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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Writers know kung fu.

Yesterday, I listened to all 8 hours of the first "Revolution" podcast, by Mike Duncan, about the British civil war.

So I was feeling guilty about wasting so much of a day on information that isn't all that useful to my daily life, and up comes a passage about the Diggers, the agrarian socialist movement, the precursors to anarchists. And the information fits perfectly with my current book, "Eden's Return."

I've often wondered if one of the prerequisites to writing books is having a broad knowledge of useless facts. I mean, useless for everyday purposes, but useful for writing stories.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake.

I read once that one of the common histories of writers is that at some point in their early lives they were confined and isolated for some reason, usually health, and thus spent a lot of time alone and most often reading.

Certainly, that was my history. During my ten year bout with depression I spent most of my time reading. And as was my habit, reading anything that came along that caught my interest. I grew up in a house full of books, so I never confined myself to one genre. I read anything that caught my eye.

So I constantly find myself writing in little details to my stories that I'm sort of amazed I knew. A broad knowledge, nothing terribly deep, but I most often know at least a little bit about most subjects people bring up. If I don't know, I immediately look it up.

At least, I think I do. The Dunning/Kruger effect notwithstanding.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Writer's group motivation.

Back in the early 80s, the thing that kept me writing was the every two week's writer's group. I always wanted to have something ready to read, so that was motivation enough for me to get going. It didn't seem like a slow pace back then.

This new writing career has been very different. I got in a "zone" after an initial six month stuttering start. Once I got in the groove, I stayed in it for the next year. I figured it would end at any time.

About the beginning of the second year, I first started trying to publish, so that complicated the pure writing a little, but I was still pretty damned focused.

I kept it going the third and fourth year, though by now much of it was routine and habit. By my fifth and sixth years, disciplined has started to become more important.

And now?

I've lost my mojo. Amazingly and counter-intuitive, as least to me, was that my heart attack had me questioning everything. It was probably time for a break anyway. But most of all, that creative urge had been written out of me. The challenge--just finish a book!  Okay, now publish a book! Okay, now try to get it to sell!

Well, the third goal still needs some work.

Anyway, I've definitely stepped back. I have a number of books that I've already written that need some rewriting. This isn't really a great solution--I don't like rewriting anywhere near as much as I like imagining the story in the first place.

But it works for my once every two week reading at writer's group.

When I come back to writing new material, I think I'm going to tackle my Grand Fantasy Trilogy. That's my intent, but...

I never know what I'm going to want to write until I start writing it. Something just switches on.

If either "Takeover" or "Deadfall Ridge" get a BookBub--and the odds are always against that happening--I'll probably immediately set out to write a Hart Davis book again, I have a story in mind.

But until then, at the very least, I'll want to have something to read every two weeks at writers group.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Linda's off the church camp for a week. So I thought I'd get drunk.

Then I didn't.

Every time I get to the moment when I'd normally start drinking, I have second thoughts, then when I wake up the next morning, I'm grateful I didn't do it.

The idea was to sit down with "Eden's Return" for a rewrite--to flesh it out a little. I like the book, but I think it could be filled in a little.

I wasted Saturday watching the full first season of "In the Dark." Really liked it, despite all the touchy feely stuff. Then yesterday wasted most of the day listening to the last of the "Hardcore History" podcasts. (Bought the whole package last year.) Never even got out of my bathrobe.

Disgusting. I hope Linda never leaves me because I'd turn into a toad.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Two Sentence Science Fiction.

"Your mission, Time Patroller, should you chose to accept it, is to stop evil time jumpers from corrupting the past with images of future persons and events."

"Mission accepted," Picasso.

Ignoring symptoms.

I have a habit of waiting way too long for solutions to physical ailments.

I think it was drilled into me by my mother to never complain, to suck it up. She'd get visibly annoyed by sickness, though when it was serious, she was all over it. But picky little things, stuff that wasn't very noticeable, those were manifestations of hypochondria to her.

Whenever I'd try to bring up problems that might be genetic to our family at the dinner table, I'd be shut down. Depression obviously runs in the family. My father was hospitalized for it, and I had a severe ten-year bout, and I think some other close relatives have suffered from it too. But it took a good two years before I finally saw a psychiatrist and was given medications that at least made me functional.

So, for example, I had a terrible problem with dry sky on my forehead and face--just slabs of skin coming off, no matter how much I caked lotion over it. Then one day, my sister Betsy happened to mention that she was using cortisone on her condition. I immediately went and bought some over the counter lotion, and...problem solved! (As long as I put a thin layer on my forehead every morning.)

My mother especially hated psychotropic drugs. She'd tell the story of a zombie neighbor who was a little too fond of Mother's Little Helpers. (One of the reasons it took two years to seek help for my depression.)

Well, for about 20 years, the only leftover symptom of my depression was a pretty strong agoraphobia. I stayed away from restaurants and malls and most other gatherings. As you can imagine, this was somewhat crippling, especially since I didn't know what it was. Finally, I diagnosed myself from a magazine article, and started to slowly cure myself. But what finally did the job was going to my regular doctor and asking for tranquilizers to use on a situational basis.

It was magic. The damn pills worked! I only need a small dose pill on an average of one every three days or so, but it's always there in case it's needed. It literally solved the problem. What had I waited so long for?

Mother's little voice in my head.

I'm not blaming her--I think that being a stoic is generally a good thing. Not quitting is usually the right way to go about things. But I wish I'd been a little more conscious of when to ignore that voice.

I had my doctor recommend that I take a antihistamine every day. I ignored the advice for years, afraid of the side-effects. But I finally started taking one every night and BAMM! My sinuses cleared up.

Clear sinuses for the first time in--well, just about forever.

What brought up this little essay is that my optometrist recommended that I get eye drops. I was told many years ago that I'm a non-blinker, that is, I blink less than most people. Well, add that to my constant internet, and my eyes have gotten pretty gritchy.

I didn't do anything for a good four months, but finally got some eye drops a few days ago, and
VOILA! My eyes feel so much better.

And so on.

I'm getting too old to be ignoring this shit.

Retail is risk--there isn't anyway around that.

I busted the budget yesterday for the first time in a long time. Because I'm determined to get out of credit card debt by the first of next year, I've been pretty disciplined this year--until now. (Well, much of debt was incurred after our rather disastrous Snow-meggedon February.)

The culprit was toys. I generally order toys at a discount, because like posters and T-shirts, I just never know what will sell, so I might as well give myself an edge. But toys usually come in bulk--in cases--and so, as a line-item, are more expensive than usual. So it is easy to get carried away.

Oh, well. Christmas is coming. Also, some of the these new toys can take the place of some toys that are pretty tattered.

For years I wished I had a CFO, who could impose a budget that I was forced to follow. Of course, I knew that I'd probably badger and wheedle the poor CFO until I got what I wanted.

I've often wondered if my tendency to over-order, and then spend a good deal of time trying to dig myself out of the hole, hasn't been somewhat responsible for our survival. I've seen a lot of stores go down because they cut the budget too much. Retail is risk--there really isn't any way around that.

However, when I handed over the comic, graphic novel, and game orders to Sabrina, and gave her a budget, I found that it was more "out-of-sight/out-of-mind." That is, Sabrina has pretty much stuck to the budget I gave her, and the store hasn't suffered.

I'm still ordering books and toys, and most of the magic. So I'm still prone to over-ordering. Usually books (which also includes a fair portion of GN's.)

We just had a our best month ever on graphic novels, and within a hundred bucks of our best month ever on new books, so the store has beaten last year 7 out of the last 8 months. Meanwhile, in 2 out of the last 3 months, we've beaten last year in comics, so maybe that dropoff has finally leveled off.

Games and magic are down, and I'm pretty sure that is strictly because of the increased competition. Not only is there a fully devoted game store in town, and a fully devoted magic store, but the mainstream (Target, B & N, etc.) has fully embraced Euro-games, so we are no longer the only "game" in town.

We seem to have found a groove, though. Downtown is bustling and the store is jam-packed with goodies, both the stuff we have to pay full wholesale on, as well as stuff we got a deal on, and both categories are selling at a sufficient level to sustain the business.

It's rather nice. (Knock-wood.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

I sent off "Takeover" to Crossroad Press.

I'm telling myself to keep my expectations low. The publisher is going to try to finagle a "New Release" BookBub for "Takeover," and then follow it with a regular BookBub for "Deadfall Ridge."

But I know the odds are against me. (20% chance on "Takeover" and a 3% chance on "Deadfall Ridge.") I have no idea if having been a previous BookBub release increases those odds.

BookBub seems to be the one thing that really works. I'm still selling "Deadfall Ridge" better than any of my other books.

But I think keeping my expectations low is prudent.

One thing's for sure. If the BookBubs happen, I'll immediately set about writing a third Hart Davis adventure.

Follow the momentum.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Despite all my procrastination, things are proceeding.

I buckled down and did the full edit that "Takeover" needed. I've gotten back the edits from Lara Milton and as usual she did a great job. She smooths out the language, makes it that much more readable. I have the fantastic cover from Mike Corley, so all that I need to do before submitting is come up with a popping synopsis.

Synopsis's is so damn hard. I've done one, but it feels weak and I haven't figured out how to improve it. I think I'll try again, starting off with a simple explanation of the book, the way I'd describe it to a stranger. Then see if I can't tighten up that description.

Anyway, "Takeover" should be out soon. It's my most ambitious book, and as such, I can see all the places where I fell short. But it's falling short of a high goal, so it's probably better than I think. It will be interesting to see how the politics in the book play out.

I didn't write this book for the politics, but for the characters and the situation. But the politics were inherent in the situation.

As I've said before, it'll probably piss off both sides of the political divide. Heh.

Meanwhile, I want to rewrite "Eden's Return" and send it off to Lara in the next month. I already have the cover from Mike. So that book should be ready when the next slot opens up.

"Castle La Magie" needs one more rewrite, and it will be ready too. So, in some ways, the next year is covered.

This is by far the longest I've gone not writing fresh material. But I have a bunch of stories that still need to be edited, so that's all right.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

My cynicism is finally catching up to my age.

I think I've always been a little too willing to give the Powers That Be the benefit of the doubt. It never really occurred to me that some billionaires might not care about the country as a whole, that seniors might not care about their grandchildren's future, that an entire political party would be so concerned about their own interests that they'd throw the Constitution under the bus.

Way back my junior college political science course, I wrote a paper about the gas shortage, giving the gas companies an out. I assumed that beyond normal 'covering their ass' responses that politicians would vote their convictions.

I've never liked conspiracies theories, on the assumption that large groups just don't have their act together enough to pull them off. But I've learned that it doesn't take "collusion" so much as a shared willingness to fuck people over.

It has been a long learning process at the store. I've learned that not everyone cares about doing the right thing. That "ethics" is a concept that some people don't understand. That people will lie over a few bucks, and throw their reputation away for the most minor of advantages.

I figured that big corporations knew what they were doing, that they understood long-term consequences to their decisions. Instead, I've literally seen a majority of the companies I've purchased from over the last 35 years go bankrupt--to do the stupidest things imaginable, and to regularly put short term profit over long-term health.

I don't want to give up hope. But damn, it's getting harder.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Adventures in rehab.

Linda and I dropping some stuff off at the rehab place for brother-in-law Dave.

We're walking down the hall and a little old lady waves her hand at us from her bed and says, "Help!"

So we got get aide and continue on down the hall. We come out, and the lady is in a wheelchair near the door. "Hello!" she says brightly. "Will you take me somewhere?" She is looking out on the steep slope of the driveway as if yearning to escape.

"Ah, I don't think..."

"Sure!" says Linda, taking hold of the wheelchair and starting off.

"Ouch" the old lady says. "My foot wasn't ready."

"That's uh, why maybe why we shouldn't, uh..." I start.

"Yeah, drunk driver," the lady says and directs us down the hallway. We reach the nurses station and Linda looks at her inquiringly.

"These people won't do anything," the lady says. "Let's go back."

We get back where we started and I mutter, "I think we've been Shanghaied."

"Can you take me...?" the lady says, cheerfully.

Linda says gently, "We have to go see my brother. I don't work here."

" don't?" the lady says. (She knows.)

We try leaving, and Linda stops and starts putting numbers into the key panel. She keeps putting in three numbers. Another little old lady--and I do mean little, I joked about jumping over her--says, "It's four numbers dear. I can't reach it. They don't want us to escape."

We drive home, and I settle into my office chair and take a deep breath.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


There was an interview on Shelf Awareness from a bookstore owner in Florida talking about how long they've been in business that caught my attention:

"Part of the answer is a kind of stick-to-it-iveness that we've had, to deal with the ups and downs..."

Well, that's sort of it, isn't it?

For me, it was also the willingness to accept less money and the sneaking suspicion that I wouldn't be able to work for anyone else. Linda stuck with me through it all, working shit jobs to supplement our income until she finally had a store of her own.

But yeah. You just keep doing it, adjusting to the constant change, trying things until they work. Being steady and reliable is a big part of small business success--and certainly, not expecting overnight success.

It took a good 20 years before I think we were sustainable. I could make the case that if I hadn't made so many mistakes in the beginning that it could have been done in 10 years. How many people are willing to put up with the stress and hard hours and lack of money for ten years?

If I have one message for anyone planning to open a business it is--watch out for burn-out. Watch out for the advice that you should keep adding services, keep growing, keep working more hours, keep on doing everything that everyone says you should do

Simplify your workplace as much as possible, despite everyone telling you the opposite.

Then just put your head down and keep working. Do the basic job well, and let the other stuff go.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Every damn twinge.

Every time I get a twinge in my chest I'm aware of my mortality.

Linda was gone for the whole day, yesterday. It was a sample of what life would be without her. It wasn't pretty. Didn't accomplish a damn thing. (Well, I did mow and fertilize the lawn, trim some hedges, and do some weeding. Exciting life I have.)

It reminded me of the decade I spent mostly alone when I was depressed. But there was a weird compensation, somehow. I had an enormous appetite for media: movies, TV, music, and books. Especially books. I'm not sure I could do the same today.

The difference is--I'm not frightened I'm not going to have enough money for the next rent check. Yea!

I just don't have the desire to write. The longer this goes on, the less desire I have. Am I done?

Chances are I'll spend more time on this blog if I'm not writing fiction.

Is there anything wrong with just relaxing? I have inherited enough of Libby's puritan ethic to feel like I'm failing if I'm not doing something challenging. More than anything else, that was what writing novels represented for me. Every time I started a book is was a chance to get it right. Looking back, it doesn't seem like I varied all that much in quality, though it got easier to do.

I suspect that some idea will overtake me that I simply have to write.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Imposing my own narrative on my life.

I forget sometimes how much I like writing this blog. The candor of it, revealing without fear my thoughts, the honesty of how I feel. It feels good. This is the way it is, this is what's happening. You don't have to read it, or care. I'm just putting down my thoughts, to myself as much as to anyone else. Because by writing them down, I spark other thoughts, and I figure out how I'm feeling and thinking better than the amorphous consciousness that I carry throughout my waking hours. Form is imposed, a narrative.

I don't kid myself that the narrative is necessarily the complete truth--but for me, having a narrative is important.

I was thinking about this the other day as I drove into Bend. I tend to think of everything in narrative, everything a story. I wonder if artists see everything from the perspective of pictures, or musicians hear music. I don't know if this is unusual, or if everyone does it.

I decided during my depression 40 years ago to impose my own narrative. It had to feel real, it couldn't be completely made up, but I could chose what parts of my own life I wished to narrate and which parts I chose to ignore or compartmentalize.

I feel when I used psychedelics--the probable cause of my breakdown--that I was seeing real truth, but I didn't much like it. I've heard that when they do tests on depressives that they see the world more objectively than those who are healthy. My take on this is that you have to chose to be healthy, to see the world in a more positive light than your darkest thoughts.

There's a new study out that people who read are in a meditative state and that's it's healthy. I've always wondered about how my depression manifested itself. I mean, I was crippled by it as anyone who has ever suffered from it, and yet--I always had a weird faith I'd come out of it.

(I spent too many years thinking I'd somehow "revert" to my previous self. In the end, I had to rebuild my personality from the ground up.)

I had amazing dreams when I was depressed. I don't remember nightmares, I remember dreams of better days. And I read--oh, man did I read. I was stuck with myself in single room apartments, unwilling or unable to face the public, and so I read and read and read.

And toward the end of the depression, I started writing.

I think it was even more powerful than reading. I started living in an alternative and more positive world. A narrative, if you will, that I knew wasn't real but which felt real.

And so the habit of seeing everything as a narrative took hold. I don't know if my narrative of my business career is completely accurate, but it works for me. It makes me feel good about myself and I think the lessons I've learned are incorporated and preserved.

So this blog is a continuation of that. It's the narrative I present to the world, and the narrative I try to live by.
Linda's taking a church friend's kid to church camp, so I have the house to myself today. Playing Springsteen's Western Stars at full blast, contemplating my creative life.

My heart attack made me less ambitious, the opposite of what I would have expected. Vanity, Vanity, all is vanity.

But I still have the urge to create. Lately, I've been writing poems. One and done. Easy and fun, and it feels creative. So I got the bright idea of trying to write a full story as a prose poem. I'd come up with an idea for a horror novel--or at least the beginning of one--the other day. So I sat down with some scrap paper (I have a stack of paper two feet high from chapters I've taken to writer's group) and a pen and just let go.

It's definitely a different experience--the writing feels less finished. But I don't think that's a bad thing. I think sometimes the urge is to have it polished, when what I'm really after is the creative flow. I want to shut out the critic part of the brain.

The story has it's own power, which tends to pull away from the poetic part, so I constantly have to refresh my intentions.  I left the ending of the first chapter for today, so I'll have something to start with.

After my experience with Ruby Red and the Robots--which just petered out after 15K words, I should be leery of starting off a story without some idea of where it is going. But I've also written a number of novels on a whim, so you never know. Thing is, if what I'm trying to do is spark my creative side, then it doesn't really matter.

It mattered a lot at first that I finish my novels, because in my previous career I'd stalled out too many times and it had started to become a bad habit. But I've proven that I have no trouble finishing novels so I can let myself to explore now without fear of failure.

It's the flow that counts, not the results.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Another street closure today. Did a little below average for the month, but not too bad. It isn't like the old days where the closures killed us, because we've become much more mainstreamed.

I still don't like them much.

I was a little surprised that none of the city councilors answered my email about the last street closure, especially since I understood that I wasn't the only merchant writing to them. I expected some kind of "we're looking into it" answer, but not even that.

But I gave up on all this stuff a few years ago.

Having a good month overall. This will probably be the 7th out of the last 8 months that we've beat last year, mostly due to new books and graphic novels. Becoming a true bookstore, in some ways.

By the way, I'll be going back to work this fall, at least on Sundays and Mondays. Dylan is going off to school in the east and Sabrina and I decided we could handle the hours ourselves. I'm looking forward to it.

My writing has slowed way down. I have a huge backlog of material that needs to be finished, so I'm resisting starting anything new. At the same time, I'm finding it hard to be motivated in rewrites--but I'll get them done eventually.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Farewell Bend
writer's group,
Christmas Party, 2012.

"Merry Christmas everyone!
Farewell, I'm going home,
I'm busy writing!"

Plotting the story in the car,
not a second wasted,
my characters are calling.

The words come fully formed,
the scenes alive in my head,
I'm not missing a moment.

Word count clicking,
like a metronome,
a thousand here, a thousand there.

Weeds sprout in the garden,
bills pile on the desk,
Fuck that, I'm writing!

I'm writing a novel,
with another one waiting,
and more jostling ahead.

It'll come to end,
someday down the road,
but not now, not until then.

Stories take their turn,
waiting to be told,
an endless stream.

And then a year later,
sending the first one off,
getting rejected.

But I'm busy writing,
can't be concerned,
I'm getting better.

An opening,
someone says they like it,
even if it's not their thing.

I try them again,
something I'm sure they'll like,
with a cover ready.

He takes it,
and the rejected story before,
and there they are, printed.

I'm not slowing down,
every idea is a yes,
every story will be written.

Killer pigs,
and Golem gangsters,
sexy succubae.

Vampires and werewolves,
Bigfoot makes himself known,
giant snakes and gnomes.

Dragons and Old Gods,
ghosts and mercenaries,
each take their turn.

Looking back in
surprise, as fictional
as a dream.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

A Million Little Words

Kafka wanted his words burned,
or so it is said,
Jacqueline Susann worshiped the Golden Calf,
praying she might be read.

Thomas Wolfe stampeded his words,
while Maxwell Perkins culled the herd,
Hemingway chose words carefully,
a style new, he was sure.

F. Scott Fitzgerald drank,
the Roaring Twenties in the rearview mirror,
Joan Didion looked fragile,
while aiming to perturb.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a tale,
that the world embraced,
he looked at his fans,
and recoiled in horror.

J.K. Rowling wrote in coffee shops,
uncertain of her future,
and became the richest woman,
in Albion of yore.

George Orwell traveled
to the future, while
Philip K. Dick's psychosis
became real.

J.D. Salinger wrote a word a year,
resting on his laurels,
while Harper Lee never
wrote another.

George R.R. Martin wrote a
million words,
but let others
finish the story.

Bestselling authors are forgotten,
Uris, Wouk, and Robbins,
other authors write more than ever,
now that they are gone.

And now a million writers,
clamor to be seen,
lost in an ocean of words,
written on machines.

Somewhere between Kafka,
and Susann, I write my little stories,
hoping someone hears them
and fearing that they will.

Friday, July 5, 2019

I'm amazed I ended up in such a good place.

It's a little unexpected. After a miserable 20s, I wrote a book, met Linda, and bought Pegasus Books. Worked hard for the next 30 years--mostly just trying to keep our head above water.

To find the time at 59 to go and write my books, to spend the next seven years in my own home, living creatively while the store continued to do all right. (A little more than head above the water--if not much more.)

The heart attack has definitely put more of a premium on the moment. I think until I had the heart attack it was my assumption that I'd live into my 80s at least. Now...I realize that every moment counts.

It hasn't made me more industrious. If anything, the opposite has happened. I'm allowing myself the luxury of being lazy.

They talk about second-childhoods, but this is more like a second teenage-hood. Listening to music, reading in the afternoon, going for long exploratory walks. Driving around. Hanging out with Linda, talking philosophy and psychology and--when we slip a few cogs--politics. Stopping by the store a few times a week to put away books, being around books and comics, seeing old friends.

It's nice. I like it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

My Favorite Path

My Favorite Path

Fifteen miles east of Bend,
A thousand miles from no one,
Five hundred hikes,
Always alone.

A single parking spot,
At the trailhead,
Mine if I claim it,
Always empty.

A slight upward hike,
On the journey out,
And easy striding,
On the way home.

Always halfway,
No matter where I turn,
One foot before the other,
Motion swinging into motion.

Sun and shade,
Trees and breeze,
Hat band and backpack
Soaked but refreshed.

No one ever here,
Always mine,
My favorite path.

…Not telling you where.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Gunshots in the distance,
beer can in the dirt,
nature ignores the hurt.

Airplane rumbles above,
man-made clouds,
the skies endure.

Broken sofas,
shredded foam,
mark the path.

Revving motors,
drown the wind,
the birds cry.

Black tires,
eternal decay,
claim the land.

Branches broken,
rocks and dust overturned,
the earth abides.

I walk in the beauty,
and the wreckage,
and apologize.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

I walk in summer twilight,
when others are at home,
I walk in summer twilight,
to be alone.

The red skies,
burn away day's worries,
the gentle breeze,
seeks me out, reassuring.

The creatures of day,
are seeking shelter.
The creatures of night,
yet to emerge.

The land is waiting,
as it always has,
quiet in anticipation,
of night before day.

Light fails,
in blazing hues,
eternal beauty,
in peaceful glory.

Monday, June 24, 2019

In between projects, waiting for something to happen.

I hadn't expected to spend so much time on "Takeover," though I'm glad I did. What usually happens is I start to tinker with something, then it draws me in deeper, and then a little deeper, and then I find myself all in.

So I have to figure out what to tinker with next.

I'm thinking probably I'll do the four novellas. I decided to ask for "Eden's Return" from my publisher, and push "Takeover" as the next release instead. Since I'm bringing it back, I'm going to give it a good rewrite, and then send it to Lara when she can get to it.

But until then, I'm going to finish "The Wyvern Riders," which is 80% done. Then draw maps and background facts about the world, to make it consistent. What would be fun would be a map, and I may ask if Andy Zeigert would be willing to put one together for me.

I've decided that even though I have a publisher who will do the covers and editing, and they do a good job, I'm going to finish off each project myself. Try to have both editing and covers done under my auspices. If not both, then either editing or cover.

This is going to cost me some money, but at the same time, it feels good to have this stuff under my control. I'm not sure why.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Almost and Done are two different states of being.

Apparently, I was feeling pressure to have a book finished for publication and didn't really know it. Finally getting the sequel to "Deadfall Ridge" done is a big relief. I think "Takeover" is finally ready. I've already contracted a cover from Mike Corley, and my editor, Lara, is going to be giving it a last edit over the next month.

My publisher, Crossroad Press, would ordinarily do both the cover and the editing, but I decided I really like Mike's work, and I really like Lara's work, and this is my package, even if it does cost me. I may do this in the future, too. This may literally cost more than I make, but I like being in control.

The pressure to finish a book was unexpected because I have a ton of books that are almost ready for publication. But almost and done are two different states of being.

I'll probably tackle the four "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities" novellas next. I have to write the ending the the "The Wyvern Riders," but "The Toad King," "Mirror God," and "Moregone" are finished except--I need to work out the geographical details.

Linda is reading "Castle La Magie" right now. When she's finished, I'll do a rewrite and then it will be ready.

Still not sure I want to start anything new soon. It seems to me to be good idea to finish up all the stuff I've already written.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

One step better, two steps further from perfect.

Finished the final rewrite of "Takeover." That doesn't mean I won't do a bit of rewriting here and there over the next month, while Lara is editing it, but I've done a top to bottom edit and I think improved it. If nothing else, I've smoothed away the inconsistencies.

I can't tell if it's any good. Ironically, the very process of trying to improve it makes me doubt it more. After a first draft, when I think I've told my story, I can maintain the illusion that it's great. But once I start editing, then all the flaws come to the surface. The more I try to fix it, the more I see.

But here's the thing. I am actually improving the story even as--the longer I do it--the more doubts I have. I've never talked to another writer who feels this way.

I remember one of the first pros I ever talked to said, "Why would you let your book go before it was perfect?"

And I remember just saying, "Perfect?" like it was a word I never heard before.

So it's perfect after the first draft--in my mind, if not in reality. After I've actually improved it, it's far less than perfect. Does that make sense?

I don't want to lose my enjoyment of writing in pursuit of perfection--which is ridiculous anyway.

I have to remember the rosy glow of that first story-telling, and then hard-headedly improve the writing.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Desert Flowers

Desert flowers, pink carpet,
Paving a path through the Juniper trees.
White flowers, petitely beckoning,
Purple flowers insistent.

The blue skies above, 
Pure white clouds.
Grey-green trees,
And soft green sagebrush.

The soil velvet brown,
Or dusty grey,
And still there is no one,
My seat is mine alone.

Alone where no one comes,
A freedom few feel,
Along with the breeze and the heat,
Even the birds quiet.

A place outside time,
A hundred years past,
A hundred years future.
Unchanging beneath the sun.

And me in the middle,
Unnoticed, a part of the whole,
Alone, not the horde,
Who trample, cut, and burn.

And so, I hope, it will remain,
Day after day,
Just me and the path,
The timeless way.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

I've figured out that "Takeover" could be improved by taking one of the characters and expanding on him. As it is, he's a little bit a figure of fun, diminished. In fact, all the original occupiers are less than substantial figures.

If I take this certain character and make him charismatic, someone who everyone follows, it would definitely improve the motivational underpinnings of the plot.

The question is--is the change important enough to risk skewing the plot? It's not possible to simply change a character without making sure it's consistent throughout the book. It's like removing one piece of a puzzle. It can all fall apart.

If I do make this change, do I have time to get it done before I hand it over to Lara? She has her schedule, which I have to fit into.

I'm going to finish the current rewrite, and then decide if I still have time. I've managed to work on 50 pages a day, so I would still have time to go through one more time, and I'm thinking I probably should.

I'm fighting the 100,000 word limit I've set on myself. I may have to stray slightly over that. But only if it improves the book.

I really want to try to deepen the characterizations, the inner dialogue, and bring in a bit more description and telling detail. It might add up to several thousand words.

But all in service to the book. By the end of this, I may have edited this book more than any other. (Not rewrite, per se, because I've completely changed "Faerylander" a bunch of times.) But fiddling with the actual writing, this is probably the most I've done.

It's my most difficult and experimental work--and I feel like it is so close to being good.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Twilight colors in the High Desert,
a last show for the wanderer,
colors deep and muted,
piercing the grey soil.

The vast stillness
teased by a crickets call
and dust muffled footsteps,
ambling and hurrying

to get home before dark,
stumbling, an awkward ballet,
trees and rocks keep the silence,
so close to home.

Choosing pictures,
unsatisfied at first,
and then all becomes
a picture, every stone

every tree, sagebrush,
and rocky knoll, walls
of lava, inviting protection,
to the wanderer on his way home.

Anthills on every mound,
shattered rocks left alone
trees crowning every rise
and blue sky turning to glow

I linger, daring the falling light,
the cooling air, blanket silence
and the eternal night,
desperate victor of desert life

Twilight colors in the High Desert
welcoming me to the stay,
but darkness has its own domain
and I dare not remain.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Life in a moment.

A moment from gone
it all fades away
blurs, thrums,
to the helicopter blades.

Take the moment
remember, question, appreciate
for it may blink out
a moment gone, and gone, and gone

Vibrations, EMT's close
all in a day's work
watching, alert, reaching out
"Are you OK?"

Floating, humming
sedatives in my blood,
not frightened, curious.
This is the moment.

And it's all right,
surprisingly OK,
I've done my thing
and this was going to happen anyway.
I'm glad I decided to do a rewrite "Takeover" all the way through. I'm finding things that are wrong--and I shouldn't expect Lara to catch all of them. This is the right thing to do. There is no substitute for doing the work--and by work, I mean rewriting.

It's a much more readable story now--I believe I establish the main characters in those first 11 chapters or so.

The problems that remain--if they are problems--are inherent in the form and premise. You know, the basic story.

The more I get into the book, the more I like it.

That's the problem with rewriting. In order for a rewrite to do any good, there has to be time between the first draft and the rewrite.

Because so much time has passed, it's extremely difficult to get into the swing of things. What usually happens is that I go to do a specific thing--and in the course of doing it, I slowly come around to understanding the story again.

Anyway, I like the book again, and that's a good feeling.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

This rewrite is going faster than I expected. I'd only hoped to do the first 100 pages, but it looks now like I'll get through the entire book.

Which needs to be done.

The book on the Sagebrush Rebellion is mostly politics, of which I can only use a little. I'm reading 30 pages a day, and meanwhile, I'm editing 30 pages a day on "Takeover."

I'm hoping to present that is a done and done for my publisher. Editing done, and maybe even the cover. I've approached Mike Corley, who did the cover to "Deadfall Ridge."

This is a sequel--sort of. I counted how many chapters are Hart and Nicole, and it's roughly 40% or so. I think that's enough to squeak by.

Especially since 9 out of the first 11 chapters are Hart and Nicole, so that gives it a bit of grounding.

The beginning is much, much smoother, much more like a regular book. I think I improved the readability dramatically.

It's still a stretch, drama-wise, but it's not a bad thing to try to write over my head. If nothing else, to see what I'm capable of.

So I'm reading the Sagebrush Rebellion book--which, not surprisingly, is about politics more than anything else. Still, it gives a vivid portrait of the people and the land. The near vicinity of Malhuer terrain is different from the near vicinity of the Fossil Beds, though if you go a ways out, it's the same sagebrush and juniper.

But I really don't want "Takeover" to get too political. I'm trying to tread a middle ground, but I'll probably piss off both sides. What's interesting is that I got so much of it right. The parts I don't have right are either not applicable to the different setting and/or go too deeply into the politics.

Still, in doing this rewrite, I'm starting to see that the "Takeover" is pretty good again. I swing back and forth on the "how good" scale. I did try to do something different, to up my game. Problem is, I probably took on more than I could chew.

Don't be part of a shady system.

Another article (in the Bulletin) about fraud in the sports card industry.

Well, duh.

I'm shocked, shocked, to find there is fraud in the sports card industry!

I've spent the last 25 years steering Pegasus Books away from the entire concept of "investment" value in anything--comics, cards, books....anything.

I was a true believer in the first five years of the sport card boom, but at the end of that period I realized that there were so many shysters and conmen selling stuff that I simply couldn't be part of it. I spent the next five years trying to ween myself from the dependence on that market--telling anyone who would listen that they should read comics for entertainment and collect cards for fun. Period.

By 1997, I was no longer dependent on sports cards. I still remember the moment when I answered a sports card complaint by saying, "I'm not a card shop." Pheww.

By 1997, I was rebuilding from the wreckage of the comic speculators by focusing on readers.

And here it is, 22 years later, and there is another boom in comics that has nothing to do with the actual comics. "Variant" covers...oh, my! And I'm keeping the store out of it. I think it's bogus, and I'm sad to see some of my fellow retailers encouraging it.

My saying is, "The Antiques Roadshow has a lot to answer for!" Investment and speculation simply don't work for the average consumer. And by the time you learn enough to do it properly, you should have learned that you are surrounded by some very unsavory practices.

So just don't do it. I mean, think about it. Who would have more an inside advantage than an actual dealer?--and yet, I chose not to go there.

Don't be part of a shady system. Don't be part of something that almost by definition means taking advantage of people less knowledgeable than you. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Started to read the Sagebrush Rebellion book.

What I already love is the wonderful real-life dialogue. It's somehow poetic and evocative.

Whereas my language is functional at best.

I'd love to be able to replicate that language, at least a little. I wonder if I really apply myself to ten pages a day, working on not only the telling detail I wanted, but somehow really deepen the dialogue--I mean, just sit there every time I hit dialogue and see if I can't figure out how to make it more individualistic, more authentic.

I mean, this book is really over my head, but that doesn't mean I can't keep trying.

I've got ten days to work on this--using the book as my spark. I hope I can add some real quality to this book.

After the first 100 pages or so, I'm going to let the plot take over, but until then, I'd like to immerse the reader into the setting, bathe them in the language. It will just take work on my part, a little extra effort.

I'm kind of looking forward to it, frankly.

I think the book is just lacking that little bit of extra to get there.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Linda thought the ending of "Castle La Magie" was good. I do think it worked out pretty well, especially for a story I was stuck in. Not a lot of missteps.

Adding the Sister Executioners was what was needed: or, in other words, a second storyline.

Looking over "Ruby Red and the Robots," I can see that a second or even third plotline is needed. I thought  it was close to 40K words, but instead, I'm only up to 20K words, only a third of the way. Not sure if I want to even attempt to finish if that is true.

But for sure, the story isn't strong enough with just Ruby as narrator. Plus, I think I'll need to start from the beginning with it being a Spell Realm novel--that is, a future colonized world that has become magic.

Oh, well. First I do a final, final rewrite of "Takeover," then I take a long look.

Thinking over "Takeover," I think one of the problems is that I tried to make it true to life--and missed, because that's really hard--but by doing so, the story has almost a documentary tone to it, at least in the first half.

So I need to up the emotional responses of the characters, as much as I can. The "drama" if you will. "Dram" is hard from me on most books, but especially this one. I probably can't overdo it; I just don't write that way, so trying to up the emotional response is probably appropriate.

I don't know exactly how to do that. I'll have to think on it. But at least for the first hundred pages, I need to try.

For example, I have Hart behind rejected by Nicole, and therefore rebounding to the "other" woman. But I do it very briefly and dryly. I really need to put inner dialogue for all these characters, an emotional response for each of them. Lift this out of matter-of-factness.

At the same time, if I'm trying to make it real, I need to have as much authentic telling detail as possible. So I'm researching the Sagebrush Rebellion.

Theoretically, I'd like to put in a couple of inner dialogue parts on every page, and a couple of new telling details on every page, for the first 100 pages.

Of course, it may turn out that I do a bunch on one page and none on another, but that's what I'm going to set off trying to do.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Dammit, Robert Zimmerman!

So I'm watching "Rolling Thunder Revue" on Netflix and....





When a character who I'm pretty sure is fictional pops up.

And suddenly, the utterly humorless German director, "Van Dorp," looks very suspicious.

And Sharon Stone as the 17 year old groupie--that seems suspiciously convenient.

And Sam Shepard, the playright, being along for the ride--no, that appears to be true.

And...Dammit, Bob Dylan (& Martin Scorsese), quit messing with my head!

It may be possible to find the truth about Bob Dylan, but you'll never get it from the little bastard himself.

I can almost hear him chortling.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I was feeling fairly depressed yesterday.

Mostly about writing, I think. And the hangover of the heart attack.

It's not clinical depression, I don't think. But enough of a warning that I don't want to go that way. So I have to remember the way I got out of that last depression--accomplishing things, even small things, doing the right things, things that make me feel good about myself. Living the right way. Taking the moral high ground.

I finished my gardening today, (never finished, of course) the store is doing well, (I'd like to winnow down the credit card debt this summer). Linda is happy, we're all right financially (laid out a major chunk of money to help a family member). I've fixed my teeth, my glasses, my heart. (Need to eat better...that's probably the hardest goal of all).  I probably need to walk every day (I have long streaks, and then I'll lay off for a while) and write every day (again, not as diligent as I used to be.)

It helped that on my walk yesterday I came up with what I think is a solid ending to Castle La Magie. I'm going to write that today and then print out a hard copy for Linda. On Friday I'm going to set about working on "Takeover" again for a couple of weeks.

After that, I'll decide which of my other unfinished projects I want to tackle. I can clear a lot of ground in the next sixth months. Enough to fuel my writing "career" for several years down the road.

I have a vague idea of setting aside three or four years to write my Epic Fantasy. We'll see.
One chapter and an epilogue to go. At 54,200 words, it will be at the right length. This will be my first designated Young Adult novel. I say designated, because many of my books are really directed at my 16 year old self, especially my first three books.


All right, wrote what I thought was going to be the last chapter. It was hard, took me an entire day of procrastination. 

Now I see that I do need one more chapter rather than an epilogue.

Up to 55,300 words. So undoubtedly going to go over 56,000 words, which is a good number for YA.

I'm going to ask Linda to do an edit, which I don't usually presume to do. She likes hard copy, so I'll be printing this up tomorrow.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Hit 52K words today on "Spell Realm" with only a chapter and an epilogue to go. My goal was somewhere between 55K and 60K since this is intended to be a YA novel, so I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

It's been a struggle. The words aren't exactly flowing, but you know what? When I'm done, it's very hard to see a qualitative difference between words that are inspired and words that are worked at. So I just keep working at it.

I want to finish it by next Saturday.

The mystery: Last night going to bed, I told myself I wanted to fully visualize the last chapter. Just a small prompt for tomorrow, but by the time I went to sleep, I had it figured out. Where those thoughts come from is a mystery. I suspect part of it is asking the right question, but I do that all the time and images and words don't magically appear. And then...sometimes they do.

I'm going to go through "Takeover" one more time for a couple of weeks. I just bought a book about the Sagebrush Rebellion which I'm hoping to use for research. Then should have that done in time for my editor Lara to take a look at the end of the month.

I want to finish "Ruby Red and the Robots" after that. Also turn it into a Spell Realm novel.

Then finish "The Wyvern Riders." Then get the geographical details of all four novellas of "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities" right.

Then look over the first two Lander books, and adapt the third book to the new changes, and the fourth book, which also needs a finish.

Lots of work, no so much fun. But I don't feel ready to start a new novel until I've mulled it over a little longer, so doing this catch-up writing is all good.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Comics are an incredibly creative artform.

I thought I should follow up the previous post about how much easier new books are to sell than comics with an explanation why I carry comics.

I believe comics are the most creative of all art forms, at least those who are produced on a professional level. Something about the visual mixed with the literary opens the floodgates of wild and imaginative story-telling.

Most movies and books follow some sort of template. You can figure out pretty fast what kind of book or movie you're imbibing.

With comics, you never know.

So I'll make a distinction here. Super-hero comics do indeed have a template (and even here, I believe there is more stretching and warping of the expected than you'll find in most media.) But outside of that, anything goes.

And I do mean anything.

There's a reason that TV and movies constantly dip into comics for their ideas. I think part of it is the very smallness of comics. There isn't as much riding on the average comic. The barrier to entry is low. Wild ideas are not only allowed, but encouraged.

Think about any original movie--it's a huge investment, and you don't know if it will pan out. If it doesn't pan out, you'll lose a ton of money. Same with TV shows and books. So it's safer to make sequels to ideas that have already worked, or follow the same old path a successful book has already blazed.

Looking at the book liquidation lists every week, it's amazing how many clones there are to successful books, especially young adult.

Of course, the same thing happens in comics, but there is also a huge percentage of truly original and out-there ideas, created by individual creators and yet given a chance to shine.

It's a constantly surprising world, and I feel like it has helped me in my own creative life, as an example and a goal.

Comics have nurtured a couple of generations of individualistic thinkers, writers, and artists, and has allowed them to bring their works to the public. There isn't a lot of money in it, unfortunately, and may of these incredibly creative people struggle to make a living.

But that hasn't stopped them. The flow of creativity just keeps coming, and it's inspiring. 

Selling new books is ten times easier than comics.

This is probably going to sound arrogant, but I have to say--selling new books is ten times easier than selling comics.

I mean, in some ways it's a no-brainer.

You find good books and you put them out for sale, and by golly, they sell. The more good books you have, the more they sell.

It's not a guessing game like comics. Comics have to be ordered in advance, with limited information, you have to guess how many will sell, you are committed to having enough in stock to keep your customers interested, if they don't sell, you can't send them back. They sell for a very limited amount of time, then they're outdated. It's a constantly shifting market, with ups and downs, changes in artists, writers, story-lines, with innumerable variations, covers, one-shots, crossovers, series, and starting-overs.

Comics are so difficult that no mass market outlet has ever really figured out how to do it. Which in some ways has helped insulate the comic world from being stomped on by the Big Guys. Also, there isn't a whole lot of money in it. Not enough for the Big Guys to do more than take an occasional foray into the comic world.

The Big Guys find out that despite the latest Avengers movie wracking up a billion dollars, the actual comic with the same story line sells in the low five figures. I can just see them in their corporate lairs going, "WTF?"

Comics have always had a glass ceiling. That is, if you find that a Spider-man comic sells 10 copies, and you order 12 just in case, that you've allowed for growth. But that ordering 20 copies doesn't sell more than the 10 you were already selling.

Don't get me wrong. I love comics. I think they're one of the most creative art forms there is. But they are difficult.

I've always had to carry other product to survive. It wasn't until I hit the mix of comics, graphic novels, toys, card games, board games, and new books, that we became self-sustaining.

At first, new books were an adjunct to used books. I got used books from Linda's store, but never enough of the really good titles. So I figured, I'll order the books that people are constantly asking for but which never came in.

I was surprised to find that the same amount of space for new books outsold used books 5 to 1.

Huh. What do you know?

See, all I'd heard was how bookstores were struggling.

So I started visiting bookstores on my travels, and I found out why. Most of them pretty much weren't doing a very good job. Same damn books in every store. Limited inventory. Snobby, not carrying many genre books, disorganized and messy, disinterested clerks, nothing very interesting. The American Booksellers Association, the ABA style-bookstore, focused on "best-sellers" and culturally approved "literary" novels. More concerned with appearances than content.

Tiny sections for SF and fantasy, maybe a bigger section for mysteries/thrillers, probably few if any romance, western, or horror. A paltry selection of classics, almost no cult books, same old, same old Oprah books that B & N and Costco were selling for huge discounts.

I mean, I'm a reader. I've always read a lot, and not just the same genres. I've read every kind of book. I know what books I thought were good, which writers, and I looked up lists of cult books, books with an ongoing following.

I get a stock of books and they never date. They don't become paper like so many comics do. If the book is good, someone will be looking for it. Not only that, but they have probably been looking for it, and instead finding ABA style bookstores full of the latest literary darlings.

So I'm going to look for that kind of book, the kind the ABA stores can't be bothered with, and if it sells, I'm going to order it again.

And slowly but surely, I've built of a roster of evergreen books, titles I know will sell, either fast, or slow, but will sell.

At this point, the only thing stopping me is lack of space. I'm crammed, and with the other product lines, including comics, providing a self-sustaining level of business, I have no real incentive to replace them. So I keep looking for nooks-and-crannies to place my funky books.

It's fun and it's a challenge, and I feel like I've only just started.

Friday, June 7, 2019

My writing has evolved--or devolved...

My writing has evolved--or devolved--into a very basic form. Sparse, simple, straight-forward.

Maybe too much so, I don't know. It can be startling to go from working on one of my stories to reading authors who have huge chunks of inner dialogue or descriptive passages or explanations.

Part of my rewriting is just looking for places where I can extrapolate, explain, describe.

My simpler style is closer to the style I see in thrillers than in SF or Fantasy or Horror.

I'm currently reading a book with two authors: the son of a very famous SF writer, and another SF writer who I've read. So I don't do negative reviews, so I'm going to be somewhat vague.

It's a very mediocre book. Obviously trying hard to hit the motifs of the famous father's best book, but pretty much missing. I now suspect that none of the books by the "son" are actually written by him; indeed, I suspect they were all written by the second author.

Lots and lots of description of motives and attempts at subtle power positioning. (The thing the famous father's best book is known for) but comes across as heavy-handed and obvious. Pretty sophomoric, actually.

Anyway, this is all just to say that my writing is very different than this--it may be just as sophomoric, but in a different way. Less pretentious, I would hope.

Really, what it's come down to is that I have suddenly realized that I have indeed developed a style of my own.

I know the ways I can improve on it, but it requires a fair amount of work, which I'm always a little leery of--not because I'm lazy (though I am) but because I've had too many experiences of taking a perfectly good story and ruining it.

So that's the constant balancing act.

The biggest thing I'm adding to this equation is time. All my stories can benefit from sitting on them for a few months. Then, after some thought and research, doing a page by page rewrite.

And then setting it aside for another few months.

Thing is, I now have enough material written to be able to do that, and still hit my publication schedules.

This sort of patience is hard, and requires true diligence. I sometimes fall short, tell myself that the book is done before it is. I have to watch out for that,

Sometimes I come back and find the book to be perfectly fine. This happened with "Eden's Return." I thought I'd do some philosophical research--the story is sort of metaphysical--but upon rereading it, I realized that adding more would be too much. So I'm sticking with the spare, but hopefully elegiacal tone of the story.

So now that I sort of halfway know what I'm doing, I'm hoping I can combine the right story with the right style with the right working process, and write a book that is perhaps better than the sum of its part, synergistic and elevating. The perfect little book (or big book) if you will...

Every book I start, there is that chance.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

I'm still working through my heart attack.

Part of me wants to finish up my books as quickly as possible and get them out there.

Part of me want to take my time finishing up my books, make sure they're right.

Part of me wants to just write something new, that might be better than anything I've done.

And part of me wonders what the point is, why bother?

80% of what I've made in the last 15 months has been from "Deadfall Ridge." All my other books combined make up the other 20%, which just shows the power of BookBub, but even more the relative futility of plunking anything out there not using BookBub.

Who knows if I'll ever get accepted again, or if I do, I'll have the same results.

I've thought it over, and I suspect my first three books have probably sold ten times what even "Deadfall Ridge" has done, because they were mass distributed in the early 80s and that was a whole different ballgame. One of them was distributed in the British Commonwealth and showed up all over the world.This, despite my feeling that I am three times the writer I was back then.

Well, first things first. Finish Spell Realms: Castle La Magie. Then see what happens.

Put out "Eden's Return" and "Takeover at the Fossil Beds" and see what happens.

One step at a time.