Monday, April 30, 2012

Perfect gardening weather. Is dangerous.

I was digging through my yucca's, and I felt a really sharp pain in my little finger. A thorn or bristle had hit a nerve. But there was nothing there. Then I wondered if I'd been bitten by something.

Anyway, it hurt all day, but it never got red or swelled up, but looked normal. It just hurt.

Arthritis? I wondered.

Woke up this morning and it was itching like crazy. So, yeah, I poked a nerve with something. But there isn't a mark on me.

(No -- I don't wear gloves. Gardening with gloves is like making love with a prophylactic...)

Anyway, I've decided to garden every day, at least a little, and like last year try not to burn myself out doing it. I'm starting on the side of the house, the place I usually get to last every year. Out of sight, out of mind. But it's also the worst place to work in the hot weather, so it makes sense to do it now, even if it isn't as satisfying.

The yucca's in the berm on the other side of the house have proliferated, so I'm going to transplant some to the other side and see if they take. They are the least maintenance plants I have.

I enjoy the process of gardening, but at the same time, I wish I had a magic wand and could get the garden the way I want it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Looking for reasons, after the fact.

The article in the Bulletin this morning about Bend's water being the reason for all the breweries.

I kind of doubt that.

I think we got Deschutes Brewery here pretty early in the game, and that encouraged a couple of other big breweries, and we've had a bunch of spin offs since then. It would have happened with or without the water, but it certainly sounds better to point to the water.

I have the same problem when I hear the common narrative that downtown Bend's revival was inevitable. Because of the river, the "old" (?) buildings, the street layouts.

As it happened, I was here through the entire process, and I can tell you it was never inevitable. It was much more happenstance and luck than people realize. It was even touch-and-go there for a few years, that we wouldn't fall back. Timing was a big part of it. Things gain or lose momentum for what seem very small reasons at the time, but they are tipping points.

But it's always nice and easy to go backward and fill in all the best reasons that something happened.

That pretty much confirms it.

Linda and I went for a drive yesterday afternoon, and ended up in Prineville. We always check out the bookstore there.

They'd done some rearranging, bringing most of the product, including toys and games into one side of the store, and having an open floorplan with tables and with the coffee bar in back of the other half. It looked nice.

They were increasing their used books, but were planning to continue to carry new books.

Anyway, they had some of the 'Melissa and Doug' brand cribbage boards and chess sets, and I've been thinking about carrying those for several years. I hesitate because I once carried five or six versions of those games and must have had 50 people turn their nose up at them. See here's the problem -- if I then have 200 people over the next three or four years ask for them, I can't help but remembering those first 50 people.

Generally, things like that don't change, sadly. It's a case of people being too picky for their own good.

Anyway, the guy in Prineville informed me that 'Melissa and Doug' company was discontinuing cribbage and chess and backgammon and go and all those games.

Which pretty much confirms that they are a hard sell.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Linda and I went to see "Safe" the new Jason Statham movie.

For some reason, Linda really likes him; she turned to me in one of his movies and asked, "Are those real muscles or are they digitally enhanced?"

It was a fun movie. Very violent. It reminded me of a study I once read that said that people are more likely to become more violent after a movie in which the guy inflicting all the pain is doing so righteously, instead of the righteous guy being the victim of the pain.

Well, in this movie, they set up the travails of the young Chinese girl and the disgraced cop in the first part of the movie, so that when they finally turn and fight it is very satisfying....

There were a couple of actors who I barely recognized. The clean cut bad guy is the actor who plays the lead in Hell on Wheels, and the Chinese bad guy is the goofy sidekick on the show Grimm. Completely different in personalities. Acting, eh?

But one thing I want to know.


I want to know bodycount! (Checking Google, be right back...) O.K. Apparently no one has done it yet, but it's got to be in the hundreds.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Garden walkabout.

Did my first real garden walkabout today.

Pretty late in the season, I know.

I've been dealing with Dad issues over the last few weeks, and the week before that we had family in town. Besides, my garden for whatever reason seems to run a full month behind everyone else's garden. Though the weeds are certainly flourishing.

This year I was intending to be more of maintenance year. Last year I spent quite a bit of time clearing away space, and buying plants.

I'm not terribly happy with how the plants I bought have done. But that is kind of the point. My intention is to have enough variety of plants that I can pick from the survivors which flowers to subdivide and plant elsewhere. (Instead, I suppose, of trying the fix the soil so that the plants that don't survive will do better...)

I think I'm going to give everything another week or two to come up, before I decide what to save and what to spread. Maybe do some weed pulling, and the lawn will need to be mowed soon. I'd really like to get it fertilized this year -- I meant to last year, but I never seemed to have that nice 3 day stretch where I could spread the fertilizer and let it set in. Temperatures have to be at a certain temp and there can't be any rain. Just never seemed to have the right 3 days.

I think this will be a more leisurely year for gardening. Just kind of duffer around the garden.

Gardening and writing are a fine combination, too. I can mull the story, and if anything occurs to me, I can walk over to the patio and use my laptop. I'm really looking forward to it.

I suppose I may get started this afternoon, despite the cool temperatures.

Moving product around, every 6 weeks.

I almost can't read retail advice anymore.

My store seems to have stepped outside the mainstream. What seems to work for others, doesn't work for me, and vice verse.

For instance, today there was a bunch of discussion on Game Industry Retailer board about moving your inventory around every 6 weeks (or more often!)

Now I'm always moving things around, in a natural organic way. I call it morphing. Over the course of two or three years, the store will look different. But moving stuff every 6 weeks just to move stuff? Yikes!

All I can think, is they don't have much stuff.

I had Paul, a regular, in yesterday and he started seeing toys and things he had never seen before. It was like blinders had fallen away, and he kept saying "How long have you had this?"

So there's the rational for moving things -- to change the look so that the customers eyes don't automatically pass over them. But then again, what Paul was seeing for the first time, I wasn't too worried about selling -- to someone.

I guess my excuse is, I've packed the store to such an extent, that a customer who is actually open to a new experience is almost BOUND to find something interesting. And to people who have never been in the store (a significant percentage in my downtown tourist zone store) everything is new. I have actually said that to myself: Carry so much stuff that they HAVE to buy something.

Seems to be working. It's a matter of diversity, and depth, and the ability to pay for a lot of material that may not be noticed or sell for a long period of time. But which eventually everything sells. (Yes, I have a few yellowing toys on the wall, but I kind of like to have a few things around that harken back a decade or more, as background. It's part of the overall "feel.")

The way things sell:

I got a "Back to the Future" DeLorean car toy in a few weeks ago, and I must have had 20 regulars pick it up and say "Cool." It took a couple who were in town for a wedding to buy it. That seems to be the usual story nowadays. Either the locals buy it, or a tourist does.

Space is my biggest concern these days.

I'm currently looking at carrying jigsaw puzzles -- and also financing a jigsaw puzzle section in my wife's store.

Why? Because they are stack-able. I can carry a significant inventory in a small footprint. A credible inventory isn't too expensive. And it adds to the diversity of the store, yet another thing to snag a passing customer.

My plan is to put an ongoing puzzle on the round table at Linda's store, and have a stack of puzzles on the bookcases in the gardening section parallel. There is a lot of unused vertical space in my wife's store. (Vertical space is the ONLY space I have left.) Probably buy a round plastic cover to the puzzle when it's not being worked on. (It's near the children's books, so that's a concern, but you can't make omelets....)

My technique is to bring in a product line, streamline it, maximize it, simplify it, add the sales to the total and check to see if I'm "there" yet. Rinse and repeat.

Books and boardgames have put me over some threshold, which I'm really happy about. The store is obviously complicated, what with having comics, books (new and used) games, card games, cards (sports and non-sports), anime and manga, toys, t-shirts and so on and so on.
But that seems to be the price I pay for being in Bend, which isn't as cosmopolitan as it likes to believe it is, is still a relatively small town. Tourists make the difference.

But even though I have reached a viable threshold, I'm not quite ready to say I'm done. Products have a way of becoming obsolete, and it wouldn't hurt to have another couple of product lines in the pipeline that I'm tinkering with.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Does not compute.

A guy buying some used books.

"That will be $4.50," I say.

"Here's $5.00," he answers. "You don't charge enough..."

"What did you say?"

"You don't charge enough..."

"I'm sorry, I don't think I quite caught that."

"You don't charge enough...."

"I think I heard you say something, but my brain couldn't process it."

"You don't....charge enough."

"I don't...................what was that again?"

"You don't charge enough."

I look over my shoulder. "You talking to me?"

"You don't charge enough."

Anyway, that's the way I think the conversation went.

The long point is missing the point.

It's amazing how most discussion of business models mostly talk about the ruthless efficiency of the market, and how that must be good. Good for the customers because of cheaper prices.

Almost never talked about are issues of fairness, or of simple right and wrong.

I fall into this trap myself. I try to argue the long point -- telling people not to just look at A or B, but to continue to follow the chain of logic to C, D, and E. To look at the overall consequences, instead of the short term benefits. Of course, most people's eyes blur at the 3rd or 4th degree of complexity.

But the long point is missing the point.

When I'm really trying to say, "Hey, just use the Golden Rule. Be fair. Think about whether something is right or wrong, not just if it's efficient."

Right now, I can see some of you rolling your eyes. "Didn't your momma tell you 'Life isn't fair?'

Yeah, she did. But she didn't sound happy about it.

I can hear others of you saying, "Oh, there's your Calvinest streak again, Duncan."

But when did discussions of fairness become taboo? Is the point of life to accumulate the most goods for the cheapest prices? Or to acquire what you need in a fair and thoughtful way?

Of course, that probably makes me naive. Or a socialist commie pinko. Probably.

Because, you know, considering the moral ramifications of policy is somehow really dumb.

"Ethical dunces."

So I'm struggling to come up with something to write about this morning.

Do I comment on the asinine real estate blogs who trumpet "Best Time to Buy!"?

Do I talk about how surprised I am that the Deschutes Commissioners actually issued a default on Pronghorn? Or what that means? Can they just take the money and not build the hotel?

Do I observe the obvious headline, "Economic Analysts are Wary of Mixed Signals." Well, duh.

But at the back of my mind is an incident that happened at my store yesterday, that I really want to talk about, but which probably doesn't make me look too good.

I was talking to a couple of young women, one of who had just been published in a book of essays about comics, and which I had special ordered for her. It was a very esoteric title. But I thought to myself, that I would order another copy for the shop.

She was from Seattle. I asked her if there were any "good" comic shops near her.

"Oh, it's a mixed bag. There are some really good ones, and some really bad ones. Dirty. The one I go to is really dirty, but they give a really large discount."

"Don't you think you ought to give your business to the "good" comic shops, rather than going for the cheap?"

She just looked at me like I was a dunce.

"Actually," she says. "I buy from a guy who delivers comics to me, who doesn't have a store."

"Well, you know." I said. "About 45 cents out of every dollar I makes goes to overhead: rent, electricity, insurance, employees, taxes. This guy is buying comics wholesale and not paying any of those things."

Again, she looks at me like I'm a complete idiot. Now, I'm not naive. I know that in this age of internet just about anyone with a website can maintain he's a retailer, and get wholesale discounts if he or she buys enough. Nothing is probably going to change that.

But it was the look in her eye that set me off. She didn't argue her point. She didn't have a point. She was laughing at my concern. She didn't have a clue. She couldn't give a damn.

This is a woman who wants to be part of our wonderful industry. But who can't be bothered to support the exact kinds of shops that would be most likely to carry her book.

"You're a F%@king moral idiot!" I said loudly and walked away from her.

I regret using the word "F@#king." I regret raising my voice.

But I don't regret the "moral idiot" part.

It's my wonderful customer relations that's gotten me so far, obviously.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Last chapter.

Read the final chapter last night at writer's group.

That's the second book I've read from beginning to end at the group over the last 30 years.

In effect, they thought the previous chapter should be the conclusion, and this one ought to go into another book.

They had quite a bit of criticism.

"So let me get this straight," I said. "You just want me to be deeper, more consistent, with a stronger plot and deeper characterization. Is that all?"

Somehow, my ego isn't affected by this. I'm not sure why. There are all kinds of confidence, and I seem to have the confidence that I can somehow, someway fix it all. My feeling is -- "Oh, you just wait, I'll make this a good book despite all ya." Which is unfair, since they've taken the time and effort to try to help.

In other words, I think I can accept the criticism and act on it. And have faith in the end goal.

But all thoughts of me being finished any time soon are gone. I figure I've got a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monthly orders continued.

A continuation of my series of posts about making my monthly orders from my main supplier.

I said in the beginning that I can manage this process in one day: Wrong. This is the third day.

The longer I take, the more I order. I might be better off making quick decisions, eh? Anyway, the comic orders are coming in much higher than usual. What to do?

As I mentioned in a comment yesterday, if finances were shaky, I'd probably look for places to cut, but sales have been better than good, so I may go with it.

Of course, over-ordering is how finances become shaky, what?

The Before Watchmen are putting my budget over the top. I've decided to order 60 of each, and use them as "optional" titles. Picking shelf customers who I think might be interested (in this case, most people who take DC titles) and putting them on the shelf with the understanding that they can reject them.

I usually have a pretty good hit rate, because I try not to overdue it.

Meanwhile, I have all the other product in the catalog yet to order. I'll just be a bit more sparing in my orders for non-comic related material, this time. Most of this stuff I can order elsewhere, if I need to.

LATER: Plugged in the new Watchmen numbers, and I'm already at budget, with the whole back part of the catalog to go. I'm going give myself another 10% to order from this section.


1.) Books and Magazines.

Most of the books are art or pop culture books. I love the magazines, but don't seem to sell them, and they're kind of pricey these days.

I have a weakness for the art and pop books, and if I had the time and space and money, I'd probably carry almost all of them.

I usually try to limit myself to a few, because these are the type of things that aren't monthly and that I can order later from a book wholesaler.


A SPECTRUM art book, and another artbook called Flesk Prime. A PROMETHEUS artbook.
Fewer than usual.

CALENDARS: A once a year purchase, generally. I used to do pretty well, but this has really tailed off and so has my enthusiasm.

Going to order maybe 8 (used to order 20 or 30.)

CARDS: Ordered a box of Topps Chrome baseball. Also, almost against my better judgement, a box of Game of Thrones. (I'm getting Hunger Games cards this week, so I've sort of decided to try to revive this part of my store...)

T-SHIRTS: They offer us a ton of t-shirts, so I usually wait for them to go on sale. Sometimes I'll piggy back on someone else's order. I have no idea what to order for posters and t-shirts. What I think is cool, no one else does...

TOYS: After spending a few years mostly buying singles, where possible, I've been trying to revive this part of my store by buying a couple of cases a month. This month, I may pass unless something really catches my eye.

O.K. Got some individual Marvel Select, a single Mars Attack figure, and ...well, a retro Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles case. (Ironically, I never carried these the first time around, because the mass market was full of them -- but I always liked them. Funny how nostalgic they are, even though I was never their demographic...)

GAMES: Did some various adventure packs, a big Pathfinder book, some various Hero Clix, and a couple of boxes of 2013 Magic, and 6 fat packs (which I'm unlikely to get.)

FINALLY DONE. Took three days, instead of one. I suppose I was looking harder because I was making this report.

I'm a full 20% over budget.

Since these are summer items (especially the last part of the catalog) I'm going ahead and pulling the trigger. I'm feeling more and more confident in the other parts of the store, so I may as well back it up.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Indy orders.

Considering that it represents a relatively small portion of my orders, it takes quite a bit of time to go through the Indy comics. In this case, "Indy" is defined as any comics or graphic novels coming from other than Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image.

I'd love to order everything.

But there are 85 publishers, and hundreds of items (thousands?). Much of it is described by a couple of lines. Almost impossible to know what you're really getting.

Having a reliable track record helps, but Indy/Reliable is almost an oxymoron. So you use your experience to try to guess at what each thing is.

At this point, I should point out that I have an overall budget in mind before I start. I can stretch the budget if the product looks worth it.

For Indy's, I look for names or titles I recognize, ideas that intrigue, and -- as I mentioned -- reliability. Top Shelf, Oni, Fantagraphics, and others always get a look. Sadly, if you are a brand new company without a track record, and your material doesn't stand out in some way, you may very well get overlooked. I simply don't have the time or the space to carry everything.

So I can count on being offered, Oh, I don't Know, a 100 different vampire stories, a 100 different "bad girl" comics, a 100 different "young artist in the city" comics. I try to get a "sampling" of each type.

To Begin:

SLAVE LABOR COMICS: This was the home of Jonen Vasquez of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Squee, and of Roman Dirge, of Lenore. Squee is back on the list, as well as J.T.H.M. and some of Jonen's other minor stuff. Reordered all of it.

ANTARCTIC PRESS: They always have intriguing titles, steampunk and such, but I can't seem to sell them. Darnit.

ARCHIE: SOP is for me to order one of each Archie title. They'll pile up, then sell out, but one a month seems to keep the supply up.

ASPEN: Remember what I said about reliable? Frankly, these guys can jump in a lake.

AVATAR: Top writers, combined with lesser known artists. I always wonder if these are leftovers from the likes of Moore and Ennis, or if the subject matter is too extreme for other publishers... Order here and there, for fans of the extreme.

BLEEDING COOL: The first issue of a new magazine by a significant website. Hope this will fill the hole left by Wizard. Ordered 8 copies, which is 8 more than I usually order of mags.

BLUEWATER: Lousy biographies of famous folk, with lousy art. All about : Wow! There's a comic of Paris Hilton? No thanks.

SIMPSONS: Same as Archie, always order one.

BOOM Studios: Always seems to be on the cusp of being a major player. Has lots of licensed, as well as original material. Sells, like most of the indy's, in ones or two.

For many of this Indy's, I'd just as soon wait for the graphic novel complete, and even there wait for some press and or requests.

Extermination: Ordered.

Fanboys versus Zombies: You know what? I think this is played out. Pass.

Planet of the Apes: Farscape; 28 Days Later, etc. You'd think there would be someone who wants these, but it requires the confluence of two small sets of fanboys and comics.

Adventure Time: Wasn't aware of this license until I had people coming in looking for it. Ordering #1 again, and upping more orders on the rest.

Lady Death and Tarot: Every 4 months or so, I'll get some mullet haired guy looking for these, which he may or may not buy. ("I used to LOVE these comics!") Have quit ordering them.

RASL: by the creator of Bone. I tried liking these, but I can't understand them. Order them anyway, because I think it's my fault.

DRAWN AND QUARTERLY: A quality publisher, and I always try to order something from them. This month, Goliath graphic novel, which I missed the first time around.

DYNAMITE: Has become nearly one of the big boys, on the strength of their licenses.

I think I'll repeat what I said before.

Licensed product with a supposed fanboy base? It requires the intersection of fanboys of that licenses, and fanboys of comics, and they don't always cross.

Star Trek? (Actually a IDW title, but the perfect example of a strong subset not necessarily translating into sales.) Would seem like a no-brainer, right? Well, not so fast. Lots of picky fanboys of Star Trek, but apparently very few of them like the comics.

That's the classic example to me, but there are many others, in this company alone: Vampirella; The Spider; The Shadow: Tarzan; Dark Shadows; Army of Darkness; Red Sonja; Bionic Man (and Woman); Warlord of Mars; Game of Thrones; Lone Ranger; Zorro, and so on and so on.

I order for subscribers, mostly.

Ordered Boys and Jennifer Blood. Game of Thrones -- I think maybe the G.N.'s will sell better.

FANTAGRAPHICS; Another high quality publisher whose stuff SHOULD sell dammit! I always try to order something. Decided to get the 3 Dungeon Quest graphic novels.

Good looking Bruce Timm artbook, but it's 50.00. Are there any fans who will pay that? Can't resist: ordered.

HUMANOIDS: High quality Euro art, which I simply can't sell. Except Mobieus. Bring back Mobieus!!!!

KODANASHA: A big player in Japan, but I'm being careful with manga. Ordered Negima and Sailor Moon.

LAST GASP. If it were up to me, I'd probably carry everything in their catalog. A counter-culture bonanza. NAlas, here in Bend, Oregon, I can't seem to sell any of it.

NBM. Another high quality publisher, and I try to order at least one thing. I'm carrying the Rick Geary graphic novels of major crimes, which I think are wonderful -- and which never sell.

(Seeing a pattern here? The really good independents -- even they are hard to sell. But my theory is, if I carry a good sampling, I'll sell enough, to tourists and the occasional local.)

ONI: Another high quality publisher, and again I try to order something, at least. Courtney Crumrin, comic and graphic novel.

Bad Medicine: Looks good, from a good company. Ordered.

TOP SHELF: Another quality publisher; the decision is easy. The 3rd issue of the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A small book, really. Ordered a bunch, because I think it's going to take Alan Moore forever to finish.

VALIANT COMICS: Back when during the comic boom, they were a major player, and they made a major thud.

Still, there is still some residual good will there, and I've been ordering a few copies. We'll see.

VIZ: The obvious manga, from the biggest publisher: Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Pokemon, Vampire Knight.

ZENESCOPE: The masters of 'bad girl' material. This stuff sells slowly, under the radar, and I think I'll treat it like Archie and Simpsons, and order a few every month at random.

One last trip through the catalog to see if anything is getting major marketing muscle that I didn't order. I find a couple, by major book publishers, that I'm pretty sure will be in Barnes and Noble, and I can't STAND the idea that B & N might have a graphic novel I don't carry --

And that's it, folks!

NEXT: Everything Else.

Checking in.

My turn to see the doctor. Just my yearly checkup. I don't see the point, since I feel fine, and it's unlikely that anything has changed concerning my daily Lipitor, but they insist. A couple hundred dollars every year.

I woke up bright and early to go get my blood taken, so I could come back to the house and drink some coffee and read the paper before the actual appointment.

Then I'll come back and finish up my monthly orders.

Next up: Independent publishers ... and everything else.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Image, IDW, and Marvel orders.

The cat has finally moved her furry butt off my order forms, so I can move on. (She usually joins me in the room I'm at, but rarely sits right next to me, so I didn't want to discourage that...)

IDW Comics.

This is the newest "Premier" publisher. They specialize in licensed type properties.

MARS ATTACKS: Um, a little bit because it's a #1.

ROCKETEER: Always order because it was once my favorite comic (when Dave Stevens was doing it.) Speak of the devil -- there is a 50.00 Stevens art book. Ordered.

KISS: Always trying, never selling. Will get a copy, because it's #1.

TRUE BLOOD: Great show, doesn't sell as a comic.

G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS: Would seem like a no-brainer -- except, they keep changing the titles and adding mini's and more series, and then mixing them, and a pox upon them. Order one copy for the one guy who subscribes.

STAR TREK and DR. WHO: Ditto, what I just said above. A single, well done title I could build upon, this bait and switch tactic is just utterly maddening. No copies.

GODZILLA and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: Ditto. A single, on-time title would be great, not this mix and match stuff. Very annoying.

MAGIC THE GATHERING and DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: Again, would see to be great titles to have, but when you try to match inconsistent customers (people who show up once in a blue moon, demanding to get all the missing issues) and confusing and inconsistent production, it's such a problem that they are almost more trouble than they are worth.

Wow. I didn't know I was feeling this way, until I expressed it out loud. Anyway, this seems to be something that the licensed publishers have a problem with: a well-defined set of titles, consistently produced. They throw spin off after spin off, mini after mini, and confusing absolutely everyone. (Dynamite does this, as well, as does Boom. Dark Horse gets carried away with Star Wars.)



Image Comics are on a bit of a roll. Some well known authors, unique stories. Getting attention. At first, I was under ordering them because they looked like the same old same old. But they fooled me and I've been playing catch up ever since. It's also nice that they are keeping most of these in print.

Because of the consistency of vision, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt (the opposite of the way I feel about IDW above.)

PLANETOID. Once would have ordered 1, am ordering 5.

CREATOR OWNED HEROES. Once would have ordered 1, am ordering 8.

CARBON GREY: Ordered 1.


DANCER; EPIC KILL; FATALE; MANHATTAN PROJECTS; SAGA; REBEL BLOOD; SECRET; THIEF OF THIEVES -- All these titles are big hits, as far as I'm concerned, selling up to a dozen each when a year ago I would have thought 1 or 2.

Go Image!

FATALE T.P. Ordered.

WALKING DEAD T.P. #16. Going to order 6 of these, which is about 3 more than I once would have ordered. And I'll no doubt have to reorder.



Like DC, lots of titles, but slightly more predictable.

The Avengers Vs. Marvel titles are settling in, down about a third from the start. Pretty typical.

Not much to say about Marvel. I pretty much know how many Daredevils and Incredible Hulks to order each month.

They are playing a bit of a dangerous game by doubling up many of their titles in one month. Some subscribers may not even notice consciously, but they may notice when it comes time to pay the bill.

Basically, this is a technique of getting more money from the customers they already have.

On the other hand, they do seem to have cut back a lot on extraneous titles -- minor characters and unnecessary mini series. At least, for the moment.

Well, that's it for the day. I got through the Premier section, which is usually about half of the job. But my brain is cheese, so I guess I'll finish tomorrow.

Dark Horse and DC orders.

This is the second of probably 4 posts today detailing my monthly orders from the Diamond Catalog.

Beware of wonk.

First, I load up copies of the last two months worth of comic orders to compare.

One final note: I have a chance to increase or decrease my orders about 3 weeks in advance for the Premier publishers, but I try to make my initial orders as accurate as I can.



Owned by my former boss, (29 years ago) Mike Richardson and based out of Portland. I always give them a little more benefit of the doubt for those reasons.

They have some licensed product, like Star Wars and Aliens and such that I always order. They have pretty good quality on the other material, even if often seems pretty "mid-list" (viable, but not crucial material). If I have to order "mid-list" Dark Horse is as good a place as any...

I usually order at least one comic to put out for sale, beyond subscribers, which doesn't sound like much, but I can afford to do this with only a few publishers...

THE MASSIVE: This science fiction title is the kind of title I'll take a chance on: It's written by Brian Wood, who has a good track record. Order what is a large number for my store. Qualify for a variant. (Most of the comic publishers offer variant cover art if you meet certain thresholds. I don't don't order extra to qualify, usually, but always order the variant if I do qualify.)

FATAMA: Done by indy icons, Gilbert Hernandez and Peter Bagge, order minimal because, as great as they are, they don't seem to sell in my store.

MIND MGMT: An indy, take a chance.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS: I've been ordering extras of this anthology title, because they seem to sell if I leave them out...Great creators, but...well....anthologies are a tough sell. And I know all these stories will collected. (Of course, that's true of almost all titles, nowadays.)

BUFFY: Order.

BUFFY Trade paperback. One of those titles that I'll sell more of the book, than the comic.

ALABASTER #3. Haven't sold any of the first, do I keep going?

B.P.R.D. Have my steady subscribers.

BALTIMORE: Steady few subscribers.

RAGEMOOR: Richard Corben art. Order.

THE STRAIN: Guillermo del Toro's story. Order.

THE RIVEN: Horror graphic novel. The kind of thing I can order if anyone wants. Pass.

SAVAGE SWORD: Much as I love R.E.H., subscribers only.

CONAN: Usual.

CONAN trade paperbacks: Already have a ton of Conan T.P.'s, which sell slowly. Will wait for a requests.

STAR WARS Titles: Have a steady subscriber base for these, about mid-range, and I always order extra to put out.

ORCHID #8. This many issues in, anyone who wants it has shown me.

RESIDENT ALIEN: Again, haven't sold a copy of the first issue. Do I keep going?

EMPOWERED Hardcover: Have all these in paperback, which is already quite a commitment. Wait for a request.

RESET #3: Peter Bagge again. Again, I haven't sold a copy of the first issue.

Some licensed material: figures,, cups, patches, that I simply can't sell. Pass. Some manga, for which I've become very selective. Wait for requests.

(A word on requests -- I try to always order what people request. Even if they don't come back, it at least shows interest...)


One of the big two. Between Marvel and DC, they probably account for 2/3rds of comic sales. It is simply the way the market has panned out.

Marvel and DC are also the most predictable in sales -- I can usually check my subscription lists, order that much, and order a few extra for the hot titles, a couple extra for the slow titles.

The #1's are where we have to take chances, but even here, there is usually some track record of the characters or the type of comic.

DC's New 52 are subscribers, plus, and I usually adjust them during the Final Order Cutoff. The "FOC." And yes, everyone makes that joke.

This month, DC is offering us a series of comics they call "Before Watchmen" starring the characters in the original Watchmen series.

This has always been a stand alone landmark for comics; the great Alan Moore wrote it, and it has sold continuously ever since it was released. Moore isn't happy about DC taking his characters and world and spinning off. But DC owns the rights, and....well, even if I wanted to stand for "creator rights" there is no way I can skip this series.

Question is -- how much do I order? How good will they be? How much interest will there be?

So I'm going to order somewhere between the few I'd normally order of a new series, and the many of the New 52 I ordered. Enough to make some sales, but not enough to get killed if they don't sell.

This is the gamble with comics. We comic store owners are the ultimate purchasers -- we usually don't get to return unsold copies...

DC is offering us a chance to order 25% more comics beyond a certain level for consignment.
Unfortunately, that number is awfully high for my store. (In the end, I didn't go for it.)

I'm going to skip these Before Watchmen titles (4) until I do the rest of the DC comics, to see if how they fit into the budget.

Have come back to this post, because the cat has plunked herself down on top of my order forms, rendering them unavailable for the moment.

Anyway, DC is relatively easy to do, but time-consuming because of the sheer number of titles; the 52, plus graphic novels, plus Vertigo titles. The New 52 have definately settled into lower numbers, but they gave such a good initial boost, that even these numbers are relatively good.

The ability to return some of them, has been a real bonus. There are 5 new titles that qualify for consignment, and I'm ordering pretty big numbers.

LATER: O.K. made a mistake. I thought I was adding up retail and I was adding up wholesale, so it was way higher than I thought I was ordering. Had to go back and redo everything.

All because of new change they've made to the site. I can't check my individual publisher totals as I go along, as far as I can tell. There must be a way, but I haven't found it. Damn changes.

I'm going to post this, and take a break.

This is taking longer than usual.

Doing my monthly orders.

Warning: This is a process oriented post.

I'm going to write two or three blogs in the course of the day, detailing my monthly orders from Diamond. I get comics, cards, games, toys and lots of other items from my main supplier; orders due on the 4th Thursday of every month. I usually try to finish the weekend before.

This order used to take at least 2 days. Roughly 5.5 hours on one day, and 5.5 on the next. I couldn't get much past 5 hours, because my brain would turn to cheese. Then another half day copying and mailing the whole thing.

Now I seem to be able to get it done in one day. Just click and send. I go directly to the computer now, instead of doing a hard copy. Occasionally, I make mistakes this way, but not enough to overcome the convenience.


The first item on the order is the hard copy Previews itself. Back when the Previews was smaller and cheaper, I used to give it away to anyone who was interested. As it got bigger and more expensive, I would give it away to anyone who used it on a regular basis. Then I sold it for my cost to anyone who was interested.

Now? I have two or three lingering subscriptions, who don't use the book enough. I get one or two extra to put out (and rarely sell them.) The whole thing just got to be too big and too unwieldy.

Before I start the actual orders, I should make a few things clear.

The "Front" of the catalog is filled with the "Premier" publishers. As a result of the Distributor Wars in the late 90's, the industry ended up with one real distributor. Diamond won the wars by signing exclusives with the biggest publishers of the day: Dark Horse, Image, DC, and Marvel.

As a result, these publishers, joined later by a few other publishers, are in the front of the catalog.

Not coincidentally, these few publishers account for 80% of comic sales. They take up the first 220 pages of the 450 page catalog. (Marvel has a separate catalog inserted, so if that was included, the premier publishers would take up well over half the catalog.)

All the other comic publishers take up the next 120 pages. (I counted roughly 85 other publishers.)

"Books" take up 15 pages.
"Calendars" take up 4 pages. (In this catalog.)
"Cards" take up 8 pages.
"T-Shirts" take up 11 pages.
"Toys" take up 58 pages.
"Games" take up 8 pages.
"DVDS" take up 6 pages.

(Ads make the count inexact.)

Next Post: I start with Dark Horse comics...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It was simpler when we lived in trees and leopards ate us.

So I says to Linda this morning on the way to the movie Chimpanzee.

"How long will it take for Dad to accuse us of throwing away all his valuable things?"

Sure enough, Linda went over tonight and he said, "You threw away thousands of dollars worth of stuff that I had in plastic bags along the wall."

First of all, I didn't throw anything away that wasn't certifiable trash.

Secondly, when he moved in there he had nothing of value and there was no way for him to have accumulated anything.

Third, Why the hell am I explaining myself? Arrgghhh!

Other than that, he seems to be settling in.

Moving Dad.

The following are the two e-mails I wrote to my older brother, Mike, and my two younger sisters, Betsy and Susie. It's about yesterdays experience of moving my Dad from independent living to 'residential' care. He has the hoarder syndrome, so we knew it was going to be tough:

Hey, Sibs,

Today has been quite the experience.

It started off a little rocky. Our first idea was to get Dad out of there while we were moving. Linda took him to say "goodbye" to the doctors, and then tried to run errands, but he kept demanding to go back for lunch.

She called me from Bend Villa and said they had started moving him. I showed up, and what they had done was taken the heavy stuff, and pretty much piled everything else on the floor. Dad was off eating lunch, not knowing what was in store for him.

I tell you, I was almost paralyzed by the sight. (Called my brother and said, "You owe me big time, buddy boy!") Eventually, I got started. I started putting anything of written material that was in the slightest bit pertinent flat in a box. All the knicknacks in another, all the miscellany in another box, folding clothing in another. Stacked all the books. Had barely gotten started before I got word that Dad was on his way, but had been waylaid to the new apartment.

By the time I got there, it was complete rejection of the new apartment. He was more or less circling the hallways in the new section with a mulish look in his face. So Linda and I stood in front of him and tried to make clear to him that it was "Happening" and that it was "Already decided."

Very emotional moment, altogether. Finally got through to him. Linda was in tears, and I was in near tears. He kept saying he "hadn't asked for it." He kept wanting to go back to "his" room.

So we blamed Mike. Heh.

It was too much for Linda, who suddenly announced, "I'm going to get my nails done!"

Anyway, I went back to trying to clear the main room and his bedroom of everything but clothes. I was in the midst when he suddenly showed up. oh,oh. I was a little shocked, but we had all decided that we didn't want him feeling imprisoned. (Made a big show of exchanging keys.) I think he saw that it was all over, and he went back to his new room. Yeah.

So I continued on for a few more hours, trying to get things straight, trying not to lose anything. (At one point, Dad even decided to purge his closet of some clothes -- we had brought everything over that was on hooks. His idea.)

Brought the books and magazines in, and had another dicey moment as he wanted to interfere with everything. I threw up my hands and sat on his couch.

After talking to him for awhile, I started back and he didn't stop me. Brought all the papers, all the books, all the fixtures, set up all the tables around his room. Another dicey moment when he wanted his T.V. remote control, but Linda had returned by then and went and got it.

By then it was 4:00 and I was so tired I was dropping things and running into things, so I made two more trips, sat down and asked if I could get a cup of juice or something. Linda, Dad and I sat companionably sipping orange juice, and he started looking forward to dinner.

The room is really nice. Bigger, and of course more tidy. A few pictures and correct arrangement of the furniture made it feel more like an idealized version of Dad's room. If it stays this nice, I'll be much much more interested in visiting him.

I had done everything but the kitchen, pretty much. Some clothes still in the bedroom. Linda went back tonight and got his kitchen and bathroom stuff transferred. He had eaten in the new cafeteria "which is closer!" Dad told Linda that he thought the move had been a good idea!

We credited Mike. Heh.

So we'll see how he feel tomorrow. I'm sure there are some difficult moments, yet, while he re-orients, but so far, so good.


Dunc and Linda.

(Linda objects to me saying she had abandoned me. She had always said she was leaving for her nails, by gum. But that doesn't keep me from teasing her about it. I saw that look of panic in her eyes!)

Linda says she'll send pictures when she can.

So...I found, I'm guessing, about 25 hearing aid batteries (which he is always running out of), toothpicks everywhere, coupons he could never use, five or six pairs of scissors, and huge amounts of blank scraps of paper. Some of the paper was written on, which would require the Rosetta stone to decipher. I put them all in the box. Linda found 15 toothpaste caps.

The paper trail was interesting. I knew that things had meaning to him: an article about Peter Graves, a Tarzan who had come from Portland, stuff that would look like junk to others. (I've been in the newspaper a lot! He had multiple copies). Not just one picture of you guys, but dozens of the same pictures. Lots of note cards --some which were actually written on, others that were blank. Where does he get those?

All I can think is that he is picking stuff up free in the lounges.

Oh, and the first thing he asked for in his new room were his "wheels. "I have four!" he exclaimed. The nurse had asked me if we could ditch two or three of the walkers, earlier, but we decided since his "wheels" were what he wanted most, we'd better not mess with them.

"I think he uses them to negotiate his room," I told her. "Props himself up going from one to the other."

"Yeah, but if he had only one, he could negotiate much easier.!"

Silly nurse.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why the change?

Damn Blogger.  Making changes that I'll be damned if I can see are any improvement.  In fact, the thing adds steps and gives me nothing in return that I can see.

For instance....How do I know if there are any comments about a blog post?

Later:  after experimenting, it turns out if I press the "close" button, it goes to a part of the site where I can then go to comments, which I can then click to see if there are any comments.  (At least two extra steps...)

Real intuitive.  Press "close."  ?????

There seems to be no easy step back to the original blog.

Why do they insist on messing with things?

I suppose you readers don't see anything different, but it bugs me.

They recently made some changes in the Diamond site, and I've so far identified exactly one thing that seems to be an improvement, and a dozen things that seem to have added steps.

It's probably got some capabilities that I simply don't use.   Arrggghh.

Trying to get a sense of the local economy.

I'm having a hard time getting a sense of the local economy. The tone of news coverage seems somewhat optimistic, but then it always is, especially in the spring.

Still, it's hard the ignore the real news, headlines and opinions aside. Tetherow lots going to default, Pronghorn asking for yet another extension, bank robberies every other week.

I'm noticing that a lot of the businesses that opened in the first years of the bust, are beginning to fold. They were probably a little too optimistic about Bend.

I've always said, my own business seems to be unconnected to the local and national economy, usually, except for extreme situations like the Great Recession. Once we absorbed that blow, it's been back to negotiating our own path through the usual muddy trails. I added two new product lines (new books and boardgames) at the very tail end of the boom which I continued to build during the bust, and the store is now benefiting.

For the first time in years, I'm not trying to add inventory. Which helps the bottom line.

My overall impression about the local economy is that the downturn is still being managed. The powers that be don't want too many houses, too many commercial buildings, going into default all at the same time.

And shadow inventory is totally underestimated, in my opinion. Not just the houses that are in trouble, but all the houses that are underwater that would be immediately placed on the market if pricing recovers.

So despite all the usual real estate buzz about things getting better, I think we're still in a trough and will be for a long time to come.

I'm trying not to be a perma bear, but it's hard to overlook the damage done.

And yet, I'm getting the tourists in my store, and they seem to be spending money. So my guess is: If you are a business that is properly calibrated to deal with the real economy of Bend --Tourism-- then you can make some money in this town.

If you are a business that is calibrated for 'city' tastes that you think Bend is under-offering, you may be in for some disappointment. And obviously, if you are a business that depends on Bend's building trade returning with a bang, or with Bend growing dramatically, I think you are a little ahead of yourself.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Slow, steady growth.

To me, it's pointless to read or listen to interviews with politicians -- of any stripe. They have a ready made cache of cliches and they use them mercilessly with a smile.

Same with sports figures.

Unfortunately, the same with most business leaders. There is an unwillingness to say anything beyond the obvious. I used to read these interviews hoping for an insight, for something I didn't already know. I've given up.

Why there is such a journalistic industry of such interviews is beyond me. Probably just need to fill the space and air.


Somebody wrote an article about why good restaurants become average over time.

Most of the reasons stated could just as easily be attributed to most businesses. The owner starts to slack off, the newness wears off, and so on.

Personally, I think business is more like a cycle -- sometimes everyone will think you're great, sometimes they'll dislike you. And sometimes for the exact same reasons. A truly long lived business just hangs in there, and it all evens out in the end.


So now it's up to me to say something that isn't obvious?

Woke up really groggy this morning. I swear the next time I think of something that contradicts the common wisdom, I'll post it.


The usual Spring push for a housing recovery is here.

All I'll say this time is -- the fact that it isn't dropping precipitously anymore is not the same thing as a recovery...


Usually, my business has been at the center of whatever chaos was in my life. A constant struggle to make it work.

So it's sort of strange to have the business working finally at a nice even level, and the chaos being in other parts of my life. (Not that I have that much chaos -- I'm lucky right now that things are going well. Knock wood.)

There are times of rapid growth, times of rapid decline, times of stagnation, and times like now where the business is making incremental improvements, month to month, and that is the best situation to be in. Rapid growth would seem to be even better -- except there is always a price to pay. Give me slow, steady growth any day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nothing is lost, everything is lost.

There is a singer I liked way back in the '60's that seemed to drop from sight. Eric Andersen. A few years ago, I looked him up online, but either there wasn't much there yet or my google powers were weak.

Anyway, I tried again last night. (Levon Helm to Rick Danko to Eric Andersen.)

This time, there were a ton of video's on Youtube, and I spent the evening listening to tracks.

I wonder if some folks won't have a career revival. I mean, none of the video's had more than 20 or 30k worth of hits, and most had much less. But there were a number of comments like mine from people re-finding Eric Andersen.

(It happened in a very small way with my books, which by now have been so long out of print that the likelihood of tripping over them in a bookstore was slim. Instead, there's hundreds of listings online. People have e-pirated the books, but I've let that go.)

So nothing is lost.

On the other hand, there is so much material at there that everything is lost -- at least, the way a drop of water is lost in an ocean. But at least you can find the drop of water if you're looking for it.


Woke up this morning and Linda was marking up my book.

"I hope you don't mind my marking up your book so much."

"No. I'm glad you're doing it."

I really don't seem to take offense at critique nowadays -- I remember how hard it was to take at the first of my writing career, but now I just appreciate the help. There is a point earlier in the process where it could discourage me from continuing, but not this far along.

Even if I disagree with a correction, I can often use the input to spark something else. It's something to work off of.

Anyway, I'm still waiting for all the critiques, so I'm going to just commit to the second book for awhile.


My Dad is being moved into a higher level of care, which means moving him physically from his room to another.

I've mentioned that he's a Hoarder. All he can hoard these days is paper; some clothing; some knickknacks here and there and so on.

But while looking for his lost keys last night it occurred to me that the Movers we hire to transfer him may want to ask for hazard pay.

The question is -- do I buy him a new table or bookcase? He's got a cardboard box as a table, and his couch is completely covered in books and magazines.

But even if I do, will he use them? Won't we probably just be in the same place?

If we clean and organize, I know from past experience it will look exactly the same in another few months. So just transferring everything exactly the way it is, mess and all, might be easier for him.

Except, I know it won't. He'll still lose things in transition and be certain that he was robbed. Hoarding and dementia are a bad combination.

It's probably a no win situation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It's all HIS fault...

Top 5 U.S.A. Today news stories:

1.) "Agents at Columbia brothel bragged about Obama duties."

I blame Obama.

2.) "Alabama's crystal BCS trophy shattered in accident."

I blame Obama.

3.) "Satellite captures giant eruption from sun today."

I blame Obama.

4.) "Discovery lands after saluting nation's capital."

I blame Obama.

5.) "Michigan lottery winner charged with welfare fraud."

I blame Obama.

Every time a news story comes up, I turn to Linda and say, "I blame Obama."

I so wanted to make that joke when we were looking at the magazines at the checkstand at Safeway. Oprah and Kardashian and Brangelina.

"I blame Obama."

But I was pretty sure everyone in line would assume I meant it...sigh.

What is normal to others...

All these hospital and retirement home visits, shopping trips, restaurants, etc. have shown me that my agoraphobia is at bay.

A couple of times I've looked around at a crowd and marveled that I wasn't feeling even a twinge in situations that once would have sent me tight-lipped to the outdoors.

I still don't totally trust it -- but it's a virtuous cycle; the more relaxed I am, the more relaxed I get.

I'm still somewhat of a socially awkward penguin, especially for a guy my age. I'm just not in the practice of dealing with lots of people, except in my store, of course, but that's my territory. And internally, I think it must still be difficult based on how tired I get.

But how wonderful that I can finally enjoy a restaurant or other social areas -- at a time when I can more finally afford restaurants and trips and other such areas.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday moops.

When did Game of Thrones become a half hour show?

Anyway, that's the way it feels. It's so engaging, that the hour just whizzes by. I almost never rewatch a show, but with GOT's I may make an exception.


Had a terrific weekend at the store. Didn't miss having a festival at all. Maybe N.W. Crossing would like some more of our events?

Go ahead and poach, I say.


The tax district downtown is up for another vote.

It's probably very safe, if from nothing else, from inertia.

Hopefully, the mini-rebellion last year has woken them up to the fact that endless festivals are not and endless good.


Books are saved!

There is a vast baboon market, just waiting to be tapped.

Wait. What if the little bastards prefer e-books? You know what, I bet the little bastards do prefer e-books....


I'm trying hard to work up sympathy for the book publishers. After all, I need them to survive.

But damn if I don't think they are partly responsible for the situation they're in. The helped facilitate Amazon's rise. So now they get to deal with the consequences.


Annoyingly -- I've for years agitated for card companies to be more careful about who they sell to.

So, when Panini actually does it, I find myself hoist on my own petard. They want so much documentation that I'm a real store, that I actually didn't follow through.

With the sudden emergence of Jeremy Lin, I decided I probably wanted to get basketball cards, after all. My wholesaler actually followed through for me, but I haven't heard back.


Getting an unexpected visit from one of Linda's nieces.

I'm trying to tell myself that sometime in the not too distant future, I'm probably going to want to be able to drop in on relatives and friends around the country while traveling.

What's fair for the goose.


I am unbelievably lazy. Just thought I'd throw that out there.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday splat.

What? The Titanic was a real event? It wasn't just a movie?



I've been reading some old Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe) mysteries.

One, written in 1960, is set in an ultra-rich, ultra-fancy penthouse.

Get this. It had "stainless steel appliances!" What's more, it had "marble countertops!" "Carpet covered, secret doors!" (O.K. Maybe that last hasn't happened.)

Kind of interesting that what was considered ultra fancy in 1960 is now in every McMansion in America.

As Nero Wolfe would say: "Pfui."


The picture of the Egyptian blue hippo ("a gift shop favorite") in the Bulletin today brought back memories. We got that exact figure in the gift shop on one of our visits back east when I was a kid. My room also had a nice print of cave art horses.

Brings back the nostalgia.

Wonder whatever happened to those?

I'll bet both are available online.


Instead of that nostalgic decor, I'm dealing with four signed and numbered prints that we pulled out of the family storage unit. (Apparently, Mom's father collected prints.)

Looking them up, they are all name artists, and in fact, in all four cases I was able to find references to the exact same prints. The artists are: Rockwell Kent, Lawrence Beall Smith, Fred Morgan, and J. Chatwood Burton. They are early 20th century.

None of them are worth very much -- especially if they had to be auctioned off. In fact, if I go ahead and reframe them, that might be more than they're worth. Just goes to show, just because something is nearly a hundred years old doesn't mean it's worth anything.

Then again, they are almost a hundred years old...

They are nice and charming, and I think I'm going to frame them and display them.


I had bad dreams last night. The usual ostracism dreams that I seem to always get.

(Linda on the other hand always has "hero" dreams where she saves people, especially children.)

I think the nightmares came from a couple of Netflix movies: "Devil's Playground," a zombie movie; and "The Lazarus Project" a freaky (what is real and what is imagined?) movie.

"Also "Cabin in the Woods," Linda says, when I tell her about my bad dreams.

So what did we go and do yesterday? We rented a cabin in the woods for the 29th anniversary of our first date. Up on the McKenzie -- far enough away that it's not local, but only an hour and half drive.

We drove there yesterday, just to look around. Had hot dogs at 'Reservoir Dawgs' (yep, he had the whole motif going, but I told he he was missing a bet not wearing a black suit and tie.)

It was a beautiful, lazy day. Few other tourists, mostly locals. Drove up and circled Blue Reservoir, and just sort of relaxed.


Linda's back has almost returned to normal. It took two weeks, or so. I'm very thankful that my little love-bump that sent her sprawling didn't do any lasting harm. I've noticed that I do that, without being aware, kind of bump up against her. Did it twice on the trip yesterday and pointed it out each time. I don't think I even knew I was doing that.


Dad has decided that he's got cancer and he's going to die in two weeks anyway and he didn't go to his doctor coffee klatch, nor does he want to take his pills.

The pills are antibiotics, because he ended up in the hospital with an infection. He somehow thinks they are vitamin pills and "useless." Dad is profoundly deaf, and only seems to understand what he wants to understand.

So a couple of days ago, he changed his self-diagnosis. "I think it's the prunes," he says. "The prunes have turned on me...."

So there you have it: It's either cancer ....or it's the damn prunes.


One thing that would stop me from trying to run a 'full-service' new independent bookstore would be the necessity to buy all the "best-sellers."

It is a little unexpected, but I purposely avoid all best-seller lists. I've stuck with the tried and true, mostly. Books that have a history; cult books, favorites, classics, quirky.

Oh, I sold plenty of Hunger Games and Game of Thrones -- I ain't totally crazy -- but I've avoided the latest Nora Roberts or Tom Clancy.

So why give up the luxury of carrying books I want to carry, versus books I feel like I have to carry because they are on some list somewhere?


I wonder how many kittens are being named Katniss, even as we speak?


Saturday, April 14, 2012

You KNOW where I am.

The visit from my family (coordinating all the siblings) and Dad's visits to the clinic and hospital, have finally forced me to carry my cellphone everywhere.

I've told my guys at the store to start calling the cellphone, instead of the home phone.

Yesterday, Linda wanted to go see a movie and I brought out my phone and looked up the times at the theaters.

"Wow. That's really cool." Linda says.

So I guess I've finally joined the modern world. Now if I commit a major crime, the government will be able to track me. Come to think of it, the government can track me anyway....

By the way, there's been talk of eliminating paper money. Do they have any concept of what an uproar that will cause all the people who are trying to live off the grid? For innocent and for guilty and for conspiracy minded reasons?

Anyway, I predict that won't go down without a firestorm of protest.

Saturday suds.

Saw "Cabin in the Woods", of which the less I say, the better for you guys. Myself -- I purposely avoided all trailers and reviews, because my mind can't help but start puzzling them out.

It's one of those films you laugh at, and then look around to make sure no one thinks you're weird for laughing. Gory, and tongue in cheek. It just keeps ramping up.

There is one scene, near the end, which I can't wait to freeze frame at home someday so I can count all the ways of weird mayhem therein contained in one scene.


Finally saw "Green Lantern", and I plead guilty to the same fault of not going to see it in the theater that I accuse other of: -- how can we expect more of these movies to be made if we don't go see them?

It was fun, but I can kind of see why it wasn't a big hit. Ironically, it was one of those rare films that the fanboys liked, because it was fairly true to the comic, but the public didn't. Usually it seems like it's the other way around.

I liked the Science-fiction elements, and would love to see a movie someday that utilizes those kinds of special effects for a galactic empire story.


I'm happy for Joss Whedon, (Cabin in the Woods writer/producer and Avengers writer/director) and maybe he'll get a few more greenlights from here on out, and maybe the Suits won't be in such a hurry to cancel him.

I spent several years trying to convince people that Buffy was smart, not dumb. When Firefly came out, I couldn't seem to find anyone watching the first run. When Serenity came out, it seemed like every likely person I talked to wasn't going.

These became 'cult' classics after their first runs, but even adding these shows to Buffy wasn't a clincher. Dollhouse was a bit of dud. I liked parts of it, but...

Anyway, now I can point to a couple of other accomplishments by Whedon, instead of the eye-rolling I used to get (and still get) about Buffy and Angel.


I dreamed all night about this blockwide building that I was negotiating to buy or lease to put in a giant bookstore. It just go bigger and junkier as the night went on. The owner was slippery and wouldn't give me a firm answer.

Linda says, "You want the perfect bookstore and there isn't such a thing."


I'll tell you what. If I was ever interested in having a full-line new independent bookstore, the recent actions by the DOJ to let Amazon loose on prices would be enough to change my mind. I hope everyone enjoys those lower prices while the infrastructure is still intact, because I can't see the middle holding.


I really liked this line from local blogger 'Bend or Bust':

"Two of the richest companies in the world (Apple and Facebook) needed tax breaks from one of the poorest counties in Oregon in order to build there."

Perfectly stated.

Well almost perfect. I would have said "wanted" tax breaks; "begged" or "held hostage" or "demanded" or ... well, you get the gist.

Then again, "needed" is more ironic.


A suggestion for the 'local businessmen' who want the Parks and Rec to build a 12 hole golf course for the public.

I'm betting one of the current 30 golf courses would be more than happy to sell out to you...


"The Secret World Arrietty" is coming out on DVD.

When I watched this in the theater, I kept thinking my Mom would have loved it. It was the best depiction of a garden I've ever seen -- live or cartoon. She would have objected going to a cartoon, but I might have been able to convince her because it was based on a well-loved children's book we had in the house: The Borrowers.

It's from Studio Ghibli, and while it isn't Miyazaki, it was so Miyazaki-like as to make little difference.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Opportunities to stress out some more.

If you take what visitors say at face value, downtown Bend really does impress them. That really can't be denied. Whether what they see is what they would get if they actually moved to Bend, is a whole nother thing.

But superficially, at least, Bend is very attractive to them.

I found it interesting that the Rademacher house was precluded from renting out to a clothing store, unless they had tons of experience and credit references. Well, clothing stores are only the most ubiquitous of downtown stores; but there are obviously several other types of businesses that we seem to have a surfeit of; high end restaurants would be another.

The rents are too high for anyone to really make money, I think. But I think the commercial real estate may finally be at a bit of a tipping point. I could possibly buy a building that wouldn't cost all that much more per foot than renting the same space would cost. Even at the beginning. The big payoffs would come further down the road, of course, because the rents are bound to keep going up over the years, and I'd be locked into a price.

I know how I would do it. What I would do. I'm pretty sure I could succeed.

However, what do I need the stress for? Why should I gamble?

I know from the experience of opening 5 stores and closing 3 stores, that it would cost more, take longer, and be incredibly stressful. I'd be a stress puppy for months, if not years.

On the other hand, my downtown store is finally functioning the way I've always wanted it to function. I should probably just take my winnings and go home, so to speak.

It's tempting, but I'm trying to focus on the consequences -- even if I succeeded. That kind of challenge used to really get my juices flowing -- but now I just remember how tiring it all was.

If I was younger, if I was more technically adept, if I had a bit more wiggle room financially, I'd be more likely to try. One of these days, the perfect opportunity may come along. But until then, I think I'm better off sitting tight.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday thunks. (was Wed. wats.)

Woman comes in with an umbrella, shakes it out all over my books. I look at her incredulously, and take a towel and quietly try to wipe up the drops.

"Wow. I haven't see an umbrella in a long time," I said. "It rains all of 8 inches a year around here."

"The hotel had them..." she said.


I can sell the Weird Oregon book all day long, but no one wants the Weird California book.

It's not because they aren't weird...


As I thought, I have no willpower whatsoever in the face of selling candy in my store. I'm slowly but surely eating all the Turkish Taffy.


Speaking of candy. My brother left a huge pile of Rex Stout 'Nero Wolfe' mysteries, and I've been ah, hem, wolfing them down. Short books, pithy. What's most dated about them isn't that everyone wears hats and calls each other "Mr." and "Mrs." and uses phone booths. What's most dated is the treatment of women, who usually fall into the "Madonna or the Whore" category. Such a "frail" species, who must be taken care of. It's kind of weird, like a species once existed on this earth that we men used to take care of who has disappeared.


I was talking with a customer about George R.R. Martin's tendency to kill off major characters, and I said, "Yeah, and he doesn't just kill them in glorious battle -- he has to kill them or maim them in some humiliating way...."

Hey, wait a minute. I've read these books! They're better written than the Gor books, but...


Linda's back is slowly getting better. She went to a chiropractor. I grew up in a doctor's family and 'chiropractor' was a dirty word. Never been to one, never will. (It was funny -- we were talking about it at Bend Memorial Clinic while dealing with Dad -- but we talked in whispers.)

But Linda wanted to go. He did a scan of her back and told her it was in her muscles and nerves, and would slowly get better on its own.

Color me officially impressed. (I'd been telling her the same thing --- being a doctor's son and all makes me such and expert and all.)


Saw some N.C. Wyeth art on a site, and tried to order some of his illustrated books. (King Arthur wasn't available??!!) Anyway, I figure his artwork was at least as responsible for my life turn into fantasy as J.R.R. Tolkien was. (That and historical novels by Harold Lamb and Mary Renault.) In other words, I was primed. Tolkien and R.E. Howard were inevitable.


I think I might be completely -- so far --- utterly uninterested in J.K. Rowlings adult novel.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Strange book-fellows.

So you'd maybe think I'd be against Amazon fixing prices with the publishers.

Actually, me and most independent book retailers would probably prefer that there be some sort of floor on pricing, if nothing else so that publishers may survive to continue to publish books.

I half wonder why Amazon is bothering. They could end up being the sole remaining large publisher -- if the Justice Department has it's way.

Thanks, but no thanks, for the favor.

Quit talking and produce the book already!

Took the second to last chapter to writer's group, and though it was an action filled chapter, they didn't feel the suspense. They didn't think the characters were in enough trouble.

Well, that's a problem when the penultimate chapter doesn't pass muster.

So I can hear you saying, quit talking and produce the book already!

Yeah, well that may be a problem. I've decided that it all needs to be completely reworked, from top to bottom. I still think there is a readable book in there, but it is more or less back to the drawing board.

The encouraging thing is, I'm still willing to do the work.

I've got a plan.

It all points to why I quit writing novels 25 years ago. I simply couldn't put this level of commitment into something that may or may not ever see the light of day. So...on one hand, I can see I made the right decision. On the other hand, I sort of lament that I didn't keep trying. But, really, I don't see how I could have wrestled my new business into shape, and adapted to my new family (wife and two new sons, 10 and 11 years old), and so on.

Anyway, I remember now that in those olden days, I had to keep working on the books over and over again, trying to get them into a readable format, and apparently that messy process hasn't changed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Even free wasn't good enough.

So Pronghorn wants another year or two to become a 'destination resort', you know, with the 'resort' part, like a hotel. Otherwise, it would seem to be a golf course gated community.

Anyway, they'll no doubt get the extension.

But they also asked for the "interest money" on their deposit. Seems to me, that by asking for an extension, they have simply proved that the "interest" will probably be needed.

Not the opposite.


Meanwhile the city is making tough sounds about what kinds of businesses they will "allow" in the Rademacher house.

Wait. Didn't the last business in there -- a non-profit art organization -- leave despite paying only 1.00 a year in rent? That the problems with "loitering and other criminal activity" were so bad that even GIVING them the space wasn't good enough?

And now you're going to get tough?


In both of the above examples, it seems to me that Bend and Deschutes county do everything backward. We're tough when we should be lenient, and lenient when we should be tough.

Writing through the blocks.

I just have to remind myself that this whole writing a novel thing is my idea, that no one is clamoring for it, and that I just need to do it to my satisfaction. There is no shortage of novels in the world, and I have no economic reason to push it.

So even though I probably will release this to the world with more of a whimper than a bang, I'm glad I did it. I'm happy that I'm writing again.

Yes, I had to be reminded that it takes a whole lot of work. I had to be reminded that it's all on my head, and I can't expect people to like my unfinished work (or my finished work, for that matter.)

My excuse for forgetting what I already knew is that it's been 25 years since I was doing it last.

Anyway, as soon as I get the critiques back -- however little it is --- I'll start doing another draft and see where that leads me.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Following through.

I've started to get back some feedback on my book -- or even more disappointing, NOT getting feedback on my book. It's pretty lukewarm, at best. Which on reflection, shouldn't surprise me.

Sure, it's a little disappointing, but when I look back on my history of writing, I can put it all in perspective.

I spent 5 years writing my first book. Flailing around, starting over, restarting, going in wrong directions, getting the wrong tone, underwriting, overwriting. For most of those drafts, the book was probably unreadable -- and it probably was only the last draft that actually had all it needed to get published. And even there, it probably was luck and happenstance that it found someone willing to buy it. (That last, by the way, I think is probably true of most books.)

I kept writing despite all the doubt, despite the less than positive feedback.

The second and third books were really one book, in two parts. I wrote that on the satisfaction glow of finishing the first book, getting some positive feedback from friends and family (even if it was just surprise that I actually produced something they could read.) Then the euphoria of getting the first book published. All that gave me momentum.

I tried to reproduce that success with the next two books, but it just wasn't possible in the time I gave myself. I rushed them, and in the end, I don't think I really even produced a satisfactory first draft.

The sixth book was much like my first book. I rewrote it over and over again, getting feedback from my agent and publishers, but unlike Star Axe, in the end, it never quite made it over the hump. It came very, very close. I'm don't think I'm kidding myself about that, but eventually, I quit sending it off.

The seventh book was written purely for pleasure, and rereading it so many years later, I can see that it was really more or less a first draft.

The conclusion is -- that it takes me at least a couple of years or more to get a manuscript into readable form, if I'm doing it full time. Probably a few years if I'm not. I convince myself every step of the way that I'm almost done, and every step of the way I find that I have another step to go. At some point, with Star Axe and Snow/Ice, I knew it was ready. At some point with Deviltree, I knew I had done everything I could for the moment. And it took not months, but years to get there.

So in that sense, I've really only written 3 books. Star Axe, Snowcastles/Icetowers, and Deviltree. Everything else was somewhere in the muddled middle and never really finished.

So where am I on I'm Only Human? I suspect I'm only halfway thru the process, though I'd like to believe that all I need is one more good draft. I think if I'm not satisfied totally with the next draft, I'll just start on the second book and then come back to it. It's not going to be very good until it gets to the point of being good and the only person who can get it there is myself. I think I may have misled people into thinking it was easy, because I tend to mislead myself into thinking it's easy.

You know what? I'm really glad it happened. I'm really glad that I tried to write another book, no matter what happens. I'm going to keep writing, I think, at least for the foreseeable future, no matter who else cares.

I've decided to do this on my own. Not ask for any more help. Not ask anyone else to put it online for me. It's my job to do, and no one elses. I'd forgotten that it's a one man job. From now on, I'm going to work on it myself, without feedback.

But I will finish it, and I will put it online somewhere. That I have control over, and that much I'll follow through on.

Disrupting routines is becoming routine.

I have no illusions about writing. No illusions about the chances of success.

Or maybe I have illusions about not having illusions.

H. Bruce comments that maybe I should do more writing, and less writing about writing.
I'm sorry, but for me those things go together. Writing is writing. Writing about writing is motivating and helps my thought process. Doing it aloud commits me to following through.

Repeating words just to repeat them is fun.

Sorry about that.


I really do like my privacy and my little routines. Last week we had family in town during all my off days. This week we've been dealing with my Dad's health issues. Linda has stayed home because of her back. As a result I haven't had a full day to myself to ruminate for weeks now.

I'd get used to it eventually, if this became the new routine. But for now, it's been kind of tiring. Too much people.

Doing routines has to be routine or it isn't routine.


See what I did there? Or was there anything there to see?

Just being annoying.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Take the time to get it right.

I think it's been a good thing to take 5 weeks (so far) off of writing. I feel all charged up and raring to go.

I'd like to make a quantum leap with the next draft. Find a way to boost it to a whole nother level. It may not happen, but the 'possibility' is lingering somewhere in the background.

I'm getting a sense of the focus I want to take, and the feel I'm after.

It may mean changing the whole book again. But I've decided it's important that I get this as right as possible. Linda just started in on her critique and it looks like she's making extensive revisions, so I want to give her time to finish.

So I'm just sort of waiting for a moment of insight, a flash of inspiration, that will push this book into not just readable, but fun. I'm open to that, hear me right side of brain?

I don't know how much critique I'm going to end up getting, but I'm realizing this was probably a one time thing. I remember now how much this is asking of people, and how most people really don't have the time to help with extensive time and effort. Nor should they.

Even more interesting, to me, is that I've had a find of flash of inspiration about how I should try to market this. With a single sentence. And then tie that marketing phrase with the second and third books, even though they aren't written so I nail down the concept: it's mine and I expounded it on such and such a date.

I'm going to have to be ruthless in how much I'm willing to change and cut; which is hard to do when I've spent so much time and energy getting down on paper what I've gotten down. If I make as many changes as I think I probably should, it's almost like starting over, so I'm now thinking there will be yet another draft after the next one to smooth it out.

In other words, I want to incorporate all the changes that I make because of suggestions, and also try to spark some new creative energy into the draft, which will probably be messy.

I won't have the safety net of outsider critiquing for the last draft, so I'll have to give myself time to cool off and then come back and make sure I correct all the mistakes.

Like I said, no hurry. It's more important I try to get it right. Whereas my original intent for the next draft was a mechanical cleaning up and straightening, instead I think I need to spark it with some creativity again, and THEN do the cleaning and straightening.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Gray and the Shaggy.

Dealing with my 92 year old Dad's medical problems yesterday, once again reminded me of the fact that we all of us --- everyone of us, rich or poor, smart or dumb, happy or sad -- will end up in these emergency, urgent care, hospital, and hospice rooms. Many of us will shuffle off to "assisted care" (nursing homes).

And that we all seem unprepared. Dad was facing the possibility of surgery, and so the doctor asked for "Advanced Directives", things like "Do Not Resuscitate" forms, and all. It turns out that nothing had changed since before my Mother died, and after that my sister, Tina. This despite the age of my Dad.

Linda and I have been horrible neglectful of our own affairs, as well. We are reminded of the need for things like Living Wills, and Wills, and stuff like that when things happen, but then we conveniently forget when things are going well.

My brother Mike is legal guardian, and he lives all the way in D.C. and that is a somewhat silly arrangement when I'm right here in Bend. But that is family dynamics, which I simply don't fight. (It is strange when my family is home: I go from being Master of my Domain -- self constructed as it may be -- to being the last person in the family to handle responsibilities. Ah, well.) It's somewhat easier in this day to communicate with cellphones.

The visit to Urgent Care was also a reminder of how we Americans are doing it to ourselves -- lots of overweight and obviously unhealthy people, lots of us who have been hard or neglectful of our bodies.

And I start looking at the age spots on my arms a little differently. As everyone my age realizes, you still feel about 30 years old inside, and so it's a bit of shock to see grey and shaggy. My Dad has a very, very similar body type to me, and it was shock to see him so helpless. It was the image I saw first thing yesterday morning, and it was the image that was still in my mind as I was going to bed.

It's also alarming to have Linda's back hurting her so much the last week or so. She's slowly getting better, but another reminder that we need to take care of ourselves, and to make plans, but also be aware that such things may soon be unavoidable.

Much as I'd like to just continue my thoughtless routines, I need to stir myself to make necessary arrangements.

Ah, life.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Never look for dragons, dragons will find you.

I've had a bit of a medical emergency with my Dad this morning, so I haven't been able to do my usual morning blog.

Does an explanation as to why I haven't blogged count as a blog?


I need something more.

Woke up this morning with this phrase running through my mind: "Never look for Dragons. Dragons will find you."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday Thunks.

I love my family, but it's nice to have my routines back.


Cameron first commented on it, but on spring break, we were finding candy wrappers all over the store.

Speaking of which, I once again several times saw (what I consider the sad phenomenon of) parents carrying large bags of candy turning down a request for a book by their kids.


I don't know how they do it, especially in a store as packed as mine, but I think the customers can instinctively sense when I'm doing a good job of stocking. And they can tell when I'm slacking off.

What this means is, I often have to overspend by up to 15% in the slow months, say about a third of the year. I then make up for that in the busiest third of the year.


Spring break used to be so easy to figure out. Oregon would have a spring break, counting Bend. Then Washington, then California, etc. Not necessarily in that order. Often they would overlap. But you could suss it out.

Nowadays, each school district seems to have it's own spring break, colleges have them at a different time, and so on. I've given up trying to figure it out.


My brother Mike's taste in books turns out to be fairly different than me.

He's fascinated by southwest culture, so there are all those authors. He's brought a large stack of old Nero Wolf books. He tends to like British or other foreign mysteries. And most of all, he likes what I would call "set-piece" mysteries. The term often used is "parlor room" mysteries, but "set-piece" can encompassed a much broader range of regional type mysteries that have a kind of formula.

I tend to like the hard-edge, private eye or police stories that are more chaotic in plot. More action oriented, perhaps. I'm not sure if I can explain the difference. More based on flawed characters than a mystery "plot" per se.

There is a lot of crossover, of course.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

March, 2012 results.

We beat last March by 23%, which matches the increase we've had of around 20% per month since last September (except January, which I blame on the weather.)

So that's 9 months in a row over last year. As I say, I'll be really impressed when we get to the 13th month, which would mean we're increasing over an increase.

Comics and graphic novels were up a solid 10%.

Sports cards were up slightly.

Card games were up around 30%.

Boardgames and RPG's were up a full 40%, which is pretty interesting.

Books were up 33%. (My new cash register button tells me that used books are 20% of book sales, which I still find a surprise. I would've guessed much higher.)

Toys were up double, which is encouraging because that's where much of this year's efforts have gone.

Graphic novels by themselves were about the same.

But every category was up, at least a little.

April and May are traditionally slow months for me, so I'll be interested to see if we can keep up the increase. I know we could if I went crazy spending, but I'm going to moderate slightly, so we'll see.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday tings.

Seems to happen all the time. A group of friends at work agree to buy lottery tickets and assign one of them to buy the tickets, and then they win and the assigned buyer denies it.

"I have no idea what they're talking about..."

You think they write it out on a piece of paper, or something....


Two of my guys, Matt and Cameron, were off at the Emerald City Comic Con last weekend, so I've actually had to work a couple of extra days.

But comic conventions are great experiences. Sometimes in Bend, it can seem like a lonely experience to be a comic fan, and then you go to a big hall and see thousands of people as crazy as you.


While my brother Mike has been home, we've been clearing out a storage unit that my sister Tina rented for Mom and Dad's stuff -- mostly photographs and slides.

Amazing how many of the photo's were generic and non-specific. The classic was a picture my Dad took of a Hampton Inn's parking lot in New Jersey. Mike weeded through them for the significant ones, especially any pictures with actual people we know.

We gave some things to the new hospice thrift store on Greenwood. I took a few things homes. Much of it will end up in the landfill.

There are some art pieces which are too good to give or throw away, and yet maybe not of our current tastes.


O.K. A new bar will take the place of Boondocks, with a "dress code" and "no more strippers."
(Bulletin, 4/3/12.)

They're going to call it Liquid Club -- which personally doesn't connote ""upscale" to me, but I suppose it's all in the execution...


Out of camaraderie, I had one beer when we went out to dinner at Toomies, one beer the night we watched Game of Thrones, and one beer yesterday at lunch at Toomies again. (Brother Mike really likes the food.)

And even that much alcohol seems to throw me off.

Eating sit down three times in two days (we had breakfast with Dad at Jake's one morning) is some kind record for me.


Monday, April 2, 2012

GOT -- my family.

Somewhat to my surprise, much of my family showed up last night to watch GAME OF THRONES with us.

My 14 year old nephew, Nick, knew every character and every family, and my brother-in-law hadn't ever read or watched it, and my brother and sisters had all read some or all the books. My big screen T.V. got the workout I always imagined.

You start to realize just how complicated that world is, and what an amazing job they are doing distilling it down to the essence.

I still haven't read DANCES WITH DRAGONS because I'm annoyed by how long it is taking Martin to finish. FEAST FOR CROWS was a bit of letdown to me, especially since it was five or six years.

I must have read the first book 15 years ago, and while it's a very memorable story, there's been a lot of books read since.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday suds.

So a 15 year old kid steals a van from a wheelchair bound Prineville man, crashes the van DUI, and is now paralyzed from the waist down.

You couldn't make that up.


Linda mentioned she'd like to see Dark Shadows T.V. show, so I looked it up on netflix. Starts with episode #210, and boy is it bad.

"This isn't how I remember it," she says.

But she's been clued to it as I write this.


She was watching the The Firm, and I was in the other room being driven slowly mad by the ads. "Look, honey. You don't have to sit through ads anymore."

Anyway, the jazzy score was really noticeable. You just don't hear full jazz scores that much.

And Tom Cruise wasn't annoying.

"This was before he was Tom Cruise," Linda said.


A couple of mornings ago, Linda had her foot on a chair tying her shoes and I gave her a little love bump as I passed by. She went sprawling, landing on her back, and she can barely move since.

What was even more embarrassing is that my brother-in-law watched the whole thing.

"If you tell anyone, I'll have to kill you."

So, next thing I know, my sisters are asking about it.

"I told you not to tell anyone, Klaus!'

"Well, I had to tell someone for insurance...."


I'm never writing this blog again.


My brother Mike is clearing out the storage unit that we had for my sister and mom's stuff, and brought two big suitcases.

He filled them with books, of all things. Just what we need. Coals to Newcastle.

However I trust his taste in mysteries so I'm curious.