Saturday, November 22, 2014

Diversity and competition.

My store, Pegasus Books, is so diverse now that I don't worry about one-to-one competition the way I used to.  Not only am I carrying between 7 and 15 different product lines (depending on how you want to define them) but there is so many different brands within each product line that it is impossible to delineate.

There was a time when I was basically selling two things -- sports cards and comics.  Sports cards got so big, I was advised to drop comics altogether.  Comics were taking up more than half the space and yet only bringing in 15% of the revenue.  Thank god I ignored that advice.

Because I was only selling two product lines, and the diversity within those product lines was limited, I was at the mercy of price (and other) competition.  For sports cards, there were the 3 sports and a number of brands, but it was pretty uniform over the industry.

What I didn't see was that what I considered a 'specialty' product could so easily be transformed into a 'commodity.'  Anyone could carry it, and the only thing that distinguished it was price.  I simply couldn't beat the suicidal fly-by-night competition, nor could I compete with the big chain stores in price.

I was screwed.

In comics, it was DC and Marvel, more or less, and mostly only comics.  Again, I was vulnerable to the industry ups and downs as a whole.  Any comic store that opened was probably carrying exactly the same stuff, and could steal competiton by bigger discounts.

In both cases, there was a bubble that popped, almost taking me with them.

There was a moment in 1997 when I simply didn't have enough viable product lines. I had no reasonable access to books or games or toys or any of the other things I carry now.

These products became available to me only over time.  The Internet, of course, made it all available.  (I should say, the product was available, but the difficulty factor was high.  Everything was done by snail mail or phone, the minimums were high, the distributers didn't want to deal with small stores, and so on...)

Hard to imagine now.

In each of the seven product lines I carry, there is so much saleable product that I simply can't carry it all.  I have the luxury of picking what I carry.

Back then, when a competitor opened, the customers could do a more or less direct comparion, and inevitably I would lose customers for any number of reasons, most of them out of my control.


Well, I have my regulars, and I would hate to lose any of them.  But another large part of my business is connected the thriving downtown area and how many people I have coming in off the street.

There is no one-to-one competition for their business.  They either see something they like or they don't.

Almost all my book business is like this.  They come in and they see a book they've been wanting to read and they buy it.  I'm not a destination store for anything but comics.  Everything else is due to my diversity.  In other words, a customer comes in and buys something he or she didn't even know they wanted.  Toys, games, books, graphic novels...most of them are impulse buys.

Turns out, impulse buys, spread out over a large diversity of product, is actually more reliable in some ways than a destination buys.  Which is counter-intuitive.

So when people complain about too much product -- too many books, too many comics and graphic novels, too many toys, too many of everything -- I understand what they are saying from a psychological standpoint, but from a business standpoint, the sheer volume of selection protects me to some extent from destructive competitors.  

No one is going to replicate what I've done.  It's based on my own ideosyncratic tastes, which even I can't explain.  But I know what I like, and I have confidence there are enough other people who like what I like to have a viable business.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Female narrators.

I've been super happy that female readers like Led to the Slaughter.  The main protagonist is a 14 year old girl, Virginia Reed, and she just came alive for me.  I felt like she was a fully developed person, perhaps because she really existed.  It was like I was just listening to her.  I really liked her and admired her.

Anyway, she's the real hero of the story.  She's also the main character to the sequel, The Dead Spend No Gold.

I don't question who the protagonists are in my books.  In Tuskers, the main protagonist is a middle aged white guy, like me, but not like me.

But I do seem to have my fair share of female narrators.

People are people.  As long as I don't pretend to be all teenage girly or whatever, I think I can be authentic.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stealing my idea?

I don't worry about anyone stealing my ideas.  But I do worry about being trumped.  Perhaps inadvertently, but having the idea become less strong because someone else has done something similar.

Last night, Jon Stewart had a skit about pig 'gestation cages' and about the "Rise of the Planet of the Pigs."

I just swore at the screen, because that's how I think of my Tuskers novel, as a kind "Planet of the Pigs."  I even use the 'gestation cages' as the motivating factor in the first rise of the rebellion.

So I thought maybe I'd have a bunch of people notice that and tell me on Facebook.  But...well, maybe this too will pass.  Kind of like when I noticed that there was a Kevin Smith movie called 'Tusks' coming out.  Well, that came and went without much notice.

It's a matter of timing.  Of catching the zeitgeist.  I believe that a Wild Pig Apocalypse story is inevitable.  Probably has already been done, who knows?

I spent a year on a book entitled Almost Human and was just finishing a draft when a TV show was announced called -- "Almost Human." 

That kind of thing.

Once I've written a book, I want it out as soon as possible.  But by going to publishers, it is taking months and months longer than it might otherwise have.  And I worry that someone who pull the rug out from under me.

But really, there is no new idea in the world, just variations.  I have to keep the faith.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No Internet, 11:00 to 7:00.

I imposed a new moratorium on Internet usage, 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM the last two days.  I'm planning to continue this, especially since it seems to be working.

First of all, the fact that is was so hard to do is proof that it needs to be done.  It is very much a mindless addiction on my part to boot up the computer.   I find myself flipping the lid and clicking Firefox without even thinking about it.  Then, a couple hours later, I'll close the lid, feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

Enough of that.  It seems to be working, too.  Around the middle of the afternoon, both days, I found myself thinking about my book.  I'm actually getting some writing done.

Then, at 7:00, I find that I have a nice pleasurable anticipation built up.  I open the computer and browse everything I need to browse in less than an hour.

I've had a rule against drinking or watching TV before 6:00 for years.  So I've just added the Internet to that. 

It seems to be easier to have parameters around my usage rather than a vague desire to do it less.

I wasn't going to even talk about this until I'd proven to myself that I could do it, but I may as well conduct a social experiment in front of everyone.  We'll see just how strong this addiction is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Anytime you invoke Tesla, it's got to be a good thing.

I really need to explain how it is possible for a bunch of Tuskers (mutant wild pigs) to bring down the humans.

It's pretty wild.  I've got super intelligent Tuskers, and zombies, and the end of civilization.

I think I've figured out a pretty good way to explain it, and it needs to be in the second book. It involves invoking Tesla!  Anytime you can use Tesla has to be a good thing.
No matter what I do, the third Tuskers book is getting too big and unwieldy.   I want it to be no more than 25% bigger than the first two books, but to accomplish that, it will have to be pretty sparse the rest of the way.

The first book is fine the way it is.  Nothing needs be done.

But in writing the third book, I've realized that I missed some bets in the second book.

Basically, though the first book was told almost solely from the human perspective, the second and third books need to be told from the Tuskers' perspective at least a third of the time to make them work.

When I first looked at this problem of too big a third book, I thought I had a very simple and elegant solution.  I would take the expedition of humans to the Tusker territory that was split between the two books and bring it all the way back home in the second book.

I thought all I had to do was tack those chapters to the end of what was already written.

But it was horrible.  Boring and stupid.  So I changed back.

Now, on third thought, I think my inclination is correct.  It's just that it won't be simple.  It will require integrating the extra chapters, weaving them into the current storyline, not just tacking them on without effort.

So my next task is to sit down and make a diagram with a timeline and try to fit the chapters in the proper slots.  I think if the chapters are alternated with the current book, they would work much better.

Meanwhile, by taking these chapters out of the third book, I've left a bit of hole in the beginning.  But, as I said, I need more material from the Tuskers' point of view, so those should fit in there nicely.

Which basically means I have to re-write both books.

I wish I didn't have to.  I wish they had come as easy as the first book, but that isn't what happened, and now that I've actually sold the first book I want to make absolutely sure the second and third books are as good as they can be.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I've sold my book Tuskers to Ragnarok Pub.!!!

Hey, people,

On this cold and snowy morn, I'm proud to announce that I've sold my wild pig apocalypse novel, Tuskers, to Ragnarok Publications.  They are also planning to buy parts II and III when they are completely finished.

I'm beginning to feel like a real writer, with two different publishers willing to buy and produce my books!

I'm very excited by this, of course.  The Tusker books won't be coming out until next year, which is great because my second Virginia Reed adventure, The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush should be published any day now by Books of the Dead Press.

So I'm hoping everyone will give that a read first.  (Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves, the first Virginia Reed adventure, is currently available.)

The cover of Tuskers, which may still be jiggered a little, is done by M.S. Corley, who is Hugh Howey's cover artist, and also happens to be my next door neighbor.  I love it.

I so hope you guys will give my books a try.  I think you'd enjoy them.  Werewolves and Bigfoot and Evolving Vampires and  super-intelligent, super-aggressive wild pigs who have had enough of our human shit. 

I feel like I'm so close to making this all work, with a little help from you guys.  Here's my Amazon webpage...

George R.R. Martin wrote other good books, too, you know.

Most of these books I carry at my store.  Long before Game of Thrones, I was reading every Martin book I could find.  Decades before he was THE George R.R. Martin.

I'm doing these reviews from memory, so I might be slightly off on some particulars, but this is how I remember his oeuvre.

Tuf Voyaging.  This is the book that turned me into a fan.  A series of short stories starring a galactic trader who just wants to do his business in peace, but it seems like every planet he lands on becomes a situation that he has to outsmart everyone to survive.  Wonderfully fun S.F.  Martin shows us how the hero is smarter than everyone else, not just says it.  (Much like the equally wonderful Miles Verkosigan stories by Lois McMasters Bujold).  After this, I started searching out Martin's stories.

Dying of the Light and Windhaven.  I don't actually remember these books much, only that I was disappointed.  Pretty average, was the way I remember them.  I will say, though, that Linda loved them.

Fevre Dream.  A perfectly realized vampire story.  So much better than Interview with a Vampire, that I find myself almost offended that the latter book is so much better known.  (I found Anne Rice's book so turgid that I couldn't finish.)  This novel covers much of the same territory, but oh so much better.

Armageddon Rag.  Frankly, I was a little disappointed in this rock and roll story.  Apparently, it didn't do well and sent Martin into the purgatory of Hollywood for a few years.  But, you know what?  It was a better book than most anyone else's.

About that Hollywood experience.  Linda and I loved the Beauty and Beast T.V. show starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman.  Guess who's show that was?  Just guess?

Then he came back and wrote a little story called, The Song of Ice and Fire.