Thursday, January 31, 2019

Back to writing.

It doesn't get much better than this. 60 degrees, sun shining, no one about. Just me and the lava rocks and Juniper trees. It is half the battle. Being a writer means being housebound unless you take steps to overcome that. For me, just going out and walking an hour in the woods everyday takes care of the problem. If I can write along the way, so much the better.

Starting up writing again tomorrow. I'm going to finish off "Ruby Red and the Robot" first, then turn to my new Virginia Reed novel. While I'm finishing the novella, I'm going to take part of each day assembling the ingredients I need for the VR book. I don't do outlines, but I do try to have at least a hazy grasp of what terrain I'm going to use, what supernatural element is, what characters, what theme, a little bit of plot. I have to make sure I have enough paint to cover the walls.

Ruby Red was a good example of when I just start writing a story without a real idea of where it is going. Sometimes that works--"Eden's Return" is a good example, but sometimes I come up short.

So it's back to my usual schedule. 1500 to 2000 words a day. Try to finish the VR book by the end of March, set it aside for a month, come back to it in May and try to have it done by the end of that month.

While I'm taking the month away from it, rewrite "Eden's Return" and have that ready by May.

So I'm hoping.

I drank two beers on Monday, and two beers on Wednesday, and I felt even that much. Didn't sleep well, indigestion, feeling bloated. Plus my jaws are sore so I must having been clenching my teeth. I simply can't afford to grind my teeth anymore.

Damn, I just can't drink. Not because I don't want to, but because the physical cost is just too high for me. Besides, I've been losing weight simply by only eating when I'm hungry, and alcohol is empty calories.

My new walking spot is saving me at least a couple bucks a day. Instead of having to fill the tank every couple of weeks, I'm having to do it only once a month. It's weird, but the traffic benefits of Redmond are significant, as I'm reminded every time I drive into Bend. It's just quieter, slower paced.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?" and the starving artist.

Linda and I went to see "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" the best movie I've seen this year. Certainly Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant deserve the recognition they're getting.

You should especially see this if you are involved in the arts, professionally or just for fun, but especially if you're trying to forge a career.

I often wonder what would have happened if I'd continued my earlier "career" in writing. I wrote 7 books over about 5 years, the first 3 of which were published for small advances and the 6th that was nearly accepted by the biggest editors at major publishing houses. I certainly intended to keep writing.

As it happened, I was working as a landscaper--more a glorified lawn mower; this at a time when there weren't all that many "landscapers" in Bend. I found the time to write when I was doing that job.

At the same time, I was working part-time at the Pegasus Books.

Now the truth is, I was already slowing way down on my writing. I'd married Linda, took on two stepsons, and was trying hard to earn money. When the opportunity came up to buy Pegasus Books, I went ahead. I naively thought that working in a bookstore would give me time to write.


It goes to show how iffy I thought writing was that I thought owning a small business was less risky. But being an owner meant I had more control over my fate. It had objective measures of success or failure--either I made the money to pay my bills or I didn't.

With writing, who knows? Who decides? Not necessarily the writer.

So what would have happened if I'd just kept the lawn mowing jobs and kept writing?

I already had some really pernicious habits, which were only getting worse. I was also terribly naive for the age. I was 32 years old, but I'd spent all of my twenties in the limbo of taking medication for my depression. It was as if 10 years had been taken out of my life; I certainly had less real-life experiences than most people my age.

The writing I'd done up to the time had revived me, given me hope, and led me to Linda, Pegasus Books, and all the rest. But I wasn't very mature about it. I would always send stuff out before it was ready, always with the thought that it was "good enough."

So who knows? Maybe I could have gotten a career out of it.

But what if I hadn't? What's interesting about the real person behind the Melissa McCarthy character in the movie is that she'd been relatively successful earlier on, with a best selling biography on her resume. But her third book was a flop and that seemed to pretty much end her career. (Her personality didn't help--but I can draw a parallel to my own personality at the time; I would have had an equally hard time fitting in.)

From all I hear, this "What have you done lately" demand is even more omnipresent in today's publishing world.

In the movie, the writer is 51 years old and broke, completely demoralized. So she starts forging letters of famous literary figures.

So here's the thing. At the age of 32, I'd already projected myself into the future as a "writer" and it was a pretty intimidating thing. I knew professional writers well into their careers who were barely getting by. I knew that I wasn't going to be playing the game, that I was going to be depending on the books selling themselves (as ever, a dubious proposition.)

We always hear about the big successes. How often do we hear about those who went all in and came up short?

I have a theory that many artists hit that point somewhere in their late twenties and early thirties. Time to get serious about making a living.

I'm glad I didn't try. Not because I don't think I could have succeeded --that would have been a crapshoot but I am damned persistent, so maybe.

But owning the store gave me confidence in other directions, and most importantly exposed me to other people on a regular basis, which for a loner like me was a godsend. I hate to think how isolated I might have become if I was sitting at home writing every day.

Even now, that's a little bit of a problem. I need ways to get out there among people, and fortunately, I still own my store.

I'm also free of the need to make a living to make my "art." Time isn't really a problem. I dove in with renewed creative energy and will have at least 20 published books in the same time it took me to write 7 books the first time.

I have a lot of respect for those artists who keep on trying. It's a hell of a gamble. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Nature and crowds are polar opposites.

Linda and I drove around yesterday, stopping at Smith Rocks. It was Disneyland, a vast parking lot, a few thousand people at least. I could swear that when I was kid you could visit this park and no one would be there.

There is a tent area a few hundred feet from the horde and it was quiet and isolated, and Linda and I walked along the bluff on the other side of the river from the park and it was quiet and peaceful and wonderful. Just a few hundred feet away from the teeming masses.

When people ask why I don't walk at Smith Rocks, I wonder why anyone would. Nature and crowds are polar opposites as far as I'm concerned. 


Dreamed I was getting back into selling sports cards.

Woke up and thought, "No fucking way."

When I worked at the store on Tuesday, someone brought up the dreaded subject and my anger wasn't long in manifesting. As Linda said when I told her about the dream. "It is definitely a trigger for you."


Looks like "Deadfall Ridge" is slowly fading. Hey, it lasted a couple of weeks longer than I thought it would!


As you can tell from my last entry, stories are popping up at random, which means I'm ready to start writing again.


I've really gotten into history podcasts lately, though none of them are completely satisfying for one reason or another. The one I keep going back to is Hardcore History--which do deep dives into whatever subject. Unfortunately most of them cost money, so I'll quickly run out of the free ones.

As always with lots of these things, I'm not so afraid of spending a little money as I am about the entanglements.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Beautiful day for walking. Near 60 degrees, blue skies. It's that wonderful Central Oregon weather that you usually have to wait for spring to get. It being a Saturday I expected hordes of ATV's, but ran into only one crew. Actually, they make so much noise that all you have to do is raise your hand as they pass.

I try not to be too judgemental--after all, I once had a motorbike and did the same thing and thought nothing wrong with it. (Though I hope they don't open up the Ochocos to this...)

My creative energies are reviving. I'm getting writing thoughts without calling for them. Figured out the rest of the "Ruby Red and the Robots" plot, as well as some sketchy plot points for my next Virginia Reed novel. Including the subtitle of "The Dragon of Hell's Canyon."

I'm going to hit February 1st running. Finish off Ruby Red and start on the next VR adventure.

All is well.

It's funny. This is the first time in six years that I've given myself a significant chunk of time to not write--over a month. It's the first time, in a way, I've come up out of the ground and looked around, blinking, amazed by how much I've written.

It reminds me of my first six years at the store. The same thing happened--I dove in and didn't look up. Unfortunately, with the store, just around this time, everything went wrong and I spent the next decade equally obsessed and barely hanging on.

With writing, I have no such pressures. Really, I accomplished my goal with the first few books. The more time passes, the more I'm willing to allow that "Led to the Slaughter," for instance, is a pretty good book.

All is well, Knock wood.


"How's it hanging?"

Peter loved Marie's English accent, especially when wrapped around an American euphemism. He wondered if his boss understood the schoolyard double entente of the phrase she was using.

"Things are great, knock wood," he answered. He gently tapped the table, low enough that she probably couldn't hear it.

"Knoock Woood," she repeated, and Peter melted. He'd never met his boss, so he was free to imagine his dream woman. Tall and willowy, auburn haired, blue eyes.  "Well, keep it up, Peter. You're doing great. Are you coming to the convention?"

Peter was stumped. Crowds made him panic--he avoided them whenever possible. "I've got a wedding to go to that weekend," he lied.

"Pity...I was hoping to see you." She said it softly, not in boss mode at all.

"Me too," he blurted mindlessly.

She hung up before he could say anything else stupid. He stood up, put his computer in his backpack, grabbed his hat, and headed out for his walk. Even though it was late January, it was a beautiful day, 60 degrees and blue skies, the kind of weather that usually only came around in Spring.

The path was slightly muddy from the rain and snow of the previous two weeks, but he walked on the beaten down grass to the side of the trail, asking himself the usual question: How's it going? The phrase was a prompt, to get himself thinking. He smiled to himself. I need to change that to, "How's it hanging?"

Things were going really well. He lived in the best part of America and he had his dream job, using his computer skills at home. Everything would be perfect if he wasn't such a loner. Sometimes he wished...

But no, things were going great.

Knock wood.

He stepped over to a large Juniper tree. It was low and and wide and scraggly, which meant it was old. The taller straighter trees were younger, from what he read.

He tapped three times on the scruffy bark of the tree, then...after a moment's hesitation...tapped one more time for good measure.

"What do you want?"

Peter whirled around with a shout. He always kept his ears open for ATV's, which he could hear a mile away, and/or barking dogs. He rarely ran into other walkers who were alone.

The little guy was brown and knobby, his skin folded like bark, his dark eyes gleaming with...alertness?

"Hurry up and make your wish. I ain't got all day." The voice sounded like two sticks rubbed together.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I get my local news from the Bulletin.

So I get my local news from the Bulletin.

Which for some reason didn't report that they've recently entered into bankruptcy proceedings. (This is apparently the second time.) They owe a bunch in taxes, apparently.

UPDATE: Apparently, they did report this and I missed it.

I'm in no mood to pile on. I've always liked the Bulletin, if not their editorial slant. I was not aware of their financial difficulties except in seeing their Incredibly Shrinking Paper. But I attributed that to the woes that all paper publications are having.

I will say this: I suspect the root of their problems--besides what is affecting everyone--is that White Elephant of a building, their castle on the hill, that they built in 2000.

So here's the thing. The Bulletin has always been a booster. It makes sense that they would be. But even if you're a booster, you need to know the underlying reality. In the early 2000's all you heard was boosterism, from businesses, to media, to real estate people.

But having grown up in Bend, and seeing no real new industry arriving in town besides retirement and tourism (which create large numbers of minimum wage jobs) and seeing rents and housing prices steadily increasing--well, it just didn't feel right.

I've often brought up the notion that at my store, Pegasus Books, I'd gone through a bunch of booms--sports cards, comics, Magic, pogs, Beanie Babies, Pokemon, etc. I'd learned my lessons about bubbles the hard way. It may seem strange to equate pogs to houses, but the dynamics of all bubbles are amazingly similar.

So when real estate prices took off--and with it the rapid development of subdivisions and the massive influx of chain stories and restaurants and fancy businesses--it seemed very clear that it was a bubble and wouldn't end well.

But almost no one was seeing it that way. That's about the time I discovered a couple of other people online who were talking about a "bubble" and I joined in. We called them "Bubble Blogs."

But the boosters in town continued to believe the party would go on forever. "Bend is different" is was what I heard over and over again.

Expansion is always a risk, and you can't fool yourself into believing that just because you've been successful at one level you'll automatically be successful at a higher level. It's like the Peter Principle: You'll expand to your level of incompetence. I'm not trying to pile on the Bulletin here--It happens to ALL of us, at some point. The salient point about bubbles is--you don't know it's a bubble because you're inside the bubble.

Then the Bulletin ran into the buzzsaw of the Internet, which is like a double whammy. That's the thing about "whammys." They rarely arrive alone.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

"Deadfall Ridge" BookBub long-tail.

I haven't wanted to jinx it, but "Deadfall Ridge" keeps selling at a very moderate rate. When I say moderate, it's like 20 times what I usually sell. This is after the first 5 days, which were way, way higher than normal. (That sounds impressive, but I'll reiterate--moderate.)

I'm sort of obsessive about checking my Amazon rankings, which probably doesn't help much. I wish I'd thought to write down the titles of other BookBub offerings in the weeks surrounding the release of my book so I could do some comparisons. The rankings don't always make sense to me. For instance, there are about a dozen books that I know came out in the same month as mine which are higher ranked but every time I check, my current ranking is higher. (There is a current moment ranking, and then a more long-term ranking that accounts for all sales up to the moment.) All I can think of is that these books had much higher sales upon release--which make sense if they already have followers or their book is part of a series.

Anyone still buying "Deadfall Ridge" now is probably discovering me for the first time. BookBub only keeps the listings up for a month, so I dropped off the list on Jan. 18. So I'm not sure how people are finding my book now. Possibly because enough copies sold to put me within hailing distance of discovery by being higher ranked.

The reviews of "Deadfall Ridge" are good overall, but not quite as good as usual--and I don't think it's because of the book but because of who is reviewing. For instance, my overall rankings are probably better than someone like Stephen King--not because I'm a better writer but because the better you do the more people knock you down a peg.

I'm now in my longest writing lull in 6 years. After my current WIP (work in progress) petered out, I decided to take a step back and figure out where I stand.

It feels very weird not to write every day. I mean, I feel like I'm being extraordinarily lazy. At the same time, I have over 20 books up for sale--so, you know, not too shabby.

I worked at Pegasus Books on Tuesday and sold a copy of "Deadfall Ridge" each of the first three hours I was there. Since I only had 4 copies on hand, I stopped pushing it (so that someone coming in actually looking for it could find it.) Then sold a copy of "Led to the Slaughter." Once again, I realize that I could easily sell at least a couple of copies of my books per day. If I worked 300 days a year, that would be 600 copies. My average profit on a paperback is about 8 bucks, so--that would be significant.

But I'd be done writing. The store wears me out. I was utterly exhausted on Tuesday night even though it was a relatively slow day. The business just takes up so much psychic space that writing becomes impossible. A real Catch-22.

I've been reading "Eden's Return" at writer's group. It looks like I'll be able to finish the entire book this time. Usually they only hear the first third of a book or so before I'm onto the next book. They seem to like it.

"Fateplay" is in the pipeline, so "Eden's Return" will probably be the next book after that. I'd like to get a book or novella released every 3 months or so, but that depends on the publisher doing the editing and covers in time. (3 months between releases is the sweet spot, apparently, for keeping a writer visible. I don't write at the pace currently, but I still have books saved up from when I was writing faster and books were being released slower.)

As I said,  I'm trying to figure out what to do next--but really, I know I need to do another Virginia Reed book. I owe Amber Cover Publishing that much. And really, I'm kind of excited by the prospect and somewhere intimidated.

And I'd still like to finish off the "Faerylander" series of books, as well as the 4 novellas of the "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities.) So that's a lot of work right there.

Sorry about the info dump, but I haven't written on this blog for five days so there is some pent up energy.

This month went by extraordinarily fast!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Human-sized success.

The one thing about owning a Mom and Pop-sized bookstore is that it is human-sized. It provides a modest living. It requires a fair amount of work and diligence, creativity, and persistence. But it can be done.

I don't think I ever considered owning a business growing up, though if I did, it probably was something like owning a bookstore. If anything, I wanted to be a writer--though I had no idea how to go about it.

I sort of fell into owning a business--because I didn't seem to have any other options.

As it turned out, being in charge of a business was exactly the path for me to take. I was never going to be an organizational man. I feel as if I have good ideas, but no ability to try to convince others of the viability of those ideas. Owning a small business meant I could make decisions without conferring, without compromising.

Of course, I did have to deal with others, but there were enough filters and options that I could pick and choose about how to go about it. I could shape my surroundings to accentuate my strengths and minimize my weaknesses.

All these efforts were enough.

Being in the writing field is different. The above levels of "work and diligence, creativity, and persistence" are in no way enough to reach even a basic success at writing. Success depends on others, more on "luck, on timing, and who you know."

In other words, reaching success is more than human-sized. It has to tap into much larger schemes and structures. Success is a matter of levering, instead of basic skills. It can't be accomplished simply because you want it to happen.

That isn't to say that there are people who don't do it. But even more than owning a small business (which, though human-sized, probably requires an outsized effort), it can't be usually be done simply by putting your nose to the grindstone and gutting it out.

I'm not complaining. It's just interesting the difference in scale. Human-sized, Mom and Pop writing is possible, I suppose. Perhaps if I were able to bring the same level of effort as I brought to the business, it might be possible to bring the huge scale of publishing down to a personal level.

But it seems to me that there are so many other writers, few of who make an actual "modest" living at it, that it crushes mere human-sized effort. It is much more difficult to carve out a middle ground. Anyway, that's how it looks to me.

The writing itself is human-sized. That's the attraction to me. I can do it without "conferring, without compromising."

But leveraging that human-sized accomplishment requires an entirely different set of skills, and requires tapping into much larger scales. With the store, I don't have to do any promotion. I just have to keep doing my job. The job itself is enough.

Writing a book--that's just the beginning.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Listened to first audio chapter of "Deadfall Ridge."

Listened to the first audio chapter of "Deadfall Ridge" and thought it was great.

So bear with me, but I get a kick out of this. It sounds very, very professional--not just the narration, but the underlying text.

I wrote that!

I mean, it sounds good to me--to the point where I'm a little surprised that it is that good. I can't decide if this is egotistical or the opposite. I remember shortly after I wrote "Led to the Slaughter," my first book out this time, I said to a lady who complimented me, "I'm almost feeling like a writer."

"Oh, you're a writer," she said firmly. "Don't have any doubts about that."

The difference between this career and my former attempt is that with Star Axe and Snowcastles/Icetowers, I constantly see where I could have done it better. With these newer books, I'm not taken aback so much. It pretty much reads (and sounds) the way I intended.

Not bad, if I do say so myself. Pretty good even. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Roaring Twenty/Twenties

Or maybe I should say, "The Roaring 2020s."

Every once in a while, I think I've coined a phrase only to find out that someone else thought of it first. So anyway, here's my claim on "The Roaring Twenty/Twenties," which begins only a year from now. I am not Googling to see if someone beat me to it.

Meanwhile...I'm still not writing. Still waiting for that moment when I absolutely know what I want to do.

"Deadfall Ridge" just keeps bumping along--at a much higher level of sales than before the BookBub, if nowhere near the heights it reached on the first two days.

Interesting thing happened: I reached my lowest author rank on November 27, 2018 and my highest author rank on December 26, 2018 so within the month. Obviously, I needed a bit of a boost. Some of my other books have sold during this last 3 weeks--not a whole lot, but probably double the pace previous to the promotion.

I don't know if I'll ever get another BookBub--in some ways, it's as hard as getting a traditional publisher--but if I do, it is The Great Equalizer.  It literally pulls you up to the levels that only known authors get--if only for a short time.

It's funny, but my entire writing "career" has been one little boost just when I need it at a time. I keep expecting that to stop, but something unexpected always comes along just in time. Knock wood.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Inspiration Well

In my earlier efforts at writing, I used to have a mental image of a well, an "Inspiration Well" that I monitored constantly. I could tell just going to that image whether I had the inspiration to write something or should wait.

If the well is half empty, I'll run out of ideas mid-story. If the well if full, I can draw from it liberally. If the well is overflowing, I'd better get to writing before all that wonderful inspiration was wasted.

This internal gauge seemed to work.

(There is a school of thought that you shouldn't wait for "inspiration" but that sentiment is somewhat disingenuous. Of course a writer needs to have something in the well to write--it's when you don't cultivate that well, or ignore it, that you get in trouble.)

In this latter day writing period, I haven't had to worry about it. I was so full of creative energy those first three or four years that I almost always finished what I started, sometimes at full speed.

There were an occasional story I started and then stopped--but mostly because some other story took precedence, often because I needed to fulfill a commitment. When I'd come back to the story, I'd realize it wasn't strong enough and move on.

In the last year or so, I've had three stories that I didn't finish. One about halfway done, one about a quarter way done, and one three quarters done. Now... I'd be more concerned about this if I hadn't also written "Fateplay," "Shadows Over Summer House," and "Eden's Return" in the same time period.

But after taking December off from writing, I'm finding myself without creative energy. So I went to my "Well of Inspiration" and realized it was half empty.

I have zero doubt it will fill up again. But I think it best to wait.

I've got one book completely ready and already at the publisher. One book that needs a quick rewrite. And another book that needs a bit more of a comprehensive rewrite. So I've got material in the pipeline for a while yet.

I also have my three completed "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities" novellas that I'd like to plunk out there one per month (and very near completion on a fourth) that need a bit of continuity work.

So really, I have a year's worth of material almost ready for publication.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Adamantly wrong.

It's amazing how wrongly certain (certainly wrong?) people can be about things.

When I first started investigating self-publishing it became clear from the start that there were two camps, and that both were absolutely certain they were right and the other side was wrong.

There are the those who think only traditional publishing is valid, and those who think self-publishing is the only way to go. As the owner of a bookstore and a writer with some experience at traditional publishing, it placed me in a weird position.

Before I talk about publishing, I should talk about book sales. The two subjects are obviously connected.

As a bookstore owner, I probably shouldn't like Amazon. Then again, I had decided long ago that the Internet was not my enemy--or maybe more to the point, that there was nothing I could do about it. I've always been more upset by the mass market chain stores. They seem to have more of an effect on the bottomline than Amazon. The way I put it is--the Internet takes the extra click. Those willing to make the extra click online are going to do so no matter what I say. But a bricks and mortar store is direct competition. We are competing for the same available dollar.

But if you go back and read early blog entries by me, I was certainly anti-Amazon. I had my arguments based on what I thought was common sense--but those arguments didn't have any real data to back them up.

That's probably the biggest problem with trying to decide which side is right. The information is exclusive to the various outlets, so I'm just trying to guess from the outside.

One mistake I constantly make is to underestimate Big Numbers. I simply can't wrap my head around them. For instance, Linda worked at Barnes and Noble for awhile (it was horrible) and when she came home and told me how much they were making per day I just couldn't figure it out. I had a pretty good sense of how the four indie stores that existed before B & N came to town were doing--roughly, and all combined, it wasn't but a fraction of the sales that the big store was doing.

Were all these customers simply not buying books before? (This was before Amazon was quite so big.) I'm still puzzled by that.

So, basically, I'm always underestimating how well the bigger players are doing.

As a writer, I am a big proponent of Amazon. They give you 70% of the proceeds. Believe me, that's rare. As a store owner, I would kill for a supplier who would give me 55% or 60% much less 70%.  My overall average wholesale rate is 60% of the price. Less than that and I don't survive

Amazon also makes it extremely easy to self-publish. You don't have to pay ANYTHING to get a book--you just have to do the editing and cover art and formatting yourself, but any writer who spends a little time can figure that out. That is utterly amazing.

Even the physical copies you buy only cost what they cost to publish, and usually can be had at about 40% of the final sale price. If you want 10 copies, you can get 10 copies. If you want a 100 copies, you only pay for 100 copies.

Unlike what used to be called "Vanity Press" which made you publish hundreds if not thousands at a not so good price. When I tell people in my store to publish their book on Amazon, they don't get it. They are still stuck in the past where self-publishing really was a "Vanity" experience.

That said, I tried self-publishing myself and didn't get anywhere. I then hooked up with smaller specialty publishers and this was much better. I simply don't know how to promote myself and needed someone else's platform to make any headway.

At the same time, the smaller publishers usually don't distribute in bookstores and when they do, they are usually crushed. (This happened to two of my publishers.)

By way of Google searching it became clear that some writers do extremely well at self-publishing. (There are also, alas, a whole lot of lying liars--which is strange, because it's possible to actually check their rankings and realize they are full of bullshit.)

The romance genre for instance is full of writers who sell big numbers. (Just take a look at the self-published best-seller lists and I swear that half the books have bare-chested guys on the cover. Really, I'm not kidding.) These people know how to promote--they do the research and the work and the experimentation.

The learning curve has become steeper over the last couple years. Many of the tricks at gaming the Amazon algorithms have stopped working. Loopholes are being closed. The early gold rush has matured and it's much much harder to get noticed.

So there are big problems with self-publishing, and yet also big success.

The exact same thing can be said about traditional publishing. I'm not going into as much detail about what problems there are there, but it basically evens out.

In other words, both camps are both right and wrong, depending.

And ain't that always the way?

What's amusing to me is how in both camps there are people who spout nonsense.

Anyway, this has become clear again with BookBub. I'm pretty sure that it is the rare writer who doesn't benefit from BookBub. Many see huge increases in sales. I certainly saw a big boost and I'm as happy as could be about it.

And yet...and yet...there are bunches of writers who think it doesn't work (despite all the evidence) or who take a stand against discounting. Much of this is sour grapes.

But mostly, they are just wrong--and very adamant about it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The writing is the thing.

I'm back to walking consistently, but not so much the writing. An entire month has gone by without much production. I finished a chapter of "Ruby Red and the Robot" a few hundred words at a time over 4 days. I've decided to finish it, even if it only turns out to be a novella. Straight to the ending--which isn't a bad policy in any case.

Meanwhile, I've yet to find a good solid 4 mile path at my new walking spot. It is much busier out there than my old spot, but I think I can avoid most of that. But so far, I haven't found a path long enough to make it a round-tripper. But at the same time, I'm exploring.

Redmond is a few degrees warmer than Bend, but that few degrees seems to make a difference. Snow in Bend a couple of days ago, but none in Redmond.

I'm still monitoring the BookBub boost. After the initial three day boost, it started dropping fast for three days, then seemed to settle into a range that, while much lower than the start, is also much higher than my normal numbers. I had no idea whether the promotion had any legs at all, so as far as I'm concerned, this last week has been a bonus.  (Actually, I described that backward--the lower the ranking the better, but I used the as not to confuse...?)

I'm feeling a sort of success letdown, if you know what I mean. Accomplishing a goal and then finding myself sort of taking a step back. It's a weird reaction. Of course, "success" is relative. I mean, the increase in sales only pointed out how solid the big authors have a hold on the upper tiers. Like any other artistic endeavor, I suppose.

I've been making steady but slow progress, so I'm thankful for that.

I just need to keep reminding myself, the writing is the thing.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Found a new walking spot.

I found a new walking spot about 7 minutes from the house. My usual walking spot is about 15 minutes out, which means burning a couple of gallons of gas everyday. Add that to the regular drives into "the city" Bend, I was filling up the car every week instead of every month as I was used to.

Anyway, I wouldn't quite call this walk in "nature," as the occasional dumped sofa or pile of tires remind me. (What is wrong with people?) But my regular spot isn't pristine either. The main goal is to get out under the open sky, take in the sun and the wind and the fresh air, bathe in the trees and rocks, and most importantly, the solitude.

The solitude fuels the writing. At home there are constant distractions and temptations--Panga and Linda, the TV, books, and most distracting of all, the Internet.

I need to find a place were I'm extremely unlikely to run into people. (Maybe 1% of the time?) Thing is, I'm an introvert and if I think it is likely I'll run into another person at all, I have a certain amount of guardedness, or a mask, if you will.

Being completely alone--to the level of actually being able to talk to myself if need be--is what gives me the psychic space to create.

To find 100% solitude and real nature requires a drive of at least an hour, and even then I'm almost as likely to run into an intrepid nature goer.

Anyway, I suspect I'll probably still go to my usual spot 15 miles away because I have clearly marked "writing posts" where I can sit every quarter mile or so and write a few hundred words. And I don't have to think about where I'm going. (These high desert dirt roads are a maze, let me tell you.)

But when I want a quick walk and don't want to spend half an hour driving, this new place will do.

It feels good to get back to it. (So far, the walking, but I'm hoping the writing will follow...

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Beware progression.

So at this moment of best results, I'm suddenly less confident instead of more.

I think it's because my expectations are now higher.

Here's something I know about myself. I operate much, much better as an underdog. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, I'm still an underdog. BookBub was great, but the effect will wear off. But still, now I'm having doubts about myself. Weird.

At one point, I had actually put "Deadfall Ridge" in my Maybe ledger. It was only after the final rewrite that it moved into the Definitely Publish ledger. Make me wonder if I've been wrong about some of my other Maybe books and vice versa.

See...I'm thinking too much about it.

I find myself trying to decide what to do next--which has never really been a problem before because I just did whatever I felt like without regard to strategy. I have to think this policy has worked up to now.

Really, it probably doesn't matter. I'm fatalistic---or realistic--about chances of success as a writer. It has too much to do with things I have no control over. So I wish I could go back to my original impulses.

Hell, I spent an entire year writing books without submitting anywhere. That was a glory time, in some ways. It was pure writing.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Bookstore visits.

Did my little local bookstore circuit that I do once in awhile. Dropping in and talking to some of the owners.

It's very different than it used to be. Up until recently, the owners of local stores weren't particularly friendly toward me. I don't know if they just didn't like me or thought I was a threat or thought my store was beneath them.

But the current crop of booksellers are all friendly. Part of it is that I've survived 36 years in a tough business. I'm more than willing to share my experience, for what it's worth. (I have to be careful not to overdo it or be a know-it-all.) I'd love to save them from some of the mistakes I made.

Anyway, it's always nice to talk about books to simpatico people. It's what I miss most about not being at Pegasus full-time.

My manager, Sabrina, and I sat down yesterday and talked over the year-end results and what to do going forward. I was frankly surprised that we did as well as we did. 8 out of 12 months were below last year, and yet our sales were down only slightly overall. Every category was up except comics.

Even better, I managed to compensate for the drop in that one category by building up the others. This has been long in the planning and execution and worked perfectly.

The store is more or less self-sustaining, due to the inventory, and we need to keep that going. What we'll be focusing on is a budget--more an awareness of budget--I'm a great believer in busting budgets if need be.

This is more an art than a science. When can I stop buying and when should I be buying more? It often isn't reflected by current sales but more of a sense of how much good inventory I have, where the trends are, and how much risk can I take.

 I still really enjoy the challenge.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Year End Results at Pegasus Books.

I've done the year-end figuring on Pegasus Books for 2018.

Every category was up but comics. We were down...just...slightly overall, not so much that it affects us much. And while the monthly comics were down, graphic novels were up significantly.

In May, we expanded the space for graphic novels and books by quite a bit, and that really seemed to spark a resurgence.

I'm especially pleased that games saw a slight increase because suddenly everyone and their uncle are carrying Euro games. Target and B&N and everyone else. For years I was pretty much the only one in town that carried a full line. A game store did come to town, but we were still able to increase sales. But when the big boys start carrying games, then you have to be careful.

I'll try to maintain games at the current level, at least.

Books are doing well, and I'll continue to support and increase them. I'm low on space, as usual, but there is still room to grow.

Card games did pretty good, mostly because I supported them fully, carrying every release of Magic that was affordable.

Graphic novels really kicked in almost from the day we expanded our display space for them. We basically went from no covers face-out to a quarter of the store face-out. It looks better and highlights the graphic novels much better. Plus we have room to keep expanding for once. When I say that comics are down, this doesn't include graphic novels, which are climbing.

Toys are hit and miss. I can really only afford to carry them when they are on sale. So I grab them when they drop in price. That seems to work pretty well.

So overall, I'm pretty pleased with the results. The increases in all categories almost completely covered the drop in comic sales, as planned. We're still well into the black. As long as I continue to pack the store with product, I think we'll thrive.

Best of all, I can continue to pay my manager, Sabrina, and my weekend guy, Dylan--and continue to write!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, same as the Old Year

My resolution isn't so much to start anything (or stop anything) new, but to simply do what I've been doing for the last six years.

Writing and walking. Walking and writing.

My pace has slowed down, partly because I've accomplished so much. I could continue on at that pace, but to what end? I'm thinking it's time to slow down, to give each book some breathing room, especially after the first draft is written.

Deadfall Ridge is a great example of that. I finished it and sent it off to a publisher--didn't hear back from him, so had some second thoughts and tried to spice the book up and sent that version off--then didn't hear back, and so then combined the best of both versions. This last version was by far the best.

Fortunately, I also found the right publisher. The original publisher left me hanging. What's ironic to me is that my book is currently nestled between two of that publisher's books in the rankings. Wonder if he noticed.

Crossroad has done right by me and I'm glad I could send it to them.

A couple of lessons there. I shouldn't send off a book until it's ready, and I need to give myself time to think about it.

Thing is, I often don't get these second thoughts until after I've committed. It's like the actual commitment is what triggers the re-evaluation.

So not sure how to get around that.