Friday, December 6, 2019

Screenplay vs a book.

When I wrote my first books, back in the late 70s, I sort of avoided dialogue, except where needed. The dialogue was serviceable, I think, but I mostly relied on narrative. They were fantasy books, so the setting and mood were more important, or so I thought.

When I came back to writing in the 10s, I found myself doing dialogue more and more often. I'm older, and I've had more conversations in my life, you know? But I've never tried to have the memorable lines--unless they came naturally.

Yesterday I had an idea for a store, as I related on Facebook.

"Dreamed an entire Kafkaesque story set in a gigantic nursing home, with an evil security guard (Ian McKellen-like) victimizing a new resident (me) and no one will believe me because they all love McKellen and think I have dementia, so I escape and I'm finding places to hide in the huge building and McKellen is chasing me down.

"And the nursing home is like a slice of American life, with the rich living in huge luxurious apartments on top and the poor living in tiny cells at the bottom."

Here's the thing. I see this more as a screenplay than as a book. But a screenplay relies much more on dialogue, and I'm still not sure that is my strong suit. I can see this whole movie in my head, but it would be driven by what is said as much as by the action. I mean, it's important to know your strengths and weaknesses. 

What it would take is a lot of thought for each line of dialogue. It would definitely be a new experience.  

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Ignore the hype.

I don't think I'm a very good prospect for retirement. If I'm not writing, I just don't have enough to do. So I'm glad to be back at the store. It's officially 2 days a week, but it turns into 3 days a week because I go back in to put the books away.

On my way yesterday, I stopped into Herringbone Books in Redmond. Brandon was talking about going to the Bend library for an author event to sell some books. In the course of the conversation we talked about the potential for burnout.

I found myself saying, "What I learned was to eliminate everything extra. For instance, going to the library to sell books for an event. Anything other than the basic showing up for work, having diligence and ethical standards, stocking the store with the best books I can. Doing the basics."

Of course, everyone gets the opposite advice. It is pretty much the standard myth that you should try everything you can to make the customer happy, by going that extra mile, by being better than everyone else, by bending over backward to please them. Extra customer service, that's the ticket.

Of course, there is no end of that. I found that just doing the basic job was enough--that my energy level almost exactly matched doing the basic job. That I'd be tired at the end of the day just doing the the regular stuff.

I learned this the hard way. In the beginning I stayed until midnight much of the time. (The first 15 years or so.) I went to conventions, I promoted as much as possible, I held sales, I made newsletters and created advertising campaigns, I spent a lot of time learning everything I could about every product line, I special ordered product, took preorders, took on consignments, bought and sold collections from off the street, and on and on and on.

Of course, I did the thing that every red-blooded American business owner is supposed to do. I expanded and replicated. At one point I had four stores in Bend, Redmond, and Sisters, with close to a dozen employees.

I found myself being the little Dutch boy, running around trying to plug the leaks in the dikes.

It all collapsed around me. I managed to save the main store by working seven days a week and being very active.

I was exhausted and burned out. I only stuck with it because I didn't feel like I had any options.

But when we finally did get out of debt, I decided that I would do the basic job of a store owner and eschew everything else. I expected it to cost me, but I didn't feel like I had any choice.

And it may have cost me, in the short run. But little by little, I built the store back up on my own terms. No promotions, no sales, no special events, not staying until midnight, no buying off the street, and so on and so on. For the last 20 years of so, I've stuck to the mantra of "keep it simple."

Just buying and selling product. Being open during the hours posted, having relatively good knowledge of the product,  buying wholesale and selling retail, and just trying to have the best mix of product I could. (Keeping the store neat and tidy and organized, etc. etc. The basics.)

And the store started to be fun again. I made Sabrina the manager and gave her more and more responsibility. I kept the book ordering to myself because that the part I like the most and am the most knowledgeable. Managed to keep the store simple and functional.

I know I talk about this a lot, because I think that it is the biggest untalked about danger to being a small business.

So there it is. Keep it simple. Do your job. Have the courage to say no to anything that isn't part of the basic job. Ignore the hype.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Short reviews.

Reviews done right are hard work, so I end up not doing them.

But I've decided it's silly not to say something. So...yes, I revert to cliches when doing reviews off the cuff. Please forgive me. ("off the cuff;" "out of bounds;" "letting the air out of the tire.")

I'm not sure what to make of "Redshirts." On one hand, I always like riffs on Star Trek. On the other hand it's a little too meta for me. I mean, it's kind of silly. If this can be done, then nothing I can think of to write is out of bounds, right?

Trying different shows on for size. Gave up on Jack Ryan after a few episodes. Also Stumptown. They are a little too by the book, so to speak. I've lost all interest in network programming. Linda will still watch Stumptown for the Portland connection. I watch The Rookie with her even though it's a pretty bad show. Other than that, I am done I think, with the formulaic drivel.

Decided not to watch Walking Dead this year. The vague dissatisfaction of the last few years finally accumulated to discomfort.

Watched the first season of Fargo and loved it. It's cool that I have three more seasons to watch.

The Mandalorian is great. It's perfect for what it is.

Castle Rock was pretty good, but not so good that I feel impelled to watch season 2. Maybe when I've run out of options.

I have a whole list of shows I want to try. The Boys, Man in the High Castle, Good Omens, the Watchmen.

Watched the first couple of episodes of Good Omens and for some reason it just didn't catch. I've often mentioned that I like my fantasy, SF, (and thrillers, come to think of it) as straight drama. (Part of my problem with Redshirts above.) But Good Omens the book was an exception to the rule. I remember really liking it. I'm sure we'll finish the show. (Part of it is that sometimes I can tell Linda doesn't like something...which lets the air out of the tire.)

Watched the Nightingale movie. One of those UK/Australian/NZ/Canada low budget movies that make the most of what they got. Vaguely unsatisfying though. I have the same problem with most of the clever low budget horror movies. Finally saw A Quiet Place. It was well done for what it was, but I also thought it was a little thin in plot.

I wanted to watch the new 4th season of Veronica Mars, but got caught by the first season again. It's as good as I remember, but I just don't like watching things twice. Linda on the other hand can watch things over and over again.

Waiting for The Good Fight to come back. Best written show on TV, I think. Politically right up my alley. Waiting for the Orville (or it may be ready.) The Witcher. (Tried the books, didn't do it for me.) Picard (love me well-done Star Trek.)

Lots more. We have almost all the premium and streaming channels now.

Friday, November 29, 2019

I've gotten a little lazy.

Bound and determined to finish the rewrite of "Eden's Return" over the next two days. I only have 30 pages to go. 15 pages a day shouldn't be beyond reach. I'm three months behind schedule on it.

Meanwhile, I haven't been able to get the cover images my cover artist needs. For some reason, I'm not able to join the "commercial" area of the site. I'll try again over the next month, while Lara edits the book.

"Deadfall Ridge" keeps selling on the USA Amazon, so we're keeping the price at 99 cents. It seems to be having a small effect on "Takeover" sales. Mostly, I just like the idea of selling hundreds of books more than I would at full price, even if the payoff isn't great.

It sold pretty well in the UK for a month, too.

"Takeover" hasn't been getting great reviews. Too few of them to really tell. I know the book was a little bit of an experiment. The politics are tricky, so that may account for a couple of the negative reviews.

Just had a reader give a rave shout-out, so that was nice.

Oh, and "Fateplay" is soon the come out in paperback. I'm really appreciative of my publisher because, really, the book hasn't sold all that well.

But in the course of looking at the PDF, I remembered how much I like this book. It is maybe my favorite book. My first love has always been SF and fantasy, and this is a blending of both genres. It was inspired by Ready Player One, which I enjoyed, though it came out very differently.

Anyway, I'm trying to keep things going, though I have gotten a little lazy.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Cat parent.

My friend Jennifer posted a picture of a 10 year old male tabby from the Brightside Shelter. On an impulse, I called them up and said, "I want him."

The decision was impulsive, like most major decisions in my life, because if I have the time to think about it, I almost always talk myself out of it. I could tell Linda wasn't sure, but she went along with it. She's still mourning Panga.

Jasper has a very different personality. 

Jasper is the friendliest, most talkative cat we've ever had. He's a solid 14 pound chunk of muscle. He strides around the house, mumbling meows. He loves laps, petting, and scratches--when it's his idea. Then he turns off and nothing you do gets a response out of him. He doesn't like being picked up, strangely enough. He always likes to be in a room with one of his humans.

He's also the first male cat we've had. He wants to spray, his tail quivering, but thankfully nothing comes out--or our entire house would have been hosed. Lucky, that. 

I have to resist my impulse to tease. I'm never going to be able to turn him upside down and blow raspberries on his belly.

This morning he finally used the cat box, which was my last worry about him. We weren't sure if he was an indoor or an outdoor cat, but it's pretty clear from his mournful looks out the door and windows that he's accustomed to going outside. Unfortunately, his first two days here we've had 10 inches of snow.

I think it's slowly sinking in to Jasper that this is his new forever home. He's an active cat--we're going to have to go get some cat toys. (Panga never responded to cat toys.)

We're all going to have to get used to each other. But we're off to a good start.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

"There's a problem. No drugs in your system."

I went to see my regular doctor because of something about my drug test. Since I already felt like a criminal, there was some trepidation.

"The problem is--you have no tranquilizers in your urine," he says.

"And that's a problem?"

"No...I'll just tell them that you take such low doses and so intermittently, that's why."

"Let me get this straight--the problem was I had NO drugs in my drug test?"

"Yeah, the government is cracking down."

Anyway, as long as I was there, I asked him some questions about my heart. I ask my doctors lots of questions. I know they are rolling their eyes, but I get something out of every session. I asked if, since the problem arose because of plaque in my arteries, couldn't the same thing happen again at any time?

"No...they more or less rotoscoped your artery, and with the medications, it probably won't happen again any time soon. You mostly had it in that one spot, which is unusual."

"What about my other arteries?"

"You have minor plaque buildup in one of your other arteries--but the new medications should keep that down. But at your age--anything can happen."

Over the next day or two, I realized that I was suddenly thinking long-term again. Until that moment, I hadn't realized that I wasn't thinking that way. It might explain why I've quit writing--I mean, the whole process is so time-consuming that I wasn't sure I wanted to dive back into it.

I'm still not quite ready, but more so than before.

New ending or leave well enough alone?

I'd planned to finish the rewrite of "Eden's Return" by September 1. Instead, I'll be lucky to get it done by December 1.

I'm not sure why I stalled out.

I managed 10 pages yesterday, which means I have 30 pages to go (in a 200 page book.) I've been tempted to send it on to my editor as is, but have fought the inclination. Re-writing always improves the book.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that I could write a twist ending that might be more satisfying to the reader. I even thought of one. But like all twist endings, it's been done before in one form or another. I mean, it's more than serviceable.

The current ending is soft--on purpose. The whole story is meant as a philosophical mood piece, within a harsh survival story. The soft ending matches the story.

I'll probably stick the ending I have rather than compromise. But I'll probably always also wonder if it was the right decision.