Tahoe tales: What is it about Big Blue that inspires creativity among award-winning authors?

Todd Borg has published 16 books in his award-winning Owen McKenna mystery series. Contributed Photo: Todd Borg

It’s often said that every person has a story to tell, but what about every place?

Peering out at the inky-blue surface of Lake Tahoe, there’s certainly more to the story than meets the eye. Hidden in the depths lies myriad myths and legends, facts and fantasies, and a long history of words powerful enough to transform our interest, knowledge and understanding of Lake Tahoe as we know it.

Home to Nobel Prize winners like John Steinbeck and British philosopher Bertrand Russell, plus America’s most celebrated humorist, Mark Twain, and founder of the American conservationist movement, John Muir, Lake Tahoe has provided a unique setting for influential writers throughout time.


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It was, after all, during a visit to Lake Tahoe in 1888 when Muir ended nearly a decade without writing to reestablish himself as a famed environmentalist. The list of acclaimed authors who have found inspiration in Lake Tahoe spans throughout centuries, genres and historical contexts, but they’re all bound together by their mutual affection for tales told from — and about — Lake Tahoe.


“Tahoe Skydrop” is the newest novel from South Lake Tahoe’s Todd Borg.

Author of the award-winning Owen McKenna mystery thrillers, Todd Borg has published 16 page-turners to date in his series, all of which take place in and around Lake Tahoe, from South Shore to Reno to Auburn.

His vivid descriptions and details of the Tahoe landscape help carve a path for the characters that is fraught with environmental dangers and gripping physical obstacles.

“Tahoe is a great setting for a series because of its drama and contrasts,” Borg said. “I wanted the setting to almost be one of the characters. My hope was that readers would come to anticipate the area and its beauty and also its quirks.”

While the main characters in the series — Detective Owen Mckenna and his 170-pound Harlequin Great Dane named Spot — are completely fictional, the award-winning author conducts extensive research before writing each book, oftentimes leading him to explore Tahoe’s complex geography by foot.

“It takes me about a year to research and write a book,” Borg said. “Of that, about eight months is research and planning and going for long walks in the woods talking to myself, working out my characters and their relationships and their transformations. The other four months are typing.”

As a writer based in South Lake Tahoe for 25 years, Borg penned the first Owen McKenna mystery in 2001, with his latest, “Tahoe Skydrop,” published in August 2018. Borg is a mastermind in the art of crafting an action-packed page turner, and his writing is powerful enough to move mountains, or at the very least, paraglide over, climb up or ski down one.

“Writing novels is the best job in the world,” Borg said. “After all, while other people are out fighting rush-hour traffic, we’re sitting around drinking coffee and making up stories for a living.”

Learn more: toddborg.com


Dr. Tim Schroeder holds up his book, “The Legend of Eagle Rock,” above Lake Tahoe, with the titular rock at right. Photo: Tim Schroeder

In his children’s book “The Legend of Eagle Rock,” Tahoe City chiropractor Dr. Tim Schroeder writes about a young boy who climbs the famous, giant West Shore rock to take in the beautiful view. When he reaches the top, the boy is overcome with the vastness of the world, and subsequently realizes he must be a part of it, which makes him beautiful, too.

As the narrative unfolds, the boy impresses on the reader the underlying principle of the book — the idea that we must take care of ourselves, each other and the earth, and in turn, we better understand our shared role in taking care of each other and all that surrounds us.

“Writing this book gave me a chance to tell readers we are all part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Schroeder, who regularly publishes a health and wellness blog on his chiropractic business website. “One of the reasons I’ve lived in Lake Tahoe for so long is because of this unique community, so I try to bring the reader in so they can experience what an extraordinary place this is, too.”

Dr. Tim Schroeder has owned and operated Tahoe City Chiropractic for over 28 years. Contributed Photo: Dr. Tim Schroeder

As a North Lake Tahoe resident and a Tang Soo Do fifth degree Black Belt, Schroeder said he finds inspiration in every corner of the forest that surrounds him.

“As a writer, I can go deep into the woods and put myself in the mindset of writing,” he said. “When I’m hiking in woods, riding my bike, skiing — that’s where the ideas happen — then I come up to my home, which is on top of a mountain in Talmont, and I sit down and create.”

Learn more: balancedoctor.com


Mark McLaughlin’s book “SNOWBOUND! Legendary Winters of the Tahoe Sierra” chronicles the 10 biggest winters in the Tahoe Sierra since 1879. Photo: Mark McLaughlin

Mark McLaughlin’s written work is as synonymous to Sierra Nevada history, weather and culture as Shakespeare is to a sonnet.

“I first began writing about historical weather events in the Tahoe Sierra in the early 1990s while an undergrad at the University of Nevada, Reno,” the historian, photographer, public speaker, award-winning author — and 40-year local — told Tahoe Magazine. “One of my greatest joys was and is conducting research and writing while watching it snow outside my office window.”

Author of over 750 articles in print and seven nationally-published books, including “Sierra Stories: True Tales of Tahoe,” Volumes 1 and 2, and “SNOWBOUND! Legendary Winters of the Tahoe Sierra” — an illustrated publication highlighting the 10 biggest winters in the Tahoe Sierra since 1879 — McLaughlin has made a name for himself as an authentic and trustworthy narrator of Lake Tahoe’s history.

Author and historian Mark McLaughlin has called North Lake Tahoe home for over 40 years. Contributed Photo

From Mark Twain’s misadventures around the Lake Tahoe Basin to stories of folks who survived some of the worst storms in recorded history, his storytelling is both thoroughly researched and well-written.

“I take my responsibility as a writer of Tahoe Sierra history seriously, striving to offer a true and well-balanced account of the events that I’m profiling, with heavy emphasis on facts and details over folklore, tradition or legend,” McLaughlin said.

Learn more: micmacmedia.com


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