Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wrestling with words, instead of dancing with them.

Wrote this yesterday:

I have one final chapter to write in this new rough draft.

As I said in yesterday's writing, I'm finally learning to never say "final."

Which draft is this?  Who knows -- it's a constant process.

These last few days, I've forced myself to sit down with a fixed goal.  It was more like wrestling with words, instead of dancing with them.  But sometimes that's what you have to do.

Overall,  the biggest problem I probably have now is having an inconsistent tone.  I sort of darkened the whole plot earlier in the book, so now some of the later chapters seem lighter than they should be.  The only way to fix this, I think, is to read (and gulp, rewrite) the entire book in one day, so I can keep the tone consistent.

I try to limit full re-readings to keep it fresh.  Dipping into the manuscript at random lets me work with improving it without taking away from the freshness.

I've tried putting little warning flags throughout the manuscript, make the situation Cobb and his friends find themselves in steadily more dire.

The whole second half of the book hasn't been worked on as much, because it's mostly action scenes, without all the plot mechanic problems of the first half of the book.

(I'm definitely going to try to outline my next book to avoid some of those plot mechanic problems.)

I'm trying to be patient.  Keep working on this thing until I can't make it any better -- within reason.

I'm still hoping for the "Perry Mason" turbo charge twist, something that makes it much better.  That happened between the the last draft and this draft, so I'm going to assume it can happen again.

In the meanwhile, there is plenty of rewriting to do to upgrade the quality of the writing.  Every few pages there is a line I really like; which I think is original and fresh.  Getting one of those lines in every page would help.  Getting one of those lines in every paragraph would help more.  Having every sentence be like that would make me a Master ...heh.

Still want to enliven the language with 'telling details' and still want to visualize every scene as if it's a movie and I'm feeling and seeing and touching and smelling and hearing the whole bloody scene.

It's more of a book now -- but I'm going to just give myself the task to improve it twice as much again.

Patience and maturity.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Write, write...all I do is write.

***NOTE:  Wrote the following throughout the course of yesterday.


I have a single goal today and this is to write the Parker house scene.

I'm going to try to write it fresh, without any reference to what I've already written.

So all I need is a trigger phrase, plus a few good ideas...

All day, just don't start until it comes.  Get to work subconscious!

Late Morning:

The plan right now is to write the Parker chapter, then the Barn Chapter.  That should be hopefully the rough version of the final form.  (I'm learning never to say final...)

Set it aside while I work for a couple of days -- do chores and bills on Friday.  Then on Saturday thru Tuesday do a rewrite -- I want to pick up Mira Grant's zombie book to get an idea of how she does first person.  And pick up Walking Dead novel for examples of graphic words and descriptions of gun battles.

Then set it aside for the two days of work.  Following week, do another rewrite -- straight through.

Then try to find a reader for that draft who can give me an idea of how close I'm coming.  The question I'll be asking is -- where did you lose interest?

Early Afternoon:

I've been asking myself questions about the Parker house scene.  This has been the hardest scene in the entire book to rewrite and I've been putting it now it's nearly the last thing I do on this draft.

I think it has to be split in two -- the first part is much like what I've already written -- except with the addition of Chloe.  I'll have to tone down the lovey-dovey stuff between Parsons and Sandra, but maybe have a hint of it, so that when Harvey come into the scene it gets all messy.

I'll have Cobb straight out tell them what's happening, and Sandra will believe him, but Harvey won't and he'll give an ultimatum; if she goes with Cobb (and Parsons) don't come back.  He pulls Chloe away, who is crying by now.

A tough scene to write.

Middle Afternoon:

Wow.  This was a more important scene than I thought.

But there is enough spillover, I think, to make the diner scene that follows work better.  More of the interaction between Sandra and Parsons, more of the explanation of how the three worlds differ.

In fact, I think I also need to also rewrite the diner scene also without reference to the manuscript.

Late Afternoon:

O.K.  I wrote the most important part of the scene at the Parker house.  It's a lot of back and forth, so it's a bit drama drenched and possibly confusing.  But, again, it's a placemarker for when I'm ready to do the next draft.

Took me four hours.

Now I'm going to try to consolidate the scene.

Then, since I think I'll have all evening; I'll try to write the diner scene.  It's kind of laying all the cards out on the table, about 40% of the way through the book.

In the original drafts I tried to build suspense by having Cobb slowly coming around to the danger, but I don't think that worked and it was pretty annoying and redundant.  Better to just lay it all out there as soon as he knows anything.

Early Evening:

All right!

Did the Parker house scene, and then followed by cutting most of the diner scene and replacing much of it with what I cut form the original Parker house scene.

I think it works.

One of the biggest things I did in this draft is cut out all the expository -- hopefully, it's understandable without it.

For the final rough draft, all I can think that I have left to write is the Barn battle.

Also, the confrontation between Harvey and Sandra at the bank about their daughter Chloe being missing.

But by the end of tomorrow, I'll have a rough draft.

I think it's a bit weak in the middle, now.  What with the Lillian flashback chapters.  Maybe I need to put Lovecraft earlier in the story.

It needs to be worked on, obviously.

Currently at 93,000 words.  Figure another 3000 words for the battle of the barn -- maybe consolidate the two battles at the portals?  Maybe not?

So, we're almost there.

Late Night:

Lots of tone inconsistencies, which I'll only be able to catch by actually reading the damn thing.  Which means, I think, trying to read it in one day.  Maybe with the help of booze; just dive into the thing and read it from beginning to end.

A polished version of this draft is pretty much what I would have sent off in the old days: the second level book, as I've begun to term it.

I'm now assuming that there is another level I can reach.  So I want to finish this draft, then set it aside again and try to think about how to reach that next level.

At worse, I waste a few months not getting anywhere.

At best, I do come up with a turbo boost that makes it that much better.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday mopes.

Watch and read enough weather reports, and you start to feel like the bad weather is happening right outside.

I blame Obama.

Ironically, there was a news story that says that, indeed, voters blame the incumbent for natural disasters!

We're just monkeys, I tell you.


O.K.  Ready to watch those exciting last 3 games of the World Series.

Wait.  What?


So, I'm thinking.  Thank goodness we don't have hurricanes around here.  Or tornadoes.

Then -- I read something that said the closest parallel to Sandy was the Columbus Day storm in Oregon in 1962.  A typhoon mixing with a winter storm.

I was having an overnight birthday party that night -- it was really cool.  The rain pounded the windows until water was leaking through all the cracks.  The power was off.  Neat stuff when you're 10 years old.

Linda lived in Crescent City. She said they were pounded by three years worth of natural disasters -- floods, earthquake tsunami's and the Columbus Day storm.

"It was Obama's fault."

"He was just a baby!"



Not that Walden was in any danger, but when the Bulletin's headline is: "Walden Ad Lists Accomplishments" you have to wonder if that is editorial or news.


Still have some research to do on voting.

I tend to consolidate the Oregonian, Bulletin and Source recommendations, filter it through my political leanings, and make my best guess.

Straight Democratic.  I'm talking more about measures and judges, etc.

I used to count on me Mum about those things, because she was heavily involved in the League of Women Voters and they were usually spot on in their recommendations.  Maybe I can find that online.

Going to vote in the next few days, make sure it gets in in plenty of time.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Housing. It's Alive!

"Housing Show Signs of Life."  Bulletin, 10/28/12.

I'm sorry, it's pretty hard for me to take an article about housing seriously that consists of quotes from real estate agents.

Uptick in building and deed activity?  From what I've read elsewhere, the supply of million dollar homes in Central Oregon is sky high.

From what I've read elsewhere, most of the sales activity has been in the lower priced homes.

Three other things that seem a little off in the reasoning.

One.  They are comparing sales in the last year to to horrid, horrid sales of a couple of years ago.  Fair enough, if you are trying to pick the bottom of the market.  (Though I think quoting a buyer as being concerned that they missed the bottom is a little ridiculous.)  But I think it's more that the patient has been moved out of the I.C.U. but is still critical.

Two.  The sales are resulting from prices dropping drastically?  So that's good, right?  That everyone is taking a haircut?

Three.  Less bank owned sales.  That would seem to be more a matter of the banks having held back for legal and logistical reasons than because the banks don't have a ton of homes to sell.

Going from the complex to the simple.

Started reading a book last night and I must have been hungry for it because I read over half of it before bed.  "Learning the World" by Ken MacLeod.

I gave myself the instruction to pay attention to how it was written.  Of course, most of the time I found myself just reading, and then I'd go, "Oops" and go back and check it out.  I'm finding that analyzing and enjoying a book are two different things.

I was interested in how he handled the simple, "He said/She said" transactions.  So, that's pretty much how he wrote.  Except sometimes switching "Said he."  No adverbs whatsoever.

Secondly, I was interested in the ratio of narrative versus scenes: Half and Half?  Higher percent of narrative than I expected.  But it wasn't expository narrative, it was all move the plot forward narrative.

I was looking at the denseness of the writing:  Lots of very long paragraphs, and long sentences.  The book I'm currently writing has lots of short paragraphs -- perhaps the influence of writing this blog.

And finally, how much description he did:  Lots of it, but then again, he was describing "alien" environments.

Pretty basic stuff, but the longer I do this, the more I seem to be going backward into the nuts and bolts. 

After last nights experience, I'm inclined to go back over half a dozen books I've read in the near past and analyze them.  I'll know the basic plots, so I can just kind of see how they were constructed.

It's possible, I really need to learn more about writing to be effective.  (No kidding.)

I'm also going to try much harder going forward in paying attention to the mechanics of books.  This is a bit dangerous.  Back when I was writing my first few books, I almost couldn't read for a few years.  I was too distracted by the awareness of the mechanics to enjoy them; and too afraid they would somehow infect me in a negative way. 

In the end, I'm going to have to make some qualitative decisions based on my own instincts.  Diagramming is all well and good, but it still needs to be my own voice.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I doubts Amazon.

So Amazon announces lower than expected earnings, and profit losses last quarter.

Ho, hum, never mind their sales were enormous, and they'll just make bigger profits down the road.

'Cause they are taking over the world, baby.

I think I must be the only person in the world who thinks trying to do this is a bad idea -- at least in the long run.  (Yes, H.Bruce...I'm aware of the Keynes quote:  "In the long run, we'll all be dead.")

I hope I'm alive long enough to see if my instincts are right.

See, I think it's a dangerous plan to keep plowing your money into bigger and bigger infrastructure, and never really attempt to pull out the profits that are possible in the short run.

Because what if something comes along and subverts that infrastructure?

Are we headed to a world where bigger is better? Where retail consists of Walmart, and Amazon, and a few other ginormous boxes?

Or we headed into a world of local, with more and more fragmented markets, where the cost of energy makes local cheaper, where China decides it wants to pay its workers, where any number of small outlets may have a hidden genius -- the guy who will come out of nowhere and turns it all upside down.

In fact, I think that's more likely than not.

There is always the next guy.   Just ask Montgomery Ward, Sears, and General Motors. New technology is right around the corner, just ask Blockbuster.

Amazon may construct a hugely intricate and impressive infrastructure and have it all not matter in the least.

The world is a very unpredictable place.  But I will predict that that "hidden genius", hell probably several of them, is bound to come up with an idea or a plan that makes all your glorious size meaningless.  

How much real profit has Amazon made over the years?  How does it compare in percentage terms to other large retailers?  How much return on the dollar has been accomplished?  How much of the value of Amazon is in its stock, and how much is that stock value at the mercy of perception? (Well, the answer to that is, "All of it!")

So my own experience is tiny, tiny -- but if you scale it up, I think the example is valid.

I had near exponential growth in sports card sales for 6 straight years.  Literally, more than a million dollars flowed through the cash register during those years.

To my mind, it was all about market share and sales, not about profit. Profit would come later when I had established myself in Sisters, Redmond and two stores in Bend.

I think I probably did have a lion's share of the sales there during those years.

I won't go into all the reasons that collapsed -- just that, in hindsight, my very success was sure to attract competition in every direction and in unforeseen ways.

So those hundreds of thousands of dollars that was spent growing -- all my profits and more -- and worse borrowed money -- became meaningless.  All the money that flowed through the cash register that last year -- hundreds of thousands of dollars -- none of stuck.  In fact, we ended up losing money, and being stuck with 2 dysfunctional stores that were cash flow negative.

What would have happened if I hadn't been so aggressive, and had instead taken a higher percentage of profit out each year?  What would have happened if I hadn't cared about market share, only in making the share I had work for me?

I would have made profits during those six years, and I would have been better prepared for competition, but most importantly I wouldn't have built up this big, impressive infrastructure that in the end proved to be useless.

The bigger you get, the bigger the fall.

Ironically, Amazon is doing a pretty good job of killing off the dinosaurs in the meantime.  Best Buy and Barnes and Noble and all those ponzi scheme big boxes.  (Not coincidentally, examples of huge infrastructures that becomes obsolete almost overnight.)

I think the future belongs to the local, the small, and the nimble.

Picky, picky.

After slogging through the day before, I hit a wall in writing yesterday.

So I took the day off, and I'm going to take today off as well.

Linda and I are going to see Argo this afternoon.  Come to find out that the fake movie at the center of the plot was based on the book, Lord Of Light, by Roger Zelazny.  This was one of my favorite books when I was younger, though on rereading it as an adult it didn't quite hold up.

It's also one of the last books in the world that I would think was suitable for a movie.  Apparently, they kind of make fun of the book in the movie -- if so, I'm gonna resent that.

I was a naive reader -- probably still am -- because I read for entertainment.  I didn't catch that Narnia was a Christian allegory, I didn't see Atlas Shrugged as a manual for living but as a slightly S.F. idea rooted venture (thus, I don't think it made me any more of a selfish prick than I already was) and I was probably 6 or 7 books into the Gor series before I realized it was about S & M.

I read a lot of bad books and really liked them.

I almost wish I could still do that.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Coming Together of a Book.

I wrote the entry down below under the throes of some dewy eyed rapture about writing.
After yesterday's hard slog, I'm much more sober about it all.  I'd probably take my skill rankings below down a notch, and the difficulty rankings up a notch.

It's frustrating to think I'm "almost" good enough.  I don't think I'm putting myself down here, just trying to be realistic.

Writing is a skill as well as a talent and the needle can be moved by hard work, and practice, and maybe a moment's inspiration.

Anyway, beware the overweening naivety.  I'm aware of it, but unwilling to tamp it down.

The Coming Together of a Book.

At least to my own satisfaction.

I think I've been flailing around for the last year and a half, thinking I was getting somewhere, but in the last couple weeks I feel like I've finally gotten my feet under me.

I've started feeling such a sense of satisfaction, that it's becoming addicting to me.  It's a high I can't describe.

The Coming Together of a Book.

I don't get this from anything else.  I had forgotten it.  It's probably been 25 years that I really felt it.

I don't know how to express it -- a very rewarding feeling of having created a Real Thing -- something that exists in its own right outside of me.   Followed by the feeling that this is what I was meant to be doing.

So that alone has been worth the effort.

So if I look at all my books, I can see them in three different levels.

1.)  Adequate.  First draft level, readable.

2.)  Better but still not altogether good.

3.)   An actual good book.

Frankly, I'm not sure I've ever gotten to the third level.  But I hadn't identified the problem quite so clearly.

So Star Axe was more or less at the second level. (I think I thought the editors would help me get to another level; instead they accepted it and who was I to argue?)

Snowcastles was probably at the first level, just more 'readable' than normal.

Icetowers was at the second level.

The 4th and 5th books, Bloodstone and The Changelings, probably didn't even get to the first level, frankly.

The 6th book, Deviltree, got at the higher regions of the second level, but despite all my efforts never got the turbo boost.

The 7th book, Sometimes a Dragon, was probably more or less a first level book.

The 8th book, I'm Only Human, which is the one I'm working on now, I think is very close to becoming a second level book.  I'm in the rough stage of that.  But instead of sending it off I want to ask my subconscious for a way to make it a third level book.

The 9th book, The Reluctant Wizard, I can now see clearly as a first level book -- but I have yet to really apply myself to it.

So the basic idea, is get the books to the second level; but then try to boost them to a third level.

I'm actually confident that I can.  I may be wrong -- since I haven't gotten there yet in my own estimation.  But I have to try.

How do I judge it?

Adequate:  5 or 6 on a scale of 10.
Good.  7 or 8 on a scale of 10.
Really good.  9 or 10.

I think books get published in the range of 6 and above, though obviously, the higher the scale the more your chances.  However, I believe an 8 could be passed on, and a 6 accepted, for reasons beyond the actual quality.

I think on a scale of 10, my imagination is at about an 7 or 8, potentially more.  My writing ability is about a 5 or 6, but after a lot of work can get to a 7 or 8.  My work habits have been a dismal 2 or 3, but over the last few weeks have suddenly become a 5 or 6, possibly even a 7.

(Obviously, my ego is a 9 or 10.)

Here's the thing.  There was simply no way with my responsibilities over the last 30 years that I could have gotten there.  But now, I'm finally in a position to do it.

I have a weird confidence I can.  Especially now that I've clarified my goals.

Who knows what happens after -- whether I find an agent, or a publisher, or put it online and hope for an audience... 

That's all secondary to my own estimation of whether I've accomplished my goal.  I've traveled such a distance from when I first start writing again -- around May of last year.  I see now, that it requires that I go ALL IN, or it won't work.  Writing my first draft of The Reluctant Wizard --which was a totally immersive experience -- was my first intimation.  Now, being equally obsessive about the new draft of I'm Only Human, only confirms the necessity.

Back to the mundane work habit:

I have 6 clear days to work on this new 'rough' draft of I'm Only Human and hope to get it finished.  It will happen or it won't.  It's important that I stay on it, but not give myself a deadline.

Then I need to clean it up of discrepancies and contradictions.  Again, important that I stay on it, but not give it a deadline.

Make sure that I've got all the exposition in order.

Then try to add more scene descriptions -- sights, sounds, smells, etc. etc.  Telling details. The actual quality of writing that makes the book come alive.

Then --,  I need to start searching for the turbo charged last draft, whatever that is.  This may happen soon -- or a long time from now.  Eventually, if I give up on getting to the third level, I'll have to decide what to do about it.

Thing is, my subconscious seems to be coming up with solutions, which is pretty damn cool.  I only need to ask the right questions.  So I'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt and thinking I'll come up with the third version.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not discouraged, but still intimidated.

I've told this story before, but it is so apropos to where I'm at right now, that it bears repeating.

Back when I was reading books about writing, I read one about or by Erle Stanley Garner, the creator of Perry Mason.

The how-to showed a full example of a Perry Mason short story.  It was pretty good.  Not bad.  I liked it.  I could have read it and enjoyed it without thinking anymore of it.

But Garner then tweaks it, and writes a second draft and it's much better -- twice as good.  And I think, yeah, that's the way it should have been.

Then he writes a third draft, with a final turbo twist and it's magnitudes better!

It was a real eye opener for me.  It taught me that there are probably always ways to tweak a story, and that the story isn't done until you've found that 'turbo twist.'

This means that the first draft of I'm Only Human, which I arm-twisted people into reading, was nowhere near good enough, though I thought it was at the time.  It seems to be a step I have to go through to get to the next stage. (The same is no doubt true of The Reluctant Wizard, but I'll face that when it's time.)

And it means I probably need to ramp it up at least one more time before it is ready to attempt to try to think about possibly considering the potential idea of contemplating the ... you get the idea.

Anyway, over the last week, I've found so many ways to improve I'm Only Human, that I feel I'm at about where that second Perry Mason draft was -- twice as good, but still not there.  I mean, I like it, but I want to get it even better.

If I can write the one more burst of improvement, find the turbo tweak, it could make the book a legitimate contender.

If I have to completely rewrite some stuff, then so be it.

I'm going to need to make the tone consistent all the way through, ramp up the urgency.

There are probably going to be all kinds of discrepancies.  Lots and lots of them.

Best thing to do is just cut anything that doesn't fit and try to put stuff back in later.

I think I would be more discouraged, and intimidated, if it didn't all seem to "fit."  It's like, "Oh, that was meant to be there all along!"  "Oh, that's the reason that happened."  "Oh, there's a good explanation for that, which helps answer a bunch of other stuff too."

It's almost as if the book exists and I'm just finding different parts of it at different times.

To me, the book is now at least twice as good as it was just a week ago.

So no reason to get discouraged.

Though I am still intimidated.

Thursday thuds.

I'm purposely not going to a bunch of my regular sites because I want to keep my orders to a minimum until Christmas.

No sense being tempted.  Of course, I'm losing out on some information that might be useful, but really, I'd like to make some profit this Christmas, and it begins now.

Feeling pretty good about the stocking level at the store, so think I can do it.


I tried to play the market with the latest Magic release, which was supposed to be in short supply, so I way overordered.  I mean, I'll sell it all, I'm not worried about that -- but it will be cashflow negative for a long time.

Anyway, my "playing the market" days are over.  I got pretty good with it with Pogs, and Beanie Baby's and Pokemon, but we're coming up on 13 years since the last of those happened.

Either those plays don't exist anymore, or I've lost my touch.


I don't know if they're original with me, probably not, probably overheard them.  But I keep thinking with Romney, he's the Chameleon in Chief, he's Severely Moderate now.


I've been trying to find a conservative to moderate political website I can go to that doesn't absolutely enrage me, making me recoil in horror.  There's the USA Today, of course, but it's site has become a chore to read.

I don't want to live in a Liberal Bubble.

The only site I can stomach is Business Insider.  I swallow my urge to retch at their headlines, and try to read the stories.

Fucking media.  All over the place with their alarmist headlines.


Besides, the polls are so close and the election is so close, that I figure I can safely ignore them now, and just wait for the real results.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From the story out, not the rules in.

There are tons of problems with the book.

I've got a funny attitude about this. 

Every problem is an opportunity to improve the book.

Every solution to a problem, improves the book.

The chaos is just an opportunity to find new ways of doing it.

One of the writer's group members was talking about how real writers plan everything in advance.  Like an artist, they have the vision they want already in their heads.

I disagreed.  I said that my understanding of many  artists is that they often find inspiration in happy accidents.  For me, writing a story means lots of false starts and deadends, but each of them spark ideas.

Michelangelo is said not to known what he would sculpt until he started carving -- that the stone itself told him what it wanted to be.

It seems so bloodless to me to sit around and diagram.  Plus, I think there is a huge tendency now to follow formula's.  Lots of writer books about How To Write.

Don't get me wrong -- all this is important.

I usually find where I want to go within about 50 pages or so.  But by exploring the characters and their motivations and having the plot arise from that, I think I find a book that works better than if I come up with the plot, and then invent characters to fulfill that plot.

Another member of the group had a great point.  What if the end destination turns out to be different from the one you planned?

Besides -- my reading of  how-to writing books is that they tend to contradict each other.  Which only confirms my suspicion that every writer does it differently.

The real answer is -- whatever works for you.

I have to insert here -- almost every small business book I've ever read has been utterly useless and unhelpful.  My own experience in business either seems to contradict what they're telling me, or most often, lay completely outside of what they're telling me.  Bah.   I suspect writer's how-to books are nearly as useless.

Let me give you another example:  there are critiquers who come to group who have a set of perimeters as to what they think is good writing, and they apply these rules to every story they hear.

Whereas, I try to find what parts of the story I've just heard can be improved.  That is, from the story out.  Instead of from the rules in.

I've seen writers waylaid by these outside strictures of formula.  Instead of following their hearts, they try to conform.  Often it seems to me, these writer's never finish, or quit writing altogether.

This is not to say they shouldn't try to learn.

But more important to me, is to start writing and exploring your subconscious.

Finally, as a bit of irony.  I fully intend to TRY to outline the next book.  I've tried in the past, and never wrote the books.  But I admit I'm getting a little tired of the dead ends and red herrings.  So maybe I'll find out I've been wrong all this time -- that outlining is the way to go.

I'll give it a try.

The Typewriter only looks romantic.

This seems to be turning into a writer's diary.  Sorry about that.

At last night's writer's group I was saying how much easier it is to write with digital.  That the last time I was seriously trying to be a writer I was using a typewriter.

Hell, if this technology had been around back then, I probably would never have quit!

Sarah ---who is young, she couldn't know how primitive we were -- said she wasn't so sure.  That writing on a typewriter would make a book more cohesive.  That many writers she noticed seem to cut and patch and it shows.

I can see the danger.

I guess I always figured I'd still have to do a final, irrevocable draft -- whether on a computer or a typewriter.

Anyway, I've heard this nostolgia for typewriters before -- how it forces the writer to slow down, think, make every word count.

And having done both, I can tell you that there is no comparison.  Give me digital, or give me ... unfinished books!

Going Rogue, going gone.

Sarah Palin's Going Rogue is on one of the book liquidation sites for .50 each, if you buy 10.

Goodbye, Sarah, don't let the ink smudge you on the way out...


There's a kinda funny video of Chris Mathews and Bill O'Reilly debating each other on helium.

It would have been much funnier if they hadn't dragged their feet so much -- it was clear they were uncomfortable.

One of them missed a bet -- should have just talked into all the silences and won that debate!


I got a series of cheap children's books: I Love Trucks, I Love Dinosaurs, etc. and they sell consistently.

Finally figured out that parents will splurge for a 3.99 book to keep their kids happy.  With the bonus that they're 'educational.'

There is a whole industry of these little factoid books, and I'm going to try some more variations.

It's great -- whatever gets kids to read.


Went to writer's group.  Read my new fourth chapter --which they hated.  Sarah thought I was giving too much away, and sleeping on it, she's probably right.

They liked the first chapter, but weren't sure it worked as a first chapter....they caught a glaring error that wasn't a problem when it appeared later in the book, but needs to be addressed if it is the first chapter.

Linda wrote me a little note on here copy of the chapter as I was being eviscerated.

("I think this is really good!")

I love being married to a writer.


For you non-writers, you can skip the rest.

This is turning into a real rewrite.  Changing the nature and focus of every scene.

I'd forgotten this is how it goes.

At the same time, it feels to me like it's turning into a real book.  Like, I can just feel it donning its cloak.  It is kind of a cool feeling; like what I remember.  I don't know if it will ever get good enough, but it's getting closer.

My books always start out sketchy.  I mean, I don't think they are at the time I'm writing them.  Complications in the process start to creep in, and in dealing with the complications, the book starts to take on another layer; and another...

This is turning into a new rough first draft in some ways.  The transitions and bits of business don't quite work anymore.  I'll either have to change them, or cut and replace them.  I'm thinking of just asking myself: What is the purpose of this scene(?), paraphrase that, and stick it in.  Nothing fancy.

I'm trying to eliminate as many flashbacks as possible, except the 'famous writer' ones.  I hoping those chapters have enough interest to add to the overall atmosphere, even if they don't necessarily advance the plot.

I changed one characters flashback story to real time, now that I'm allowing 3rd person chapters.  I blended another flashback scene into another contemporary scene.  And so on.

I think overall, it will read faster.  I cut 3000 words, so I'm back to the same number of words as when I started.  As long as I stay over 80,000 words.  I dropped most of the humorous bits, keeping just a little of the character banter -- and making much of it more serious.  Certainly, the new early glimpse of Hell chapter is way more serious -- I'm playing a little game with the character's viewpoint, in that I think I'm letting the reader believe he is the one person when he is actually another.

I have one whole side story, about a character who is the love interest of the protagonist, that is still a problem.  I need something to more directly tie her into the story -- more of a reason for protagonist to NEED to go visit her.

It's early, I'm sure I'll think of something.  I'm amazed I've accomplished so much in just a few days.

This is going to work, I think, if I can keep making this kind of progress.

The real test of it's worthiness, I think, is my willingness to work on it.  If I think there is something there.  As well as my willingness to cut deeply.  That really shows that I'm trying to make it work.

I've cleared the deck for the next seven days -- after writer's group tonight and after I make my monthly orders.  We'll see what the book looks like at the end of a full week. 

It's funny, I've finally adjusted to this idea of doing a rewrite.  The trick seems to be -- open the book, get sufficiently into the idea of the book, and then just let the mind wander.  Ideas come in snippets sometimes in whole swaths.

When I have a story problem, I just let my mind work on it and there is almost always a solution.

Speaking of which -- I was trying to tie in Lillian, and I thought of the answer.  The Book, that Simmons talks about in the fourth chapter, and which I now include in the Cthulhu Parsons scene and which Cobb asks about later.  That's the connection.

Yep, that works.

I think though, it makes much of the rest of the scene not work.  So I'll need to cut much of it -- maybe I can have the love flashback.

Damn this is complicated.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We're not much better than chimps.

So I've been puzzling over this collapse in the Obama campaign over one bad performance.

If you take the entirety of the season, to me it's like a guy pitching a one hit ball game and still losing.

Anyway, I remember a psychology study I once read;

It basically said if you have a low opinion of someone before or when you first meet them, and you end up liking them, you end up liking them MORE.

And the reverse is true: if you have a high opinion of someone before or when you first meet them, and you end up not liking them, you end up liking them even LESS.

So Obama may not have done himself any favors by having such a long streak of publicity wins; and strange as it sounds, all the gaffes Romney made made his resurgence that much easier.

Human psychology -- not much better than chimps.

That way lies voter madness.

I've said I won't use this blog to advocate on politics one way or the other.

How about if I don't do that (much, Vote Obama!) and instead talk about mechanics only.

I've always felt that most so called independents are conservative.  Let's call them "not-rhino's."

Assuming that most "undecided" voters would call themselves "independent" I'm going to make a guess that they'll break for Romney.

So with the two candidates only a point or two apart (if the Gallup is an outlier -- then Obama probably has a two or three point lead -- not enough; if not, he has half a point lead which may be better or worse as I write this) then most of the undecided breaking for Romney would give him the win.

But a 5 point lead for Obama in Ohio probably gives him the win.

So  -- you guessed it; Obama wins the electoral college and Romney wins the popular vote.

Even though Bush did the same thing over Gore (yeah, yeah, Florida...sort of proves the point) something tells me the looney right will be near insurrection if that happens.

That way lies madness.


Watched the Walking Dead talk show.  Pretty inane stuff.

I think they're missing a bet though.

The set looks like a doctor's lounge or something.  They should have bare, grey wooden walls, couches losing their stuffing, threadbare throw rugs -- things like that.  Much more in keeping with the show.


I've gained back about 6 of the 15 pounds I lost.  This while writing, which is munchie time for me.  And bags of Halloween candy around the house.

So I'm going to start over on November first, and get to the 175 I want to be at.


Blew it.  Kept holding off on the last lawn mowing and winterizing the house.

Next slightly warm period, I'll just have to get muddy and do it.


How important are casual opinions about bad habits -- or good habits for that matter?

"Are you against smoking downtown?"  Hell, yeah.

Well, are you against being fat, and broke, and out-of-shape?   Of course!

If you asked if downtown needs a comic shop, how many would say yes?  Since the percentage of people who read comics on a regular basis might be, oh, 2% on the outside?

Sorry, I just don't buy that 90% survey, not for policy purposes.


There was a show on called "Captains of Industry" or something like that, and the episode was about Rockefeller, and they quote Mark Cuban as saying, (paraphrased) -- "Most people can to up to the line, but don't cross it.  Successful people cross the line"

Let's be clear here: he's talking about crossing a moral, ethical, or legal borderline.  He would deny it, but that's what he's really talking about.

Hey, give me the guys who DON'T cross the line, and Rockefeller can rot in hell.

So that's the angle this show has.

Their other "experts?":  Trump, Greenspan, and Mr. Evil himself, Jack Welch.

I don't think you could come up with a more discredited and dubious group.

P.S.  That "Line" has come up over and over again in my career as a businessman, and I've tried every time not to cross it.

I'm not rich.

And we wonder why the age of the Robber Barons has returned?


I'm changing the entire tone of I'm Only Human.  It started off being a light commentary on human  behavior, and is now turning into a serious end-of-the-world story.

I feel empowered by the digital to make extreme changes, because I can always go back.

Even though I was trying to streamline the story yesterday, I added 5000 words.  In the store I call this "subtraction by addition": that is, I'm sometimes actually adding material while I streamline the process.  Hard to explain.

An oxymoron, that's what I am.


How come my twitter comments have dropped off this page?  Anyone?

Monday, October 22, 2012

I'm done, but still far from done.

Bear with me, if you will.  It's pretty wonky, so I'll understand if you don't.

This is about writing again.

What I'm trying to say here is, I'm not done until I'm done.  Which is obvious, but I'm having to learn it all over again.   I think I fooled myself at first that I could just dish out a book, but the deeper in the muck I get, the more I see I need to do yet.

Actually, this isn't all that different from the last time I tried to be a writer.

 "Oh!  Now I remember!"

It's like painful memories I've suppressed.  Yes, it always took me forever to get anything readable.  Even then, I'm not sure I ever got it to where it should be, I just didn't have enough patience to keep going.

I struggled with Star Axe for a good six years, going to writer's classes and just starting over again and again.  Finally, I just wrote a full draft and sent it off.

Snowcastles came easy, but it was short and simple and I was in the midst of my most intensive writing period.  But Icetowers had to be reworked several times.

The problems with the 4th and 5th books was that I DIDN'T do what I should have done, and got slapped down for it.

The 6th book, because of the suggestions of the editors, got rewritten all the way through several times, and while it came close to getting published several times, it never quite got there.

With 7th book, I got kind of stubborn: "I LIKE it!   To hell with them if they don't see its value!"

Like I said, suppressed memories.  Fooling myself that it will be easy this time.

This is my process, not anyone else, and it's insanely inefficient.  But I stumble around for a single idea, and then another, and then have to start all over.

 (Hanging out there: There is a legitimate question on some books, most books, whether they should continue to be worked on or simply given up on.)

Still -- creativity isn't a race.  There is no timeline here.  And in the scheme of things, I've accomplished a lot.  It was only a year and a month ago that I really kicked the writing thing into a higher gear; in that time, I've finished full drafts of two different novels.

I won't guess this time how close I am to finishing.  

Anyway, back to the present:

As I've been saying,  I reorganized the book, which was much simpler than I expected.  I think it reads better.

BUT:  The very fact that I could have moved so many scenes around and made it work means to me that I'm missing forward momentum.  That there is no buildup of suspense.

It's lacking something.  A damsel tied to the train tracks, a ticking time-bomb.

So far, its just sort of interesting, and somewhat clever, with some characters moving in a general direction.   But while I might get away with being lightly clever in a blog, it just doesn't hold a book together.  Either it has to be serious, or it has to be incredibly sustained cleverness -- which I just don't think I can pull off.

So serious it is.

Is it fixable?  Is there some method I can use to impart suspense?

I'm going to sleep on it for awhile.

Eventually, I'll  put it out there regardless -- but I think it is still missing something.  I'm sure I can find it.
(Next time, I think I will try to write an outline -- but I don't know if I can do that, because I tend to discover the story through the writing.  I've written outlines before and then never wrote the books.  But it would save a lot of false starts and deadends if I could see my way to it.)

Thing is -- weirdly enough, I think 'problems' are what make a book interesting.  That is, if I can identify why it isn't working -- which can be the hardest thing to do -- then I can try to come up with solutions, and in trying to come up with solutions I think of new things, new connections, which can make the book more interesting.

That is, the compromises I make, the explanations for contradictions, can add a layer of messy meaning.

Identifying problems gives me a chance to improve.

As long as I can keep identifying problems, I can keep improving.

Slept on it:

One thing I can do is go ahead and write 3rd person sections -- or turn the whole book into 3rd person as I originally intended.  That way, I can add the suspense elements without having to turn the plot upside down quite so much.  (Right now, it all has to happen with the viewpoint character...)

It is actually a nifty element of suspense to have the reader know things that the main protagonist doesn't.

I googled "suspense" and this is what I came up with:

Questions to ask:

What's going to happen? (That would seem implied in plot.  I've done that much, minimum.)

A puzzle.  (Who is Cthuhlu and what do they want?)

Exploring the unknown.  (Its dark and slimy and their something out to get them.  A dark garage, the caves, a dank basement.)

Damsel in distress;tied to the tracks.  (How about a missing child?  Someone we meet early.  Parker's child?  She's married, but in love with Parsons?)

Ticking timebomb.  (How about 3 days until the invasion?)

Who's going to die?  Have people missing.  Realize the authorities are in on it. 

I need a stronger villain than I currently have.   

Make the reader care. (Vonnegut's rules: "Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.")  Have Cobb be a boxed in, more restrained character -- with hidden strengths...have all of Faery against him, instead of for him...?  He can't go back to his old form, without forgetting everything he has learned as a human?  His old world hates him, (or so he thinks) and he doesn't fit in this new world.

Stack the odds against the main character.  (Vonnegut's rules: "Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.")

Jesus.  That is one hell of a lot of work.  Might as well write a different book!  Still, it's also a lot of raw material, which is no easy thing.  I talked above about doing an outline -- it may be a little late in the game, but it would seem to be time.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Marvel is a hack-grinding enterprise.

Coming down with a cold, dammit.


As I tweeted yesterday, the thing about rewriting, I'm never sure if I'm making it better -- or worse.  It is really hard for me to get a sense of the book when I'm rewriting, and this is often where I lose faith.

Still, like the changes I make in the store, which I also often first doubt, I have to trust my instincts and assume that they are for the better.


Is it just me, or have we had an inordinate amount of motorcycle carnage around here lately?  Seems like every few days.


What I remember about the 1987 stock market crash? The absolute fear in the eyes of the reporters and those they interviewed.  They couldn't hide it.

Their fear is what scared me.

Two weeks later, it was as if it never happened.


I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea that one bad performance by Obama crashed his campaign.

Maybe he should have been like Romney and made dozens of gaffes all spring and summer, just to get it out of the way.

Or maybe, we're demanding he be perfect, but the other guy gets a pass.

Sorry, I said I wouldn't talk politics and this sounds whiny even to my ears.

I still think Obama will pull it out.  Romney is still Romney.


There's a review in the Bulletin about a book about Marvel Comics, which sounds interesting.  MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY.

Except -- not to sound like a know-it-all, but I knew all that.  I was a first-hand witness/victim to 30 years of it.

The reviewer calls the comic 'fan press' -- "sycophantic, poorly sourced, craven" and I'll tell you who agrees with that assessment the most -- the 'fan press.'

I'd have to say that I've gotten most of the nuances over the years:  That Stan Lee isn't who he appears, that the Image creators thought they were geniuses and just turned into another round of corporate hacks, the most of the early creators pretty much got screwed. 

The corporate Marvel was the most horrifying part of it all -- once the likes of Ron Perelman and Isaac Perlmutter got their hands on Marvel, it was all but over -- except as a hack-grinding enterprise.

The characters created are so strong that good stories and art still come out of the hack-grinding enterprise.

But almost by accident.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Radical surgery on the book.

I made a copy of I'm Only Human and then started cutting and moving.  Anything that hindered the forward movement of the story.

Cut out a fair amount of exposition.  Cut the part of the love story that wasn't working and which was somewhat redundant.  Cut a couple of later chapters that strained credulity.  (Ironically these weren't the fantasy parts, but the parts set in the 'real' world.)

I also added a couple of chapters early, which you would think would slow the story, but which were necessary.  Trying to take Vonnegut's advice of not being afraid to "Give the reader as much information as soon as possible."  These were new chapters -- but chapters I had previously written and was holding back for a second book.

Then I placed the "flashback" portions into the story where they had the most effect, not in sequential order, 'when' they happened in history.

In the end, I pared about 4000 words of a 88000 word book.  Not as much as I thought, but then I added a good 4000 words, so I cut about 10% of the original manuscript.

I really thought this would be much much harder.  Just moving a few chapters around in my other novel seemed to be harder than this.

I think it was the freedom I gave myself to simply cut and move. Cut and move.

Today, I'm going to clean it up a bit, and then see how it reads.  Perhaps read it aloud to myself.

I still have plenty of work, I figure.  I want to go through and see if I can't make a bit more poetic use of language -- which for me, usually means being somewhat dreamlike.

Then, I want to try to make it feel more 'real.'  By making sure that there is plenty of sight, sound, and movement.  (A trick is to go into the non-viewpoint character's head and try to see what they're seeing.)

That's the external part of making it real.

The internal part of making it real is to try to go inside their heads a little.  In this case, in the head of the main character -- since this is 1rst person.  Have to be careful here I don't get too introspective, but try to make the reader feel what the narrator feels.

I'm guessing all this will push the book into the 100,000 word range.

I'm getting to the point in the past where I was anxious to send a book off -- but I'm resisting this time.

This time, I'm wondering if I can get to a point where I'll feel I've done all I can do -- what happens if I get there and I still feeling like it's lacking?

I'm not afraid to keep writing anymore.  I've learned something with each of these books -- or relearned and remembered.

So the questions will be, send it off, or try writing something else?

Oh, well.  I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

The six months distance I created by working on another book was extremely helpful.  I was able to look at the manuscript with fresh eyes, and was willing to make more drastic changes.

So if I reach an impasse with this book, I may just start on yet another story and see where that goes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

"I carry new books." "Really?"

Well, let's see here.

I've gone downtown nearly everyday for nearly 30 years, and I don't think I have ONCE been bothered by cigarette smoke.

A ban is totally unnecessary and will only add to downtown Bend's aura of elitism.


This isn't meant to be political.  err... well, yes, kinda, no, no, not political.

Watching Obama on the Daily Show, he's just a lot more fun than Romney.  I shudder at four years of Mr. Square.


Have gotten two of the critiqued manuscripts back for The Reluctant Wizard.  Sarah was pretty strong in her criticisms, which I asked for; and Jim was candid.  I'm not actually looking closely at what they say until I'm done dealing with this round of I'm Only Human.  Then I'll set it aside and look at the first book, and so on, back and forth, until I think they're ready.

THEN I'll think about how I want to market it.


Interesting article on Huff Post about how Newsweek didn't so much die as commit suicide.  That magazines have actually been up the last few years, albeit at lower than old levels.

Anyway, that's the same way I feel about books.  Borders didn't so much as die as commit suicide.  Barnes and Noble slit their wrists and will slowly bleed out.

Hell, the publishers started committing hari kari before their enemies even landed on the island.

Bookstores have been folding blaming e-books, when it really was damage from the big stores and Amazon, but most especially their own bad business decisions; not changing with the times, or making the wrong changes (i.e. going away from books and into the coffee business, or the 3rd space business, or whatever....)  Carrying a sufficient inventory of good books should keep a bookstore open, in my opinion.

These stores didn't so much die as commit suicide.

So I call Hooey.   Books ain't going anywhere.

Linda had a brief downturn at the peak of the e-book hype, but has since come back.  My store has seen mostly increases since if first put new books in -- despite almost no locals being aware that I carry new and used books.

I was talking to two downtown store owners, one who is right across the street, and in the course of the conversation I mention I carry new and used books.

They both express surprise.

I point to my store window and say,  "See I have J.K. Rowlings, and The Cloud Atlas, and The Hobbit right there in the window."

So we talk about other things for awhile.

Later in the conversation, I'm mentioning "new" books and they both express surprise that I carry "new" books, despite the earlier words.


I depend on word of mouth, but most especially on walk-in traffic by visitors -- who don't have preconceptions and see books and automatically credit me for being a bookstore.

Nothing is harder to break than preconceptions. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Silly season.

Nike drops Armstrong.  Why do I think they hung with him as long as there was "plausable deniability?"  Not terribly admirable.


I'll be voting against the Grange.  As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm not a big fan of gambling.  I think it takes advantage of the less ... wary (is the way I'll put it -- to be kind.)


Every spare moment I've got, I'm spending on writing.

So what does Hollywood do?  Put out a bunch of good movies.  What does T.V. do?  Premiere their best shows.

Oh, well.  I can always get to them later.


Just seem more absentminded.  Made a big order yesterday and forgot to click the final button.  Arrggh.


So Romney's son says he'd like to slug Obama.  Hey, it's just silly nonsense.  I hate the way the liberal press is following the example of the conservative press and promoting these things to WWIII status.


I'm going to do chapter summaries on index cards and move them around.

I know -- high tech. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Everyone wants to live here -- except city and county administators.

They don't seem to be quite down with this Poverty with a View thing. 

I get the sense we're approaching these professionals with a "Hey, you'd be so lucky to live here" attitude, and they're taking a good hard look at the realities -- and their predecessors fates -- and saying, "I don't think so..." and bailing.

Anyway, this is just my way of saying, I intend to vote for the parks and recs measure.

This is who we are.  This is how we get people to Bend -- to spend money.

I've always maintained our economy is tourist and recreation and retirement; so the nicer we make things, the better for our business.

This is our equivalent of investing in infrastructure.  Forget Juniper Ridge, forget business parks and big business tax credits.

Invest in our parks!  Our outdoor amenities!

We ain't got much else to offer them.

Note:  Just noticed that the Source published a column yesterday saying much the same thing, albeit more professional like.

The zombie show.

Got done with my writing with enough time to watch the zombie show.

You know the one where they lurch awkwardly about trying to eat each other's brains?

No, not the presidential debates, the other one:

The Walking Dead.


Boy, they have really pared this show down to its essentials.

The minute they barge into a house and start exploring the dark hallways, I turned to Linda:  "They really know what works, now."

The claustrophobic fear of the tight spaces, no escape, and something might leap out at any second and bite you.

Little did I know.  They  spend half the show exploring a prison -- tight spaces, no escape...that kind of thing.

Oh the irony.  Their safely is what we call our prisons.  Inverse world.

Lots of guilt free gore and mayhem.  Zombies don't feel anything when you tear off their face, after all.  You're doing them a favor shoving a tire iron through their rotted brains.  Video game shooting gallery.  Feels really satisfying somehow.

And I particularly liked that they stuck to mostly action, and implied motives -- instead of endlessly discussing things like last year.

Rick is not longer emo leader-- he's kind of turned into Shane actually.  Man of action.  When his wife asks, "Can we talk?" and tries to get all touchy talky with him, he stares her down.  He don't have time for that shit.  He's trying to save their hides.

The zombie baby was particularly well done.  Would the Republicans be in favor of zombie abortions?

Whoops, sorry, got the two zombie shows mixed up again.

Anyhoo, this is one of the few shows I really look forward to, these days.

Well done.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Writing for hire.

We had a guy come to writer's group awhile back, who after he left, Linda said: "He won't be back."

"Why do you say that?"

"He's interested in "literature."


See, I don't think that way.  Books are books.  Writing is writing.  It so happens that I Want and Like writing genre fiction.  Frankly, the best practitioners of genre fiction are every bit as good as the so called "literary" writers.  Most of those "literary" writers pretty much bore me.

Now if you switch the conversation to "commercial" versus writing for "art," I can see how that might be something to talk about.

I can't write a "licensed" product -- which would include almost all DC and Marvel comics, for instance.  I just couldn't motivate myself to write someone else's idea --whether it be Star Trek or Star Wars or Magic or The Shadow or Halo or Warcraft or ...whatever.

It has to be MY idea.  MY book.

I don't look down on anyone who can write for hire.  In fact, I'm in awe of it.

I just can't see putting myself through that.

Writing is hard enough.

What's brave...

J.K. Rowling was on The Daily Show last night.

I'm totally paraphrasing her, but she said:

"People think I'm brave to write a different kind of book after I've had so much success.
 But what was brave was spending 7 years on my first book when nobody but me believed there was anything there."

 Yeah.  It takes guts.

Right now, I'm in that phase where I'm having doubts about my writing ability.  What I try to do is not say:  "I'm not good enough."  What I try to say is: "The book's not good enough."

Because if the "book's not good enough" I can always try to make it better....

Meanwhile, every day I write a separate "Writer's Journal" for myself, which I don't publish.

I thought I'd show you today's entry, to give you a flavor of what I'm saying to myself.

mutter, mutter, mutter.

It's pretty specific, and deals with details you won't know anything about, but -- some of it is also pretty universal for writers, I would think. 

JOURNAL:  12/16/12.

I'd hoped to push on through with the copy-editing yesterday, but it took over 3 hours to reformat the chapters to work on.  Crazy.

So I still have about 12 thousand words to do, or about 3 hours of work.

I've been having lots of ideas about how to improve and restructure the book.

I've never been completely satisfied with the P.E.T.A. part of the book.  But I'm not quite willing to replace it.  I think, however, instead of trying to talk an entire room of animal lovers into going to war, that he just has to convince the judge's wife, who has just lost her dogs, and maybe a couple of hangers on.

Meanwhile, in a discarded chapter, Cobb has made friends with a rancher who has been missing cattle, and so if I reinsert that chapter, we get the tough old motivated rancher and his wife and two ranch hands.  Better, I think.  Means I have to do a lot of rewriting.

I'm going to drop the Supreme Court judge.  I'm going to drop the scene at the police station when they get the weapons.  Just have Officer Harvey show up with a trunk full of guns and ammo.   That was two steps too far in credulity.   Strange how I have more trouble with credulity in the real world scenes than I do in the fantasy scenes.  Heh.

Meanwhile, I want to attempt a tricky backward plot in the relationship between Cobb and Lillian.  I'm not sure how that will work.

The Kraken is the other problematic character.  I need a powerful faery creature -- but a Kraken just is a joke these days.  Maybe use a made-up name?  Just have it be a powerful nature spirit?  It would fit the rest of the book in making up critters.  But maybe I should try harder to use real terms all the way through?  But I like all my new species -- Kordrangers, Kovens, etc.

Right now, I have a mix of the two.  Gorgons, dragons, gnomes, kobalds, krakens -- and then all the made-up critters.


What I'm going to have to do is break apart the book, and reassemble it.  Very, very tricky.

I should really do an outline of some kind, first.  Might save a whole lot of trouble later.  But that just bores the crap out of me.   I think I'll do chapter summaries, and move them around.  I can do that much.  It's much like when I make changes in the store -- I plan ahead, but I'm also aware that most of the changes will have to be changed.

It's interesting to me how often I think I have these books done, only to find that I'm not even close to finished.  I need to add layer after layer of realness to the book before it takes form.  But I have to fool myself each step of the way that I'm close to doing that.

This is probably closer to my experience with Star Axe, or Deviltree, which came hard and took years, than it is with Snowcastles or Icetowers. Which came easy. 

I have to expect that The Reluctant Wizard is going to need a lot more too. Though the first draft came easy, more like Snowcastles and Icetowers.

Finally, the writing itself.  I do think I need to but in more and varied 'bits of business' but I need some inspiration there.  Less "he looked at" or "she smiled" type uninspired humdrum business, and find some better ways to say that.

I may just sit down with a notebook and my favorite writers and find what I can steal.  

Also, I need more sight, sounds and descriptions.  Just lots and lots and lots more 'telling,' and creative detail.  Artistic touches. 

Pull out all the "seeming" and "appeared" type phrasing, go a little lighter on the adverbs and adjectives. 

Every few pages I have what I consider a really good line.  What was interesting is that Martha caught almost all of those and but a "smiley" face on them.  I have to be careful to retain those, maybe go back over the manuscript and lift them out if they get cut for some reason.  And find a way to add another "really good line" to every page or so.  And then another...

I think I need to tell myself to "Write over my head" so to speak.  

I have some real world characters in my book-- Poe, Lovecraft, Tolkien. and others -- and I need a way to make those people feel more real.  More true to the actual people.  Peruse their actual correspondence, for instance.  Tolkien's letters, what Lovecraft and Howard wrote to each other.

Google "letters of".

For instance, I'm thinking of leading off with a visit to Robert E. Howard.  I need to make the reader feel the grittiness of that terrain, that lifestyle.  (Also would fit right in with meeting the rancher in the early part of the book.)  If I could summon even a hint of the grittiness of Blood Meridian, for instance.  Maybe ask Jim for help on a few of those "real" character chapters.

A couple of motivational changes.  Instead of Cobb always trying to get the Faery to "believe", I think the problem is making them "care."  They are feckless, live for today.  They rally to his defense at the end because HE's in trouble, not because of some great rallying cause.

I also need to make the Cthulhu more seductive.  Not just horrifying, but also promising.  Each of the historical characters can talk about that, in one way or another.

Just one step at a time.  This is going to be hard to do.  This book may never come together.  But I have to keep trying. 

I want to go back and redo Sometimes A Dragon after this.  Then I'll have four books -- Deviltree, Sometimes A Dragon, A Reluctant Wizard, and I'm Only Human -- that I've worked on to a significant extent -- I won't say to the best of my abilities, because I always think that will be the next draft, the next book....  

Deviltree made the rounds and came close; Sometimes A Dragon only went out a couple of times.  The last two are completely new.

Then start a fifth, eh?

Monday, October 15, 2012

My blog has become part of me, I guess.

My blogger history disappeared yesterday, but is back today.

Weird how I felt like part of me went missing for awhile.

The Good Wife had a stereotypical blogger on the show last night. Smug, weaselly, and hipster-fail.



The USA Today has figured out a way to maybe make me read their print newspaper.

They've made their digital edition unreadable.

Very clever of them.


Personally, I don't think anyone should win the Nobel Prize for Economics.


Some new Starbucks won't have tables and chairs.

They say it's "eco-friendly."


Personally, I think they've figured out what I've been saying to everyone for years now.  Use your space for selling things.  

I'm in my third decade of NOT selling coffee or having tables and chairs.  Linda is going into her tenth year NOT selling coffee, or having events.  (She does have a table and chairs.)

The "third space" idea is bogus.

 Even if every bookstore in the world falls for it.


Cheap date, Obama.  Spent 50.00 on him, and he really really likes me.  He sends me 5 e-mails a day!


Putting my head down and plowing through the copy-editing of I'm Only Human.  Got nearly half done yesterday, after about 10 hours.  Figure 12 hours today, and I'll have a working copy in hand.

Funny how many little mistakes I miss, and how many little things other pick up.

Funny how some things bother some readers and entirely different things bother other readers.

Had two large continuity problems that I simply didn't see. In one, I mix up two cop locations, the sheriff's office and the juvey center.  In the other, I have the main character using a cellphone, and in the next asking to borrow one.  (A running joke is how often he loses them, but this didn't work, so I simply correct it by having him answer a landline --- now I think I'll go back to him losing it.)

Mostly what I take away is -- how huge the content of a book is.  It will be a nightmare once I start messing with it.  Continuity problems galore, dropped explanations, etc.

But it simply isn't working the way it is constructed.  I need to speed it up.

I have all kinds of explanations and explications, that I think are answered in more active scenes -- and leftover explanations for when I was feeling my way that are now obsolete.

The easiest solution, usually, isn't to trying to fix them -- but to drop them altogether.  If I like the elegance of a particular sentence, I can save that and drop it into another scene -- or into dialogue.

What it comes down to -- I don't KNOW what's going to happen once I start messing with it.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Back to the other book.

I let my novel "I'M ONLY HUMAN sit for about half a year.  Meanwhile, I wrote another book.

So now, I'm going to let THE RELUCTANT WIZARD sit (while friends are critiquing it) and go back to the first book and finish it.

Four people read I.O.H. all the way through, and did some copy-editing. (Thanks Martha, Sunrise, Mark, and Linda.)

I decided that I would type the entire manuscript from scratch,  and all the changes into Word (from Scrivener) and change it from a 1st person to a 3rd person.

Spent ten hours yesterday entering 10,000 words, but in the end decided it isn't working.

Changing it to 3rd person isn't helping.  It isn't making it any better, it isn't sparking any beautiful lines of prose.  And it is a slog.

So, I decided in the last hour of the day to go ahead and copy the Scrivener version and transfer it, and make formatting changes.

So today I will start all over.  I'm hoping the process will go much quicker.

It wasn't all a lost effort though.  I began to see how I could re-structure the novel.  Actually, there are three different ways I can re-structure the novel.  Once I've got a base copy in hand, I'm going to try all three versions.

Incredibly complicated to change plot, because every scene affects every other scene.  But I'm going to be very daring and cut huge swathes of the book, and see how it reads.

That was the advantage I gained by sitting on it for a half year -- I'm far enough away from the first version that I can countenance being very harsh on the writing.   I'm willing to cut and change much more readily now.

This part of writing is hard work.  I wasn't looking forward to it, but now that I've started I'm determined to finish.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Downtown Comings and Goings. 10/13/12.

I'd already listed the other three new businesses in the Downtowners release and Bulletin article.

But 541 Threads is new.


541 Threads, Minnesota Ave., 10/13/12.
O Mo Mo!  Bond Street, 10/3/12.
Crow's Feet Commons, Brooks Street, 9/21/12.
The Cozy Lamb, Minnesota Ave., 9/14/12.
Noi, Bond Street, 9/14/12.
Azillian Beads, Franklin Ave., 9/6/12.
Earth*Fire*Art, Oregon Av., 7/10/12.
Pastrami Deli, Franklin Av., 7/10/12.
Bend Your Imagination, Minnesota Av., 7/10/12.
Paul Scott Gallery), Brooks St., 7/10/12
Natural Edge Furniture, Bond St., 5/10/12
Hola!, Bond St., 3/3/12.
Amanda's, Franklin Ave., 2/24/12
Barrio, Minnesota Ave., 2/12/12.
Rescue Moderne, Harriman, 1/12/12.
Letzer's Deli, Franklin Ave. 2/12/12.
Navidi, Minnesota Ave., 2/9/12.
Mazza, Brooks St. , 2/9/12.
La Magie Bakery, Bond St., 1/6/12
Brother Jon's Ale House, Bond St., 12/10/11.
What Lola Wants, Wall St. , 12/2/11.
Jackalope Grill, 10/12/11.
Gypsy Soul, Wall St. 10/12/11.
Colour N' the City, Tin Pan Alley, 10/12/11.
Lotus Moon, Brooks St., 10/12/11.
The Lobby, Bond St. , 10/12/11.
Ruby, Minnesota Ave., 10, 12/11.
Kariella, Lava Road, 8/24, 11.
Plankers, Wall St., 7/11.
Faveur, Franklin, 7/11.
Dream Pebbles, Minnesota Ave., 6/15/11.
Bend Yogurt Factory, Franklin/Bond, 4/26/11.
High Desert Lotus, Bond St. , 4/4/11.
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, 4/5/10 (Moved to Minnesota Av.)
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

(List begun, Fall, 2008.)


El Jimador, Wall Street, 9/1412.
The Closet, Minnesota Ave., 9/1/12
Common Table, Oregon Ave., 8/11/12.
Honey Threads, Minnesota Ave., 8/11/12.
Bella Moda, Wall St., 8/11/12.
Giddy Up, Minnesota Ave., 5/10/12
Pottery Lounge, Oregon Ave., 5/17/12.
Boondocks, Newport Ave., 3/27/12
Game Domain, Oregon Ave., 3/27/12.
Toth Gallery, Bond St., 3/27/12.
Letzer's Deli, Franklin Ave., 3/22/12.
Clutch, Minnesota Ave., 3/22/12. (Moving to Tres Jolie).
High Desert Gallery, Minnesota Ave., 3/22/12.
Tart, Bond St., 3/3/12.
El Caporal West, Franklin Ave., 2/24/12
Bo Restobar, Franklin Ave., 2/9/12.
The Lobby, Bond St. , 2/9/12.
Arts Central, Brooks St., 2/7/12.
Typhoon!, Bond St., 2/5/12.
Gatsby's, Minnesota Ave., 2/5/12
The Dog Patch, Minnesota Av. 1/9/12.
Bend Mapping, Bond St., 1/9/12.
Lotus Moon, Brooks St. 1/9/12 (Moving into Tres Jolie)
Bond Street Grill, Bond St., 11/20/12.
Mad Happy Lounge, Brooks St., 10/11.
Azu, Wall St., 10/25/11.
Showcase Hats, Oregon Av., 10/11.
Bourbon St., Minnesota Ave. 10/12/11.
Curiosity Shop, Minnesota Ave., 7/11
Luluemon, Bond St., 8/26, 11.
Shear Illusions, Franklin Ave., 7/11.
Crepe Place, Wall St., 7/11.
Pita Pit, Brooks St. , 6/28/11
Smith and Wade Salon, Minnesota, Av. , 6/3/11.
Perspectives, Minnesota Av., 6/1/11
River Bend Art Gallery, Bond St., 5/5/11.
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

(List begun, Fall, 2008 )

The big 6 - 0

Can't be.

Don't feel it.

Going to ignore it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday fuds.

Not sure what to say about the Bulletin's layoffs.

I mean, I'd rather not see it happen.  I like having a local newspaper.  I don't think anything I see online could substitute for it.

I suppose I could point out that they overexpanded during the Bend boom, but so did just about everyone else.

So I see it as strictly unfortunate.


Linda is back to writing, and she has taken my dislike of Jack Welch to another level.  She uses pictures of real people as background for her characters, and she's decided that Jack Welch's degenerate face fits that of one of her major villains.  Heh.


So there was an article about how, even though the Old Mill is losing three retailers, they are going to make up for it by having temporary holiday stores.

Thing is, I would've thought nothing of the three retailers leaving -- except the article seems like sort of a "Don't look here, we're really doing good" kind of article.

Plus, installing temporary stores sort of admits they don't have anyone prospective for those spaces.

Like I said, I probably wouldn't have thought anything of it, if they hadn't made a big deal out of it themselves.


Holding to my -- "No Politics" pledge.


H.Bruce came in to pick up my manuscript, and I met his wife and they seemed a fit and relaxed and nice couple.  I like seeing that.

She has finally retired, apparently, so they are going to be making their long wished for escape from Bend, which is too bad.

 Maybe they'll find they miss the town and come back. 


Amazon admits that the Kindle is a "loss-leader" for them.

Willy Nilly, they really want to take over the world.

But the thing about never making money at the expense of taking over the world. If anything happens -- new technology, new competitor, anything -- they may have taken over the world to no purpose.

That last hand in a poker game -- no matter how much you've won throughout the game -- can take all your winnings.

Just saying.

They are assuming they'll stay on top.

Tell that to Microsoft and General Motors.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Newsflash: The Beatles were a pretty good band.

My record player got disconnected somehow, and since the plug-in is behind a huge bookshelf that is stacked to the ceiling with books (as I mentioned recently, threatening to fall over and crush me), I have resorted to playing music on my laptop.

I go to Youtube and just select an artist and play their "Top" songs:  Springsteen, The Clash, Bob Dylan, whatever.

Anyway, I went through 100 Beatles songs the other day, and I was just struck again by their genius.

I think it was hearing the mix of great songs from different eras.  The sheer breadth of their lyrical and melodic genius.

What really stands out are the one-ups: songs that don't sound like anything else they did and yet are better than anyone else.  Songs that don't sound like anything done before or since.

I know there are people who profess a dislike of the Beatles -- especially younger folk who are probably tired of having them shoved down their throats. 

I forgive them.  Either they haven't listened enough.

Or they have faulty wiring, somewhere.

Anyway, just a reminder.

The Beatles -- they were pretty good.

Selling retail in a collectable world.

I'm currently selling my Return to Ravnica, the new Magic release, at my usual prices.

Right now, that's less expensive than the big online sites, whose main reason for being, as far as I can tell, is to undercut the brick and mortar stores on price.

As soon as I heard that this wave was going to be allocated and in high demand, I started buying every chance I had.  So I've stockpiled about twice as much as I would normally carry.

So, now I'm curious.  Will people understand that I'm offering a good price? 

So far, not so much.  There is where Bend's isolation comes in.  There isn't the scuttlebutt that I'm sure exists in more metro areas.  People flow to where prices are cheapest.  Normally.  I suspect the other sellers in town are currently selling at about the same price, so no advantage there.

There were still people who presold this wave at the old, lower prices.  I don't think it's quite sunk in yet that there will be a limited supply.

Or will there?

Because I don't know  how many times W.O.T.C. will go back to the presses.  Maybe it's just a temporary demand...

Anyway, I know I can sell everything I've got over the course of several months.  I'm just curious to see if there will be a spike in interest anywhere along the way.

I don't really like playing the price games -- preselling for lower prices just seems to be borrowing from the future to me.  Upping the prices when they get more expensive is equally distressing.

I just want to sell retail.

In a "collectable" world.

It's possible to do, but it does add a degree of difficulty.

Trying to make sense of the foreclosure mess.

The lead article in the Bulletin today, "FORECLOSURES SET TO STRAIN COURT." 10/11/12.

As I mentioned the other day, it didn't make sense that there could be a shortage of houses for sale in Bend. 

Just didn't make sense.

My guess was that the banks weren't foreclosing as fast as they could.

Apparently, I was more right than I knew.  Because of difficulties in record-keeping, the foreclosure process in Oregon has moved to a "judicial" process, rather than an extra-judicial process.  Which has slowed things down tremendously, apparently.

About the only thing that is clear to me, is that the whole thing is a mess.

I figure there are a lot more where those came from.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

$&%&$ Writer's Group!

I took the first two chapters of The Reluctant Wizard to writer's group last night and told them to be as critical as possible.

And they were.

Linda says I got self-defensive, but I prefer to think I was trying to wrap my head around their critiques and understand where they were coming from.

I've always said, that a writer at group refuses the advice at his own peril.  Because mostly, overall, they can be right.  (Sometimes they're wrong, but you can usually kind of tell...)  I mean, when it is done for other people, they are usually right on -- therefore I have to assume they are right on when they do it to me.

So I took what they said very seriously.

The one problem I see sometimes though, is they want the entire book's problems solved in the one or two chapters that are read.

There is a premium on Show not Tell examples.

There is a premium on instant action.

None of which is wrong, but not all of it is altogether right.  I like to believe you can have a little leeway in building the story, over the course of a book.

Anyway, what will happen is I'll mull over what they said for a few days, and often come around to realizing that I can, indeed, do much of what they say.

The problem is -- finding where they are right; and where they are substituting their judgement for mine.  Where they are right, I need to find out which problems I can do something about and what I can't do anything about.

I may have seemed defensive -- but I sort of wanted -- if you well - for them to sort of defend their critique and see if it held water.  I hope they won't be discouraged from offering their opinions again.

One thing has come out of this -- I think it may be important to actually have a goodly part of a book finished, or even finished altogether, before you expose yourself to open critique. 

I'm a big boy, I can handle it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I've lost her to the creative fog.

I've been trying to talk Linda into getting back into creative writing again.

We met at writer's group 28 years ago.  Once in a lifetime thing.

She also writes fantasy and has a tremendous imagination.  She had (has) some struggles with spelling and grammar but has gotten 1000% better, plus the writing programs are pretty great at catching things these days.

So she finally picked up a couple of her unfinished books and started reading and revising.  "I really like these!" she says.  "They are really good."

So now I've lost her.

I wake up this morning and she is at her writing station, and I pour myself a cup of coffee and stare at her.

"I've lost you, haven't I."

She looks up, all blurry and unfocused.

"Goodbye," she says.

"Goodbye," I answer, and head downstairs.

My procrastination is catching up to me.

I was writing so intently on my book, that I pretty much neglected everything else in September.

Finally, got going and did my taxes yesterday. 

Today, I'm hoping to do my driver's license.

I'm about to hit the big 60 in age.  I have to go in to the DMV this time, get a new picture and eye-test and all that.  I only have a few days left.

Last week, I finally read the fine print, and realized that my hospital issued birth certificate wouldn't be accepted.  I decided I need an official certificate if I ever want to get a passport, as well, so got on the phone.  (I call myself a Bend native because I was 3 when we moved here and I don't remember anything else, but I was born in Portland.)

They had a series of "authentication" questions, which were easy to answer.  Interesting.

Answered all their questions, then hit a possible hurdle.  My mom's middle name.  I don't think she has one, I'm pretty sure -- but I'm not totally completely positive.  I called one sibling who also couldn't remember her middle name, I looked through all the genealogy that Dad did, but it was mostly about the McGearys, not the Herberts.  The one entry had only two names.

So I gave a firm answer:  "No, she didn't have a middle name."

If I'm wrong, I won't get my express mail shipment of the certificate today.  I've probably thrown a wrench into the proceedings; for some reason I haven't heard from my other sister and my brother, who has all the official records.  If I'm wrong, I may not get the certificate before my birthday, which means, according to Linda, I'd have to retake all the tests.

Well, it had to be done.  I'll be waiting by the door all morning hoping the postman rings.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Turns out, small stores are the future.

There is a superficial, but intriguing slideshow over on Business Insider from Retailmania about retail mega-trends.

It sparked some agreement in me, and some reservations.

The following are some of their points, either quoted or paraphrased, in both cases I use quotation marks.

***"Unrest is the new norm."  

It was ever so, but it has accelerated mightily in my time in business.  One of the hardest things for me to understand is that I would never "arrive."  That I would never reach stasis.  That as soon as one trend settled in, another would  come along.

***"Survival is a plan for a decade, not next season."  

Again, this has been true for awhile.  I used to make plans for a year, then 5 years, now.... 10 years.

***"Local might be the new global." 

 More or less asserts that big boxes will become obsolete.  I think we're already seeing this.  (I've always maintained the big boxes are ponzi schemes.)

People are going to want uniqueness or authenticity or personal service or knowledge or any number of things a small store can provide.  They want atmosphere and real people.

On the other hand, if your main draw is price and selection, online can beat you every time.

***"As transport costs rise, local brands will challenge global brands."

  This is one of those longer term points that I don't think completely apply to my store.  I'm looking a decade down the road, and I'm not sure this will filter down significantly in that time.

***"Smaller stores will grow, because of lower investment, closeness to the market, and high sales per foot.  Plus energy efficiency."

As someone who has been forced to operate out of a smaller space than is ideal, I can testify that you become very efficient with the smaller space and you find you can do more than you think you can.

The big boxes are making noises about becoming smaller -- which I think is ironic, since a smaller big box store is -- a store.  You know, the kind they put out of business.  So they'll be cutting their selection and volume discounting -- but still not have the above "uniqueness, authenticity, personal service, and knowledge" I mentioned above.

Good luck with that.

***"Social media is just another layer.  It is not the holy grail.  You still need return on investment."


Here's where I start to diverge from the main theme of the presentation.  I think all marketing schemes are overhyped, and sometimes even counter-productive.  I think social media is so much noise now, that it is drowning out the message.  I don't trust online reviews whatsoever, and I think other people will eventually come to the same conclusion.

This article more or less says it's important to have a real store atmosphere that works, and the social media will just reflect that.  This idea is where I hang my hat.

***"Technology will take over."

Here's were I really diverge.  Yes, technology will take over.  But not for everyone and not immediately, and I'm pretty sure the two worlds will co-exist for as long as I'm in business.

In fact, I'll maintain that the more technology takes over, the more people will value a store that does it the old fashioned way.  This goes against every bit of advice -- but my personal observation is that it is truer than the experts know.

***"In store experience will be more crucial than ever." 

This is what I've been saying.  Take out the 'social media' and 'technology' revolutions, and you still -- at the base of it all, need to have a interesting store, with product people want, at affordable prices, with atmosphere and knowledge and quirkiness.

So...really, in some ways, nothing has changed at all.