Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Carrying Jigsaw Puzzles.

There are certain products that I'm constantly tempted by.

Warhammer is probably the best example. I like their miniatures, I like the idea of painting them, of creating a panorama. But every bit of information I have, including my own aborted experience, tells me it would be a bad idea. We can in no way do them, don't ask.

Jigsaw puzzles are another product I've often thought should work. We tried it at Linda's store, and they did poorly. I'm not sure if it was just the wrong venue or because we didn't have the right puzzles or because jigsaw puzzles just don't sell well.

We've carried a smattering of jigsaw puzzles over the years. People ask, we show them, and they walk away.

Anyway, in the course of working at the store, I tend to move things around. Yesterday I realized I'd opened a good space for displaying jigsaw puzzles face out. Even more importantly, we could have them at eye-level instead of high up the way.

So now the question becomes--can I get good jigsaw puzzles from my book distributor? (I can't afford to open an account with jigsaw puzzle makers--there are minimums, and it restricts me to whatever company I decide on.)

I've always had a bit of a problem figuring out what posters and t-shirts people want. Put bluntly, my tastes are apparently not what people want. I think a design is really cool and no one buys it. I think a design is ugly and it sells out.

I called Brandon at Herringbone Books in Redmond asking for advice.

"Easy," he said. "Order the opposite of what you like."

I asked a lady in the store yesterday what kind of jigsaw puzzles she liked.

"Thomas Kincade," she said.

I tried not to roll my eyes. Aesthetic taste is individual, after all. But to me, Kincade is like a cake with whipped cream on top of chocolate frosting on top of syrup on top a cup of sugar.

In contrast, I have a Frazetta puzzle. "Deathdealer." What middle-aged woman doesn't want that?

Anyway, in the end, I sort of blurred my eyes and ordered the pictures that popped. The ones that were visually arresting, no matter the content. (Though I did take Brandon's advice and tried to order nature pictures.)

The puzzles are going to be here by Thanksgiving. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Poverty with a View.

How do I say this without being snide, which is not my intention. This is not so much a, "You should have known better" as a "Let me give you a warning."

There's an article in the Bulletin about 'artist spaces' being priced out of the market. The owners of a gallery said they thought the rents would stay somewhat stable for "nine years." All I can say to that is, the last 30 years of growth should have given them pause.

Anyway, as the article says, this is a constant problem. Artists move into a place, make it cool, and then get priced out. This describes what happened to downtown Bend. There's just a few of us merchants left who moved into the area when rents were low. The rents have steadily risen. I chose to stay in downtown Bend because it felt to me as if the foot-traffic was keeping up. We're in a bit of a sweetspot for Bend--the rent can be covered by the customer count. Barely. Once I figured out that I needed to mainstream the store, it became possible to stay.

As the article says,  "Finding a space that's affordable and provides walk-in retail traffic can be hard for an artist."

It's called Gentrification, and it happens everywhere.

But it happens more often, I believe, in Bend.

"Poverty with a view."  The idea that Bend is so cool that people can charge higher rent; but the returns are not what people think.

The problem is that people are somewhat fooled by the look and feel of Bend. The population numbers don't look too bad, as a standalone number. But what no one seems to see is that it is an isolated population. Past Madras and La Pine it is nothing but sagebrush and pine. We are nowhere near an interstate. Our four year college is at its early stages.

We aren't Portland. We aren't even Eugene, Medford, or Salem, all of whom have roughly double the metro area population. And all are a half an hour away from another metro area.

I had owned my store for a decade before I finally realized that there was a glass ceiling imposed by the population and isolation of Bend.

As far as there being wealthy people in Bend. Well, no one comes into my store and says, "I'm rich and I'm going to spend tons of money." That's not the way it works.

I don't know if there is any way to warn people who choose to open businesses in Bend. I'm probably the only one saying it out loud. But here it is--make sure you have plenty of margin for error.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Why are fantasy books so unsatisfying?

I keep having the same experience. Someone recommends a fantasy series, or a fantasy series wins tons of awards, and I'm hungry for a good fantasy, and so I finally take the plunge.

Most of the time, I'm disappointed.

It comes down to the world building, I think. 

Most fantasies I read seem half-baked and/or incoherent. I can tell when the author finally figures out the world they're writing about, usually well into the book. But even then, most fantasy authors aren't consistent. The premise is often gimmicky or obviously intellectually constructed, and yet they are rarely original.

When they are original, they are so artificially constructed that they are annoying. That is, they are trying so hard not to be standard fantasy that they go off the rails.

These misses are mostly latter-day fantasies. When I first became disillusioned with fantasy books was because they followed the formula a little too much. I went away from reading fantasies for a couple of decades, though I was lured back on a regular basis by someone's insistence that THIS fantasy was different.

And they rarely were.

Well, which is it, Duncan? Too standard or too different? Will anything satisfy you?

I don't actually care if it's standard fantasy or a upside down version of one--as long as they are well written, consistent, and well thought out.

Every decade or so I find a series I like. Which is pretty slim pickings. I'm probably a little too picky. Maybe I was spoiled by my early discoveries. Lord of the Rings; REH's Conan; Narnia; the Earthsea Trilogy; the Elric books-- are still the best fantasies out there. I found that old pros in SF also constructed some very satisfying fantasy: Jack Vance, Robert Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle, that kind of thing.

But pure fantasy writers struggle to really nail it.

One problem is that almost all fantasies are not stand-alone. So you have to read an entire series-- which, if I don't like the first book, I don't--and that is very unsatisfying.  SF and mystery books are more often stand-alone books, even if they are part of a series. So that's what I've been reading for the last 30 years.

I always thought when I came back to writing that it would be fantasy. Instead, I've been writing soft SF, thrillers, horror, and dark fantasy. Epic fantasy is something I want to try sometime--but only if I can avoid the above criticisms.

Of the more recent fantasy series, I can narrow down the ones that I thought were great to a few:

"A Song of Ice and Fire," by George R.R. Martin is every bit as good as it is given credit for.

"The Kingkiller Chronicles," by Patrick Rothfuss, while not perfect, are very good.

and a third, less known series, that I highly recommend;

"World of Five Gods," by Lois McMaster Bujold.

That's about it.

I'm not going to say the name of the writers and books that I haven't liked. But believe me, I've tried most of the ones people are likely to recommend. Many fantasy books are competent and moderatelly entertaining, but I'm looking for something more than that.

What happens whenever I talk about this is that people will say, "Oh, you need to try this!" and then the cycle starts all over again. I'll be sucked in again, because I truly love fantasy. And maybe I'll get lucky.

In the meantime, back to my SF and mysteries.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

When you've been lucky.

When you've been as lucky as I've been, I don't think it behooves me to express my opinions about everything. I'm grateful, because I don't figure I completely earned it.

OK boomer is totally fair. It's time for our generation to let the younger generation take over.

I slipped through this life somehow. Was talking to a friend of my dad's yesterday at the store. "I had rough 20s," I said. She nodded. Then I blurted, "But I had a great 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s!" And I meant it.

I'm not sure I did anything to deserve how well things have gone. I can easily see parallel universes where it all went off the rails, more than once. And, I do admit, it was tough keeping the store going for a long time. We have always lived modestly. But we came out the other side.

This sounds way too smug--and I don't blame you for thinking, "fuck this guy," but no doubt there is a comeuppance in the hear future. If my little heart attack did one thing, it made me grateful for what I have.

I'm enjoying the store. I was worried the first couple of weekends I worked because I was so tired, but I think I'm getting acclimated. Sunday and Monday this week were both pretty busy, and it's just so great to see people coming in the store in a steady stream. This still feels unusual to me, though it's been happening for a while. I think the slow years will forever be my starting perception. Sometimes when it's really busy, it's like being a ringmaster of a three-ring circus, and just the negotiating of all the difficulties is very satisfying.

"Deadfall Ridge" continues to sell in larger numbers than I expected. Of course, at .99 cents the money doesn't amount to much, but I'm vain enough to enjoy the higher numbers of downloaders even if it doesn't make me rich.

They made the repairs on the ceiling yesterday. Was closed for the first hour of the store. Came in and they had completely fixed the problem. Way smoother than I expected. I had to empty the middle of the store Sunday night and then put it all together again on Monday.

I drove to the store about 11:45, or 45 minutes past the normal opening. The parking lot was completely full, top to bottom, because of the Veterans Day parade. Since I had a sign on the door, "Closed for Repairs," I just drove away, spent another half hour at Big Story buying some books, then came back as the flood of people left downtown. Not a huge number of customers, but the ones who were there spent more than normal.

If nothing else, coming back to the store has reassured me about its health.

Going to see Terminator today. Saw Zombieland last week, which was mildly amusing. I'm avoiding downer movies like Joker and The Lighthouse. No doubt they're good, but I'm just not in the mood. I've been enjoying Jack Ryan on Amazon for the same reason. No angst, just intrigue.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Watching the shitstorm.

A large percentage of my Facebook friends are in the horror community. Over the last few days, there has been a bit of a shitstorm. A horror writer announced that he was leaving the field because of how he'd been treated for complaining about not being paid by a small but prestigious horror publisher.

Apparently, most writers had been too afraid to speak up. Once the damn broke, a flood of stories came spilling out about said publisher. Not just about not being paid, but about being mistreated.

Ironically, the whole thing started with some of the followers of said publisher jumping on the writer. Slowly, but surely, the worm turned. Now the publisher is definitely on the defensive. To the point where you wonder if it will survive.

Trouble with this, of course, is that a lot of innocent writers are also going to be harmed. On the other hand, such behavior needs to be held to account.

I've stayed out of it, because I've never dealt with the publisher in question.

The small press horror community exists because the major publishers more or less turned their backs on horror. (It still seems ironic that a genre that includes Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Clive Barker, and a seemingly endless tide of Netflix horror movies could be considered too small to bother with.)

Small publishers came along to pick up the slack, but like the many comic and game and bookstores I've seen over the last 40 years (including mine) they are under-capitalized to say the least. Many are unprofessional.

I've had three publishers fold from under me. Fortunately, all of them had the integrity to pay what they owed and to release me from contracts. One of my current publishers--Crossroads Press-- pays me monthly, which I think is pretty much unheard of.

It just seems to be part of the business these days.

Even though I'm not involved--despite being Facebook friends--I'm sort of an outsider. I mean, I was really impressed about how my books were accepted by the horror community, but I haven't met any of these writers or publishers in real life.

The drama is fascinating, like watching a car wreck. I just saw a fatal car crash a couple of days ago--it went by in a blink and I had the feeling of being a spectator, of also watching it all happen in slow-motion as if from a distance.

Life is messy.

Monday, November 4, 2019

I like the store.

I've realized that I really like my store. I mean, I was away writing for 6 or 7 years, and I did need a break from customer service, but it didn't mean I didn't enjoy Pegasus. I just wanted to write so badly (and I did that, write badly) (Linda objects to my self-deprecation. I don't mean it, by the way, I think my books are pretty good) that I focused on that for a long time.

But now that I'm back paying attention, I realize that I like hanging around the store. I've been doing little cleanups around the edges. For instance, when I worked full-time I would regularly clean the front of the store by getting on my hands and knees with some windex and paper towels and just wipe, foot by foot. It works, it really doesn't take that much time, and it always looks so much better. I'm not blaming Sabrina for not doing that. It's my fault for not having a better method of cleaning than that--but it always worked for me.

So I go around all day and wipe things down, and try to get the vacuum unclogged and picking up detritus around all the edges. Straightening up is a constant. It's really what makes the store look clean and tidy--even if, when you look closer--it may not be that,

Eventually, I'm hoping to start bagging some of the comics for backstock. I'm going to start with the big titles: Batman, Spider-man, Avengers. Then move my way through the rest until I run out of room. Which won't take long.

It was good to take a break, though. The little things were starting to get to me and I was overreacting, so I've come back with more perspective. I hope. And I'm trying not to let it get me down.

People can be interesting, and I enjoy talking to folks. I was missing that when I was away writing.

Anyway, I'm enjoying being back at the store more than I thought I would.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Bob Dylan is a genius. Well, duh.

I've been listening to a lot of Bob Dylan over the last couple of months. Apparently, his stuff has finally made it to YouTube. Before that you could see some of his later concert stuff--good luck with finding anything good there.

Anyway, I've come to realize that I had more or less stopped paying attention to Dylan after Nashville Skyline. There are several albums in the next few years that are equally brilliant. I've been listening especially to Blood on the Tracks and Desire.

My favorite Dylan song of all time is Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts--though I couldn't tell you what it's about.

The mid-Seventies were pretty bad for music--at least on the radio. I'd all but stopped listening until Springsteen came along. After that, I was all in with punk and post-punk and onward.

Amazing to be semi-retired and able to explore YouTube for all the music I missed.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Keep it Simple, Stupid.

I run my business--and my life, more or less--on Occam's Razor, on the 20/80 rule, and on a general averaging of numbers. In other words, "Keep it Simple, Stupid."

When I impart advice--which is hardly ever asked for and even less listened to--I try to keep it to one simple thing: "Don't complicate your business or you will burn out." Period.

The secret to my success--if success it can be called; more like the secret to my survival--is that I have over time cut everything extraneous to my core business. My job is to carry product people might want to buy.

Despite all the above, my business is, in fact, pretty complicated. But it is complicated because of the diverse product I carry. That's been reinforced lately by my coming back to work. I'm way behind on comics and graphic novels, which after all contain multiple universes. Heh. Fortunately, my manager Sabrina, has a good grasp on what's going on and she is here most of the time when it matters.

Meanwhile, I feel as though I'm very much up on books and I'm here often enough to get a good gauge on what's going on.

The other products--games, toys, card games, etc.--are sidelines and therefore don't call for us to know every little thing there is to know. I accept lower sales because of that. In fact, that may be where the "Keep it Simple, Stupid" idea comes into play the most.

Of these sidelines, games has always been the most seductive. There have been short periods where I have been the only place in town who carries a wide variety. But what I have learned over the last 40 years is that a new game store is always coming to town. There is always a place where people can go and play. This is doubly true of card games. And since I can never do that--I don't have the time, space, or expertise--going all in on games, no matter how alluring, is always a bad idea.

Anyway, over the last 15 years of so, the store has finally combined a mix that seems to be self-sustaining. This could change at any time, but right now, there's some flexibility in how I spend the money.

And I'm still trying to simplify.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The deep end.

Well, that was intriguing and daunting.

Sabrina called in sick, so I showed up at the store on Wednesday, otherwise known as "New Comic Release" day. I grabbed the comics off the counter and started putting them out. So far, so good. I'd spent the previous Sunday and Monday exploring the nooks and crannies of the comics shelves, trying to figure out what the current titles and trends were.

Luckily, I had the comics out before the onslaught began. In piled a bunch of shelf customers. (We have a shelf system where we hold comics for regulars.) Half of these customers I didn't even know. But I was enthused about how interested they seemed.

Ringing up $4 and $5 comics is still a bit of a wrench for me. I bite my tongue. Time has moved on. The past is a foreign country. This is the way of things and those up-to-date have no problem with it.

Anyway, before I know it, I'm swamped. I stay swamped for the next hour. Toward the end of the hour, the most voluble of my shelf people come in and start talking about comics and I don't really have a clue what they're talking about, and I try faking it for awhile (which I'm pretty good at and have plenty of practice) before I finally throw up my hands and admit, "I have no idea what's going on."

So every time someone asks something I don't know, I look it up on my computer. I'm in full steaming research mode by now, as well as trying to reorder everything people are looking for, and trying to figure out who wants what.

I ring up the total when there is a moment of temporary quiet, and I realize I've rung up more than our daily average in just one hour. And it sort of freaks me out.

The two guys are still talking about comics at the top of their voices and I interject a comment here and there (mostly historical context--that's what an old guy is good for--historical context) and finally I just stop mid-sentence and say, "You guys need to get out of here, I've got work to do."

Thankfully, they don't take offense.

The rest of the day is more normal, but I'm aware the whole time how deep in the pool I am and barely treading water.

What's amazing is this was normal for me for 25 years or so. Could I do it again? Man, I don't know. I'd probably find a way, but wow.

It makes me appreciate Sabrina even more. I've left her to deal with this stress, and bless her, I'm going to try to help out more. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Some legs on that beast.

I'd thought maybe that Crossroads Press would resubmit "Deadfall Ridge" for a domestic BookBub after the international one was done.

Instead, starting around the first of this month, the book seemed to start selling in the US anyway. So much so that I think we're already scooping up those people who want to buy it for 99 cents. Last two days have been the highest sales so far.

Of course, at 99 cents, minus Amazon and my publisher's cut, there isn't a lot left over, but it's still cool to know that people are finding the book. Still getting mostly good reviews, too. Extra bonus, six new reviews in the UK, which apparently has its own ratings system. Five 5 stars, and one 2 star. Still selling in the UK after a month and a half, while in Australia and Canada, it stopped selling after about three weeks.

The only thing missing is some kind of crossover effect. It amazes me that I can sell so many of one book, and hardly any of my other books. Just goes to show that there is only as much space for new readers as one book at a time, if that makes sense.

I'm tickled that people seem to like the book. I thought, personally, that it was a little far-fetched. I tried to leaven it with a bit of humor-- the ever-present, decaying, stinking, bullet-proof Bigfoot costume. Too much for a couple of reviewers, just the right amount of weird for a couple others.

"Takeover," the sequel, was meant to be much more serious. Especially at first. In the end, I reformatted it as a straight thriller, with all the crazy stuff that entails. Every time I try to write "serious," I can't seem to quite pull it off. But I think I have the chops to provide enough thrills and spills to do a thriller.

It's funny. I only wrote a thriller because a publisher asked me to. The deal fell through but "Deadfall Ridge" was still published and has probably been my most successful effort. (Led to the Slaughter and Tuskers did pretty well, too.)

Still trying to finish the rewrite of "Eden's Return." Going back to work for two days a week was more disruptive than I thought, and there have been some real life events that have waylaid me. But I'm only 40 pages from the end, so it will get done soon, hopefully to get published in 3 or 4 months from now.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Funny, I can whip out a blog anytime, as long as nothing consequential is happening. It's the major stuff I have a hard time writing about.

My heart attack 8 months ago has definitely changed how I see the world.

A couple of months ago, Linda's sister, Mary, died. She'd been ill for a long time, so it wasn't a surprise. Lots of family drama there that I'm not part of.

Linda's brother, David, moved up to LaPine about 20 years ago. He was closer in age to Linda. He's had some health issues too. He called over the weekend complaining that he was sick to his stomach, but he also mentioned a tightness in his chest. After he hung up, I looked up symptoms of a heart attack. Sure enough, "dry heaves" were mentioned.

But it was obvious Dave didn't want to go to the hospital.

Linda arranged that she'd text him every day and wait for an answer. Dave agreed because he was worried about his two hounds. So Sunday, she called and got no answer.

I was working that day, but I had a bad feeling about this. Fortunately, one of Linda's good friends, Diane, from church went with her. They couldn't get into Dave's house, so they called the police. So it was fortunate that Linda had both her friend and a helpful empathetic cop with her when they found him.

It's been hard on Linda. I'm just trying to be supportive. The boys showed up that night and were with us for a few days. Making arrangements for the dogs and such. Todd and Toby are the executors and inheritors of the estate. (Linda and I gave Dave a lump sum of money about six months ago because he was on the verge of of doing a reverse mortgage. For once, I had the ability to help, and it was a very smart decision.)

Out house is full of stuff that we took from Dave's. Which makes it all the more unsettling.

Meanwhile, I turned 67 a week ago, and once again the reality of age has been catching up to me.

Like I said, writing about the heavy stuff is hard. Not looking for sympathy here, by the way. Just talking about what's been happening.

Life is short. Enjoy every sandwich. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

My Top Ten Favorite Thriller/Mystery writers...and others.

My favorite thriller writers. All men, which is a bit alarming.

1.) Richard Stark (Donald Westlake.)
2. Thomas Perry
3. James Lee Burke
4. Stephen Hunter
5. Michael Connelly
6. Robert Crais
7. Lee Child
8. John Sandford
9. Lawrence Block
10. Daniel Silva
11. Elmore Leonard.  (Can't leave him of the list.)
There's a good list of ten more authors who either have become distractedly dated or whose later books I didn't like much.
1.) John LeCarre. (Great writer, but his last few books have been far too downbeat for me.)
2.) Dennis Lehane. (Same. But I liked his earlier, less pretentious books.)
3.) James Ellroy.  (Has written a couple of my all-time favorites, The Big Nowhere and L.A. Confidential, but his current style has lost me.
4.) Raymond Chandler. (Read them long ago--liked them, I remember.)
5. John Grisham. (All very competent, but nothing really stands out.)
6. Harlan Coben. (I'll read him in a pinch.)
7. John D, MacDonald. (Unfortunately too dated to get through.)
8. Patricia Cornwell. (Liked her early books, didn't much like her later books.)
9. Nevada Barr. (Just got tired of her main character, I guess.)
10. Tony Hillerman. (If he was still writing, he'd probably be on the above list.)
11. Dashiell Hammett. (Again, someone I can't leave off.)

Ten more authors who I simply can't get into, for whatever reason.

1. James Patterson.
2. Sue Grafton.
3. Stuart Woods
4. Jeffrey Deaver
5. Nelson DeMille
6. Robert Parker
7. David Baldacci
8. Clive Cussler
9. Tom Clancy
10. Robert Ludlum. (I admit, I read quite a few of the last two authors.)
11. Dan Brown (Couldn't ignore him, can't stand him)

Ten more Old-Timey Authors who I dip into occasionally or read heavily in the past.

1. Agatha Christie. (Read so many I'm not sure which ones I didn't read.)
2. Dorothy L. Sayers.
3. Josephine Tey.
4. Arthur Conan Doyle. (Read about 90% of the Sherlock Holmes stories.)
5. Rex Stout
6. James L. Cain
7. Georges Simenon
8. Patricia Highsmith
9. Jim Thompson 
10. Ian Fleming. (Loved them, but they're extremely dated now.)
11. Ellis Peters.

Ten Authors I've liked but left off the above lists.

1.) Walter Moseley
2.) Jonathan Kellerman
3.) George Higgins
4.) Thomas Harris
5.) Frederick Forsyth
6.) Michael Chrichton
7.) Scott Turow
8.) Gregory McDonald
9.) Len Deighton
10. Graham Green
11.) Jack Higgins.

Gratitude for where I am, forgiveness for where I was at.

I decided to drink a little wine and see if it couldn't help me edit "Eden's Return." The wine was opened a year ago and has been sitting in a cupboard since then, so I wasn't sure if it was even drinkable.

What the hell, I can't tell the difference.

Sure enough, it calmed me down enough to make some progress. I'm about 2/3rds done. I'm going to take another stab at it tonight after writing this. And then one more attempt tomorrow night. That's it. After that, I'm done.

I like the story and tone. But the words are just not flowing. It feels pretty clunky. Most readers probably won't notice, but I do.  I'm hoping that Lara, my editor, can smooth it out a bit.

I'm about 64 thousand words so far, or 12 thousand words more than the first draft. I'd love to get to 70 thousand words. That's still only about 200 pages, but it's a simple story. I like that it's only two narrators, and that the theme and plot are relatively simple.

I was shooting more for mood and tone this time than plot. There are some deeper philosophical themes here if I can only summon them.

 Managed about 20 pages, not as as much as I'd hoped. Still about 50 pages to go. I'm resisting sending it as is to Lara. That's a cop out. 

Man, that shit is poison. Lousy dreams, woke up feeling lousy. And got only 20 pages out of it.

I did do my "attitude" check that I sometimes do when I'm drunk. Decided I was all right, that things were on track. Gratitude for where I am, forgiveness for where I was at. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A plethora of good stuff.

The nice thing about having a bookstore is that there is no shortage of good books. Every time I visit other bookstores I see titles I'd like to have in my own store. There are a huge number of sidelines that are interesting.

I remember a time in the late nineties when I was having trouble finding viable product in my chosen categories. Comics had collapsed, graphic novels were still not the big thing, sports and non-sports cards had collapsed a few years earlier, toys were impossible to get because the big toy companies had out-of-reach minimums, games sold in Big Box stores cheaper than I could buy them for, I couldn't find a reliable book distributor who would sell to us, Magic was fading.

I looked around and decided the only product that had any chance of increasing was Magic--if I lowered the price and tried to have a larger selection.

A guy came into the store that Christmas and introduced himself as the COO of Wizards of the Coast in Seattle. "Adult Supervision," he styled himself. He told me to order this thing called Pokemon. "Don't question it, just order it. Order all you can get."

Unfortunately, I'd already tried at least a dozen different card games to supplement Magic--Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. etc. All of them had more or less flopped. So I didn't take the guy's advice.

I was able to jump onboard later, and Pokemon did very well. In the interim (can't really remember the sequence) we did short spurts with Beanie Babies and Pogs.

Pokemon, though, was the last true fad we jumped onboard with.

It's interesting that there could ever have been a time when we couldn't find enough good product that we could afford to carry.

All I'm short of nowadays is space to show it all.

Friday, October 11, 2019

In for a pound...

If working two days a week takes up this much psychic space, no wonder I couldn't write for 25 years! Sheesh.

When I was just filling in here and there, I could stay relatively unengaged. But somehow, this time, I'm being drawn in. I'm still letting Sabrina run things, but I'm personally feeling every distraction, every little problem.

A couple of ceiling panels were pushed down by some workers above the store, so we've been trying to get that fixed. It's one of those things that require 4 or 5 attempts to get anything going, and then 1 or 2 tries get it right.

I spent a lot of time on Wednesday vacuuming the store from end to end, paying particular attention to the corners and sides, where the detritus congregates. (When I say I'm working 2 days a week, that engagement is pulling me in for a couple of other afternoons a week to get things done.) Just one vacuuming and the vacuum was completely clogged. Which means that I have to pull out the filters and clean them every time we vacuum. I'm a vacuum cleaner killer. I mean, nowadays I buy a cheap $40 vacuum and hope it last six months before I add to the vacuum graveyard downstairs.

We're having problems with our UPS driver. Seems like a minor thing, but it's hugely important. We can't sell product we can't get. Haven't figured out what to do yet. I'm hoping the problem driver is a temporary. We've opened at 11:00 for many, many years. (When I was working 7 days a week, that extra hour in the morning was a life-saver...) I'm pretty sure the rule is that the driver needs to deliver during our store hours, but the other part of this is that these drivers own their routes and are pretty much kings of their domain.

Our personal taxes go out on the 15th--we always do an extension, because we can pay with the summer profits rather than after the usual very slow late-winter/early-spring. Trying to connect with our accountant. Got killed last year on taxes because of selling Linda's store. Hopefully this year the owed will be more manageable.

We have a new accountant for our payroll, and she's dragging me into the modern world of online payments. Probably time to pay taxes by the month instead of being nailed every quarter. Arrgghhh.

I've been buying new bestsellers now for about a month. The outcome is still unclear. I'm going to give it at least six months before I draw any conclusions.

Other than that?

Just waiting for the next thing...

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

It's all on me.

I'd forgotten about the small aggravations of working. The vacuum cleaner not working, the UPS shipment not showing up, the traffic jam at the edge of town, and so on. It's much more stress inducing than it should be.

I know what to do, I just don't always do it. Right? So the UPS driver starts spouting officialisms at me and I blow up at him. "I've been here for 40 years and I've always gotten my shipments during store hours!"

And he glares at me, and my heart sinks because the one thing you don't want to do is make your UPS driver your enemy. He'll win every time.

I mean---that I worked most days for most of my career is amazing. I was younger then, physically. I also learned to pace myself a bit more, had a practiced rhythm with the customers, it was just the way it was, I had no choice.

I came back underestimating such things. But really, I just need to relax. None of it is critical. The annoyance is on me--I have the power to react calmly.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Bookman holiday.

Spent 5 days on the other side of the mountains, visiting Toby in Hood River, and Todd in Portland, then heading for the coast. Got lucky, the weather was nice the first day on the beach. Stayed in a nicer hotel than usual, the one situated over Haystack Rock. (Clerk started off quoting 350.00, then when I started to walk away, 225.00, and then, finally, 169.00. Heh.)

Toby works in White Salmon, across the river from Hood River, and I think he's happy with being close to the wilderness. He seems in a good place.

I spent a bunch of time at Artifacts, a bookstore that is far funkier than mine, and the other bookstore in Hood River, which was more mainstream. Both managers were willing to talk, which is somewhat unusual. I took pictures of cool books I don't have.

Checked out two bookstore in Astoria, one which was pretty small and limited, the other somewhat more funky. Much less conversing, especially by the former. Not sure why, but most owners seem too threatened to talk about business. Sigh.

My definition of funky has expanded--I've come to realize that, as strange as my store is, there are stores that are even stranger. The stranger, the better.

Visited a nice bookstore in Cannon Beach. Started to brag about being in business for 40 years, and the clerk immediately perked up; "We too! 40 years!"

"That's amazing!" I answer.

Headed back home, saw a huge beat-up building with "Books" written along the side. It was packed with stuff, most of it falling apart. The lady behind the counter was selling the place. Someone already connected to selling online could probably make use of the clutter. But I also found at least 5 books I probably wouldn't have found anywhere else.

We buy books in every place we go. Which is kind of nutty, but then...I know how it feels.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Reeking of burnout.

Watched a documentary about Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young last night. By the end, they smelled of burnout and over-the-hill.

I've run into this a lot with creatives; people who had entire careers, usually starting off with a bang (or they wouldn't have a career, I guess.) Then they struggle, then they come back--in a lessor more subdued sort of way, often resting on their prior success. I know that's just the way the story is shaped, but there is no disguising that in most cases, these creatives have more or less given up by the time they reach my age.

When I came back to writing, I was charged up and optimistic. It was as if I simply picked up the thread that my 32 year old self had dropped. I still feel that way. I don't feel like this is the end of the line, but more toward the beginning.

I'm more mature in how I handle it. (My work habits were completely dysfunctional in my earlier efforts.) But the creativity--if anything--is greater, not lesser. I have more freedom. I have nothing to lose.

I'm glad now that I chose the path of being a bookstore owner, instead of trying to make a writing career work. When I finally had time to write, I came back with renewed energy, and I wasn't dependent on it, or expecting too much of it. Just the premise that I could improve each time, that one of these days I could put it all together and write the "great" book.

I'm actually sort of impressed that the books came out as well as they did. "Led to the Slaughter" is a pretty good book, even if it was my first book out this time. I put the time and effort in, and I can look back and be pleased.

I'm taking a break from writing. I plan to come back with a stronger focus. But none of my enthusiasm has dissipated. No chance of burnout that I can see. My actual age isn't a factor, as far as I can tell.

This still happening.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

"I hate writing; I love having written."

The most impressive thing about BookBub is that it seems to have legs. After a slow start, the sales of "Deadfall Ridge" have been picking up in the USA, though it wasn't promoted here. The price is probably the main attraction. I actually made more money in the 8 days before the promotion with 85% less sales, than in the last 20 days at the discount.

So the whole point of the promotion, I guess, is exposure. Hoping that people will try my other books. There does seem to be a bit of that, but not nearly enough to pay for the promotion. So I have to hope that the promotion worked on the "international" market. Sadly, there don't seem to be legs there. Got only about a week worth of boost. Weird.

A professional writer is never supposed to say this, but at this point I'm more interested in readers than in sales. (Then again, to me a professional writer makes their living from their writing--and I'm far from that. I did pass a milestone lately that seems significant to me; a mark that says I haven't just wasted my time.)

A friend of mine pitched my Virginia Reed stories to a comic company. (An up and coming company who is doing interesting work.) He said they seemed interested. Not going to get excited by it; just bringing it up to say, You Never Can Tell.

Still not writing. Having a hard time getting going on the rewrite of "Eden's Return." I've only gotten through 50% after three months. I'm just resting on my laurels.

Dorothy Parker quote: “I hate writing; I love having written.”  

That sounds about right.

Friday, September 27, 2019

If something works....

This is the nonsense I'm up against all the time in ordering.The second cover is actually of a book that came out before the first cover, but the Tattooist of Auschwitz was a major bestseller, so the publisher goes back to press with a copycat cover. (the original cover is completely different.) This happens all the time. It even confuses readers, who often ask for the wrong thing.

Is there no pride?

I think, maybe, in publishing there isn't.
The Librarian of Auschwitz (Special Edition)

Re-engaged--and overspending.

I've always bought what the store needed, whether I could afford it or not. I've always pushed it to the brink of a budget and beyond. I've always pushed as much leverage into the store as I could get.

So it's always worked out in the end--after much stress. I do mean, the end--maybe years after I put us into debt.

I used to think what I needed was a CFO, who could control the checkbook and impose spending limits. I mentioned it to Linda, but she quite rightly realized that I would just wheedle and bully until I got what I wanted anyway.

While I was off writing, the store was out of sight, out of mind. As long as it was functioning, I was leaving it alone. Even better, I gave Sabrina the power to order comics, graphic novels, and games, and gave her a target budget. Which she stuck to.

But now I'm back and engaged, and I'm tending toward my old bad habits. 

For example. I decided we needed journals, so I figured out a way to display them, and then ordered a bunch.

But the truth is--we don't NEED journals, I just wanted them. I ordered over 50 of them, but there was a hiccup in the credit process--thank goodness--and I had a chance to back away. I then ordered 20 journals. From there, I can gauge what kind of journals sell and what kind don't. I'll order a couple of new journals per week until I get to the proper level.

On the good side, it forced me to remove two shelves that simply weren't working (Robots and Futurism) and replace them with something that people are always requesting.

Last month I thought I'd spent X amount on new books. Turned out, I'd spent X + 40%. So overspending by 10%, that's manageable. Overspending by 40%--that will get us in trouble quickly.

Basically, it's time to set a budget for new books, and stick with it. Period. I'll be 67 years old in 16 days, so I'm an adult now. I should act like one. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Blending my own stubborn tastes with what will sell.

I'm finally bringing in more journals. I get asked for them all the time, but the journals I've had up to now haven't been what people are looking for.

I made a ginormous order a couple days ago, (over 50 journals), then had second thoughts. 20 journals ought to be enough to give me a hint about what will sell.

Journals are a lot like posters and t-shirts. Often, what I think will sell--based on my own tastes--don't. Stuff I think sucks, do.

I remember a godawful t-shirt I once got in. Florescent puke-green color. It sold within a day. Meanwhile, the ultra cool but subtle t-shirts I thought would disappear instantly, stuck around for years.

Posters? I swear, I look at some posters and think, "Why would anyone buy that?" Then the next time I look, they're gone.

So anyway, I'm going with cool designs to start with, and a few fantasy themed. Might not be the right choice, I don't know. But picking a particular "brand" seems kind of iffy to me. I did get an Alice in Wonderland cover (John Tenniel art), but how many people know who the original artist was? When it comes to art, you can be too informed.

People love an artist like Boris Vallejo, for instance, or Alex Ross--but to my mind, they are too slick. Like eating too much candy. I like rougher artists like Frazetta, where you can actually see the paintbrush strokes. There's an artist named Royo who I like, but I like his rough sketches even more.

Oh, well. The market speaks. As usual, I will blend my own stubborn tastes with what I think will sell.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Re-engagement with the real world.

For six years I buried my head in imaginary worlds. For the first couple of years, I barely poked my head back up into reality. Most of my days were spent in a creative fog. Things were left undone, the store was left in other's hands. I rarely spoke to anyone else, except Linda. (Or online.)

I was astonished by how much creative energy I had stored up. I decided to keep writing until it faded.

I wrote almost every day. I published 21 books over that time, some with more fanfare than others. I wrote what I wanted, when I wanted. I had to find publishers, and then find new publishers. I had a unpropitious encounter with a mainstream publisher, reminding me why I wanted to avoid that avenue.

It was all very satisfying. The reviews were mostly good, the sales on a few of the books were all right. I felt like I'd more than accomplished my goal.

In the last year, or so,  I started to slow down. I had several books that needed to be edited. I had a heart attack, and instead of that motivating me, it seemed to do the opposite.

When Dylan went of the college in N.Y., I decided to start working his two days.

Unexpectedly, I'm getting pretty engaged in the workings of Pegasus Books again. Before, when I was just filling in here and there, the store was something I could do and then forget about. Now, suddenly, I'm finding things I want to change. I'm enjoying my interactions with customers.

Yesterday, as I drove into Bend, I realized that I was feeling energized, re-engaged with the business, and with other people. It's as if I went on a long vacation, visited exotic worlds, and now I'm ready to simply engage in everyday transactions.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The luxury of new books.

I can't tell you what a luxury new books are,

First of all, I should say it wouldn't work at all if we didn't have the tourist foot traffic downtown. I'm not sure that locals will ever understand that we've become a real bookstore, along with being a real comic bookstore. But that's all right.

What makes new books different?

They don't become dated--at least, not as quickly as other product. Throughout my history at Pegasus Books we were dependent on product that had a short shelf-life. Comics, sports cards, beanie babies, pokemon, pogs, card games.

It has only been in the last ten or twelve years that we've been able to bring in product that is more evergreen: new books and boardgames.

I probably should add graphic novels, but that status of being perennial sellers grew slowly and was never a sure thing. We now have a twenty year history of graphic novels to draw on, and we can identify which are evergreens, and that's been a huge thing. We could probably survive on comics and graphic novels and card games and toys alone--if we had to.

But we wouldn't thrive. New books and board games have changed the equation for us. When I say that we have a twenty year history of sales on graphic novels to determine evergreen status, that's pretty nice. I'd say we have about a ten year history of sales on board games to draw on, though beyond a few basic games, that's a bit more iffy.

But we have a 400 hundred year history for books! Basically, from Don Quixote on. Millions of books to choose from. I can cherry pick all day long. I have a pretty broad knowledge of books. Once the matrix was in place, everything I learn just slots right in.

Because of that knowledge, for instance, I can scan lists of books--which all look good--and figure out which ones are likely to sell in my store.

Recently I've finally made the jump into ordering the current week's bestsellers. I think it was probably just as well that I waited until now, because I just wouldn't have had enough experience to figure it out. New bestsellers are iffy, without the luxury of a sales history, so I'm dependent on reviews and word of mouth, which like all promotional activities, is unreliable.

Fortunately, even if the new book doesn't have a history, the author usually does, or the new book is part of a series. (Yes, just like movies and TV, sequels are the bread and butter.)

So far, I haven't been returning books. It seems like a huge hassle, but I can foresee a time down the road where I'm might need to do it, if sales keep increasing.

As usual, the biggest problem is lack of space, but I'll just keep trying to be ergonomically clever, because my location is what makes everything else work.

So new books have proven to be beneficial, and I'm having great fun with them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Forever Chemicals?

Interesting article in the Bulletin about "forever chemicals" found in military sites in Oregon.

I'm probably not understanding the science, but I've always wondered about a couple civilian sites in Bend. Maybe because I've lived here my entire life and I'm relatively old, I remember some places that were pretty darn dirty, and which have become major focal points in modern Bend.

It's amused me a little that the "Old Mill" description has become a selling point for a commercial district. Using the old smoke stacks as flagpoles. Because what I remember about the old mill was that it was dirty, noisy, smelly, and dangerous. I remember walking on the grounds, which were saturated with oils and gas and God knows what else.

I remember the smell.

If you've ever smelled a creasote drenched railroad tie, you know the smell. 

So my question has always been--did they remove this stuff or cover it?

The second location I've always wondered about is where the new four-year college is located (as well as other schools). Close to that area there was the old Bend dump. Now this was the old fashioned kind of dump where people dumped everything--oil cans, paint cans, chemicals, electronics, anything and everything

But whenever it is described in the news they call it a solid waste site. In fact, I think they more or less imply that is was a place where garden debris and branches and such was dumped.

Nope. It was about as dumpy as a dump can be.

So did they dig up all the stuff? Or cover it sufficiently? Is there a time when this stuff becomes safe?

What makes me wonder is the very description of it as being something that it wasn't. That's a bit suspicious.

But who's around the question it?

Like I said, maybe they did the proper thing. Maybe I don't understand the science.

But to pretend those places weren't dirty is just kind of gentrified burying of what once was.
Some heavy dreams last night. Why do I wake up and still fight the dream? Punching an illusion, to no effect. The illusion is stubborn. It swarms and overwhelms me. The mood remains, breathing deep. The fight begins anew.

Why do I awake
still fighting the dream?
Punching an illusion
that always wins?

Stubborn thoughts
swarm and overwhelm me
the mood remains
the fight begins anew

A lesson there
unlearned and repeated
breathing deep,
dragged back to darkness

Suspicion of my worse self
that I am without knowing
a warning, I suppose
if it's true

Still fighting the dream
a fearful fragment
glimmering bright
submerged and waiting

Reality is warm,
a cup of coffee
a rememberance
and a lesson

Monday, September 16, 2019

Mainstreaming the store but keeping it weird.

Yes, I am very much enjoying work again. Way more than I thought I would.

For one thing, I finally have something that young families want. I've tried really hard to carry a good selection of young adult graphic novels, and have also tried really hard to mainstream my store. It's very gratifying to see these young people buying something.

I think it just helps that the store is functional, and that just about anyone who comes in can find something they like --if they're willing. A bunch aren't willing. Saturdays are still hard for me because of the proportion of browsers, but the long break has made me much more patient and cheerful.

New books continue to shine. I've finally gotten to the point where I can put in an order at the beginning of each week, keeping up with the new releases. Very satisfying. Bought two hardcovers each of the new Stephen King book, and the new Margaret Atwood book, and held my breath. Sold one of each, which as far as I'm concerned was worth the gamble. I'm tiptoeing into these big selling hardcovers.

And I'm enjoying talking to the variety of people coming in the door. Dare I say, downtown Bend is getting more cosmopolitan with every year that passes? With all the entails, good and bad.

Sabrina has done a great job with graphic novels. I was always a little at a loss for what Marvel gn's to order, and I'd almost given up on manga. She has revived both.

Probably my biggest weakness right now is games. I loved playing Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride. But that's like saying you like vanilla and chocolate in an ice cream store. Not very edifying.

I'm identifying places where the store can be improved. Mostly in small ways. I'm starting to bring in expensive Japanese figures little by little, and I'm going to create a section for journals, which I get asked for a lot, but which the ones I have never sell. I asked Linda to pick out a few dozen covers, because she's always buying journals.

I love walking into the store in the morning and letting it wash over me. This is the store I always wanted.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Luck, timing, and who you know?

Very early in my writing, someone told me that "success" depends on luck, timing, and who you know.

At first, I firmly believed that "luck" was the biggest factor. That writing a good book wasn't enough--you also needed something unusual to happen for people to notice. (Such things as quality being equal.)

As I became more experienced, I started to believe that "who you know" was maybe the most important part.

Now, after many books under my belt, I come to the conclusion that "timing" is the most important factor.

Of course, all three of these things are intrinsically linked.  The luck of timing, the timing of luck, the luck of knowing someone....

I think this is probably true of all the arts.

I know that timing-wise, my forward momentum has stalled several times because of gaps in publishing that were beyond control. On the other hand, just when it seemed that I was near the end of my thread, something would pop up to revive my little career.

I can dream about what might have happened if the momentum could have been maintained and the luck had happened too. It wasn't anyone's fault. I know that a couple of my publishers who reached for the mass market brass ring probably felt it was worth the gamble. Even my first publisher, who went MIA between my second and third books, I can't be too mad about because he was the one who gave me entry, and who gave "Led to the Slaughter" a good start.

So I've had a bit of luck, and a bit of good timing, and I've known a couple authors--but I probably need much more of all three. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019


International BookBub starts tomorrow. In truth, it's already Friday the 13th in Australia. It's probably going to be a lot harder to earn back the investment since the book is only 99 cents. (Amazon reduces the royalty from 70% to 30%, plus the much lower price.) I figure I have to sell at least 800 copies. I don't know what will happen. But "Deadfall Ridge" was already having a good month, so I might be halfway there under the usual price.

I'll be haunting the Australia, UK, and Canada Amazon lists for a couple of days.

I'll be working at Pegasus on Friday through Monday so Sabrina can go to the Portland comic convention. That will be my first four-day stretch in a long time. I'm having to relearn to pace myself. I have a tendency to blow all my social energy in the first couple of hours and ride on empty for the rest of the day, so I need to watch that.

That said, I'm really enjoying it. I'm fully engaged in the new book ordering, and that is keeping me interested. I did about 60% of the debt reduction I wanted to do this summer--on the other hand, I did that without scrimping in the slightest. That is, I could have gotten the other 40% if I'd just stopped buying anything the last couple months, but then the store would be depleted going into the slow months, so that's Pyrrhic victory, at best. If I can get 2/3rds of the debt reduced by the end of the year while keeping the store fully stocked, that would be fantastic.

The debt has proven to be worth it: sales on new books and graphic novels fully justify it. That's a level of sales that will pay off for years, long after the debt is repaid.


Haunted the webs yesterday. It took awhile for the promotion to take effect in England and Australia. Reached the top hundred in Canada and Australia, the top ten in suspense novels in Canada. But didn't quite displace Stephen King's new book. Heh.

I used the enthusiasm of the moment to sell my books in the store. "Look!" I point at my computer screen. "I'm the #7 bestselling thriller in Canada!'

Anyway, sold about 12 paperbacks. I probably won't try so hard today, because it's exhausting and I am never totally sure if I'm taking advantage of people. I always try to give them an out.

Apparently, my publisher thought I was going to get a different promotion for the US, and I assumed that he was going to do it. Miscommunication. Probably because he did BookBub on his own, so when he mentioned other promotions, I figured it was his thing to do. So having the book for only .99 in USA might have actually hurt a little. (The book had been selling as well or better at the full price.) Was told by publisher we need to sell 570 copies.

Anyway, that was fun. Nice to see my name in lights.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Enjoying being back at Pegasus.

I'm really enjoying being back working at Pegasus Books. Bookstore customers are generally interesting people.

I had a customer yesterday who helped me fix my computer, which has been going on the fritzz for  a while now. It started making grinding noises last year, so I bought a new laptop. But I still favor my old laptop like an old shoe--besides which it has a version of Word that I like much better.

Anyway, in the middle of the day the slight grinding noise became alarmingly loud.

"Shut it down, quick!" someone said.

So this customer came forward and says, "There is a trick you might try." Showed me how to do it, and blammo, the damn thing settled down. I don't know if it's permanent.

The customer turned out to be a physics graduate major at the U of O. Obviously super-smart, and they were also gender fluid.  "They" is the term they wanted. I think a couple of years ago I might have been intimidated but because of my experience with Sabrina, I was perfectly comfortable.

I happen to be reading a book called, "The Scientists," which is a big tome about the history of scientists. I made the joke: "I love reading books about science though in most cases I don't have a clue about what they're saying."

But on the other hand, they mentioned something about Isaac Newton being a bastard and how he destroyed the career of someone who estimated correctly the speed of light, and I was able to contribute that he also kept those who thought light had a wave function from being taken seriously, so that was fun. (My knowledge is superficial but wide.)

The point being, I'm actually talking to human beings about interesting stuff, instead of snippets on the internet, which was how I was getting most of conversational stimulation over the past few years. Besides Linda, of course.

I'm working Sundays and Mondays if anyone wants to come in and chat.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The sequel to Deadfall Ridge

The sequel to "Deadfall Ridge" is live on September 10th.

The paperback is already available for order.


"When a peaceful protest at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument becomes an armed takeover, Hart Davis knows he has to play along with the occupiers to protect his former girlfriend, park ranger Nicole Nelson, and her co-workers. Amid escalating tension and factionalism within the armed camp, and surrounded by the FBI and the media, Hart and Nicole try to negotiate a peaceful end to the volatile situation. But what they don’t know is that, with help from inside, actual terrorists are about to take over the camp. Suddenly, the sides aren’t so clear-cut, and former antagonists must become allies as they try to survive the crossfire, protect the hostages, and escape with their lives."

Pretty exciting for me. 

Taking time fo gravitas.

When I first finished "Eden's Return" I thought it was more or less ready for publication. After a quick rewrite.

Then I wondered if I shouldn't try harder to flesh out the philosophical underpinnings of the story. When I wrote it, I was doing it by feel, a sort intuitive mysticism. It felt right, though I'm not sure I could have explained it.

When I finally came back to the rewrite, I decided that keeping it vague actually worked in its favor. It was a slight book, only 52,000 words.

I set out to do a light rewrite, and then decided it needed to be at least 60K words, so I started looking for places to expand and flesh out.

I'm more than halfway through that process--which has been much, much slower than usual. I don't need to really have anything ready to publish for 4 or 5 more months, to give "Takeover" and "Deadfall Ridge" time to play out.

I ordered a book about Eden online, and Linda supplied another from her rather voluminous religious library. So I'm going to dip into those and see what I can use. Meanwhile, I also decided that the heroine of the story--who has been brought up alone by her mother--is a big Dickens fan, so much so that she has memorized his books. That will give me the excuse to drop some pertinent Dickens quotes into the story.

All of which meant I didn't turn over "Eden's Return" to my editor on September 1 as planned. Instead, I'm going to shoot for Oct. 1.

The story was good the way it was, but I'm trying to bring more gravitas to my writing, by researching and thinking and taking more time.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Lots of good news.

"Deadfall Ridge" is going to be a BookBub international promotion on Sept. 13th, which means it will be a selection everywhere but the USA. The publisher is going to lower to price of the book to 99 cents in the USA too.

Just in time for the sequel, "Takeover (A Hart Davis Adventure)" to be released on the 10th of September.


So that's an exciting double whammy.

It's pretty hard to get a BookBub promotion--about a 3% chance according to them, though it's probably easier for an international selection. Still, a big deal.

It's encouraging enough to keep me going. I have a couple of ideas for Hart Davis Adventures, and this is obviously the direction to go.

Please buy these books-yes, I'm saying it outright. ✊

Especially since you can get "Deadfall Ridge" my best-selling book for only 99 cents in about a week or so.

But if you don't feel like buying my books, I still thank you for reading this blog. It helps to know that there are people out there paying attention.

So meanwhile, I've started working at the store again, on Sundays and Mondays and whenever Sabrina needs extra time. It's very rejuvenating. The only reason I wasn't working was that my guys needed their hours.

The store has now "beat last year" in 8 out of the last 9 months. It's especially gratifying to see books and graphic novels doing so well.

So I'm feeling pretty encouraged. I'll just keep hoping for magic.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Dare I not say it?

More and more, I'm leaning toward not having opinions about everything. Or more accurately, not having a response. Which in the modern world of social media is like not existing.

Not everything needs a response. Most things don't need a conclusion. Information is fluid, and incomplete, and yes, I have a reaction, but not all of it needs to be specified and expressed.

Sabrina makes fun of me because of my usual critical response. "Pretty much what I expected." or "It's pretty good for what it is."

Which are really not answers at all. But sometimes I haven't quite decided--or my response is confused and conflicted. And expressing a critical opinion sort of ties me down to one response.

Social media also means that whoever I'm criticizing, there is a chance they'll see it. Now that I've been on the receiving end of reviews, I'm much more careful.

So I'm just sort of taking information in, and unless there is a necessity, I try not to come to a final conclusion.

Except when it comes to Trump. Fuck that guy.

Saturday, August 31, 2019


I finally made some headway on the rewrite of "Eden's Return." I'm about halfway through. I've already added 7000 words. So by the time I'm done, I'll be well over the minimum 60,000 words I set for myself.

It's hard. I don't enjoy it but I can't deny it improves the book. I tend to underwrite. I want my books to move fast, but there also needs to be a bit more gravitas.

That's my new favorite writing word. Gravitas.

I've written all my books with the intent to be entertaining. I don't have a particular message to impart, nor do I shoot for a "literary" type presentation.

Sabrina said something interesting to me the other day. "You like pulp, but you don't like camp." I suppose that's right. But pulp only in the most positive terms. I'm allergic to pretense these days. The minute I get a whiff of it in a book, I lay it down and move on. Real literary quality in inherent in the story--and so many of these newer SF and Fantasy books are a little too blatant in their aspirations.

At least, that's the way I feel about it.

However, it wouldn't hurt me to reach for whatever gravitas I can find in a story. Just think a little longer and try a little harder.

Which means either doing more planning in advance (which I'm determined to do in my next book) or spending more time and thought on the rewrite.

So that's where I'm at right now. A couple more weeks of pain--and a book that I can be proud of for years. That's the tradeoff. Knowing that I made the effort each time.

So far, I've managed to mostly do that in my stories. Take a step back, try to be patient, and not just throw my first effort out there. (Even if the essence is mostly there...)

Friday, August 30, 2019

Gone for a week
but her spirit lingers
rounding every corner
sweet and full

I sleep alone,
but she is next to me
a simple thought
and she is there

I think I'm going
to batch it
drink some wine
stay up late

But old habits
comfortable times
the same small
pleasantries remain

I turn off good shows
waiting to share
watch bad shows

Into the quiet
and the dark
I think of her
and the light

Where I'm alone
I'm also a pair
apart but the same
waiting for her to return

A little thought experiment.

A little thought experiment.

From the start, I've wondered about the connection between the quality of a book and how well it sells. Quality is subjective, I suppose, and individual. It's obvious that some good books fail to sell well and some bad books become bestsellers.

But fundamentally, I still wanted to believe that quality will out.

I've asked some established writers over the years if: "a good book that was simply put out onto the market without any other push would do well" and the answer, every time, was a flat "No."

"Deadfall Ridge" has sold so much better than my other books that that it's clear that unless you have something like a  BookBub promotion, it's very hard to make headway. On the other hand, there is a fellow writer I know who has been doing fantastic with his series of books. I haven't seen that he's done anything but write some books that people like and been consistent about how he presents them.

Most of the other writers who seem to do well are very active in their promotion, and clever in their use of social media. From my perspective, it looks exhausting and unpleasant. Heh.

Anyway, as I've mentioned, I've slowed way down in my writing. I've written a bunch of books, published about half of them.

But the other day I asked myself a little question. It's more or less a thought experiment.

1.) Could I write a book better than anything I've done so far?

The answer is Yes, Undoubtedly.

2.) Would that book fare any better than any of my other books?

And the answer came back a solid, without a doubt, "No."

So in a backward sort of way, I've answered that question that I've been mulling since the beginning of my second writing career. Coming at it backwards has given me an answer that seems true and undeniable.

Not sure if it makes a real difference in how I approach things. I've always tried to write the best book I could. But it has puts things in perspective for me--and I'm a person who can accept anything as long as I know what's going on. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Mortality and all that.

It's taken six months, but I think I've gotten back to normal about, you know, mortality and all that.

The trick is to put it in the back of my mind, not to think about it. After all, what's really changed? I mean, really, I'm as healthy or unhealthy as I was before, nor am I compelled to make huge changes. I'm trying to keep the weight off and walk everyday, but I was already doing that.

The heart clogging up? Well, it's going to do that whether I'm paying attention to it or not. If I feel any of the danger signs, do something about it, but other than that, get on with it.

So yeah, it's pretty much back to normal.

I've also stopped worrying about writing. I'll get back to it when I'm ready.

Meanwhile, I've returned to working at Pegasus Books on Sundays and Mondays. Just put my first two days in--and it was exhausting but also kinda fun. I was missing it. I like interacting with people in my own space, talking books, talking Bend.

The foot traffic is pretty amazing. By staying in the same place for 38 years or so, the world caught up to us. Pegasus Books itself will be hitting 40 years come next year. I probably ought to do something about that since I'm unlikely to be still running the place in another 10 years.

Across from us, Wendy at Trivia Antiques is moving out. It's one of two businesses on my block that started about the same time as I bought Pegasus. (The other is Kitchen Complements; I don't think Diane is going anywhere.)

I bought the store just a couple of months before them, so I still claim to be the oldest existing retail business downtown in the same location under the same ownership. (April, 1984 if anyone has anyone who can beat that.)

I've been lucky with my landlords. I've been lucky overall.

Books and graphic novels are selling great, representing 2/3rds sales. Enough of a mix that I can adjust to circumstances.

Funny thing about going back to work--and I can already see it happening--is that I'll have to watch out for the budget. Being there more often means I'll probably be ordering more--instead of just assigning a budget and asking Sabrina to stick to it--or not being there and not realizing what I'm missing. Heh.

Anyway, I still like what I'm doing. If I was in danger or burning out ten years ago, I think that danger is past. I'm rested and excited by the changes to the store and ready to go. Knock wood.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Not working isn't working for me.

I haven't been writing and it's driving me crazy.

I think as long as I tell myself that I will write in the near future, I'll be OK. It was contemplating quitting that was causing me the dissonance. Once I made the affirmation that I will start writing again, the pressure seemed to ease.

I spend a lot of time on history podcasts--but at least I'm not watching TV. I've had a long prohibition about watching TV during the daytime. I'm holding to that. I read for an hour each night just before bed, and I want to do more than that. Perhaps start reading during the afternoons. I did that a lot when I was younger.

Fortunately, I'm going back to work next week, on Sundays and Mondays. I'm looking forward to it. I've already been going in twice a week to pick up the book lists, making an order, and then going in and putting books away. That can be incorporated into my two days at work, plus an afternoon.

Sabrina informed me she's been working for me for 10 years. Rather astounding.

I'm going to settle into a new routine soon, I'm sure.

My cardiologist says he doesn't need to see me until May, and for some reason that was reassuring. It's just the new normal, same as the old normal, plus a 2% chance of a reoccurrence. It's been seven months and I'm finally coming to the conclusion that not that much has changed. That something could happen at my age was always a given.

I've found a few new places to walk, and I've been doing some exploring.

Still waiting for word on BookBub. I'm trying not to get my hopes up. It was always a long shot.