Monday, November 30, 2020

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

I'm not sure Small Business Saturday is really catching on. Black Friday almost always does better for us. Besides, the next week is usually pretty horrible so I'm not sure how much help it really is.

That said, we did do 40% better than last year. Two days do not a pattern make, but better than being 40% down, no?

Bought 75 different enamel pins of famous books. The art is a little funky and I like that. They're a bit pricey at $10 each, but people seem to like them.

The thing is--they are extra and the fact that I can buy them at all is an indication that we are doing well. I also made my yearly purchase of standups, which are also extra.

A real sign that I'm feeling comfortable with the way things are going is that I bought a Harry Potter Golden Snitch for $75. This is the kind of thing I would have passed on in the past.  

The point is--all these things will accrue to the benefit of the store in the long run. Or more bluntly--money makes money. I can fill in all the little holes. Right now, I'm trying to get a selection of mainstream games that make sense for us. Chess sets, backgammon,'s harder than you think. I want something nice but not too expensive, and there doesn't seem to be many games that fit that description. Nothing fancy, just presentable.

I've decided to dedicate this month to the store. I can be there in case Sabrina needs help; and otherwise, I can prepare the basement for the moving of all the books and such out of the parts of the basement they need to be moved from. 

Besides, it's fun to be around a fully functioning store. 

I'm still not sure about jigsaw puzzles. I have about 50 in stock, but about 3/4ths of the people who ask, walk away without comment. It's puzzling, I tell you.

It's the same problem I have with posters and T-shirts and greeting cards. I can't figure out what art work people are going to like. My tastes don't rule here. In fact, the stuff I like never sells. I almost need to say to myself, "What is the most kitschy, least inspired art there is?" and then order that. I mean, people like what they like, so that's fine. But I can't figure it out.

Toys are also hard to figure. I get around the problem by ordering them when they are discounted. I use some judgement here, but mostly I look for the chance to carry something that "might" sell, but which if it doesn't sell, won't hurt us. 

Anyway, the store is pretty cool right now. If people walk away without finding something they like--well, they just aren't my people. Again, nothing against them. It's just that there is probably no way I can win them over.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Talking to my heart. Be grateful.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I'm very grateful for everything. Life is good right now. I'm relaxed and enjoying it. The heart attack is ever-present in my mind. I want to continue to enjoy life while I can, so I have these little talks with my heart.

"Look, heart. I'd like to keep on enjoying life. It took a long time to get here...

Apparently, heart, your insides are lined with some kind of plaque which can like BLOW UP! at any moment. So let's be calm and talk about this.  

I know it isn't your fault, exactly. I mean, I really subjected you to tons of stress, I haven't fed you right, I really haven't taken you out for exercise much, you had to carry 20/30 pounds of extra weight around.

I mean, I was walking for an freakin' hour every day for years and had dropped a bunch of weight, so why did you attack me? But I'm not holding a grudge. bad.

Then again, it appears we were born this way. The cholesterol just gloms onto us. When I was first informed of this fact, I asked the doctor how much I needed to change my diet.

"It won't matter. You need medication..."

So I took the medication, but apparently it wasn't enough. 

This time the doctors said, "You must live on green beans and turnips."

And I said, "Ain't going to happen. I'll stop eating fast food as much as possible, but really...I can't do it." bad. Listen here, I've dropped 20 pounds again so you're carrying around less weight, and my heart rate is down 20 beats and my blood pressure is lower and I'm turning my blood into thinner, and so on. So how about you keep going for a while longer?

Oh, and there's this little bug out there that apparently can hurt you. I'm trying my best to protect you, but I'm working--which is part of that enjoying life I was talking about--so there's some risk.  

I'm grateful for this last decade. Everything has been going my way, but without your little attack, maybe I wouldn't appreciate it enough. 

So, peace, brother. Let's try to get along a while longer.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

 I've always been pretty open about business, but this time I think I should keep my thinking to myself. We're doing very well, I'll say that much. I've have completely stocked it, top to bottom, without going deeply into debt. 

Basically, 7 weeks until I see whether my bet pays off.

Meanwhile, I've been dieting for the last 40 days or so, and I've lost 10 pounds. I'm shooting for 5 pounds more.

I have an entire closet full of nice clothing that I could wear at 175 pounds. Some of it is my Dad's flannel shirts, nice ones from Pendelton and Land's End and so on. It's strange to think I'm bigger than my Dad was, but then again, I do believe that each generation is healthier than the last. Anyway, about 2/3rds of my closet need me to be 175--and that 2/3rds is also nicer and in much better shape. So that's my motivation. 

I calorie count--it doesn't matter what I eat as long as it's between 1000 and 1500 calories a day. The easiest way for me to get there is not to eat until I'm hungry, which is not until early afternoon, and then try to eat whatever I'm going to eat before 7:00 at night. That's it, basically. 

Got an idea for a short story the other night, and then dreamed about it. But I haven't actually sat down to write it. The title is, "Under the Graveyard."

Friday, November 13, 2020

Another shutdown?

 Trying to figure out if there is going to be another shutdown in Deschutes County. It's more than possible, since the Gov shut down Multnomah County among others. So then the question is one of timing. I mean, the worst possible result would be during the Christmas shopping season. In a way, if it's going to happen, doing it now would be the best time. The second best time would be the first half of December, though I fear the huge rush in the second half of the month would wipe out the advantage.

Close down the second half of the month of December? Might as well come and lock the doors to a whole lot of businesses.

So my best guess is that we'll see a strict shutdown in January or February, and I'm not sure I'm all that opposed to it. Though by then, things may be so out of control that only the vaccine will help.

Meanwhile, apparently they're saying that masks do provide some protection to the wearer after all. 

So as long as both the customers and the workers are wearing masks 100% of the time, the risk is there but not extreme. Meanwhile, I'm staying home most of the time. 

I haven't noticed quite so many "nosers" as I've seen in the past, but can't be sure. I will be very diligent about pointing out the mask below the nose thing to all customers I see doing it. 

It's always been a risk/reward situation and so far so good. But then, it'll only stay good until it turns bad.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

My first short story submission.

 I've always thought short stories were a different kind of animal than novels, which maybe they are--but they are also stories, and I'm up for stories.

Anyway, rather than bend myself into pretzels, I'm going to take whatever ideas I have and just write them out in as short a format as I can get the story across. 

The story I just submitted is maybe a little long for a beginner--about 5600 words, but I'm still trying to get some background and character development in there that perhaps isn't strictly needed. 

It was fun to write it and I like the way it came out.

I'm submitting it to an anthology published by the publisher of my novel Snaked. It helped to actually have a prompt; basically Religion, monsters, monsters, monsters, and military. A premise came to me that I thought was pretty damn good.

So just before submitting it, I read Geoff's description of what he wanted and realized, well---ACTION! ACTION! ACTION! MONSTERS! MONSTERS! MONSTERS!.

Whereas my story has....Action! Action!, Monsters! Monsters! 

But this is the story I wrote and I like it quite a lot. So it goes. I'm not expecting a thing. In fact, I expect to be rejected. But I enjoyed the process so much, that I think I'm going to do more of it.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Intentionality. To be a writer?

 Listened to an interview on NPR with a musician, Linda Diaz, who was a world class chess player, about the show,"The Queen's Gambit." (Which, by the way, was one of the best things I've watched this year.)

Anyway, she mentioned that she reached the age where she realized that for her to progress further in the chess world she would have to commit to it, to declare her "intentionality." (Neat word, which I've only lately been hearing a lot.)

In other words, her natural talent had taken her that far, but to go further she would have to work, study, and practice even more than she already had. And that, in the end, she preferred to pursue a music career instead.  

I've been thinking a lot about intentionality in my writing career.

Well, actually, the point of my musing is that writing isn't my "career." I've already had my career and it was owning a bookstore. Writing full-time came after my real career. 

I very much enjoy writing stories. I guess in some ways I'm telling these stories to myself and hoping others like them. I like the challenge of trying to get it right. 

But I will freely admit that I'm using whatever natural talent I have to do it. I have spent some time figuring out the process, especially the actual writing itself. That is, I figured out what works best for me.

But I have reached a point where I've realized that to progress further, I would have to declare my intentionality to do so. That is, I would need to commit to working, studying, and practicing even more than I already have. I have even identified some things I need to do, especially at the beginning of each process and at the end. I need to plan more, to do outlines, to research more. Then, when I'm finished with the first draft, I need to rewrite more rigorously and more often. 

Interestingly enough, I was willing and actually did have the intention of doing these things in my earlier effort to be a writer. From about the ages of 27 to 31, I was willing to work very hard at it. I read every book in the library about writing. I took classes and joined writer's groups. I researched and outlined and re-wrote over and over again.

But I developed some bad habits along the way--especially the incessant re-writing. 

In a way, I reached a similar crossroad of Intentionality. That is, I realized that to progress further as a writer, I would have to commit fully and irrevocably. 

Thing is, looking back on it, even though I was nowhere near as good a writer as I am now, I was actually closer to creating a career in writing. I had made real progress, especially with the big time editors in New York. In other words, if I had committed, it might have been possible--more possible than today when the competition and the amount of commitment necessary is a much higher barrier. 

But even if I had succeeded, it wouldn't have been easy. 

So I had that inevitable moment where I needed to commit fully, and these were the factors I had to take into consideration:

1.) I had the examples of full-time writers, who by most measures had had successful careers, and I saw how modestly they lived. That is, most writers aren't swimming in dough, despite the myths. 

2.) I was already on the razor's edge of solvency. More years of striving looked pretty daunting.

3.) I got married and had two stepsons.

4.) As I mentioned, my bad writing habits were really hindering me.

5.) I got the opportunity to buy a store, and once I bought the store realized that my creativity was being immediately rewarded (rather than waiting an average 6 months to a year for answers from New York.) I suppose I thought I could both own a business and write, but that proved impossible. 

Anyway, I was aware that I was making a choice. That my intentionality was to try to make a living and pursue my art later, if possible. 

I'm glad I did it that way. The wherewithal to be able to take 7 years off and write to my heart's content without worrying about money or success and failure was a real blessing.

I admire everyone who reaches that crossroad--which I believe almost all creative people other than geniuses do--of declaring their intention to be an artist above all. It takes real courage. I suppose if the signs had been stronger, I could have gone one writing, but it was a Hobson's choice and I decided on a bit more security.

I don't regret it. In fact, I shudder at the thought of what it would have taken to be a writer and especially at the consequences of it not working out. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Leaving the house armored.

So when I leave the house in the morning, I have to go armored. I have to be leery of half the population, who are OK with meanness, with spite, with dishonesty and with lies. 

Part of me knew this. 

When I was depressed throughout my 20's, I saw a lot of meanness, of kicking me when I was down, of disrespect.

When my business started failing in the 90's, (I managed to save it), I saw that people were quite all right with the dishonesty of competitors, who thought it was fun to stir the stick, who attacked me for doing the right thing. People who thought cheating was "smart."

When you're a winner, (at least, when you're not down), you don't see as much as that. In my store, I am the master of my domain. I'm doing things like writing books and running a bookstore which lots of people think is cool.

But I mustn't forget that when I leave that front door, that almost half the population can't be trusted to do the right thing.