Thursday, March 31, 2011

A short history of Pegasus Books.

Much of what I say here probably makes no sense unless you know a little history of my store.
So for those of you who have read entries from years ago, move along. For others, this short history kind of puts it in perspective; why I do what I do, why my store seems to have weathered the downturn so well.

Hey, it's all relative.

The first ten years were a roller coaster ride -- booms in sports cards, comics, non-sports cards, magic, and so on. Opened four stores, closed three of them and so on. Sales were high, margins were minimal. Risk -- as it turned out --enormous.

When it all crashed, (sales dropping in half and going south), I decided to hang on. For the next ten years, about 40% of my GROSS PROFIT went toward debt. So, it would've been the equivalent, basically, of those of you with paychecks handing 50 to 60% of your earnings to the credit card barons. Yeah, brutal.

I had no credit. No cash reserves. Most of my distributors put me on Cash On Delivery terms.

I got really, really good at getting product -- enough to keep the store alive. And selling enough of it, at high enough margins to keep going.

Then, after ten years, the debt was paid off.

I could've pocketed the money. But the store was so threadbare that I decided to reinvest for a few years. So for the first half of the boom, say 2002 to 2005, I was just taking all the profits and plowing them back in the store.

Around 2005 or so, I was convinced there was an economic bubble in the U.S.A and especially in Bend, Oregon.

If I was operating at such and such a margin and needed X amount to survive, then I need to increase both the margins and the overall X so that I could survive a 50% drop in sales.

I prepared for a 50% drop in sales.

I also was determined not to raise my overhead, or to incur debt.

The years between 2006 and 2008 gave me opportunities to move into new product lines, creating more diversity and cushioning the future bust. (The Book Barn on Minnesota Ave. and Gambit Games on Wall St. went out of business, so I brought in new books and boardgames.)

When the bust happened, I didn't have debt. I had a large cushion in overall sales I could give up and retreat. And my margins were better. (Not to mention, better credit terms, credit backup, and cash reserves. Oh, the luxury.)

Turns out, there are compensating factors to a downturn. I get a small decrease in rent (not enough), I was able to cut employee costs without working every day, and as I mentioned in the previous post, I was able to start getting slightly better deals on product. Every 10% I save in costs, is worth 25% of my sales.

And I had those ten years of experience of dealing with C.O.D terms, no credit, no cash, no reserves -- no margin of error at all. 40% of gross profit going toward debt.

After that, the Great Recession has been more like a giant bump in the road.

So what else is new?

Buy it while you can.

I have made a fairly strong choice. I will take up every opportunity to save money on product.

To me, all stores need to do three things to survive (minimally; I could come up with half a dozen other things that need to be done, but these are the Essentials):


1.) Pay overhead. Fixed expenses, like rent, insurance, electricity, phone, etc. and non-fixed like capital improvements and wages.

2.) Buy new product as it comes out.

3.) Replace product that has sold.

It seems to me that most store can do 2 out of 3 well; but it's extremely difficult with the competitive margins allowed these days to do all 3 well.

You can tell which two Essentials the store you're shopping at is doing. If they never have any new stuff, or they never bring back what they sold, or -- well, overhead can be more hard to see, at least at first, but eventually you might see the store run down, or a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the store owner who isn't making any money.

Anyway, that's a roundabout way of getting to my point, which is a sort of corollary to the above theory:

1.) A store needs new product.

2.) A store needs to replace sold product.

But a store needs to do those two Essentials with sufficient profit margin to pay the overhead.

The thing that I've found works best, is to constantly jump on every "Sale" offered by my distributors. To be shamelessly opportunistic.

I struggled for a long time with the idea that I was buying less than evergreen product with a large percentage of my budget. Shouldn't I just buy the best-selling product?

But the extra margin in the "Sale" product is what can allow me to do everything else I need to do.

If -- and it's a big if -- I can sell enough of the "Sale" product to gain the advantage. Ironically, it seems that if I buy on a constant basis, it works better than just taking advantage of the occasional blow-out.

A constant stream of "Sale" product, whether I buy at 10% off, or 20% or more, helps with the first 'Essential' (new product) and often for a portion of the second 'Essential' (replacing sold product) and gives me enough extra profit to pay for the first and probably most important Essential -- overhead.

It's more or less a constant tinkering with the formula -- how much to spend on new and perhaps unproven product, and how much to spend on older "Sale" product that may or may not be in demand.

What I'm saying, I guess, that I'm getting more and more comfortable ordering a larger percentage of "Sale" product the more time goes on. It isn't really even the lack of money that stops me from buying more, but the lack of space. (Which ordinarily would be a sure sign that I need to expand -- enough money to buy product, but not enough space to display -- but that's another can of worms.)

I'm assuming that I'm being offered so many bargains because the economy is weak -- so that's a compensating factor to the downturn. Those of us with established store and the ability to buy, have a great opportunity to bring in more product than we normally would.

It's also possible that there is just so much material in my retail corner of the world that "Sales" are inevitable. Or perhaps, I've diversified so much that there will always be a "Sale" in one or the other of my categories.

Whatever it is, I'm betting that I'm established and experienced enough to take full advantage.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A bookstore in a nutshell.

In one ten minute period, I had the following happen in my store:

A woman asks for WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS and THE LIGHT IN THE ATTIC, by Shel Silverstein. We go to the Shel Silverstein section and I have:- FALLING UP; THE MISSING PIECE; THE GIVING TREE; A GIRAFFE AND A HALF; and DIFFERENT DANCES.

But not the books she was looking for...


But not the book she was looking for.

This pretty much goes on all the time, no matter how many books I carry.

It really points out how many books there are in the world; not just books, but "good" books.

On one hand, it's an opportunity to stock my store with nothing but "good" books. That's a luxury, actually. I don't think most bookstores realize how lucky they have it -- that they have centuries of evidence about which books stand the test of time and which books actually sell.

It isn't always this way. For many product lines I carry, I have a few items that sell and then a bunch of filler that doesn't sell so well. I have to carry the filler to, well, fill in -- to get that extra 20% that makes the whole thing work. (And I don't always know when I order which new product will be evergreen and which are filler. The ones that don't sell, turn out to be filler.)

Sure, the book trade has a whole lot of mid-list product, but you can pick and choose which to carry, based on your own tastes and predilections. And sure the book trade has tons of "new" books that haven't proven themselves -- but I avoid most of those, and wait for evidence of strength.

Anyway, it points to a little bit of a dilemma for me: I have limited space, so I have to be very very picky. It's great, in a way, because I can fill my store with only proven sellers and other books I want to carry. But even amongst the proven sellers, I have to pick and choose.

So here's the choice, as I see it.

Once I identify an author who sells, do I carry a few of his 'best' books and leave enough money to bring in another author who sells, and carry a few of his 'best' books?

Or do I choose one of the two authors and carry a full bibliography of that author's works; not only his or her best known works, but the early unknowns, the off the beaten track works.

(If I had a bigger store, I'd do both...)

So far, I have found the latter technique to be better for Pegasus Books.

Not sure why, but my guess is that the better known books are everywhere -- in every Barnes and Noble and Borders and most indie bookstores. It's the lesser books that I'm more likely to sell, sometimes, because I may be the only guy carrying it.

Of course, by this logic, maybe I should carry just the lesser known books by major authors....except I don't have the guts. But what I'm really saying is, that carrying the lessor known books probably helps me sell more books -- that is, I might sell the better known books too, but this the extra margin I need.

In a way, my new books survive on that contradictory boundary. I survive on that margin between what is so well known that everyone sells it (often much cheaper than I) and those books that are so obscure they never sell.

My job is to discover and pick what books are in that gray area between those two extremes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ambushed in Margaritaville

I have all but stopped drinking. But I'm not anti-drinking; in fact, I usually quite enjoy it.

But I can't seem to function too well in my day to day life if I drink very often, so I made a decision to only drink at social functions where alchohol is served and since I go to so few social functions -- alchohol or non-alchohol -- I'm pretty safe.

One exception are my family reunions, where we tend to sit around a big table and drink wine and beer and have a great time.

So two of those dinners a my sister Susie's condo, and home to bed.

Yesterday, my brother and Linda and I went to Sisters to check out Lonesome Water books for any vintage Central Oregon history books, checked out Paulina Springs bookstore where I bought the latest Thomas Perry mystery, and then -- back in Bend -- met my sister and her two kids at Hola as they came out of the theater from seeing Rango.

I've got a very soft goal of checking out all the 'fine-dining' restaurants in Bend; I mean, at the rate I'm going, it will take forever. So Hola was a new experience. They had MARGARITA'S in huge letters in the window, so I figure when in Rome (or Peru in this case) do as the locals do.

I didn't know what kind to order, so the waiter helpfully suggested "super" margarita (sly fellow). Well, I quickly polished that off -- salt rimmed, and a lime slice (the lime slice really took the edge off.

I signaled to the waiter for a second one, and he looked surprised, but went off the start shaking up the ingredients.

"There's more in this container, Dunc," my brother Mike says.

"Oh!" I pour out another drink, and I see there is contents for at least a couple more. "Errr...."

Mike hustles off to cancel the second drink.

Turns out there were four margarita's in that container, and I hate to see anything go to waste.

So, three nights in a row of alchohol and I'm pretty wiped out. I've slept well enough, thank goodness.

So...from now on, when a drink says "Super" I probably should be paying attention.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Writing is writing.

I don't just write on this blog. Or, rather, you don't see everything I write on this blog.

I write fiction, sometimes just little snippets, the beginnings of stories -- always in hopes they'll turn into something I want to continue. I also write personal diary type entries, and of course, I write about business.

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." Samuel Johnson.

I've more or less bought into this notion for the last 25 years. People often tell me to write for my own amusement, but that kind of pain-free writing is maybe half as good as the kind of writing I used to try to do -- toiling over every word and sentence. For the fiction to be worth reading, at least at my skill level, it required more than a creative lark.

It was too freaking hard to do it just "for fun."

"An unexamined life is not worth living," Socrates.

I've also more or less also bought into this notion.

But what if you examine your life through words?

Clear thinking creates clear writing. And clear writing creates clear thinking.

I've been writing a business journal about Pegasus Books, almost from the beginning -- reams and reams of paper, and now 4.5 years of blogs. I suppose I never thought of it as writing, but I think I was wrong about that.

Often, and this happens on this blog as well, I also examine personal issues. There are many, many entries I've written that were either too personal or too revealing to actually post to the world...

Anyway, I now think this kind of journaling , either about work or home, is writing. I'm putting one thought after the other, circling back to a previous thought, finding unnoticed connections, seeing glaring logical errors. The clearer I try to express myself, the clearer my thoughts become.

The other day, I woke from yet another of my "ostracism" dreams, and I sat down to write about it.

When I finished, I felt refreshed, clearheaded. I may not have solved the problem the dreams represent, but I had faced them squarely, written about them straightforwardly, and gathered all the threads and intuitions I've been mulling over for the last few years and put them all down in words.

I suppose in a way, I'm talking to myself. Never thought there was much wrong with that. Writing my thoughts down reveals notions and insights I didn't know I had. I mean, they come out of my head, but I don't remember ever really thinking about them until -- there they are, on paper or screen.

Now that I'm back to fiction writing, I'm realizing that I've been practice writing all these years, after all. The ease and directness that I've tried to maintain in this blog is transferring to my fiction, too. I don't know if it will make it better, but it's making it easier.

Maybe it'll make it easier enough to see through to the end.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New ways of reviewing movies.


Which movie would I like to see first: The King's Speech or Sucker Punch?

The King's Speech.

Which movie would I like to see again: The King's Speech or Sucker Punch?

Sucker Punch.


If you go to movies once a week, by all means see Sucker Punch.
If you go to movies once a month, go see Sucker Punch if you like video games or comics.
If you go to movies once a year, avoid Sucker Punch at all costs.


If you understand the terms Steam Punk or Anime, go see Sucker Punch.


If you really, really like both Quentin Tarantino and gothic horror -- go see Sucker Punch.


If you thought the Matrix was really "deep, man." Go see Sucker Punch.


If you have read an Oprah recommended book in the last year, avoid Sucker Punch.


If you go in planning to love it without really trying to love it -- avoid Sucker Punch.
If you go in planning to enjoy the visuals, and to try to like the rest -- go see Sucker Punch.


I loved Sucker Punch. The Rest of the World hates Sucker Punch. Whose side are you on?

Great Plan: sell 1000% more , earn 30% less.

Just lately, I've begun to automatically Zoom-in on a lot of online content. I swear the printing has gotten smaller, dammit.....

Another reason e-books are going to take over, probably.

(I'm assuming you can adjust the size of the print....)


Was reading an article that was arguing that file-sharing was not the cause of the decline in the music industry:

"Downward pressure on leisure expenditure is likely to continue to increase due to rising costs of living and unemployment and drastic rises in the costs of (public) services," says the report.

Having less money for entertainment has played a huge role in the decline of items like CDs." (LAW AND DISORDER.)

I call bullshit. From the perspective of a storekeeper, the PRICE of things isn't usually the real issue. PRICE rejection comes at the end of the game, not the beginning.

For instance, during both the Pog boom and the Beanie Baby boom, I saw young and old spending money like water -- they wanted it, they wanted it now, and they'd pay anything to get it.

Then the boom turns to bust, and you can't give the damn things away....

In other words, demand was all important.

Another example, people are constantly telling me that sports cards are too "expensive." Well, right now, I have .50 and 1.00 packs. Those brand new 1.00 packs are probably LESS expensive than old .50 packs from 30 years ago when inflation is taken into account.

"Yeah, but those are junk cards." They are junk cards because they are cheap. See the reasoning? What they are really saying is, they want expensive cards cheap -- but if they are cheap, they are junk. You can't win.

I suspect that file-sharing was very much responsible for much of the decline in music sales -- just like it will for movies and books. (Which is a reason the the publishers and studio's ought to keep fighting it -- it may not have worked for the music industry, but neither did giving in...But no one is going to take that advice -- )

Here's a pretty astounding statistic, that I just read on Tilting at Windmills:

In the...."music sales are up 1000%+ over the last six years, yet global revenues are down an astonishing 31%..."

So, will digital ever generate the same revenue as the physical product, and if not, how does the infrastructure beneath the industries survive? And if they don't survive, what takes there place, if anything?

In the end, there isn't much we can do about it.


I've taken a more or less two year window or timeline in gauging the effect of e-books (and e-comics).

Two years out, what do I see?

I feel pretty confident about this time span. I'm always prepared to vary my inventory to compensate for rising and falling sales. I have a hard time imagining that either books or comics are going to be gutted -- slowly diminished, maybe. But that was always possible for a variety of reasons.

I'll just be keeping my eye on that two year horizon...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday surf.

I swear to god, time is speeding up.

Which makes reorders less of problem. See...I miss my deadline, and the next week comes by in a blink of an eye.

Blink again, and another week goes by.

Only time it hurts is when someone asks for something and I'm out of stock.


I'll be seeing Sucker Punch, despite the 20% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Come on, Steam Punk, blondes in skimpy sailor moon outfits, zombie German trench soldiers, Zeppelins, DRAGONS!!

Oh, did I mention blondes in skimpy sailor moon outfits?

Oh, and DRAGONS!


Sometimes, like this morning, I toss off a sacrificial lamb of a post. It's the weekend; readership is down, it's what's on my mind, it shows people what's on my mind, and ... well, what the hell.


Linda had me buy the book KAPTOIL Teddy Wayne, for her book reading group.

She handed it back to me today. "I can't read, when I'm writing..."

"You're going to get tossed out of reader's group," I warned.

"Branded, scorned at the one who didn't read
What do you do when you're branded,
and you know you're a writer...."

What I've noticed about reader groups is that they pick "serious" books. Which would be inconvenient for me, since I'd probably want to recommend the latest fantasy or mystery.

"Branded, scorned at the one who read S.F.
What do you do when you're branded,
and you know you're a nerd..."

The other thing I've noticed about reader's groups, is that occasionally a member picks a book that is nearly impossible to find. Either it's out of print, or so new that it's only in hardcover and has a mile long reading list at the library.

"Branded, scored as the one who picked an impossible book to find
What do you do when you're branded,
and you know you're an snob..."

Giant reptilian mutant critter.

"In short, Judge Perkins, the toxic chemical level in Deschutes River from chemical runoff from the Lucky Leprechaun mine is far above acceptable legal standards."

"Yes, yes," the Judge said. "But you haven't presented any evidence of harm..."

Sarah gaped a little, then recovered. "Sir. I didn't think I needed to. These are clearly dangerous levels of toxic...''

"Motion denied."

At that moment, on the muddy banks of Deschutes River, a huge mottled egg began to undulate and stretch. Out popped a giant reptilian head, tongue sniffing the air. It slithered out of the bank and into the river.

"Poor little critter. They'll destroy it within a few hours. Probably use a cruise missile or something...."

"Poor little critter!" Sarah exclaimed. "It's eaten at least ten people!"

"There are lots of people," I answered. "There is only one mutant, giant, reptilian critter."


I woke up with the above story in my head. Probably won't go anywhere, but I'm going to start writing down these little bursts.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Babbitry Rites of Spring.

I've been paying attention to the economy in Bend long enough now to notice certain seasonal rites.

Every spring, we get the "upbeat" reports. We are headed for prime tourist season, and or housing sales market. Time to roll out the Star Making Machinery. The Bubble Blowing Contraptions. The Hail Friends and Well Mets Sloganeering.

So any uptick -- any uptick at all -- will serve as positive news.

But I've also noticed that you can find positive and negative in the news at any time, sometimes with the same statistics, depending on how you interpret them. It's the spin, baby.

KTVZ has a really upbeat story on all the building in N.W. Crossing -- the development that seems to have the largest or the most adamant supporters. We were being told two or three years ago that the West side would be immune to any downturn, then it was, well maybe not the entire West side, but N.W. Crossing. I think the building there is more a case of: in for a penny, in for a pound.

Still and all. Downtown Bend continues to keep it's vacancy rate down. The town seems to be holding onto most of it's population -- we aren't turning into Detroit. Most importantly, we haven't turned into the poster child for boom and bust -- I think because most people aren't paying attention, and the bust lobby (bubble bloggers and such ) just dropped the whole issue. "See?" they said, and walked away.

The local real estate blogs are publishing some real nonsense, and no one is challenging them much. People are still moving to town, and still buying -- and when I talk to them at the store, I swear they have no idea that Bend is any different than anywhere else when it comes to the economy. Blessed ignorance.

So while I've lost a whole bunch of regular customers, I've also gained a few newcomers. Why and how they are managing to move to Bend is a bit of mystery.

The subtext is the alarming number of people who have lost their homes, around here. I'm amazed how cheerful some of them are about it -- but what you gonna do? Jobs? People scramble admirably, and find ways. People are survivors.

Bend's economy remains a mystery -- almost as much a mystery as it was when it was booming.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday's WTF's.

A couple of years ago, whenever anyone talked about buying a house in Bend, I'd say, "Wait a couple of years. Wait a couple of years."

Not that anyone listened.

I stopped saying it, awhile back. (Giving advice is risky; I'd hate anyone to take my advice if it was wrong...)

But it looks today like I could still say, "Wait a couple of years..." and not be too far off the mark...

Housing vacancies are roughly double in Bend from ten years ago.

No rush, folks.


I finally dealt with the sleep disruption of Daylight Savings Time by ignoring that it happened. Instead of going to bed around midnight and getting up at 7:30 or 8:00, I stay up until 1:00 and get up until 8:30 or 9:00. An hour more reading at night, an hour less internet-tubing in the morning.


Fortunately, my brother-in-law ignored the above advice and bought a second home in Mt. Bachelor Village, which means the entire family has a place to come for gathering. All my sibs are coming this weekend. We'll scoop up the patriarch, Dad, and have a wild weekend.


H.Bruce came in to look at the Droplets, which -- I hate to say -- weren't quite as cool as I thought they'd be. But I showed him my favorite figures -- the Potamusses. (Potamii ?) and he bought the last two in stock.

(Little brightly colored hippo's with attitudes....)

He got a green one (Enviro Potamuss?) and a black one with an Anarky symbol.

(Linda says, are you sure he wants everyone to know he's got Potamii? )

I'll risk it.


I had a twelve year old girl in yesterday who didn't know who Marilyn Monroe was.

O.K. I can accept a certain amount of cultural illiteracy; if you talk about Presidents, you should know about Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelts I and II; I'll forgive you Jame Buchanan.

If you're talking about music, you should know about Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Beatles, Elvis; I'll forgive you if you don't know about Rachmaninoff and Little Richard.

If you're talking about Historical Figures, you should know about Napoleon, Caesar, Gandhi, Churchill; I'll forgive you, Hannibal and Attila the Hun.

If you're talking about Hollywood, you should know about Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne; I'll forgive you Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner.

Here's list compiled in 2009, of the top ten cultural icons of the last 50 years. Agree or disagree, (they seem skewed to recent deaths....) you should at least know who they are...

10. Paul Newman
9. Princess Diana
8. The Beatles
7. Oprah Winfrey
6. Mohammad Ali
5. Micheal Jackson
4. Marilyn Monroe
3. Frank Sinatra
2. Madonna
1. Elvis.

Bone up, kids. Or miss all the little references and in jokes for the rest of your life.


On a regular basis, the news media will print an article about some financially struggling family.
I'd feel sympathetic until they'd give the details of income and benefits and the help they are receiving, and often I'd realize they had more money than I did!

I had a similar reaction to the near-retirement couple in the Bulletin today. They have 720K in savings, own a house worth 500K and they live modestly and intend to keep working part-time, at least.

For Gods Sake. Most of the U.S. would kill for that level of retirement; much less the world.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A few percentage points here, a few points there....

To continue the theme of the other day's wonky post.

I used to not worry about a few extra percentage points in margin, or having a few extra days to pay, or getting slightly improved shipping costs.

I was on a steep curve of growth, and then decline, and then growth, and it was mostly about how high my sales were. Higher sales would compensate for lower margins, and higher sales would be facilitated by never running out, always having extra, and getting a constant flow no matter how much it cost.

I was always short of the Prime Evergreen material -- so my cash flow was constantly challenged by my just trying to get that stuff in, full wholesale or not.

Finally getting out of debt and then moving immediately into a growth boom (circa 2002 - 2008) allowed me to start building my inventory, so that immediate need to get material started to fade a little.

In other words, my store matured.

Once the store matured, I started being a little more savvy about percentage points, and shipping costs, and billing periods.

I was also able to stand back and start waiting opportunistically for "sales." These sales didn't happen as often in the old days; and they only happened with a couple of product lines -- cards and comics, so the frequency wasn't there.

Now? If I wait, I'll be offered a deal every week (often every day) in one of my categories -- new books one week, toys the next, graphic novels the next, and so on.

I grab at almost every one of these sales -- sometimes saving 5%, or 20%, and sometimes much more.

Even if it isn't EXACTLY what I was looking for, as long as it's viable product, those 5% -- 10%- 25% -- extra percentage points start to add up.

So do the extra few weeks to sell stuff before I have to pay -- longer billing periods, which means ordering more at the beginning of each cycle.

So do the shipping costs; either saving by buying the minimums for free shipping, or being savvy about how much to order at a time. (For instance, I've figured out if I order about 350.00 (wholesale) direct ship from Diamond comics, I get charged for one box, or about 40.00 postage, but if I order more, I pay for at least 2 boxes, or about 60.00 to 80.00 in postage.)

It all adds up.

Which is why it's been frustrating for me not to get the extra 3% from DC comics I want, and which would match the rest of my discounts. They raised their plateau just enough that I can't QUITE reach it.

Oh, if I order heavily on Vertigo graphic novels, probably my best-selling graphic novel line, and stock up extras for a few months, I can sometimes barely get to within spitting distance.

Oh, well.

The advantages and disadvantages constantly change. I have to constantly measure whether its more important to order exactly what I want even at full cost, and pay the extra shipping to get it in faster. Or...order stuff that's not quite top of the line for higher discounts, and wait for it to show up and avoid the shipping. And so on.

For a long period of time, I was paying an extra every week to buy my reorders on two days ships. Why? Because I basically got an extra week to two weeks of billing period (time to pay). Then the postage went up so severely, that it didn't seem worth it anymore.

Now, with the Diamond warehouse being back east, I can get an extra 3 to 4 weeks billing period, which has once again paid for the privilege of paying extra to ship it in two days.

Which, of course, makes it even more important that I keep trying to save on percentage points and shipping everywhere else.

Anyway, I got the huge order in yesterday -- and the true test of whether I overordered -- I fit it all in. It was close though.

Lizardbreath Taylor

I'm a little surprised about the muted reaction to the death of Elizabeth Taylor.

At least, so far. Maybe the star-eulogizing machinery hasn't gotten up to full speed.

(Sorry if the title seems disrespectful; but it's meant fondly.)

You can tell a lot about someone's generation by their reactions to certain people's deaths.

My Mom just couldn't figure out the fuss over Elvis. "Now if it was Sinatra," she said. "I'd could understand it..." heh.

My reaction to John Lennon was strong, strong enough for me to get on the phone and call friends and family. My reaction to Curt Cobain was, meh.

Anyway, I think Lizardbreath Tayor, as we called her in our house, was a bigger deal to me than the current generation, for whom she had become a parody of herself. It seems like lots of outsized personalities become parodies of themselves at the end of their lives.

I've mentioned this before; but I still remember seeing Cleopatra in a big art house theater in Portland, with ushers and intermission and the musical fanfare as the curtains open and the whole "Event" feeling of it. And chubby Lizardbreath riding into Rome on a pyramid, or something.

And the pictures of her circa 1948 are breathtaking. So breathtaking, that I became very aware of picture touchups at the time (probably late sixties when I came across them). Because they were so unreal, I knew they couldn't possibly be right.

Ah, well. Farewell.

******Yep, spoke too soon....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"I'm Only Human."

I'm busily writing fiction again.

I woke up this morning with a first line full blown in my head. By the time I got out of bed, I had the first two paragraphs composed. (Below) By the time I left for work, I had the entire first chapter done (1000 words). (I'll save you from that.)

I even have a title: the above, "I'M ONLY HUMAN."

It's exhilarating, at least until it's exposed to critique. I'm going to go ahead and read the first chapter at writer's group tonight (7:00 at the Bookmark). Probably shouldn't do that, but I need to show the new members that I actually DO write.

I may have to change the name of the creatures from kimmel, even though I like the sound, because of a certain late night talkshow host.

The story is going to be a supernatural noir, it appears.

"You're going to turn into a common street kimmel, if you don't behave," my mother declared whenever I did something unnecessarily tacky.

I haven't seen a kimmel, common or otherwise, in over a hundred years. The horseless carriages were their final doom, I believe. The nasty fumes, the hard tires, the blundering human drivers. Kimmels had less chance than your average possum or gray squirrel of surviving the roads. They were cute, but they weren't exactly canny.

Ah, yes. Blundering humans..."

Making a federal case of it...

Unless there is more to our D.A.'s case than has so far been revealed, it mostly seems unnecessary and distracting.

The last few weeks of murdered, run over, and disappearing people has certainly pointed to what seems like an escalation of stress around here. The financial consequences may be catching up to people right about now. Housing prices are still dropping around here, which probably surprises everyone but the bubble bloggers, and it's getting beyond the dire level even some of us predicted.

And the D.A. is off on some wild goose chase.

Something I've noticed about Bend voters -- and maybe it's true everywhere -- but we tend to throw out of office perfectly good competent public 'servant's' and often replace them with less so.

You never know, I guess. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it?

Oh, sure. Every city manager, D.A., or politician accumulates enemies -- they can't please everyone. Friends come and go. So it's probably inevitable. And probably necessary when our public servants get a little too ensconced.

Still, sometimes its best NOT to make too many changes when the world is quickly changing around you. We seem to want to fire experienced city managers and D.A.'s when we need the experience the most.


I'm getting these little designer art toys called "Droplets" in this week.

I was commenting on my Pegasus Blog, that no matter how much I love these kinds of things, they simply don't sell all that well in Bend, because people don't know what they are.

Which begs the question: Do people buy because of intrinsic quality, inherent value? Or because it's a known quality, a familiar culturally approved item?

The other day I was so tired of explaining that my "Ray Gun" wasn't attached to any known license, that it was a work of art and just plain cool looking.

"It's just a raygun," I said in a deadpan voice. Hey, I wasn't trying to be rude. But it's $700.00, and there was no chance in hell that they were going to buy it -- and, well, it IS just a raygun. A very cool and neat raygun for anyone who has eyes on quality. But, hey, it aint' Flash Gordan's raygun or Buck Roger's, or, more to the moment, Star Wars or Star Trek -- so it don't exist.

For most people, it don't exist if they don't already know about it.

Sorry, it's just true. Funny thing is -- and I've seen it over and over again, if for some strange reason a customer actually breaks through and buys something like that, sometimes as a 'joke' -- they are totally jazzed the next time I see them. Pleased and happy, and boy, they want more of "That." You know, now that they've actually had it at home and it stands out amongst the cultural detritus.

So these "Droplets": they ain't Smurfs and they ain't Beanie Babies.

They are visually pleasing works of art.

And even though every customer who sees them will be intrigued -- indeed, more intrigued than by the stuff they actually purchase, intrigued enough to pick them up and talk about them -- no one will buy them, until someone accidentally breaks through and then they and their friends will buy me up and wonder why I can't get more....

One barrier at a time...

Monday, March 21, 2011

CSI: Miami. My brain has melted.

After working on orders all day, I just wanted to relax in front of the T.V. last night. But there was nothing on. Didn't really want to get into a 2 hour movie. Saw some ads for Miami CSI, which are simultaneously ridiculous and alluring.

So, against my past experience and better judgment, I watched it.

It was awful. Just horrid. Sloppy dreck. Badly written, (both dialogue and plot) , badly directed, badly filmed (why actually film anything, just throw the drenched reds and yellows at us), badly acted (Caruso drives me crazy and the other actors appear to be going through the motions with faint tinges of embarrassment.) Even the set design was awful: for a warehouse, it looks like they threw a table into the middle of the floor and put a few cardboard boxes on it.

When we first started watching it, Linda asked: "Which CSI is this?"

"I don't know, but if there is a girl in a bikini in the first 30 seconds, it's Miami."

Sure enough, 20 seconds later a girl in a negligee answers the door.

The plot? It involved -- get this -- heroin being molded into dolls for transport (ludicrously white dolls, cause it's heroin, you know, unlike the normal pink dolls). How fresh!
I don't think I've seen that Macguffin since, oh, 1979 or so.

The dialogue? It consisted of Caruso's grandpappy voice saying to the young offender: "You really shouldn't do drugs. They are bad for you." Stuff like that.

Speaking of set design. The lab consists of plexiglass and blinking lights, just like the bridge on Star Trek -- around the year, 1969.

I'm not a technical person, but this show made me feel hip. So they find the offender's computer (you know, with all the information they need on one laptop) which, gasp, the password is encrypted!! (not the actual material).

(The F.B.I. takes away the actual laptop, but not before one of the techs uses a flashdrive the size of a book to download the information -- seriously, it was like the size of briefcase, and the F.B.I. guys didn't notice, which means they're even stupider than CSI. Miami, which is a scary, scary thought.)

So they have 2 tries to get the right password. One guy stares at a screen, and comes up with a word. (Don't ask how -- it's magic.)

Oh, my gosh it doesn't work. Oh, no!

The computer conveniently shows them they have only 30 seconds to come up with the password. Oh, the tension!!!

The guy stares at the screen some more, and with 5 seconds left, he blurts out, "That's not even a word!" Then he throws out a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, which -- wow, what a relief !-- open all the treasures of the kingdom. Take that, druggies!

Yep. The big technical revelation is that the password's "not...even...a....word!"

Who watches this stuff, and why? I have a new rule, the 80/80 rule. You have to have an I.Q. of under 80, or be over 80 years of age.

(Or, you know, watch it accidentally. I swear I didn't mean to do it.

Dear god. I have paid the brain has melted.....)

Linda noticed (I've mentioned before, she's a continuity hawk.) They show the murderer's feet early in the show, and he's wearing black sneakers. At the end of the show, they show the same scene, with the murderer in full -- and he's wearing brown sneakers. Doh!

"Wow," she says. "Those CSI guys are getting older, fatter and balder."

But that's a personal attack, and I won't go there.

Bring on Spring Break!

I'm getting $4000.00 worth of retail reorder product coming on Tuesday. Completely restocking games, cards, and new books.

Last week, I completely restocked on graphic novels.

I'm also getting $3000.00 worth of regular shipments from Diamond.

And probably $1000.00 more in reorders by the end of the week.

That should be enough to satisfy even a spendaholic like me. That's about 2 to 3 times more than I should probably be getting on any one week, but it seems to be where and how the schedule of restocking fell.

Partly, I'm ordering the bulk of my material in the first quarter of every billing period, so I have most of the billing period in which to make sales.

This means, that if I sell something right away, it could be as long as 3 or 4 weeks before I get it back in, because I have to wait for the next billing period. Spot shortages, I call them, and they are the bane of my existence.

If I ordered a more equal amount of the budget each week, any spot shortages would be more quickly filled.

Still, I'm more comfortable with allowing the spot shortages to occur (and for the vast majority of product that doesn't happen) because the store is so full of other good stuff that I don't think I'm usually disappointing the customer. Eventually (actually it's already starting to happen) I save enough money by doing it this way that I can start ordering more than one copy at a time.

And there are the shipping costs to be considered. I have to order a "minimum" from each publisher, to save on postage -- so I couldn't divide my orders into four equal weekly shipments even if I wanted to. And for those distributors who don't have minimums (which cover shipping costs), it still saves to put most of the orders into one shipment.

This is wonky, I know, but it's nearly the essence of running a retail storefront.

What, when, and how much product -- and how much you pay, and how much the shipping.

Nuts and bolts.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"I liked it, so it must not be genre..."

Reviewers have this cheap reviewing trick: if they like something, it's "elevated" above the rest of the genre.

Today's review of a BEYONDERS, by Brandon Mull, there is the statement that most fantasies are "....populated ... with wizards and brutish men skilled in the arts of hunting and swordplay."

Oh, come on. Fantasies haven't been filled with "brutish men" since -- well, maybe Robert E. Howard, about 70 years ago.

Same thing happens everytime a reviewer reads a graphic novel and likes it: well, golly gee, it's a comic book and it's better than I expected, so it must be "elevated" above everything else.

Of course, the one that drives me up a wall is a movie review that tells me that some movie or another is "elevated" above the comic book origins. Well, no. Not usually. In fact, most superhero movies are telling stories from 20 years ago or more, and the art form has more or less moved beyond such simple tropes. If anything, the movies are slightly retarded spoon fed, meet the expectation of the muggles, versions.

So whenever a reviewer "likes" a genre, it must be because it's somehow is above and beyond the type? Only if you haven't read much of it.

More often than not, what they're reviewing are just examples of the better written stories in those genres, but rarely do they actually rise above. Because, Sturgeon's Law aside, most art forms have good, bad, and indifferent.

What it reveals to me, more often, is the ignorance of the reviewer. And I don't know about you, but ignorance of the form isn't what I'm looking for in someone who is recommending things to read...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

fond faulty memories

Did you notice the Earthquake map? Bend appears to be on the border between the yellow (second most dangerous) and green (right in the middle.)

Growing up, the sort of assumption was -- rumor, I suppose -- that Bend was one of the safest places from natural disasters. (I guess they weren't taking into account volcanoes and forest fires.)

Supposedly, we were in a zone that even in the event of nuclear attack would be nestled on the 'other' side of the mountains, etc. Prevailing winds and rainfall and all that.

Probably all fantasy, or I'm just remembering stuff wrong -- cause I was young. My Dad was a storyteller, and I probably embellished.

Supposedly, the Redmond airport became Central Oregon's main airport because it was long enough to be an alternative (2nd? 3rd?) runway for the B-52's.

Supposedly, there was a vast weapons and equipment and energy cache in the high desert, hidden by the government.

Supposedly, the Deschutes could never flood because of all the lava tubes.

I also don't remember wild turkeys in Central Oregon, so what do I know?

Mildly incorrect.

The thing I want to know is how that actress who just got dropped from Criminal Minds also managed to star in Chase, and Fringe, and all those other shows....


I know this was completely unintentional, but it still raised an eyebrow. A neighbor who was interviewed about the missing woman in the Old Mill:

"She has a husband and a dog --- and she really loves that dog..."

(Sorry if that's inappropriate, but it was darkly quirky.)


Movies have gotten frighteningly good at showing those impacts between speeding cars and pedestrians.

Character says something faintly optimistic about the future, then "WHACK!!!" Flattened.

I think it's actually made me a little more aware stepping off the curb.

Knock wood.


How to never be convicted of murder -- fire your lawyer halfway through every trial. Then appeal to the Supreme Court that your trial took too long. Brilliant.


Letter to the Bulletin: "Unions are too strong."

Well, you know, apparently not.


Every single talking head expert I heard said the U.N. would never approve a no-fly zone in Libya.

Yet there it is.

I remember when news was news, and talking heads were on radio where they belonged. And there should be a three strikes and you're out rule -- express an opinion and be completely wrong three times, and you no longer get interviewed.

Unfortunately, the American public has the attention span of a Glee cast member.


I'm starting to develop an antagonistic relationship with Linda's cellphone. Annoying thing, makes all kinds of weird noises, starts talking in the middle of movies. Last night she was fiddling with it for an hour after going to bed.

Finally, I snagged it from her: "I really don't want this in the same room with me when I sleep...."

We were at friends house a few nights ago playing Carcassonne; and their cell phones seemed to go off every few minutes. (Admittedly, their young kids were at a neighbors and they were keeping track...)

I'm telling you, as a cell-less person, you people appear to all be turning into androids.


This whole last month on T.V. appears to have been reruns, basketball tournaments, and pledge drives.

I'm getting a lot of reading done.


Reversion to mean. Classic. Tunisia and Egypt -- followed by Libya and Bahrain and Yemen shooting their demonstrators.


I was looking at the Wiki entry for Bend. From roughly the time I was born to the time I went to college, Bend grew from 11,400 to 13,700. Sleepy little town.

I think it grew by that much about every other week in the mid-00's.


Dear Diary,

This is probably the most mundane entry I've ever made.

Dear Diary,

Slept in this morning, which I hardly ever do. I've been sleeping horribly (Curse you Daylight Savings Time, I call for your immediate repeal!).

I have a pinched nerve in my neck, (which I get when I sleep wrong) turning me into the Hunchback of Notre Dame. And of course, this is the weekend I have to do monthly orders which will be a strain on my neck.

Had a hankering for those horrible crispy meat burritos from Taco Time last night. The lone T.T. in Bend is about as far from our house as you can get; taking fully 20 minutes one way. So we get home, and the meat burritos aren't in the bag.

We get back in the car and drive on back for them, thus spending most of an hour and who knows how much gas in order to get 6.00 worth of food.'s the principle of the thing!

That's all for now, diary. See you later.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This town ain't big enough for the boths of us....

Apparently Wabi Sabi (the Japanese store) has been really busy. They've moved into a big new space on Wall St.

I'm jealous. I told my employee Cameron that I was going to tell everyone their stuff is RADIOACTIVE!!

That'll fix 'em.

So now I just have to figure out how to eliminate the rest of the downtown competition for the dollar.

Let's see. the sugar in Powell's and Goody's candy comes from Cuba. That's right. IT'S COMMUNIST CANDY!!!

Leaping Lizards? Hey -- those toys are ---get this -- EDUCATIONAL!!

Soon I shall have Downtown Bend to myself -- wuuuhhhhahahahahahahah!!!!!!!!

Behind the technical eightball.

Just by talking to a few people about my online publishing efforts, I realized there is yet another movement happening online which relates to what I do but which I was unaware.

And I try to be aware.

What chance do any of us have who aren't even trying?

Art and technology are intersecting in all kinds of ways below the radar, and I suspect they are going to explode full blown onto the scene and surprise just about everyone. Stodgy old publishers and media are just browsing the surface.

There will still be room for old-fashioned, brick and mortar stores -- but this whole idea that somehow existing stores are going to co-op the new technology and art movements is just naive.

Like adding an engine to a bike and thinking you're up to date -- and the Harley Davidison is coming up on your rear view mirror and is going to blow you to the side of the road.

All stocked up.

For the first time in a long time, I was able to start a month's budget fresh, not having pre-spent any of it. (Of course, pre-spending a budget isn't budgeting at all, but I always convince myself that getting it earlier, rather than later, is beneficial.)

Last week, I was able to start ordering from Diamond, and this week and next, I'll be able to start ordering from everyone else.

I maybe made a mistake by ordering too many books from the liquidators last month -- they're good books, but they are coming in faster than they are selling. Yesterday I made my regular book order and it came in at 2000.00 worth of books, which will be a challenge to fit in.

Most of them are replacements for evergreen sellers, like To Kill a Mockingbird and Clockwork Orange and 1984, plus some new intriguing books like Swamplandia. Stocked up on Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin.

It just seems like a complete and total no brainer to keep on buying the classic and cult books --which sell and sell and sell. All I need is enough them, right?

I like to refresh the store by buying books like Cutting For Stone and Water for Elephants, and newer books like Swamplandia which sound intriguing....

Meanwhile, on the gaming front, I filled in most of the holes in the game inventory with one last March order, that came in last week. I'm going to fill in the rest of the holes this coming Monday and Tuesday.

All in all, I'm well satisfied with the level of inventory in the store -- which, as I keep saying, I spent literally decades trying to get to the point where I could say that and mean it.

The store just keeps perking along. My 'minimum sales level' is actually pretty easy to reach, which is by design -- low enough overhead.

And the diversity of the store seems to be working. If one category isn't selling one day, another category is. Downtown and longevity is providing the customers (though it's still dismaying how often I hear the words "I didn't know you were here" and "I didn't know you carried this stuff."

But, my feeling is that the store is where it needs to be, and that's very satisfying.

Lessons from blogging for fiction writing.

Speak directly but casually to the reader. Don't try so hard. Just be natural.

Break it up, man. The long paragraphs and chapters are too much work for the casual reader. You can do without so many comma's.

Anything goes, unless it doesn't. Brainstorm anything and everything. You can always weed it out later. (This is true for me, because I tend to underwrite the first draft, if anything.)

Try to put some background thought into the story before you write it. I tend to just write out the story, and worry about the historical underpinning later. With the blog, I'll mull and contemplate an issue for some time, even nesting it in the "drafts" for days or weeks, before I'll go ahead an push the "publish post." Except, you know ---- for when I don't do that....

A little bit at a time really adds up. But only if you do it. 4 years, 4 months of blogging.

You can't always tell in the course of writing whether its good or really good, bad or really bad. Or just meh. The readers always surprise me. So write the damn thing and come back later.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nothing funny?

You know, it looked so pathetic to be dumping that whisp of water from helicopters onto the Hellgate's #1 - 6.

I mentioned that to one of my customers, and he said, "Lawn sprinklers -- those ought to work..."

Funny thing is, if I may use the word funny in relation to Japan, is that when I first started seeing pictures of the tsunami, it looked so casual, the flowing water, like rivulets of water on my garden, kind of slow moving and leisurely meandering.

Until I started translating distance and size.

And then, chill went down my spine.

Again, this isn't meant to be a joke, but, really -- Godzilla was the result of "nuclear experiments" gone awry. So all those comments about the radiation drifting off the sea -- like that's a good thing -- hey, some little fish in the Sea of Japan is even now mutating.

And Linda's comment: "So weird that Japan, of all countries, would go full in on nuclear power."

Losing an hour.

This Daylight Savings Time changeover is still affecting me.

I've more or less lost a complete hour in the morning; the hour I was apparently using to think about and compose my blog.

It's unnatural to fuck with mother nature, I tell you.

Writing as a form of A.D.D.

I've noticed in reviving some of my older material, that I'm more interested in newer material --

Which is the kind of reaction I've noticed in the past.

Back when I was writing full time, I was writing all the time about all kinds of things. I was writing letters ('letters' are pieces of paper upon which you wrote thoughts to friends and family and sent by way of a postage stamp). I had extensive journals.

The words just start flowing in all kinds of directions.

At the same time, I had little patience for anything else. I was all hyped up. I couldn't concentrate on T.V. or books or conversations. I certainly couldn't concentrate on a new and challenging business. Or having a new family.

Which is one of the reasons I quit writing for years. I couldn't do both. Some writers obviously can.

I'm hoping that things are stable enough, routine enough at the store to be able to be slightly distracted all the time. I'm hoping my wife (Linda is in the midst of her own book) will understand.

T.V. is no great loss.

I'm determined to keep reading.

Anyway, it's as if I need to build up a certain amount of internal pressure to start applying words to paper --um, screen. Which pressure drowns out everything else.

And once the pressure is let out, it comes out in all forms, including, I warn you, blogging...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Wednesday widdles.

Me, watching Linda carry bag after bag of stuff to the car for a single day of work:

"I've heard shopping carts work really well for that...."


I swear, when you own a business, you see weird patterns in human behavior.

For instance, all this month, I've been doing the majority of my business in the first two hours of the day. But I can remember times when I'd do the majority of business in the last two hours.

Or I get the same types of people in on the same day. (All teenagers, or all middle-aged women or men, or all young families. But even weirder. All tall people. All blond, whatever.)

Or I sell a lot of one product line, and none of the others, and there is no apparent reason. Or three people request the same product after it having sat unloved for years. I'll ask, "Did you see or read something about this?" and they'll say no....

I may have three or four gifts certificates I've sold over the last few months, and they all come in within a few hours.

And so on....

It's like there is some psychic transfer of information, I tell you.


I'm starting to read like a writer again. I find I'm paying attention to the mechanics of plots more, again. Phrasing. Dialogue.

"Oh, look how he did that." "Could I do something like that?"

When I first started writing, this tendency was so distracting, I could hardly read. I went through a rough couple of years. Then I started incorporating my critical reading and my pleasure reading.

Eventually, the more nuts and bolts awareness fell away.

Now it's back.


I figure everyone wants to write a book. Own a bookstore. Live in Bend, Oregon.

But....maybe that's just me.

And write a blog.

Insufferably smug little bugger, aren't I?

Hey, it can be a scary world out there. You can allow me some of my illusions, can't you?
I need all the ego boost I can get.


Thing about writing is that you don't get any respect unless you do it.
Then you don't get any respect unless you finish.
Then you don't get any respect until you send it off.
Then you don't get any respect until you sell it.
Then you don't get any respect until you are a best-seller.
Then you don't get any respect until you are a best-seller -- and a critical success.
Then you don't get any respect because you're a total sell-out.
Then you don't get any respect unless you starting writing another book.
Then you don't get any respect until you finish.


Getting a full dose of New York Times fashion magazine, and my reaction is:

This stuff is perverse and creepy.

I may be a provincial boob, and Anna Wintour would destroy me with her wit.

But....I don't think so. I think those models and those clothes are -- just perverse and creepy.


"Best Zero Wage Job a Middle Aged Guy Ever Had."

Notice I'm not talking about my Barnes and Noble stock?


I noticed some folks are getting annoyed by all my book related postings.

Hey, some people don't like my business blogs.

Some don't like my Bend Bubble blogs.

Some don't like my personal blogs.

I figure they get the gist right away, and move on....

Buster (I think) accuses me of writing for Ego not Money. But I write for Ego AND the hope of anyone else.

OHGD suggests I change the name of the blog to: "best zero wage job a middle aged guy ever had", which is clever and maybe true, but no writer is paid until a writer is paid and if that stops him from writing he'll never be paid.


It might be time to take my three published books, Star Axe, Snowcastles and Icetowers back in hand. There are a lot of bit torrented pirate issues out there.

Anyway, if I do, it would also be time to combine Snowcastles and Icetowers (Snowtowers?) since they naturally make one larger book. And rebrand them as heroic fantasy.

The publisher, Tower Books, was looking for Sword and Sorcery, and that's how they branded it, with the barbarian on the cover. I didn't mind too much, because I LIKE Sword and Sorcery, and the cover art was great.

But, really, the book was written for the 14 year old, Lord of the Rings obsessed, Duncan McGeary, who at the time he was that age couldn't find a heroic fantasy to like.

(Unfairest criticism in a review: the word "STAR" because of Star Wars. I had the title in hand years before the movie, dammit.)


I'm beginning to realize how much time and work it will be to type the Sometimes a Dragon and The Devil Tree online. But if I think of it as One Chapter per Week, it shouldn't be hard. And I know myself -- once I get started, I probably won't be able to stop.

Hard to imagine doing these on a typewriter, but that was the way of the world....


Was telling friend Damian about my plans, and he started showing me a multitude of sites that are doing what I'm talking about, and well beyond....

So I'm behind all those folks.

Then again, I'm ahead of all the folks who haven't started doing it. (Much less all the people who haven't finished a book at all....)

A separate book?

Interesting thing happening on the way to finishing Sometimes a Dragon.

Tales of Pox is starting to turn into a book.

I have the six chapters that originally prefaced the Tenly and Toller story. I had a seventh chapter that I wrote later, but hadn't included.

I have at least two other chapters I'd like to write.

1.) Mother Patch and the Old Man meeting, the Orsage flower, and his discovery of the Master's name and journey to the Silent Cathedral.

2.) Armazn's meeting the Purple Lady, falling in love, and them vowing to bring an end to the Eclipse.

So, suddenly, there are nine separate chapters, or probably 80 pages or more. I can easily see where more can be added at any time.

If Sometimes a Dragon was ever published, Tales of Pox would be a middle book. A Dune Messiah, if you will. A little short, a little odd, a sidetrack, but valid in it's own right.

I have a standard sort of sci-fi fantasy in mind for the first book. (The kid (The Master) seeing a unicorn, story....)

Wednesday Widdles.

I was telling a high school classmate that there was no bloody way I was going to my 40th reunion. He said, "Ah, Dunc. Make a scene -- by making the scene."

I thought that was really clever. I'd never heard that before, and I Googled it and couldn't find it.

Has anyone else heard this before?


I like to sneak up and pounce on my wife and cat. I rarely succeed. They always hear me coming. For one thing, my ankles crack.

"That's what happens to old tigers. Makes it hard to pounce when your ankles crack..."


To the drivers on HWY 20 to the Forum. The speed limit is 45 mph, not 35 mph.
To the drivers on Neff Rd. to the hospital. The speed limit is 35 mph, not 45 mph.



So much for the revival of nuclear energy....


So...I may actually use the east side library. I can't believe proximity makes that much difference, but apparently it does...


My sleeping habits are so regular nowadays, that Daylight Savings time really throws me. I simply can't go to bed before midnight, and my body doesn't think it's midnight until 1:00.
Eventually work hours and habits get me back into the swing, but in the meantime....

Had an hour less time before work, the paper came soaked, and I was out of sorts all day.

Poor baby.


"Charlie Sheen's Live Show Sells Out In Minutes," USA TODAY, 3/15/11.

What the hell is wrong with people?


Handed the Sometimes a Dragon manuscript to Jerad yesterday. I couldn't believe how nervous that made me. I didn't know I was nervous until I did it.

It was a typewritten manuscript. My God. You know, on a typewriter, without spell check or easy correction.

"Can't you just put it online and let me deal with there?" he asked.

"No...."I said, a little severely. "The way I work is to mark up a hardcopy and rewrite as I enter it...."



"Potassium iodide selling fast...." Bulletin, 3/16/11.

If you're really worried, don't drink milk. Ninnies....


"Real Estate Market Turns Corner" Cascades Business News.

Boy, this market has more corners than an M.C. Escher drawing.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Blanche Dubois moment.

This is going to sound strange to say, but most of my writing career has been validated by strangers.

That is, I send the manuscript off and the 'stranger' judges the quality of it without knowing me.

In other words, there is no personal baggage involved. There is no swaying the book one way or the other because they know me, or like me or don't like me or respect me or don't respect me.

At least, that's the way it's usually happened for my most of my creative efforts. No one thinks much of what I'm doing , sometimes I'm not even noticed or I'm dismissed-- and then I go off to unknown territory, and the people there give me my creds.

Sometimes, in the course of writing or creating something, I've actually gotten a fair amount of negative feedback, from friends, family, and acquaintances.

I've learned that a third party -- an unknown party -- often has a completely different estimation of the work.

You'd think people would be overly nice about your creative efforts if they know you, but often it's the opposite. Not sure why. I make the joke: "If I know you, you can't be any good." There's a strange mix of over-expectation and under-appreciation.

Anyway, it makes me nervous about making this whole writing project personal. I'm afraid I'm overpromising, that people will be disappointed. So much so, that I'm thinking of dropping it from the conversation for the time being, and just let the project do what the project will do.


If nothing else, this reworking of Sometimes a Dragon has reassured me that I do know how to construct a novel in a readable form. How good it is, that's up to the readers. But it's good to know it hangs together.

I've just had too many false starts over the last few years. I'd get to the point where it really becomes hard work -- usually about 50 to 80 pages in, and I'd kind of let it go. Like I said, unless I'm really going to be serious about it, it's better not to pursue it any further.

That initial creative surge is great. It's fun. I enjoy it.

But it probably only gets me 65% of the way there.

To improve it by another 10% is twice as hard. And to improve THAT by 10% is twice as hard AGAIN.

And so on, into infinity.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Oh, Brave New E-World.

About a year (two?) ago, Jared Folkins came into the store with a story he had started writing about a sloppy, drunken, over-the-hill space captain named: Duncan McGeary.

It was grand space opera, and I liked it quite a bit.

"Except the name," I told him. "No one would believe a name that outlandish."

Anyway, I told him he should send those three chapters to an agent, and that I bet if he finished the book at the same quality, he'd get published.

"Oh, no," he says. "That's not the way I'd do it. I would do it myself, I have it all figured out."

He told me all the technical ways he thought it would work, and how he'd go about it, and it all sounded rather cool and got me thinking....maybe so.

You know? Maybe so....

But at the time, I was still wedded to the old fashioned publishing world.

Stuck even though, at the same time, I was completely disenchanted by it.

Well, to me, the last six months have turned me completely around. I'm a believer in the online world, the connectedness. There is a community of creativity that exploding out there, while publishers are still trying to figure it out. My blog, for instance, has kept up readership.

I think Jared's right -- the old fashioned way is not the way to go.

There are going to be a whole lot of professional writers who are going to hesitate. There are going to be even more writers who won't hesitate, but don't really have the chops to pull it off. I think the time to write in the e-book world is NOW.

So when Jared offered to do for me, what he'd planned on doing for himself, I agreed.

So, if nothing else, it will be an adventure.

(And yes, I'm fully aware of the irony of owning a bookstore, and making plenty of blog entries on the importance of physical books and physical bookstores. Let's just say, I wear two hats....)

First step toward reality.

Besides, you know, actually finishing Sometimes A Dragon.

Here we go!

Jared has posted the following:

Hi All,

My name is Jared Folkins and I represent author Duncan McGeary. We will be releasing his next book, Sometimes A Dragon on a customized/stylized blog over the period of 6-9 months posting one or two chapters a week. This book will later be released on all major eBook platforms as a .99 cent download.

We are looking at purchasing art for the blog, and then using one of the pieces for the cover art. Ideally, we would purchase piece(s) of existing art from whomever we select from the talent pool this post generates.

If you are interested, here are the requirements.


1) Post a link to your current work.
2) You must own the rights to any work submitted
3) You must be willing to sell rights for both physical and digital publication


1) Cash [transferred via paypal]
2) Use the book or blog in your portfolio
3) Your name will be featured in the "thank you" section of the book
4) Brag at your local RPG meetup that you did art for a sweet fantasy novel, the GM will be impressed and will then reward you with some sweet D&D *swag* for your character (<== total speculation)

Anyway, we are trying to be fair about the art buying process and the rate of pay, but we are also just two independents. Please keep in mind, should things go well, we will keep the list current and look at purchasing further art for Duncan's next release The Devil Tree.

Thanks for your time.


Responses thus far -

A writer in the family.

Imagine being a relative to a full time writer.

He asks you to read his manuscript. You're glad to.

Six months later, he wants you to do it again. agree, not knowing how to refuse. It's the same story, rewritten but, really, was it necessary to read it again?

A year later, he's got a new work, and then another, and then another. You start to avoid him.

The only way I know how to write is to be completely obsessive. Otherwise it's just too hard to do. I have to feel that really strong urge, or it doesn't get done. But it's hell on other people. And on the work life, and the social life, and home life.

Which is why, unless I am really serious about writing, I don't start.

Anyway, I quit asking my family and friends to read my works in progress. I didn't think it was fair to them. Linda has always been good about it, but I'm careful to pick my shots. I'm more likely, these days, to read her what I think is a particularly good passage than to ask her to read the whole thing. At least, until it is completely finished.

In fact, I'm careful to pick my shots when I ask anyone to read -- so as not wear out my welcome, but -- hopefully -- still have them as a resource.

Anyway, I learned to read the signs and portents when people read my manuscripts.

Where do they leave off reading? That was a big one. Could if be that the story slackens there, or the writing becomes weak and confusing?

I learned to even watch my own behavior: Why did I choose to stop reading there?

It may be coincidence, but I would find, more often than not, that --subconsciously, just below the surface -- the story did indeed often lose its power where people quit reading.

That's why I made such a big deal out of the fact that I read the whole manuscript last night. Why I was so glad not to hit the "Oh, Shit" moment, and the story carried me all the way through.

And that's also why I was so completely reassured when Linda sat down this afternoon to read a chapter or two, and was still reading six hours later.

Before I had finished writing Sometimes a Dragon the first time, she had started to rewrite the beginning because she didn't like it. "It has loppy corners, " she said. Whatever that means. Actually I kind of felt what she meant.

So I asked her today if cutting the first six chapters had answered her concerns. "Is it still loppy?"

"No....." she said, upon consideration. "I think it was those first chapters..."

She's still reading as I type this, even though at one point she had put it down to go to bed. After talking a few minutes, she picked it back up again. "It's a feel good book," she said. Cool.

Woke up this morning, and she's back to reading it. Obviously, she's going to read the whole thing. Double cool.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The problems so far.

So the problems I see so far --(there may be others that Linda or Jared catch) --with Sometimes A Dragon:

1.) Set aside the first 50 pages, split them into six separate short stories, called The Tales of Pox) They can be back story for those interested -- like the appendixes in Lord of the Rings.
2.) The first few pages of the new beginning need to be rewritten.
3.) A bit of menace (that was in those original first 50 pages) needs to be seeded into the new first 50 pages -- foreshadowing, and such, but I don't want to overdo it.
4.) A couple of continuity glitches that will require some new short scenes.
5.)A choice of how I want to use the proper nouns. Is it too Portentous to keep using in capital letters The Master, The Silent Cathedral, The Purple Lady and so on, or do I need to replace them with their names, where possible, or alternatives (the edifice, the building, etc. for Silent Cathedral.)

Those are the things I see so far.

Doubt:Writing's Companion.

I don't know if this is true of other writers -- I've met some pretty cocksure ones -- but I constantly question my choices when I write.

Of course, there is the ever present doubt about the quality of writing.

But the more I write, the more I realized that isn't the only question. I make stylistic choices, narrative choices. Perhaps no one will want to read what I'm writing because it doesn't match the present zeitgeist.

This is a huge problem with publishers, as far as I'm concerned. I've known writers whose changed what they were naturally good at to chase the current market. For instance, I knew a natural gothic writer who bent her style to try to fit the current romance market, including explicit sex scenes and such that she didn't feel comfortable doing.

So publishing online is going to avoid that bottleneck. It may be that no one will read what I put out there, but at least I have a chance for find out. The history of writing is full of examples of people breaking barriers...

Anyway, as I've said, I really like Sometimes A Dragon. It's of a piece -- it's what I set out to do.

But, in thinking about it, I'm not sure it fits any other style I'm currently seeing. It's fantasy, with fairy tale elements; a love story, probably young adult. (Well, actually that sounds like lots of currently read books -- so I suppose I must be talking about the MIX of those elements that seems different.)

So there is the doubt that it doesn't quite fit the expected stylistic and narrative choices.

Oh, well. I like it, and at this point in my life, that's probably the most important thing.

I totally didn't expect to read the whole book in one sitting. That's a really good sign, because usually I can't read my own writing at all. I just see all the things wrong with it.

Some of it must be that enough time has passed, that I'd forgotten most everything. But even then, if I had started to run into too much writing that I considered -- bad or amateurish, I wouldn't have kept reading.

Anyway, once I started reading at page 50, I kept going all the way through.

It's good. At least to me. I don't know how other people may feel. I don't know if it will meet their expectations. But it more than met my expectations, and I'm very thankful for the experience, whatever else happens.

Simple fixes are so rare.

I have to thank Jared for lighting a fire under my butt, and making me pull the manuscript out and looking at it will fresh eyes -- and seeing that the first 50 pages needed to be set aside.

Other than that, I found a couple of continuity glitches, easily fixed. I'm not completely consistent in my capitalization of proper nouns. Silent Cathedral or silent cathedral, Purple Lady or purple lady.

But not much else. The tone usually seems right, which is the hardest thing to accomplish.

The simple love story between Tenly and Toller and all the cute things that happen between them may go on a little long, but....I think it should go on long. The darkness that comes later is in contrast to that.

The darkness that comes later, and some of the more elaborate language, feels perfectly fine after we've gotten to know the characters. It was hitting the reader with that tone and style right off the bat that didn't work.

I use what Ursula LeGuin calls "high" language, but it fits and doesn't seem overwhelming to me. Much talk of love, but I don't think it's too sappy. Well, maybe a little sappy, but it seems appropriate.

Having read so many young adult novels lately, it occurred to me that the style is most similar to that. I've often told Linda she should turn her stories into young adult because I think she has a knack -- and since she really influenced the style of this book at the beginning, then it makes sense that's how it would turn out.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Oh, Shit moment.

Back when I was writing full time, I learned that there was a term that editors used when reading new manuscripts.

They pick up a book and start reading, and then something clunky happens, the story goes off the rails, and the editor says, "Oh, Shit."

I still haven't hit the Oh, Shit moment with Sometimes a Dragon.

The book is still holding together.

I like it.

I'm 100 pages in, with another 100 pages to go.

I think I'm going to ask Linda to read this version, because her influence is all over it. It's a love story, with a strong young adult tone. Really not my usual thing, which is probably why I like it so much.

It's very fresh, and at the same time familiar. I don't actually remember the plot details.

I really like some of the turns of phrases, the dialogue seems natural.

The first 50 pages had a completely different tone -- dark and foreboding, and then, like daylight, the next 200 pages are a love story. I wonder why I did it that way? (Linda thinks I was already writing the dark part when we met, and tried to mesh it with what she and I started doing. Possibly -- I can't imagine why I couldn't see it then. But...jettisoning 50 pages is pretty hard for any writer....)

It so very clear that the last two hundred pages are where the story starts.

I'm jazzed that I wrote this...surprised by the plot turns, impressed by the language. You know, this ain't bad!! (If I do say so myself...)

Last night, I dug out the two manuscripts from the cedar chest at the foot of my office couch.
I fortified myself with half a bottle of wine, and with great trepidation, started to read it.

I was disappointed, I think. Last night.

But I woke this morning, and it was like a lightning bolt. First, it occurred to me that each of the first six chapters were like a little short story. Then, I realized the change of tone at page 50, and the absolute certainty that the book begins with the two main characters, Tenly and Toller.

Even when references are made to events in the first six chapters, I think the reader will be able to make the leap, fill in the blanks. (I may need Jared's help in that....telling me where more needs to be explained.)

This is almost the same creative glow I get when I write, only with the added pleasure of having written it already!

A veritable Gordian Knot.

I am Alexander.

Cutting the first six chapters of Sometimes the Dragon was what I needed to do.

I've read the first 50 pages with Tenly and Toller, and they work. A simple love story, with threatening clouds forming in the background.

But, it works the way it should work. (And if you want more, you can read the Tales of Pox.)

This may not be as much rewriting as I thought -- barely any, so far. Of course, it will be a smaller book, but I'm not sure that should matter if the story comes together.

What fun.

A turn toward writing.

This blog is probably going to take a distinct turn toward the craft of writing.

I've decided to rewrite my last novel, Sometimes A Dragon, which in some ways was never quite finished.

I liked this book, a lot.

I started writing it after meeting my wife, Linda, in the Farewell Bend Writer's Roundtable. Yes, I met my wife in a writer's group.

We started writing it together, actually, the adventures of Tenly and Toller, but I tend to change things constantly, and Linda is more steady, and I ended up taking over the story and finishing it.

I loved the book. But it didn't work. The style, which was so much fun to write, was not as much fun to read. The main two characters don't even enter the story until 50 pages in. There is too much narrative, and not enough scenes and dialogue.

And yet the story, I believe, is fresh and different and fun.

It needs to be totally rewritten and reset.

So I'm going to start the story at the 50 page mark, where Tenly and Toller enter the story, and do whatever needs to be done to get the earlier scenes into the book as flashbacks, and try to pull it all together. I'm a little older, a little wiser, a little more experienced now.

The point of view characters need to be Tenly and Toller, though the narrator will probably remain the changeling, Pox.

In looking at the first 50 pages, they divide neatly into 6 chapters -- The Tales Of Pox.

1.) The Ship.
2.) The Master.
3.) The Old Man
4.) The Apprentice
5.) The Gargoyle
6.) The Owl.

Here's the cool thing. Each of these chapters can stand alone as a back short story.

Here's the big news:

I've decided to publish this book online.

Six months ago I wouldn't have considered such a thing. But now? I think it's the thing to do.
I'm not sure that I wouldn't choose this route even if I had a publisher, but I'm not going in that direction, in any case.

So the six back stories can be included online. "Oh, if you like Sometimes a Dragon, and want to get a little history of their world, here are the Tales of Pox."

Which is something I can do online, that I never could've done on paper.

I decided on this course, because my friend Jared Folkins in going in with me as a partner. He's going to do the technical and promotional parts, so that there is at least a chance the story will actually be found and read.

We'll see where it leads.

I'm also going to put my book Deviltree online, with a bit of rewriting.

And if all that works, I've three or four more books well along that way -- all I need is a bit of encouragement.

What you'll find in my talking about writing is that I'm not afraid to change my mind, to go charging off in new directions, pull back and go back to the origins and so on -- once that creative urge sets in, I just let it flow. You think I'm obsessive about business, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Downtown Comings and Goings.

So, this is getting a bit complicated.

Maryjane's is closed, but reopened elsewhere downtown, as Tryst. Wabi Sabi moved into their old space.

Donner's Flowers is leaving downtown, but opening up somewhere else. I think I'm going to add a little distinction that says ***Moved**


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


Donner's Flowers, Wall St. 3/11/11. (**Moved out of downtown**)
Maryjanes, Wall St. , 3/11/11. (new name, Tryst, moved to Franklin.).
Di Lusso, Franklin/Bond, 2/9/11.
Earth Sense Herbs, Penny's Galleria, 1/2/11
Marz Bistro, Minnesota Av., 12/20/10.
The Decoy, Bond St., 12/7/10.
Giuseppe's, Bond St., 12/1/10.
Ina Louise, Minnesota Ave., 11/3/10.
Laughing Girl Studios, 10/21/10
Dolce Vita, Bond St, 10/21/10
Diana's Jewell Box, Minnesota Ave., 10/15/10.
Lola's, Breezeway, 10/8/10.
Oxygen Tattoo, Bond St., 10/3/10.
Great Outdoor Clothing, Wall St., 10/3/10.
Volcano Vineyards, Minnesota Ave., 10/3/10.
Subway Sandwiches, Bond St. 9/2/10.
Old Bend Distillery, Brooks St., 6/19/10.
Staccato, Minnesota Ave. 6/18/10.
Showcase Hats, Minnesota Ave., 6/1/10 (Moved to Oregon Ave., 8/10/11.)
Cork, Oregon Ave., 5/27/10.
Wall Street Gifts, 5/26/10
Microsphere, Wall St. , 5/17/10.
Singing Sparrow, Franklin and Bond, 5/15/10
28, Minnesota Ave. and Bond, 5/13/10.
Glass Symphony, Wall St., 3/25/10
Bend Home Hardware, Minnesota Ave, 2/25/10
Ciao Mambo, Wall St. 2/4/10
***Angel Kisses 1/25/10 (Have moved to 'Honey.')
Ivy Rose Manor 8/20/09
***Downtowner 8/18/09 (moving into the Summit location)
Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
***Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
***Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
***King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
***Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro
(Fall, 2008 or so.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Journey to a Stable Store.

This may seem like one of those self-absorbed, wonky business posts that I so like...but, actually, this is more the story of my journey to having a stable and profitable store.

In about 2002, I set a daily sales goal that I thought would accomplish everything I needed for the store: pay the overhead, get the proper inventory, pay myself a living wage, and a bit extra for retirement.

I had just finished paying off a rather massive debt, that I'd been carrying for ten years or so.

So I had, in a sense, a fresh start. (We'll ignore the first 18 years, which were a roller coaster of lows and highs and mistakes and discoveries, and -- well, let's just call it a learning experience.)

The daily sales goal I set was about 1/3rd higher than I was actually doing in 2002 and seemed like a very hard total to reach.

For the sake of discussion, I'm not going to tell you what our actual sales were and are, but I'm going to use a 10 point scale. (You could translate that into $1000.00, if it makes it easier -- but I assure you, I don't earn anywhere near that much per day...)

So on that 10 point scale, we were doing 6.5 in 2002.

As it happened, the big Bend boom started around the same time. Sales shot up, and I plowed all the money back into the store. I realized early on that it was a bubble, and knew from past bubbles that sales could easily drop in half. So my goal was to push sales as high as I could get them, and at the same time keep fixed expenses level, so that when the inevitable bust happened, I'd still be viable.

So most of the extra earnings went into inventory, instead of profits. (Inventory, IS, profits, if you want to get technical.) I probably tripled my inventory during that time.

Meanwhile, I hit my sales goal and shot well beyond it. Let's say, 13 on the 10 point scale.

The inevitable happened, and sales started dropping, and we are back to 8 on the 10 point scale.
Which is better than 6.5, but not as good a 13.

But an interesting thing had happened in the meantime.

The new inventory was in new product lines -- new books, boardgames, used books, etc.

It turned out, the mix of product lines allowed me to push the profit MARGIN to a higher level.

I'd been doing about 40% profit margins for the proceeding 18 years, sometimes a little lower (with higher sales.)

By being much more picky and choosey with the lower margin products -- anime, toys, and cards -- I was able to let them decline to a smaller piece of the overall pie, and at the same time, I was able to boost their usual 35% margins a bit higher.

I was able to find discount wholesalers for new books, and from Linda's store, I have an endless supply of free used books. (Can't have a better margin than 100%, right?)

Meanwhile, the comic industry also started offering regular deals; at first with seasonal blowout sales, and eventually weekly liquidations, and or special offers.

I found that if I consistently took up these special offers, I could save at least 10% on very viable, evergreen product -- and save much more on the mid-list product. If I do this just about every time they are offered, I start pushing my profit margin higher.

Eventually, the stuff I was buying at a higher discount, was reflected in the stuff I was selling.

So, my margins have more or less settled in at a good, solid 50%.

Which means, that doing an 8 on a 10 point scale with 50% margins, is exactly equal in profits to doing a 10 on a 10 point scale with 40% margins.


So, in a sense, I've reached my goal, and I've been able to maintain it during the worst recession since the 1930's.

It may be a temporary resting point -- indeed, it most probably is with all the massive changes that are taking place in the retail world -- but it's still a nice place to land.