Saturday, June 30, 2018

Was in Crescent City for a few days. Home of the homeless and near-destitute.

It's easy to forget how vibrant downtown Bend is.

Great beaches and redwoods and the Smith River. Why isn't this place thriving?

Same problem Bend had for a long time. It isn't on the way to anything much. It has to develop as a destination, and which comes first--the visitors or the development? Bend had some investors; Brooks Resources especially.

But I do remember when downtown Bend was half empty and there was no sign it was coming back. Only in hindsight does it seem obvious.

Waited until two weeks before leaving before making reservations, so got an older motel and I'm not liking it. Didn't sleep much last night. I think we're just going to have to spring for 3 star motels instead of 2 stars from now on, and make sure we make reservations far in advance.

Linda and I haven't had a vacation together for more than two years because we were certain that Panga the cat was on her last legs. But she seems to be doing fine now. I finally convinced Linda we could leave her alone with visits from a friend.

"She's a cat!" I say.

But not to Linda. She is more than a cat. 

Woke up one morning to see 98% humidity. That can't be right. Do we drown at 100% humidity?

I'm trying to do some rewriting, but I've suddenly gotten lazy with my writing. I've spent a couple of weeks trying to prepare Pegasus for summer, and that was unexpectedly fun. I'm really enjoying my one day a week at the store; realizing that I was missing the people and the action.

Would love to write on the beach, but even near July at midday it's barely over 60 degrees with wind. I tried to find a place out of the way behind some driftwood. Sort of worked. Have worked on the first three chapters. Not a whole lot of progress. Will try for another few chapters tonight. Obviously not going to have this done by July 1.

On the good side, I really like what I've written.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Loving the changes at Pegasus.

The store looks great. At the cost of losing most of the used books, we have dramatically increased the space devoted to showing off art books and graphic novels.

I can't get more used books without trading or buying, which I just don't want to do. (Sports cards made me allergic to trading and buying off the street--like a peanut allergy that would kill me.)
Also--new books outsell used books by 10 to 1 Really. Since used books were free, the ratio was more like 5 to 1, which made them just worthwhile enough to devote two or three hundred square feet. But no more.

The bonus is that by moving my art books over to the new section, I'll also be able to add about a third more space for new books, which are our best growing category. More space for children's graphic novels especially.

So I'm really looking forward to that too.

It was a lot of work, but I lucked out when Todd was home with his trailer--hard to imagine how it could have gotten done any other way, which also means it was meant to be. Todd saved my life, as well as Sabrina and Dylan and three of their friends they Shanghaied into helping. Those fixtures are as solid and as heavy as rocks, man.

It'll take a few months to really find the groove that these new spots have created, but meanwhile, it looks great.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Diversify or die.

Some comic retailers are cheering the addition of exclusive comics in Walmart as well as other outreach ideas as a way to "grow" the audience.

Sounds reasonable?


I've been through this before with sports cards. It doesn't work. But you can't convince anyone of that, because it "sounds reasonable."

Sabrina said, "Yes, but we have the expertise. People still have to come to us."

I say, "That's exactly what I thought about sports cards."

To me this is the equivalent of publishers asking for free writing as a way of "promoting" yourself. Almost all professional writers know this is a scam.

Or the equivalent of closing our downtown streets on half of the busiest peak weekends of the year (summer) and inviting people to set up in front of our stores (without the high rents we pay all year) and saying "It promotes your business."

It's all bullshit but there are just enough idiots and newbies to go along with it.

I have a weird advantage in that I've had to add product lines to my store from the very beginning. Comics have always only got us about 70% of the way to where we need to be to be viable, and only about 50% of the way to being truly profitable. For some reason, this ratio hasn't changed in 35 years no matter how big Bend gets.

So I've added books and games and toys (and innumerable other attempts) to the mix and that works.

There are a lot of comic stores out there, especially in bigger cities, who could get away with just selling comics--sometimes, not even with graphic novels in the mix.

It's a dangerous position to be in.

Diversify or die, I always say.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Kid's graphic novels are a Thing.

Over the last couple of years I've been excoriating other bookstores for their lack of inventory.

Today I finally got a chance to sit down and examine the "Tilting at Windmill" column by Brian Hibbs where he analyzes the bestselling graphic novels from last year.

20 out of the top 20 were young adult or kids GN's. Probably the vast majority of the top 50 and top 100.

I started carrying these kid's GN's a few years ago and they nearly leapt off the shelf. Books I'd never heard of. Books that the comic market sometimes carried, but most often didn't.

I basically can sell a Dog Man every day. Believe me, that isn't normal.

What a discovery.

(Not so coincidentally, Barnes and Noble just announced they are creating a whole new section of nothing but kid's graphic novels. Wouldn't you know it.)

So now I'll excoriate myself for not following my own advice. This T at W's came out three months ago and only now have I gotten around to analyzing it. Found dozens of titles that are bestsellers that I haven't carried. I don't have much doubt that most of these will sell fast.

I did sort of have to wait for summer--and I was distracted by my renovations, but still no excuse not to hit the summer running. With any luck, all of these will show up by July 1, so most of the summer still to go, and I just need to keep making reorders every week.

This will be somewhat new for us and somewhat a gamble. We've always reordered from Diamond once a week, but I haven't been as regular with books and games. So this summer we are doing that. A budget has been set aside for each and every week. Hopefully we won't ever have to go without Calvin and Hobbes for more than a day or two.

Even before I started stocking up on these kid's GN's, I tried to carry a full line of C & H and Tintin and Asterix and Far Side for summer.

Not to brag, but this book thing seems easy to me--knock wood loudly and often--compared to carrying comics. Ordering comics blind two months in advance for fickle fan boys can be a daunting task.

Ordering tried and true books that have a long history of selling by contrast seems like a no-brainer. You need to identify what books will sell and just keep ordering them.

Sometimes you even find a little pearl among this detritus. I got a Princess Bride randomly one day, sold it instantly, ordered another, and I've sold dozens and dozens since.

If you can assemble a thousand books that can do that, you've got something. Since downtown has great foot traffic these days, carrying Dog Man is like printing money.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Content and happy with my own little world.

Had a friend come in who is connected journalistically to some big name authors and so on. Talking about the realm of movies and TV shows and bestsellers and on and on.

I blurted out, "That stuff just isn't pertinent to me. It has nothing to do with what I do."

That's not the writing world as I experience it.

Nor does it need to be.

Comparing myself to Stephen King, say, is like comparing Pegasus Books to Walmart. It's ridiculous and unnecessary and misleading about what is important.

Look, I had four stores at one point and I hated it. I was no longer doing what I started out to do, or what I really liked.

I love my little store. It's my playground. I can have fun here, do what I want, buy what I want, display it the way I want, talk about it or not talk about it, just my own little world.

Content and happy.

The idea of having a hundred stores would be a nightmare. It's not what I want.

So this may sound strange, but my writing career is pretty much the same way. I'm not after fame or fortune. If it happened as a byproduct, I might or might not like the outcome. It may sound weird, but I suspect I wouldn't like it. (Sure, the money...)

But since I'm making zero effort in that direction (just as I'm not interested in duplicating or expanding Pegasus Books) that will never happen.

I love my little writing career.  I'm happy with it. It's my playground. I can have fun, do what I want, write what I want, publish it the way I want, talk about it or not talk about it, just my own little world.

Content and happy.

I try to re-read Watterson's (Calvin & Hobbes) commencement address once a year to re-orient myself to what's important.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Hidden treasures--Pegasus's downstairs.

Got sucked into the maw of the downstairs yesterday instead of boxing books. Wanted to make sure I could find enough space to store the boxes. Bonus, I found a bunch of empty boxes, which means I'll come close to being able box them all after all.

I've done all the work so far. Two more days of boxing, and I'm pretty tired. Come Sunday evening, I'm hoping that Dylan and Sabrina can get some friends to come and help and they can haul all the boxes downstairs.

I'm going to watch. I'm too old for this shit.

Anyway, poking my head into the boxes of stuff. Found hundreds of toys--mostly one-ups, mostly toys that are the only toy in a series that no one wanted, mostly damaged. Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly treasures down there but no way to know without spending way too much time researching.

And even if they are worth money, I don't sell online, no time or interest in developing that, and besides whenever I did it in the past, it proved to be not worth the time and effort.

So I thought I had maybe 100 boxes of comics, 300 comics apiece. Turns out, including comics upstairs, I probably have 200 boxes. There is a bunch of space in them, say 25%--so more like 150 boxes.

Wow. All of them basically unsaleable.

Everyone but everyone doubts me when I say that. Believe me, I've tried. There aren't any hidden prizes down there. (Well, maybe there are but see above note about toys...) They are almost all midlist titles or below. The Spider-mans and Batmans are mostly gone.

Add to the downstairs menagerie are all kinds of goofy things from 35 years of business, again no doubt of interest to someone but who?

Here's the thing--there simply is no cost-effective way to match the product with the person who might be interested. I have tens of thousands of sports cards, hundreds of boxes of books, tens of thousands of non-sport cards, hundred of incomplete sets, and so on. If I could get the technical value of them--say in a price guide, both comics and cards--I'd be rich.

I not only can't get that, I can't really get but pennies on the dollar, and I got better things to do. The store upstairs is doing well. I can get keystone for my efforts instead of pennies.

I found a couple dozen toys worth saving and brought them upstairs. The rest is junk.

I know some of you are thinking that you could dive into that stuff and make use of it. I assure you that everyone who has ever tried has been defeated.

Cherry-picking maybe, but screw that. If this chaos is ever going to be worth selling to someone, I can't have people cherry-picking. I allowed people to go down there for more years than I should have with the caveat that they wouldn't cherry-pick.

Everyone but everyone said they wouldn't cherry-pick and everyone but everyone cherry--picked. So I put an end to it.

It kills me to know that someone with limitless energy, time, and resourcefulness could probably make use of this stuff, that person ain't me or anyone I know. (I know you're thinking you could do it, but believe me...probably not...)

It's fun at first and then you just get tangle up in it and realize, oh my God, I could spend the rest of my life down here and never get it in order. Heh.

It's a bit like an abandoned goldmine. There comes a time when it costs more money to extract the gold than the gold is worth.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Pegasus Improvements.

Second day of boxing books, making room for the new fixtures. Have two of the new fixtures against the window. I think this is going to work!

Today I'm tackling the corner that I intend for used books, two racks worth, then if I have time, work on boxing the SF and Fantasy books.

Have decided to have 3 shelves of mass market SF and Fantasy, 3 shelves of mysteries/thrillers, 1 shelf of horror, and 1 shelf of westerns.

On the other rack, it will all be general fiction trade-paperbacks. So we will still have a selection of used books, but just using 1/20th the space.

Did a little math and figure these new face-out magazine racks are 240 feet of linear display space. Which should allow me to display something like 360 graphic novels full cover--or a little more if I leaf them slightly, say 7 books per shelf, which works out to 420, minus some space devoted to art books, so somewhere around 400 books that can be seen in all their glory.

You have to realize, other than an 8 foot space on a current rack, and a single rack devoted to Indie graphic novels which is probably 50 linear feet, and a Dark Horse rack (how do they rate?) of about 20 linear feet, at the base of which is another 20 linear feet for art books, all other graphic novels are displayed spine out.

So I currently only have a grand total of 98 linear feet of display for graphic novels.

(I do face-out on comic monthlies--really the only way to do it.)

Crazy! These are books with crazy good art!

But I decided my store would do better by having as many books as possible, and a single face out book is the equivalent of something like 15 books by spine. So my calculation was that having 15 books was better than displaying one book. Which was the right decision at the time, I think.

Used books were great for us for a time because I was getting all I needed from Linda. So the dollar value of any sold used book was twice that of any other item in the store.

But surprise, surprise, new books outsell used books by ten to one, or five to one taking into account the discount level.

But the deciding factor is I have no more access to used books unless I trade or buy off the street, and that is against my policy. (I simply can't do it anymore--I spent 18 years doing it until I was ready to collapse in a nervous angry puddle, then quit doing it happily for the last 18 years no matter how much it might have benefited me monetarily: read my book, the Small Business Survivalist Handbook. 😉

So this finally gives me permission to "waste" space on face-outs. The craziest part of all is that the best-selling graphic novels are the ones that haven't gotten any exposure (on the theory that Saga will sell with or without face-out.) So Image will now have a rack of its own, and Marvel, and DC, and Vertigo, and probably Star Wars, and the rest will be an experiment to find out the best use.

I love doing this. It is a creative effort. Something very satisfying about it.

But also a lot of work.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Brought the six new fixtures into the store. Spent most of Sunday night removing one of the used books fixtures and boxing up the books to make room for them.

This is going to be a much bigger job than I expected. I'm definitely going to run out of boxes, which means that the fixtures along the walls will be emptied last, which was the main benefit to the whole thing, dammit.

It's a good thing Todd was home with his work trailer to load them up on. I was delusional about doing it myself without a trailer or a hand trolley--or Todd. (Borrowed a trolley from the little grocery downtown.)

The fixtures are bigger and more substantial than I expected, which is a good thing in the end. I was able to get them for about 1/4th what they would cost new, but still a big extra expense. They're in good shape. Solid. Nicely painted white, which fits the rest of the store.

But for the first time in years I'll be able to show graphic novels face out. I mean, I've basically been trying to sell art books by hiding the art.

I thought I was going to be able to do this over a couple of days, but I'm now realizing I'll need spend at least a week. Taking today off to go to a movie, then diving in tomorrow.

Next day; Watch Hotel Artemis which I enjoyed. Both this and Upgrade were the kind of thing we've been watching on Netflix, but now that Linda I have date day on Tuesdays, we've been going to more movies and I'm sort of fed up with remakes and corporate crap. A little indie smell is refreshing.

Going to box up another bookshelf worth of books today, then again tomorrow, and Friday and Saturday, turning this into a full week thing.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Having read through the "Small Business Survivalist Handbook," I couldn't help but compare the bookstore to my writing.

The idea of staying smaller to stay satisfied, to avoid burnout, to avoid doing the things you don't want to do merely for the money, and most of all the idea of not spending all your time, space, energy, and money on ineffective and counterproductive promotion all hold true.

The idea of filling the store with inventory is much like being a productive writer.

I'd say the one big difference is finding a viable selling platform. With the store I'm on a "High Street" where a casual consumer can find me. Or rather, enough consumers can find me.

I haven't been able to find an equivalent platform to the High Street with publishing.

This is where the natural tendency is to assume that I haven't promoted my books effectively, that I need to do more.

But that doesn't usually work with the store and I don't think it will work with writing either.

And since everything else seems pretty analogous, I'm going to go with my instinct and just keep trying to write the best books I can and put them out on the available platforms.

Without content, the platform doesn't matter. I have a feeling the platform will arrive one of these days, one way or another.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Of all things, I just published my first non-fiction book.

Here's the synopsis:
"When I started out I was given all kinds of advice about owning a small business. Most of it was wrong even when it was meant to inspire me—especially when it was meant to inspire me. 
But reality has a way of imposing itself. 
What I’m offering in this book is what I’ve learned from thirty-five years of mistakes, trial and error, and of listening to bullshit. 
Business is hard but it doesn’t have to be impossible.
There are a lot of myths in small business and much of the common wisdom is flat wrong. The myths are perpetuated by the promotional/inspiration/advertising industry whose job really is to sell you on the idea of owning the business, not on the actual nuts and bolts of running a small business. 
Most of all, this book is meant to steer you toward listening to your own experience and instincts. 
To think for yourself. 
To be skeptical of easy answers. 
To look for the reality beneath all the mythology.
If I can save you from even one of my mistakes, then this book will be worth it."

So...what inspired me to do this after sitting on the manuscript for a couple of years?

A guy recently purchased a store and I went in to talk to him. I gave him a little advice and he seemed receptive, so I gave him a condensed version of my Contrarian's Advice.

I thought maybe he actually heard me.

Two months later, I go in and he proudly announces all the things he's doing, as if I'll approve.

I don't say anything even though just about everything he's doing is diametrically opposed to what I'd recommended. He has been totally captured by the trade organization's version of what his store should be like, and by what I've come to call, The Promotional/Inspirational/Advertising Industrial Complex.

Anyway, it spurred me to read what I'd written, and I felt not only was it written pretty well, but that the advice still holds up.

If you've read this blog for long, you've heard many of the same issues aired, though maybe not as organized and concise. 

So what the hay. I'm putting it out there. A contrarian is rarely listened to, though in some ways they can give the most valuable advice. But there it is. My thirty-eight years experience in running a small business.

I can hope that it might save a few small businesses unnecessary heartache.

Finished "Fateplay."

I finished the first draft of "Fateplay" yesterday.

A future where just about everyone does Larping and cosplay all the time, at work, at play, at home, with the aid of VR and holograms.

Still missing most of the chapter headings. I'm going to spend the next couple of weeks fixing it up, and send it off to my editor, Lara, on July 1.

It's 96K words as of now, so it will be over 100K before I'm finished. There are lots of implications to the premise that I have yet to explore. Plot first, research second.

In between writing sessions, I read through the "Small Business Survivalist Handbook: a Contrarian's Guide for Mom and Pops."

I wrote this a couple years ago, because I felt so much of the advice given to small business was not only wrong, but harmful. But then I backed off, thinking I didn't want to be a know it all.

But I recently gave some advice to a new store owner only to realize two months later he was doing everything I'd advised him not to do and was proud of it, because it was what everyone else had told him to do.


The advice still reads pretty well, so I decided to publish it. Then realized that the title on the cover and title on the manuscript were slightly different, which is pretty maddening. Especially since I announced it on social media.


I really need to check this stuff more than once.

Also, I hated my synopsis, so I want to take another try at that.

So I removed the book temporarily until I can fix it.

This is going to be Re-Write Summer!  Get the four Lander books done once and for all. Finish up the four Tales of the Thirteen Principalities novellas. Do a little work on a couple of my thrillers.

Then try to figure out a reasonable roll-out schedule.

Trying to take care of business. Trying not to start a new book.

 Of course, the caveat has always been, don't turn down the creative urge so it's more than possible I'll start something new. But this time with the idea of also catching up a little.

To be honest, I only see how productive I've been when I look back. When I'm in the middle, it seems like nothing is happening. Heh.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Crossroad has come up with an updated cover to Blood of the Succubus, with Mike Corey's original art but with new lettering that is probably less elegant but much more noticeable. Plus, "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders" subtitle is no longer on the cover.

Who am I to argue? These guys are the pros, I'm just a writer.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Been four days since I last posted.

But not because I haven't written anything. In fact I've written 10 posts to myself, each of them either too private or not interesting enough for anyone else.

Neither is this post, probably, but I probably should post it anyway.

I've decided to stay away from all "clickbait", and that includes most internet news sites, most of Facebook and Twitter, and cable new programs. The Outrage Machine was just getting to be too much. I was really feeling sad about the state of our country and culture.

It's been a struggle, but I've managed so far. But it also means I'm not online as much, and I think that means I haven't been here as often to post.

Except I've been writing, but once I turned inward, the blog posts seemed to turn inward too.

Meanwhile, I'm oh so close to finishing "Time In/Time Out." I've decided not to substantially change the story, as I'd been thinking for half the book. It was good when I wrote it. I've decided not to second guess myself.

I may change my mind again, but the one thing about this turning inward is that I'm giving much more weight to my own feelings about things, instead of trying to figure out what others might like.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Computer wizard and friend, Aaron, was over and I told him my idea for the latest WIP.

He immediately told me of an idea he had while driving home and feeling bored. (See, all you need to be a writer is to daydream yourself out of boredom.)

It was a great idea. Linda had handed me a box this morning for my "Box Book" and I immediately filled out a card with Aaron's idea and plunked it in there.

Before he left, he gave me another idea, which I added to the box.

Which made me wonder if I shouldn't hold off on the rewrite until I've accumulated enough of these ideas to really be useful. Both ideas he gave me would be useful to incorporate in the first rewrite rather than adding them in later.

Also--they seemed much better ideas than the ones I was coming up with. But then--by definition, they were ideas I hadn't thought of, so that's how they would seem, right? You don't know what you don't know.

Still have to finish the book.

Still ambitious, I guess.

It's funny. The book I wanted more than any other to be spontaneous and original and inspired--I'm having to grind out the ending.

I mean, I don't dislike what I've written. I even think I've managed to get some surprises in there. But it's been a struggle.

I have 3 or 4 chapters left. I spent all day yesterday grinding out one chapter. It was slow and arduous and not at all fun, but it got done in the end.

I'm going to do the same thing today. Lock myself in my room and not come out until I've accomplished the goal.

Had a good talking to myself this morning. This is a book of ideas. Speculative ideas, which is somewhat unexpected. I've stayed away from writing SF because I felt it required too much science, but these ideas are ones I feel capable of handling, given some research and thought.

I stayed away from fantasy, SF, and thrillers at first because they all had genre conventions I wasn't comfortable with.

Horror was my go-to genre because it allowed me to straight out write the stories I wanted as long as I added something with a horror tinge, which wasn't that hard to do.

I suppose Faeire Punk is more fantasy than horror, but most of my books have held to the genre, if only loosely. Freedy Filkins is definitely fantasy. But both are "modern" fantasies, not the heroic fantasy that I attempted with Star Axe and Snowcastles/Icetowers.

I've attempted four thrillers. The first I sold as a ghostwritten book (the supposed author is regularly a top ten New York Times bestseller). So I guess I have to see that as a success. Deadfall Ridge fell a little short, Takeover was probably over my head, and Shadows Over Summer House tipped over into the supernatural to make it work.

Time In/Time Out would be my first book that I would consider to actually be SF in full. It started out as a Ready Player One type book. I liked RPO a lot, enjoyed the overall tone, so I went for something like that tone.

The basic premise is a future where everyone cosplays or Larps. In my story, I call it (and creative anachronism and re-enacters) under the umbrella term "hyper-reality." (A bit of Orwellian doublespeak.) People dress up in costumes to go to work, to dinner, to play.

This idea really arose from my reaction to the hologram episodes of ST:TNG. I loved the Moriority and Sherlock Holmes episodes. But it always brought up the question: if you could live in a holodeck, why would you ever leave?

Once you ask that question, a whole host of other questions arise.

So this book dealt with a lot of ideas, mostly offhandedly and in service to the story in this first draft, but I'd like to go back and explore the ideas a little more.

So I'm locking myself in my room for the next few days to finish the book. But I'm looking forward to a rewrite for once because there is some meat there, and I think it will be fun. Second draft will be to reconcile the first half with the second half, as usual. Change the history of the protagonist.

The third draft, and I don't think there is any hurry, will be to explore the ideas more. I will probably go off and do other things, like rewrite Deadfall Ridge and Takeover, and finish the Lander series, and do a couple more Tales of the Thirteen Principality novellas, before I come back and finish Time In/Time Out.

I'm going to set aside a box and throw ideas into it as they occur to me. My first Box Book, so to speak.

Still ambitious, I guess. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Black Dog

If there is one person who I would have thought had all the attributes I don't have--and who I thought as the luckier for it, has committed suicide. Anthony Bourdain. Which goes to show you never can tell.

I'm a happy man, content. I like my life. I worry that I'm complacent, that I don't travel enough, that I don't have enough friends, that I'm not urbane, that I don't do enough activities. (All things that Anthony Bourdain had in spades.)

Depression, man. Kicks butt. No regard for achievement or anything else. Maybe addiction (he had a history.)

I should be grateful for what I have.

I have a wonderful wife, I'm solvent, my business is just enough of a challenge, I'm writing and achieving. I'm happy alone. I never get bored.  I'm healthy, knock wood, I don't have addictions.

I had clinical depression my final year in high school and for the next ten years of so. Came out of it slowly. It's one of the reasons I'm not terribly social. I'm very self-protective and I find that if I do too much outside stuff I tend to lose my equilibrium.

I get a sense that I did learn some wisdom from the experience--though the cost was so high I wouldn't recommend it.

The Black Dog never returned, though the literature says it might. 40 years free of it. I sort of doubt it will come back now--though I am always on the lookout.

I'm surprised I came through it all so well. In a sense, it happened early enough in my life that I was able to learn some hard lessons. I had a family who saw me through the hard parts.

And I was lucky.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The WIP is taking suddenly veering into SF territory.

This new direction makes a goofy book even goofier, but it engages my interest, and that's the main thing. Hopefully it will engage others.

I'll have to do a complete rewrite to incorporate the changes, but that's all right. I probably should be doing a complete rewrite anyway.

Then I want to research all the issues the books comes up with and include the pertinent information and current thinking on those things. It should give the book a little heft.

But most of all, I want my imagination to have free rein and only try to explain it later. It's going to take close to two months to finish just the first draft even having written the first 30K words in 4 days. So I've definitely slowed down. But the story still interests me and that's the main thing.

Waiting for inspiration is the right answer. Knowing that this book is mostly for myself. All this is what I'll probably be doing from now on. Finding a subject and living it for a few months at a time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

It's weird to see the ABA (American Booksellers Association) trying to save Barnes and Noble. But at least the ABA is keeping up their record of being consistently wrong about just about everything.

I have no interest in saving B & N. They deserve to be kicked to the side. If it takes down a couple of big publishers, again--they made the consistently wrong choices.

If B & N disappeared tomorrow, I guarantee there would be a 1000 indies popping up to take their place.

If a couple of big publishers fold, I guarantee good writers will have no trouble finding new publishers.

Amazon? Amazon is a fact. We have to live with Amazon. It ain't going away.
I am roughly three chapters from the end of "Time In/Time Out" (or "Fateplay.")

Thing is, though I have an ending that I could immediately write, I'm not excited by it. So I'm holding off for a grand idea. The grand idea might very well necessitate me rewriting the book from beginning to end, but I think I might be ready to do that.

As long as I don't actually write the ending it stays fluid and open to possibilities.

One idea I just thought of was to instead of the alternate realities of the story being by way VR and holodecks and such, that at some point in the story they have become real. That the bad guy Tom Le Fol is actually from a different reality.

So instead of reaching an ending, I'm suddenly twisting to one side and continuing the story.

I like that idea a lot.

Damn, I knew I would come up with something. I just had to ask myself the right questions.

That would require that I go back toward the beginning and add material that  hints at such a thing. I
think that might be the hook I need, so now I have to think about how to accomplish it. I don't want to give it away too early, but I also need to set up the possibility.

I have the handy little tool of Joseph Cambermire's Diary headings of each chapter, 3/4ths of which still need to be written.

If I do this, this book which already has a bunch of ideas that I've barely developed will have even more ideas, even more S.F.

Can I pull that off?

Storywise, I think I could. Whether it would pass muster with rigorous logical thinkers...maybe not so much.

The idea certainly expands the possibilities. In fact, limitless possibilities....Heh.
I was talking to another bookstore owner who was contemplating putting in a coffee section. I looked around his store which had roughly the same level of inventory as it did two months ago.

"Do you think maybe you have $5000 worth of books you could add to your store?"

"Well, yeah," he says.

But I could tell he was set on that coffee shop. On creating the vaunted "third space." Which will undoubtedly cost way more than $5000.

The thing is, bookstores are a "third space" by their very existence. If people come in for books, they'll hang around to talk about books. But first you have to have a sufficient and intriguing selection of books, and that is a never-ending process.

Don Quixote was written in 1615 or so? So there are 400 years worth of novels to choose from. There are thousands in the last few decades that people know about and the very fact they "know" about them means there is a chance they'll buy them.

I'm determined to eventually have every Chuck Palahniuk book, every Christopher Moore, every Philip K. Dick, every Kurt Vonnegut, every Terry Pratchet, every Hemingway, every Steinbeck, every Murakami, every Bukowski, and so on and so on.

You get the picture. Because a person who has read a particular author has already proven they'll read that author and by having their entire oeuvre you almost guarantee there will be a title they haven't read. Not even counting the myriad cult books with followings, classics, quirky books.

Anyway, I just sent a $2500 book order off, this after spending $2500 about 10 days ago. So....

It will be hard to find places for them. I'll undoubtedly have unruly stacks, but I will HAVE them.

If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it.

Books have been strong, and stronger when I have good titles. I'm worried about Marvel's weakness and want to compensate for it by making books and games stronger.

Starting this week, I've told Sabrina to make a good strong game order every week through the next couple of months of summer.

If, in about six weeks, we haven't seen sufficient uptick, we can cut back then in time for fall.

I can take this chance because I managed to avoid debt through the first half of the year.

The only thing keeping me from having more books is space. I'm thinking of taking out used books, which really don't warrant the space. Turn that space over to Sabrina to fill with graphic novels and comics. Then used the freed up space for novels. I need to buy a couple of racks for that is all. Buying racks that are the right size and shape is very, very difficult, unfortunately. I'm on the hunt, but my Google Fu is so far failing me.

I always have to remind myself that it won't be as easy to make those changes as I'd like.

But it's time.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A voice from another land.

I don't know how other writers feel, but to me the subconscious is a concrete thing. Not exactly separate from me, but there is a border. It is a voice from another land, communicated but crudely, by semaphores and smoke signals. My job is to catch the messages and to interpret them.

Sometimes it (that other land/other me) simply proclaims itself. Sometimes when I first wake , it communicates directly for a short time.

But most of the time is sort of fritters into my consciousness, little clues here and there. Sometimes the clues add up.

I feed the subconscious with my requests. Wish fulfillment. I'd really like to have an answer to this. Rarely is the answer clear and unambiguous. When something springs into my mind full-blown it is always a miracle and it always wows me.

In my first writing career, I had a visual image of a well in my head, and I could check that image at any time and it would tell me whether the well was overflowing or was dry. I mean, it was like checking the oil stick in a car. It was that concrete for me.

I don't have that this time around, probably because I've developed a process that more or less does the same thing. That is, I've learned that the well stays full when I write about 2000 words a day, more or less. More than that and I tend to deplete it, less than that and I likely to explode. Heh.

I've reached the end of Time In/Time Out and I have a crude idea of how it's supposed to go. Over the last week as I've struggled to come up with something better, my subconscious has provided little nibblets, mostly in the morning, most of it is following the scenario I've already got. The hints are tentative as if, "Nothing else to offer, but if you keep going you can do THIS."

I'm hoping for a big reveal. A huge surprise, something really awesomely cool, but nothing's coming. So as I carefully write each page, I'm seeing that it's good, it's fine, but dammit there has to be something else.

This waiting for something else is making this book take a month longer to write than normal.

While thinking about this on my drive home from my walk last night, I realized that this communion between my subconscious creative self and my waking self is what I hunger for. The Fictional Dream is what I crave, a separate land, a richness added to my everyday life.

The only thing I can compare it to is reading. I'm always reading a book, and to me it is a richness, another voice in my life, a fictional (or even non-fictional) way of thought beyond what I usually think.

Writing is an extension of this--only instead of hoping I'll find something to read that I'll like, I write what I like, and it is part of me, and it seems to fill a part of me.

Either that or I'm crazy.
Motorcycle Apocalypse

It happens every spring. I pick up the paper in the morning and somewhere in Oregon a motorcyclist has hit the dust.

I first noticed it a few years ago when I decided I would mention it to Linda every time I saw it. So my selective perception kicked in and I started to notice how often it happens.

So I think riding a motorcycle would be awesome. I mean, I see them on the road and think how cool it would feel.

But man, once you notice.

Remember Bubble Blogs?

It's still interesting to me to read the quarterly "University of Oregon Business Index" that the Bulletin publishes.

The one graph I always look at is the Housing starts. Every other graph shows continual growth, considerably higher than before the Great Recession. All but housing starts, which are still only 43% of what the high was back then.

The Housing Starts back then are what got me started blogging. I was a "Bubble Blog" more or less back in 2006. (Hard to believe that was 12 years ago!!!)

I'd noticed that houses were being built at an insane rate, even compared to everywhere else. I mean, it looked to me like we were a bubble within a bubble.

I knew a bubble when I saw one; I'd been through sports cards, comics, beanie babies, pogs, and Pokemon. It may seem a stretch to compare pogs to houses, but I'd maintain the dynamics were similar.

Anyway, I looked at who was buying from me and realized a large percentage were employed in the house building trade.

I put my money where my mouth was and spent 2 years cutting my debt down to nothing, making my orders as slim as possible, and preparing for Armageddon.

When Armageddon came, we kinda breezed right through it, both at Pegasus and the Bookmark. I mean, I had to cut orders and I ended up working the store alone for a year, but the money stress was very manageable. Like the graphs in the newspaper, we eventually got to where we'd been and kept climbing.

(The worse time, which very few current Bendites remember, were the 80's, when downtown Bend was half empty and you could shoot a cannon down the middle of the road and not hit anyone.)

This is all to say, if housing units sold are at 82% of the height, to me it means we're still working through the overstock of housing.

The housing price increases and so-called shortage of housing--that is an issue more of financing, I believe.

Nothing new here, except to show once again what a huge bubble it was--that we could be doing 417 housing starts a quarter when the population was so much less--well, that is pretty hard to miss--and it was pretty hard to miss then, if you were paying attention.
Funny. My subconscious tried to give me a pep talk last night.

I think I've gone into a plant store, somewhere like Hood River, somewhere near Portland. I'm about to ask the owner if she knew about my mother when one of the people, a short woman who I think is the owner comes over and gives me a massive hug.

I melt and say, "I wondered if people remembered my mother."

But she starts talking about so-and-so and how much he'd been impressed by my book, and how they'd all been wrong, they (the Portland SF crowd) had thought I was a joke, but actually I was a good writer. And so-and-so (an important writer, whoever it is) says that I'm a #2 writer.

"Oh, a #2," I say dubiously.

One of the other people, who is an older guy, nods his head. "That's really good. That's Robert Silverberg range. You know Robert Silverberg?"

"Of course. I like his books.

The guy nods.

"But not top rank? Like Roth, say?"

No one answers.

Anyway, the rest of the dream is confusing, me trying to figure out who they are, which book they are talking about, "I have 18 books, you know," and so on. Finally, I wander off on my own. When I come back, I ask the clerk who the little lady was, but he answers, "I'm a writer too," and the guy standing next to him says, "Aren't we all?"

Anyway, I woke glowing and then realized it was fucking me telling fucking me that I was fucking good.


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Today I devote to writing. I'm going to seal myself away and see what I can come up with.

Here goes: starting at 1:00 pm.

By 2:00: spent the last hour on Facebook.

By 2;30: have written 400 words. Am waiting to read them to Linda to see if she thinks I'm on the right track.

Linda liked it. A lot. She would. It's cute, maybe a little too cute.

By 4:00: 1000 words. Another few hundred words of set up, and then I'm splitting the story into two arcs, which is tricky since it is in 1st person. But I've already established that everything that is happening is being taped, so there is a work around.

5:30: 1750 words, finished for the day.

8:30: Went for my walk, 450 more words. 

Spent the afternoon yesterday at the store putting away books and enjoyed it. I’ve decided to really try to stay on top of books for the rest of the year. Same with games. Spend more money than usual and spend it more often.
Comics are having one of their periodic tantrums. Graphic novels are fine, but Marvel has screwed the pooch really badly over the last few years, raising prices, starting over at #1’s, and putting out endless variants.
We could probably try to cultivate the monthly comics a bit more, but right now I’m more inclined to support books, where there is always a list of books that I know will sell. And games, which have lots of potential still.

I’m waiting to write the last 2 or 3 chapters of Fateplay. I have a new character I want to introduce, and I have a feeling that he has something to say, that he has a distinct personality, and I’m waiting for him to introduce himself. It’s a feeling I have that he’s about to step out from the side of the stage and take over the book.
I’m going to try to coax him out over the next day or so. Let him lead the way.

I love dusk in the woods. I purposely delay getting back to my car sometimes so I can soak up that last half hour of light after the sun goes down. So peaceful.         

Friday, June 1, 2018

Started writing chapter headings by Joseph Cambermire as they come to me.

I'd sort of decided that I probably shouldn't even write any book without these chapters headings. I have a strange ability there, maybe it comes from writing blogs every day for a dozen years; short, succinct stories with beginnings, middles, and ends.

Anyway, I still have to write the last few chapters of the book, but meanwhile, I've decided that I will set out to revise the book right away when I finish. While it is a great idea to wait a month or two, in terms of perspective, I find that I also lose a lot of my interest. (Which, is sort of the point. Being cold-blooded about what works and what doesn't.) But worse, in waiting I find I don't want to do it, so that's not much good.

So I'm going to start right in. I have the usual changes to the first half of the book to match the second half of the book, plus the one major change of making the protagonist the son of the man who set this all in motion, instead of the man himself.

Makes him more of an underdog, more of a sympathetic character.

Then I'm going to start researching the themes of the book, and adding those insights and info into the story, which will make it slightly more science-fictionish.

My guess is the book will end up between 90 and 100k words, which is pretty much where I want it. It looks like it's going to take between 3 and 4 months to do the whole book, which is longer than usual, but I've decided to try to settle in on that pace. Working Mondays at the store, reserving Tuesdays for Linda and me time, giving myself time for inspiration.

What's the rush, right?

It's probably a silly book, but as usual, as I'm writing it, it's my favorite.