Saturday, August 31, 2019


I finally made some headway on the rewrite of "Eden's Return." I'm about halfway through. I've already added 7000 words. So by the time I'm done, I'll be well over the minimum 60,000 words I set for myself.

It's hard. I don't enjoy it but I can't deny it improves the book. I tend to underwrite. I want my books to move fast, but there also needs to be a bit more gravitas.

That's my new favorite writing word. Gravitas.

I've written all my books with the intent to be entertaining. I don't have a particular message to impart, nor do I shoot for a "literary" type presentation.

Sabrina said something interesting to me the other day. "You like pulp, but you don't like camp." I suppose that's right. But pulp only in the most positive terms. I'm allergic to pretense these days. The minute I get a whiff of it in a book, I lay it down and move on. Real literary quality in inherent in the story--and so many of these newer SF and Fantasy books are a little too blatant in their aspirations.

At least, that's the way I feel about it.

However, it wouldn't hurt me to reach for whatever gravitas I can find in a story. Just think a little longer and try a little harder.

Which means either doing more planning in advance (which I'm determined to do in my next book) or spending more time and thought on the rewrite.

So that's where I'm at right now. A couple more weeks of pain--and a book that I can be proud of for years. That's the tradeoff. Knowing that I made the effort each time.

So far, I've managed to mostly do that in my stories. Take a step back, try to be patient, and not just throw my first effort out there. (Even if the essence is mostly there...)

Friday, August 30, 2019

Gone for a week
but her spirit lingers
rounding every corner
sweet and full

I sleep alone,
but she is next to me
a simple thought
and she is there

I think I'm going
to batch it
drink some wine
stay up late

But old habits
comfortable times
the same small
pleasantries remain

I turn off good shows
waiting to share
watch bad shows

Into the quiet
and the dark
I think of her
and the light

Where I'm alone
I'm also a pair
apart but the same
waiting for her to return

A little thought experiment.

A little thought experiment.

From the start, I've wondered about the connection between the quality of a book and how well it sells. Quality is subjective, I suppose, and individual. It's obvious that some good books fail to sell well and some bad books become bestsellers.

But fundamentally, I still wanted to believe that quality will out.

I've asked some established writers over the years if: "a good book that was simply put out onto the market without any other push would do well" and the answer, every time, was a flat "No."

"Deadfall Ridge" has sold so much better than my other books that that it's clear that unless you have something like a  BookBub promotion, it's very hard to make headway. On the other hand, there is a fellow writer I know who has been doing fantastic with his series of books. I haven't seen that he's done anything but write some books that people like and been consistent about how he presents them.

Most of the other writers who seem to do well are very active in their promotion, and clever in their use of social media. From my perspective, it looks exhausting and unpleasant. Heh.

Anyway, as I've mentioned, I've slowed way down in my writing. I've written a bunch of books, published about half of them.

But the other day I asked myself a little question. It's more or less a thought experiment.

1.) Could I write a book better than anything I've done so far?

The answer is Yes, Undoubtedly.

2.) Would that book fare any better than any of my other books?

And the answer came back a solid, without a doubt, "No."

So in a backward sort of way, I've answered that question that I've been mulling since the beginning of my second writing career. Coming at it backwards has given me an answer that seems true and undeniable.

Not sure if it makes a real difference in how I approach things. I've always tried to write the best book I could. But it has puts things in perspective for me--and I'm a person who can accept anything as long as I know what's going on. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Mortality and all that.

It's taken six months, but I think I've gotten back to normal about, you know, mortality and all that.

The trick is to put it in the back of my mind, not to think about it. After all, what's really changed? I mean, really, I'm as healthy or unhealthy as I was before, nor am I compelled to make huge changes. I'm trying to keep the weight off and walk everyday, but I was already doing that.

The heart clogging up? Well, it's going to do that whether I'm paying attention to it or not. If I feel any of the danger signs, do something about it, but other than that, get on with it.

So yeah, it's pretty much back to normal.

I've also stopped worrying about writing. I'll get back to it when I'm ready.

Meanwhile, I've returned to working at Pegasus Books on Sundays and Mondays. Just put my first two days in--and it was exhausting but also kinda fun. I was missing it. I like interacting with people in my own space, talking books, talking Bend.

The foot traffic is pretty amazing. By staying in the same place for 38 years or so, the world caught up to us. Pegasus Books itself will be hitting 40 years come next year. I probably ought to do something about that since I'm unlikely to be still running the place in another 10 years.

Across from us, Wendy at Trivia Antiques is moving out. It's one of two businesses on my block that started about the same time as I bought Pegasus. (The other is Kitchen Complements; I don't think Diane is going anywhere.)

I bought the store just a couple of months before them, so I still claim to be the oldest existing retail business downtown in the same location under the same ownership. (April, 1984 if anyone has anyone who can beat that.)

I've been lucky with my landlords. I've been lucky overall.

Books and graphic novels are selling great, representing 2/3rds sales. Enough of a mix that I can adjust to circumstances.

Funny thing about going back to work--and I can already see it happening--is that I'll have to watch out for the budget. Being there more often means I'll probably be ordering more--instead of just assigning a budget and asking Sabrina to stick to it--or not being there and not realizing what I'm missing. Heh.

Anyway, I still like what I'm doing. If I was in danger or burning out ten years ago, I think that danger is past. I'm rested and excited by the changes to the store and ready to go. Knock wood.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Not working isn't working for me.

I haven't been writing and it's driving me crazy.

I think as long as I tell myself that I will write in the near future, I'll be OK. It was contemplating quitting that was causing me the dissonance. Once I made the affirmation that I will start writing again, the pressure seemed to ease.

I spend a lot of time on history podcasts--but at least I'm not watching TV. I've had a long prohibition about watching TV during the daytime. I'm holding to that. I read for an hour each night just before bed, and I want to do more than that. Perhaps start reading during the afternoons. I did that a lot when I was younger.

Fortunately, I'm going back to work next week, on Sundays and Mondays. I'm looking forward to it. I've already been going in twice a week to pick up the book lists, making an order, and then going in and putting books away. That can be incorporated into my two days at work, plus an afternoon.

Sabrina informed me she's been working for me for 10 years. Rather astounding.

I'm going to settle into a new routine soon, I'm sure.

My cardiologist says he doesn't need to see me until May, and for some reason that was reassuring. It's just the new normal, same as the old normal, plus a 2% chance of a reoccurrence. It's been seven months and I'm finally coming to the conclusion that not that much has changed. That something could happen at my age was always a given.

I've found a few new places to walk, and I've been doing some exploring.

Still waiting for word on BookBub. I'm trying not to get my hopes up. It was always a long shot.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Writers know kung fu.

Yesterday, I listened to all 8 hours of the first "Revolution" podcast, by Mike Duncan, about the British civil war.

So I was feeling guilty about wasting so much of a day on information that isn't all that useful to my daily life, and up comes a passage about the Diggers, the agrarian socialist movement, the precursors to anarchists. And the information fits perfectly with my current book, "Eden's Return."

I've often wondered if one of the prerequisites to writing books is having a broad knowledge of useless facts. I mean, useless for everyday purposes, but useful for writing stories.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake.

I read once that one of the common histories of writers is that at some point in their early lives they were confined and isolated for some reason, usually health, and thus spent a lot of time alone and most often reading.

Certainly, that was my history. During my ten year bout with depression I spent most of my time reading. And as was my habit, reading anything that came along that caught my interest. I grew up in a house full of books, so I never confined myself to one genre. I read anything that caught my eye.

So I constantly find myself writing in little details to my stories that I'm sort of amazed I knew. A broad knowledge, nothing terribly deep, but I most often know at least a little bit about most subjects people bring up. If I don't know, I immediately look it up.

At least, I think I do. The Dunning/Kruger effect notwithstanding.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Writer's group motivation.

Back in the early 80s, the thing that kept me writing was the every two week's writer's group. I always wanted to have something ready to read, so that was motivation enough for me to get going. It didn't seem like a slow pace back then.

This new writing career has been very different. I got in a "zone" after an initial six month stuttering start. Once I got in the groove, I stayed in it for the next year. I figured it would end at any time.

About the beginning of the second year, I first started trying to publish, so that complicated the pure writing a little, but I was still pretty damned focused.

I kept it going the third and fourth year, though by now much of it was routine and habit. By my fifth and sixth years, disciplined has started to become more important.

And now?

I've lost my mojo. Amazingly and counter-intuitive, as least to me, was that my heart attack had me questioning everything. It was probably time for a break anyway. But most of all, that creative urge had been written out of me. The challenge--just finish a book!  Okay, now publish a book! Okay, now try to get it to sell!

Well, the third goal still needs some work.

Anyway, I've definitely stepped back. I have a number of books that I've already written that need some rewriting. This isn't really a great solution--I don't like rewriting anywhere near as much as I like imagining the story in the first place.

But it works for my once every two week reading at writer's group.

When I come back to writing new material, I think I'm going to tackle my Grand Fantasy Trilogy. That's my intent, but...

I never know what I'm going to want to write until I start writing it. Something just switches on.

If either "Takeover" or "Deadfall Ridge" get a BookBub--and the odds are always against that happening--I'll probably immediately set out to write a Hart Davis book again, I have a story in mind.

But until then, at the very least, I'll want to have something to read every two weeks at writers group.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Linda's off the church camp for a week. So I thought I'd get drunk.

Then I didn't.

Every time I get to the moment when I'd normally start drinking, I have second thoughts, then when I wake up the next morning, I'm grateful I didn't do it.

The idea was to sit down with "Eden's Return" for a rewrite--to flesh it out a little. I like the book, but I think it could be filled in a little.

I wasted Saturday watching the full first season of "In the Dark." Really liked it, despite all the touchy feely stuff. Then yesterday wasted most of the day listening to the last of the "Hardcore History" podcasts. (Bought the whole package last year.) Never even got out of my bathrobe.

Disgusting. I hope Linda never leaves me because I'd turn into a toad.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Two Sentence Science Fiction.

"Your mission, Time Patroller, should you chose to accept it, is to stop evil time jumpers from corrupting the past with images of future persons and events."

"Mission accepted," Picasso.

Ignoring symptoms.

I have a habit of waiting way too long for solutions to physical ailments.

I think it was drilled into me by my mother to never complain, to suck it up. She'd get visibly annoyed by sickness, though when it was serious, she was all over it. But picky little things, stuff that wasn't very noticeable, those were manifestations of hypochondria to her.

Whenever I'd try to bring up problems that might be genetic to our family at the dinner table, I'd be shut down. Depression obviously runs in the family. My father was hospitalized for it, and I had a severe ten-year bout, and I think some other close relatives have suffered from it too. But it took a good two years before I finally saw a psychiatrist and was given medications that at least made me functional.

So, for example, I had a terrible problem with dry sky on my forehead and face--just slabs of skin coming off, no matter how much I caked lotion over it. Then one day, my sister Betsy happened to mention that she was using cortisone on her condition. I immediately went and bought some over the counter lotion, and...problem solved! (As long as I put a thin layer on my forehead every morning.)

My mother especially hated psychotropic drugs. She'd tell the story of a zombie neighbor who was a little too fond of Mother's Little Helpers. (One of the reasons it took two years to seek help for my depression.)

Well, for about 20 years, the only leftover symptom of my depression was a pretty strong agoraphobia. I stayed away from restaurants and malls and most other gatherings. As you can imagine, this was somewhat crippling, especially since I didn't know what it was. Finally, I diagnosed myself from a magazine article, and started to slowly cure myself. But what finally did the job was going to my regular doctor and asking for tranquilizers to use on a situational basis.

It was magic. The damn pills worked! I only need a small dose pill on an average of one every three days or so, but it's always there in case it's needed. It literally solved the problem. What had I waited so long for?

Mother's little voice in my head.

I'm not blaming her--I think that being a stoic is generally a good thing. Not quitting is usually the right way to go about things. But I wish I'd been a little more conscious of when to ignore that voice.

I had my doctor recommend that I take a antihistamine every day. I ignored the advice for years, afraid of the side-effects. But I finally started taking one every night and BAMM! My sinuses cleared up.

Clear sinuses for the first time in--well, just about forever.

What brought up this little essay is that my optometrist recommended that I get eye drops. I was told many years ago that I'm a non-blinker, that is, I blink less than most people. Well, add that to my constant internet, and my eyes have gotten pretty gritchy.

I didn't do anything for a good four months, but finally got some eye drops a few days ago, and
VOILA! My eyes feel so much better.

And so on.

I'm getting too old to be ignoring this shit.

Retail is risk--there isn't anyway around that.

I busted the budget yesterday for the first time in a long time. Because I'm determined to get out of credit card debt by the first of next year, I've been pretty disciplined this year--until now. (Well, much of debt was incurred after our rather disastrous Snow-meggedon February.)

The culprit was toys. I generally order toys at a discount, because like posters and T-shirts, I just never know what will sell, so I might as well give myself an edge. But toys usually come in bulk--in cases--and so, as a line-item, are more expensive than usual. So it is easy to get carried away.

Oh, well. Christmas is coming. Also, some of the these new toys can take the place of some toys that are pretty tattered.

For years I wished I had a CFO, who could impose a budget that I was forced to follow. Of course, I knew that I'd probably badger and wheedle the poor CFO until I got what I wanted.

I've often wondered if my tendency to over-order, and then spend a good deal of time trying to dig myself out of the hole, hasn't been somewhat responsible for our survival. I've seen a lot of stores go down because they cut the budget too much. Retail is risk--there really isn't any way around that.

However, when I handed over the comic, graphic novel, and game orders to Sabrina, and gave her a budget, I found that it was more "out-of-sight/out-of-mind." That is, Sabrina has pretty much stuck to the budget I gave her, and the store hasn't suffered.

I'm still ordering books and toys, and most of the magic. So I'm still prone to over-ordering. Usually books (which also includes a fair portion of GN's.)

We just had a our best month ever on graphic novels, and within a hundred bucks of our best month ever on new books, so the store has beaten last year 7 out of the last 8 months. Meanwhile, in 2 out of the last 3 months, we've beaten last year in comics, so maybe that dropoff has finally leveled off.

Games and magic are down, and I'm pretty sure that is strictly because of the increased competition. Not only is there a fully devoted game store in town, and a fully devoted magic store, but the mainstream (Target, B & N, etc.) has fully embraced Euro-games, so we are no longer the only "game" in town.

We seem to have found a groove, though. Downtown is bustling and the store is jam-packed with goodies, both the stuff we have to pay full wholesale on, as well as stuff we got a deal on, and both categories are selling at a sufficient level to sustain the business.

It's rather nice. (Knock-wood.)