Friday, July 31, 2015


I keep selling my books out of my store when I work.

I also make connections I wouldn't ordinarily.  Yesterday, I had a guy I vaguely remembered talking to a year ago about writing, so I asked.  He'd bought one of my books and read it.

I probably wasn't paying enough attention last time, but this time I got what he was saying.  Steven C. Schlozman, M.D.  He's a professor at Harvard Medical school and he wrote a book called The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks From The Apocalypse.

I had the book on my shelves.

He said he was watching a zombie movie one night and was inspired to sit down and write a book about what it would be like to autopsy a "real" zombie. 

Told a funny story about how his faculty head told him he had to disavow his writing because too many people thought it was "real."

So his book has been optioned by George Romero, and he talked about the real bonus of writing was being able to pal around with George at conventions and such.

I made a comment about him being a "real" writer.

"No, no, so are you.  A good one too."

So that was cool, and I immediately asked if he'd be willing to blurb one of my upcoming books and he said, "Sure!"

Meanwhile, after he left, I realized he had a world class number of blurbs on his book.  George Romero, Chuck Palahniuk, Seth Grahme-Smith, and Jonathan Maberry.

Fun.  Always interesting who I meet in the store.

Books are cash flow proof for me.

I have assembled a massive -- for me -- book order.

Every book I've sold over the last ... well, since I last did an order, plus new books, plus filling in on some series.

Thing is -- books sales haven't dropped even though I've been out of Catcher in the Rye and Game of Thrones and To Kill a Mockingbird for some time.

Wow. Is this the way other stores work?  Because that is not the way my store has ever worked.  I've always had to buy the new material on a regular basis or see sales drop through the floor.  Comics and cards were most of my sales for decades, and they were periodicals, entirely dependent on the weekly shipments.  The good thing about this has been that it given me a steady, regular clientele.  The bad thing was that I've always had to buy them whether I could afford them or not.

But in books, toys, and to a lessor extent, games, it doesn't seem to matter as much.  With the important caveat that you have good books (games/toys) in stock.  You can be out of many of the standards and still sell.  Which is kind of cool, you know?

(Admittedly, this probably wouldn't be true if these categories were 80% of my business instead of 40%.)

What it does is allow me to make orders when I can afford them, when the cash flow gives me an opportunity. Instead of having to order whether or not the cash flow can handle them.

Cash flow is having the money on hand to pay for the product.  It took me a very long time to realize that I could be making a nice profit overall and still be short of cash when I needed it. It's easy to fall into the trap of spending to keep big sales up, and then having nothing on hand when sales drop.  Which they do, on a regular but unpredictable basis.

I finally got secure enough to have money in reserve, and smart enough not to use too much credit and to replace the reserve when it is depleted.

Plus, downtown finally became the place it always promised to be -- lots of people walking around, dropping in, buying on impulse.  Very cool.  I'd have to say most of my book and toy sales are impulse sales to strangers, and a high percentage of my game sales.  So all I need is a steady flow of customers, which downtown is providing.

Wasn't always that way -- wasn't that way for a good 20 out of the 35 years I've been doing this.

I give myself credit for recognizing the change in customers, and adapting my store to it.  I give myself even more credit for expanding into games and books just as the Great Recession was starting and sticking to it.  Having 20 years of experience by then was invaluable.

Especially for a dolt like me who seems to only learn not to touch the oven by burning my fingers a few times.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Me no understand the maths.

Time is just my perception of movement in the space/time continuum.  (I feel like I should add a Dudist "man" to the end of that.)

Blows my

If I understand this at all, which I probably don't.

I like to read the occasional popular science book, even though they make me feel as dumb as a bag of hammers.  I'm currently reading Coming Of Age In The Milky Way, by Timothy Ferris, which is a history of astronomy.

Sometimes I get just an inkling of what I'm reading, like I'm licking the frosting on a cake and getting a taste sensation.  But I'm not sure I really understand it.

The book went from Newton to Einstein in two successive chapters, as I understood less and less.  But, you know, I get a glimmer, man. I get a sense of it.  I get a small clue. 

It's something I wish I understood better.  But not hard enough to really work at it. 

You know, when you're talking to your cat and it seems almost as if they can understand what you're saying? 

I'm the cat, man.  Dude, what you're saying sounds really important, but...whatever.  I've got a hairball to worry about. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Getting ahead of myself?

I asked Mike Corley if he would do the cover to The Last Fedora: The Gangster Golem Chronicles, and he agreed to do it.  Which is kind of him, considering he has a brand new baby. 

Since I haven't even offered this book to a publisher yet, I might be getting ahead of myself a little.  (The publisher is responsible for the cover, usually.)  But I just want this book ready to go, ready to be put into an available slot.  I'm doing it on my own dime, which is probably crazy.

I really like this book.  It has a lot of heart, I liked all the characters in it, the bad guys as well as the good guys and the good guys as well as the bad guys.  (Since it sometimes harder to write interesting good guys than interesting bad guys.)

I feel like it's different, quirkier, than anything else I've read.  I know there is probably other supernatural noir out there -- of course there is -- but this feels a little different.  Not sure there are many Golem books out there.

It's been done for some time now, and I've been sitting on it trying to decide what to do with it.  As I said, I really like it and I want to find it the right home.

Interestingly, I had a cover in mind:  A fedora in the middle of a puddle of blood.  I almost suggested it to Mike, but then thought, No, Let him come up with the cover.  He's the professional.

He came back with the idea of a stone fedora in the middle of blood.

So great minds think alike.  He finessed my idea by having the fedora be made of clay or stone but more or less the same idea.

Thing is, even if the basic idea is similar, I know Mike will pick the right font, and size, and design, and I bet it will look very cool.

This book is coming out one way or another.  Like I said, I'm very, very proud of it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A small deserved break.

I finished Gargoyle Dreams on Friday.  On Saturday I tried to put it together and immediately ran into problems.  I decided to put it aside, let it sit for awhile.  Nevertheless, I have a feeling it can be a good book.

Night before last, I went to bed I feeling oddly satisfied.  That little bit of euphoria lasted the day.  This is a weird feeling for me.  I'm usually vaguely anxious and dis-satisfied.  But I'm feeling proud of myself right now.

As I Twittered/Facebooked yesterday.  "I'm happier with my books than I thought I'd be.  Not bad, man. Not bad."  And I mentioned how grateful I was for the support.

This isn't my usual way of expressing myself.

Andy was in the store on Thursday and said,  "You're funny.  You're always pointing out your faults."

Well, I don't think of it that way, but yeah.  I'm harder on myself than other people are, usually.  I've discounted my writing because it seemed to me that it was risky to be too proud of it.

I set out to see if I could just finish another book. To get it published was a bonus, to have it read by people was a bigger bonus, and to have some of those people like the book was the best bonus of all.  Then to write more books, and to feel like they are good solid stories.  That is enormously gratifying.

Every time I finish a book, I somehow try to keep going, and then almost always realize I don't have to, that I can take a small break.  Letting it all sink in.

So that's where I'm at right now.  A small deserved break.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The value of "midlist."

"Midlist is a term in the publishing industry which refers to books which are not bestsellers but are strong enough to economically justify their publication (and likely, further purchases of future books from the same author)."  Wikipedia.

I'd like to expand that definition to any kind of product that has those characteristics. 

Frankly, Pegasus Books is based on midlist.  Very few things can be bestsellers.  Even when that happens, here's the result.

1.)  The book or product is hard to get.
2.)  The big chainstores will discount it to nothing.

I don't even look at the bestseller list.  These books will be at the feeding trough in Costco, or emblazoned with "SALE!" stickers at Walmart.  Even if I discount by 20% (roughly 50% of my profits) I'm going to be considered overpriced even though I am exactly the regular marked price.

So...even if I were to have Go Set a Watchman on my shelves, I would have to "explain" to the customer that it can be got elsewhere cheaper (eliciting strange looks) or risk them getting mad at me, or thinking poorly of the store, or even returning the product.  

Anyway, the same thing is true of all high sellers.  So my strategy over the years has been counter-intuitive.  Fill the store with midlist product, the more neglected by the big players the better.  There are often bargains to be had, as well.

And some of these books are good books.  In fact, ironically, they were often earlier bestsellers.  I also don't look at sales trajectory.  Selling something four or five times in a year is rare for me.  Often I don't sell things more than once a year or every two years -- or never.

But my strategy was to absolutely fill my store with the best product I can get that is reasonably priced, not being cut-throated elsewhere, and readily available.

If I get The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, I know that I can sell it every few months and replace it easily.  I've got a satisfied customer, and I have the added bonus of making my store different and unique.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that I think the publishing industry has made a huge mistake shedding themselves of midlist.  They will regret it when others (Amazon, for one) fill that need. 

It's a mistake to go only with bestsellers.  You're vulnerable to any number of factors.  And the temptation is to go for gimmicks.

Frankly, I think the new Harper Lee and Dr. Suess books are gimmicks and I don't intend to carry them.

But there you go.  Proof that midlist is viable.  Because I can say No Thanks to the biggest sellers in the industry and still thrive.  

I doubt publisher or the big chainstores can say the same.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

God, I wish I liked rewriting.

In some ways, Gargoyle Dreams turned out better than I expected.

However, it originally was going to be a different book.  It was going to be a "gothic love-story" with only two characters and one setting.

I just didn't have the chops to pull that off. 

I need my genre hooks to keep things interesting for me -- and I assume the reader.  So I brought in other characters -- even other POV characters -- and other settings.  I liked what resulted.

I have to wrestle it into shape now.  As I always say -- it's easier for me to write new material than to work on old material.  I let myself write the chapters as they came to me and as needed, but not necessarily in order.  Which can be dangerous.

But I know in my head that everything I wrote belongs, so now the job it to find a way to make it all flow.  Just requires adequate transitions, basically.  I came up with new ideas right to the end of the book, and so the rest of the book has to be brought up to speed. 

So it will be work.  God, I wish I liked rewriting.

The writing was choppy from about 70% of the to about 90% of the way, so that will need to be worked on.

I want to change a couple of names -- add some description of gargoyles and the cathedral. But I should have it ready for Lara when she returns Tuskers III.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Coming up with the "WOW!"

Yesterday I talked about trying to come up with a "process" for rewriting that works as well as the process I've arrived at for first draft.  Taking into account that I'm lazy and really don't like rewriting.

I've talked about this before, but maybe it's time to pop up with this anecdote again.

Long ago, I read a book by or about Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, in which a single short story is used as an example of his process. In the course of the book, we see three separate versions of the same short story

1.)  The first version is pretty good.  You know, you'd probably read it and go, "nice."

2.)  But Mr. Gardner isn't satisfied. So he mulls it over, tweeks it in different ways, and produces a second draft.  This version is much better, so much that it is kind of astonishing.

3.)  But still Mr. Gardner isn't satisfied.  The story needs something stronger, some twist, some revelation, some surprise, that will unleash the potential of the story.

Sure enough, he comes up with the corker, and you think, "WOW!"  It improves the story dramatically.

Anyway, this always stuck with me.  I've tried to a greater or lessor extent to keep it in mind when I write.  I've been lucky in that I think I usually can come up with a satisfying conclusion to my stories, sometimes with a nice twist.  But I haven't rigorously made myself sit down and think about how I might really up the level.  Partly because I think it's dangerous to mess with a story once it's down.

I have sort of been doing something similar, however, to the first third of a book. In the course of writing the first draft, I've learned that if I pause about a third of the way through and ask myself, "What's missing?" I often come up with new elements that complete the story.  Maybe I'm missing an adequate villain, or love-interest, or sidekicks, or settings, or...any number of things.

Throughout most of my career of owning a bookstore, I would go to sleep at night asking myself two questions.

1.)  What am I doing that I shouldn't be doing?  And even more importantly....

2.)  What am I not doing that I should be doing?

It was amazing how this clarified the problems and often gave me the solutions. So I've taken to asking the same things about my stories.

So my latest epiphany is that I need to apply the same thinking to the last third of the book.  What plot developments can I come up with that will surprise, or move, or wow the reader?

For instance, The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders is pretty good as it is.  I like it quite a bit.

But I decided that I'd like to try to see if I can't come up with at least 3 strong improvements in the last third of the book.  Just really give it the Erle Stanley Gardner treatment.  What sort of crux points can I put in that will make the reader go, "WOW!

Almost immediately upon thinking about this, I came up with a couple of changes that will improve the ending.  After mulling them over for a couple of days, I've realized that these two changes aren't the "WOW!" I'm looking for...but they are an improvement.

They are also just a beginning.  As soon as I get the manuscript back from Bren, I'm going to spend as much time as it takes to try to come up with at least one "WOW!" and hopefully a couple more.

Thing is, even if they aren't "WOW!"s, they will probably be improvements, and that isn't a bad thing.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I'm intellectually lazy.

I'm two chapters from the end of Gargoyle Dreams. When I'm done, I'll need to work on some continuity problems.

I've decided I'll do all that next week.

Today, I started thinking about my process again.  Long discussions talking to myself.  I have a vague idea of what I'm trying to do.  By thrashing it out, I can usually clarify those ideas.

When I came back to writing, I'd thought for 25 years about what I'd gotten wrong with the process the first time.  I had a set of rules and/or guidelines about how to write.

These ideas were mostly borne out.  I've figure out a very efficient way to write that first draft.  I'm happy with that whole process, and I've refined it over time. 

But what I hadn't really thought about during the interregnum was the equally important process of rewriting.  Other than the rule that I not let a book go until I think it's ready. (No more "good enough.")

I'm intellectually lazy.  Rewriting is mostly an intellectual process.  So combine those two facts, and it's like matter/anti-matter: they cancel each other out.

I generally believe that most of my stories could benefit from a little more description.  More fleshing out. Just more.

I've tried all kinds of tricks around that.  I find if I stumble across a sentence or paragraph by surprise, I can see what needs to be fixed easier than if I try to systematically go through the book.  So I give myself time to just randomly drop in on a book.  I look for certain triggers -- a paragraph that is almost another line, and search the paragraph for some detail I can add.

Just tricks.  They work, but they are spotty. 

I've learned that messing with the continuity is usually a mistake, but sometimes has to be done.

I've learned that adding and subtracting is usually all right.  If I start out the story without enough ingredients, than adding those ingredients later is only smart.

Course corrections are fine.

The more thinking in advance I do, the less rewriting is necessary. However, I discover story by writing, and there is only so much outlining that is useful.

Writing new material is easier for me than changing existing material.

Here's the thing.  My first drafts, plus my cursory editing, plus professional editing and suggestions from beta readers, I think usually make my books "good enough."  So it's easy to just go with that.  I've tried to hold my feet to the fire to get better than that, and with the books that have so far been released, I think I've mostly succeeded.  But it is a constant struggle.

The latest trick I'm using is to read a chapter, then go off and let the poetic part of my brain work on it, and just start jotting down what comes to me.  Then go back to the chapter and see if any of the stuff my subconscious has come up with is an improvement.  Usually, there are some nice thoughts and phrases I can use.

Today I came up with what I think is another improvement in the rewriting process.

More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Liquidating sportscards.

Sports cards haven't been holding their own for years now.  But they are stackable -- that is, I can put a lot of material in a small space, and space in the store is a premium, so I figured I might be able to make it work.  The idea has been to slowly sell the backstock, buy it at sale prices as often as possible, and put a bit of money into new cards each year.  Just keep it going.

Part of it, I think, is that I'm just stubborn.  Sports cards at one point were 85% of revenue.  Yes, you read that right, 85%.

When it went bad, it went bad quickly and permanently.  Like 25 years ago.

It's a completely dysfunctional industry.  People who hope that it will someday come back are kidding themselves.

The profit margins are laughable.  The Suggested Retail Price is about 15 to 20% above cost, or less than half just about anything else in my store.  I put them at about 10% higher than that, and explain to card customers that I simply can't carry them otherwise.

Well, last Thursday I had two sports card customers who were a "problem."  Unpleasant.

That was it.  I decided it was time to pull the plug.

So all sports cards (and non-sports cards since I'm eliminating the racks too) are going to be 50% off until they are gone.

This does not include 'game cards' like magic.

It's finally time to move on.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Researching after writing.

I may have this backward, but I tend to do most of my research after I've written the first draft.

I have a very broad general knowledge of things.  It's just part of me.  I have a huge amount of trivia, of superficial knowledge in my head.  All the reading I've done, the collecting of random facts.  Whatever I write I tend to have at least a base knowledge of what I'm writing about.  Such a superficial grasp of things probably isn't a great benefit to anything but writing, actually, and maybe owning a pop-culture store...

I've gotten lots of kudos for historical accuracy in the reviews for Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves.  I was certainly trying for that effect.  But really, other than knowledge I already had and maybe a quick glance at the Wiki entry, I wrote the first draft out of my head.  The main idea was to imagine what it would be like to be so hungry, so cold, and feel so hopeless.

After I was done, I started reading pioneer diaries, and other historical books, trying to get all the details right. I find that when I do the research after I've written I can pluck the pertinent details out of the morass of facts and use what I need.

I'm going to research cathedrals and gargoyles when I'm done with Gargoyle Dreams.  I've got a picture book of gargoyles that I grabbed years ago.  This book has been percolating in my head for years, for some reason.  A "love-story" written from a gargoyle's point of view.

This book is at a 7 on a scale of 10 as far as being where I want it to be.  I'd say The Last Fedora is at 8.5, and The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders is at a 8.5.  (8.5 is probably the highest I'm willing to give myself.  When I write that 10, in my own head, that's the day I'll know I've arrived.)  I'm hoping that with Bren's input, I can get TMPDGM's up to a 9.

I'm going to set Gargoyle Dreams aside for a month, do a little research, then come back to it and try to get it up to speed.

Tuskers III is with Lara.  I like the overall plot and ideas and characters of this book.  I was having continuity problems that I was just going around and around on, so I thought maybe Lara could help me on that.  There was some clunky writing.  Some books have more clunky writing than others.

About a third of Tuskers III overlaps with events in Tuskers II, told in different settings and from the POV of different characters, so I'm hoping Lara will tell me if that is too confusing.  Tuskers IV will have overlap with Tuskers II and III, so I'm hoping that won't be a problem.  I won't know until I've finished Tuskers IV whether there will need to be a Tuskers V.

I'm pushing to finish Gargoyle Dreams in the next two days, so off I go...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Faerylander sucking me in again.

My magnum opus -- and my albatross -- Faerylander is beckoning again.

Bren did an edit on it recently and she had some legitimate concerns.  Enough so that I think it would require a complete rewrite to accomplish her suggestions.

Is it good enough? Yes.  It's been "good enough" for some time.  But I have higher ambitions for this book as well as the books that follow.

I've lived with this book for almost 4 years now, rewriting it constantly. As a result, I have the complete book in my head, and I've built a lot of back story.  I still feel it has tons of potential.

But it has become somewhat of a burden.  Each time I walk away from it, I think I'm done; that either I'll publish it as is or I won't -- but that I won't rewrite it again.

And enough time passes and I start thinking, "What if?" again.

Anyway, I started to wonder if I couldn't split the book in half.  That maybe that would straighten up the plot problems.  But no matter how I looked at it, I couldn't figure out the place to break it in half.

The other night, I realized that while it would be difficult to create two books out of this, there were natural splitting points for three books. There would need to be some original material added to make the transitions, to solidify the climaxes, but I can see how it would work.

Thing is, I want to be absolutely sure I've worked out the plot problems BEFORE I start actually working on the book again.  So after I've written my chapter of Gargoyle Dreams each day, I've been turning my attention to Faerylander, mulling it over and over and over and over again.

I think there are three parts:

Faerylander: The War Between Cthulhu and Faery, Part I.
Zombielander: The War Between Cthulhu and Faery, Part II.
Cthulhu-lander: The War Between Cthulhu and Faery, Part III.

What this would probably mean is that I would bring back much of the previously jettisoned material.  Ironically, many of Bren's criticisms were actually things I had removed, that were there previously.

If I do this, there will be tonal differences between and within the three books. But I think that's all right.  The reader can handle it.

The main thing is to have fun.  I think I sort of lost sight of that, trying to make it a serious book. Because the book is such a mess, it has kind of freed me up to do what I want. Probably self-publish it.  I have a cover I bought that I have three different versions of, the same picture of the main character; who has fire added to his hands and feet in the second version; and Cthulhu-like tentacles threatening him in the third version.  Same basic picture, but with enough differences (especially if I use different colors in the titles) that it would pass for parts I, II, and III I think.

So I'm going to work on this project between and while I'm working on my other stuff.  It's easy for me to go back to because it's all firmly in my head and I don't have to reintroduce myself again.  Like I said, I'm going to have a FIRM outline before I start tinkering, otherwise I can see it turning into a morass again.  Really don't want to go there.

But I love this story.  Not to mention, I have two sequels already written which are just fine:  Wolflander and Ghostlander. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gargoyle Dreams almost done.

Nearing the end of Gargoyle Dreams.  Just a few more chapters and I'll finish with the first draft.  I have the ending pretty much outlined and plotted.

Crossed the 50K mark yesterday, which means it is now officially a 'book.'  (Most of my stories seem to run between 55 and 65K words, for some reason.  I could add to them easily enough, but I prefer fast and hopefully entertaining reads.)

In the midst of writing a chapter I suddenly had an inspiration for an Epilogue and wrote it down. I loved it. The true ending. It ties the whole book together.

Most of what I've been writing for the last week-- and will be writing for the next few days -- are action scenes.  Action scenes are easy to write, but hard to write well.  I find if I can visualize an action scene in my head, then I can get it down on paper.  If my action scene is fuzzy, it's better not to even try.  I usually write an action scene, then purposely try to pump it up a little more, because I tend to perhaps be a little too concise -- and a good action scene gets the blood roiling.

I feel like I'm using some clunky language, while the story is coming along nicely.  So I'll have to do some nifty editing to make it all work, but the foundation is solid.

Also have a few continuity problems that have to be addressed.  I think they'll be fine -- I just need to finesse the transitions.  Make sure it's all clear what and when everything is happening.

Always exciting to finish another book.

I really like the idea that a complete story exists, with or without me.  It has its own validity once it's finished.  Doesn't need me anymore.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"No, no. I meant to go swimming..."

Went kayaking for the third time this year.  The first time it took me an hour to load up, the second time 40 minutes, this time 20 minutes.  So I've gotten the hang of it, I think.

We decided on Hosmer Lake this time.  When we visited it early on, it didn't look very attractive, but we were told the lake keeps going, that it had these cool channels.  So we headed out.

Sure enough, the lake was rather beautiful.  Lots of lily pads and tons of birds.  When it was quiet you could hear dozens of different species trilling and squawking and singing and warbling and every kind of noise.  If you went close to to their nesting places they raised a cacophany of protest.

It was a very pleasant temperature, mid-70's, and I started wishing I'd worn a long sleeve shirt.  It wasn't really any cooler than down in the lowlands of Bend, which surprised me.

There were bird sanctuary islands all through the journey.  Hordes of little ducklings following their mothers.  They plupped in and out of water, diving out of sight.  The plup sound was really cute.  Plup. Plup.

Unlike Elk Lake, we couldn't help but run into lots of other boaters.  There was every kind of boat you can think of, all shapes and sizes and colors.  Really interesting to me.  Not just your average kayak, but paddle boats, and pontoons and rowing boats and every kind of kayak.

One problem -- some people couldn't stop jabbering and the sound of their voices carried a long way.  It got so we'd park the kayaks to the side of the channel, let them pass with friendly greetings, and wait until they were out of earshot.

Really, the sounds of nature were incredibly relaxing and interesting.  Not so much people's voices...

About 2 1/2 hours seems to be our usual kayaking experience.  The trip back always goes nearly twice as fast.  We will probably go back to Hosmer, but I would prefer a more private experience if possible. I can't totally and completely let go when I'm constantly running into other people. It's a introvert thing, I guess.

Linda and I have sort of decided to try a different lake every time, at least for awhile.

We made it back to shore.  I got out of the kayak and instantly went backward into the water, which was embarrassing as hell.  People running over to help me, and I'm just saying, "No, no, I meant to go swimming."

Thing was, I didn't feel tired at all -- until I rose up, and then it was like, "Wow," my legs aren't quite as strong as I thought they were.

So then Linda gets up, and she immediately falls over into the water.   I'm sure she just did it out of sympathy....heh.

People seems to want to "help" people like Linda and me, and while I appreciate the sentiment, I'd much rather do it myself.  Gives me some insight to the way my Dad acted in his doddering years -- irritated that you'd try to help him.  Heh.

Was itchy and scratchy last night trying to sleep.  Nature.  

Linda's feet are giving her trouble, so walking -- which is what we used to do -- isn't something we can do together anymore, so kayaking seems perfect for us.

We're still newbies -- but so far, every trip, we've run into other newbies as well.

We got home and forgot to unload the kayaks, so they're still on the car and I'm thinking we should maybe take advantage of that and go for another trip...

But I also want to get back to writing.

Such a pleasant dilemma. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

The "Beautification" racket.

On a periodic basis, the City of Bend tries to get into the beautification racket.  They take a commercial zone, which is usually pretty ugly or rundown, and come up with these marvelous plans to make it look nice.

Galveston is the latest target.

So you might guess what my reaction to that is.

Stay away, City of Bend.  This is a street with stores on it.  If it needs to be beautified, then let the landowners do it. If it isn't pretty, there might be a reason for it.

Most of these plans come to nothing, fortunately.  They had an ambitious plan for 3rd Street for awhile, but I haven't heard much about it.

They had another ambition plan for Greenwood Avenue between 3rd and Bond Street.

This second plan had me slightly concerned since the Bookmark is located on that corner.  But even then I thought the plans too ambitious and grandiose and I couldn't imagine they could swing it.  Not to mention they really didn't have the money for it.

And of course Downtown has always been a target, some of which they've actually managed to do.  Replacing the sidewalks.  That was nice.  Putting in some new trees.  O.K.

But the idea of replacing the sidewalks again fell by the wayside, as far as I know, as well as this insane idea of tearing them up to put a "blue" stripe (representing water) running from the fountain at the base of Hospital Hill to Drake Park.

There is always the lingering danger of closing the streets and making it a Mall, which would be the death of downtown.  Every study I've ever seen has emphasized the importance of cross-traffic.  If it gets "too busy" that a bit like Yogi Berra's complaint about a restaurant.  "No one goes there anymore.  It's too crowded."

They did managed to build a structure near the Radamacher House that was so ill-designed that only the homeless and driftless actually use it.

Basically the rule of thumb should be -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Galveston and Greenwood and 3rd Street are all doing relatively well, occupancy wise.

If you tear up the streets, I guarantee you some of the businesses will NOT survive. Nothing pushes customers away more than construction.  If the construction is Absolutely Necessary, then it can't be helped. Traffic, sewer, drainage, etc.  Those are legit reasons to tear things up.

To Beautify?  Not so much.  I don't object to the Parks being beautified; that doesn't disrupt private business.

In my own store, I've come to realize that while you have to be presentable, and you want to be as beautiful as you can be, it is not as connected actual viability as you might think.  Given an esthetic choice between having lower sales by more attractive display, or less attractive display but better sales, I'll take the latter.

Because if I don't stay in business, nothing else matters.

Again, I emphasize -- these are private business that line these streets.  To put them out of business because you don't like their looks is a crazy thing to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Work = Time.

I often mention I don't like rewriting, but I don't want anyone to think I don't do it.  A lot of rewriting is routine and happens on a constant basis.  That is, every time I find words or phrasing I don't like, I try to change them, every time I feel a scene isn't working, I work on it until it does.

No, I think the Work part comes when I've done all that and I still want to try to make the book better.  As if there was a magical formula, as if I'm going to suddenly get smarter, deeper and more talented than before.

Which just makes me stare at the page and when I make changes, doubt whether it helps.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.

Anyway, I don't think creativity can be Forced.  I think it has to be coaxed.

That requires time, it requires perspective, it requires multiple chances to look at the material and catch mistakes and make improvements.

In other words, it isn't something you do with sweat -- it isn't like digging ditches.

So what Work in rewriting really means is taking the Time to try to do it right.

It's hard when you know a book already works -- that it is 90% of the way there, that it is "good enough."  But I have tried very hard to hold myself to a higher standard.

Which means giving the manuscript time.  Writing it at the right pace, setting it aside, submitting it to Lara and to Linda (if she's available), and to writer's group (as much as possible; I write faster than there are meetings to read.)  If I still feel it needs works, I'll wrestle with it after it comes back from editing, and very occasionally I'll send it to Bren, who is someone who isn't afraid to point out bigger problems.

Really, it isn't so much that I'm not willing to take these extra steps, but that I can't always get my Beta readers to help because they lead their own lives, damn it.  And I can't really afford to keep having these books edited for money because they aren't earning a whole lot more than I'm paying out.

So whenever I get that feeling that I need to Work at it, I just remind myself to give myself the Time to coax out the better version.

Time = Work. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My identity as a "writer."

If doing is being, then I'm a writer.

I've always had a hard time calling myself a writer.  To me, a writer makes his living by writing, and I don't do that.

However, whether I choose 'writer' as my identity or not, there is no denying that I'm mostly writing these days.  That is, when I wake up and decide what I'm going to do, it's always about writing.  When I go to bed at night, I'm thinking about what I'm going to write the next day.

I schedule around my writing, not the other way around.  I make space for writing -- whether I'm writing or not.  And then, of course, I write.

I mean, it's pretty unavoidable.  It does seem to be who I am right now.  Almost everything feels else like a distraction.

I nurture the time, the energy, and most especially the dream space.  That kind of floating feeling I get when I'm trying to be creative, where the present becomes hazy, the future non-existent, and the past is made of dreams and visions.

All other concerns get pushed aside, if possible.

I've settled into this life, and I am surprised by how much I'm doing and how much I like it.

I'm close to finishing Gargoyle Dreams.  It's a good, solid book.

That makes three solid books in a row that I'm very proud of:  The Last Fedora: the Gangster Golem Chronicles; and The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders; and now Gargoyle Dreams.

They emerged smoothly.  They kept my interest all the way through.  I think they pay off.  I'm impressed with myself, by god. 

I'm going to just keep writing, as long as possible.  Whether I call myself a writer or not, I'm pretty much a writer in practice.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Publishing frequency.

It's interesting to me that Tuskers

Is slightly outselling Tuskers II.

I think that's a good thing, assuming that people like Tuskers enough to read the sequel.  Which I think will happen if the sequel is readily available.

It kind of affirms my thought that having steady releases helps sell books.  I researched the whole momentum thing when I started and saw that most books have a rather dramatic dropoff after about 5 or 6 months.

So having Tuskers II come out 4.5 months after Tuskers probably was good timing.  Having Tuskers III come out at the same frequency would probably also be a good idea.

I think it's a lot like my store.  (I find lots of similarities to my business in writing.)

The one thing you have to have is a steady flow of new product.  This is almost more important than anything else you can do.  I'll delay paying myself, put off other bills, in order to get a steady supply.  If you don't do this, you're dead.

Sadly, many stores cut back on buying product when they have cashflow problems, which would seem to make sense on the surface, but in the end sends out the wrong message to your customers.  Never cut off the steady flow of material.

New product brings them in and reminds them of old product.  It's crucial.

It doesn't mean you have to go crazy -- but it almost always means you're in uncomfortable territory if you're trying to get ahead of the market.

I see some publishers doing similar things, either because of finances or because they are feeling overwhelmed.  I think it's a bad idea to delay publication for too long.  A really bad idea.  But they are the boss of me in these things, as long as I want to have a publisher. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Unfinished books.

At 41K words I'm more than 2/3rds of the way through Gargoyle Dreams.  I've always finished a book I've gotten this far into.  (I've stalled at 30K words a few times.)

The plot is completely worked out, including the ending, so it's just a matter of sitting down everyday and doing my 1000 words or so and I'll be done another couple of weeks.

Which kind of brings me to another subject.

I have about 8 books I've finished that I wasn't satisfied with.  I always figured I would go back and redo them.

The thing is, it would take about the same amount of time to "fix" these books as it would to write a new book.  And the new books are probably going to be better.  These older books have problems, some of which can't really be solved adequately.

As new ideas come to me, these older books are receding into the past, and I'm now beginning to wonder if I'll ever go back and try to make them better.

Thing is, in spite of myself I do believe I'm getting better.  Just because of having written so much.  I'm much more comfortable with the whole process, the words seem to come easier, I tend to make less mistakes.  The process has become routine, the results are better.

It kind of blows my mind that I would let 500K words just go to waste.  I mean, it wasn't wasted experience.  It's how I did learn to get better.  But wow.  That's a lot of unused material.

Maybe I'll hit a creative wall, and no new ideas will come to me.  So I'll have these books as backup to work on, if that happens.

I still want to try to save Faerylander, but it needs the most work of all.  I'll just keep making stabs at it and hope a miracle happens.

I have 3 new books finished that I think are ready to be published.  (The Last Fedora: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders; Tuskers III). Gargoyle Dreams is almost finished, and I hope to get Tuskers IV written very soon.  I have the new Virginia Reed adventure I want to write.  That's not even counting any new ideas I might get along the way. (I'm always going to try to write what I think is a good strong idea -- squeeze it in somehow.)

Only then can I really think about getting back to one of those older books.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Street Closure Rant #2

My friend Paul complained that I've done insufficient ranting about street closures this year.

Well, hell.  I've given up.  If it isn't obvious by now that street closures are counter productive, what will make it obvious?

Pegasus Books is well into it's 36th year of business downtown.  I long ago decided to let everyone else make their own choices, and I'd go my own way.  That appears to have been the right choice.  Most everyone that told me I was wrong over the years is gone, long gone.

The best example is the business owner who told me the street closures "are the best thing we've ever done" and who was gone two days later.  Literally.  Glad it helped.

But you know what?  Just go downtown on a non-event weekend in the summer and tell me we haven't succeeded already.  The streets are packed with shoppers and diners.

Sometimes it's best to let downtown be downtown.

But...we've decided that isn't good enough.  Better to distract them with other things.  Music and outside venders and just about anything else that isn't pointed at our stores.  Let them spend money with outside vendors, and drive away the regulars.

Actually, "decided" isn't the right word.  This stuff is on autopilot now.  Events continue to grow in numbers and sizes and no one says "Enough!"

We're like a guy in a hole who was dying from lack of water, and we get a pail of water thrown on us.  We say, Thank You, Sir, do it again.  And when the hole is so full of water we've drowned, the water just keeps on sloshing. Because the guy sloshing the water needs his job, and the guy who sells the water makes money, and it is fun to watch. Or taxes collected to build something and it gets built and we keep on building until the structure falls over. Or...I don't know what.  When is enough enough?

It doesn't hurt my store as much as it used to, because I've learned to mainstream my store.  If they're going to drive away my regulars, then I'd better have something for the non-regulars, right?  It was a natural evolution to my store, and one could even say, "See, we've helped you adapt."

I've never trusted that reasoning, though.  It's a bit like a bully saying, "See? Beating you up all the time made you stronger?"  Uh, thanks?  Besides, this evolution happened because of the changes downtown, not the street closures.

The truth is, events aren't really for the downtown stores.  We're just the enablers.  We've been told that it's good for us and no one can prove otherwise. I've been told to shut up, it's for the public, but you know there are plenty of public spaces.  We pay rent throughout the year, only to have our space taken over during the busiest months.  Even the Old Mill doesn't close their streets for events, nor do any of the other private shopping malls.  Why do you suppose that is?

Yesterday we did probably about half of what I would have expected on a Saturday in July.  Sure, it was cloudy and rainy, but you know what?  That is usually a good formula for business in the summer, as tourists look for something else to do.  But not this time.

So there's my rant.  Not that it's going to change anything. 


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Theme music.

I've always wanted to write a book accompanied by theme music.  An album or an artist that I would listen to exclusively while writing.

When I was a kid, my older brother Michael got the lead role in a summer production of The Fantasticks. 

It happened to be the same summer than I was reading Lord of the Rings. Mike played the album incessantly to learn the lyrics.   So I heard those songs over and over and over again, all summer.

To this day, I can't hear "Try to remember the kind of September" without waves of Hobbit nostalgia washing over me.

Now LOTR's had a huge impact on me.  Obviously.  I realize I'm not the only one, but at the time it seemed like it.  It was mid-sixties, and while LOTR's wasn't unknown, it wasn't yet the force it would be.  At least, at the time, it seemed like I was the only one to have read it.  (Not counting my sisters, Betsy and Susie who fought over control of the paperbacks all summer.)

Anyway, I've always wondered if I couldn't use a similar musical theme as motivation while writing a book.

Recently, I started listening to Born to Run every morning, all the way through.  The album really doesn't fit what I'm writing, but somehow the music charges me up.  Makes me want to write.  (And really, how many albums could be listened to everyday, really?)

When Born to Run came out, (1975?) I'd probably not purchased an album in five or six years.  In fact, I probably hadn't listened to music much during that time.  I was in the deepest throes of my depression, and wasn't really paying much attention to anything.

So buying Born to Run to me is one of those signs that I was coming out of my depression, if only a little.  The medication was working.  (I hated it, but at least it got me out of the blackest moments.)

Born to Run was like an elixir to me.  It charged me up. There was something so hopeful and energizing about it.  I found The Clash and Elvis Costello not long after that and I reengaged with music know, life.

So Born to Run is still a huge pleasure for me. I don't think about it, I just let it wash over me.  And when the album is done, I get up and start writing Gargoyle Dreams.

It isn't quite what I had in mind, but it's wonderful anyway.

Maybe I need a brand new album to use -- some classic just coming out -- and then apply that to the next book.

But this is the next best thing.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Slacking off.

Well, relatively.

I think it wouldn't hurt to slow down.  But I don't want to slow down so much I stall. 

There is so much rewriting I want to do, and need to do.  Want to do as in "Having Rewritten."

I just don't like rewriting; there is no way around that.  It is something I need to do and I usually get the job done.  But it is a "job."

In my younger days I'd sit down with a beer or two and that was my reward and my motivation and hours would go by and I'd have done the task.  But I can't seem to drink a couple of beers and not pay the price anymore.  So that doesn't really work.

Anyway, as long as I make sure each book I release is as finished as I can make it -- including the rewrites -- then I'm doing what I should be doing.

So far so good.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Too many books?

How many is too many?

Too many are any books after mine.  Heh.  I mean, I want in.

That's the thing that is most noticeable to me.  Just how many books there are in the world.

I asked Cameron if any of my books had sold in the store.  "Yeah, I've sold a bunch of Led to the Slaughter."

"Did tell them the owner wrote it?"

"No...they just liked the idea of it.  They read the description on the back and they find it interesting."

Which is pleasing to me.  That the idea itself can sell the book.

Got my second only 1 star review, after mostly 4 and  5 star reviews.   I checked out the guys other reviews and he gave a 1 star to everyone.  Every single novel.  He gave a 4 star review to a non-fiction book about firearms.  Methinks he needs a new way of discovering books, or else quit reading fiction altogether. Meh.

Went to the doctor yesterday for my yearly checkup and it discombobulated me enough that I didn't write.  (Didn't sleep the night before.)  For someone who writes so much, it doesn't take much to throw me off track. Which is why I'm so ruthless about making time.

Working today at the store, so don't need to worry about the book for now.

Just taking care of business.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Linda -- an audience of one.

Sometimes an audience of one is enough. 


I'm lucky to have her.  I spent all day yesterday struggling over a consequential chapter of Gargoyle Dreams.  One that wasn't easy to do, one that I had my doubts about.

"It's great," Linda says when I read it to her.

Look, writing is isolating enough already.  I have a hard time imagining how I could continue to do it without Linda's wholehearted support. 

"I like your writing.  There is something....sweet about it."


"Yeah, it feels good."

Hey, I'll take it.  I mean I write horror.  She should be terrified, right? "ugh, it's terribly scary!" might be a better comment.

I think it's because we are so compatible, so simpatico.  She gets what I'm trying to do.  She relates.  If anything, I might want her to be more critical.  I tell her that.

"But I like your writing.  I think you're doing it just right."

Arrrghh.  A very mild, pleased arrrghh.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Settling in.

I'm 35K words into Gargoyle Dreams.  A slow pace for me, about 1000 words a day.

But that fits the schedule just fine.  I can finish the first draft by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, I'm going to make that extra effort on The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders.  I'm having Bren go over it, I'm also asking for some Beta Readers, and I'll be making a hard copy to work on myself. 

I've been doing something a little different over the last week. Changing the process.

I've been writing the original first draft on Gargoyle Dreams in the morning, and the editing on TMPDGM's in the afternoon.  I've never done that before, but it seems more than doable.  In fact, that may be the way to do things going forward.  Instead of one or the other, just separate them by sessions. 

The original stuff has to come first, that I know, but the editing can come after.

Tuskers III should come back to me from Lara around the first week of August, so I think I can completely finish it by around the middle of September, which will help keep that nice 4.5 months between releases.

So sort of settling into a regular schedule, which is nice.  The newness of this whole experience has worn off, but I'm encouraged enough by my progress to keep on going.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders extra step..

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders is finished, and I like it a lot.

I like the title and the subject matter and I think the writing came out smooth and clean and the structure of the novel works.  (Usually, I feel that one of these things is lacking a little.)

I like it so much, that even though I think it is good -- as good as anything I've done -- the way it is, I'm going to take the extra step to try to make it even better, if possible.  My friend Bren has agreed to read it, and she usually holds my feet to the fire when it comes to making a book work well, so I'm going to take the extra month or so it takes to do that.

She isn't always available.

While I'm at it, I'm going to see if I can't find a couple of beta readers. 

And print up a hard copy myself and give it one more going over. 

This book will be as strong as I can make it.  I'm looking for a little extra depth, if possible, and a WOW! factor if at all possible.

Heh.  Not that I'm not always trying for that...

Saturday, July 4, 2015

C-Span is interesting to Dweebs like me.

It's interesting to watch C-Span panels on the publishing industry.  (Yes, C-Span can be interesting if you're a dweeb like me.)

You have the brash techno types who think traditional publishing is doomed.  "You've got 5 years, maybe."

You have the old line publishers who think they're just fine, and books and bookstores are making a comeback.  (They don't sound very confident about it, though.)  "New bookstores are opening up!  Books are selling!  Really!"

You have the flaky pseudo tech people who have some strange notions of hybrids that will take off.  ("Kids want interactive elements in their books"?  No they want them in their games, dude.)

Really no one knows and they all seem scared and uncertain.

So here I am at the perfect nexus.  I own a bookstore and I'm a writer who sells mostly on Amazon's tech platform. 

I haven't a clue.  I do think books are going to last, but here's the thing. Books have never sold all that well, as far as I can tell.  Thousands of people downtown and few are looking for a book, even the vast majority of people who come in the door of my store. So it's a matter of degree.

And the digital is not the answer for the vast majority of writers, who will never be discovered no matter how good they are.

So, just saying, there aren't any answers here.  It's possible that nothing will really work, but books will still get written anyway.

Oh, boy.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Automatic Edit Mode.

I often talk about how I don't much like editing.  I wish I was one of those authors who loves going over their manuscripts again and again.

I believe in a light touch.  I'm leery of messing too much with what I've written.  On the other hand, I'm open to any improvements.

Anyway, an interesting thing has happened as I've gotten back the edits from Lara and Bren and others over the last couple of years.  I find myself incorporating their suggestions into my new writing.  And I find that I automatically change the wording of things upon the second reading, almost without thinking. 

It's tempting to just "accept changes" when there are a lot of them.  After all, I think 99% of them are correct, so what am I gaining by checking them all?

But I find that if I understand what the editors did, that I can avoid the same mistakes the next time.  A steady learning process.  I do believe I'm making fewer mistakes, and that my writing is becoming more "active" with every attempt. 

This may be what they mean by "craft."  Maybe I'm just learning the craft. 

My attitude all along has been to write the stories as they come to me, and of course rewrite them until the story comes across.  But there is another step which I'm often tempted to take -- to really bear down and "Work" at it with a capital W.

I purposely decided not to do this -- because it has always been a recipe to me for writer's block.  And I'm not sure it helps.  That is, I feel like these really "Worked" out answers are often 2 steps forward and 3 steps back.  I've always sort of held the idea of really you know "Working" it in reserve, but until now, I've tried to keep the stories fresh and unhindered.

But it seems to be happening anyway -- not so much the "Work" as the necessary changes.  That is, by writing so much and being diligent and trying (without bearing down) to make it better, I'm improving despite myself.

Good to go.

Got The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders back from Lara, my editor.

She was fine with it.  "A Duncan McGeary story, but with much more sex? What's not to like? :)"

She didn't have a problem with the sexual politics of it.

"And I didn't think the sex was gratuitous or overly explicit. It seemed just right to me in a book about succubae. (You might warn your fan base, though, in case some of them have more delicate sensibilities than I do. lol)"
I'm trying to figure out how to do that.  I thought of having a tagline of something like, "A Sexual Thriller," but I don't want to imply that it is porn, either. I've been getting comments about how my violence isn't over the top and that I don't use the "F" work too much, so this might be a bit of a changeup.
But it is what it is.  I went through her editing yesterday, and I think the book is more of less ready.  I want to go through Linda's beta-reading of the book, as well as what the writer's group suggested, but there are no big changes I think need be made.
It's ready to go. 
I'll polish it up over the next few days and offer it to Ragnarok and hope they can fit it in sometime before the end of the year.  
Good to go.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Annual checkup.

So I'm having my annual checkup next week.  It's all about renewing my cholesterol medication, basically.  The whole annual thing seems like such a waste.  Nothing has changed.  No need.

Anyway, they insist, right?

So I go in early this morning to have my blood drawn.  Bad enough I have to wait an hour but I have to wait an hour with no coffee!!!  It's a full 20 minute drive away, as well.

I don't know why it takes so long.  The actual blood drawing takes less than 5 minutes, but I don't think more than abut 5 or 6 people were getting done per hour.

I'm not looking forward to this getting older thing and this sitting in doctors' offices thing.  I'm going to have to develop some Zen attitude.

Or finally get a game app on my phone.  Or maybe just take my laptop and write.  Heh.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Talk about talking to yourself!

It's almost like my subconscious creative mind is in charge now.

When I started writing again, I was consciously wooing this part of my mind, trying to activate it, looking for ways to cultivate it, to get it going.

Now, I almost wouldn't mind taking a break, but my subconscious is saying, "No, no.  You wanted this..."

And I'll be damned if I'm going to refuse it.  It might run away and hide again.  I wouldn't want that.


Brain exploded all over my pillow.

Gargoyle Dreams has been going slower than I expected, though probably not slowly by most people's standards.

However, I'm finding the delays seem to be giving my subconscious time to come up with more intricate plots.

Last night, my brain exploded all over my pillow.

I was just trying to think of the next chapter, instead the whole rest of the book came to me.  Much bigger story than I started out with.  What I thought was going to be the climax is just a lead up to the real climax. 

What completely amazes me about this is that I planted the seeds for this bigger ending all the way through the story without really realizing it.  And yet, there they are.  Absolutely what I need to make the plot work.  Don't really have to do much rewriting either, just go back and jigger a few things, maybe put in a few hints and portents, but mostly it's all there.  How does that happen?

Spooky action at a distance, I tell you.