Wednesday, July 31, 2019

I sent off "Takeover" to Crossroad Press.

I'm telling myself to keep my expectations low. The publisher is going to try to finagle a "New Release" BookBub for "Takeover," and then follow it with a regular BookBub for "Deadfall Ridge."

But I know the odds are against me. (20% chance on "Takeover" and a 3% chance on "Deadfall Ridge.") I have no idea if having been a previous BookBub release increases those odds.

BookBub seems to be the one thing that really works. I'm still selling "Deadfall Ridge" better than any of my other books.

But I think keeping my expectations low is prudent.

One thing's for sure. If the BookBubs happen, I'll immediately set about writing a third Hart Davis adventure.

Follow the momentum.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Despite all my procrastination, things are proceeding.

I buckled down and did the full edit that "Takeover" needed. I've gotten back the edits from Lara Milton and as usual she did a great job. She smooths out the language, makes it that much more readable. I have the fantastic cover from Mike Corley, so all that I need to do before submitting is come up with a popping synopsis.

Synopsis's is so damn hard. I've done one, but it feels weak and I haven't figured out how to improve it. I think I'll try again, starting off with a simple explanation of the book, the way I'd describe it to a stranger. Then see if I can't tighten up that description.

Anyway, "Takeover" should be out soon. It's my most ambitious book, and as such, I can see all the places where I fell short. But it's falling short of a high goal, so it's probably better than I think. It will be interesting to see how the politics in the book play out.

I didn't write this book for the politics, but for the characters and the situation. But the politics were inherent in the situation.

As I've said before, it'll probably piss off both sides of the political divide. Heh.

Meanwhile, I want to rewrite "Eden's Return" and send it off to Lara in the next month. I already have the cover from Mike. So that book should be ready when the next slot opens up.

"Castle La Magie" needs one more rewrite, and it will be ready too. So, in some ways, the next year is covered.

This is by far the longest I've gone not writing fresh material. But I have a bunch of stories that still need to be edited, so that's all right.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

My cynicism is finally catching up to my age.

I think I've always been a little too willing to give the Powers That Be the benefit of the doubt. It never really occurred to me that some billionaires might not care about the country as a whole, that seniors might not care about their grandchildren's future, that an entire political party would be so concerned about their own interests that they'd throw the Constitution under the bus.

Way back my junior college political science course, I wrote a paper about the gas shortage, giving the gas companies an out. I assumed that beyond normal 'covering their ass' responses that politicians would vote their convictions.

I've never liked conspiracies theories, on the assumption that large groups just don't have their act together enough to pull them off. But I've learned that it doesn't take "collusion" so much as a shared willingness to fuck people over.

It has been a long learning process at the store. I've learned that not everyone cares about doing the right thing. That "ethics" is a concept that some people don't understand. That people will lie over a few bucks, and throw their reputation away for the most minor of advantages.

I figured that big corporations knew what they were doing, that they understood long-term consequences to their decisions. Instead, I've literally seen a majority of the companies I've purchased from over the last 35 years go bankrupt--to do the stupidest things imaginable, and to regularly put short term profit over long-term health.

I don't want to give up hope. But damn, it's getting harder.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Adventures in rehab.

Linda and I dropping some stuff off at the rehab place for brother-in-law Dave.

We're walking down the hall and a little old lady waves her hand at us from her bed and says, "Help!"

So we got get aide and continue on down the hall. We come out, and the lady is in a wheelchair near the door. "Hello!" she says brightly. "Will you take me somewhere?" She is looking out on the steep slope of the driveway as if yearning to escape.

"Ah, I don't think..."

"Sure!" says Linda, taking hold of the wheelchair and starting off.

"Ouch" the old lady says. "My foot wasn't ready."

"That's uh, why maybe why we shouldn't, uh..." I start.

"Yeah, drunk driver," the lady says and directs us down the hallway. We reach the nurses station and Linda looks at her inquiringly.

"These people won't do anything," the lady says. "Let's go back."

We get back where we started and I mutter, "I think we've been Shanghaied."

"Can you take me...?" the lady says, cheerfully.

Linda says gently, "We have to go see my brother. I don't work here."

" don't?" the lady says. (She knows.)

We try leaving, and Linda stops and starts putting numbers into the key panel. She keeps putting in three numbers. Another little old lady--and I do mean little, I joked about jumping over her--says, "It's four numbers dear. I can't reach it. They don't want us to escape."

We drive home, and I settle into my office chair and take a deep breath.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


There was an interview on Shelf Awareness from a bookstore owner in Florida talking about how long they've been in business that caught my attention:

"Part of the answer is a kind of stick-to-it-iveness that we've had, to deal with the ups and downs..."

Well, that's sort of it, isn't it?

For me, it was also the willingness to accept less money and the sneaking suspicion that I wouldn't be able to work for anyone else. Linda stuck with me through it all, working shit jobs to supplement our income until she finally had a store of her own.

But yeah. You just keep doing it, adjusting to the constant change, trying things until they work. Being steady and reliable is a big part of small business success--and certainly, not expecting overnight success.

It took a good 20 years before I think we were sustainable. I could make the case that if I hadn't made so many mistakes in the beginning that it could have been done in 10 years. How many people are willing to put up with the stress and hard hours and lack of money for ten years?

If I have one message for anyone planning to open a business it is--watch out for burn-out. Watch out for the advice that you should keep adding services, keep growing, keep working more hours, keep on doing everything that everyone says you should do

Simplify your workplace as much as possible, despite everyone telling you the opposite.

Then just put your head down and keep working. Do the basic job well, and let the other stuff go.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Every damn twinge.

Every time I get a twinge in my chest I'm aware of my mortality.

Linda was gone for the whole day, yesterday. It was a sample of what life would be without her. It wasn't pretty. Didn't accomplish a damn thing. (Well, I did mow and fertilize the lawn, trim some hedges, and do some weeding. Exciting life I have.)

It reminded me of the decade I spent mostly alone when I was depressed. But there was a weird compensation, somehow. I had an enormous appetite for media: movies, TV, music, and books. Especially books. I'm not sure I could do the same today.

The difference is--I'm not frightened I'm not going to have enough money for the next rent check. Yea!

I just don't have the desire to write. The longer this goes on, the less desire I have. Am I done?

Chances are I'll spend more time on this blog if I'm not writing fiction.

Is there anything wrong with just relaxing? I have inherited enough of Libby's puritan ethic to feel like I'm failing if I'm not doing something challenging. More than anything else, that was what writing novels represented for me. Every time I started a book is was a chance to get it right. Looking back, it doesn't seem like I varied all that much in quality, though it got easier to do.

I suspect that some idea will overtake me that I simply have to write.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Imposing my own narrative on my life.

I forget sometimes how much I like writing this blog. The candor of it, revealing without fear my thoughts, the honesty of how I feel. It feels good. This is the way it is, this is what's happening. You don't have to read it, or care. I'm just putting down my thoughts, to myself as much as to anyone else. Because by writing them down, I spark other thoughts, and I figure out how I'm feeling and thinking better than the amorphous consciousness that I carry throughout my waking hours. Form is imposed, a narrative.

I don't kid myself that the narrative is necessarily the complete truth--but for me, having a narrative is important.

I was thinking about this the other day as I drove into Bend. I tend to think of everything in narrative, everything a story. I wonder if artists see everything from the perspective of pictures, or musicians hear music. I don't know if this is unusual, or if everyone does it.

I decided during my depression 40 years ago to impose my own narrative. It had to feel real, it couldn't be completely made up, but I could chose what parts of my own life I wished to narrate and which parts I chose to ignore or compartmentalize.

I feel when I used psychedelics--the probable cause of my breakdown--that I was seeing real truth, but I didn't much like it. I've heard that when they do tests on depressives that they see the world more objectively than those who are healthy. My take on this is that you have to chose to be healthy, to see the world in a more positive light than your darkest thoughts.

There's a new study out that people who read are in a meditative state and that's it's healthy. I've always wondered about how my depression manifested itself. I mean, I was crippled by it as anyone who has ever suffered from it, and yet--I always had a weird faith I'd come out of it.

(I spent too many years thinking I'd somehow "revert" to my previous self. In the end, I had to rebuild my personality from the ground up.)

I had amazing dreams when I was depressed. I don't remember nightmares, I remember dreams of better days. And I read--oh, man did I read. I was stuck with myself in single room apartments, unwilling or unable to face the public, and so I read and read and read.

And toward the end of the depression, I started writing.

I think it was even more powerful than reading. I started living in an alternative and more positive world. A narrative, if you will, that I knew wasn't real but which felt real.

And so the habit of seeing everything as a narrative took hold. I don't know if my narrative of my business career is completely accurate, but it works for me. It makes me feel good about myself and I think the lessons I've learned are incorporated and preserved.

So this blog is a continuation of that. It's the narrative I present to the world, and the narrative I try to live by.
Linda's taking a church friend's kid to church camp, so I have the house to myself today. Playing Springsteen's Western Stars at full blast, contemplating my creative life.

My heart attack made me less ambitious, the opposite of what I would have expected. Vanity, Vanity, all is vanity.

But I still have the urge to create. Lately, I've been writing poems. One and done. Easy and fun, and it feels creative. So I got the bright idea of trying to write a full story as a prose poem. I'd come up with an idea for a horror novel--or at least the beginning of one--the other day. So I sat down with some scrap paper (I have a stack of paper two feet high from chapters I've taken to writer's group) and a pen and just let go.

It's definitely a different experience--the writing feels less finished. But I don't think that's a bad thing. I think sometimes the urge is to have it polished, when what I'm really after is the creative flow. I want to shut out the critic part of the brain.

The story has it's own power, which tends to pull away from the poetic part, so I constantly have to refresh my intentions.  I left the ending of the first chapter for today, so I'll have something to start with.

After my experience with Ruby Red and the Robots--which just petered out after 15K words, I should be leery of starting off a story without some idea of where it is going. But I've also written a number of novels on a whim, so you never know. Thing is, if what I'm trying to do is spark my creative side, then it doesn't really matter.

It mattered a lot at first that I finish my novels, because in my previous career I'd stalled out too many times and it had started to become a bad habit. But I've proven that I have no trouble finishing novels so I can let myself to explore now without fear of failure.

It's the flow that counts, not the results.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Another street closure today. Did a little below average for the month, but not too bad. It isn't like the old days where the closures killed us, because we've become much more mainstreamed.

I still don't like them much.

I was a little surprised that none of the city councilors answered my email about the last street closure, especially since I understood that I wasn't the only merchant writing to them. I expected some kind of "we're looking into it" answer, but not even that.

But I gave up on all this stuff a few years ago.

Having a good month overall. This will probably be the 7th out of the last 8 months that we've beat last year, mostly due to new books and graphic novels. Becoming a true bookstore, in some ways.

By the way, I'll be going back to work this fall, at least on Sundays and Mondays. Dylan is going off to school in the east and Sabrina and I decided we could handle the hours ourselves. I'm looking forward to it.

My writing has slowed way down. I have a huge backlog of material that needs to be finished, so I'm resisting starting anything new. At the same time, I'm finding it hard to be motivated in rewrites--but I'll get them done eventually.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Farewell Bend
writer's group,
Christmas Party, 2012.

"Merry Christmas everyone!
Farewell, I'm going home,
I'm busy writing!"

Plotting the story in the car,
not a second wasted,
my characters are calling.

The words come fully formed,
the scenes alive in my head,
I'm not missing a moment.

Word count clicking,
like a metronome,
a thousand here, a thousand there.

Weeds sprout in the garden,
bills pile on the desk,
Fuck that, I'm writing!

I'm writing a novel,
with another one waiting,
and more jostling ahead.

It'll come to end,
someday down the road,
but not now, not until then.

Stories take their turn,
waiting to be told,
an endless stream.

And then a year later,
sending the first one off,
getting rejected.

But I'm busy writing,
can't be concerned,
I'm getting better.

An opening,
someone says they like it,
even if it's not their thing.

I try them again,
something I'm sure they'll like,
with a cover ready.

He takes it,
and the rejected story before,
and there they are, printed.

I'm not slowing down,
every idea is a yes,
every story will be written.

Killer pigs,
and Golem gangsters,
sexy succubae.

Vampires and werewolves,
Bigfoot makes himself known,
giant snakes and gnomes.

Dragons and Old Gods,
ghosts and mercenaries,
each take their turn.

Looking back in
surprise, as fictional
as a dream.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

A Million Little Words

Kafka wanted his words burned,
or so it is said,
Jacqueline Susann worshiped the Golden Calf,
praying she might be read.

Thomas Wolfe stampeded his words,
while Maxwell Perkins culled the herd,
Hemingway chose words carefully,
a style new, he was sure.

F. Scott Fitzgerald drank,
the Roaring Twenties in the rearview mirror,
Joan Didion looked fragile,
while aiming to perturb.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a tale,
that the world embraced,
he looked at his fans,
and recoiled in horror.

J.K. Rowling wrote in coffee shops,
uncertain of her future,
and became the richest woman,
in Albion of yore.

George Orwell traveled
to the future, while
Philip K. Dick's psychosis
became real.

J.D. Salinger wrote a word a year,
resting on his laurels,
while Harper Lee never
wrote another.

George R.R. Martin wrote a
million words,
but let others
finish the story.

Bestselling authors are forgotten,
Uris, Wouk, and Robbins,
other authors write more than ever,
now that they are gone.

And now a million writers,
clamor to be seen,
lost in an ocean of words,
written on machines.

Somewhere between Kafka,
and Susann, I write my little stories,
hoping someone hears them
and fearing that they will.

Friday, July 5, 2019

I'm amazed I ended up in such a good place.

It's a little unexpected. After a miserable 20s, I wrote a book, met Linda, and bought Pegasus Books. Worked hard for the next 30 years--mostly just trying to keep our head above water.

To find the time at 59 to go and write my books, to spend the next seven years in my own home, living creatively while the store continued to do all right. (A little more than head above the water--if not much more.)

The heart attack has definitely put more of a premium on the moment. I think until I had the heart attack it was my assumption that I'd live into my 80s at least. Now...I realize that every moment counts.

It hasn't made me more industrious. If anything, the opposite has happened. I'm allowing myself the luxury of being lazy.

They talk about second-childhoods, but this is more like a second teenage-hood. Listening to music, reading in the afternoon, going for long exploratory walks. Driving around. Hanging out with Linda, talking philosophy and psychology and--when we slip a few cogs--politics. Stopping by the store a few times a week to put away books, being around books and comics, seeing old friends.

It's nice. I like it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

My Favorite Path

My Favorite Path

Fifteen miles east of Bend,
A thousand miles from no one,
Five hundred hikes,
Always alone.

A single parking spot,
At the trailhead,
Mine if I claim it,
Always empty.

A slight upward hike,
On the journey out,
And easy striding,
On the way home.

Always halfway,
No matter where I turn,
One foot before the other,
Motion swinging into motion.

Sun and shade,
Trees and breeze,
Hat band and backpack
Soaked but refreshed.

No one ever here,
Always mine,
My favorite path.

…Not telling you where.