Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tons of books Liveblog.

I've got over 20 big boxes of books sitting in the hallway.

So what I'm going to do today is have a running blog about stocking books -- it will probably take all day, so you can come back at the end of the day to see how it all ended up.

I'm guessing about 600 books.  Which is a lot considering each of my shelves only holds about 25 books.  So I'll need 24 shelves just for the new books.

I probably have about half that many shelves available, and even then only if I move things around.

But I always find a way.  (If a few of the books have to go into storage for a week or two, that's OK.)

A third of the books are "premium" books, and they'll go out first.  Then the rest of the books are just my thinking something looked interesting -- but no hurry to sell because I got a deal on them.

I also ordered a whole bunch of greeting cards, many of them with a Christmas theme, so I'm going to put in a new card rack -- somewhere --- I'm not sure where the hell I can fit it.

Anyway, I love the challenge -- and I love looking at all the new books.

Like one big Christmas!


 11:00:  Got to work and the lock on the door isn't working.  Wrestled with it until it opened.  Not an auspicious start.  (Apparently, much of downtown was superglued recently -- first I'd heard of it.)

Ran downstairs to see if I had an extra and appropriate card rack,and sure enough found one.  Surprisingly, I think I may have found the last square foot of space in the store where it would fit..  Have to clean it -- it's been gathering dust in the basement.  It had a bunch of promotional postcards in it -- which are kind of cool actually, so I need to open a box so I can store them.

Box #1.  Dune, right there on top, 2 copies.  A Moveable Feast, Hemingway; Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy; Lord of the Flies,  William Golding.  A copy of Fun Home, one of the best graphic novels I've ever read -- no, it is the best I've ever read.  Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks (I'm planning carry all the "Culture" novels, one of the best S.F. space operas ever.)  The City, the City, China Mieville (dammit, a duplicate -- how does that happen?);   Call of Cthulhu, Lovecraft.  A Meeting in Corvallis, S.M. Stirling, The Change series.  (An example of a popular series that I personally  just couldn't get into.)

One new title, Where'd You Go, Bernadette -- put it on the "New Arrivals" rack.

First and smallest box of books fit right in, heh.

I have a couple of storage spaces behind the counter, so I'm consolidating the extra's I already have into one space, and using the other one for the new arrivals.  If I can't figure out quickly where to put a book, I'll just store it until I can figure it out.

Meanwhile, I'm going to do some necessary paperwork before I open my first box of books.  Back later.

11:30.  Checked out the invoices.  About 20% of the new books were put on backorder, which is about average.  Got pretty much 100% of discount books.  So 660 altogether.

Actual number of books ordered:  720.

Box #2:  Going to open the biggest book I got, with hopes that there are some calendars there.  Never know how calendars are going to sell -- it seems like some years they do, and some years they don't.  Have pretty much sold out this year so far.  I think it's because I got an earlier start.

Nope, no calendars.  A few big honking books.  Joseph Goldyne, an art book.  Lumen Picturae, a "drawing art manual.", and Captain Easy, Complete Sunday Newspapers.(I can't resist art books, apparently, though they rarely sell.) 

I'm taking this one box at a time, then breaking down the box.  If it takes all day, that's just fine.

Meanwhile, I again am going to take a break to do some store work.

1:30:  Back to open another box.  Been dealing with those pesky customers...

Box #3:  Wonderstruck, Selznick, sequel to Invention of Hugo Cabret;  Initiate Brother, Sean Russel, (purchased on someone's rave.); Walking Dead Compendium 2; Where the Wild Things Are (hope this copy doesn't get destroyed like the last one...); The Two Towers and Return of the King (always like to have a hardcover set); The Fault in Our Stars, Green; On the Road, Kerouac; The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway; Cannery Row, Steinback; Good Omens and Stardust and American Gods, Gaiman; Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut; Graceling and Bitterblue, Cashore; Goliath, Westerfeld; Glamorama,Ellis; Lemony Snicket, #3, 5, 11. (Try to carry whole series.)

Vonnegut, Gaiman, Steinbeck, Kerouac, Hemingway, all authors I'm trying to carry a full selection...

Box #4:  The Prophet, Gibran; Sandman Slim, Kadrey (customer rave); The Last Colony, Scalzi; Childhood's End and Rendezvous with Rama, Clarke; Catch-22, Heller; Boneshaker, Priest; Illustrated Man, Bradbury; Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis; Ranger's Apprentice, #2 and 5; Power of One, Courtenay; Shantaram, Roberts; The Tao of Pooh, Hoff; Incarceron, Fisher; The Gunslinger, King; Strip and Vanishing Act, Thomas Perry (my favorite mystery writer);  Catching Fire, Collins; Ashen Winter, Mullin; Eye of the World, Jordan; Bring up the Bodies, Mantel.

Clarke, Bradbury, Perry, Jordan; again try to carry most of the books.  If I list one book of a series, it usually means I carry the whole series.

I'll be back...

2:30:  Day half over, and I've only done 4 boxes out of 21.  I'm going to at least try to do the premium books today

Box 5Frazetta Sketchbook; Children of Dune, Herbert;  Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor and Walking Dead: Road to Woodbury;  Kirkman; The Annotated Lovecraft; The Diamond Age, Stephenson; Hearts of Stone and Steam, Mayer; Brave New World, Huxley; Dork Diaries 5;Cities of the Plain, McCarthy; Night of the Living Trekkies; Dark Place, Gillian Flynn; 11/22/63, Stephen King; City of Fallen Angels, Clare;Allegiant and Divergent, Roth; Titan, John Varley; Daisy-Head Mayzie; Diary Palahniuk; Dead Until Dark, Harris; Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore, Murakami; Tears of the Sun, Stirling; (2) Zombie Survival Guide, Brooks; Clash of Kings, Martin (hdc).

Box 6:  The Cuckoo's Calling, by somebody named Galbraith; The Casual Vacancy, Rowling;  The Dream Thieves, Stiefvater; Matter, Iain M. Banks; The Goldfinch, Tartt (One of my rare timely bestsellers.); The Paris Wife, McLain; Pulp, Buckowski; Beautiful Ruins, Walter; (3) Ender's Game, Card; Sword of the Lady, Stirling; Deepness in the Sky, Vinge; Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (hdc); Old Man's War, Scalzi; The Magician's Nephew, Lewis; When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Sedaris; Iron Council, Mieville; 1984, Orwell; Young Miles, Bujold (the Vorkosigan series, great stuff.); Foundation, Asimov;

Box 7:  Opened one of the discount boxes, because I'm still looking for calendars....Wow.  The whole box was one book -- The Art and Spirit of Paris, I and II.  Originally a 250.00 book.  I like getting these outrageously big books and then selling them much cheaper.  In this case, 100.00.  Honestly, a pretty silly thing to do...

Box 8:  Two more outrageous books.  Wonders of the Indian Wilderness (originally 185.00, selling for 100.00.) and The Horse (150.00/100.00)  What the hell was I thinking?

3:30;  I have to break off and do my weekly orders.  I'll be back.

4:30:  I think I underestimated how long this would take.  Not a good night to stay late, you know.

Box 9:  Necronomicon, Best of Lovecraft; Sacre Bleu, Moore; Eldest, Paolini; Cryptonomicon, Stephenson; Red Mars and Blue Mars, Robinson; Sophie's Choice, Styron; Neverwhere, Gaiman; The Dragon Reborn and The Shadow Rising, Jordan; Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky; Geek Love, Dunn; Odd and the Frost Giants and Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman; High King of Montival, Stirling; Kraken, Mieville; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fir, Rowling; Insurgent, Roth; Dork Diaries 1; The Stranger, Camus; The Blue Girl, De Lint; Bloody Crown of Conan

Box 10:  Game of Thrones (hdc); Consider Phlebas, Banks; The Hobbit, Tolkien; Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut; Doctor Sleep, King; Martian Chronicles, Bradbury; Infinite Jest, Wallace; City of Ashes, Clare; Wonder, Palacio; The Sneetches, Seuss; The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Chbosky; Un lun Dun; Mieville; Snow Crash, Stephenson; 

Box 11:  A River Runs Through It, Maclean; East of Eden, Steinbeck; Tales of Beedle the Bard, Rowling; How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You; The Dain Curse, Hammett; Animal Farm, Orwell; Invisible Monsters and Snuff, Palahniuk; All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque; The Doors of Perception, Huxley;  The Bone People, Hume; The Dharma Bums, Kerouac; The Stand, King; Inheritance, Paolini; Cloud Atlas, Mitchell; Living Dead in Dallas; Name of the Wind, Rothfuss;  Crown of Midnight, Maas; The Giving Tree, Silverstein; The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Adams; Miles, Mystery and Mayhem, Bujold;

6:00;  Running out of juice and time.  Only got halfway through.  Also got:  4 Heinlein books; 6 Lee Child books; 5 Terry Pratchett books; 8 Daniel Silva; and 6 Jim Butcher; 4 Pullman. 

That's it.  I'm going home.  There are ghouls and long-legged beasties out there...


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wild Tarnished Places.

Wild Tarnished Places.

There are wild tarnished places
in the vacant lots between
tamed by abuse and neglect
and refuge for smaller creatures.

Who live beside us
finding us the more
oblivious carnivore, the more
careless hunter.

Unaware of the jack rabbit,
the skunk, the porcupine
the spoiled deer wandering between
wilderness and our backyards.

So much waste, yet
a place of quiet dust
even as we blunder by on walks
our eyes on marked paths.

The kids on their bikes
they know of these places
unfinished forts, bicycle jumps
and broken lightsaber branches.

They fill this space for awhile
with noise and torn litter
and then leave it, abandoned
to quiet and nurturing neglect.

These wild tarnished places,
always there beside us
out of sight and out of mind,
forsakened and alive.

Going sideways.

Once again, I am trying to fix Faerylander (nee Nearly Human, nee Almost Human.)  Worked all yesterday afternoon on the first 25 pages.

I'm going to keep polishing these pages until they gleam.

The first chapter is really dark.

I took some material I had cut previously, because it had a lighter tone, and added it to the second chapter.  I then cut the second chapter in half, and made the second half of it the fourth chapter, which I think breaks up the story better.

I think it's improved.

The biggest problem is that the story is pretty complicated by now, so anything I can do to simplify things will help.

I'm both adding and subtracting material, and then trying to smooth it out. I just have to have faith this is improving the book.

I've been using the technique of adding a sentence to every paragraph.  What ends up happening though, once I'm down wrestling in the muck, is that other changes are obvious.  Which is what I need -- an excuse to really get in there and try to improve the mechanics and story and characters.

An example -- the main character, Cobb, has been exiled from Faery to earth.  In the second chapter, he goes to find out if he is to be allowed back into Faery.

The way it was written before, he is still banished, which is why he is present on earth to fight off the Cthuhlu invasion.

It occurred to me that it would be a better character development to have him actually be welcomed back into Faery, and for him to want to return to Faery, but for him to turn it down because he wants to help the humans.

A subtle change, but makes him a better guy -- self-sacrificing.  Much of what I'm trying to do with this rewrite is to delineate the characters.  Flesh them out, make them consistent, make them either sympathetic or unsympathetic.

All this should be done properly in the first draft, but I started this book with the wrong tone, the wrong plot, wrong character development, wrong theme, etc. etc.  It happened that way because it was the first book I tried to finish when I came back to writing so I made all the mistakes -- but I was going to have to relearn sometime and this was the book where I did much of my relearning.

On the other hand, it has kind of cool premise, and I've become fond of the characters and setting, and I've rewritten it so many times that it has started to gain some depth and polish -- So I think it is worth saving.

The big problem with this book is a really big one -- it mostly goes sideways and then forward and then sideways and then forward.  An occasional sideways in a book is O.K., but not if it is half the book, or a third of the book or some major portion.

So I'm trying to clear out the underbrush, make it crystal clear and clean, and deepen the characters -- and then maybe the trip will be enjoyable enough that readers will be willing to go sideways for a while. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

First 30 pages.

The first 30 pages of a book are probably the most important.  Or maybe it's the last 30 pages.  Or maybe it's everything in-between....

Anyway, the first 30 pages are important.  So as I take on the task of trying to rewrite all the books I've got original drafts of, I'm concentrating on the first 30 pages most of all.

So here I am, rewriting Faerylander yet again.  I'm not sure how many drafts I've done.  It's all starting the blur.  But I've just never been satisfied with it, and I'm just trying yet again to tinker with it.

The main thing I'm looking at is getting right into the plot and then keeping the momentum going.  The hard part of the first 30 pages is that it is the place where the most new information is deposited and yet it is the place where it is most important to catch a reader's interest.

It just isn't easy to do both.

I've rewritten Faerylander (which used to be Nearly Human) so many times that I can't really tell if I'm improving it or not.  I think I am, so I have to stand by that.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Most business advice is wrong -- it seems to me.

The previous post about location, location, location,  got me to thinking about what I read everyday in the business news -- especially about bookstores.

I'd say, in order of importance, the things that are emphasized in most discussions about business are these.

1.)  Promotion and identity.  What events do you offer?  How do you make yourself cool?

2.)  Location amenities -- what do you offer in the way of amenities to draw people to your store?  Coffee or booze or lounging?

3.)  Service.  All the extra things you do to make the customer happy.

4.)  Price.   What discounts do you give?  What incentives can you use?

5.)  Displays.  How do you arrange your product?

6.)  Location.

7.)  Inventory.  What inventory do you choose to carry?  In what proportions?

So I would reverse that list -- in exact order of importance.  In my opinion, the advice bookstores are getting is backward, opposite of what it should be.

1.)  Above all -- Inventory, inventory, inventory.

Yet, I can't remember the last business article about bookstores that I read that even mentioned inventory, much less made it the focus of the story.

By FAR the most important thing about bookstores is inventory.  Do you have the book the customer wants?  Do you have the book they didn't even know they wanted?  Do you have a good selection of what you carry?

It astounds me when I visit other bookstores and I see how limited their inventory is.  How often they duplicate books. 

This duplicate book thing drives me nuts.

Here's the thing.  You can get books, minimal postage, in one or two days from the book distributors.  You only have to order 10 books, mix or match.  So any book you sell is only two to three days from being replaced.

But almost every bookstore I go into has multiple copies of every book.  Not just the best-sellers where it might make some sense (and even here, two or three copies ought to suffice) but mid-list books.

When I ask why, it's because they get a better margin ordering direct from the publisher.

OK.  What's the extra margin?  Maybe 3 or 4 or 5%.  For this, they have to buy up to 10 copies.

So you can have 10 copies of 20 books for an extra 5%.

The customer walks in and if he or she isn't interested in those 20 books, no sale.

By foregoing the 5% you could have 200 single copies of books!!!  You up your chance of catching a customer by 10 times!!!

This is just one example.  There seems to me that there is NO EXCUSE not to have more books in your store, as many books as you can fit in.  There should be no blank space whatsoever.  This should be your everyday focus.  What is selling?   What is something like what is selling?  Is there something selling that I should be carrying? 

How can I get more books?

My selection is limited only by space -- which is maddening.  Especially when I see larger stores that look sparse.

It isn't even a question of price -- you can pick up very good books from wholesalers at very good prices -- if you know your books....

2.) Location.   See previous post.

In addition, what I see are people picking too fancy a store in a bad location.  That is, they like the space so much they locate non-bypasser location.  Why do they do that?  Because they've been told they must have location amenities and promotional flourishes.

I'd much rather accept a smaller, less shiny location in a much more visible part of town -- even if it is more expensive.  Saving money on a location is stupid.  Your business should handle the costs of a location or don't open in the first place.

By being in a more expensive and possibly smaller location, and by focusing on inventory, inventory, inventory -- you won't have the amenities, the promotional events.

Big deal.  I think people waste way, way too much time on those things -- they don't pay off, as far as I can see.  They only distract you from what should be your main job -- SELLING BOOKS.

3.)  Display.

Again, almost never mentioned in most article about bookstores.  But again, I see a lot of wasted space in stores.  Every inch should have a book, every place you can place a book with the cover displayed, you should do that. 

But if you can't, then have stacks of books.  But most of all, display your books.

Not your couch.  Not your coffee counter.


4.)  Price.  

Personally, I think if you are doing a good job you should be able to charge full retail price.  Yes, you'll not make as many sales, but the sales you make will count.  Again -- INVENTORY!

You have the book they want -- the book they've been looking for.  You have that book because you make enough money selling books for full price that you can buy more books.  Which means the next customer in the door is more likely to find the book they've been looking for.

It's a virtuous cycle.

But again, most advice is the opposite.  Sell stuff cheap.  Have sales.

5.)  Service.

Again, books.  You have a register and you make sure you greet every customer and talk friendly to them and are knowledgeable and helpful.  You offer to order the book they are looking for.  You Google their questions.
You know, bookselling.

That's all the service you need.

6.) Location amenities.

Only one -- books, books, books.  No couches, no coffee, no events.  All are counter-productive and not worth the space, time or energy. 

Just books.

7.)  Promotion.

Screw it.  If you can get some free publicity, by all means.  Otherwise, screw it.  Advertising is a total waste of money. 

Moving usually isn't the answer.

Linda and I drove to another town to check out a bookstore.  It had moved.  We looked for its new location and it was out of business.

Funny thing about location.  It's super important -- the old saying in business is that the three most important things in business are location, location, and location.

So you try to pick the best site you can afford.

But after that, my recommendation is you stick with it -- make that location work for you.   I can't tell you the number of times I've seen an existing business move -- and then fail. 

I'm not saying there aren't times you should move -- but be very careful.  The grass isn't always greener, bigger isn't always better.  There are strengths and weaknesses to every location -- for instance, the Bookmark has great drive-by visibility, but lousy walkby.  My store is exactly the opposite; great walkby, lousy drive-by.

So you adapt your store to your location and make it work.

Getting down in the mud of rewriting and wrestling with the words.

I'm finally knuckling down in an attempt to rewrite my existing manuscripts on a systematic basis.

As an experiment, I took the first 5 pages of one of my books and added a sentence to every paragraph.

Sounds arbitrary.  But damn if it didn't improve it.  It improves the pacing and the depth and the overall sense of reality.

I've always felt that my biggest problem is that I rush my books a little.  I get into the story and just take off.  Nothing wrong with that, in fact, I think its a good technique to get a fast moving story down.

But I need to go back and fill in holes -- flesh out the story.  I'm not one of those writers who needs to go back and cut extra wordage.  I'm the opposite.

So this extra sentence idea (which in practice sometimes turns out to be a word here or there, or a word cut here or there, or two sentences or three) gives me a chance to look at how to improve the writing.  It's an excuse, really, a motivator to take a closer look.

I discovered this trick because there were times when I was just one or two sentences from adding another page to my manuscript and since my books are kind of on the short side, it doesn't hurt to add a page here and there.  (This is a stupid writer trick, since it is digital anyway and might not turn into another page on someone's ereader.)  So I'd look for a paragraph that was just a few letters from a new line and I'd look for something to add.

But what started out as a stupid writer's trick, actually seemed to improve the paragraph I worked on.  It added some telling detail that was implicit in the story but which I hadn't brought out.

I work first on characterization.  Is there something I can say that will strengthen the character?

Then I look at description.  Is there some telling detail I can add to story?

Finally, I look at explicating -- is there something that needs to be explained?  Or that will make the story clearer?

What happens in practice, actually, is that sometimes the extra sentence isn't really necessary and when I'm done I go back and take it out or move it.  But most often, I'm finding, it adds heft to the story.

I hate just staring at a page and trying to figure out how to improve it.  I just can't see it that way.  I sense that something isn't right, but I can't always figure out what it is.

So this technique allows me to get down in the mud of rewriting and actually wrestle with the words.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

State of writing.

This post is a note to myself -- trying to get a handle on the crazy amount of writing I've done.

After roughly 3 years, I have written 9 books, in various stages of completion.  I've been so obsessive -- especially in the last year and a half -- it's like I'm only now emerging from a fever dream.  I'm finally willing to admit to that amazingly prolific number.  It's like, instead of a normal writing career over the last 35 years, I've condensed it all in the first three years and the last three years...

Add in the two leftover books, the three books that were published in the early 80's, and the two books I finished but which have been retired or lost (yes, believe it or not, I lost a book) and I've completed 16 books in my lifetime, plus a multitude of false starts.

Scary to think what I might have done if I hadn't chosen to buy Pegasus Books and make a living that way.

Of course, all that activity may be for naught.  But it does give me a small sense of satisfaction.

I wrote just about every day I wasn't working on the store -- I took several week long vacations where I wrote just about every waking hour.  I pushed through whether I felt like it or not.  I didn't let anything distract me or get in my way.  I was a working writer and I worked at writing.

Some of the books came extraordinarily easy, others were harder.

Some are better than others, and some are more finished than others.

Of the 2 books that were left over from my previous writing career,  I completely rewrote Sometimes a Dragon from top to bottom, and I intend to give the Deviltree a once over.

Three of the new books are online, at Amazon and Smashwords.

I put Freedy Filkins, To Rule Them All online first.  This was a fun little book to write -- my cyberpunk hobbit.  It is complete -- in and of itself -- a short, fast read.  Instead of "One Ring to Rule Them All," it's  "One Flashdrive to Rule Them All."

I've also put the first two books of my Vampire Evolution Trilogy online:  Death of and Immortal and Rule of Vampire.  The third book, Blood of Gold, is ready to be edited and then will be put up online.  I'm really proud of having finished a consistent and integrated series of books.  It was kind of test to me, to see if I had the stick-to-it-ness.  If nothing else, I've accomplished a Trilogy!

Led to the Slaughter is finished and polished.  I've been trying the traditional publishing route - agents and publishers -- with this one so far, without much success.  (Someday I'll be willing to talk about that -- to admit to failure -- but I'm not ready yet.)

Faerylander is my problem book -- it was the first book I tried to write after coming back and I made all kinds of mistakes.  I've completely rewritten it several times and I think improved it each time.  I like the ideas in this book and still want to publish it, but I want to make sure it is fixed.

Wolflander, the sequel with the same characters and setting, is finished to my satisfaction and just needs to be edited -- and of course it can't be published until Faerylander is -- which is a pretty big motivation.

The Reluctant Wizard was my breakthrough book -- the book after my missteps with  Faerylander where I found my footing -- where I finally settled on a work process that worked -- and when I finally relaxed on my writing.  I really like it, but I just feel it needs to be fleshed out.  Recently, I've had some ideas about how to do that, and I've also realized that it is the middle book of a trilogy, of which the first book is Spell Realm and the last book is Sometimes a Dragon.

Spell Realm is pretty much a mess that I got halfway through before I realized it, but I finished anyway.  Just as well -- both Spell Realm and Sometimes a Dragon will need to be rewritten to match The Reluctant Wizard.

The Unfinished Books:

Faerylander -- just need to keep tinkering with it until it's truly ready.

Wolflander -- needs to be edited, but can be published when I'm done with Faerylander.

Spell Realm -- needs extensive rewriting, but that can't be done until I've finished The Reluctant Wizard.

Sometimes a Dragon -- Ditto.

Led to the Slaughter -- pretty much done.  I need final confirmation that the traditional route isn't going to  happen.  Needs cover art, and maybe a bit more tinkering, but I feel like it's a good book and ready to be published.

Blood of Gold -- needs to be edited and published.

Deviltree -- a finished book, but one I'm wondering if I can't give a little boost.

The Reluctant Wizard -- my current project.  I feel like I have about half a book finished, as is.  It needs about a quarter of book added to the front, and a quarter of a book added to the end.  

A few observations: 

One -- I'm proud of my patience.  So far I haven't put out a book that I didn't think was ready.  That's a big difference from my first writing career.  I need to continue to be patient and make sure that what I publish is as good as I'm likely to get it.

Two --  No matter what happens from here on -- whether all these books are ever finished to my satisfaction or not, none of it has been wasted.  I've practiced my writing diligently, and I think I'm getting better at it.  Certainly, I've worked out a pretty good process.

Three -- It is easier and more fun to write new material than to work on old material.  But the material is starting to pile up and needs to be dealt with. 

I've more or less taken the last month off -- finishing the last few thousand words of Spell Realm, but otherwise thinking about writing more than actually writing.

So I just need to pick a new starting point -- I'm thinking November 1 -- and get back to doing it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sky-is-falling attitude.

So I was checking to see what blog posts have been read lately, and up pops an old one.

April 16, 2008.

Basically, it was the moment I decided for myself, once and for all, that we were falling into a deep recession and it was going to get a lot worse.  It was the moment I made the harsh decisions to prepare for the worse.

Interestingly, almost no one thought it would be as bad as I did.  Even the infamous Bilbobuster was talking of a two year time frame.

I thought it would be a minimum of 5 years, and possibly 7 years before we would recover and that it would never be quite as booming as it was before the crash.

I had one interesting comment from someone back then, that is reflective of the thinking at the time.

"I think your sky-is-falling attitude is both overly pessimistic and inaccurate. From what I can see Bend is doing very well. Within a block of my house two homes are being built and another is being remodeled. The stores I shop at are busier this Spring than I've ever seen them. Traffic today, a mid-week weekday, was more congested than on a summer weekend. Where I work we're overwhelmed with business. Bend is booming and prospects are good."

Funny thing is -- I was actually soft-pedaling what I really thought.  I thought sales could drop as much as 50%, based on previous experience with bubbles. Fortunately, it never dropped more than about 15% in one year, which was a manageable decline -- I could adjust my orders and costs according.  I worked the store alone that year, so basically I wasn't any worse off than the year before.

Overall, my sales dropped 28% from 2007 to 2010.

The store has recovered in the last couple of years, though I'm still about 10% down from the peak.  On the other hand, my profit margins are better, so the store is in good shape.

But back then, like I said, I wondered if a 50% drop was possible.  I could survive a 50% drop, because that's the way I designed my business.  But I can guess that very, very few businesses can survive that much.

So it dropped about half as much as I feared, and it took 3 or 4 years to do so and it turned out to be manageable.  In fact, I'd have to say that I barely felt it, beyond the fear it engendered that it could get worse.

The lesson I think is to prepare for the worst.  Then when it doesn't happen, you're ahead.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ordered a ton of books. No, really, a ton of books.

Well, if each book weighed a pound or two.  I weighed a thick hardcover and it was 1.4 pounds, but most paperbacks probably barely register.

The point being, I ordered every book on my wish list -- plus.

I had several months worth of books on my list -- many of the books were ones that sold over and over again.  That really pops out, that my lists often consist of the same books again and again. 

I need to try to make certain that once I ascertain a book is a self-seller, that I keep it in stock.

Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children
How to Tell if Your Cat is Trying to Kill You.
The Game of Thrones series.
Ready Player One
Hunger Games series.
City of Bones series.
Name of the Wind
Ender's Game.
Gone Girl.
Neil Gaiman
Neal Stephenson

And so on....

Anyway, I've loved carrying books partly because once I have a base stock in place, they continue to sell even if I don't make constant reorders.

But obviously, they might sell even better if I was making constant reorders.  The minimum for affordable shipping from my wholesaler is pretty low -- only 10 units at a time, mix and match.

So I've decided to put that to the test.  I'm going to order all the books that have a history of selling, pick out a handful of new best-sellers in hardback, and continue to stock up on classics and cult books.

Then keep reordering and having them shipped every time I go over 10 units.

Support the book part of the store completely and fully for several months and see what happens.

It may not result in immediate sales, we'll see, but I'm certain that there is still a ton of potential in the book trade.

It will be a challenge to fit them in, but I always seem to find a way. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

More good stuff than budget.

Here's what you don't want:

You don't want to stock up on all the good stuff you can get, and then have sales still too low to pay the bills.

Here's what you want:

You reorder all the good stuff that you know you will sell, and your budget is almost used up, and the little bit extra is for new or experiments.  If I had to room, I could actually order more.

There was a period of time in the late 90's where I felt stymied.  Everything I was selling -- comics, sports cards, non-sports cards, etc. were declining, due to no fault of my own.  All the fads were pretty much finished -- pogs, beanies babies, and pokemon -- which had tided me over the collapse in comic and sports card sales.  I didn't have access to books or games or toys or books, because there were no wholesalers I could easily work with because of my limited funds.

I was stuck.  I took a chance on Magic, and that worked to some extent, made things better.  Then I started dabbling in games, but there was a game store in town so I really couldn't make headway.

What really helped was the the wholesaler I used for most of my material started carrying toys and games.  Then graphic novels got to be bigger.

That was all well and good through the first half of the 2000's, but I could tell that everything was artificially high because of the boom in the housing market.

Even though the store was full and I was pretty much using up most of my budget, with the collapse of local bookstores and game stores, I decided to take a real stake in those product lines.

I had about a year before the Great Recession hit, but I'd positioned myself in advance so I wasn't in debt and could still bring in new product, which I did for the first few years of the recession.

Then the store really did become completely full.  No more room to be had.

So I've been in that position for a couple of years now.  Now it's more a matter of tactical buying than strategic buying.  The games and books helped immensely to spread the risk, and as I said above, I now find plenty of great material to sell within my budget.

So it took a long time to diversify that much, but it was worth it.

I especially love that there are dozens of games I could still try, and thousands of books that would probably sell.  That is, the potential is higher than my budget.  Which is vastly better than having the potential be less than my budget, if you will.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's a serious book, dammit.

Read the final 30 pages of Led to the Slaughter at writer's group.  Gary, who is my toughest critic, just looked up and said, "It's really very good.  There's some real depth there that I'm not sure I expected."

"Yeah, but isn't that's where the depth is supposed to be -- the last thirty pages?  It's the culmination of the whole story -- if I can just get them there."

I think established writers are given the benefit of the doubt.  If you can keep the reader's interest they'll stick with you for the first half of the book and then you can turn up the heat.  A published book is almost given that due -- an unpublished book isn't.

I think it's a bit like a job interview -- the interview may or may not be reflective of the actual job.

The sad part is trying to cram so much in the first 10 to 30 pages artificially, instead of letting the story gather steam. 

But really, I meant this as a straightforward serious novel.  A survival story, a story of what happens when things fall apart.  The werewolves are almost a force of nature, who are another thing the immigrants  must deal with.

So I think I'm going to take out the subtitle -- The Donner Party Werewolves -- because I think it leads people to believe the book is something different, something kinda silly. 

I tried to make it historically accurate and to make it as realistic as I can.  Even the werewolves...

Finished Spell Realm.

I've finished Spell Realm. 

Boy, this one didn't come easy.  In fact, if I hadn't stalled so close to the end, I might have given up on it.  It took me nearly a month to do the last 10% of the book -- which is considerably slower than I've been writing.

As a general rule, it is probably best for me to finish what I've started.  But I probably should try a little harder before I start writing to be sure it is something I want to finish.

The book feels a little sparse and a little clunky -- but there is nothing so off that it can't be fixed.

I'm going to give it some time.  Leave it be and go on to the next thing.

All this writing I've done has sort of narrowed down in my mind what my strengths and weaknesses are as a writer, and so it's time for me to construct a book that takes advantage of my strengths and ameliorates my weaknesses.

There are elements where I think I can do better than I have so far, and I'd like to work on those things. 

I'd like to plan ahead much more, make sure I'm satisfied with the premise and the plot.  Flesh out the characters and settings. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sickly Gazelles.

Mr. Bezos said Amazon “should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”

"...once they became dependent on Amazon for sales, Amazon turned the screws...demanding longer pay periods and lower discounts. Publishers who didn't "pay to play" would get unfavorable treatment on Amazon, making their books more expensive and harder to find."

The above quote is from Business Insider, from a book called, The Everything Store by Brad Stone.

But hey, I'm sure once the customers become dependent on Amazon for books, they'll be treated so much better....

Zombie writer.

Last night, I dreamed that a couple of professor types completely eviscerated one of my books.  Just tore it to threads.  Brought me about as low as you can get.

So I spend the rest of the dream moping about my room.

Then, I go up to another room full of 'critics' and I rip their throats out with my teeth.  Blood all over the place.

So satisfying.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Walking Dead questions.

Walking Dead is really good this year.  They've hit that Star Trek N.G./X-Files 4th year groove, where they know just what to do.  The beginning of last night's episode gave me chills.

But I can't help but have some questions.

1.)  Security.

A.) Overall security.  Are you telling me they don't have perimeter patrols?  Apparently Glenn and his girl in the tower are bopping all night and can't see the 'rat feeder.'  It seems strange to me that they don't have more security.  Even inside.  This is the Zombie apocalypse, after all.  Having each of the residents spend 1 or 2 nights a month patrolling the inner and the outer perimeters would seem to be a minimum.

B.) Personal security.  Again, Zombie apocalypse?  I would have a weapon at all times -- I'd have a weapon next to me in bed, when I go to the bathroom, I'd have hold of my weapon in the shower.   (no, not that weapon...).   And while I was at it, I'd have my door closed and locked at night.  Just because.  Hell I'd do that if there weren't no Zombie apocalypse.

Speaking of weapons, I think I'd fashion myself a little rapier type blade, not too long, not too short.  One that has a very sharp end and could be used to stab quickly in tight quarters.  (Not a samurai sword that is too long to draw when they're already on top of you, like Michonne last night.)

2.)  Where are they getting all the stuff?

It's been several months, but they have really cleaned up the place.  But where did all the stuff come from?  In previous seasons, they were having a hard time finding anything at all -- now they seem to have all the food, ammunition and medicine they need.  But they never show any foraging parties.

Hell, they should all be farmers, not just Rick.

3.)  The fences.  Like I said, should have patrols.  I also don't buy that they can't just burn the bodies of the dead zombies so they don't pile up.

4.)  What do they do all day?  Just wondering.  But really, what do they do all day?

None of these are deal breakers -- I think I'm only noticing them because the rest of the show is so good.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Still writing -- barely.

I finally finished a new chapter of Spell Realm.   I have only two chapters and epilogue to go.

I hope they come easier than the last two chapters have.  I've been stuck for three weeks now, writing a few words here and a few words there, none of them very satisfying.

But I want to finish this draft before I move on.

Everything else seems to be on hold.  Linda has her book The Telling Tree with our editor, so mine have been pushed back.  (Not complaining, just explaining.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My bag of tricks.

Most writers seem to have a bag of tricks.

I remember reading Louis L'Amour the first time and thinking, "Hey, I really like this."  Then reading three or four books and realizing he was repeating characters, scenes and plots.  Oops.

I'm rereading the Travis McGee mysteries by John D. McDonald, and already by the fourth book he's repeating motifs.  (Especially women.  Wow.  So patronizing.)

I all but stopped reading heroic fantasy because it seemed nearly impossible to come up with anything new.

Anyway, I've been planning the next book, and dang if it doesn't seem to include a whole bunch of elements from previous ideas.  That is, I seem to have a general tendency -- things that appeal to me.

My bag of tricks.

I'm not sure whether to refine my bag of tricks, or mix them up and toss them in the air and see if I can't come up with  something new.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The cushion is gone.

I've had this nice little cushion much of the year while I was saving up for taxes.  It was just sent off to the IRS in one fell swoop, bringing my balance down to hand to mouth levels.

Object lesson:  Try to get far enough ahead to not worry about my balance.

Easier said than done.   Always something to spend money on.

I've decided to really stock up for Christmas after having a very slow season last year.  As compared to the rest of the year, it shouldn't have been that slow.  So I'm going to make sure this year it isn't because I didn't have enough material.

It's fun to order stuff.  But it doesn't take long to spend the budget.  I'm doing it the old-fashioned way -- spending 90% of it early, frontloading it so it has plenty of time to sell.  Then reserving just 10% for reorders of stuff that sells out.

I'm still hoping to beat last year.  Won't be easy with only 2.5 months left.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Planning and plotting and outlining.

I've begun planning my next book.

This is new.  This "planning" thing.  Usually I just set off writing a story and see where it leads.

I don't know what is going to happen with this new method.  Maybe it won't work, but I figure I have to try.  I need some kind of leap in quality. 

I see book writing as coming in three stages.

Stage 1:  The planning and plotting and outlining.
Stage 2:  The actual writing.
Stage 3:  Re-writing.

Stage 1:  On a scale of 1 to 10, I feel like I'm only at a 2 or 3 in terms of planning.

Stage 2:  I'm doing pretty well on the actual process of writing -- maybe a 7.

Stage 3:  I'm struggling to be patient with my re-writing, but still at only a 4 or 5.

So the most obvious area of improvement is Stage 1.

So what can I do?

Find a sturdy premise, one that will hold the weight of the story.  That has some thematic possibilities.  That is logical and interesting.  But most of all, that allows the characters to become real and become the drivers of the plot.

Behind that, I'd like to have a good solid history and geography and so on.  (If I use real locations or historical incidents, I need to research.)

Strong, well fleshed and deep characters.

A plot that isn't too predictable, and keeps the surprises coming. 

So that's what I'm going to be doing over the next weeks and months -- planning as much as possible before I actually sit down and write.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stepping back.

I haven't written anything for about 3 weeks now,  which is the longest hiatus in the last year & half or so.  Discouraged, yes.  Thinking about what I'm doing.  Trying to decide my next step.

I'm still a few chapters from finishing Spell Realm, and I've just been hoping for inspiration.  But the longer I go without writing, the less inspiration I have.  I'll probably just try to finish it this weekend -- which is the same thing I told myself the last 3 weekends.

The re-edited version of Death of an Immortal is now up on both Smashwords and Amazon.  Just small editing changes and such, nothing major.  Lara also returned the rewritten version of Led to the Slaughter.  Amazing how many things she still found to change the second time through.

So I have this backlog of books that need to be dealt with, one way or another.  Lara is doing Linda's book, The Telling Tree, right now so she won't be able to get to my books for awhile.  That's all right, I suppose.  I mean, I just published Rule of Vampire a month ago, so there is no hurry to get another book out.

Anyway, just taking a step back and disconnecting for a short time.  Just a sense that I need to do so.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The world isn't short of books.

Started reading my backlog of New York Times Book Reviews.  Probably have a couple years worth.

But reading them this way really points up the patterns -- certain types of books succeed, and most do not.  In fact, most of the books reviewed aren't best-sellers.

It is really intimidating to read this magazine -- the sheer number of reviewed and advertised books alone is enough to give one pause. 

They all seem so talented, so deep, so intelligent....

What am I doing writing my little stories?  Who cares?  Why read my book instead of another? 

The world isn't short of books -- good books. 

It's important to recognize that -- to put my efforts into perspective.  It is both discouraging and explanatory.  Against such a tidal wave of books, my own efforts are tiny little things.

The type of "supernatural" books that are being written and published bear little resemblance to what I've been writing.  The covers are almost exclusively hot girls in tight leathers...

 -- whatever.

So I'll just keep writing my little stories and putting them online and not expecting anyone to read them...

Monday, October 14, 2013


Running a store like mine, I end up with lots of excess.  There's no way around it.  If I try to order so tightly it doesn't happen then I'm inevitably underordering.  Yes, I can sell through at 100% --- but only at much lower sales levels.

Obviously it's a constant balance between profit margin and sales. 

So anyway, I end up with a lot of junk.  I will sell the junk to individual customers at big discounts if they express an interest, but other than that I don't put stuff on sale.  Too much work for too little return.  Like advertising, I thinks sales have lost their effectiveness.

So I simply set it aside in the basement.

Lately I've been wondering what I can do with it all.  We have a storage unit full of books, as well. 

I may just see if I can't get pennies on the dollar for my boxes of comics.  The overstock toys and books and cards are probably just a loss.  Headed for the dump some day.

I'm lucky to have the storage, I guess.

I just ordered a ton of books at discounted prices -- and I know that probably half of them won't ever sell.  But the half that do sell will pay for the rest.  It's the only way to do it.  Seems like a bit of a waste but without knowing what the customer will buy, I'll always have stuff I thought they would buy but they didn't...

What about the internet?

The hidden costs are too high.  Mostly time and mental space.  It's more or less an all or nothing proposition -- being aware constantly of what things are selling for, and how to divvy up the material in a cost-effective manner, etc. etc.  For low return.  Yes, I could spend years online selling this stuff off, but I've got better things to do.

So, I'm not asking for anything here, just saying. Our whole culture is awash with overstock, though maybe only retailers see it cold-bloodedly.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Being grateful.

I'm 61 years old today.  No longer "middle aged".

Too much trouble and confusion to change the title of my blog, which has now been going for almost a full 7 years.  Haven't missed a day yet.

My sister Susie called last night, and we talked about my writing a little (a very nice birthday present to let me ramble about my writing) and she asked how it felt to be writing again after 25 years of not writing.

Got me to thinking -- how grateful I am that I did pick up the writing, and that I produced something, and that some of what I produced I think is pretty good.

I recently rewrote Led to the Slaughter, adding historical detail and rearranging the first 30 pages to make it start faster.  I also had it re-edited.  My overall opinion is that this is a worthy book.  Even a good book.  I like it.  I can't think of where I would change it.

This is unusual.  I normally have a sneaking suspicion that I need to do more work on a book.  I have the suspicion that Faerylander, for instance, the book I've worked on for almost 3 years now, still isn't ready.

So I'm  grateful that when I decided to write that the writing came, and that it came out pretty well.  I like the Vampire Evolution Trilogy, too.  I like the characters and the settings and the writing.  Maybe not too many other people do, but how many times in my life have I had to depend on my own judgement -- pretty much everything?

However -- Led to the Slaughter has been pretty much rejected.  For the last six weeks I've been dwelling on the fallout of that rejection, and feeling pretty dejected and dispirited.

Then yesterday I did this thing -- something I've done in the past with unpleasant things -- I just put it aside, compartmentalized it, and decided to quit thinking or worrying about it.  That actually seems to work for me, though it's a process I have to got through to get there.  But once there, I'm able to just kind of set a wall between my everyday going forward and the implications of whatever problem it is that I'm setting aside.

I'm incredibly grateful for Linda, who is a huge support.  And I'm grateful that the store is doing well, after so many years.  Most of those years were a struggle -- so much so, I couldn't write.  But now the store seems to have reached a level where it is sustaining itself.  I love having the store and working it, and it gives me a break from being a mono-maniacal writer.

So I don't usually get sappy -- "grateful" -- but I am.

I'm grateful to be writing, earning a living my own way, and having a fantastic wife. (Among other things.)  The things I'm not grateful about? -- they're over there somewhere...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

New Favorite Show -- American Horror Story: Coven

Before I start, just let me say -- in case you're wondering -- I don't watch sitcoms or reality shows, so I'll never be reviewing those.

Meanwhile:  ***************SPOILERS!! *********************

I haven't watched the first two seasons of American Horror Story -- fortunately, they are on Netflix so I have that to look forward to.

This show is perfect.

Over the top and straight down the middle.  Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange are forces of nature.  Lange is perfectly believable as a hag trying to find her youth -- and yet, she's one good looking hag.

I liked everything about this show, but what nailed it for me was when Lange says to the young witches -- "Dress in black" and the next scene is the four girls dressed like stylish Halloween witches following her down a New Orleans street like little goth chicks, and no one even taking a second look at them.

Just the right tone of horror and goth and humor.


Meanwhile, The Tomorrow People.

I can't get over how good looking everyone is.  How they all seem to be 25 year old's pretending to be in high school. 

The story actually holds up until -- damn, it doesn't.  The scene where the main character is confronted with a video of his missing father, and runs out the room.  Huh?  All to set up a scene later where he comes back and watches it.  Why?

Then at the end, he joins the obvious bad guys though he obviously is simpatico with the good guys.  Again, why?

For plot.  As a writer, I seem to really notice nowadays when characters act out of character for plot reasons.

The main kid has a real Tom Cruise thing going.  Once I noticed that, I couldn't help but keep noticing that.  Ironically, the kid is probably a better actor.


Of all the Gloomy Gus shows, I think I like The Bridge best.  While a lot of people were apparently put off by the autistic vibe the lead actress was trying to put across, I felt she was too pretty and too normal for that.

But she's grown on me.

Mostly because she's grown on the lead actor.  Damian Bichir is one of those lead actors that seem to come from nowhere at middle-age.  Where did he come from?

I looked him up and he's actually been an Academy Award nominee for the movie A Better Life, which I didn't see.

So to me, he's new.  And he just gets it.  World weary, and funny, and charming and sympathetic in every way.

Even as he apparently is going to Break bad.


Speaking of middle aged actors who get the role of a lifetime.

Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg).  He's such a decent guy.  Funny and smart and interesting.

He's the best part of SHIELD so far, and enough by himself to keep me watching.  If that character goes off the rails, the whole show doesn't work.


Once Upon a Time: Wonderland.

I don't like the original show.  Too cheesy.

But I kind of liked this.  I'll keep watching for awhile....

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Off Season.

This time of year is always a wake up call about how dependent we are on tourism.

This is the off season.  The whole tenor of the store changes -- much less spontaneous buying, many more people looking for specific things, and most of all, 'broke locals.'  I'm not putting anyone down by saying that, it's just a fact that people tend to spend money on vacations more readily than they do at home. 

I'm always thankful that I have a built in clientele that at least lays down a base amount of sales.  It isn't sufficient, but I pick up enough stray sales to make it through.  It is the reason I've packed the store with so much stuff, of different varieties.  I think that is the only way to survive in a small town.

There's an article in today's Bulletin about how national chainstores are sniffing around Bend.  Well, first of all, we've already gotten most of the major ones, as far as I can tell.  I've always wondered if they think they made a mistake....

A couple of revealing comments:

"...even if they determine a profit isn't possible...they consider other factors, such as competition in a given market, growth opportunities and seasonal fluctuations, which are more extreme in Central Oregon due to tourism."

I remember reading one of the chain stores commenting that they wouldn't open in a town that had less than such and such a population -- and then said chainstore opened anyway, despite Central Oregon not having the numbers specified.

Interesting if Big Boys are truly aware of the "extreme seasonal fluctuations."  I've always thought that outsiders come to Bend and open businesses without really being aware of that.  It comes as a shock, I think.

I've always said -- if you want to open a store in Bend, go pick a street corner on a Tuesday in late October and count the passersby.  But of course by definition, that's not when they are here.  If the vast majority of people come in the summer and Christmas, then they are most likely in that number, right?

I think that the idea that Bend has a "much more dynamic market than they expect just looking at our population" is mostly bullshit.  In fact, I'd argue the opposite.  Our demographics mostly suck.  We're a big donut hole of a town -- a large number of minimum wage employees, and a overlay of rich folks, and a lousy middle class. 

So the rich folks, right?  Well, my guess is that in most cases, they spend their money elsewhere. 

There was a point in the lowest part of the Great Recession when we had more furniture stores than new houses built each year.  A goodly number of those furniture stores are gone...

 I've also always said -- I make money four months out of the year, I lose money four months out of the year, I break even four months out of the year.  If you're willing to accept those numbers, then Bend is the place for you.

Bend survives because of tourism, but it doesn't thrive because we are missing the middle class wages from some business other than those dependent on minimum wage jobs.  I don't think that is going to change any time soon.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Downtown Comings and Goings: 10/10/13.

New restaurant selling "raw food and juices" opening where the Pastrami Deli was, called Salud Raw Food.

Bhuvana, selling yoga products.


Salud Raw Food, Franklin Ave., 10/10/13
Bhuvana, Minnisota Ave., 10/10/13.
Outside In, Wall St., 9/26/13.
Bishop's Barbershop, Oregon Ave., 7/24/13
Oregon Store, Wall/Franklin, 7/24/13
Supervillain Sandwiches, Bond St., 7/24/13
Taste Oregon, Bond St., 7/24/13
Wild Rose, 5/2/13.
Bluebird Coffee Company, Franklin, 3/29/13.
Pure Kitchen, Franklin (Bond), 3/29/13
Jeff Murray Photography, Minnesota Ave., 3/29/13
Luvs Donuts, Minnesota Ave. 3/29/13
Hub Cyclery, Wall St. 3/29/13
Ju-bee-lee, Wall. St.  3/29/13.
Sweet Saigon, Wall St., 1/20/13.
Brickhouse, Oregon Ave., 1/20/13.
The Drake, Wall St. , 1/20/13
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.)


Pastrami Deli, Franklin Ave., 10/10/13.
Edman Furniture, Wall St., 9/26/13.
At the Beach, Wall ST., 9/18/13.
New York City Sub, Bond St. 3/29/13
Soba Asian Bistro, Bond St., 3/29/13
Volt Lighting, Wall St.  3/29/13.
Topolino, Wall Street, 1/20/13.
Cozy Lamb, Minnesota Ave., 1/20/13 (moved inside, Bond St.)
Amalia's, Wall Street, 1/5/13.
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 )

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Finishing another book.

I'm finishing a new book:  Spell Realm.  Somewhat surprised to see that title has never been used.

Anyway, I got through about 5/6th of the book and then lost faith in it.  I've been eking out a couple of paragraphs a day since then.

I'm thinking that all these fantasies I'm writing all have similar themes and I ought to just make them all one world.  It will require some rewriting, but it isn't beyond my ability.

Spell Realm is probably the first book of a trilogy that ends with Sometimes a Dragon.  It will require that I rewrite SAD.

Meanwhile, I've started thinking of a new book which might be the middle book, or it might be the first book in another trilogy.

Meanwhile, I think my Lore books can be turned into Spell Realm books.

I think what all this requires is a bunch of planning -- mapping it all out on a timeline, making everything consistent.

Anyway, I read another 4 chapters of Spell Realm at writer's group last night, and it felt pretty good.  It felt smooth.  So I just need to push through to the end of the book in my next writing session, and then start drawing graphs and thinking it all through before I start anything else.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

So I guess I'm a writer.

Have gone through a crisis of confidence.  Not much happening, either in the ebook world or the traditional route, so I'm wondering if there is any point to all this.  Especially the amount of time I'm taking, and the cost.

So I've taken a couple steps back to think about what I'm doing.

And then -- a story creeps into my mind, and it starts expanding, and I start writing down ideas -- and suddenly, the end result doesn't matter.  It's the actual storytelling that matters.

So I guess I'm a writer.

From optimist to fatalist, from fatalist to optimist.

Like probably anyone who grew up in the 50's-60's, I've always been a progressive optimist.  I've always felt that culture would get progressively more advanced.

No more.  I'm more of a fatalist now.

There are too many of us.  Doing stupid things.  Greedy things.  Selfish and short-sighted things.

We always have, but our world could absorb all our faults.

Accumulated errors are dragging down our democracy and our climate.

So I think we have some rough patches ahead of us in the future -- which I probably won't be around to see.

Is it just getting older?  Or are things truly getting worse?

Probably both.

Being a good liberal -- I'm now going to turn my "feelings" around and look at the facts.

By most measures, the world has progressed.  There is less violence, believe it or not.  Science does seem to supply answer to problems.  The systems are probably more sturdy than I think.  Reading history is actually reassuring because we've been through much darker times than these.

So much of what I'm seeing is probably just a historical arc, and because it's concentrated in the news and I've read so much news, it just seems to be worse than it is.

So I guess I'll just have to live with the ambiguity. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Harry Pinkett Star Wars

I got caught watching the Harry Pinkett Star Wars Prequel reviews on Youtube.

At first because they were amusing.

But the more I watched, the more apropos to my own writing problems the criticism became.

He completely tears apart Lucas's writing, basically.  Also his directing and producing, but I was paying attention to the writing.

The plot holes and inconsistencies, the lack of logical character development, the clunky dialogue, and so on.

He basically makes the case that Lucas didn't spend enough time developing his story, and didn't get enough outside input.  That he didn't think it through.

At least that's what I took from it:  He didn't think it through.

I've more or less decided that my next effort will be researched and plotted and outlined before I start.  That I will think through all the characters and motivations.   That I will try harder to eliminate logical inconsistencies. 

It may be a recipe for Writer's Block.  I don't know.

But I think I have to try.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Guns of October.

If you've ever read The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman,  this government showdown sounds really familiar.

Before WWI, nobody really thought they'd go to war, but they kept pushing in that direction anyway.
There was a spirit of "We'll defeat them with our esprit de corp."  A belief that the side with the strongest commitment would win.

Enough time had passed between wars that most of the young people had forgotten what it was like.

 Bullets and cannons and gas quickly made esprit de corp a dangerous thing to depend upon.

I know that whenever I've tipped over into disaster in my own life, it wasn't because one thing happened -- it was usually a series of smaller mistakes that put me on the edge of the cliff, and made me vulnerable when the big one came along.

Just saying.  We're playing with fire.

What's really disheartening, though, is even if we escape it this time -- they seem determined to use the same tactics next time -- and the next -- and the next. 

So disaster is inevitable if you keep pushing the boundaries.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What's more important: Writing or content?

Of course, you can't really separate the two -- but for the purposes of discussion I'm going to go ahead and try anyway.

Whenever I have the urge to write, I think first of story and characters.

Then instantly upon starting out, the actual technical process of writing comes into sway.

Only then do I think about what it is I chose to write about.  Since I tend to write stories or get my ideas almost at a whim, I'm not terribly careful about selecting content.

How many times since I published Death of an Immortal have I heard someone say:  "I don't read vampire stories."  So if I write a vampire story, that means that none of those people will read it.
Whatever I choose, someone won't like it.  But there is no reason not to try to come up with a idea that is intriguing to as many people as possible.

In other words, what I choose to write matters as much or more than how well I write it.

I'm realizing that there are two very important considerations to consider before embarking on a story:

1.) Is the subject matter intriguing?

2.) Does the subject matter lend itself to a strong start?

Any subject can be made interesting by good writing.   But only if people are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.  As an unproven writer, people just aren't going to automatically agree to give you a try.  You have to overcome reader inertia, you have to answer their question  -- "Why should I go out of my way to buy this book and at this time?"

Well, because either the content intrigues you enough to try -- or the writing is so absorbing that you are pulled in.

Neither of these things are easy, obviously.  Delaying one's writing, waiting for the "killer idea" and holding yourself to the standard of "spectacular beginnings" is a recipe for writer's block, I think.

I have to want to write something, and that is more important than trying to figure out if other people will want to read it (obviously, you can't please everyone)  -- but I have to believe that the two things aren't mutually exclusive.

I've decided that I probably do need to put more forethought into what I select and how well the story begins.  I have proven that I can write all day.  I have innumerable stories.  But I need to be more thoughtful about what I start writing.  Maybe even allow myself to stop writing a book if I don't think it's coming together.

I will continue to try to improve my writing technique in any case.  None of the writing I've done until now has been wasted.

But I'm not just going to start writing something on a whim anymore.  I'm going to let the idea settle in, and think about it, and decide if it is worth pursuing.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Trying to beat last year.

I went into this year committed to being prudent in my buying. 

I've got the product lines I want, in the right proportions.  It's been a long time getting here.  So all I need to do is keep the product lines stocked, but avoid trying to bring in whole new product lines, or expanding the ones I have without justification.

In the past, higher sales have always been the only justification I needed.  But that means all the profits are captured by inventory, and I've decided it's time to see if the store can actually liquify some of those profits.

It's been hard.  I think I've made just a tiny little progress in profits at a tiny little loss in gross sales -- at great restraint.

Thing is, after 9 months I'm only 1.5% behind last year in sales -- and I had what I consider an under- performing November and December last year, so there is a decent chance I could actually match last year.

I've beaten last year in sales 4 out of 9 months.  October will probably be hard to beat, but add in November and December, and I should beat last year about half the time and end up in about the same place.

The trend is up -- beat last year in both August and September.

An entire year of being very disciplined has probably resulted in a few percentage points better profit, at the cost of one and a half percentage points lower sales. 

Not a dramatic result, but continued for several years might actually amount to something.

The other cost is that I'm not having as much fun buying stuff.  It's very addicting, buying stuff.  But like I said, when I buy everything I think the store needs, I just get a bigger store, with higher sales, but whatever profit I make is frozen in inventory.  For one thing, I simply don't have ROOM anymore to act that way.

I'm trying hard to be mature about this.  It's hard.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Until the digital bits defuse.

Even though I've had Death of an Immortal up for sale for a long time now, I went ahead and paid my editor, Lara, to give it a editing sweep.

No real changes in substance -- but just cleaning up the language and such.

I'll resubmit it next week.  Like I said, it's the same book -- just cleaned up.

Hey, this book will be forever online -- until the digital bits defuse -- and I want it to be as good as it can be.  She already edited the second book, Rule of Vampire, and she'll be editing the third book, Blood of Gold, as soon as it reaches her in line.

She's doing a quick review of Led to the Slaughter since I rewrote the first 30 pages (based on a suggestion by a professional) and added several thousand words of historical detail.

Then she is going to tackle Linda's book: Telling Tree.  Linda is a excited and a little nervous about it, but I've been trying to tell her that some clean editing is a blessing.  No matter how you try, you are going to miss things.  A competent third party can catch lots of stuff.

Linda has more problems with grammar and spelling than I do -- I generally get most of it right.  But she is a wildly creative storyteller, so I'm encouraging her to let herself be edited.  When Lara is done, I'm going to take a swipe at it too, though I have to be very careful not to discourage Linda.  She's well on the way to finishing the second book, Once on a Blue Moon.  She has the cover of the Telling Tree ready, so all she needs to do is finish up the editing process.

I've been working on a fantasy, Spell Realm -- that isn't coming easily.  That's all right.  I probably needed to slow down.  I'm struggling with it.  It turns out to be the first book of a trilogy, of which the already finished book, Sometimes a Dragon is the third book.  But I will have to completely rewrite Sometimes a Dragon to fit what I've done in the first book.  (And no doubt the second book, too.)

Just sort of settling in to the long haul.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

SHIELD and Hobbit.

Watched the second episode of SHIELD.  It was pretty blah.  The two English nerds were annoying.  Agent Coulson continues to be the best part of the show.

But I do trust Joss Whedon.  He always starts out slow.  If this can make it to the second season, it will probably be awesome.

The trailer to the Hobbit 2 looks pretty cool.  I'm looking forward to seeing it.

What it isn't -- is the Hobbit.

Sorry, wrong tone, wrong pace.

I recently wrote a book that paralleled the events in the Hobbit -- a Cyberpunk adventure where instead of one "ring" to rule them all, it was one "flashdrive" to rule them all.  I called Freedy Filkins: To Rule Them All.  (Available on Smashwords and Amazon.)

Yes, I'm comparing my book to the movie.  I have a very light touch, not heavy handed.  The Hobbit in my memory had a very light touch.  But maybe that's just me.

Like I said, I'm not putting down the movie -- just saying that the book is different.  More than the usual difference.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Look what doesn't sell.

Book liquidation lists are really revealing.

There are "types" of books that seem to predominate.  Usually they are copycat trend books.  So if there is a successful new type of book -- say, supernatural stories with hot women in tight leather pants fighting creatures -- there will be dozens and dozens of books like that.

Or young kids in horn-rimmed glasses.

Or guys investigating historical anomalies.

They appear to be trying to ride the wave.   And most you've never heard of.  Most were probably flops.

How can they keep producing flops?  Because just one of these books hitting big probably pays for all the rest.

As a writer, I see these trends and realize that most books are shoehorned into one of these types.  That if you aren't writing that type of book you are working against the tide.

There are some really good books mixed in -- which I'm happy to pick up at a discount.

Still, it's pretty obvious to me that the trend is the master, not the individual book.  I think what happens is that something catches on and others are thinking the same and/or what someone else is writing is just enough like the current trend to be marketed that way.

Won't change what I'm doing.  What I write usually isn't that far off from what is being published.  I do tend to have the same kind of taste I see being published.  But even if I didn't, I still would write what I want to write.

My first three books were marketed as "Sword and Sorcery" even though when I wrote them I didn't think of them that way -- I thought of them as "Heroic Quest Fantasy."

But, you know -- close enough.