as royalties and subsidiary rights, which other authors must endure. They have a huge vested interest in keeping the publishing industry frozen in amber, exactly as it is. As marquee figures in the industry, these Big Name Authors also dominate prominent writers groups, such as the Authors Guild. So, when such individuals and groups issue statements, purporting to speak for authors generally, you can be sure that they are really only representing their own narrower interests.

You can read the complete post at his site and the petition that supports the Amazon side. Bidinotto also writes, “Look, I have no problem, in principle, with publishers. If they really did what they promise to do — take the burdens of editing and publication off writers, compensate them reasonably, and market them creatively and intelligently — I think many more authors would be happier than they are now. A number of small presses still do this.”

And that is truly what is at the heart of the debate. It isn’t that Big Publishing is evil or that no authors ever succeed with them or that no one but bad authors indie publish. Once writers had another path to publish their works, they were free to question the system that usually left them with the least return. If big deals come along, that’s great, but most writers would be happy to pay the bills and make a living. And most don’t.

The industry is changing. The death of many bookstores has shown us that. If traditional publishers don’t change, will they follow the same path?

P.S. For an example of how some in traditional publishing are adapting, see the October issue of Writer’s Digest in which “The Evolving Agent” details how agents are joining the digital era.

Categories: Books, Writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Reinventing Barnes and Noble

Once again, come the predictions of the end of Barnes and Noble.  Even with the end of Borders,  B&N has had troubles, with many laying the blame at the foot of Amazon and its Kindle-led e-book revolution.

As usual, it is never quite that simple.

I’ve seen many bookstores pop up in former Borders locations. Amazon is a great place to shop for books, and is the legend of internet commerce, but its profit margin isn’t all that high [And since I first wrote this, Amazon has begun to open stores, seeing the profitability in them.  Indie bookstores have seen strong growth. Who says no one buys real books?]. Ironically, B&N stores compete against e-books — all the while pushing its Nook reader — and its own website. All stores have websites, that isn’t the only problem. B&N does make money, if in decreasing fashion. It can survive, if it reinvents itself. That is, it will if it gets back to the basics it began with:

Become known as the local neighborhood bookseller, rather than the national chain bookstore.

The suggestions below are the same I made about a year ago. To these I add this: Forget the Nook. Let Amazon and Apple and all the others have it. E-books are here to stay, but be the old-fashioned bookstore. Be the specialty store. Paper books will never disappear. They are timeless and durable. Just like we treasure ancient tomes, so will the future want ours. And these:

1. Make that regional and local book section more prominent. Expand it. Make your store the one stop place for anyone looking for local authors and books on area subjects.

2. Ditch the cafes. Never stepped foot in one. You’re a bookstore. Yes, there are people who like to hang out in them, so farm them out to someone else. Get out of the food business. [Update: I have since “stepped foot” in the cafe once or twice. Not bad, but just not what I’m looking for when I go in a bookstore.]

3. Indie books and indie presses have grown rapidly in recent years. E-books are their main outlet because they still operate outside traditional distribution networks. Change this. Get their books in your stores.

4. Ditch the music and movie section. If e-commerce has hurt book sales, it has done more so for these other two. Save a spot for local artists, toss the rest. [Update: I realize that there has since been growth in vinyl records, which B&N sells. Good, sell them, but don’t bank on this or that fad (like adult coloring books). Fads come and go. Address them, but they can’t be at the core of your business.]

5. Enough of the $20 membership fee. Virtually no one charges for their loyalty cards.

6. Keep cutting unprofitable stores, but don’t pass up chances to open new, smaller stores in areas with a bookstore vacuum.

7. The kids area, the learning toy section and the games area are the best non-book items you have. They are better quality than what we find in department stores. But how many people know you sell this stuff? Your kids book section blows everyone — even Wal-Mart — away. Tell people. [And remove the toys that others have at cheaper prices. We all love Legos, but you can’t compete. Hobby board games are huge, your hobby board game section is great, but too small.]

8. Overall, your selection, style, arrangement and size of stores isn’t bad. Use your strengths as a national chain, but operate like a local store. Each market is different. Be able to respond and provide at an individual store level. Let them know that you are there. Host events more regularly. Be a destination.

Be like the stores of old. Books will never die, nor do you have to.


Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Finding our Past, and Future, in the Jungle

Many of you have grown up with fictional characters like Indiana Jones. Swashbuckling tales of danger in search of lost cities. There was a time when such adventures weren’t the realm fiction.

In the last decades of the heyday of exploring the last wilds of the Earth, Colonel Percy Fawcett led an expedition into the Amazon to search for the fabled Lost City of Z.

He was never seen again.

Decades of rumors of his fate ensued. Had he found the lost city? Was he living among the natives? Had he succumbed to the jungle many years before? David Grann takes us on a tour of Fawcett’s obsession in The Lost City of Z, in part by heading into the jungle himself following the footsteps of the lost explorer.

But Fawcett wasn’t the only one. Theodore Morde had claimed he had found the lost White City in Honduras. He never returned to explore his find and may have tried to obscure its location to dissuade others. Christopher S. Stewart dives into this man’s life in Jungleland. He too goes to the jungle and tries to locate Morde’s discovery and, perhaps, what haunted him to the end.

Then there was Hiram Bingham who discovered the legendary mountaintop city of Machu Picchu. This site was not lost and has become an iconic wonder of the Mesoamerican past. Christopher Heaney chronicles Bingham’s quest in Cradle of Gold. The classic journey of that era that has impacted history decades later to our time. Its forgotten history of a sprawling empire is still being revealed. And Machu Picchu has become the prime example of the need to return artifacts to their rightful nations that were acquired (not always honestly) during the age of relic hunting.

These books are windows into the bygone era of journeys into the unknown. Sometimes driven by fame or fortune, discovery or quest of knowledge, the explorers were nearly the last of their kind. Perhaps those who have left Earth into space are our only successors to them.

In any case, there are still discoveries to be made on our world; jungles that still cling to their secrets and can make men vanish in an eye blink. We are desperately in need of a generation that takes mankind’s history seriously while looking forward and are willing to explore new frontiers and push us beyond new thresholds.

Ignoring history, not seeing past tomorrow and thinking a new phone is “innovation” just doesn’t cut it.

Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Sites, Forgotten Places, Native Americans | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Into the Heart of the Jungle

I’ve written on how The Land that Time Forgot and The Lost World inspired all the books and films about lost lands and hidden creatures that came after them.

These books appeal to our fascination of the mysterious and unknown. No matter how far we advance, there is always something tugging at our minds. That’s why we explore. An that’s why many write. J. Allan Danelek‘s new book, Serpente Gigante, is the latest in this legacy of stories.

There are a lot of over-the-top books out there with Indy-clones or people where the impossible always seems to happen to. Yes, the whole point of fiction (or one, anyway) is to explore the impossible. Alternate realities that most likely never will exist. On the other end of the spectrum are those books that present their fantastic tale in a more plausible fashion. These books are just as interesting and that is where Danelek’s resides.

Brazilian jungles. Giant snakes. It may sound familiar, but the characters make it real. They aren’t quite as perfect or lucky as some other heroes. One subplot — let’s just say man’s tampering with what he shouldn’t — is not of uncommon territory. Yet it fits well because it is an increasingly real danger in our world.

Danelek has created a fast-paced diversion that considers various ideas without the heavy-handedness seen in other books. This is the first of a series, a decent first entry. So here’s the question:

Are you afraid to explore the unknown?

Categories: Books, Fiction, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: