Thursday, October 31, 2019

The deep end.

Well, that was intriguing and daunting.

Sabrina called in sick, so I showed up at the store on Wednesday, otherwise known as "New Comic Release" day. I grabbed the comics off the counter and started putting them out. So far, so good. I'd spent the previous Sunday and Monday exploring the nooks and crannies of the comics shelves, trying to figure out what the current titles and trends were.

Luckily, I had the comics out before the onslaught began. In piled a bunch of shelf customers. (We have a shelf system where we hold comics for regulars.) Half of these customers I didn't even know. But I was enthused about how interested they seemed.

Ringing up $4 and $5 comics is still a bit of a wrench for me. I bite my tongue. Time has moved on. The past is a foreign country. This is the way of things and those up-to-date have no problem with it.

Anyway, before I know it, I'm swamped. I stay swamped for the next hour. Toward the end of the hour, the most voluble of my shelf people come in and start talking about comics and I don't really have a clue what they're talking about, and I try faking it for awhile (which I'm pretty good at and have plenty of practice) before I finally throw up my hands and admit, "I have no idea what's going on."

So every time someone asks something I don't know, I look it up on my computer. I'm in full steaming research mode by now, as well as trying to reorder everything people are looking for, and trying to figure out who wants what.

I ring up the total when there is a moment of temporary quiet, and I realize I've rung up more than our daily average in just one hour. And it sort of freaks me out.

The two guys are still talking about comics at the top of their voices and I interject a comment here and there (mostly historical context--that's what an old guy is good for--historical context) and finally I just stop mid-sentence and say, "You guys need to get out of here, I've got work to do."

Thankfully, they don't take offense.

The rest of the day is more normal, but I'm aware the whole time how deep in the pool I am and barely treading water.

What's amazing is this was normal for me for 25 years or so. Could I do it again? Man, I don't know. I'd probably find a way, but wow.

It makes me appreciate Sabrina even more. I've left her to deal with this stress, and bless her, I'm going to try to help out more. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Some legs on that beast.

I'd thought maybe that Crossroads Press would resubmit "Deadfall Ridge" for a domestic BookBub after the international one was done.

Instead, starting around the first of this month, the book seemed to start selling in the US anyway. So much so that I think we're already scooping up those people who want to buy it for 99 cents. Last two days have been the highest sales so far.

Of course, at 99 cents, minus Amazon and my publisher's cut, there isn't a lot left over, but it's still cool to know that people are finding the book. Still getting mostly good reviews, too. Extra bonus, six new reviews in the UK, which apparently has its own ratings system. Five 5 stars, and one 2 star. Still selling in the UK after a month and a half, while in Australia and Canada, it stopped selling after about three weeks.

The only thing missing is some kind of crossover effect. It amazes me that I can sell so many of one book, and hardly any of my other books. Just goes to show that there is only as much space for new readers as one book at a time, if that makes sense.

I'm tickled that people seem to like the book. I thought, personally, that it was a little far-fetched. I tried to leaven it with a bit of humor-- the ever-present, decaying, stinking, bullet-proof Bigfoot costume. Too much for a couple of reviewers, just the right amount of weird for a couple others.

"Takeover," the sequel, was meant to be much more serious. Especially at first. In the end, I reformatted it as a straight thriller, with all the crazy stuff that entails. Every time I try to write "serious," I can't seem to quite pull it off. But I think I have the chops to provide enough thrills and spills to do a thriller.

It's funny. I only wrote a thriller because a publisher asked me to. The deal fell through but "Deadfall Ridge" was still published and has probably been my most successful effort. (Led to the Slaughter and Tuskers did pretty well, too.)

Still trying to finish the rewrite of "Eden's Return." Going back to work for two days a week was more disruptive than I thought, and there have been some real life events that have waylaid me. But I'm only 40 pages from the end, so it will get done soon, hopefully to get published in 3 or 4 months from now.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Funny, I can whip out a blog anytime, as long as nothing consequential is happening. It's the major stuff I have a hard time writing about.

My heart attack 8 months ago has definitely changed how I see the world.

A couple of months ago, Linda's sister, Mary, died. She'd been ill for a long time, so it wasn't a surprise. Lots of family drama there that I'm not part of.

Linda's brother, David, moved up to LaPine about 20 years ago. He was closer in age to Linda. He's had some health issues too. He called over the weekend complaining that he was sick to his stomach, but he also mentioned a tightness in his chest. After he hung up, I looked up symptoms of a heart attack. Sure enough, "dry heaves" were mentioned.

But it was obvious Dave didn't want to go to the hospital.

Linda arranged that she'd text him every day and wait for an answer. Dave agreed because he was worried about his two hounds. So Sunday, she called and got no answer.

I was working that day, but I had a bad feeling about this. Fortunately, one of Linda's good friends, Diane, from church went with her. They couldn't get into Dave's house, so they called the police. So it was fortunate that Linda had both her friend and a helpful empathetic cop with her when they found him.

It's been hard on Linda. I'm just trying to be supportive. The boys showed up that night and were with us for a few days. Making arrangements for the dogs and such. Todd and Toby are the executors and inheritors of the estate. (Linda and I gave Dave a lump sum of money about six months ago because he was on the verge of of doing a reverse mortgage. For once, I had the ability to help, and it was a very smart decision.)

Out house is full of stuff that we took from Dave's. Which makes it all the more unsettling.

Meanwhile, I turned 67 a week ago, and once again the reality of age has been catching up to me.

Like I said, writing about the heavy stuff is hard. Not looking for sympathy here, by the way. Just talking about what's been happening.

Life is short. Enjoy every sandwich. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

My Top Ten Favorite Thriller/Mystery writers...and others.

My favorite thriller writers. All men, which is a bit alarming.

1.) Richard Stark (Donald Westlake.)
2. Thomas Perry
3. James Lee Burke
4. Stephen Hunter
5. Michael Connelly
6. Robert Crais
7. Lee Child
8. John Sandford
9. Lawrence Block
10. Daniel Silva
11. Elmore Leonard.  (Can't leave him of the list.)
There's a good list of ten more authors who either have become distractedly dated or whose later books I didn't like much.
1.) John LeCarre. (Great writer, but his last few books have been far too downbeat for me.)
2.) Dennis Lehane. (Same. But I liked his earlier, less pretentious books.)
3.) James Ellroy.  (Has written a couple of my all-time favorites, The Big Nowhere and L.A. Confidential, but his current style has lost me.
4.) Raymond Chandler. (Read them long ago--liked them, I remember.)
5. John Grisham. (All very competent, but nothing really stands out.)
6. Harlan Coben. (I'll read him in a pinch.)
7. John D, MacDonald. (Unfortunately too dated to get through.)
8. Patricia Cornwell. (Liked her early books, didn't much like her later books.)
9. Nevada Barr. (Just got tired of her main character, I guess.)
10. Tony Hillerman. (If he was still writing, he'd probably be on the above list.)
11. Dashiell Hammett. (Again, someone I can't leave off.)

Ten more authors who I simply can't get into, for whatever reason.

1. James Patterson.
2. Sue Grafton.
3. Stuart Woods
4. Jeffrey Deaver
5. Nelson DeMille
6. Robert Parker
7. David Baldacci
8. Clive Cussler
9. Tom Clancy
10. Robert Ludlum. (I admit, I read quite a few of the last two authors.)
11. Dan Brown (Couldn't ignore him, can't stand him)

Ten more Old-Timey Authors who I dip into occasionally or read heavily in the past.

1. Agatha Christie. (Read so many I'm not sure which ones I didn't read.)
2. Dorothy L. Sayers.
3. Josephine Tey.
4. Arthur Conan Doyle. (Read about 90% of the Sherlock Holmes stories.)
5. Rex Stout
6. James L. Cain
7. Georges Simenon
8. Patricia Highsmith
9. Jim Thompson 
10. Ian Fleming. (Loved them, but they're extremely dated now.)
11. Ellis Peters.

Ten Authors I've liked but left off the above lists.

1.) Walter Moseley
2.) Jonathan Kellerman
3.) George Higgins
4.) Thomas Harris
5.) Frederick Forsyth
6.) Michael Chrichton
7.) Scott Turow
8.) Gregory McDonald
9.) Len Deighton
10. Graham Green
11.) Jack Higgins.

Gratitude for where I am, forgiveness for where I was at.

I decided to drink a little wine and see if it couldn't help me edit "Eden's Return." The wine was opened a year ago and has been sitting in a cupboard since then, so I wasn't sure if it was even drinkable.

What the hell, I can't tell the difference.

Sure enough, it calmed me down enough to make some progress. I'm about 2/3rds done. I'm going to take another stab at it tonight after writing this. And then one more attempt tomorrow night. That's it. After that, I'm done.

I like the story and tone. But the words are just not flowing. It feels pretty clunky. Most readers probably won't notice, but I do.  I'm hoping that Lara, my editor, can smooth it out a bit.

I'm about 64 thousand words so far, or 12 thousand words more than the first draft. I'd love to get to 70 thousand words. That's still only about 200 pages, but it's a simple story. I like that it's only two narrators, and that the theme and plot are relatively simple.

I was shooting more for mood and tone this time than plot. There are some deeper philosophical themes here if I can only summon them.

 Managed about 20 pages, not as as much as I'd hoped. Still about 50 pages to go. I'm resisting sending it as is to Lara. That's a cop out. 

Man, that shit is poison. Lousy dreams, woke up feeling lousy. And got only 20 pages out of it.

I did do my "attitude" check that I sometimes do when I'm drunk. Decided I was all right, that things were on track. Gratitude for where I am, forgiveness for where I was at. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A plethora of good stuff.

The nice thing about having a bookstore is that there is no shortage of good books. Every time I visit other bookstores I see titles I'd like to have in my own store. There are a huge number of sidelines that are interesting.

I remember a time in the late nineties when I was having trouble finding viable product in my chosen categories. Comics had collapsed, graphic novels were still not the big thing, sports and non-sports cards had collapsed a few years earlier, toys were impossible to get because the big toy companies had out-of-reach minimums, games sold in Big Box stores cheaper than I could buy them for, I couldn't find a reliable book distributor who would sell to us, Magic was fading.

I looked around and decided the only product that had any chance of increasing was Magic--if I lowered the price and tried to have a larger selection.

A guy came into the store that Christmas and introduced himself as the COO of Wizards of the Coast in Seattle. "Adult Supervision," he styled himself. He told me to order this thing called Pokemon. "Don't question it, just order it. Order all you can get."

Unfortunately, I'd already tried at least a dozen different card games to supplement Magic--Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. etc. All of them had more or less flopped. So I didn't take the guy's advice.

I was able to jump onboard later, and Pokemon did very well. In the interim (can't really remember the sequence) we did short spurts with Beanie Babies and Pogs.

Pokemon, though, was the last true fad we jumped onboard with.

It's interesting that there could ever have been a time when we couldn't find enough good product that we could afford to carry.

All I'm short of nowadays is space to show it all.

Friday, October 11, 2019

In for a pound...

If working two days a week takes up this much psychic space, no wonder I couldn't write for 25 years! Sheesh.

When I was just filling in here and there, I could stay relatively unengaged. But somehow, this time, I'm being drawn in. I'm still letting Sabrina run things, but I'm personally feeling every distraction, every little problem.

A couple of ceiling panels were pushed down by some workers above the store, so we've been trying to get that fixed. It's one of those things that require 4 or 5 attempts to get anything going, and then 1 or 2 tries get it right.

I spent a lot of time on Wednesday vacuuming the store from end to end, paying particular attention to the corners and sides, where the detritus congregates. (When I say I'm working 2 days a week, that engagement is pulling me in for a couple of other afternoons a week to get things done.) Just one vacuuming and the vacuum was completely clogged. Which means that I have to pull out the filters and clean them every time we vacuum. I'm a vacuum cleaner killer. I mean, nowadays I buy a cheap $40 vacuum and hope it last six months before I add to the vacuum graveyard downstairs.

We're having problems with our UPS driver. Seems like a minor thing, but it's hugely important. We can't sell product we can't get. Haven't figured out what to do yet. I'm hoping the problem driver is a temporary. We've opened at 11:00 for many, many years. (When I was working 7 days a week, that extra hour in the morning was a life-saver...) I'm pretty sure the rule is that the driver needs to deliver during our store hours, but the other part of this is that these drivers own their routes and are pretty much kings of their domain.

Our personal taxes go out on the 15th--we always do an extension, because we can pay with the summer profits rather than after the usual very slow late-winter/early-spring. Trying to connect with our accountant. Got killed last year on taxes because of selling Linda's store. Hopefully this year the owed will be more manageable.

We have a new accountant for our payroll, and she's dragging me into the modern world of online payments. Probably time to pay taxes by the month instead of being nailed every quarter. Arrgghhh.

I've been buying new bestsellers now for about a month. The outcome is still unclear. I'm going to give it at least six months before I draw any conclusions.

Other than that?

Just waiting for the next thing...

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

It's all on me.

I'd forgotten about the small aggravations of working. The vacuum cleaner not working, the UPS shipment not showing up, the traffic jam at the edge of town, and so on. It's much more stress inducing than it should be.

I know what to do, I just don't always do it. Right? So the UPS driver starts spouting officialisms at me and I blow up at him. "I've been here for 40 years and I've always gotten my shipments during store hours!"

And he glares at me, and my heart sinks because the one thing you don't want to do is make your UPS driver your enemy. He'll win every time.

I mean---that I worked most days for most of my career is amazing. I was younger then, physically. I also learned to pace myself a bit more, had a practiced rhythm with the customers, it was just the way it was, I had no choice.

I came back underestimating such things. But really, I just need to relax. None of it is critical. The annoyance is on me--I have the power to react calmly.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Bookman holiday.

Spent 5 days on the other side of the mountains, visiting Toby in Hood River, and Todd in Portland, then heading for the coast. Got lucky, the weather was nice the first day on the beach. Stayed in a nicer hotel than usual, the one situated over Haystack Rock. (Clerk started off quoting 350.00, then when I started to walk away, 225.00, and then, finally, 169.00. Heh.)

Toby works in White Salmon, across the river from Hood River, and I think he's happy with being close to the wilderness. He seems in a good place.

I spent a bunch of time at Artifacts, a bookstore that is far funkier than mine, and the other bookstore in Hood River, which was more mainstream. Both managers were willing to talk, which is somewhat unusual. I took pictures of cool books I don't have.

Checked out two bookstore in Astoria, one which was pretty small and limited, the other somewhat more funky. Much less conversing, especially by the former. Not sure why, but most owners seem too threatened to talk about business. Sigh.

My definition of funky has expanded--I've come to realize that, as strange as my store is, there are stores that are even stranger. The stranger, the better.

Visited a nice bookstore in Cannon Beach. Started to brag about being in business for 40 years, and the clerk immediately perked up; "We too! 40 years!"

"That's amazing!" I answer.

Headed back home, saw a huge beat-up building with "Books" written along the side. It was packed with stuff, most of it falling apart. The lady behind the counter was selling the place. Someone already connected to selling online could probably make use of the clutter. But I also found at least 5 books I probably wouldn't have found anywhere else.

We buy books in every place we go. Which is kind of nutty, but then...I know how it feels.