Sunday, March 29, 2020

Workaholism is sneaky.

Linda has always said that I only slow down and relax when I'm sick. That is, I only really let myself do nothing when I have a bug. That same feeling of luxurious relaxation has come over me during the current crisis. It's the fact that my somewhat Puritan aspect is tamped down. Doing nothing is what I should be doing!

The funny thing is, I've always thought of myself as lazy--but I now believe that is just a sneaky element of being a workaholic. The constant spur to do more.

For example, I realized at some point that I was actually putting a huge amount of time and thought and effort into my business. But that thought and effort wasn't visible on the outside. What eventually happened is that I talked to enough other businesses to realize that it was possible that most owners hadn't really put a lot of analysis into what they were doing; nor were they as persistently relentless in their pursuit of it.

I think where this really shows up is that when I took a different route and started writing, leaving the store in Sabrina's capable hands, that the same thought and effort exploded into the equivalent of about 35 books. I mean, the whole time I was writing them, I still thought I was lazy.

In hindsight I can see how diligent I was. I mean, it's obvious now.

I compare it to what I saw my mother do. She was a great gardener, but it didn't come to her magically. She put huge time and effort into the process--and about 90% of it the public didn't see. I lived at home while this was happening, saw that she was absorbed by gardening from 6:00 in the morning to 9:00 at night, with a few breaks here and there. Her friends and customers only saw the magnificent garden and her encyclopedic knowledge of plants. She was inspiring, but I don't think most customers who talked to her understood the amount of work she put into her inspiration.

I'm not sure this is the best way to live. No one goes to their deathbed thinking, "Gosh, I wish I'd worked harder." Certainly, having a heart attack at the age of 66 is not an ideal result--though if stress was a contributing factor, I'd attribute that more to the stress of keeping a business afloat than the workaholism.

On the other hand I'm proud of what I've accomplished. 

Random thoughts, Sunday, March 29.

***Hopefully some of you find these random thoughts interesting. I used to check blogs everyday where there wasn't anything extraordinary about them, but they became a habit. Just a connection with another regular human being. (I probably should mention, many of these random thoughts occurred the day before and I'm just collecting them.)

***Nobody really seems to know what's going on with the stimulus bill. In fact, I seemed to know as much or more as the experts I talked to. I do tend to research things. Anyway, I'm in a phone queue at a local bank. What's for sure is that this isn't going to be a fast process. I predict some clogging.

***I am confused by the closing of trailheads. I mean, it's really, really easy to keep your distance outdoors. And it's a mentally, physically healthy thing to do. Even the beaches should be accessible, since it's usually pretty easy to keep your distance--at least, that's the way I've always done it. Just me and the surf and the sand.

***Not to be holier than thou, but I really think some of my retail brethren are kidding themselves if they think curbside pickup and all is going to make a difference to their bottom line--at least to justify the increased risk of an open vector. Just saying.

***Being a couch potato is your patriotic duty! Embrace the heroism!

***Young man who is our next door neighbor asked to come over to use computer to reboot his elderly father's phone. I wasn't happy about it, but what can you do? This is how the world ends.

***I have an itchy trigger finger on my book orders. So hard to hold back. I have great fun looking through the lists of books.

***It's noon and I'm starting my new regime. Sitting here at my desk for the next six hours, minus my hour walk, and trying to finish my stories. Part of this is establishing the habit of using my office for writing, instead of my bedroom.

***Every time I think I've found "my people," the differences arise and seem vast. I have to face the fact that I'm truly a loner. In the writing world, there seems to be a consensus that writing a first draft is hard and rewriting is a pleasure. For me, it's the opposite. What I'm noticing about the current isolation is that most of my retail brethren are making huge efforts to outreach socially, whereas I'm just shutting down until it's over.

***I've never been able to listen to music when I'm writing my stories. But my current rewriting seems to allow for that. In fact, it's kind of nice distraction so I don't get bogged down making corrections.

***The signals from Marvel and DC aren't good. It appears that they want to go around the comic shops. Which could undercut us to a deadly degree. Digital and through open stores. Horrible idea.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Random thoughts, Saturday, March 28.

***I wrote a blog about the coronavirus on February 28th, "A Black Swan takes Wing."  I predicted that spring break wouldn't happen, and that it would be painful. Little did I know. The final line of the post is, "...if you live your life in fear of Black Swans, you may as well stay home."

***HEY!!! Shouldn't my book sales be going up? I mean, what else do people have to do?

***If you shave your beard at home and there is no one to see it, did you really shave your beard?

***My new walking route, only six minutes from the house, requires the old battered pickup truck I inherited (via Todd, from David.) I'm determined to get back to the daily routine of a one hour walk.

***Well, my guess right now is that I'm going to be home at least through May, probably longer. So I need to get something accomplished. Either start a new book, or spend that time finishing off my other projects. If I sit myself down in my chair from noon to six every day, I could probably polish off all four "Faerylander" books; the four "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities;" "Castle LaMagie;" "The Reluctant Wizard;" "Sometimes a Dragon;" and "Spell Realm;" the last four of which could be tailored to the "Spell Realms" series. It's just a matter of doing it. This doesn't require the concentration that writing a new book would so fits in with the overall distraction. So tomorrow, I'm sitting down and finishing off "Castle LaMagie." No ifs ands or buts.

***I know in advance I'm not going to be able to figure out the new SBA loan program. My accountant seemed to know less than I did, for now. So I called the Small  Business program up at COCC to get an appointment to help me through. I figure the line is going to get long, so the sooner the better.

What's weird is everyone seems to be confusing existing SBA loans for the new program. It seems clear to me, but it's obvious it isn't clear to others. LATER: OK, there was a previous program from last week's measure. The one to do is the one that was just signed.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Random thoughts, Friday, March 27.

***Crisis reveals character.
Assholes who draped themselves in "Americanism" are exposed as merely assholes.

***The magic doohickey tool on "Picard" was a bit much. Chabon writes SF adjacent, more a "magic realism" kind of guy.

***Big liquidation sale at one of my game suppliers. I basically bought every game offered--so a total of 77 new games. Not sure where I'll put them all, but the prices were too good to pass.  LATER: Well...they only had 21 out of the 77 still in stock, dammit.

***I read once that politicians, as a breed, are extraordinarily social and gregarious--except for the oddballs, like Nixon. So...Boris Johnson and all the other politicians you heard getting the virus. It seems like nature's way of saying, "Wake the fuck up!"

***The landlord came through with rent relief. Rent is by far my biggest fixed expense. We'll be taking damage for a couple more weeks, but after that, it's mostly utilities we'll still owe on. Now I just have to figure out which relief program to join. I expect it to be a mess. My dealings with the SBA in the past has been that they threw up so much red tape it wasn't worth it. Hopefully, this time it will be different.

***So a couple of days ago, I had a sore throat. I didn't have a fever or a cough or unusual aches and pains, and my breathing was strong. It was enough to put a little frisson of fear through me. If I could have gotten a hold of my doctor, I would have, but I didn't think it was worthy of a 911 call.
The next day, the sore throat is gone. So it was probably just from my allergy sinus runoff. Phew.

***Bob Dylan's new song. "Murder Most Foul." Can't decide if it's great or terrible or both. I decided a long time ago that Dylan's genius is that he's not afraid to sound foolish, and so he does, but then he'll do a passage that is pure brilliance. Wincing and wowing at the same time.

***How handy that our doorknobs are the kind we can push down with our elbows.

***If we have to self-isolate, I'm glad we have Jasper the Chaos Cat with us.

***They say you can wear blue jeans forever without washing. I'm putting that to the test.

***I can't decide whether to shave off my goatee and not look in the mirror and let my skin heal for a week or so; or to let the beard grow in. Or...just keep on keeping on.

***How much of right wing wingnut do you have to be to have even Trump calling you out? Hope the voters send you home permanently, Rep. Massie. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Random thoughts March 26

***I keep thinking the store is open. It's like a vestigial limb. Pegasus Books hasn't been closed in like 36 years! (At least, no for more than day at a time, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.)

Meanwhile, some of my compadres in the book, comic, and game business seem to me to be skirting the edges of the rules, looking for loopholes. They proclaim that they need to do so to survive.

Hey, you know, and I don't?

It's on their heads. I don't feel like risking myself, my wife, or Sabrina and her wife, or anyone else we might come in contact with.

***I told Sabrina I would continue to pay her wages, but I'm now uncertain what the best thing to do. If she goes on unemployment, she will probably take home more money. The downside being that there will be loads of red-tape for her to wade through.

Meanwhile, if she stays on, they are offering a loan program that will give me 2.5 her wages last year that will be forgiven if I use the money for utilities and rent and such, but I suspect there will be even MORE red tape.

I think I'll leave it up to her.

Later: I talked to her and we decided to take a wait and see attitude.

***Started reading one accountants detailed explanation of the stimulus package and my eyes rolled back in my head and I groaned. I have such a hard time with "fine print." I mean, I'm going to have to figure it out, but...

***Advertisements for face masks and TP on Facebook.

Look, I don't need a face mask. Doctors and nurses do.

***In a weird sort of way, there isn't much news. Or rather, there is a lot of news but it's all the same news.

***Went for another walk. Have found a place only six minutes away--the closest public space that isn't a park.

I keep hearing that people are being irresponsible going out of their house. Pardon me, but I think the term is "social" isolation, which has a measure of physical isolation, but not completely. When I'm in my car, I'm perfectly safe. Out walking, I was never closer than a hundred yards from anyone else with zero chance of touching a surface that someone else touched. 


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Random thoughts for Wednesday, March 25.

So I'm going to be doing this "Random Thoughts" thing for a while, since it feels pathetic to flood Facebook and Twitter with them (not that I use Twitter all that much--it's a totally inexplicable application to me.)

***Whenever I assemble liquidation book orders, there are always really good books that they have only one in stock. By the time I push the order button, they are usually gone, except for the ones that popped up that day.

Currently, these books seem to be staying available. Which means to me that no one is actually ordering anything.

***Amazon Author Central is no longer telling us our author rank. How can I live without knowing I'm the 40,000th most read author in America?

*** Let me preface this by saying I think this two trillion dollar bailout is a necessary measure. I certainly could use the help in my business. However, I also predict this is going to go down as the biggest boondoggle in history. Every scamster in the world is going to come out in full force.

I predict that after the first rush for "free money" that the so many preconditions and red tape and proof of need is going to be imposed that it will become almost unusable. Certainly, I don't intend to "borrow" money unless there is a good chance that the loan will be forgiven.

Sorry to be such a downer.

***Stress? My eyelids are twitching, I have a rash around the edges of my mustache which I've never had before (going to stop shaving there) and last night Linda and I watched the new "Invisible Man" and the anxiety level of the movie seemed to match what I was already feeling, to the point where Linda was patting my arm. (Usually, it's the other way around.) unseen danger stocking me? Yeah, that.

***I've always imagined the future as a road I travel down. Last night, I closed my eyes and saw it as something rushing toward me, speeding up.

***Linda keeps showing me memes she finds on the internet. "Have you seen this?"

To which, I always answer, "There's no meme I haven't seen."

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Was out for my (hopefully soon to be reinstated) daily walk when it occurred to me that we’re likely to see a giant wave of post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction. That is, you know, if we don’t start living it ourselves (and kill off the genre entirely.)

The dystopian stories from now on are likely to be a bit more realistic—oh, not in the action; I mean, a whole culture of couch potatoes isn’t exactly exciting, but in the feelings that such invisible danger and isolation engenders.

The best post-apocalyptic literature in the past—books like Earth Abides and Alas, Babylon—were able to evoke feelings of doom and hope which felt real.  

It’s brisk, windy day, a bit of hail, and a cold sprinkle. Dark clouds blowing overhead, a herd of twenty deer running across my path, the river flowing by, high and noisy, and it occurred to me that nature doesn’t give a damn about what happens to the human race.

If nothing else, this has made me much more introspective and reflective. So far, I’ve been spewing these ‘deep’ thoughts on Facebook, but I think I’m going to turn to this blog more often. I suspect I’ll be back to daily blog posts, probably more than one.

Anyway, maybe because I’m not writing fiction, I find myself doing these little essays instead. So here they are.


Hermetically sealed.

I told Linda that as long as we're doing this, let's do it right. Cut down vectors to zero. I'm even kicking the newspaper inside the garage. That leaves the mail, which we haven't quite figured out. I figure getting in our cars and driving to deposit mail is OK or driving around just to get out of the house. I suspect we'll need one grocery run before this is over.

I figure it's all right to go walking in the woods by myself.

Bundled up last night around 10:00 and went for a walk around the neighborhood. Beautiful dark sky with bright stars. Didn't see a single car. A guy whizzed by me in a wheelchair, his boombox blasting, and he didn't acknowledge my greeting. Surreal.

Meanwhile, I'm not making much use of the extra time. You'd think it would be the perfect time to be writing, but I feel too distracted so far.  Lots of time online, mostly Facebook, so I've gotten into a few spats there with scofflaws, which is useless.

To my mind, curbside service and delivery are vectors--which is OK for food and medicine, but hard to justify for anything else. It bugs me that people are using loopholes and work-arounds for themselves without seeing how unfair that is to everyone else

I've been staring at the screen so much, my eyes hurt.

The current novel I'm reading is just good enough to keep me semi-engaged, but not enough to read it for long. I'm 2/3rds through so unwilling to give up. Besides, for some reason I don't read during the day anymore and I've always hated watching TV before dinner.

Not that we have established meals. Linda and I are extremely easy about meals. No fixed times, we fix meals for ourselves or if what we fix can be shared, we do that.

What's weird is this isn't really all that different from normal and yet feels completely wrong. Context is everything, I guess.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Well, I went and done it.


For the safety of ourselves and our customers, Pegasus Books is closing for the next two weeks, starting today, March 22-April 6, pending further developments.

We are going to try to accept normal shipments, so rest assured your stuff will be waiting for you when this is all over.

Take care and see you on the other side!
Knowing what I know, I just couldn't justify staying open longer. I was hoping we could close at the same time as the seemingly inevitable state closure, but every day that went by, I was more uncomfortable asking Sabrina to work. Early on, there was the thought that young people were mostly safe, but that doesn't seem to be completely true. 
So we're closing as of today. I've already told Sabrina she'll get a regular paycheck for the next couple of pay periods. 
It's the right thing to do. Taking the moral high ground is never the wrong decision. 
Financially, it will obviously hurt, but we're in good enough shape to deal with it. So there it is.
If I have to self-isolate, I'm going all the way to make the best use of it. So no interaction with the outside world. I'll kick the newspapers inside the garage, let the mail sit in the garage for a couple of days before opening and otherwise be untouchable.
I'm drawing up the draw bridge from the ravening hordes. Yea!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

"This is going to be interesting."

I haven't posted for a while, not because I don't have anything to say but because I have too much to say, but it's the same stuff everyone else is saying, so why bother?

We're staying open at the store for now. Waiting for further developments. Generally we have less than 5 people in the store at any one time, so I think if we take precautions, it's an acceptable risk. I mean, risk wise, staying closed for a month would be devastating.

I think the decision may be taken out of my hands anyway. Closing down all retail is on the horizon, I think. I've told Sabrina that she'll get paid nevertheless, which is another costly thing, but the right thing to do.

The comic business is one business where closing down is extra harmful because we get weekly shipments, and have trained our customers to come in on a weekly basis. I can just stop ordering books and games, because we are extremely well-stocked as we are, but comics come in no matter what.

(Think about the ramifications of that--I don't buy anything, the companies who make, distribute, and transport those things also don't make money.)

As I was going to bed last night, I was thinking "This is going to be interesting."

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Writing a book. What happens if the worst...

Every time I've published a book I've had the fear that THIS will be the one no one likes. That's why I have a dozen books I haven't published, because each one has a weakness of some kind. Whether they really do have those weaknesses as compared to what I actually sent out into the world, I can't be sure. But since I've had books ready for each window of publishing opportunity that I was happy with, those are the ones I went with.

"Takeover" was a challenge from the start. It started out as character sketches, which I realized could be combined to make a story--which worked for the first third of the book. But then it became TOO challenging--that is, I began to believe it required writing skills I didn't have.

The idea was to make it as realistic as possible and to also deal with the difficult politics and personalities of the real event. It was based on the Malhuer occupation.

After writing about a third of the book, I realized I couldn't quite pull off the realism. I had a choice--continue to write it the way I was or turn it into a thriller.

I turned it into the thriller.

Then I was left with the difficulty of dealing with the first third of the book, which didn't quite work. I mean, it was a valiant effort, but I could see that it didn't have the depth I was hoping for. I moved chapters around, tried to fit it in, but it wasn't coming together. I set it aside.

When "Deadfall Ridge" did so well, I decided I could turn the main protagonist of "Takeover" into Hart Davis. Wrote a couple of new chapters, rewrote the other early chapters, and damn if it didn't work.

But the difficulties with the plot remained. I tried hard to smooth them over, to be ruthless in cutting out parts I liked which no longer fit. It has too many characters, basically, with first person viewpoints, but that was sorta the point.

In the end, I thought I came up with a pretty good thriller with some political developments and some characterizations that I liked. I also thought it was possible that the politics would turn people off, though I tried to be even-handed. In fact, I thought I might piss off both sides of the divide.

I waited anxiously for the reaction. It sold better than most books, probably because of the connection to "Deadfall Ridge," but I've gotten only one review, a three star:

"Interesting, but hard to follow at times.. I can't see the native Americans not getting into the story more"

Fair enough. I knew the number of narrators was going to be confusing. 

Meanwhile, I've gotten 15 ratings on Goodreads, coming in at a 3.60 level. A number of one stars, which are unexplained. So that would be the worst ranking of all the newer books. It could be because of the politics--I wouldn't be surprised--but it could also be because it was a difficult format.

But you know what? The more time passes, the happier I am with this book. I think it has some real merit. It may not have come out perfectly, but its got some true substance to it.  

So now I know how I would react to less than glowing reviews. It doesn't faze me, as it turns out, because I'm proud of the effort. I'm taking another look at the books I've set aside. They all have merit, as far as I'm concerned. Time to finish them up.

Friday, March 6, 2020

An experiment in capitalism.

This is going to be an interesting experiment. How many and for how long are customers going to stay away? How long can the average small business survive? How will the suppliers and landlords handle it?

If this had happened 20 years ago, it could have been the final nail in the coffin. I would reach the corner of Bond and Minnesota Ave. everyday and  have the same exact thought: "Anything happens today and we're done."

But we kept dodging disaster month after month until the thought stopped coming. Over the last twenty years we managed to get rid of most of our debt, build and diversify the store's inventory, and we've seen a resurgence in foot-traffic downtown.

But there is something people should understand. Few businesses have large margins for error--basically, because competition pushes us to the very edge of profitability. (Too profitable? Someone will soon be along to take a slice...)

It's tricky to start cutting back on orders before you see a significant decline--though that is the time to do it. When the decline starts, it's too late. You're going to eat inventory for as long as it takes to adjust.

We can afford to take the risk nowadays, so we're going along as normal. But I know a lot of businesses are going to shocked by what happens if they've never been through a Black Swan Event. My first twenty years were full of these out-of-the-blue disasters, mostly because we were too dependent on timely material and--to an uncomfortable extent--fads.

Fads don't happen the same way anymore, and we are much less susceptible to the problem of products that have a short shelf life. We have considerably more resources.  But obviously we aren't completely immune. It still hurts to lose money. I was well on the way to this being the first year in our history where I ordered everything I wanted for the store and still didn't go into debt--in fact, I was hoping to eliminate the last chunk of debt from years past.

We'll handle it. But I'll be curious to see how others handle it.

Monday, March 2, 2020

I don't want to get into any arguments with Bernie supporters--I like him fine. But there seems to be an attitude that anyone who doesn't support Bernie, or even worse support Biden, is doing it to stop Bernie in league with cynical old-timers. 

If Bernie can't get an enthusiastic response from black voters, it isn't some vast conspiracy.

There are also a lot of us older voters who remember the George McGovern massacre. He was branded as "far left." Those voters are still out there. It hasn't been proven to me that the "young" voters will turn out in force--but we can be sure that older voters who remember how strong the smear of "socialist" (Commie Pinko) was--will.

I'll support Bernie if he wins. I hope the Bernie voters will support whoever comes out of the convention--but I fear they won't.