Thursday, April 30, 2020

Like a housewife rearranging the furniture...

I've always liked rearranging the store. Yes, the store is mess. Yes, it's stressful.

But at the same time, I've always loved this aspect of the store. Making improvements. I'm also able to clean the store, top to bottom, which is satisfying. Mostly though I just love trying to figure out the right arrangement with what I've got.

I pretty much need to do it alone, except for a few heavy fixtures. When someone is there helping, they tend to say, "That won't work," whereas, I'll try something and if it doesn't work, I'll change it back. Which is twice as much work, but since these big changes are infrequent, I might as well get it right.

Most of time, the stress of needed to finish is overwhelming. This time, I'm sort of relaxing into the realization that I have time.

The other thing that happens when I have people helping is that they want to get going. "What do you want to do here?" they ask, and my general tendency is to mull things over. Sit in a chair and think through the ramifications, wait for my subconscious to give me the go ahead. Which obviously doesn't work if someone is standing there tapping their feet.

So I like just puttering around at my own pace. I take on a task, get tired of doing it, start doing something else, come back and do the first task and then the task I left off of yesterday, and so on. I can only keep track of this if I'm by myself.

So...back to the store for the next three days and getting as much done on my own as possible.

What a mess!

The store is an unbelievable mess. I looked at a random stack of books yesterday and realized that they came from completely different parts of the store. Basically, it's gridlock. To move the fixtures, I have to move the product--the move the product, I have to move the fixtures.


What happens with all complex tasks is that I put blinders on and try to deal with one small thing at a time.

Toby has been doing all the heavy lifting since Todd left, and he more or less needs me to tell him how to finish up. Looking around, I wasn't sure. I made a big mistake by not taking pictures and measurements before we started. So after Toby left yesterday, I wandered around the store and tried to figure it out.

And then I started thinking of improvements. Uh, oh.

What if I replaced that fixture? What if I moved it over there?

The thing about Pegasus is that everything was placed organically over the years--dictated was possible with the measurements I had. The store is literally spaced by the inch--entire displays are possible or impossible because I either have or don't have an inch to spare.

I started measuring things and realized that there were improvements to be made. I have a basement full of bookshelves (purchased from the guy who bought the Bookmark from us--he didn't want the shelves we had.)

It always helps to be alone when contemplating changes. I can try things without anyone second guessing me--and if something I try doesn't work, I just change it back. I like doing that, even if it means dragging up bookshelves from the basement by myself. 

Once I started thinking of changes, the changes started to escalate. The big problem was--they were clear improvements, not small ones, and thus worth doing.

Which means even more chaos.

Toby had told me he'd come back on Friday to finish up. He needs to start looking for a job. I called him up and asked he wouldn't mind coming back on Sunday, giving me three days to mess around on my own. 

I'm going to try to pace myself. Right now, the focus is on the fixtures. I'll deal with the product later. It's a huge mess, but fortunately, I think we'll have time to deal with it all, and it was be a nice improvement on what we had.

Monday, April 27, 2020

How I see the near future for my business.

Trying to figure out how much business we might do after reopening requires that I step outside myself, try to see the situation clearly and objectively.

What do we know?

Well, we know:

1.)  Tourism is unlikely to come back in any significant way, at least for a long time.

2.) Tourism is a large percentage of our summer business, therefore, we have to order in numbers that reflect that drop.

3.) The store is well stocked. We aren't in catch-up mode, so we can afford to take a wait and see attitude. Once we order, it's nearly impossible to reduce orders. On the other hand, if we don't order, we can always do it later.

4.) Most of our overhead is fixed, so the only way to reduce expenditures is to be careful with the product.

5.) Most sales occur in the top 20% of product (the 20/80 rule). We start by ordering the essential product. The way I put it is this: instead of asking, "Will this product sell?" we ask, "If we don't order this product, will anyone notice?"

6.) It's best to do this kind of moderating early, because playing catch-up is nearly impossible.

With cold clear eyes, I think a a 20 to 30% drop in sales from yearly average is almost guaranteed. That means, the drop will be even more severe during the summer. I believe there will be an initial surge as people rush to get out and try to support their local businesses. But that surge will happen no matter what we have coming in.

But after a month or two, I think it will settle down to reality.

We can monitor from day to day, and adjust upward as necessary. I think this is going to be harder than most people believe, because a huge chunk of money is being taken out of large segments of our society, (for instance, airlines, movie theaters, sporting and entertainment events, etc.) and that has to affect everyone else. Especially in Bend, tourism is important for hotels, restaurants, and shops.

The temptation is to just pick up where we left off, but I can't see that as possible.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Pegasus Books has a lot of stuff.

In putting down new flooring, we had to remove all the product from the shelves and move them, willy nilly. It has really hammered home how much stuff we have.

As a result, there are all kinds of books and graphic novels whose covers I'm seeing for the first time in years. A lot of them are very intriguing. They've all been hidden, spine out, undiscovered for years, even decades.

It has me questioning everything I'm doing.

On one hand, a good rule of thumb is--the more product I carry, the more I sell.

On the other hand, equally valid, is the idea that the more product that is displayed face out, the more I sell.

A couple of years ago, we removed used books completely and replaced them with graphic novel racks where I could show the covers. Sales went up.

So the idea would be to carry just as much product, but show more of it face out--and that isn't possible. In fact, the basic concept of the store is that if a product can be stacked, vertically or horizontally, I'll order it. If it's an odd size, or must be displayed face-out, avoid it. (Except for games and toys, which can be displayed on the walls six feet up or higher.

I don't know that there is an answer, except to continually try to be creative. (A bigger store, of course, but downtown Bend is the gold standard right now. My location has become almost a "legacy" at this point. I don't want to lose that.)

One thing I can do is more systematically change which titles are shown outward on a regular basis. I always have that intent, but in reality, this process is usually pretty random.

I could perhaps winnow out that stuff that hasn't sold for a long time, but that's the stuff which has a strong profit margin--and the whole point of this post is to figure out how to display the "stuff that hasn't sold" in a way that it does sell.

Oh, well. In putting everything back, I'll have a chance to rethink which product needs to be displayed and which can be simply stacked. I'll try to change it out a little--but not too much, because the store was doing very well BC. (Before Coronavirus.)

Don't want to mess with a winning formula too much.

Monday, April 20, 2020


Well, the money is going out fast. I put some money in the checking account thinking it would be more than enough. Now I'm seeing it is going to be a squeeze. The renovations aren't costing too much more than expected--maybe 15% above estimates--which I'll take.

What I underestimated was the overhead beyond rent and wages. It's about double what I estimated in my head. Which was stupid of me--I just needed to go into last year's taxes to get the real number.

I'm not second-guessing myself on the loans and grants. The grants wouldn't have helped much, if at all; and I'll be damned if I'm going to go into debt.

For our first twenty years of business this would have been a disaster. I'd probably be on the phone asking everyone to please be patient. Back then, I was careful not to have any automatic withdrawals--I wanted to be able to time payments. Now all my bills are automatic, so that money has to be there in the account.

I have the money to weather this. But some of it is tied up in investments that, if I cash them, will have a heavy tax penalty. I was hoping to avoid that.

I'm still not expecting to open until mid to late March, more likely the latter. It could even be later. At least that gives me plenty of time to put the store back together.

We'll need to be careful at first on our buying of product. What really kills me is the thought that most of the big chains who are our biggest competitors--Target, Walmart, etc--are still open and making money. Some of them, lots of money.

Looking around, I really have to wonder how many Mom and Pops have the resources to make it through this. Or, even if they do, whether they have a huge debt load after they open again. There is simply no way to get through this without pain.

All for One, and One for All? Nah.

What follows is probably the thing that makes me the most angry about the business I'm in.

I talk a lot about what an independent fellow I am. I don't belong to any retail organizations. I often feel as if these types of groups breed "in-crowds" and that almost always they result in "group think."

So, admittedly, what follows may seem somewhat contrary to that.

I find myself getting really angry over those shops who purposely seem to join the "enemy"--those forces who don't mean the entire market well. Publishers or wholesalers who make decisions that either go around or even purposely harm the majority of retail stores.

Most often it's a "I got mine" or "It's good for me, too bad for you," type attitude. Even more often, they are just idiots who can't see the harm they are doing. There seem to be a large percentage of these people who are new to the business, who have no context to make such decisions, and who don't care to learn. As long as they perceive it to be good for them, it doesn't matter if it's bad for everyone else.

Well, fuck them.

I use the word Quisling for them. They make me so angry I could spit. The people we are fighting almost always use these Quislings as examples that not all of retailers agree. Which is true--in the same way that climate deniers use the few scientists--usually not even scientists, but under educated TV weathermen--to say, "Not all scientists agree!"


The last time one of these publisher schemes popped up, a survey of retailers found that 85% if retailers were against it. I have no fucking clue who the other 15% were. People too stupid to be running stores, that's for sure.

But I always hold my tongue while I watch the vast majority of my fellow retailers try to reason with them. Because, like I said, it really makes me so angry that it isn't pretty.

I probably won't print this--I'm just venting.

OK. More Quislings have popped up. So print.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Downtown walk around.

Todd and Toby have pretty much taken over the store and are doing all the work. I think I’ll let them. I’m no good at renovations—I’d probably just get in the way.

Linda and I walked around downtown instead. It was a great chance to look in all the windows. I was amazed by how many businesses I didn’t know. I’ve just lost track.

Dropped into Mountain Coffee and talked to Gordon, the owner. Turns out he reads this blog—or used to read it when I was talking about things other than writing. So we exchanged some gossip and information. Interesting changes happening downtown all over the place.

More businesses than I expected have taken the route of completely closing for the duration, even restaurants.

I think some businesses are being a little casual about letting customers in. I really believe that keeping people indoors for more than a month or so is very difficult. Things are starting to fray, even among those who believe the virus is dangerous. (And I do, very much so.)

Several stores are doing renovations, it looks like, from major to cosmetic. 

I'm just trying to be patient and wait until we can go back to business. We're going to lose money--no way around that. But we can weather it. 

Just be patient. Can you do that?

The comic business is completely shut down. Some stores are selling online, but they have no access to new comics, just reorders. Personally, it looks like 4 times the effort to make 1/10th the sales.

Went and got lunch for the boys, and on the way back found out via phone that DC comics is trying to go around the regular distribution system by selling comics through a couple of new entities. Turns out, the people behind them are the biggest mail order outfits.

So DC wants us to buy from our biggest online competitors.

That’s a big nope.

DC monthlies account for (very roughly) maybe 5% of my total sales. (I’m 20% comics/30% graphic novels/50% books and games.) Problem is, probably a good half of my comic customers buy DC comics, so that’s a worry. But I’ve decided to wait for my regular distributor to offer the same comics. If I lose any customers over this—well, frankly, they aren’t the kind of customers I want.

Look, we’re all hurting. I don’t see why the online competitors should be given preferential treatment. Just wait another few weeks to a month and then distribute to everyone at the same time.

Meanwhile, since DC has proven to be an unreliable partner, I’m going to cut their orders to shelves, and no longer give them an entire rack to themselves. They’ve been declining for years, not to mention my discount with them is actually lower than with Image, Dark Horse, IDW, and Marvel. They will join the other non-Marvel companies as just another comic publisher.

This was a slimy move on their part.

New novels are a better seller right now than monthly comics—which, believe me, I never expected. Plus they are much less risky and easier to do.  

The diversification of the store was—to some extent—because of situations like this. I don’t ever want to be at the mercy of any one product line. In some ways, the fact that I could never completely depend on comics to pay all the bills has been a blessing. It made me look for other answers.

Meanwhile, my regular distributor, Diamond Comics, it looking to restart about mid-May to June 1, which I think is acceptable. I mean, I think it’s going to be impossible for all stores to start at the same time. As long as I can point to a date within a couple of weeks of everyone else, I think most of my customers will wait.

I hope.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Random thoughts, Friday, April 17.

I had a nightmare last night about a pandemic.

Usually, I wake up from that kind of nightmare and breathe a sigh of relief. This time I woke up and thought, "OH."


Honestly, Pence and the other cabinet officers need to look seriously at the 25th Amendment again. I mean, they must have had the passing thought, at least. For when Trump has a tantrum, flops on the ground drooling and soiling himself.


My God, we have an unbelievable amount of material in the store. We're doing 1/4th of the store at a time, but even clearing out that much is taking two or three days. Putting it back together will probably take even longer. 

The good thing is, I do believe we have plenty of time to do it. As long as Todd and Toby are available. 


Remdesiver, baby. Remember the name. Another reason to hold the virus at bay for as long as possible--a possible effective treatment, along with experiential tryouts. I'm hoping by the time I get it, the doctors will know the best treatment. If not this drug, others.  


Casting about for something to watch last night while Todd was here. Decided to show him the "Baahubali," the over-the-top Bollywood movie which I really liked.

Turned out he'd taken Bollywood dance lessons.

Interesting kid. (He's 50, but he'll always be a kid to me.)


I keep forgetting to put the phone on speaker when talking to the boys with Linda in the room. It's just not a natural instinct for me. I'm still struggling to remember to carry my phone around with me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

In abeyance of the quarantine--mostly.

I'm probably going to get killed for saying this, but I think this social isolation will break down over time no matter what the governors might say, as people venture out to do what they deem essential, taking calculated risks and precautions, just as we all have been doing from the beginning to get groceries. What is deemed "essential" will broaden over time.

I'm using this hiatus in order to renovate the store. During normal times, closing the store to put down flooring using professionals would probably have cost us tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales and expenses. If nothing else, the scheduling would be tricky--and it probably would have required completely emptying the store, which would have been a huge and expensive undertaking.

Well, the tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales is already there. So all I've got are the expenses. Plus, we can lay down the flooring in stages, moving a quarter of the store to one side at a time. It is simply the time to do this, despite the quarantine.

This is a unique situation. Both of my sons are available to help put down the flooring, which even if it doesn't save me money--I insist on paying them--is doing my sons some good while getting the job done. I can't remember a time when both of them could spend more than a couple of days with us at the same time.

Plus, the flooring people were extremely helpful, calling me back immediately, arranging for a measuring, going out of their way to ship the material in a timely manner. If you know anything about Bend, you know this is hard to do. Most commercial building companies in this area are busy, busy, busy--usually with much bigger projects than mine.

So everything is coming together really well.

On the other hand, I did meet with the flooring representative this morning, both of my sons will be interacting with us, and Sabrina is also helping--all of which isn't strictly kosher. We all tried to keep some distance, but it wasn't completely possible.

But I simply can't pass this opportunity to accomplish something while the world stops spinning. Up until now, I've been stricter to most people. I insisted to Linda that we don't interact with anyone for three weeks now. But she's already hinting that she wants to cleaners to come to our house while we're working on Friday, and so on. Her best friend came by in a car yesterday and they were chatting at a distance. After her friend left, I said, "I think you guys got closer than three feet."

The isolation starting to fray around the edges, especially because Oregon has done pretty well.

But in the back of my mind is the warning: Oregon has done pretty well because people have been in abeyance of the quarantine. Vigilance is hard to maintain.

And so it goes. It human nature.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Random thoughts, Monday, April 13.

I'm feeling surprisingly (?) relaxed. Partly because I'm being given permission to act the way I always want to act but feel guilty about doing.

But I also think that despite having been semi-retired for a number of years now, I was still at least partly still in the rat race. Now there are no expectations. I've started reading more, and I'm still contemplating my next book.


I think that I'm not that much of a country-western fan, unless you include people like Alison Krauss, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris.

But I've liked people like Willie Nelson, Don Williams, Patsy Cline, Kris Kristofferson, and Dwight Yoakam in the past.

And then there are straight-out country, like Charlie Rich and Mark Chesnutt, who I really enjoy. Hauled out an old CD of Chesnutt's, "Almost Goodbye," to listen to on the drive to Bend. The last song, "The Will," is as silly as it gets, but it still sent chills down my spine.

I don't know. I spent the morning listening to Led Zeppelin 4. Good music is good music.


The idea of moving everything out of my store, even if I do it half a store at a time, is utterly daunting. I have a sinking feeling.

But when the alternative is duct-taping the rug together, it's probably time.


Didn't sell a copy of "Deadfall Ridge" yesterday for the first time since Sept. 8 of last year. So a good solid seven months of sales. Meanwhile, my publisher seems to be keen on promoting "Eden's Return." So that's cool. Due out on July 20th, available for preorder. Ebook, paper, and audio all at the same time. (That hasn't happened before.)


Looks like we're going to start the renovation this week because Toby is going to work next week. He'll probably be here to help for the first half of the job.

It freaks me out. I really don't like the stress, but it needs to be done. I'm just trying to imagine how good it will look. We're going with a commercial-grade rustic gray rustic, which should hide the wear and tear.

I'm going to try to keep calm. I have a tendency to get very downbeat about everything while it's happening. Todd said he'd banish me for morale reasons if need be.


So far, so good. The flooring is maybe a bit cheaper than I expected, unless the landlord demands the higher grade, in which case I'm hoping he'll chip in the difference. The original color I wanted appears to be gone everywhere, but there is a partly gray, part tan available, which apparently may be better for color blending overall.


Landlord was fine with the base grade, it turns out. So that is in stock and ready to go. The old rule of thumb is that renovations take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect, but this is about 1/3rd cheaper than I expected, so that's good. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Random thoughts, April 11.

Until I got a ginger cat I had no idea there were so many ginger cats.


Linda has a doll blank that's lopsided.

"Make one for me," I said.

So yesterday she asked if I wanted to to be a male or female.

"I want Bettie Page."

"I don't have any black yarn."

"Just as well," I said.


I'm very glad now that my business model doesn't depend on game nights or Magic tournaments or book clubs or any other social gathering.

I have but a single chair in the corner.

I'm a store and I've always been a store and I will always be a store.


On one of the comic forums, someone was speculating about when we'd come back and how it would happen.

Someone else popped up and said, rather rudely, "What's the point of planning when we don't know anything?"

There's always that guy. And it totally mystifies me. That's WHY you plan--because you don't know what is going to happen. If nothing else, what harm does it do to brainstorm? It's not like we have anything better to do.

But me--I constantly speculate about everything, and then I monitor what actually happens and try to compare it to what I thought would happen.

Often, when I speculate about the fate of other stores, it's not because I wish them harm but because I want to check my own guesses.


So having said the above, what do I think is going to happen?

1.) I'm betting we'll be allowed to open our stores on June 1 give or take a week or two.

2.) We will still be asked to stay at home if possible, and if you simply must shop, to take precautions. Stores will put in distance markers, or smaller stores like me will simply ask people as they come in the try to keep a distance.

3.) Clerks will be wearing face masks. I'm going have disinfectants at the counter and tell each customer that I will be washing hands between each transaction.

4.) Business will boom for a couple of weeks and then trail off, eventually landing at a lower level of sales. But the possible range here is anywhere from a BOOM to a BUST.

5.) Most businesses will survive but will be wounded, which means they will slowly but surely start closing over the next year or so.

6.) New businesses will not pop up immediately. Those existing business that can stay healthy will have a good head start on the competition. (Cold-blooded, I know, but there it is.)

7.) Costs will moderate--rents, prices of product. There'll be some bargains to be had.

8.) Deaths will start speeding up in the fall. There will be a second round of closings, this time a 30-day national one. (I won't talk about the scary politics of that happening during an election.)

9. People and stores are more resilient than they think. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Random thoughts, April 10.

Procrastinator heaven and hell.

Heaven because there is so much I don't have to do. (Though the weeds grow apace, and the writing isn't getting done by itself...)

Hell because everything I put off BC (Before Coronavirus) is still not getting done and it needed to get done and I can't do them.


Watching "Killing Eve," and one of the main premises is that Eve is supposed to be living a boring life, what with an interesting job and a loving husband and friends. Meanwhile, the assassin is living an exciting life, if "life" it can be called. (She seems to be empty of anything but the most primitive of impulses.)

I've never understood people who go seeking danger. Seriously. Danger will find you--as witness our current situation. Try to find simplicity, and complexity will find you. (Fight the Entropy!)


I feel the urge to write slowly but surely coming onto me. I think I'm going to tackle the big one. The Epic Trilogy.

I'd planned to do a bunch of outlining and research before I started, but it isn't getting done. I've written about 30 books just by diving in, so I'm guessing I'll probably have to do that again. Once I have the basic plot down, then I can add research details.

Still not ready, but getting close.


Whenever I write a teaser--300 or so words at the front of the novel of a scene--I realize that I'm not the most concise of writers. I mean, in many ways I am--I tend to write straightforwardly, without a lot of extraneous material. But in the style itself, I realize that I used more words than necessary and if I'm forced to shrink the wordage, I usually can.

But part of this is purposeful. Whenever I try to be too concise, I somehow lose the flavor and readability of the prose. I used to call it "going sloppy." It turns out that making every word count is bloodless and cold. Hemingway I'm not.


What's the frequency, Kenneth?

When I first started writing, in the late 70s, the rule of thumb for most writers was to release one book a year. At the most, two.

Many writers can write faster than that. (For instance, just 1000 words a day will net you the equivalent of three good-sized, or four moderately-sized books a year.) So they'd be forced to use aliases to publish more books than that.

When I came back to writing there was the thought among some self-published authors that the more books you put out, the better. They were more or less industrializing their writing.

I doubt that that works anymore, if it ever did. Certainly it doesn't connote quality. A diligent writer can probably produce three books a year without a loss in quality.

My first publisher put all three of my Vampire Evolution books out at the same time. I don't think that worked very well. My research seemed to indicate that most ebooks had a selling period of about three to five months. This seemed to get the momentum going.

But my first publisher missed that deadline by simply going MIA. I waited for him to publish the third Virginia Reed adventure and it took him almost a year. In hindsight, I should have published one of the books I'd finished, but he kept promising and I didn't want to step on his toes. As it happened, he only released the ebook.

My second and third publishers decided to go mainstream which meant a much longer lead time. It killed all momentum I'd gain. (Plus, because of returns, slower pay times, and the necessity to publish lots of copies, it killed both publishers.)

My current publisher took on most of my books. (The Vampire Evolution Trilogy and the Virginia Reed Adventures both have separate publishers.)

Once I started publishing new book with Crossroad, the pace of publishing slow down a little, which was probably a good thing. I was probably putting them out too fast.

My feeling now is that putting out a book every six months is probably the best way to go about it. It gives everyone time to find your current book and then anticipate the next one.

So...the most things change, the more they stay the same.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Random thoughts for Thursday, April 9.

Spent a month trying to finish a book. It wasn't bad, it was just hard to concentrate on. (I don't give negative reviews..._

Yesterday, I picked up "The Rook," by Daniel O'Malley and I'll be finishing it today. Fast, fun, read. I could see the (1st book) writer tricks early in the book, but eventually I sank into it and started enjoying it.

It was also the first time in a while that I read more than a few hours during daylight. It felt right. It's how I should be spending my time during a lockdown. Instead of spending that time online. Because the news is really only about one thing--something I can't do much about.


So what's going to happen here is that a lot of businesses that deserve and need a loan, won't get one. And a lot of businesses that don't deserve a loan and don't need a loan, will.

It's the way of the world.

There will be just enough money to spread around to keep a bunch of wounded businesses barely alive. And other businesses that go further into debt. The Walking Wounded.

There will be a ton of fraud on top of that.


As usual, I'll be on the outside looking in, protecting my own business by being as practical as possible, which is probably the smartest thing I can do.


My general rule of thumb for my business is "Keep it simple, stupid."

***That means avoiding entanglements. I don't join clubs or organizations or enter into partnerships or buying clubs or whatever. We don't do consignments.

***That means avoiding complications. We run a cash business. We put out product for sale and we accept payment for it. Period. Almost everything is SRP. Everything is retail.

***That means avoiding schemes. Anything other than putting stuff out for sell and then selling it. No special arrangements for a subset of customers. Everyone is the same.

***That means using our floor space for product. We don't have couches or tables, we don't host book clubs. We don't have game nights. All space is used to display product.

***We don't pre-buy or special order.  When someone requests something from us, we usually just order it and tell them it will be in the store the next time they come in. If it should happen to sell, we'll order another one. No obligation by us or by the customer, but still gets the job done.

***That means not chasing pennies. There are lots of banks and card and phone and insurance and on and on that offer us "savings." What I've learned is that what they give on one hand, they take with another. Find a decent service and stick to it.

***That means keeping everything above board. Pay your bills on time. Pay taxes on time. Keep honest books. Don't try to find ways around paying your employees, or pretend to be somehow a non-profit or work out some scheme where a portion of what you earn goes to charity. You should give to charities--freely, without some convoluted method.

***That means sticking to basics. I'm a store. I sell stuff. That's it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Random thoughts, Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

My mind started mulling over a short short story early this morning. Went back to sleep, and awoke with a clear direction. Went to my computer and wrote it out, with few changes. I thought it was rather brilliant, so I posted it everywhere.

Almost no reaction.



It seems that releasing books at a slower pace might be the way to go. Crossroad Press is taking "Eden's Return" seriously. David Wilson's comment was: "It's a solid premise and a great cover ..."

They're submitting it to major publications for review and offering it at a 40% discount on Ingrams. It may not amount to much, but it's being given a chance to shine.


I'm starting to think that the best solution to the economy is a re-set. July 1st takes the place of April 1st, and so forth going forward. Of course, it's difficult to figure out all the ramifications; no doubt, there would be unforeseen circumstances, but it seems the simplest way to restart the economy.

Of course, that doesn't take into account everyone who was working in the meantime. Seems like they would get a head start, but so be it.


Went shopping last Monday, with the bagger sneezing right next to me. So it's been 8 days. That's long enough for symptoms to start, yeah? Or is it a full 15 days?

Neither Linda or I have had any contact with anyone since then. Linda sewed up a couple of facemasks, but I still have no intention of seeing anyone until April 20, when our two sons will be home to help renovate the store. They're all worried about that, but it's a calculated risk.


I hate the incessant bad news...and yet, watching Rachel Maddcow and Lawrence the O'Donnell every night has reinforced how deadly this virus is.

Hero of the Apocalypse

Hero of the Apocalypse.

Yes, me, Duncan McGeary.

Respirators at first. In their hundreds. Convoys of trucks lining up in front of my garage. At first the neighbors were annoyed, but as the pandemic took hold, they cheered.

Then facemasks, in their thousands, piled loosely into cars and trucks--anyone who wanted them.
There was only one catch.

Don't ask where they come from.

I went to bed that night feeling pleased with myself. I was exhausted, for I'd had to move all those respirators and facemasks out of the garage all by myself. But it was worth it. I was saving the world.

Me, Duncan McGeary.

I woke up the next morning gasping for breath. The virus? Oh, my God. Was I to die before I could save the world? Oh, the irony!

But no, my chest is clear. I have no temperature. It's just that there is no air. I throw open the curtains.
Twenty dollar bills, plastered against the windows. Cracks spreading even as I watch. The roof above creaking under the weight.

And I know. My neighbor, Billy, a good man when he's sober. But he's never sober, always drunk, howling at the moon at midnight, hungover and begging for money in the mornings. He must have broken into my garage. He must have put a twenty dollar bill in the device. And five minutes later there was another twenty dollar bill, and five minutes later there was four twenty dollar bills, then 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, get the picture.

It's too late. I know this. I'd tried so hard to keep ahead of the curve, taking the respirators and facemasks out of the device when they started to get ahead of me.

Billy must have passed out. What time was it?

Too late, that's what it was. There was no way I can dig my way to the garage. The device will never stop. The house is groaning now. I hear muffled screams from my neighbors.

It won't be long.

I'm no hero of the apocalypse. I am mankind's doom.

Sorry about that.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Yep. The Paycheck Protection Program is a boondoggle.

I hate to say, "I told you so," but damn if this isn't exactly what I expected.

I spent the day wrangling with the banks, trying to get the particulars of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Apparently, it's the equivalent of 2.5 x the average payroll of one month, minus taxes.

It's supposed to last for eight weeks.

How is that supposed to help? Add in taxes and the program is giving you basically two months payroll. It's supposed to also be available for rent, utilities, and mortgage, but I fail to see how there is anything left over for that.

If, on the other hand, I lay my employee off, she will get a minimum of the same amount for whatever length she's unemployed. (By my reading, she actually gets an extra $600 a week, though I wouldn't be surprised if that's B.S. too.)

To qualify for the loan, I have reams of paperwork and proof I need to supply, some on tax forms that haven't yet been done. They want a Profit and Loss statement, plus other particulars that as a Sole Proprietorship I've never needed to do.

So I asked the first banker. "2.5 times my average payroll over too months minus taxes will only pay for my employee for two months. What's the point?"

"Well, some people have bigger payrolls..."

"It doesn't matter how big the payroll is. It's still the same percentage!"

So here's the thing. The way I originally read the program was that they wanted the payroll for a four month period--if I remember rightly, January thru April of 2019. Which they would then give 2.5 the amount for the loan, predicated on keeping employees on the payroll. If we are closed for two months, this would leave money for rent and utilities, plus. (I expected to pay back the unspent amount or roll it over into a regular SBA loan.)

That made sense. It would make the store whole, keep the employee on the payroll, and allow us to open without too much damage. (I still had existing bills from my wholesalers when the revenues stopped flowing.)

I'm wondering if the banks are misinterpreting the measure. I guess we'll find out.

Meanwhile, I was informed by my main bank that the amount of loans they set aside for the program was already gone, but I might be able to qualify for the next amount. He said that a bunch of businesses had already told him that they were simply going to lay off their employees instead of pursuing the PPP.

The second banker informed me that they were servicing existing accounts first. (Not my regular bank, so I'm at the bottom of the list.)

I was also told that the SBA was already overwhelmed, that one bank had already submitted 10,000 loans of which only 5 had been so far approved.

When I called my landlord's property management I was told by the agent that she'd applied and run into the same problem. That she probably wasn't going to go through the program either.

Meanwhile, I'm getting rent relief, so that only thing I really have to worry about is utilities which are the smallest portion of my fixed expenses.

Good job, Congress. You passed a completely useless measure. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

For all you people who haven't done this before...

For all you people who haven't done this before.

This is how it might feel when (or if) the world starts up again.

It will be sensory overload. Lights and sounds and movement will all seem overwhelming. Crowds will be claustrophobic. It's be hard to distinguish the important from the unimportant details. It will be hard to concentrate, to center on your sense of self. You'll want to retreat the quiet and solitude of your house.

Welcome to my world.

When I'm writing, I force myself to go for a walk in the wilderness at least once a day. I go into the store at least once a week. Sometimes I feel a little cornered, but mostly it's a comfortable place to be reacquainted with the outside. Thankfully I have a wife and the chaos cat to bring randomness and unpredictability into my everyday life.

I remember once, about 40 years ago or so, when I was so deep into writing my first book, Star Axe, that I hadn't ventured out of my tiny apartment in days--maybe weeks. My friend Wes came to visit and he took me outside and it felt absolutely disorienting. The smallest sounds seemed sharp, the lights seemed blinding. The world whirled by, impossibly fast. It wasn't pleasant and I decided then and there that I wouldn't let myself go that far down the rabbit hole again.

There's a saying--"Isolation breeds isolation."

So get outside if you can, and talk to people, even if it from across the street, if you can. For most of you, it won't be that bad probably, but you might feel a little bit of that.  

Friday, April 3, 2020

Applying for the PPP loan.

My expectation was that the SBA loan would be laden with red tape and fine print and that there would be most likely some roadblocks and delays.

Got the preliminary information on the what they are now calling the PPP loan. Based on payroll.

As expected, I don't understand the language. I asked for clarification but got back some more boilerplate language. Oh, well. I'll work my way through it little by little. Seeing the actual application form may clear things up a little.
Normally, I'd be sitting across from a desk with a human beings who could guide me through it. I'm already getting the impression that the loan officer is overwhelmed, and he's dealing with businesses much bigger than mine.

I mean, one good thing about this is that I probably have a full month to do this, and I don't need the money immediately as long as I know I'm getting it in the longrun.

Which brings up the real problem for most of us. It isn't the delay as much as it is the uncertainty of it all. What if it falls through? That's the big quesitons.

The last time I went for an SBA loan they handed me a stack of paper an inch thick. I just gave up at the look of it. I got a short term loan for a much smaller amount of money, which got us through.

I found a secret path down to the river. It isn't marked, it's just a park by the side of the road and walk down type of thing.. Not really a path, though I saw a few footprints. I didn't see any "No Trespassing" signs--I'm a bit of a stickler for that--but this is almost too good to be true. Maybe because it down a bunch of winding roads. Hell, I might have a hard time finding it again. But it is by far the nicest spot I've yet found.

It's almost too good to be true. There's got to be a catch.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The store has needed new flooring for years. Last time it was replaced was 20 years ago. The carpet is half dust and half fiber by now.

So we're going to go in on the last half of April and lay down some new flooring. Laminate this time instead of carpet. My sons Todd and Toby are at loose ends right now, so they can do the work.

It's a little scary because of the amount of product we have to move out of or within the store, but if we do it step by step, we should be able to get it done. If, as I believe will happen, we are also closed in May, I'll have enough time to put it all together again.

A silver lining?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Random thoughts, Wednesday, April 1.

***I lost two days worth of posts. I have no idea why. Oh, well. Starting over with today.

***No April Fools jokes today. I loathe April Fools in the best of times, much less now.

***The comic industry seems to want to self-destruct. Some company of Point-of-Sales that I'd never heard of (I don't like POS) finagled some the publishers--we don't know who, yet, but probably Marvel at least--to sell comics digitally to our customers with the promise of physical copies later. For a bunch of reasons I won't go into detail about, this is a big NOPE. So far, a poll asking retailers is about 95% against.

***Driving into town today to leave Sabrina's paycheck at the store. I could mail it, but it's a good excuse to go somewhere. I went to the store yesterday and put away $1000 worth of games I got at 16% of retail. It's amazing when that much product simply disappears into the inventory.

***Got at least 5 phone calls in the three hours I was there. (I didn't answer--they'll get the gist.) I don't even have an answering machine. That's probably not so good.

***My estimation of curbside and online ordering was--it would be more trouble than it's worth. Especially for a store that has never been set up to sell that way. I've been waiting to see the results of those who went that way. Yesterday, this comment from another comic shop was a bit of confirmation.

"Curbside was slow; mail order to regulars has been slower, all despite spending more time and money on social engagements."

 ***There's a possibility that I could lay down some new flooring at the store in the month of May, assuming I can line up the labor and materials. Looking around the store yesterday, I quailed. When it comes time to do it--and it has to happen sometime--I'll just need to remind myself to take one step at a time.

***Watched the batshit crazy Bollywood movies, Baahubali I & 2 on Netfix last night.
Was all in on this one. So over the top it was funny and yet, I loved it.