Saturday, June 28, 2008

On the Road... in Colorado

This post is coming from a little campground in Manitou Springs, Colorado! While Sue is doing a breast cancer walk from Keystone to Breckenridge, I'm scouring the fort sites on the front range for "Forts of the Southern Plains" - GREAT road trip with the exception of the speeding ticket I picked up in Evansville (nice little speed trap they have there).

For this trip, I've visited Forts Sedgwick, Morgan, Collins, Vasquez, Lupton, Weld and Logan. Most of these only have markers, but I was very excited to see that a local non-profit is rebuilding Fort Lupton! It should be complete by the time this book comes out and it will be a beautiful little adobe post, kind of a scaled-down Bent's Old Fort.

Something I've learned on this trip, and am kicking myself and hard: If you have a book to sell, BRING THE BOOK. I brought ONE copy just to show potential sources what the end result was going to look like, and all of the people I told about it wanted to buy one! I probably could have sold at least 15 copies.

It never occurred to me that people who work at forts are interested in other forts - just because I didn't mention Colorado forts in the book doesn't mean that people in Colorado aren't intereted. In fact, a number of places with sales outlets plan to stock the book on their shelves. Sweet!

I saw that while I was out that James Acker, the new site supervisor at Fort Abercrombie, sent me an email regarding their sales (Fort Aber is one the cover). He said four copies were sold as soon as the box was opened!

I think I've hit all of the forts I'm going to in Colorado now, so all that's left is my mega trip to Texas and three forts in New Mexico. When THAT all happens, I know not. Would be great if gas prices dropped back to FNP levels!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Heard from My Experts

Two men whom I'd asked to write jacket blurbs for my book yesterday sent me their comments on the finished product - and I'm happy to say they liked what they saw!

Robert Utley wrote "It is handsome in appearance and splendid in content. Congratulations on a notable work. I hope it does well."

And Herb Hart said "Congratulations on the book! It ruined my plans last night as I stayed awake most of the night reading it."

THAT is high praise! I wonder if there are any book awards for "Plan Ruiner of the Year"?

What I found out about Amazon...

... is that their prices fluctuate throughout the day! I thought it was interesting that my book's price had three different ones last week in its first week of release, but then I logged in this morning and found it was back at the pre-release price. HMMMmmmmm....

I googled why this was and found out Amazon does something akin to "reverse haggling." Different people see different prices even if they look at the same time. Though the prices overall fluctuate randomly, Amazon uses cookies to ensure that for the individual shopper, the price stays stable at the first price they saw for each item. They randomly vary prices, to find what is the highest price customers are prepared to pay before sales fall enough to cut into the extra income from that higher price. In other words, they are dynamically altering prices to maximise income, rather than sales.

Well, whatever it takes to sell books, I'm all for it!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The First Week

All is going well with the book! I got copies out to everyone who had pre-ordered and am getting back positive comments (by the way, if you DO read the book and enjoy it, PLEASE post your review at the Amazon page! At least give me five stars if you can!)

Speaking of Amazon, the book was actually sold out for the first couple days so BIG thanks to everyone who had pre-ordered and got the deep discounted price. I noticed that Amazon raised their price after the book came out (naturally) but was surprised they raised it once again when the book was back in stock. I'll take that to mean it's somewhat in demand!

I've been busy promoting the book where I can and succeeded in getting booked as a guest for KFAB's "Good Morning Show" for Friday, July 4, at 8:30 a.m. I might miss some people leaving town for the weekend, but KFAB listeners are an intelligent group and just the people I'm looking for.

I've got a couple other appearance opportunities that might happen IF I can make it work out with my freelancing, but not sure yet. That includes the earlier-mentioned signings at Offutt which may have to wait until later this fall.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


My book is here! Three years and two weeks after I started it, "Forts of the Northern Plains" is now in my hands in its finished form. Pretty cool!

I've been looking for the UPS truck since last Friday and bugging Kyle about it. He finally checked on the tracking number and emailed back that it was to be at my place today. It got to be after 6:30 p.m. and Sue and I finally decided to go to dinner. We left the neighborhood, taking a route we rarely take, and saw the UPS truck turning up a street! I circled around and asked if he had a delivery for my address - not one, but two boxes.

It looks good. I'm a pretty happy guy right now. And my Celtics just won the NBA Championship!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Not-So-Bad Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th was pretty good to me this year!

The day started out with a UPS shipment from Stackpole Books - not the first copies of "Forts of the Northern Plains" I was hoping for but about 50 copies of the cover! I wanted one to frame, but not quite sure what I'll do with the rest.

I may also have found the location for the "family & friends" kick-off event for the book, which is also a speaking engagement for the general public. I spoke with Betty Davis, executive director of the Douglas County Historical Society, and am signed up to present at their "Second Sunday Talk" on Sunday, July 13, at the General Crook House at Fort Omaha and can follow up the talk with the kick-off event.

The "Second Sunday Talk," coincidentally, will help the society celebrate the 140th anniversary of Fort Omaha, now the home of Metropolitan Community College and one of the most beautiful of the Northern Plains forts. I grew up just blocks from the fort as well, so this visit is much appreciated.

Finally, I spoke with the manager of the base exchange for Offutt AFB in Bellevue (the site of Fort Crook) about a signing there. I was told before speaking to her to ask for the first Saturday after the retirees get their checks, but the manager wants me there for THREE days of that week, or even the full week if I want! They're pretty excited about the book for the history-loving members of the base - I am, too.

I'm visiting both forts on Monday to work out the details. Hopefully, I'll have the first copies of the book in hand to take along.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Learning Google 101

I was emailing with Kyle, my editor at Stackpole, about the website. At one point he asked why my name and book wasn't showing up in his web search.

That was a good question - I was so excited to see both showing up in searches for other sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble that I never stopped to wonder why wasn't showing up.

So a good portion of my day today was spent learning about "meta tags" and "keywords" and how to add them to my site so that it WILL show up in searches and I'll get more hits. Go Daddy's marketing talked me into adding something called "Traffic Blazer" to boost it even more, so I should know by this evening if it's all working.

I also added a "security certificate" to the site so people can order with confidence. So please order with confidence! ;-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Two New Appearances

I'm happy to report two new appearances are booked for September!

The first - on Saturday, Sept. 20 - is for The Book Clinic in Nebraska City. This is a pretty special place for myself and my wife Susan; while I was a reporter at the Nebraska City News-Press, this building was the location of the pediatrician for our four kids - in fact, I heard my son Chris's first heartbeat here!

Our doctor's wife, Keitha Thomson, opened the store in 1999 and it is a really neat little bookseller. I'm very happy to be at the store during the annual Apple Jack Festival, an event I covered many years as a News-Press reporter and participated in as a Nebraska City Jaycee. Susan and I have many friends in the town and hope to see many there that day.

The second - on the following day, Sunday, Sept. 21 - is for Lee Booksellers at 56th and Highway 2 in Lincoln. I'll confess that I haven't been to the store (yet!) but understand that husband and wife Jim McKee and Linda Hillegass have built a very successful, 28-year-old business. They are big on local interest titles, so I hope "Forts of the Northern Plains" does well for them!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Welcome to my 'Forts' blog!

Welcome to my weblog for "Forts of the Northern Plains," my guide to 50 military forts built during the Plains Indian Wars. The book (published by Stackpole Books later this month) is a travel guide/reference book to the forts, some of which are state/federal parks, some of which are used in some other capacity and many of which are gone and remembered only by an historical marker. I thought I'd start the blog to keep interested readers up to date on what's happening with the book and my efforts to promote it.

I sent postcards out a few weeks ago to friends, my contacts at the forts, and bookstores in the region. Friday I sent out links to my new website at to make it easier to share information and hopefully spur some online sales. So far, I've sold three books! But it'll increase once the book is out.

I've received e-mails from a couple of the forts asking about making appearances at their locations. I'd like to do it, so right now I'm working at filing in points before, between and after and do an official book tour - wish me luck.

I'm, of course, also working on getting book signings lined up locally. I've got three set so far (two in Omaha, one in Nebraska City) and have a speaking engagement, but let me know if you have any suggestions.

Thanks for reading - I'll add more as the news happens!