Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Losing a favorite character...again.

One of my favorite characters in "Deadfall Ridge" is the hero's best friend, Granger. He's a big woolly guy who owns Bigfoot Ranch and is a Zen master. Unfortunately, he gets wounded in the first quarter of the book and is taken off to the hospital and doesn't show up again until the last of the book.

When I decided to change "Takeover" into a Hart Davis book, I decided to take the main character, Jon McCarthy, and turn him into Hart. But I realized right away that a few of the earlier McCarthy chapters would be better as Granger.

All the later McCarthy chapters are better as Hart. So I need to lose Granger along the way.

I haven't figured out how, but that's a technicality.

Because of the exigencies of the plot, Granger has to go.

I wonder how long he'll last in the next Strawberry Mountain Adventure.

LATER: OK. I figured out how Granger leaves the scene--without shooting him.

I've reached the point in the book where the plot takes over, instead of character sketches. It's roughly 27,000 words into a 95,000 word novel. So my main goal is make that first third of the book move the plot forward, cutting as much as possible.

I've rearranged and slightly rewritten the first third of the book. Now I need to go through the rest, especially the Hart and Nicole chapters, and make them consistent.
The truth is, an epistolary format may not work well for an entire thriller. It's great for certain purposes--I made great use of diaries and journals in my Virginia Reed books. In fact, they probably wouldn't have worked without them. But only within the overall narrative. Not as the narrative itself.

Anyway, outside that boundary, I'm trying to make it work. I'm installing tons of transitions, for instance. I've had the main character state in the third chapter that the following chronicle is based on Witness Statements, Trial transcripts, and so on. I believe the first 5 chapters work, especially the first chapter. The second chapter is written in a Witness Statement format, including the interrogators questions. After that, with explanation, the stories are told in 1st person but without interruption.

I'm hoping that works.

The next ten chapters will tell the tale. After that, the story is fine. But until I reach the spot where I started putting narrative into the accounts, it's going to be tricky.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Question of Quality.

A writer friend of mine is basically saying he doesn't want to write anything unless it's great. Which  to me is the perfect recipe for writing nothing at all. How good a writer one is is a big subject. I entered into writing long ago with the goal of just finishing a book, without any expectation of it being great. Actually, that's not true. Of course, I daydreamed--but I was also realistic.

As I told him, the concept of a "failed novelist" never made any sense to me. You're a novelist or you're not. As long as you keep writing, the tale isn't told.

It's a complicated subject. Of course, it's subjective and relative. But assuming that it was possible to ascertain just how good a writer you are, and assuming you fall short of being "great," what does that mean?

I mean, it's a bit like saying you won't do a job unless you're "great." Hell, you won't live unless you're "great."

Does it matter if my store, Pegasus Books, counts as great? It's earned me a living, given me great satisfaction, and it has, in a sense, given me an identity. Does everyone like the store? Obviously not. Just read some of the reviews.

Same thing with my books, basically. It has been enormously satisfying, the scratching the creative itch is reward in and of itself. Does everyone like the books? Obviously not. Just read some of the reviews.

Let's assume that everyone hated my books. Does that mean I should just stop? Am I hurting anyone by writing them?

In the end, if you want to write, you have to put on blinders and forge ahead. Because you will be told you're a terrible writer--more than once--and I suspect you'd get that even if you were "great."

I'm a great believer that my next book will be great. By a combination of subject and work and luck and a synergy between them that I'll rise above my limitations and produce something everyone will love and that will live through the ages.

The odds are against me, but I can always try.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

This is real nuts and bolts stuff.

There is the advice for writers to challenge themselves.

"Takeover" was a challenge. I decided I would write character sketches to a bunch of characters before writing the novel. After I'd written about 8 of the sketches I realized that the sketches themselves were telling a story. Not in a standard narrative, but obliquely. I liked it quite a bit. So I set out to write an entire novel in the epistolary format.

Right away I had doubts. I wondered if it was too experimental, too challenging. But here's the thing--it was the only thing that got me to write the story at all. I think if I'd approached it in the standard way, it never would have gotten written.

So about a third of the way through I realized that if I wanted to advance the plot that I was going to have to stray from the pure character sketches and impose a narrative. I kept the epistolary format but started to have the characters narrate to some extent.

I ended up liking the last two thirds of the book quite a bit. So now I had a Frankenstein of a novel. The first third made up of character sketches coming at the story sideways, and the last two thirds more standard in plot.

I moved around some chapters, beefed up one of the main characters with more narrative, but it still didn't get there.

I set the story aside. There were several times when I almost submitted the book the way it was. It was in interesting experiment and if the readers gave it a chance, then they'd get to the part of the story where the plot kicks in.

Then I published "Deadfall Ridge" and it sold better than any of my other books and I realized that I could write a series of books with the same protagonists, especially Hart Davis, but also his paramour, Nicole, and his woolly friend, Granger.

I also realized that "Takeover" could be turned into a "Hart Davis Strawberry Mountain Thriller."

I needed to turn the beefed up main character of "Takeover" and turn him into Hart. He is essentially the same character with a different name, so that wasn't impossible. I could turn the love interest into Nicole. I could bring in Granger as one of the secondary characters.

All well and good until I sat down to actually do it. That's when I realized it would be a huge challenge.

Well, fine. In some ways it's easier for me to do a rewrite with big changes than with small ones. It engages the storytelling side of me more.

Right away, I realized that I needed a stronger start. My character sketches were just too oblique. I needed something a little more straightforward. So I realized that I could do a kind of prologue that would set up all the characters and the situation, as well as start on a more standard narrative form.

I thought of an incident that would work, noodled around with it for a few weeks, and finally in the last few days sat down and wrote the chapter. And damned if it doesn't work.

The next step is to take 6 of the those original character sketches and combine them into 3 chapters and move them a little further back into the story.

That's today's project.

New 1st chapter for "Takeover."

I wrote a brand new first chapter to "Takeover." A little bit of action, a bit of foreshadowing, a lot of scene-setting. Anyone coming from "Deadfall Ridge" would be able to settle in comfortably. It's a fairly conventionally written beginning.

That was the easy part.

Now I need to transition into the original story without losing any readers. I'm not going to be able to get away completely from the original structure--which was an experiment. If the reader is willing to go along, I think it works. But it does ask the reader to keep reading until the plot kicks in--which is a lot to ask these days.

I did it the way I did because I wanted to be completely character driven and as realistic as I could make it. It is a epistolary novel, that is, each chapter is told as a first person account by a different character. It was a challenge to tell a story through the subjective lens of individual voices, and the narrative had to be supplied by the reader. I don't think it was a bad idea and I came close, but in the end, I'm not sure I had to skill to pull it off. About halfway through I kept the epistolary structure but imposed much more narrative to the story.

So now I'm going back and overlaying the narrative over the first half. By necessity, because it wasn't written into the first draft, this is somewhat flat telling the narrative, which isn't all bad, and it probably better than the scattershot epistolary nature of the first version.

I might be able to move and consolidate a few chapters so that the character shifts aren't too wrenching.  I'm going to try to organize the first few chapters around Hart Davis--the protagonist of "Deadfall Ridge"--as much as possible. Then use Granger and Nicole before I finally give way to the myriad of other--new--characters.

It's difficult, but it feels worth doing. It was also very intimidating, but getting the first chapter done is a big step forward.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Too damn many characters.

The rewrite of "Takeover" is more than a little messed up.

Because I have established characters from "Deadfall Ridge" and I'm trying to incorporate them with the characters in "Takeover," I've ended up with too damn many characters.

I have a general idea of what I'm doing, but I keep throwing ideas at the computer, many of which don't match. I'm going to have to do some ruthless culling. On the other hand, I'm slowly feeling my way to the right narrative, so it isn't all a loss.

One problem which I didn't realize I was having is that I've somehow lost Dropbox on my new computer--and maybe my previous computer, I'm not sure--so I have different versions on different computers. I'm calling my tech wizard to come in and help us--but that's probably a week away. Meanwhile, I trying to figure out workarounds, like downloading onto my blog and then uploading to the other computer.

I'm more and more inclined to believe that I need to just write brand new chapters, and not even refer to the earlier version until I've got all the characters assembled in one spot. The many different narrations can't be got rid off, so all I can do is try to smooth the entry. It may still prove to be too distracting, but at least this version will be better.

This does remind me of the "Deadfall Ridge" rewrite in that each version didn't quite satisfy me until I reached that last version. I also feel a real sense of accomplishment that I waited until I had it right. So I'm trying to do that with "Takeover" as well.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Incubation of ideas.

Linda shamed me into gardening--quite rightly. She'll be along to deny it, but I know a hint when I hear one.

The lawnmower wouldn't start--which has to count as one of the top ten annoyances of modern life. 

I'm sore--as usual I overdid it on the first day. But the whole cleaning out the garden should only take about 3 days, versus the 3 weeks at our old house. We stuck to flowering shrubs in the front yard, and one long narrow strip of garden in the back. I pulled two wheelbarrow loads of weeds out of the gravel driveway on the side of the house.

It was all very satisfyingly zen.

Intention and results.

How often does something happen because you intend it to happen? I mean, my intention is to write a fantastic first couple chapters to "Takeover." So will that happen because that's my intent? I'm waiting for inspiration, the kind of overwhelming feeling that overtook me when I wrote the first chapter of "Led to the Slaughter" or the first chapter of "Deadfall Ridge."

I want it so badly, it's going to happen, right?

Some things have a long incubation. I knew for years that I wanted to write a Donner Party story with werewolves.

On the other hand, "Tuskers" was a spur of the moment thing, a lark, a response to something someone said on Facebook. My vampire trilogy actually went against my instincts that the vampire thing was overdone.

Sometimes I wing something and it turns out. Other times, I stall. "Castle LeMagie" and "Ruby Red and the Robots" both got more than halfway done before I ran out of ideas. Which means, the stories weren't strong enough, I guess.

You don't actually know before you start, but you can get a clue. Usually I try to ascertain if there is enough paint to cover the walls. That is, if there is enough content to make a full book; themes and characters and plot. I think there has to be enough speculative material to carry a story. The story itself doesn't carry the story.

While I'm waiting for inspiration, I'm noodling around the edges with "Takeover." A little bit of sensory imagination and description. If I can get the action edge in there, I might have something.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Write your heroes into a corner.

Wrote one thousand words on "Ruby Red and the Robot."

I've been stuck on this story for months. I literally had the heroes trapped in a room--and couldn't figure out how to get them out. Finally, just before falling asleep, I visualized the scene.

I also went for a walk yesterday.

It felt good to be back to doing both things.

"Ruby Red and the Robots" is my first attempt at a "Young Adult" novel, at least consciously. I love the tone I establish.

I read the first chapter at writer's group and it was a hit.


I had sort of decided that I'd wait until the urge to write came upon me.

Ideas have started to come to me, which is the first stage. I'm going to try to help this process along by going out to my old walking path. I'd abandoned this route because it's a twenty minute drive--and I was burning through the gas. I found a closer place to walk.

But that's been closed off, so it's back to the old path, which my subconscious obviously recognizes as a place to write, because it all comes back to me. I have my hat on, my special spots to stop and write.

I'm going to quit each day at between 1000 and 1500 words in order to still have something in the tank so that I'll have a place to begin each day.

It's strange but just an hour walk in the woods per day makes me feel like I've accomplished something. If I get some writing done, that's even better.

It doesn't take much. But it takes more than sitting on my ass at home.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

I'm ready to learn my P's and Q's about classical music.

Still not writing.

I'm getting ideas, though. I've figured out a new beginning to "Takeover" and I've figured out how to proceed on the scene that had me blocked in "Ruby Red and the Robots."

But sitting down and actually writing...for some reason, I'm procrastinating.

I'm pretty sure this isn't a permanent condition. For one thing, I've learned that if I'm not writing I'm pretty useless. I've re-upped my lease at the store for at least the next four years mostly because I can and because I can't stand the idea of not having a place to go and be engaged.

On my own, I do nothing.

It's not all bad. I've set out on a project to learn classical music. I did this once with art when I was embarrassed after a trip to the MOMA and the Met in N.Y. when I realized how little I knew. Just sat down and started reading tomes on the history of art. Ended up loving the whole process.

So I'm ready to learn my P's and Q's about classical music. At least, the basics.

I go to YouTube and plug in the the Best 50 Classical pieces or something like that, and then listen to each one, find out who the composer is, go and read the Wiki entry on said composer. I've got Beethoven and Bach down solid, I'm pretty sure I could recognize any Wagner.

Beethoven and Bach are still my favorites after listening to a wide variety of composers over the last few days. Mozart doesn't quite have the same power over me.

I was under the misapprehension that all these classical pieces were long--but I'm finding a whole bunch that are under 10 minutes. It's also amazing how many of these pieces I recognize, at least aurally.

They are also very soothing and pleasing to listen to. I don't know if this is a factor of age, but I'm really getting into it.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hard business lessons.

36 years owning Pegasus Books.

I made a lot of mistakes in my first 18 years of business. That's why I recognize the warning signs in others.

I'm upfront about it, too. I try to warn people, even competitors, because I believe that healthy businesses are an overall good. Unhealthy businesses, especially competitors, are a drag. I'd much rather compete with a smart competitor because chances are they are living by the same rules I am.

We all live by the same rules. Overhead, profit margins, business ethics, location, location, location, and so on. Anyone who somehow tries to live by other rules will find out eventually that it won't work. No one lives by a magic formula. Even competitive advantages eventually shrink. (I had a competitor once who was operating on half the margins I was--I found out later they had free rent. When the free rent dried up--and of course, that will happen--so did their business.)

But despite all that, chances are that most small businesses will make a ton of mistakes--if they last 18 years at all. Either they learn or they're gone.

For the last 18 years, I've tried to apply all the lessons I learned in the first half of my career. Most often, my conclusions have only been confirmed. I've spent most of this time building the business back up again on a more solid foundation.

Only in the last six years have I given myself substantial time off. It was time anyway. I was no longer the most effective salesman. I was cranky and a bit burned out. So having Sabrina and crew being the face of Pegasus Books has been a good thing.

I wonder if it is even possible to learn these hard business lessons without experiencing them.

Everyone makes less at first than they think they will.
Everyone thinks their "hobby" business will be "fun."
Everyone gets fooled into thinking advertising works.
Everyone will be tempted by a "cheaper" or bigger location.
Everyone thinks "image" is more important than it is.
Everyone puts the promotion cart before the selling horse.
Everyone overspends on fixtures and accoutrements at first.
Everyone thinks selling cheaper will make more money.
Everyone underestimates the importance of inventory.
Everyone offers "service" beyond what is sustainable.
Everyone expands to the point of incompetence.
Everyone struggles at some point and reacts badly.
Everyone overworks, burning out.

It's that last one that is most hard to convince others.

But I'll always maintain that burnout is the cause of as many business failures as not making money. (Usually, one leads to the other, of course.) The level of energy you bring to the business at first is simply not possible to sustain forever.

Anyway, I throw out these tidbits once in a while. Of course, other long term businesses may have different advice. The above is tailored to my personality.

 But I think it is roughly right.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


To follow up on my "funk" post about the bookstore in Hood River. It turns out that neither the owner or his employee own computers or smart phones. The owner apparently doesn't even have electricity in his home.

So that got me wondering. How would I handle a world without the digital?

I was a Luddite for a long time. I didn't want a computer or a smart phone. I don't remember how that changed. It was more of a slow process, one thing dragging me into another.

But I'm definitely in the camp now. I spend a lot of time online.

What would I do without it? Probably read a great deal more. In fact, I only have to look back about 40 years to know how it would be.

I often point out how bloody hard it was to write books on typewriters. Just the physical process itself was grueling and I suspect kept people from finishing books. Having information at my fingertips is wonderful, especially for information gathering personality types like me. So no...there is no way I could go back. But the truth is--I hadn't even thought about it for a long time.

Truth is, I couldn't have Pegasus Books without a computer--or maybe I could, but it would be ten times harder.

It would be interesting, though.

Just me and time and books.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Keeping the Funk.

I've become such a know-it-all about small business that it's become obvious to me that I'm a know-it-all about small business, therefore I realize that I know nothing.

Yeah, I don't see my own faults unless I step outside of my comfort zone. So much of what I don't do is because I DON'T WANT TO.

So I have to give other small business owners the same benefit of the doubt. It's exhausting always being right.

So yeah, I'm know what I know but don't know what I don't know, and I'm aware of that.

Visited a unique bookstore in Hood River on our visit to the boys,"Artifacts: Good Books and Bad Art," and it lived up to its billing. Art along the top of the walls (much the way I stack my toys and games) and piles of books below. Every square inched filled with inventory, just the way I like it.

I like to think my store is funky, but this store outfunks my store by a lot. I'm almost traditional in design compared to this store. (He's also been there apparently, even longer than I've had my own store.)

It's what I always say--make your store unique and different. So I thought that was pretty cool. I think a lot of the Funk is stuff the owner is hand-selling. Not sure I could do the same thing in my store. I've tried to make my store as weird and at the same time as mainstream as I can. "Artifacts" goes straight to the weird, which I really admire.

But having stuff outside the usual is very attractive. What I decided in my store was--if I was going to have limited space--that I'd fill it with stuff that could be stacked in a small space. It's all about the ergonomics.

I also believe that if I'm going to carry so much inventory, that it needs to as straight and orderly as possible. But I've always liked the crowded, narrow type stores, where you might find something unusual around every corner.

For once, I didn't have any criticisms to what he's doing--and I sort of wish I could go in the same direction--but I've found a formula of my own that seems to work and is sufficiently funky, so other than continuing to find more ways to put in cool stuff, I think my store is pretty good too. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

My yearly plea to cut down on downtown street closures.

An article on KTVZ about "Visit Bend"s shift to "Leave-No-Trace practices. Sustainable tourism. A focus on community."

If an organization whose whole reason for being could shift from sheer boosterism, then so can the Bend Downtowners.

Every time I go downtown, I'm amazed by its vibrancy. People walking around, standing on corners, shopping, eating, laughing, enjoying. 

In other words, we've succeeded in what we set out to do. There is a real danger of gridlock if we keep pushing and pushing.

A weird thing happens when you have a store full of people--sometimes, no one spends money. Everyone is assuming that everyone else is shopping.

Anyway, this is my yearly plea to cut back on street closures in the downtown. Enough is enough. Go ahead and grandfather the events in, but please don't add any more. If an event drops away, don't replace it. Try not to fill the peak weekends of summer.

Let downtown be downtown--a retail district.

Re-upped at Pegasus Books.

Signed a new lease at Pegasus Books, so you're stuck with us.

Store is humming along. Sabrina is doing a great job, books are selling, and I'm still enjoying the whole small businessman thing.

No reason to tamper with what's working, right?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Rewriting "Takeover."

Finally sat down to wrestle with "Takeover."

I very much like what I did there. But it was an experiment that didn't quite work, reading wise. It was a bunch of individual testimonials in individual voices, which was what I was after, but there wasn't a strong narrative thread, almost by definition.

The last 2/3rds of the book is straight ahead action/thriller plot and works really well, I think.

Turns out, I can write thrillers. They may actually be more successful in execution than my horror and SF novels.

There does seem to be a different process, however. In the both of the thrillers I'd written before "Takeover," I had first drafts that really didn't work, so I rearranged chapters and tried a second version, and that made some of it better and some of it worse.

In both cases, after a long hiatus, I came back and rearranged and rewrote them in a form that really improved the plot.

What this most reminds me of--if I may--is my term papers in college. Usually I'd do a rough sketch of what I wanted to say, then set it aside, come back and do a second version, then set it aside, and after a bit of thinking, come back a third time and if I was lucky, the narrative would become clear.

So really, with "Takeover," I'm still in the second phase.

It's hard, because I'm having to write new material when my creative phase is already gone. It's more of a mechanical process. Or perhaps a more positive way to put it, it's a "crafting" phase.

I have to create more of a linear narrative for the first third of the book. I'm also putting characters from "Deadfall Ridge" into the story. Hart Davis, of course, and Granger, and Nicole.

I'd hoped to take the putative main character and substitute him with Hart, but I've discovered that I have to split him between Hart and Granger.

Which means that, just as in the original draft, there probably won't be a "main" character, but it's more of an ensemble. I'll try to build up Hart as much as possible. Might require writing a couple of new chapters.

If nothing else, the narrative flow should be better.

Like I said, this is the crafting of a rough second draft, and won't be the final form. But the final form can't be shaped until this draft is done.

ADDED: Talking to Linda about how both "Deadfall Ridge" and my fire book finally came together when I wrote a prologue chapter setting up the scenario and the characters, but damned if I could think of anything for "Takeover."

And then, just like that, I had it. A set-up scene with action! Exactly what was called for!

I love it when that happens.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

3 Book Day

Finished the last 100 pages of one book, "The Accidental War" by Walter Jon Williams, then all 438 pages of "Twisted Prey" by John Sandford, and then the first 60 or so pages of "Dark Intelligence" by Neal Asher.

Since I read about one page per minute, that's about 10 hours of reading.

I used to do that all the time, but lately I've just been reading the last hour or so before bed. I figure if I'm not going to write, I have a lot of empty time, and I have a rule that I won't watch TV during the day. The internet can suck up most of the day if I let it. Oh, and I've quite watching political talk shows for now. I'm done with that.

 My exploration of the music videos on YouTube reminds me of my teenage years--spending afternoons just exploring music and history and popular culture. They talk about "second childhoods" but I seem to have fallen into a "second teenage-hood."

I've gotten particular about what shows I'll watch and what books I'll read.

"The Accidental War" was good old-fashioned space opera and I really liked it. "Twisted Prey" is the kind of mindless book that can be gulped down in one sitting. "Dark Intelligence" I'm not going to finish because it has an unclear storyline and is filled with SF jargon.

I'm kind of getting sick of unclear storylines. I'm going to give up on the show "Magicians," even though I like the characters and the dialogue because I haven't a clue what's going on. They've fallen into the trap of pulling out a magic trick every time the story bogs down.

I'm having the same trouble with "American Gods." Very unclear what's going on, though the style has carried me along so far.

Giving up on "Deadly Class" because they can't seem the reconcile the point of the school with a moral or ethical position that makes any sense. "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" has much the same problem, but I'm waiting to see if they can make sense of it.

I like "Into the Badlands" despite how ridiculous it is because at least I understand what they're doing. The story is fairly straightforward. And I think I may have a thing about hot women in black leather and high heels.

We've been without Netflix for a couple of months. It seemed like we'd seen most of what we wanted to see, and then--the minute we don't have it--I hear about lots of intriguing shows.

We're going all-in next week. Getting a smart TV and hooked up to Amazon and CBS access and Netflix and every other show we want to watch. There will be more selection so I intend to be more selective.

Linda and I are currently watching only one network show--"The Rookie"-- only because of Nathan Fillion, even though it's about as formulaic as it can be. I leave the room when Linda watches "911" or "Bull." I just can't go there anymore.

I'm going to try to do some writing today, because this being only a consumer and not a producer is getting to me.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Bookstore/Graphic Novel Store

In May of last year, we reorganized the front of the store. We took out most of the used books and replaced them with graphic novels. Since that time, graphic novel sales have beat the previous year month 9 out of 11 times, in most cases by a significant amount.

At the same time, I made more room for new books, and they've outsold the previous year month 8 out of 11 times. 

3 times last year, new books actually outsold monthly comics. When I bought the store, monthly comics were 100% of my sales.

So that's pretty remarkable.

Part of this is that monthly comics are having one of their regular declines, which seems to happen every decade or so. It defies reason in some ways. After all, you can't get much bigger than superhero movies, toys, and assorted merchandise.

But we've always sold way more comics than related merchandise. We can't compensate with toys and other peripheral material.

At the same time, many of the new books we sell are tangentially connected to comics--it is pretty hard sometimes to tell if I'm ordering a book or a graphic novel. The young adult graphic novels are ordered most often through my book distributors, for instance.

As I said, graphic novels have seen steady increases, which has ameliorated the problem. We are currently ahead of last year's sales--despite the worst February in 8 years. (I've never seen such a huge effect from weather.)

So the transition to a bookstore/graphic novel store is well underway. (Really, has been underway for a decade or more.) We are servicing monthly comics fully--but we are also continuing to develop other lines of product. If comics come back in a big way--and based on history, they probably will at some point--that will be an addition.

The most interesting thing about this is new books do not required constant heavy lifting. Sales are consistent whether I'm up to date in my ordering or not. I'd decided to spend the first half of this year not going into debt, so I didn't order new books from Christmas until about halfway through March.

If I'd tried this with monthly comics, for instance, sales would have died on the vine. But with new books, we still beat last year. The February weather problem changed my mind about ordering and I went back to heavy ordering on new books, and sales in March were tremendous.

This is a huge boon for being able to plan our cashflow. Games, toys, new books, and to a large extent, graphic novels, can be ordered when I can afford them, instead of having to buy them no matter what.

This is a 180 degree change from when we had to order THIS WEEK's sports cards or comics--or go out of business. Not being hostage to the timeliness of the product is a huge improvement.

It all makes for a much more healthy and less stressful store.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Four months of not writing.

I just can't seem to get going. First the holidays, then the snows, then my health issue, then the traveling. Dieting can seem like a full time job.

But none of these would have stopped me a few years ago.

I don't think it's a bad thing to take stock. If I need to make changes then a hiatus is necessary. That's the only time I can really institute a change in habits--get away from the activity long enough that when I come back to it, it's an examined restart.

I'm not sure I've come to any conclusions. I know that I can write books. But they are all pretty consistent in quality--that is, there is a level at which I write which seems to be my level. Is there any way to up my game? Do I need to?

Is it all pointless unless I can develop a community of readers? I mean, I get readers one at a time, but there is no consistent effort to nurture them. I can't seem to do that. I'm not sure I want to.

Therefore I am completely dependent on something happening to put my books on a wider platform. The difference between what happened to "Deadfall Ridge" and the next book, "Fateplay," is startling.

And "Fateplay" may be my favorite book!

In other words, just writing books isn't enough.

Of course, I've known this from the start. I was just hoping for some lucky breaks. But I don't think that happens often--I think it takes a full-time effort.

I used to remonstrate with people who thought they could do a small business as a "sideline." What makes people think they can succeed or even survive unless they put in a full effort?

Well, the same thing can be said for writing. Books don't sell themselves. But damn, I look at that mountain I need to climb and shudder. I like writing, but I have never been comfortable with the process of promoting.

Once again I liken it to sports cards. (I learned a lot of hard lessons with sports cards.)

They required a full effort all the time. I had to carry all the card brands, all the ways you could buy them (singles, sets, packs, boxes.) I had to be up on current pricing, which changed every day. I had to be competitive, even when it seems like that didn't produce profits. I had to buy and trade and sell cards with difficult customers. I had to be aware of sports events, watch the games, watch the sport channel wrapups every night. I had to carry all the various supplies, whether they sold fast or not. It was intensive and pressure-filled and neverending.

The moment--the very moment--I stepped back even the slightest, it started to fray and fall apart, and it quickly become evident I had to be all in or not at all.

So I let it go. It took five years to completely extricate myself--but I'll always remember the day in 1997 when a customer complained about my service and I blurted, "I'm sorry, but I'm not a sports card shop." Wow. The relief that came over me at that moment.

When "Deadfall Ridge" was chosen for a BookBub promotion, I started to research the phenomenon, and listening to a couple of writers on a podcast made it clear that the same sort of intensive effort was necessary for writers to get noticed.

It exhausted me just listening to them. But it became clear that I need to be all in on promotion efforts-- or not at all. No middle ground, really.

But here's the deeper lesson I learned from sports cards. If it takes every minute of every day to make it worthwhile, it's probably a good idea to let it go. Get on with your life. Do things that work but don't give you a nervous breakdown.

So when I go back to writing, I'll know that it's really something I do because I like it.

And, you know, I can maintain the illusion I'll get lucky.

Monday, April 1, 2019

I'm an Oregonian, through and through.

I figure it's best not to advertise when we're on vacation.

We're back, so now I can talk about it. We stayed in a four-star hotel, casino. Not really much different from our usual two-star Comfort Inn environs. Bellhops and valet parking, maybe a bit more solidly built with nicer fittings. But really, the beds were pretty much the same, which is what counts.

Being in a casino was strange. Lots and lots of old people--but again, that's just like the breakfast room in a Comfort Inn. Old people apparently have the money to travel.

This casino was very diverse in its clientele--not just a bunch of old white folks, so I was impressed by that. Played the slot machines (which were fucking confusing--where did the old one-armed bandits go?) but it was more in the way of a bonding experience with Linda's two nieces.

I love the terrain around Coarsegold--rolling hills of oak forests with granite outcropping like mini-Stonehenges. So very different from Central Oregon. There was an actual tornado alert while I was in the hotel--I went down to the lobby and no one was paying any attention, but I decided to keep my eye on the horizon. Heh.

We were gone a full week. On the way back we decided to go by way of Highway 49, instead of I-5. Went through Sonora and Placerville and such places, very scenic, but ended up adding 3 hours to our day. There seems to be lots of these Sisters-type tourist towns--Mariposa, Sonora, Mt. Shasta, and so on.

I'm an Oregonian, through and through.