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Tahoe mystery writer speaks at library

by Sam Bauman

Tahoe author Todd Borg was the last of the mystery writers to help celebrate National Library Week at the Carson Library Thursday night.

He drew a large crowd of admirers of his mystery books “Death Fall,” “Tahoe Blow Up,” and “Ice Grave” centered around Lake Tahoe.

Borg, who also operates picture framing business in South Lake Tahoe, was introduced by Andrea Moore, library community relations manager, in the library auditorium.

Borg explained the genesis of his hero, Owen MacKinnon, who lives off Kingsbury Grade in Stateline. He described MacKinnon’s dog, Spot, a 175-pound great Dane that plays a major role in the books. Borg said a dog of that size could be a big help to a hero.

He also discussed why he may use real locations and events in his books, but changes some names to convince the reader that “this is fiction.”

An example is the name for the South Lake Tahoe daily newspaper, which he calls the Herald in the book, whereas the real daily is the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

He then read from the galley proofs of his latest book in the series, “Tahoe Killshot.”

“It will be out in August, and it features a pop singer appearing at Tahoe casinos,” he explained. Borg is a skilled reader-actor, and the audience was rapt as he assumed different voices for characters.

In a question-and-answer period, he described the state of U.S. book publishing, and why he decided to “self-publish my own books.”

He said, “Today, publishers are all owned by conglomerates, who know nothing about traditional publishing but are only interested in bestsellers. No longer do publishers slowly nurture a writer; now they only go for the big seller.

“If you want to get published, it helps if you are a CEO of big company or a celebrity. And you have to have an agent to represent you in New York.”

Borg’s agent circulated his first book, “Death Fall,” and got favorable responses – but not favorable enough to have it accepted for publication.

“So I and my wife, Kit, studied the industry and decided to go on our own.”

This meant finding a printer who would do a press run of 3,000 copies, editing the manuscript into publication format, having a cover designed, and selecting paper stock.

It also mean assembling galley proofs – pages of the book printed on oversize stock – to send to the six most influential book reviewers, such as Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. He was “pleasantly surprised to find reviews” of his book alongside those of major writers and publishers.

How successful has be been? He has sold more than 2,000 copies of each book, just a little under the horizon of major publishers.

“But I don’t know if I would want to go with a major publisher. It would mean surrendering control, perhaps having to write sex scenes that I don’t want to and wouldn’t know how to.”

At the end of his performance, Borg faced a line of book buyers who wanted to have him sign their copies. He did so cheerfully as proof that his books were selling.

Earlier in the week, authors Cathy Scott and Dennis Dyers discussed their works. Friday night was Teen Mystery Night with a discussion of “Disappearance of Angela Day. “