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Sunday, December 9, 2012

RIDE 2: More short fiction about bicycles

Just about a year ago, a story I wrote was published in a book calledRIDE: Short fiction about bicycles. If you're a regular reader of this blog you probably know this because I wrote about the book when it came out and I've shamelessly had a link to the book on the right side of this blog ever since. While the book hasn't sold in numbers to keep Stephen King awake at night (which hardly seems fair since Stephen King books have managed to keep me up late on several occasions), the sales of the book have bought me a few cups of coffee which in turn have kept me awake. Since I'm up, I might as well write something.

This is how blog posts happen. This is also how stories happen and another one of my stories made it into another book. This book is calledRIDE 2: More short fiction about bicycles and like Ride, it is edited by Keith Snyder. Keith is a damn good editor but he's not exactly original when it comes to picking titles. So it goes. BTW, a friend of mine on Twitter noted that when men get gushy and rave about something the word "damn" shows up a lot. Damn right. My own story, Made with Extra Love, which you may have read in an earlier version on this blog last spring, wound up being a lot stronger and tighter thanks to Keith's editing. I'm sure if I'd given Keith a crack at this paragraph, there would be fewer "damns" in it and it'd be a damn sight better. He's that damn good.

Any collection of stories by different authors is going to have various voices, tones and tales. Not every character is admirable, not every story is a beacon of hope. But the tales run true, which is the ultimate test of fiction. You can tell in the reading that Eric Neuenfeldt knows urban bike shops and bike polo, Jan Maher and Barb Goffman understand the dynamics of families and S.J. Rozan knows love and loss. And Keith Snyder's entry, which I was wary of since it is both poetry and "Part 1", shows that yes, the man knows how to make words behave on a page. Don't let the poetry and Part 1 scare you. And by the way, Jon Billman knows a hell of a lot about the dirt roads of Oklahoma, the line between this world and the next and the importance of a good breakfast.

The common thread in these tales, besides humanity, is bicycles. The machine is more than tubes and tires and chain. In each of these tales, it is the bicycle that takes the character and the reader on a worthwhile journey.

Yes, I'm totally biased but I'm also extremely proud to be sharing the pages of Ride 2 with the other authors whose tales fill this book. I hope Keith keeps this series running for a good long time.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review -- Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain

George Mahood is the sort of chap you'd like to have a beer with. Actually, I think he's the kind of fellow you'd find yourself buying a beer for after just the briefest of conversations. I say this having never met the man but I feel like I've just had the adventure of a lifetime with my new pal after having read his very funny and surprisingly inspirational book Free Country.

Free Country tells the true story of two young men, George and his friend Ben, who decide to cycle the length of Britain from Land's End to John O Groats. While this ambitious journey has been undertaken by many others, none have done it in quite the same way as George and Ben. Because, you see, they begin with nothing. Well, not quite nothing, they each have a pair of Union Jack boxer shorts (and George later confesses, a camera, a notebook, a pencil and stack of cards containing the words "I am OFFICIALLY a very nice person.")

Over three weeks in September, with a vow to spend no money, they wander their way north like the maddest of monks on the most quixotic of quests. What they find along the way is a country filled with very interesting people, a great number of whom are very nice. Ben and George manage, through charm, wit, fast talking and willingness to do tasks ranging from cleaning, to loading onions, to singing for their suppers, to acquire clothes, food, bicycles and someplace to sleep every night. It is a wonderful adventure and very, very funny. George is a great observer of life and a very witty writer and he and Ben bicker throughout the journey in the way that only true friends can. A few quotes will give you the flavor of this delightful book:

‘Yeah. There’s a place called Neilston in another ten miles.’ ‘Ten miles? Are you kidding me?’ asked Ben. ‘Err, no. It doesn’t look like there’s anything else before there anyway. We’ve done really well today. I reckon we’ll have done over 90 miles.’ ‘WHAT? My god, you are such a slave driver. If I’d known we had done anything near that much, I would have stopped for the day ages ago.’ ‘I know. That’s why I didn’t tell you.’


Before eating the sandwiches we tried a rendition of Silent Night in German that I could still remember from primary school. A guy on a bmx, in his mid thirties, approached with a small paper bag from Greggs. ‘Hi guys. You can have these two donuts if you promise to stop singing.’ ‘You’ve got yourself a deal. Thanks, mate,’ I said.


The descent from Kirkstone Pass was undoubtedly the fastest I have ever been on a bike. It was possibly the fastest that man has ever travelled, in any form of transport. If The Falcon had had wings, I swear she would have taken off. It was one of the scariest, but most exhilarating things I have ever done. Braking wasn’t really an option for me, as The Falcon’s brakes only had any slight effect when travelling at a ridiculously slow speed, or uphill. I just gave in and let The Falcon do what she was best at doing - not stopping.


We explained our challenge and asked if there was anything we could do in exchange for some free food. ‘Oooooh, what do you reckon, Jan? Should we give these two strapping young lads any food?’ she said to her colleague. ‘Yeah, why not. If that one with the skimpy shorts shows us a bit more leg,’ she laughed. ‘That’ll be you then, George,’ said Ben. This was a new low. I was being made to flaunt my body in exchange for food. I felt used. I felt cheap. I liked it. I lifted up the side of my skimpy blue shorts, and exposed my flabby white thighs. ‘Phwoooooaarr,’ said both ladies...


If a nutritionist had analysed what we ate during the bike ride, I think they probably would have concluded that we should not be alive, let alone fit enough to cycle. I read somewhere that beige food is bad for you. Almost everything we ate was a shade of beige; bread, pasta bakes, chips, pasties and bananas. Anyway, all I’m saying is that peas and carrots taste unbelievable if you only eat beige food for 17 days beforehand. Give it a try.


Free Country is one of the funniest books I've ever read and it is a book that celebrates the tremendous kindness that exists in the world. George and Ben completed their journey thanks to the kindness of strangers, but after reading the tale of their journey, I feel that I owe them much more than the meager cost of this book for the laughter and wisdom I've found in its pages. George and Ben, if you ever make it to Issaquah, look me up. I'll make sure you've got a good meal and a place to stay.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kent Nerburn: Road Angels

I believe in serendipity. This belief of mine, that good things can and do come upon one unexpectedly, is an optimism born of experience. I am a fellow who finds duct tape in the middle of nowhere at the moment when it is most urgently needed. While I still endeavor to be cynical and cautious, and my upbringing and independent nature will always prevent me from counting on the kindness of circumstance, I cannot ascribe evil intent to the universe or the vast majority of my fellow human beings. I've seen too many good things in the world and had far more than any good cynic's share of fine interactions. As Bob Dylan wrote in a wildly different context, "I can't help it if I'm lucky."

I have learned over the years that just as water will flow past a full cup, fortune finds no gaps to fill in a life too precisely planned. And thus I wander, at least a bit every day, with vague intention and no clear destination. Not knowing what I'll find, I tend to find things. Very often they are wonderful things.

Which leads me to Kent Nerburn, or more precisely, his books. A few years ago, with no particular plan or urgent need, I strolled by a shelf in my local library and glimpsed, out of the corner of my eye, my own name. My first name, that is Kent, which is not a common name. I do not know if the Steves and Marys of the world stop when they see or hear their own names, perhaps it is too common an occurrence for them to bother with, or perhaps they are less egotistical than I, but I seldom see the name Kent in print and so the name Kent Nerburn called to me from the shelf and that is how I found a book called Neither Wolf nor Dog. It is one of the best books I've ever read. This story is not about that book.

This story is instead about another book of Mr. Nerburn's, a book I'm reading now called Road Angels. Road Angels called to me from another shelf, a few years after I'd read Neither Wolf nor Dog. I was not looking for Mr. Nerburn or this book, I was randomly wandering past a shelf of some old books in a book store that was new to me. Road Angels found me.

This a book on serendipity, a mediation on roads less traveled by, a wandering journey by someone prone to telling little stories and perhaps to thinking too much. It's wonderful. I'm one hundred pages in and I've been stopping to read passages to Christine. Just when I would say it's not about bicycles and this is a bike blog and I shouldn't burden my readers with something like this, I find this passage where Nerburn finds himself in Seattle near the University of Washington:

Since I'm near the university, I decide to poke around. University neighborhoods are especially dear to my heart. However, they all share one common curse: they're anathema to automobiles. If you live near a university, the best thing you can do is burn your car. Or, at least, that's the decision that was come to by a friend of mine at the University of Minnesota.

He owned an evil Volkswagen bug that defied the efforts of every mechanic to solve a recurring electrical problem. Time after time it would stall for no reason at all, always with no warning and always in the most inconvenient circumstances.

He would have it towed to a mechanic, spend money he didn't have, be assured that the problem was finally fixed, and within a week find himself stranded on another freeway or busy city street with a car that once again refused to start.

He would dutifully call a friend, who would dutifully come over and pull the beast back to his house. Then he would dial up the mechanic, who would shrug his shoulders and offer to try again for more money. My friend would get angry and curse the mechanic, then drag the car to a different shop, and the same process would begin all over. The only thing that changed was the balance in his checkbook, which had been almost nonexistent in the first place.

One winter morning he awoke to find the curbside in front of his apartment peppered with signs announcing that all vehicles had to be removed by eight o'clock so the streets could be plowed. It was already seven forty-five.

The Volkswagen, of course, refused to start.

He cranked and cursed and enlisted the neighbors to try to jump the battery, but nothing worked. After almost inducing coronaries in three out-of-shape passersby who he conscripted to try to push-start the car, he shoved the beast into neutral, pushed it into the middle of the street, and began yelling, "If anyone wants this car, they have fifteen minutes to come and take it." But no one emerged to take him up on his offer. Perhaps it was because he kept referring to the Volkswagen as "the piece of shit that has ruined my life."

At any rate, the fifteen minute deadline came and went with no takers. So he did what any reasonable man would do. He set the car on fire.

By the time I stopped by later in the day, it was only a charred carcass resting by the side of the curb. The firemen had come and put it out, and he, like Peter, had denied any knowledge of its ownership. His wife, who was expecting a child, was ready to divorce him. The kids in the neighborhood were ready to canonize him. But in his own mind, only one thing mattered: he was free. He bought an old black bicycle, too wretched to be stolen, and proceeded to ride it through, one of the snowiest Minnesota winters on record. He was a happy man.

Nerburn continues down the coast, telling small bits from his past, meeting people and the land, finding more stories and more ways people make their way in this world. It's a road well worth a wander.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bike Talk: Bike Maintenance Books?

Jeff from Portland writes:

I'd like to know your recommendations for learning more about bicycle maintenance. Are there books you'd recommend, online resources, etc?

Jeff, if you're from Portland, Maine I think I understand your question, but if you're living in Portland, Oregon, I'm a bit confused. Didn't they issue you a set of Park Tools along with the reusable coffee cup when you moved there? I thought that was part of the Portland Human-Powered Welcome Wagon Package. Check the chicken coop in the back yard, the tools are probably hanging up in there.

Of course tools won't do you much good if you don't know what to do with them, so to get serious about Jeff's question, a great starting point for learning bike maintenance and repair is the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bike Repair. Written by Calvin Jones, the Big Blue Book is a great guide to repairs and the tools you'll need to get the job done. The book has lots of pictures and simple, clear instructions. Yeah, the book will probably convince you to go out and buy a bunch of Park Tools (unless you've found some in the chicken coop out back) but Park makes good tools and good tools and the knowledge of how to use them are good investments.

A couple of other good bike maintenance books are those written by Lennard Zinn. Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance or Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance go into more detail than the Park book, are quite up-to-date and are packed with good illustrations and exploded views of parts.

I'm going to digress for a moment (shocking, I know!) and talk a bit about the whole "Zen and the Art of SomeDamnThing" books out there. In general, "Zen and the X" books are bad. The original book, Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery was a wonderful look at both Zen and Archery and that book is a little gem. Robert Persig played with Herrigel's title in his own Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a big, great, flawed book containing some terrific stuff and virtually no information about Zen. As Pirsig notes, "it's not very factual on motorcycles, either." I can forgive Persig for the bloat of that book, but I mostly curse the mass of "Zen and Dreck" books that are more litter than literature. I'll let Zinn slide because it's OK to make a pun on your name and Ray Bradbury actually wrote a lovely book called Zen in the Art of Writing but most "Zen and..." books are horrible things like Neville Shulman's dreadful Zen in the Art of Climbing Mountains.

Returning the subject of bicycles, there are a couple of great online references. The one I hit most often is Sheldon Brown's massive storehouse of bike info at Whether it's odd wheel size info or bottom bracket threading or the strange code I need to calibrate a cycle computer, the odds are Sheldon has that info tucked somewhere on his site.

Sheldon's site can be a bit overwhelming, so I often point folks to another handy site, Jim Langley's Wrench site at Jim has a wealth of info and practical advice on his site and it's well worth repeated visits.

I hope this helps. In addition to the books and websites I've listed here, check with your local bike shops and see if they know of or offer bike repair classes. Bikes are fun machines and learning to maintain and repair them can be part of that fun.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

We hoped he'd live forever. And in his stories, he certainly will. And in the lives of all the countless people he's inspired to tell their own stories. He looked into darkness and light with wide-eyed wonder and delight and lived a life of amazing joy. Rest in peace, Ray.

I will mourn his death a bit, it is hard to type through tears, but it is what you do. Here's a bit from one of Ray's books, Green Shadows, White Whale. It's about Ireland and bicycles and God's truth and a pity.

"But," I said quietly, confused, "I've never heard of an accident like this in all my life. Are you sure there were absolutely no cars? Only these two men on their bikes?
 "Only?" Mike shouted. "Good God, man, a fellow working up a drizzling sweat can pump along at sixty kilometers. With a long downhill glide his bike hits ninety or ninety-five! So here they come, these two, no front or tail lights --"
"Isn't there a law against that?"
"To hell with government interference! So here the two come, no lights, flying home from one town to the next. Thrashing like Sin Himself's at their behinds! Both going opposite ways but both on the same side of the road. Always the wrong side of the road, it's safer they say. But look on these lads, fair destroyed by all that official palaver. Why? Don't you see? One remembered it, but the other didn't! Better if the officials kept their mouths shut! For here the two be, dying." 
"Dying?" I stared.
"Well, think on it, man! What stands between two able-bodied hell-bent fellas jumping along the path from Kilcock to Maynooth? Fog! Fog is all! Only fog keeps their skulls from bashing together. Why, look, when two chaps hit at a cross like that, it's like a strike in bowling alleys, tenpins flying! Bang! There go your friends, nine feet up, heads together like dear chums met, flailing the air, their bikes clenched like two tomcats. Then they fall down and just lay there, feeling around for the Dark Angel."
"Surely these men won't..."
"Oh, won't they? Why, last year alone in all the Free State no night passed some soul did not meet in fatal collision with another!"
 "You mean to say over three hundred Irish bicyclists die every year, hitting each other?"
"God's truth and a pity." 
"I never ride my bike nights." Heeber Finn eyed the bodies. "I walk." 
"But still then the damn bikes run you down!" said Mike. "Awheel or afoot, some idiot's always panting up doom the other way. They'd sooner split you down the seam than wave hello. Oh, the brave men I've seen ruined or half ruined or worse, and headaches their lifetimes after." Mike trembled his eyelids shut. "You might almost think, mightn't you, that human beings was not made to handle such delicate instruments of power."

Ray Bradbury never bothered to learn to drive an automobile. He saw what the car offered and said "no thank you." He lived an amazing, amazed life and made his way through the world (including many years in his beloved Los Angeles) by foot and by bicycle. And he changed the world by telling tales of amazement and wonder. His life reminds us what can be done by soul with a machine, be it a bicycle or a typewriter. Bradbury described himself as being "drunk, and in charge of bicycle." He drank deep from life, was drunk on life, and wielded its power with astounding grace.

Good bye, Ray. Thanks for all the stories. We're lucky to share in your drunken bicycle ride.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Just Ride by Grant Petersen: A Review

Grant Petersen is one of the great souls in the world of bicycles. He's been called a retro-grouch but I've never actually found him to be grouchy. The retro label fits better but in an industry obsessed with faster, better, lighter and newer, a considered consideration of the notion that some old values might still have value is a welcome perspective. For years, at Bridgestone and more recently at Rivendell, Grant Petersen has provided that consideration and put products out into the world that he finds to be "simple, practical and proven."

I've mentioned Grant's book, Just Ride, a couple of times earlier on this blog and last night the Kindle version of the book went live on Amazon. These days I prefer getting my books in electronic form, so I'd been waiting for the digital release. One feature of the Kindle is the ability for a reader to highlight and Tweet out links to passages in a book and last night and this morning my Twitter followers found their streams filled with snippets from Grant's book as I quickly and delightedly clicked my way through the virtual pages of Just Ride, highlighting as I went.

I've seen this book in the real world and it's a slim volume but it is packed full of interesting thoughts about bicycles and riding. While I certainly don't agree with everything Grant has to say (I think he conveniently ignores the folks who have fun racing, for example), his perspective is well worth reading. I found myself highlighting many passages.

Folks familiar with Grant's work won't be surprised by the kind words he uses to describe steel as a material for bicycles but may be surprised to find he has this to say about titanium:

"Price aside, it is the ideal material for winter commuting on salted roads. Titanium frames were most popular in the pre-carbon years of about 1990 to around 2003. It’s still a terrific frame material, but it’s more labor-intensive than factory-built carbon frames. Titanium may be the only frame material in common use that doesn’t have either a real or perceived drawback. I’m not saying it’s the best material, and it isn’t my favorite, just that no matter how big a fan you are of steel, aluminum, carbon, or bamboo, you’ve got to like the all-around wonderfulness of titanium."

He's much more cautious of carbon, however:

"Carbon is... the least defect-tolerant fork material. Defect tolerance is a material’s ability to maintain its toughness—and safety—when there’s a defect. Defects may be contamination between layers of carbon fiber, or a gap, or the weave of carbon not being optimized for the directional stresses). Or the defect may be a wound caused by an accident. In any case, because carbon fails so suddenly, a defect in a carbon fork can be disastrous."

Grant espouses a certain aesthetic that not everyone shares. For example, he writes:

"Most panniers come in pairs but can be used singly, and you often see students or commuters riding around with only one. Whatever works is fine, but it’s an irritating sight, kind of like somebody walking around, perfectly content and all, in a long-sleeved shirt with one of the sleeves rolled up all the way."

I can understand his irritation, I feel the same way whenever I see shellacked handlebar tape. I think that's one of the goofiest things ever.

A book that only contains words you agree with is not nearly as useful as one that makes you think and that you learn things from, and Grant has written such a book. He questions things, like helmets and blinkie lights, and comes down firmly in favor of things like sturdy tires. I won't argue with him on that one, his sentiments echo mine:

"It’s easy to buy tires with an extra layer of rubber, nylon, kevlar, or something else between the casing and tread to stop thorns. Every extra bit of protection adds weight that will always scare off racers and others under the spell, but for all-purpose Unracing rides, I like extra flat protection. Why not? I’ve fixed at least five hundred flats in my life, I’m really good at it, and I still hate it. Beef up my tires, thank you."

Grant questions lots of authority in this book, including his own. He's designed many bike frames but he knows there are things he doesn't know:

"Drop is the one area of bike geometry I feel fuzzy about. I have suspicions about it, but no convictions. I’m suspicious of anybody who is as declarative about it as I used to be."

I could go on for longer than the book about this section or that with which I agree or differ but I am not Grant and you are not me so my message here is simple: Read Grant's book. It's good and it's useful. I liked it and I think you will as well.

Here's a final bit from the book that I liked:

"Be saintlike on the bike path. You are the predator, so ride slowly and defer to everyone. Signal your approach with a bell or a “hi.” Pass with at least two feet of clearance and ride at or below the speed limit (usually 15 miles per hour), at least when people are in sight. Keep both hands on the handlebars, because one- or no-handed riding makes nervous riders even more nervous. Stay to the right, pass on the left. If you’re a guy, don’t chitchat with solo women you meet—give them their space. Always use lights at night, because bike paths aren’t lit up, and reflectors won’t work..."

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Neil Gaiman, Storytelling and the World Weird Web

Warning to the folks who come here looking for bicycle stories. There is very little bicycle content in this long, strange, true tale. But, for better or worse, this is the main place I tell stories on the internet and I think this is a tale worth telling, if only so someone (myself perhaps) can point to it from some other place and remember how odd the world was in 2012.

At some point in my life I became aware of Neil Gaiman. I'd see his books in bookstores and I'm sure I picked up at least one and read the back cover, but I didn't buy the book then. Sometime later, I recall being on a bike ride with Mark Vande Kamp, one of our rides where we talk of a good many things, and Mark mentions Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. "It's very good," Mark says, "I think you'd really like it." The book makes its way onto my mental list along with hundreds of others. My brain is full of unread books. It is large, it contains multitudes.

In one of my 6 Books in a Backpack sessions last year I get a copy of "Good Omens" a collaboration of Neal Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Again, I don't get around to reading the book. My physical collection of unread books is not as large as my mental collection, but it is still large and contains multitudes. Pratchett is another fellow who is still on my "I've heard good things, I should read his stuff" list.

Somewhere along the line, I start following Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) on Twitter. I still have not read any of his books, but I read his tweets. Neil tweets that an episode of the Simpsons in which he appears as a character is available for view online. I basically stopped watching TV several years ago so I'd have more time to read books, but I always enjoyed the Simpsons, so I watch "The Book Job". It is clever & fun but it doesn't make me think "Oh man, I have to read this guy's stuff right now."

A few weeks ago Neil tweets something like "Hey the 10th Anniversary Edition of American Gods is $2 for the next day or so on the Kindle." I download it. Then we get hit with a big snow and ice storm here in Issaquah and our power is knocked out. The streets are icy & no power means the bike shop is closed and I'm not going to work. I readAmerican Gods by headlamp on my Kindle. Neil describes his book as being a long piece of prose with something wrong with it, but I can't quite figure out what that thing is. My overall reaction is "Dammmnnn that was good."

Our local library has Kindle downloads so I download Anansi Boys. More fun than American Godswith a lighter story. I like it better in some ways, but American Gods seems like the better book.

Next from the library, M Is for Magic. Holy crap, this man can sure write a short story. Somebody do a DNA test because I'm pretty sure Ray Bradbury is this fellow's father.

One of the stories in M Is for Magic is something that becomes the core Neil's novel The Graveyard Book. All of the copies of The Graveyard Book are checked out of the library and I don't even pause for a second before downloading it at full price full price from Amazon. It was that or Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book is a bit cheaper. And I want to see where the story goes.

While I'm reading The Graveyard Book, Neil tweets something like "Hey Amazon just knocked the price of Neverwhere to three bucks on the Kindle." Again, zero hesitation. Neil and Amazon get my money.

I finish The Graveyard Book. It's my new favorite. I immediately buy another Kindle copy for Christine. So glad to send Neil some more of my money, glad to find a book that makes me go "Christine will love this." It is, as I tell her, "a sweet, wonderful, dark tale that begins with pretty much an entire family being knife murdered."

Authors get most of their readers through word of mouth and I've become a big mouth fan of Neil Gaiman. My friends are getting the "Whoa, you should read this guy's stuff" raves from me. Yeah, I know I'm late to this party, but I don't care. Think of this blog post as more of that rave.

Now here's where the story gets weird and pays off in a weird way. If you've been keeping score, my Gaiman fandom up to this point in my story has cost me a grand total of about $21 plus some tax ($2 forAmerican Gods, $16 for two copies of The Graveyard Book, and $3 for Neverwhere). The enjoyment I've gotten from these works, plus the others I've gotten from the library is far, far greater than the meager sum I've paid.

But we live in a very, very weird world. On a much smaller scale than Mr. Gaiman, I also tell stories and I don't tell them nearly as well. And I mostly write non-fiction but I do a bit of fiction now and then and it almost always involves bicycles. And I've got a story now that will be something, not this story but another one that you'll get to read another day and it involves bicycles and graveyards. And I think it is a story worth telling and it is what it is in part because of Mr. Gaiman's odd stories. So I'm getting value there as well.

But that's not the weird part. The weird thing is how that $21 has already come more than come back to me in just plain old, crass American dollars. And as @neilhimself will tell you, the American Dollar is one of the American Gods.

I'm an Amazon affiliate and if somebody buys something from Amazon after following a link on my blog or something I've tweeted, Amazon knows I sent you. Amazon knows a really spooky number of things. Amazon doesn't charge you more but I get a small percentage of the purchase price as a referral fee. depending on the item it may only be 1.5% or as much as 10%. In the case of books & ebooks, it's usually 6 or 7%.

So a few days after Neil's tweet about Neverwhere, I notice it's still at the low price. I tweet:

Neverwhere by @neilhimself is still only $2.99 on the Kindle. A great price for some really great writing.

If any of the 1600 or so people who follow me on twitter follow that link and buy the book, I'll make a few cents. I'm happy to spread the word about a good book and if I make a little money in the process, that's fine too.

@neilhimself noticed my tweet and retweeted it to his 1.6 million followers. It only takes a small percentage of 1.6 million people to buy something for it to be noticeable. Amazon tells me that at least some of those people didn't already have a copy of Neverwhere.

And that, my friends, is how you sell books in the 21st century. In that one click, Mr. Gaiman has paid for every book of his I'll probably ever buy. And I have this strange, true story to tell you.

By the way, I'm reading Neverwhere now. It's fabulous.

Keep em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fat Cyclist: Media Mastermind

If you are sharp of eye and mind you might be thinking "Hey Kent, you got the title of Fatty's book wrong in your review, it's Comedian Mastermind, not Media Mastermind." Well, sharp reader, you're right about the title but I'm not making a mistake, unless the mistake is in calling attention to Elden's vast media empire. And believe me, it's a vast empire. The man has a blog, he has a twitter account, he has a line of clothing, hell he's got a whole team of people who dress like him. And now he has a book and an ebook and who knows what else. I bet he's gonna buy up Google and Facebook next week.

Now if you check the reviews for this book, you find nothing but five star reviews. OK, there is one 4 star review but it's because there is a glitch in the ebook version if you try to read it with a black background. I'm sure Fatty will fix that when he buys Amazon next week. So the book is basically perfect, right?

How is that even possible? I mean, gosh it's basically a rehash of stuff you could read for free on his blog, isn't it?

Well here's the scoop. Yeah, it's a rehash and yeah there's some new stuff. It's got a preface and SIX forwards. The forwards are written by Fatty's friends and guess what? The funny man has funny friends. And about those friends, Fatty got all those great reviews because they are pretty much all written by his friends. Including this one.

Fatty keeps his friends by bribing us. He sent me a bribe to write this. The bribe I got looked like this:

He made sure I couldn't sell it or re-gift it by scribbling in it:

So I read the damn thing. Even the parts I'd read before, on his blog, for free. And it's still funny. Really funny. Shoot coffee out your nose funny even when you know what's coming.

And this is why he's a genius. Because he's not just funny, he's a genuinely nice guy. The kind of guy you'll want to ride with. Because he'll bring snacks. And tell stories. And you'll want to be his friend, cause he's a funny, friendly guy. And then, even though he gave a lot of the great stories away on his blog or maybe he's even given you a copy of his book, you'll buy copies of his book to give to your friends. That's what I did.

And then you'll tell everybody about it on your blog. Like I just did.

And that's why Fatty is a Media Mastermind. He's going to sell a zillion of these damn books. If just each of his friends tells two of their friends...

It's a really good book. Buy the damn thing before Fatty gives you a copy. Or one of his friends buys it for you.

And don't read it while you're drinking coffee.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA