Friday, September 30, 2011

Making room for books.

I consolidated some of my graphic novels sections, to make room for new books.

I've got about 500 new books coming in the next ten days.

I eliminated a shelf dedicated to "Suggestions" from me and my employees; it didn't seem to have much impact, and even if it did, such efforts need constant updating which requires good planning which means I have to have a procedure which means....that the shelf is no more.

I'll have two shelves together which contain the mainstream type graphic novels like Maus and Persepolis, instead of the two shelves separated by half the store.

The biggest change is that I have turned a bookcase over the "Horror" novels; mostly because I need the room in the S.F. and Fantasy section. I already have a 'paranormal romance' section -- all purple and black (the publishers love that purple and black color scheme) -- but there is a lot of cross over between regular horror, paranormal romance (I wish they'd come up with a better description...), and dark fantasy, so I decided it needed it's own section.

Mostly, it was just moving the same genres closer together.

So -- I gained 3 shelves for S.F. Fantasy, 3 shelves for Young Adult, 5 shelves for horror, 1 shelf for independent graphic novels, 1 shelf for classic novels.

I lost -- my "Suggestion" shelf, a couple of shelves for "art toys" (no loss -- I was able to use other parts of the store, and probably actually improved the display), and probably 15 or 20 "face-out" book possibilities.

I'm in a Catch-22 due to my lack of space. I still see potential books to buy -- but I have no way of displaying them except spine out. I'm trying the trick of propping the books in front of other books, which isn't ideal either.

It all comes down to a lack of space.

I've trying to cram 6 to 8 product lines in my store, where I could probably do 1 or 2.

But bottom line -- it works. Maybe not ideally, but better than not doing it at all. I've proven to my own satisfaction over and over again, that more display and less product doesn't work as well as less display and more product. Sure, it isn't as cost-effective -- but I'm not concerned about cost as long as I can pay for it within cash-flow, and I am concerned about pushing sales up.

I think this is the choice most (surviving) independent bookstores are going to have to make -- to have a very wide diversity of product lines. Doing, in effect, what B & N were doing in a larger space, in a smaller space.

Such a strategy requires a small business owner who is paying attention to his inventory -- instead of a huge chain using computers. Because Amazon can do that better.

My biggest problem right now, is finding a way to categorize. I've been doing graphic novels, cartoon books, and art books by theme and age levels -- also by publisher. But I've had too many times lately, when even I -- the owner -- could not find a book I was pretty sure I had in stock, because I didn't have time to run my eyes over every shelf.

I think might retail all the above strategies, but try to alphabetize by TITLE on each Bookcase -- except where I alphabetize by author. Oh, it's a mess. A big jumbled mess of goodness.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A virtual battle.

Several of you have pointed out that the new Kindle Fire is offering 100 DC graphic novels.

What pops out at me is the word "exclusive."

See, this is why this whole thing may not work. I can see e-books eating into real books if each device can get any book you want. But if each device can only get SOME of the books you want, that seems a whole lot less useful. Annoying. A deal breaker.

Besides, I'm convinced -- in the end -- that it will be an Apple device at a relatively high price, and a bunch of cheap Korean knockoffs on the other end. The middle will get squeezed out, as usual.

And if the middle is an actual bookstore -- well, enjoy your Kindles while you can. Enjoy your Nooks while you can.


In fact, it seems to me that if Kindle and Nook can't compete with Apple in tech and status, or with the cheap usable versions that are undoubtedly on their way -- then they can only compete through content.

And thus sow the seeds of their own destruction.

Imagine where a percentage of books are exclusive to Ipad, another batch are exclusive to Kindle, and another batch to Nook, and the rest are available to all. Even if 80% area available for all, if the 20% that are exclusive are ACTUALLY WHAT PEOPLE WANT! then it's going to be a problem.

And even in the "exclusivity" realm, who has the most clout? The most money? In fact, as physical books decline, and Barnes and Nobles brick and mortar stores decline -- they'll have LESS clout. If they succeed in replacing book/books with e-books, they lesson their importance.

I don't think this is going to go well for them.

Meanwhile, you can just skip on down to your local independent bookstore and just buy the actual book.

You know, at a bookstore.

And pass on the whole debacle.

Snits and snips.

Have you ever noticed how often, when a local business gets bought by a larger, outside business -- it's often followed not much later by the bigger business falling into trouble?

Re: "PV Powered Parent Announces Cuts." Bulletin, 9/29/11.

Seems like that happens a lot. Maybe it's s symptom of over-expansion. Or an excuse to integrate the businesses and lay off people after making promises that such a thing wouldn't happen.


"DeBone Proposes a Hold on SDC's." Bulletin, 9/29/11.

I honestly don't understand this thinking. A guy spends a quarter of a million on a house, but he's all worked up about 3K?

Besides, the problem isn't that we don't have enough houses, it's that we have too many.

A guy like this is going to build his house no matter what.


"Redmond's Oldest Building." Bulletin.

Such a lovely house....


"Cascades Camps Likely Won't Be Affected by Gun Rule." Bulletin.

Because what students really need are more guns.


Damn. I just remembered that October Fest and Fall Fest aren't the same thing....

.....Even though they are the same damn thing.

Cutting the jigsaw pieces before the picture is done.

I put together all the parts (so far) of my book last night, and I noticed inconsistencies, name changes, and continuity problems. I don't know if it all flows or if all the plot elements are in the right place. The book expanded from 10 chapters to 12, and some of the chapters got quite a bit bigger.

I figure I have about another 5 chapters to go. (I don't know for sure -- it might be 3 chapters or 10.) Then I'll flesh it out, which probably will add another 50 pages or so. About 200 pages, which was about how long Star Axe was -- not terribly long by modern standards. But being an e-book it can be just as long -- or short -- as it needs to be.

Inspiration doesn't come sequentially, at least not for me. It comes piecemeal, in fragments, and sometimes even contradicts what came before.

Nor does inspiration come in whole. A new character pops us, who needs a background. A plot element emerges, which needs to be foreshadowed...

A novel becomes a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, where I cut the pieces before I know what the picture looks like.

But it's time to move on and finish, before going back. I'm hoping that what will be needed is a smoothing of the rough spots, adding depth and color and description and plot and character: but not wholesale re-writing of the entire book. Sometimes when I add an element or subtract one, the whole damn thing fall apart.

Then I have to pick up all the pieces and see if it's worth putting together again. When I re-read my 7th book awhile back, I found that I liked it, pretty much. But it didn't fit together. The part that was more or less readable, was rather slight. The more complex part was a jumble. They needed to be integrated better, and I just couldn't face doing it.

Easier, frankly, to write something new.

And as Jerad has been telling me, I have 30 years more living under my belt. (Though I'm not sure getting older really makes you all that much more wise. Less naive, perhaps.)

Truth is, I enjoy writing the first draft and discovering what happens and watching the subconscious creative part of my brain come up with stuff. (At least for me, writing is pretty much ALL sub-conscious. Writers who can cold-bloodedly think it all through are a different breed).

I'm not sure I like re-writing much. I tend to do both too much and too little. Too much in that I obsess over changes and do them too often. Too little in that I'm not effective in making all the effort count; not enough thought and perspective. (I think obsessing, for me, is another necessary component to actually finishing a book.)

Perspective on my own writing is really hard, obviously.

I've tried to come up with work habits this time which will solve this problem.

Pretty strange that it has taken 8 books to learn to do this. The first book was such a mess to write -- that I really didn't learn good work habits. The second and third books came pretty easy. So again, it didn't matter my work habits. The fourth and fifth books I just didn't put the time and energy in that I should have. The sixth book was where all the chickens came home to roost, and I just couldn't face writing it again. And the seventh book, while some of my work habits got better, just took too long.

Work Habit Rule #1 is to finish the first draft before going back and doing extensive re-writes. So far, I've been able to do that mostly -- except in obvious circumstances where I need to go back and fill in. That isn't quite the same as re-writing, thankfully. It's necessary, however, to write those sections when inspiration comes.

Like I said, the biggest obstacle and unknowable, is whether the whole thing fits together without falling apart and making me start from scratch. I don't think I could face that.

So far, so good.

No matter what else happens, I think it's going to feel really good to finish another book after all these years. I'll feel like a writer again. It will be very satisfying no matter how many people end up reading it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Downtown Comings and Goings. 9/28/11.

I have been told that the Curiosity Shop closed earlier this summer, due to health issues.

Other than that, I haven't seen anybody coming or going. But I'm wondering if I've missed anything during the busy summer. Anyone know of new openings or closures in the last few months?


Kariella, Lava Road, 8/24, 11.
Plankers, Wall St., 7/11.
Faveur, Franklin, 7/11.
Dream Pebbles, Minnesota Ave., 6/15/11.
Bend Yogurt Factory, Franklin/Bond, 4/26/11.
High Desert Lotus, Bond St. , 4/4/11.
Tryst, Franklin Ave., 3/11/11. (Formerly Maryjanes, **Moved**).
D'Vine, Wall St. , 2/9/11.
Let it Ride!, Bond St., 1/29/11.
Gatsby's Brasserie Bar, Minnesota Ave., 1/8/11
Tres Jolie, Wall St., 12/20/10.
Caldera Grill, Bond St., 12/7/10
Bond Street Grill, 12/7/10.
Perspective(s), Minnesota Ave., 11/20/10
Toth Art Collective, Bond St. 11/20/10
Boken, Breezeway, 11/20/10
Dalia and Emilia, Wall St., 10/3/10.
Antiquarian Books, Bond St., 10/3/10.
Giddyup, Minnesota Ave., 10/3/10.
The Closet, Minnesota Ave., 8/11/10.
Showcase Hats, Oregon Ave., 8/11/10,
Red Chair Art Gallery, Oregon Ave. 7/13/10.
Earth Sense Herbs, Penny's Galleria, 7/12/10.
Mad Happy Lounge, Brooks St., 6/2910
Common Table, Oregon Ave. , 6/29/10.
Looney Bean Coffee, Brooks St. , 6/29/10.
Bourbon Street, Minnesota Ave., 6/22/10
Feather's Edge, Minnesota Ave., 6/22/10
The BLVD., Wall St. , 6/13/10.
Volt, Minnesota Ave. 6/1/10.
Tart, Minnesota Ave. , 5/13/10
Olivia Hunter, Wall St. 4/5/10.
Tres Chic, Bond St. 4/5/10
Blue Star Salon, Wall St. 4/1/10.
Lululemon, Bond St. 3/31/10.
Diana's Jewel Box, Minnesota Ave., 3/25/10.
Amalia's, Wall St. (Ciao Mambo space), 3/12/10
River Bend Fine Art, Bond St. (Kebanu space) 2/23/10
Federal Express, Oregon Ave. 2/1/10
***10 Below, Minnesota Ave. 1/10/10
Tew Boots Gallery, Bond St. 1/8/10.
Top Leaf Mate, 12/10/09
Laughing Girls Studio, Minnesota Ave. 12/7/09
Lemon Drop, 5 Minnesota Ave., 11/12/09
The Curiosity Shoppe, 25 N.W. Minnesota Ave, Suite #7. 11/5/09
Wabi Sabi 11/4/09 (**Moved, Wall St.**)
Frugal Boutique 11/4/09
5 Spice 10/22/09
Cowgirls Cash 10/17/09
***Haven Home 10/17/09
Dog Patch 10/17/09
The Good Drop 10/12/09
Lola's 9/23/09
**Volcano Wines 9/15/09
Singing Sparrow Flowers 8/16/09
Northwest Home Interiors 8/5/09
High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09 (*Moved to Oregon Ave. 4/5/10.)
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails
(Fall, 2008 or so).


Curiosity Shop, Minnesota Ave., 7/11
Luluemon, Bond St., 8/26, 11.
Shear Illusions, Franklin Ave., 7/11.
Crepe Place, Wall St., 7/11.
Pita Pit, Brooks St. , 6/28/11
Smith and Wade Salon, Minnesota, Av. , 6/3/11.
Perspectives, Minnesota Av., 6/1/11
River Bend Art Gallery, Bond St., 5/5/11.
Donner's Flowers, Wall St. 3/11/11. (**Moved out of downtown**)
Maryjanes, Wall St. , 3/11/11. (new name, Tryst, moved to Franklin.).
Di Lusso, Franklin/Bond, 2/9/11.
Earth Sense Herbs, Penny's Galleria, 1/2/11
Marz Bistro, Minnesota Av., 12/20/10.
The Decoy, Bond St., 12/7/10.
Giuseppe's, Bond St., 12/1/10.
Ina Louise, Minnesota Ave., 11/3/10.
Laughing Girl Studios, 10/21/10
Dolce Vita, Bond St, 10/21/10
Diana's Jewell Box, Minnesota Ave., 10/15/10.
Lola's, Breezeway, 10/8/10.
Oxygen Tattoo, Bond St., 10/3/10.
Great Outdoor Clothing, Wall St., 10/3/10.
Volcano Vineyards, Minnesota Ave., 10/3/10.
Subway Sandwiches, Bond St. 9/2/10.
Old Bend Distillery, Brooks St., 6/19/10.
Staccato, Minnesota Ave. 6/18/10.
Showcase Hats, Minnesota Ave., 6/1/10 (Moved to Oregon Ave., 8/10/11.)
Cork, Oregon Ave., 5/27/10.
Wall Street Gifts, 5/26/10
Microsphere, Wall St. , 5/17/10.
Singing Sparrow, Franklin and Bond, 5/15/10
28, Minnesota Ave. and Bond, 5/13/10.
Glass Symphony, Wall St., 3/25/10
Bend Home Hardware, Minnesota Ave, 2/25/10
Ciao Mambo, Wall St. 2/4/10
***Angel Kisses 1/25/10 (Have moved to 'Honey.')
Ivy Rose Manor 8/20/09
***Downtowner 8/18/09 (moving into the Summit location)
Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
***Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
***Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
***King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
***Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Too much vision.

I don't know how many times over the years I've heard the accusation that politicians don't have enough "vision."

If you ask me, they have too much "vision." If by vision you mean ambitious, pie-in-the-sky public projects that are ambiguously financed and based on projections that are self-serving or worst, serve the entities that would profit from the project.

Especially in Bend.

There was a time perhaps when Bend was lacking vision. A small town mentality. We probably weren't adequately prepared for the influx of population and retail and developments. I'm not sure there was any way to be prepared; and the newcomers pretty much overwhelmed the old-timers.

We should have had challenging fees during the run--up, and if it ran off a few of the more shaky developers, that probably would've been a good thing. A bunch of things we should have put in place, we did try: 4 year colleges, etc.

But over the last few years, it seems that we're stuck in a mentality that was incubated during the boom years -- and we're unwilling to let it go.

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Sometimes it makes sense to sit back and see what happens. I know this from my business. There are times to invest, and there are times to save, and there are times to just run the business.

There seems to be a problem of relying on old plans, a destructive stubbornness to stick to old projections and throw good money after bad, and a lack of perspective and history on the part of our local politicians.

Sure, we want them to plan for the future.

But then again, no one knows the future. So it's best to approach it with humility and caution.

Do we really need an ambitious water system?

I don't know if there is anything improper in lobbying local brewers for the new water system.

However, it does combine two things about the local scene that seem over-the-top.

I mean, beer brewing seems like a bit of a bubble to me right now. And the need for a huge new infrastructure in the water system also seems unnecessary if there is a less intrusive and costly way to tide us over.

If it turns out we have a huge influx of population, then we can build the more ambitious system later.

Meanwhile, here's a rather startling statistic gleaned from Calculated Risk that frankly questions the whole concept that we're going to get an influx of new housing any time soon:

Alejandro Lazo at the LA Times wrote today: New Home Sales Stuck at the Bottom in August.

"This year is shaping up to be the worst year on record for new home sales," [Patrick Newport, U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight] wrote in a note.
The Census Bureau started tracking New Home sales in 1963, and the record low was 412,000 in 1982 - until that record was broken in 2009 - and then again in 2010 - and it looks another new record in 2011. Here is a table of the last ten years - remember that sales in 2009 and 2010 were boosted by the tax credit.

New Home Sales
YearTotalTotal through August
1Current 2011 Pace

Think of it: 25% less than 1982 (another recession, one that hit Bend particularly hard.) What was the population back then?

I'm just saying, I think we have plenty of breathing room. No need to launch into huge infrastructure programs unless you are relying on old projections that are probably no longer valid.

And being stubborn isn't a good attribute for a city councilor. Get humble, guys. Look around.

The New DC 52 are Vertigo flavored.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that the New 52 DC titles are a combination of the old superhero comics and the Vertigo line of comics.

Which makes sense, in a way. The Vertigo editorial approach is to embrace modern themes-- cyber punk, mystery, horror, dark fantasy and so on. So by trying to upgrade superhero comics, it would be almost impossible not to go in that direction. The biggest successes in comics have come from this world: Preacher, Sandman, Y-the Last Man. Other adult comics, like the 300, Sin City, Hellboy, and the Walking Dead, while technically not Vertigo, have a Vertigo sensibility.

It is also much more adult.

Which probably runs counter to what most people would've advised. Over and over again, I've heard the sentiment that "comics aren't for kids" anymore. To which I always responded: "So?"

They've tried to have it both ways -- saying the above "comics aren't for kids" and inserting the word "JUST" for kids. But most of the increase in leadership has come from the increasing sophistication of the art and writing and themes, which has attracted the attention of critics and intellectuals in a surprising way.

Besides, there are still plenty of kid themed comics. They come from the flourishing young adult publishing world -- and the good old-fashioned kids comics of yore. But, as an example, they recently restarted Richie Rich comics. I didn't sell one. Not one.

It's pretty much not worked for years now. Believe me, they've tried.

In a way, they don't need to try so hard. So much of the kids books are the equivalent of kids comics -- that in a sense, kid's graphic literature never went away. It's still here, it's just not labeled the same way.

Almost all the new readers of the New 52 have been adults. In fact, I'd have to say ALL the new subscribers to the New 52 have been adults.

Which would also explain why I've been so entertained by the New 52 so far. My favorite line of comics is Vertigo. It's a brand that I know will almost always deliver a story I will like.

The only question in my mind is -- did DC editorial intend for this to happen? Or is just a by product of modernizing superheroes?

Monday, September 26, 2011

A bad day in a great month.

We did 27.00 in business yesterday, which has to be the worst day in years.

I blame the Beer Fest.

Yes, it was the day after the event. But this isn't an isolated incident. It happens almost everytime they close the streets that we will have an extremely slow few days afterwards.

Meanwhile, we're having a great month overall. We may even match August numbers, which would be unusual. It will be the third month in a row that we are up, so for those keeping track, from the moment Lehman brothers collapsed, we had 12 months down, 7 months up, 15 months down, 3 months up. I'm betting I can keep this trend going.

As usually happens in my store, it takes product lines suddenly getting hot to increase sales. Magic is doing very well compared to a couple of years ago, and of course the New DC 52 have been helping sales on comics.

I'm hoping those two trends are going to continue.

I decided to spend the profits from this unexpected increase on more product. Big book and game orders this month, as well as Magic. Also sold some boxes of sports cards this month, probably to only one or two people, but for sports cards sometimes that's all it takes.

I'm pleased that I can build on increasing sales, instead of just bailing the water out of a leaky liferaft.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Where the money flows.

Bear with me as I try to work out my thoughts on this.

I can't tell if I'm being conservatively liberal or liberally conservative.

In a way, that's the point I'm going to try to make here -- that conservative and liberal values seem to get mixed up, when you try to combine government policies and programs with profit seeking private business.

There are many examples of this, from Fanny Mae and the United States Postal service, all the way down to local charities who combine paid employees and volunteers. There are even local for profit businesses who ask their employees to volunteer.

These efforts to combine social policies with private enterprise are attempts, I believe, to instill business practices to government programs with the idea that it makes them more ''efficient" somehow.

I think the opposite happens. You get the worst of both worlds.

I saw a recent discussion on C-Span, by the authors of the book, RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT,
Joshua Rosner and Gretchen Morgenson.

The following quotations from Joshua Rosner are from free-hand notes while watching, so they probably are 90% accurate in wording, but maybe slightly paraphrased. Nonetheless, I'm going to use quotation marks:

When you try "...commingling of social policy with financial markets, you create a toxic brew.
When you start handing the opportunity and subsidies to be delivered for social goals to private market players, there's going to be money that doesn't meet its target."

If private, for profit enterprises are efficient (which could be argued to some extent) they are efficient BECAUSE they are for profit.

So the conservative part of my argument is that for-profit businesses should be allowed in the free market to compete -- and hopefully not against government subsidized entities.

I also don't think private business should pretend to quasi-charities. (Or vice versa.) I don't want to get into specifics here, but I've had a number of competitors over the years who cloaked themselves in the "public interest." They'd say things like, "We're doing it for the kids. We're not trying to make money. We're doing it as a public service."

I'm immediately wary of such comments. First of all, for the Holier than Thou marketing technique. And secondly, because I truly believe a well run business is more in the public interest than a sloppily run, asking for help and volunteers, organization that is neither fish nor fowl.

The liberal part of my argument is: I believe there are many aspects of our culture that do indeed need to be addressed by programs. Poverty, hunger, health, youth, education, and on and on.

But I believe a government program which is created to help deal with these problems should be just that: a government agency. As Mr. Rosner says, such problems are better dealt with:

"...directly through government programs, which have greater control, less seepage of profit making behavior."

I think, for instance, that we should have a government run program like Medicare for the entire country -- that it was a mistake to use private insurers. I think, for instance, that the government should have taken over the big banks, Sweden style, cleared up their books, and then made made them private again.

These are hardly conservative values.

But ironically, I think, my stance on separating private from public is entirely conservative. In the old fashioned sense.

Of course, I understand -- public policy must be created to guide and regulate private enterprise.

But there is a difference, I believe, between setting up the rules and provisions for private enterprise to be created -- and having the government trying to become business enterprises themselves. A difference between trying to create an atmosphere where a project like Juniper Ridge might be created -- and the government trying to be the developers of the project themselves.

The local government seems to be really lousy at picking businesses to loan money to. Therefore, I think they need to stop loaning the money. If a business is viable, they can do it through private means. They should take those tax dollars and give them directly through no-bones-about-it charity.

See what I mean?

I can't tell if I'm being conservative or liberal.

I'm for government programs, where needed. I'm against government programs cloaking themselves as money makers. Or charities cloaking themselves as businesses. Or businesses cloaking themselves as charities. (Especially the latter.) I won't use any specific examples, because it would look like I'm against what is considered a public good.

I think this is probably a general rule. Which applies to private military getting mixed with government military, the United State Postal Service, Fannie Mae -- all the way down to the local city council and county commissions. Let private be private, and public be public.

At least that way, we can see where the money flows.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My kind of discussion.

I got a kick out of this vignette in Salon about the The Burning Man festival.

"There was, however, one form of nudity that everyone seemed to agree had no place within the Burning Man community. This is the type of nudity known as "shirtcocking." Shirtcocking is when a man wears a top but is naked from the waist down. I have also heard this look referred to as "the toddler," or "Porky Pigging."

Owning a comic shop, I've actually had conversations about this very subject --about Porky Pig and Donald Duck, and all the other half naked denizens of the cartoon world.

I had a good friend who was a cartoonist, named Brad Lesher, (where did you go Brad?) who used to say it was perfecting fine as long as they were wearing gloves.

According to him, in cartoonland not wearing gloves: THAT was disgusting.


Here's the kind of discussion I like. Have a new customer who has just moved to town to work for the Bulletin who is a tech geek. (He proudly proclaims his geekiness.) He also has an English accent, which somehow makes him sound even more nerdy.

So we were trying to out nerd each other. "Hey, I'm King Nerd around here! I own a comic shop!"

He started telling me about a cartoonist, circa WWII, who had a series of books about a girls' school where the girls were in charge, and the teachers and administrators at their mercy.
"St. Trinians," he said. "They also made a bunch of movies."

O.K. I hate not knowing something. I wiki it, and find out the cartoonist is Ronald Searle,
who is among the cartoonists that I keep in stock at my store, along with the likes of Charles Addams, Edward Gorey, Gahan Wilson, and James Thurber.

Turns out, there is a St. Trinians book available through my distributor, which isn't currently in stock. I made the order, but I know from experience my chances aren't particularly good that I'll ever get it.

Which is too bad, because it sounds interesting. Here's a description from the Wiki:

St. Trinian's: "...its pupils are wicked and often well armed, and mayhem is rife. The mistresses (as female teachers in Britain were known at the time) are also disreputable. Cartoons often showed dead bodies of girls who had been murdered with pitchforks or succumbed to violent team sports, sometimes with vultures circling; girls drank, gambled and smoked. It is reputed that the gymslip style of dress worn by the girls was closely modeled on the uniform of the school that Searle's daughter Kate attended... The films implied that the girls were the daughters of gangsters, crooks, shady bookmakers and other low-lifes..."

Got to say, sounds like wicked fun.

What do we need publishers for?

A new wrinkle on the e-books front.

I've thought from the beginning that the publishers of real book/books should drag their feet on the e-books front.

I didn't think e-books were inevitable. Not like music. I won't go into all the arguments why.

But it turns out, that publishers aren't really needed. News sites can gather their articles and their reporters and create non-fiction e-books without the publishers.


What is it that publishers do exactly? Select and edit and produce books.

What don't e-books need? Most of what publishers do.

Good job making yourself obsolete, publishers. At least as far as non-fiction books are concerned.

Fiction still has to be produced. But even there, the more the publishers push fiction, the more authors are going to figure out they don't need the publishers.

Funny how I can stand back and watch Barnes and Noble subvert their own core business, and watch the non-fiction publishers become less essential.

I carry fiction. I carry books. I bet there are still lots of people who want to read both.

I just hope there will still be some publishers around to select, edit and produce the novels I want to sell.

Friday, September 23, 2011

No way around it.

So I made a huge Game order this week -- maybe the biggest game order I've ever done, in one shot.

And I forgot to order Settlers of Catan.

I then had 3 people come in, looking to buy.

Got back on the phone and ordered again, but they won't arrive until Monday, at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Magic also continues to sell really well. The new release comes out next Friday, and I've ordered more in wholesale than I was selling in retail dollars just a year ago. (I try to admit when I'm wrong -- and I was pretty certain a couple of years ago that Magic was sliding. But it seems to have come back very strongly.)

And comics are selling like gangbusters. The New 52 DC have been a great success, I've had happy readers come back in the second and third weeks, I've gotten an increase of 25% in subscription shelves, which brings me back up to levels I consider healthy.

I'm a little concerned that I'm maybe ordering too many of the second prints of first issues that won't arrive until a full month has passed, more or less on the same day as the second issues of the titles come in. I can't return the second prints. I can return any over-ordering I end up doing on about 2/3rds the second issues, but it's still going to be a cash-flow gamble.

A nice problem to have.

Frankly, I'll accept the possibility of over-ordering, in exchange for new customers.

I made a large book reorder this week, as well. I've settled into keeping the classics in stock, keeping the favorites, reordering any "evergreen" that sells, and then adding just a few of the newer books that are coming out, like Night Circus, and Swamplandia, and so on. A comfortable range of sellers. I've maybe begun to hit a plateau here, mostly because my bookshelves are full. I'm trying to figure out a way to squeeze some more bookshelves in -- maybe consolidate the manga and anime even further, as well as the toys.

This month is a classic case of my internal dynamics being more important than anything happening out in the world at large.

I can do a kind of temperature gauge.

Graphic novels: Up.
Books: Up.
Games: Up
Card Games: Up.
Comics: Way up.
Sports cards, toys, manga and anime: Static.

It so happens my margins are best on the first 5 product lines, and worst in that last category.

Look, that's all I ask for. The opportunity to sell stuff. There have been times when every category was going full tilt. There was one scary moment, circa 1997, when every single category was collapsing.

This will be the third month in a row above last year, which usually I count as a trend. July and August, however, I felt were more just bumping off a bottom.

This month will be way over last year -- and again, I don't quite trust it, because it has to do with "hot" product, and nothing stays hot for long.

I've had to kind of throw out my original, conservative budget -- because it's too important to keep the sales interest alive than to earn extra profits right now.

Of course, that's the usual trap. But it's also retail. You have to service the market, or let the market go elsewhere, and if you do that, you may never get the customers back. So margins will suffer while I chase the increase in sales.

I don't think there is anyway around it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our city councilors become day traders.

A veritable herd of deer eating our apples this morning. We have a bumper crop of apples this year. Instead of scaring them away, I quietly closed the door. I know, I'm feeding the deer because I'm too lazy to pick the apples up.


Horrible rotten dreams last night. Where do those come from? And why?


I thought the Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren was one of the best shows I've ever seen. This new version looks completely opposite in tone and approach. It looks horrible. Hollywood. Cute.

Maybe it's just the previews. But the previews have completely turned me off to wanting to watch it.


I think I'm going to try to record most T.V. shows that I want to watch, and reserve them for a couple of nights. And try to ruthlessly winnow down what shows I watch.


So the Bend City Council went ahead and bought 4 million worth of steel because they were told by an organization called The American Metal market that prices would go up enough for them to save 400K. in two years.

Pulling out my handy compound interest calculator, they need to subtract about 50K from that from interest they would've earned.

But why would steel prices go up? And why isn't every investor in the world making the same bet? Is it because they think the economy is going to recover in 2 years and the demand for building is going to increase?

It's a bet. A gamble. That could go either way.

Meanwhile, I know in my business that there are lots of ways to save "long-term" monies by buying stuff that is demonstrably cheaper now. But it's real money I'm spending, and over time I've realized that there are always current deals to be had -- not in the future -- and it's better to have the money in my hands than spend it for some possible future savings.

Have you watched the stock market the last two days? Down 0ver 700 points, last I looked. This is four years into the downturn. I see no reason to believe that the economy is going to recover in two short years.

Or is it burning the options bridge. "See -- we've already spent 400k. We have to follow through!"

What's next? Buying asphalt in bulk for future Juniper Ridge expansions?

Meanwhile, I just created an organization I'm calling The American Comics Market, and I'm advising them to buy the New 52 DC comics because they are going to be worth so much more in 2 years.

I mean, would any organization called The American Comics Market have any reason to mislead you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This and that and the next thing.

The New Yorker Magazine is a bridge too far. Linda kind of subscribed to it by accident, (the tricky invite is another reason not to get it). I was sort of pleased, at first. But I just don't have the time to read it.


Texas in the Pac12? Or -- gasp -- Oklahoma? No way.

Sometimes I think only natives in certain regions should have votes on changing those regions.


Sometimes I think I turn my laziness into some kind of existential angst. But, at the end of the day, I'm just being lazy.


The City of Bend shouldn't be trying to game the market. (Buying steel while they think it's cheap.) I think that's part of their problem -- they think they're smarter than everyone else, and all the evidence is the opposite.


I'm shocked -- shocked! -- that a online poker site isn't on the up and up. (Full Tilt Poker is a ponzi scheme.)

I'll state again my disapproval of gambling, no matter how innocent. It just can't lead to good places.


The "underground" market, the surge in college applications, part-time workers -- they are all explanations as to why the economy in Bend hasn't fallen completely apart.

Or -- maybe they are symptoms of the economy of Bend falling apart.

At any rate, I don't believe the economy has turned around on tiny bit.


My store is showing a typical "Sales are up because a Product Gets Hot" scenario. Normally, the outside economy has less effect on my business as whether or not what I'm carrying is in vogue.

Which shows how big this downturn was that I felt it so much.


The Hot product are the new DC 52 #1's.

They are selling through almost 100% on the first prints, and I've made heavy orders on the second prints, and I've upped my orders on the #2 issues, and so on.

All just about a recipe for Over-Ordering -- but I just can't stand not to have the product in stock.

Most of the second prints aren't showing up for a Month, which is probably too long to wait.

I love the higher sales, but I suspect it will be all be neutralized by the continuing uncertainty and the almost certain over-reaction on my part. The danger of any bubble is losing money on the backend.


Disappointed in the Sarah Michelle Gellar show, Ringers. I turned to Linda last night and said, "This show would be vastly improved by a few vampires..."

Still enjoying Alphas, though I expect it isn't long for this world, since no one else is mentioning it.


I made HUGE reorders this week. Games. Books. Cards. Card Games.

I was riding the increased sales in comics over the last few weeks, and had gotten to the point where I was sold out of the big three boardgames: Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne. Had sold down about half on my backstock of Magic. About half my dice sets.

Didn't have any Game of Thrones left; sold down on Hunger Games, etc.

Counter-intuitive. Make the big orders in the slow months, and ride the momentum of the busy months.

All taken care of.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2 competitors is better than 1?

I think I'm arriving at a new theory of competition.

It's a common conception that "competition is good for you." I've never really believed this.

For instance, my sales on Magic and other card games usually drop when a new game store opens up in Bend, and usually goes back up if the game store goes out of business.

This is totally understandable and predictable. I can't expect to be the only person carrying a viable product line. When I do have an exclusive, it's usually short-lived. Either because I was the first one to carry the product, or because there are gaps in the coverage as stores come and go.

But mostly, I expect competition.

For everything except comics and graphic novels, I realize that a specialty store carrying games, or toys, or books, or whatever, is probably going to get the lion's share of the customers. It stands to reason.

(I consider comics and graphic novels my "specialty" and have vowed to fight for it by having the best selection I can.)

In other words, if I carry something as a sideline, and somebody else specializes in that product, the customers will usually gravitate to the specialty store. It's the price I pay for diversity, and I'm not sorry about it. I always think that a specialty store will do well in the short run, but a diverse store will do better in the long run.

At the same time, I've also developed a theory that most specialties need a certain amount of cross fertilization to really do well. Which one store can't really create. I see this when I read posts from shops in large cities. There is an excitement generated, and running around between stores, that I simply don't see here in Bend.

My new theory of competition is this: I don't believe two stores create positive interaction and cross fertilization. It probably require three or more stores. And for that to work, the sales have to be big enough to support that many stores.

So the best situation is to be the only one carrying a product.

The second best situation is to have a market large enough that it will support 3 or more stores, so that a fluid customer base is created and there is synergy and cross-pollination.

The worst situation is in-between. 2 stores, with a market not quite big enough to support both.
Which is the situation I usually find myself in, here in Central Oregon. We tend to be over retailed, and yet a little too small and a little too isolated to get the benefits from synergy.

When it's just two stores, the customers tend to choose sides. It's usually an "us versus them" attitude. Like I said, if the other store is focused on the specialty, and I'm only carrying it as a sideline, the other guy will get bulk of the customers. (At least at first; I find if I'm consistent in carrying the product at a decent price, I eventually regain customers.)

But when there are three or more stores, then becoming the second choice of all the customers actually seems to increase business. The two specialty stores become the "us versus them" and I become the fall back position. My sales are better with 3 stores than 2 stores, but not as good as 1 store.

Like I said, this only really works if the market is truly large enough to support 3 stores, which in Bend is almost never true. In Bend, for hobby type shops, one or two stores is usually more than enough. (Bookstores, game stores, record stores, etc. etc.)

I don't know -- maybe it's just a fluke. I haven't been in the position where I had two competitors very often -- almost never. But I think that's what is going on. A customer base is being created by 3 active stores, and I'm able to pick up a certain share of it.

A smaller share of a bigger pie, rather than a bigger share of a smaller pie.

I have to admit, I'm surprised that Magic is still selling as well as it is. A couple of years ago I was predicting a slow decline. But that hasn't happened, and it may be because I have two competitors who are actively pumping the product, holding tournaments and game nights, talking the talk.

I carry the product consistently, and at reasonable prices, and I seem to be picking up my share of the business.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Say, something, he said.

I had planned to spend the weekend writing. Failing that, I wanted to clear up the garden, mow the lawn, make myself useful.

Instead, went for a drive, saw a couple of movies, and read a couple of books.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

I do tend to lose my interest in gardening around mid-August which is why I chose to buy the bookstore rather than keep on gardening (at the time, a landscaping service would have been more profitable, being before the days when so many came to town.)

Lazy, lazy.

Linda and I went for a drive, and she was halfway to Sisters before I realized where we were going. She wanted a hamburger at the Ski Inn. We went to see the movie," Drive ",at the Sister's theater.

The movie was pretty good. I think I said more to Linda in the first five minutes of our first date than Ryan Gosling says in the entire film. (Say something, he said.) It seemed both artificial and fresh, beautifully filmed.

I love the "feel" of the Sister's theater. I can see myself driving there just to see a show -- even if the Regal chain in Bend is carrying the same movie.

We visited Paulina Springs bookstore, which is a fantastic bookstore. I love the non-corporate feel, the uniqueness of the offerings. I noticed that they are diversifying into "used" books, games and toys, more.

As far as I'm concerned, the new business season has started today. I can order books and games and such, after purposely taking a few weeks off. The new comic sales (the DC New 52) made up the shortfall of running out of stock of so many things. Comics and graphic novels have been running about 45% of sales over the last year (the historic range is 45-65%). This month, comic sales are 55% of business, and it's pretty clear I'm going to beat last year in sales, making it three months in a row.

It's nice that we seemed to have bottomed out last summer -- though it certainly wasn't nice at the time.

As long as I feel like there is still material I can get for the store that will sell, I think the store can do well if I do my job correctly.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yeah, like there isn't enough to read.

I almost hesitate to ask, since I know that the number of pop culture sites equals the dark matter in the universe, but I've decided I'm going to ignore most political reporting over the next year or so.

I know how I'm going to vote.

So I need -- just a tad -- more sites to visit if I'm going to skip all the political news.

Between Pandora and Flavorwire, I've been listening to quite a bit more music lately. I've even started listening to the local public access channel, KPOV, in the car.

I'm enjoying Flavorwire's 10 "most neglected 90's groups" or the "10 groups you'd like the see reunite" type entires. Easy way to waste 45 minutes.

I've seen 9 of the movies in town. I think the only one I still want to see is "Drive." Saw the Debt yesterday, and while it was a competent movie, I just didn't buy the premise of all the angst. It seemed overblown. So it was hard to buy the rest of the movie.

After a bit of a dryspell --(Just finished a minor effort by Robert Silverberg, Roma Eterna, which postulates that Rome never fell, and before that the latest James Lee Burke book) -- I started one of my favorite authors, yesterday, Stephen Hunter's new book, Dead Zero, and blew through a third of the book. When my stepson Todd was home, he glommed onto A Dance With Dragons. I'm not sure whether to replace it --- because I'm really starting to forget a bunch of the 2nd and 3rd books and I'm afraid I'll have to wait another 5 years or more, and then forget again, and then another 5 years or more.

I love Martin's writing, but I either have to reread the whole series between books, or just accept that I'll not remember what's going on.

As far as my above request, I'm willing to waste time on music or pop culture sites, but really don't want to get into the video clip universe. Talk about wasting time. I get hooked every time Naked Capitalism has an animal video -- frolicking bathing gorilla's and dolphin swimming dogs, but if pop culture sites = dark matter (20% of universe), video clips=dark energy (40% of the universe.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Appearances can be deceiving.

Appearances can be deceiving. I'll often have a customer tell me how well another store is doing, but when they tell me why, I just have to shake my head.

Some of the indicators they are using to me actually indicate the opposite.

From inside a small business, it looks very different.

If you understand the metaphor of the Tortoise and the Hare, you need read no further.

(Note: I'm not saying I'm any smarter than these other businesses -- I made all the same mistakes, but because I didn't feel like I had any options I hung on to my business for dear life, and thus survived learning the hard way.)

O.K. Let me tell you about five businesses. Let's assume all of them start with 4K in overhead, including a payment for themselves; sales of 12K; and a profit margin of 50%.

So all these businesses start with an extra 2K.

The First business takes this money and fixes up their business. They get a state of the art Point of Sale system. They get new carpets and fancy fixtures. And so on.

From the outside, they appear to be prospering.

The Second business takes the money and buys a new car, new business clothes, goes on business trips at the drop of a hat, installs a full-time manager.

From the outside, they appear to be prospering.

The Third business takes that extra profit, and lowers their prices and rewards their customers.

From the outside, they appear to be prospering.

The Fourth business expands. They take over the space next door, or they open a second location.

From the outside, they appear to be prospering.

The Fifth business takes half of the surplus and buys more inventory. Since he had more than 60K in inventory, a thousand a month is barely noticeable. He sets aside the other thousand for a rainy day.

From the outside, it doesn't look like he's prospering.

Then comes the day when sales take a dive. And that DAY ALWAYS ARRIVES sooner or later.

Which of these businesses is going to survive?

Yep, the one that looks like they weren't doing much of anything.

Of course, no business is just one or the other. We are all a mix.

But we all have the same basic fundamentals. Location, overhead, employees, cost of goods, etc. etc. Those fundamentals can't be got around.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rumors, portents and omens.

I have a friend who's looking to buy a house in the 200K range. He said, every time a house dribbles onto the market, it's bid up in price.

That's just crazy. And wrong. There have to be 1000's of houses in the Bend area that are eventually going to become available. But if the pretend and extend is only allowing 50 houses on the market at a time, and 75 buyers build up, then it looks like there is an inventory shortage.

It's being manipulated, obviously. I think it's systemic -- a slowdown from top to bottom. Everyone seems to understand that the longer this plays out, the longer they can keep their jobs. The longer they can stretch the process, the more money they can squeeze from underwater householders.

I don't believe the foreclosure crisis is anywhere close to resolving itself, despite noises from the local real estate businesses.

These guys are relentless and it's their business, and those of us who doubt their spin just kind of get tired of contradicting it. We eventually raised our eyebrows, shrug our shoulders, and say, "Whatever."

But I'm trying to keep up the good fight.

The idea that the shadow housing crisis is resolving itself in 2011 is equivalent to the ridiculous idea in 2007 that there was no housing surplus. Both statements could be back up by statistics -- and both statements are ludicrous to anyone paying attention. People still bought houses in 2007 based on the real estate assurances, though by that time people like me and BEM and Paul-doh and Buster had been blogging about the bubble for a couple of years. Then they bought houses in 2008 and 2009 under equally manipulated statistics.

People are amazingly naive. But a market depending on naive people isn't a good market. Just using Oregon statistics, for instance, as proof is being disingenuous. Bend isn't reflective of the Oregon real estate market -- we look more like the Las Vegas market. When Bend walks into the Oregon room, it drops the net wealth by a significant percentage.

My own impression is that not much has really changed in Bend. Rumors make me believe that whatever surplus money was floating around is drying up. There are times when you just have to trust your gut, no matter what the vacancy rate is, or what people are saying.

It reminds me a lot of the mid-80's when people would open businesses in Bend with great fanfare, only to fall the heavy weight of a depressed town a few years later. Eventually downtown scraped together a viable group of businesses, but it took nearly a decade. It also reminds me of when sports cards sales started to fall off the table in my store, while --by all appearances -- they were selling like gangbusters elsewhere. But my gut said it wasn't real money, and my gut was right.

Just so this won't be all my "gut" as proof, I give you the following from Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis blog from yesterday. The headline:

"Mortgage Default Notices Surge 33% Nationwide, 55% in California, 200% by Bank of America; Corresponding Jump In Foreclosures Will Follow."

His analysis:

"Housing will not bottom in many areas as long as there is a mile-high stack of foreclosures in the pipeline. Thus the faster forecloses increase the better. The bad news is this process will still take a long time.

Those numbers are distorted by various delays, yet even with the pickup in foreclosures, it may takes years to get back to normal."

I don't bring this all up so that you'll climb to the top of your roof and jump; it's meant to be a friendly reminder not to get ahead of yourself, buckle up, wait for true improvement before you do anything foolish.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Bumpy Road.

"Home Prices Seesawing." Bulletin, 9/15/11.

Check out that graph; up one month, down the next, up the next, down the next.

A "Bumpy Road" graph is what I'd call that. If you could imagine the arc of your tires on a bumpy road, that's how it would look on a graph. Doesn't really tell you if the road is going up or going down.

The very epitome of bumping along the bottom.

Another headline trumpets that foreclosures are falling, but another headline talks about how stricter standards make it difficult to get a mortgage.

Look, I understand the desire to try to see a pattern in all this. As a retailer, I look at my month to month sales and try to get a read on the future.

But, really, I know better. For instance, I'm about to have three months in a row higher than the previous year, but...I'm not reading too much into it. It's mostly about bumping off previous lows.

My best advice to everyone is quit looking for a recovery. I think we're a long ways from that. And --believe me -- you'll know it when it is really happening. It's not really happening.

In the past market slowdowns (admittedly, I'm talking slowdowns in sales of product lines in my store) the sales didn't seem to recover until after I'd given up looking for them to recover.

Because by then, I'd gotten on with things, I'd found other ways to do my business, instead of forlornly waiting for things to change.

Have read all the DC New titles so far.

I've read all 26 of the new DC titles that have been released so far...

Which means the whole enterprise is either doomed or a wild success. Because I'm not the normal audience. I usually read really offbeat material, and it usually gets canceled. These are mainstream titles, and I liked them. Not sure if that bodes well.

Then again, I think the normal audience will like this, and I liked quite a bit of it.

Turns out, fresh continuity starts maybe what are needed after all.

I'm not a big superhero fan. My taste tend toward independents, or even more toward Vertigo titles and Icon titles; that is, non-superhero adventure, horror, fantasy, and S.F., with a mix of western and thrillers and so on.

But I found these 26 titles easy to read.

I have to say, if you had told me in advance that I would read all 26 titles without quitting any of them, I would have thought that was impossible. I have a low tolerance for superhero fights that seem senseless, but they had very little of that here.

Some of the stories, like Superman in Action, and Batman in Detective, and Hal Jordan in Green Lantern, pulled off the neat trick of being fresh starts, but not having to explain the well-known origins of the characters.

I'll give you the order in which I read them; which shows my interest in them, and then the order in which I liked them after I read them. But the 'like' rankings are kind of arbitrary, and I could probably easily switch the middle around without much difference.

1. Animal Man. (#9)
2. Batwoman. (#16)
3. Frankenstein, Agent of Shade. (#6)
4. Swamp Thing. (#11)
5. Red Lanterns. (#10)
6. Action Comics (#15)
7. Detective Comics. (#22)
8. Batgirl. (#4)
9. Men of War. #23)
10.Grifter. (#17)
11.Deathstroke. (#1)
12.Green Lantern. (#7)
13.Justice League. (#5)
14.Stormwatch. (#21)
15.Resurrection Man. (#2)
16.Batman and Robin. (#19)
17.Suicide Squad. (#20)
18.Demon Knights. (#3)
19.Superboy. (#24)
20.Green Arrow. (#18)
21.Mister Terrific. (#12)
22.Static Shock. #13)
23.Batwing. (14)
24.Justice League International. (#8)
25.OMAC. (#26)
26.Hawk and Dove. (#25)
27.Legion Lost. (#27)

I think I was disappointed in Men of War, Detective Comics (nice art, not so great storytelling), and, despite their relatively high rankings, Swamp Thing and Frankenstein. Some of these were good, but I was hoping for great.

I was impressed with Static Shock, Mister Terrific, Justice League International and Resurrection Man, which I didn't expect much from. And despite their relatively low rankings, Batwing and Red Lanterns.

I expected much and they pretty much delivered on Green Lantern, Action Comics, and Justice League.

The middle titles were pretty arbitrary in ranking -- pretty much everything from 10 to 25 were pretty good.

I liked a lot of the titles in the middle that would seem kind of low ranked; for instance, I thought Batman and Robin was good, but I've ranked it #19. Same with Batwoman, Grifter, Stormwatch, Grifter, Suicide Squad and so on. All pretty solid B grades.

Didn't care for Omac, Hawk and Dove, and Legion Lost -- the last of which had too many unknown characters for me -- but even it, managed to do a better job of doing explaining the Legion characters to me than usual.

The top five? Well, my usual taste for horror and science fiction seem to enter here -- I like the straight ahead action story telling of Deathstroke for some reason, but to be #1? I just enjoyed it the most, though quality wise, there were probably some better titles. Resurrection Man was an interesting concept well executed; Demon Knights had fantasy and magic; Batgirl, good old-fashioned storytelling; Justice League, great art and good story.

I can see myself continuing to read all of the titles, actually, at least for another chapter or two.

Sleeping on it, I realize that the "like" rankings are terribly arbitrary. Swamp Thing and Men of War and Detective were pretty good -- I just hoped for more. I could easily switch most of these titles around.

What happens is, I'm ranking them one by one, and suddenly I find myself ranking the second half and thinking, "This title was actually better than being ranked 19th, but I picked 18 titles before it. So be it."

I'll leave the ranking in, for the blink first impression, but advise you to make up your own minds.

Again, I was impressed by the overall quantity of the whole effort.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Game of Thrones, 2nd viewing.

My son, Todd, and my brother-in-law, Dave, were over to the house on Sunday and Monday and we watched the entire Game of Thrones, which I had been saving up for them.

What struck me on the second go around was the quality of the dialogue. Most often pithy and clever and at the same time philosophical and even deep.

Got me interested in what people were saying online about G.of T. and started reading reviews, most of which were positive, but a few which were so out of line as to make me despair.

I keep thinking that people have woken up to the fact that there are some well-written fantasies and science fiction that compare well to the best literature.

But you still have the old nerd cliches in the reviews -- so off base, I have to wonder if the reviewers even read the books? Most of the criticisms -- such as "powerless" women were turned on their heads by the end of the series.

Oh, well.

What chance do comics ever have of being taken seriously? Ever?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Magazine sales drop in half.

According to Media Daily News, Sept. 13, 2011, sales from newstands of 68 mainstream magazines have dropped by nearly half, from 22,019,953 for a six month period in 2001 to 11,562,028 for a six month period in 2011.

"So what?" you say? "We'll just replace replace them with digital magazines?" you say?

According to the article:
" newsstand sales remain fairly low."

Sales of digital from Time Inc. Magazines was a grand total of 600,000 in August. Conde Nast were 105,000 in the preceding six weeks.

There are, of course, subscriptions but you have to think that they undergoing the same pressures and declines.

Even if the math is skewed, even if some figures don't correlate exactingly, the trend is pretty obvious. I assume, as well, that digital is cheaper. I don't know what kind of revenue they can generate from digital ads (obviously if they have a fraction of the paid readers, the rates must be much lower.)

Again, I hear everyone saying, "So What? We'll just get our information free."

Except who is going to pay for the administration of the magazines -- the hiring and paying of writers, artists, editors, cartoonists, etc. etc.?

What news are the aggregators going to aggregate when the source material disappears? Who pays the guy to go across the country to get the real scoop? Across the state? Across the city? Hell, who pays them to go across the street?

Free is not much of a motivator for work. At least not quality work.

I have the same questions for books, and games, and comics, and even -- eventually -- music.

How much of the free that we are getting is already parasitic on ongoing systems? What happens when they disappear? Who produces the material?

Those who wish the downfall of the comic shops or bookstores or record stores, or who mourn them without supporting them, or who just don't give a damn, seem to believe that they'll just get the source material from a different delivery system.

It seems to me that less than a million cheaper digital downloads won't pay for the same material that tens of millions of physical copies used to pay for.

What if the source material can't be produced under a different delivery system?

To me, it isn't about the delivery system -- it's the payment system, and if digital doesn't pay, who produces the material?

People who do it for free, I guess. Or for minimal return.

You get what you pay for.

Gwyneth Paltrow's brain.


Went to see Contagion, and really -- how can I spoil this? I mean, the movie is about a plague and people are dropping like flies.

The first one to drop is Gwyneth Paltrow.

They're doing an autopsy of her, and they saw into her head and peel back her face with all kinds of drilling and squishy sounds and the entire theater kind of rears back in horror and a bunch of us laugh uncomfortably.

So the two doctors peer into Gwyneth Paltrow's brain and the more senior one says, "Wow. Step back. Now!"

"What IS that!!" the other doctor asks in horror.

It's Gwyneth Paltrow's brain, I can't help but think.

A few more people are laughing and I'm thinking, "What's with the Gwyneth Paltrow hate?"

But the way the screenplay has it, she has been cheating on her husband so all that squishyiness and horrible bone drilling is totally justified.

I mean, it is Gwyneth Paltrow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hey it's special! And so is this - and this - and this....and

"Once my CD's start skipping, they seem to just keep skipping...what is the story with that?"

"I don't know. I converted all my music to digital long ago."


" have CD's?"


"You know when you're dialing a phone number, and the dialer sticks....what is the story with that...?"


Diminishing returns? The Duck Race used to get tons of press, now it's barely mentioned. On the other hand, they had 17K ducks. It's duck pollution.


Another bike race in Bend? Really?


Smoke gets in my eyes.

My eyes swole up last night. (How come there isn't a word, "swole"?) Which means that wherever that fire was, it was in area with sage. 'Cause I'm allergic to sage.

Then again, maybe the smoke was thick enough it didn't matter.


I'm not feeling quite so guilty about running out of the first week of DC 52's. Apparently, virtually everyone is out.

We retailers are all assuming they'll be offering us second prints, but no word yet.

The problem? Just in the month between my original order for Batman and now, for instance, my subs just about doubled. That doesn't even begin to cover the number of issues I'd like to have out for sale.

But I couldn't get any more copies even though I tried 3 weeks in advance!

I think DC blew it. Apparently, it's O.K. for me to order 3 to 4 times normal numbers (my cost 1.50 to 2.00), but DC can't be bothered to do much of an overprint (their cost about .15 to .20.)

Actually, it's worse than that -- because there were less DC titles in the order than normal, and because I concentrated on the New 52, my average increase was probably closer to 5 times normal on most individual titles.

I've said before, any time you are forced to increase orders by double or more, you are in dangerous territory. It is essentially gambling on public interest, that all the promotion will work, when there is a long history of promotions barely moving the needle.

But I did it -- not just double but by 5 times.

And DC, from what I can tell, despite all their bold talk, gambled nowhere near as much.

P.S. I should probably mention: I've only received the first real week of comics -- there are still 3 more weeks of New DC to arrive, and there will be copies of almost all of them out for sale on the usual Wednesdays. It's just that, so far, they've only been lasting a few days....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11. I was out of touch.

I must have been one of the few Americans who spent most of that day not knowing it had happened.

I was spending a few days in the emptied house in Crescent City of my recently passed away mother-in-law. No radio, no T.V., no internet. Neighbors were all all strangers and lived hundreds of yards away.

I spent the morning finishing reading Lord of the Rings --which was going to be a movie in the near future.

It wasn't until the middle of the afternoon that I called my wife.

Who told me the Twin Towers went down.

"Oh, you're exaggerating," I said. "You mean part of it fell off, don't you?"

"No...they are both gone."

I still didn't believe her. As I was driving home, I got the eerie sense that every car had it's radio on and we were all living in the same moment. Even on the road, there was a sense of oneness that I can't explain.

And when I finally saw the footage on T.V. it put lie to any idea I might have had that reality couldn't live up to imagination. In my wildest imagination, I didn't see what I was seeing on T.V.

I'd been listening to the radio, but I just didn't get it.

Anyway, yesterday MSNBC ran real-time coverage of the events, so ten years later I finally got a sense of what everyone else went through.

How did the oldtime booksellers manage?

Google makes a bookstore workable, these days.

People give you just enough info to get online and find the correct book.

I've been wondering how the oldtimers used to do it. I suppose in some ways, personal knowledge would've given the advantage to a knowledgeable independent bookseller, versus a chain. I remember the bulky "Books In Print" volumes that a store would have had to constantly re-buy every year or so.

The following is not to make fun of a customer, but to illustrate why it can be so hard sometimes to find books.

A woman asks for the book "Geisha Girls," by Sara Lee.

I'm thinking that's not quite right, but I'm not sure, so I look it up on Google. I find nothing but entries about pastries and books with Geisha in the title. (Which only makes me hungry and horny, heh.)

Then she mentions the author also wrote "Secret Fan..."

This one I didn't need to Google. "Oh -- you mean, Lisa See! Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?"

Lisa See = Sara Lee.

Then I get distracted by another customer and don't get the chance to look up 'Lisa See' and 'Geisha Girls.'

After she left, I looked up Lisa See on Google and she also wrote a book called "Shanghai Girls."

I mean, this sounds like a parody, but it happens all too often. People conflate words and names and titles and so on...

Google can usually iron out the differences, given enough clues.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Betting against yourself, Barnes and Noble?

Poor Barnes and Noble. Do they realize how many people conflate them with Borders? Borders made tons of mistakes, that probably doomed them long before e-readers had any effect.

I was talking to someone the other day about how B & N seems to be adding more non-book product as time goes on; toys, games, knick-knacks of all kinds. "That's what Border's was doing at the end."

"And it put them out of business," the customer said.

"No -- it was a symptom of the fact that their books weren't selling enough, not the cause. They were desperately looking for things to sell to replace the lost revenue. Barnes and Noble is more or less showing they have no faith in the long-term prospects of books. (Never mind the irony of a kiosk of Nook e-readers in the front of their store.)

Meanwhile, independent bookstores are fairly constantly going out of business and almost always blame e-readers, these days. I think that's just a convenient excuse. For one thing, bookstores have always been difficult, and there has always been a large turnover. Interestingly, for all their talk of adopted new technologies -- when I talk to bookstore owners they often have the most ''traditional" of mindsets. Books have always sold a certain way, and therefore they always will. (And then they talk about "adding" the new technology....)

I don't actually believe the e-readers are putting bookstores out of business yet -- unless you say it was the straw that broke the camel's back. On a scale of 1 - 10, I'd say the original "You Got Mail" giant chains, hit with an 8 impact. Then Amazon hit with an 8 impact. I also think that the effect of Walmart and Costco selling books has had a major, mostly unacknowledged impact: I give it a 5.

E-books? I give them a 2 so far.

But then again, if you've already had the dread epidemics of the first three, the little touch of flu from e-books might be enough to kill you.

(Actual book sales would confirm what I'm saying -- sales of books really haven't dropped anywhere near the extent that most people assume.)

Meanwhile, when DC announced their New 52 effort, I suspect that half the internal focus, maybe more, was on the digital outreach.

But now that the comics have actually begun arriving, almost all the media attention and sales and general interest has been in the actual COMICS.

Jim Lee, mucky-muck for DC and artist for Justice League, is famous for holding up a single sheet of paper, showing it edgewise to a room full of retailers, and saying something to the effect of "These are current digital sales...."

The physical copies of the New DC are going to be selling in the millions. I suspect the actual paid digital will be tiny in comparison.

But everyone will tell me digital is inevitable, that books and comics are doomed.

I don't think so. I'm staking my business on the idea that for at least the next 5 to 10 years there will sufficient interest in physical copies.

I think Barnes and Noble is betting the opposite, which means they are betting on their own demise; their leap toward e-readers is an admission that they think their brick and mortar stores are doomed. I think betting against yourself is a sure way to lose.

I know you're all just secretly dying to read comics.

When I read all the comments on digital comics, something becomes very clear to me. The majority of comic readers believe that the general public would read comics if:

Comics were cheaper.

Comics were more accessible.

Comics weren't juvenile.

Comics weren't in comic shops.

Comics were in newstands and bookstores and Walmart.

Comics were more like they used to be.

Comics got more with the times.

Comics were collectible.

Comics were educational.

Comics could get the right license: Twilight, Harry Potter, etc.

Comics dealt with adult subjects.

Comics were for kids.

Comics were made for women.

And the latest magic solution: Comics were digital.

And on and on and on.

I've got news for everyone. The general public doesn't read comics because they don't want to read comics. There is a flat out bias against comics -- an unreasoning dislike, or disinterest, or misunderstanding.


I think it's almost exactly analogous to Opera. If doesn't matter what Opera does -- most of the public won't listen.


The comic art form is fantastic. (As is, no doubt, Opera.) Many of the stories are adult and educational and directed toward women. Many shops have fantastic presentations. Comics are often offered at a discount. Comics have gotten megatons of publicity from the movies. You can get comics online right now, at zero or cheap prices. Everything the comics readers think OUGHT to be done, has been done at one time or another.

But the general public doesn't want to read comics.


We can win people over ONE at a TIME. There isn't going to be a sudden shift of interest just because they become available through the internet.

In fact, I've come to distrust the "Exposure" argument. It doesn't really ever seem to be effective. I'm assured that if we expose Downtown through special events, the public will come back later and spend money. We all thought all we needed was for movies and T.V. to expose comics. If sports cards are sold in the mass market, it will expose them to the general public and they'll come to the specialty market when they become collectors. And so on.

Almost always, it either doesn't work, or the opposite happens. Instead of gaining new customers from the general public, we lose our customers to the mass market/digital.

I know the corporate overlords don't care who buys comics from where, as long as they sell. But in the long run, they need a savvy mix of local shop support and some mass market presence that doesn't KILL the local support. They haven't ever managed to do that -- because I pretty sure they simply don't understand the importance of the local shops. A sale is a sale to them.

Until things stop selling.

Postscript: We have gotten one of those rare overall boosts to sales that happen every decade or so -- like a large wave, but which will recede slowly until we are back to our starting point. The DC titles will probably sell better for at least a year, which is nothing to sneeze at. But my main point that we gather true readers one by one, I think mostly stands.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Time, date and stamped.

As a corollary to my earlier post.

Much of what I'm currently trying to learn, is how to handle material that isn't time, date and stamped.

When I bought the store, in 1984, I'd have to say at least 90% of the material I sold was brand new, that very week or month, and was replaced by the next week's material, and then the next.

It was a gambler's game; trying to gauge demand in advance, trying not to sell too quickly or too slowly.

I didn't know any other way.

Sports cards would come in, sell for awhile, and then move on. This week's comics would come in, sell for awhile, and then move on. I'd order a bit extra for the back stock, which was pretty much dependent on whether the product became popular enough to be wanted after the initial selling period.

This lingering interest actually dwindled over time, as the sports card and comic companies came up with more and more material, and the back stock sold less and less.

What a minute, I hear you thinking, aren't you a collectible store?

Well, you won't hear me using the word "collectible." I don't much believe in that market. It's one of those misconceptions the public has about a store like mine. Oh, at first, I could sell older cards and older comics. But even at the peak of comic collecting, I'd have to say that maybe only 10% of my sales were back issues. There was a glory season for sports cards that lasted a few years, but then faded.

Basically, back in the day, I'd have a Micheal Jordon rookie in my case so I could sell you lots of packs of cards. I'd have a Silver Age Spider-man on the wall to sell you this months issue.

Eventually, this older market moved online, almost completely.

If the new material isn't selling sufficiently, there just isn't a market for the old material. I know, it's counter-intuitive, but there it is. (Or more to the point -- if the new stuff isn't selling, there is no money to buy the old stuff.)

SO..... once in a while, I'd look at an art gallery, or a gift store, and think: "What would it be like not to have to buy new, unknown material every week?"

There is a built in advantage to the time, date and stamped model. Yes, it's gamble, but you have clientele who have to come in on a regular basis to buy the material. You have regular type regulars. So you create a subscription service, for comics, which more or less locks the customer to your store. (Until it doesn't...) The store becomes a destination store, and people off the street really probably can't relate much to all the new stuff.

Of course, the ultimate "dated" material are fads. Like ramped up to a factor of ten.
It's stuff no one has heard of one day; something they just have to have the next day; and something they want to unload the next day.

After learning some hard lessons from the cards and comics bubbles, I became a bit of maestro at fads. I was a genius at Pogs, and did pretty well with Beanie Babies and Pokemon, too. Fads are easy to sell, hard to get -- so the temptation is to order way too much and get left holding the bag. (Interestingly, I haven't had a good fad since Pokemon peaked at Christmas 2000. Which is unexpected since I had seven solid fads in my first 15 years.)

But I think needing to order in advance all the time, material you haven't seen yet, based on yesterday's trends is ultimately a very dangerous process. It really is gambling, and no matter how good you are it, eventually you are going to get it wrong.

What I really want to do is sell material for it's own inherent value; comics for reading, books to read, card games to play, toys to play with, and so on.

I don't mind the 'collectible' idea, as long as I don't play up the speculative investment value.

I want to sell material that has a shelf life, whose intrinsic value is always there.

About the time I came to this conclusion, most of the comic world came to the same conclusion. We'd all been burned by the idea of selling comics in plastic sleeves that no one reads. So we pushed the reading of comics, the writing and the art.

And it revived the comic biz enough. About the same time, more and more comics were being collected in graphic novels -- so if I sold a really good story, a Sandman or a Preacher, I could reorder it again and again.

(Sports cards, on the other hand, were a lost cause and I slowly phased most of them out. They are still time, date and stamped dependent -- but that's not the way I play it.)

I started bringing in toys that had some long term interest, and boardgames, and finally books.

Books and boardgames can be time dependent, if that is the market you pursue. But I feel like Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Costco can do that better. I can pick titles that there is always an interest in -- but which people won't think less of me if I don't have it in stock.

I want the latest great game, but it's more important for me to have Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. I want the latest book, but it's more important for me to carry Catcher in the Rye and On The Road and No Country for Old Men.

This is the material I'm talking about when I say I want the right numbers at the right time.

I'd say about half my sales are still time and date -- new comics, new magic, new books, toys and games.

But the other half has become much more predictable, and I like that.

Bend is seasonal.

Always a bit of shock when the Fall season begins-- the foot-traffic drops off dramatically.

Makes it almost restful.

I'm always happy when the busy season starts, and yet not at all sad when it ends.

Got a bunch of paperwork done yesterday, and today I plan to do a sweep of the store with the broom, dusters and vacuum cleaner.

I try not to order very much in the first two weeks of September. So spot shortages tend to develop, but like I said, the compensating factor is that there are less people in the door to notice.

The book buyers who just want that one book are much more noticeable. They come and leave.

So far, since July, I've done a pretty good job of keeping my orders at appropriate levels. If I was doing a perfect job, I'd have plenty of stock of the best-sellers, and cash left over. Instead, my best-sellers inventory is filled just enough, with not much cash leftover, which means that the less efficient parts of the store are still dragging them down, which means I still need to refine my ordering process.

I mean, it's better -- probably better than it has ever been, but not quite self-sustaining yet.

In theory, I order everything correctly, and always have the right product in the right numbers and never miss sales, and everything is self-sustaining.

An impossible goal, I know.

The self-sustaining, efficiency goal has been my focus since July. Up until then I was still adding more inventory to my product lines, which a different process altogether. When I'm building, I purposely buy stuff that I don't know how well it will sell, stuff that I know won't sell fast but is cheap, and so on. Not efficient at all. But it builds the inventory, widens the choice of product, which usually gets rewarded enough to make it possible. And it's more data -- which of the new games and titles will sell?

I decided in July, however, that it was time to spend more time refining the process, and making those efficiency improvements.

The fall season will be much easier to manage in that sense, compared with summer and Christmas, which tend to be bigger, more chaotic and unpredictable.

This is probably one of those subjects that fascinate me, but bore the hell out of everyone else.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I should have gone wild and crazy.

A small kerfuffle over on the comic industry bulletin board between stores who ordered enough of the first 52 #1, Justice League, and those of us who didn't.

Part of it is the difference between big shops and little shops -- big cities and small towns.

Part of it, is some of us do better with Marvel than DC.

Most of it is: Hindsight is 20/20.

Here's the thing. Ordinarily ordering between 1 and 5 extra copies, after my subscribers have told me what they want, is more than enough to cover demand. But a prominently placed news story could easily bring in, oh, 20 extra people. The difference between 2 extra copies and 20 extra copies is immense, when you multiply by 52 separate titles.

I can't tell you the number of times we've been assured by the publisher that their title will be a hit: that it will get tons of support.

But it's not up to them. It's up the zeitgeist. Whether or not the story has a hook that appeals to the media. And that you just don't know until it happens. More often than not, it doesn't.

The black plastic wrap "Death of Superman" I could have sold hundreds; the white plastic wrap "Return of Superman", I still have hundreds of copies left.

I've been burned way way more times than I've been rewarded by 'over' ordering.

But I felt I had really ordered quite a bit. Overall, about 2.5 times normal DC numbers. Much higher than that on the marquee titles like Detective, Action, Batman, Wonderwoman, etc.

For Justice league, I ordered about 5 times the normal numbers, and slightly more overall than my best selling DC title of the last few years, Blackest Night #1.

Sold out in two days.

The interest didn't seem to start peaking until a few days before arrival. I put in a reorder two days before it showed. It went to backorder, but I felt I had put it in early enough to have a reasonable chance of getting filled from the copies they hold back for "damages and shortages."

I started hearing disturbing rumbles, so I put a back order in online, and also called my rep and tried to put an order in of the 2nd print.

They put out a notice saying we had until "Friday, Sept. 2" to make our second print orders. Normally, that would mean they would take those orders and use those numbers to make their print run.

I ordered a day early before the deadline -- and they were sold out.

By now, I've ordered extra copies of the second week-- not crazy extras, because remember I still have only seen the sales on ONE title -- and I'm not at all sure that the first day will be the only good day. Media attention will fade and so on.

Still, I make increases in my orders for the entire month, probably increased overall by 15% or so.

Wednesday premiere of the first real week was yesterday. 13 titles. By the end of the day, half the titles were sold out.

I get online to order more copies of next week and the week after.

They are sold out not only next week, but the week after -- AND the week after!!!

I've had exactly one day to gauge true demand, and it's too late.

Gamble or go home, is the message here.

Remember, I've ended up ordering 3 times the normal numbers, and it isn't enough.


No one ever went broke selling out, right? But man do I hate to disappoint customers. It makes me look and feel incompetent.

I really think DC messed up. My cost for a comic is roughly half. Their cost is something like 15 cents per comic. Once they paid the artist and writer, their cost is the ink and paper.

I ordered 5 times normal numbers of Justice League, and it's pretty obvious that DC probably didn't published more than another half the orders they got. Pathetic.

This was THEIR big idea -- and they couldn't even take a risk at printing say, double the ordered numbers?

When they saw what was happening with the first week's sales, they couldn't up the print on the third and fourth weeks?

There is suspicion that they are actually TRYING to drive customers to digital.

But what's interesting is, there has been little talk about digital. It's all been the physical copies that has gotten the demand, which to me says a lot about what's really happening.

I mentioned the media effect on sales, and one of the other retailers put a poll up asking how many non-regulars had been in to buy the comics.

But that is missing the point. If the big push had been flop, a whole lot of my regulars would have started passing on the titles. Once they understood it was a hit, they actually started buying MORE.

It's a bit of hoarding, frankly. Suddenly they covet a comic because they are afraid they can't get it -- whereas, if they could get it, they wouldn't want it.

Looking back, I can see where the problem is.

I put a sheet out that asked my customers which titles they would be interested in -- and I got a huge response. Yes, No, or Maybe, were their options, and to get them to take the time to fill them out, I assured them that they weren't committed. That I was just trying to get a gauge of the interest level.

I signed up all my regulars for titles that they either said Yes or Maybe.

Now, ordinarily, when I sign my customers up for a title they didn't specifically ask for, I get about a 90% success rate in them accepting the title. (I'm pretty choosy about when I use the "optional" technique.)

I figured, since this was a "soft" survey, that I'd get probably an 80% acceptance rate.

So if the venture had been a big flop, chances are that I would have gotten between 20 to 30% of the comics back. If it was a moderate success, I'd get about 15 to 10% back.

I'm getting virtually none of the titles back, so far. These "optional" titles had been part of my equation in trying to judge how many copies I had out for sale. The problem is, the commitment on the part of my customers was "soft" but my commitment was "hard." I pretty much have to stand by it.

They'll be offering us second prints, I know, eventually, but even this has been a mess.

And even with the wild success of the first two weeks, I'm still concerned about over reacting and ending up with tons of the 3rd and 4th weeks. Because, that has also happened a lot in the past.

You don't stay a retailer for 30 years without being careful.

But sometimes, the wild and crazy guys get rewarded.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Writing is easy. Writing well is hard.

I've learned again, after 30 years.

Writing for me is easy -- writing well is hard.

I don't know how it is for other writers. But that's the way if it for me. I think earlier in my life , I simply plunged into the process, not really knowing what I was doing. It was a series of starts and stops and reboots, and throwing stuff away and completely starting over again, and rewriting the same damn page 2o times (On a Typewriter!!!!) I didn't have any kind of system. Writing -- and rewriting and more rewriting -- and writing, all of it was mixed together.

So the process was all messy and muddy and I think I stepped on my own toes a lot.

So...this time, I'm trying to apply all those lessons I learned back then. Finish the first draft, write the jigsaw puzzle as it comes to me, find a balance between inspiration and knuckling down and writing without inspiration.

I think the work habits are terribly important. I could get away with being so stupidly inefficient with my time 30 years ago because I was unemployed, and unengaged with people, and I thought of myself as a writer, and if I flailed around, so what? That was writing.

I know the point will come when it will start to get messy -- I may have reached that point this weekend, but until that moment is for sure, I'm going to try to stick to my writing plans.

I'm trying to impose order on the chaos that used to be my writing process -- without stepping on my creative flow.

Way back, I figured out my writing process was self-defeating and I tried to figure out systems of dealing with the problem, but most everything I came up with seem to block my writing. Especially things like "outlines."

So, I've got a rough idea of doing this in three major layers.

1.) I write the first draft and brainstorm. Just write it and see where it goes.

2.) Second draft will be trying to pull all the brainstorming and snippets and continuity together, while at the same time improving the writing. Try to add depth to the characters, descriptions and mood.

3.) Write a third draft where I concentrate on smoothing out the rough edges, making it seamless and flowing, and trying to polish the writing.

I'm still in the first stage, so I'm not sure whether I can achieve the second and third stages. Like I said, I think it will probably get messy the further into the story I am.