The Birthday Bash!

My wife had her birthday celebration a couple days ago. I took the day off. We started with homemade waffles. We went to a neighborhood nail spa and got her a mani-pedi. We went to see Jojo Rabbit, an award-winning movie with an amazing cast. I fixed a seasoned steak dinner with baked potato. The steaks were seasoned hours before and grilled medium rare. I got two slices of her favorite Italian cream cake from our favorite local pizzeria. It’s a good thing her birthday comes only once a year.

Got Some Books for Me!

Someone in the bookstore owners group recommended a title for book retailers wanting to operate pop up stores and I had to check it out. I found a couple more titles along the way which pertain to pricing and the economics of owning a bookstore. The book industry has been a trade of narrow margins. I want to read up and lean on the experience of others to reduce the number of mistakes I need to make on my own.

If anyone out there has ever mustered their resources and opened a retail shop successfully, be sure to toss out some tips in the comments.

In the world of book selling, as in a lot of the retail world, I suppose…people tend to wander in to book shops, browse through books to find what they like, and then take out their phone right there on the spot and order it cheaper from Amazon. Many modern bookstores stay afloat by offering food and coffee at a decent markup to help stay afloat. Books alone don’t always cut it in a world with Amazon.

Its a mixed bag online, though. There are authors selling their own titles on Amazon and then there are pirates selling bootleg copies of popular titles at a cost less than they could purchase it from the publisher, and at reduced quality as well. The press reported Amazon was under investigation for allowing so many of its sellers to market bootleg books.

I realize its hard for a company the size of Amazon to regulate what their sellers do, but its also hard on the writers and publishers and distributors and retailers already trying to make a living by selling the legitimate books. If you ever bought a new book online for a great deal and received it in the mail and noticed the print seemed slightly blurry, or the glue in the binding began to come loose after a while, or there were more than a sparse handful of typos and grammatical and spelling errors, you may have a bootleg book. Sometimes the paper quality is thinner or not as bright as what you remember from the copy you held in the store. Sometimes it may have a peculiar chemical smell when you flip through the pages, or the ink may actually rub off onto your hands as you read. These are some signs of a fly-by-night pirate press.

Well, I may have gone off on a tangent, but its something I believe bears saying from time to time. It’s a great bane to the real book industry out there, much like pirate copies of movies hurt Hollywood and bootleg copies of music has kept income from the coffers of musical artists. Anyway, enough of that.

I bought three books and they should be arriving tomorrow. The plan is to study up and then design and develop a good pop up venue I can use all around town in various retail environments.

I’m also looking into paper bags, the ones with the little cord handles, and a means of printing my logo on them. I’m probably going to end up with a stamping machine or an embosser and doing it myself. It’s more affordable than purchasing custom printed bags (unless you’re buying in mass, bulk quantities, of course).

Alright. Enough for now. I have to get up and running. It’s a new day and I have stuff to do.

I made it to lunch!

Oh, the first real day back after the holidays is always the hardest. All the traffic and workflow and business is all back in full swing. I suppose it is the epitome of idiocy to complain about having lots of business, right? Always grateful for business.

I hope all of you are bolstering up for the new year and making it into the next big year for you and yours. Its always done one month, one week, one day, one hour at a time. Get to it!

Keep the momentum.

Turkey sandwich for lunch. I’m being good!

Day Six: Back to Work

Up early as always, showered and dressed and ready to head out to my regular job. Fixing a turkey wrap to bring with me. I need to stock up on oatmeal packets and tuna snack packs. Keeping myself surrounded with healthier options makes it easier to eat healthy. Also, having them to grab at a moment’s notice saves time and money versus going out to find a vendor or restaurant across the street at lunch time. Gotta stay stocked with good stuff.

Traffic has been light the past two weeks but school starts back up today for all the youngsters and buses and moms will be packing the local roads in the mornings. I need to make sure I’m leaving early enough.

I’m thinking of adding one more resolution into the mix. I need to start clearing out some stuff. I need to sell or donate or trash the things I no longer need or want. I need to declutter my space. My wife says garage sale but I say eBay. We’ll see.

I’m taking the little candy canes people leave on my desk from Christmas and putting them in my coffee. Peppermint Keurig greatness.

Day Five: The Day Before Monday

Today was a lovely day. The high temperature was just below 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a slight breeze: A perfect summer day in many places but a perfect random Winter day here in Texas. I walked the dogs today. They loved getting out and around the park on such a beautiful day and the free air and exercise did all of us good. I had fresh melon and pineapple and toast with strawberry jam with coffee for breakfast. I did spend about five minutes lifting weights, so…I should probably get back to doing some more of that when I’m done here.

I had Brussels sprouts and potstickers for lunch. I couldn’t help but have a few wheat thins and cheddar as a snack, and I’ll wager I drank half a gallon of lemonade throughout the day. I read the first couple stories in my new unabridged Jack London and was surprised to learn he lived only to the age of forty. I hadn’t realized he died so young. I look at the eleven hundred pages he wrote and wonder what else he could have accomplished had he lived on.

In spending time with my wife, we broke into a new (to us) series on Hulu called Killing Eve. It’s a bit of an international cloak & dagger spy thriller series and it’s been out for a while so we can binge watch a few episodes at a time when we feel like it…another benefit of staying away from the television for prolonged periods of time.

Dinner was a Marie Calendar’s chicken pot pie…mediocre (I always manage to either undercook it or burn the crust) and a bit more fresh fruit. So, I managed to behave fairly well for my food intake today. I could have avoided the cheese block and crisps, but what the hell. It’s the weekend.

I went through a couple catalogs recently received in the mail and selected several titles for an upcoming order. Some history, some historical fiction, a few children’s titles…all good stuff. Or at least we hope as much, right?

In other news, my wife found an old Bluetooth keyboard in her office and let me use it. Instead of kicking back with my laptop to write, I can kick back with a wireless keyboard and my phone and be even more cozy wherever I choose to write. Remembering how freeing it was the first time I took my first laptop somewhere, this new setup is even more portable. I can tuck my phone in it’s pocket and shove the keyboard in a bag or jacket and be off in an instant. I do enjoy it.

In all, I feel as though I am on my way to making these resolutions into habits and these blog entries are helping me adhere to them. It’s an additional layer of accountability for me, and I’ll take all the help I can get. 🙂

Stay motivated, do things which make you (and others) happy.

Keep the momentum.

Day Four: Half Price Books!

I got out to Half Price Books today and found a copy of Hemingway: The First Forty-Nine Stories. I’m about a third of the way through it. I also bought a copy of The Unabridged Jack London. I haven’t dug into that yet but plan to do so soon after I write this post. It’s interesting to read the descriptions in Hemingway. He really captures the essence of the locations. I was reading one short story after another to find myself correlating his descriptions with moments from my own memories. Not only did it allow me a bit of reminiscing but it also lent some reality to Hemingway’s tales. I made it through one hundred forty four pages in one sitting.

I’m going to switch to the Jack London in a bit just for variety before returning to finish Hemingway. I’m attracted to Jack London’s stories as I am sometimes living vicariously through his writing. The sum of his work is separated into two different sections: Mountains and Sea. I have loved hiking and kayaking for some time and, although I have never adventured to the extent of what London has done. I did a bit of ocean going travel in the USN as an Operations Specialist, but not to the extent I would write about it. I am inspired by London’s travels and subsequent stories. It makes me want to get out there and hike cross country, hop on a steamer, and start writing my own amazing experiences. I don’t know if my wife would be too keen on that, but let’s put a pin in it and see if I can’t work something out when I retire one day.

So, to catch up with the rest of my resolutions, I did get in some walking today as I wandered Half Price Books and other nearby stores with my wife. I took a break from the weight-lifting today to give my body a chance to recover. I definitely reduced my screen time today due to all the shopping and walking, and reading of actual printed books. And the only writing I got in today was this blog post, but that counts, so I’ll take it. I’ll have to step that up over time.

Thanks for reading! Pursue your goals. Love your dogs. Keep the momentum. Have fun.

Day Three: Starting to Alternate Those Resolutions

The best best of survival for my New Year’s resolutions was to make a bunch of them and alternate them as needed to keep the momentum going. If I had one resolution, I’d spend too much time and effort worrying about trying to make that happen and I’d get bored or frustrated. With a whole slew of resolutions, I can sort of pick and choose as appropriate and I’ll always feel good about doing at least one of the things I swore I would do. I know. That’s kind of half-assed, but it’s what I’m trying this year.

What’s on the list? Well, let’s see. I told myself I’d lose some weight. Twenty pounds seems about right. I lost more than that a few years ago, and it felt great, but it was hard to maintain and I ended up gaining quite a bit back. I’m going for moderation this time.

Another thing I’m doing is making sure I write. This blog is a part of that but, hopefully, there will be more, eventually. It’s the easiest thing in the world. I’ve started writing a million times. It’s the follow through that takes some effort. I’ll be working on that.

Lifting weight. Pumping Iron. Working different areas on different days. I have been, intermittently, pretty excited about walking, hiking, kayaking and getting out on the move. As any trainer will tell you, aerobics need to be blended with some resistance. I need to bring up and maintain some weightlifting. I’ve been tossing around some iron in the backyard the past week, just a little, and trying to gradually move it up both in reps and mass. I do feel better. I’m looking forward to more variety in this and better results.

Less meat. More fruit and vegetables. I’ve been doing this for weeks now, long before the new year started, and I just need to keep my refrigerator and cabinets well stocked. I find that, if it is readily available when I crave it, it’s much easier to adhere to it.

Less screen time. And when I say less screen time, I mean the impulsive instinct to pull out my phone and check social media, email, texts and updates every time there is a momentary lull in the real world. I even have a selection of game apps I keep just to pass the time when I am waiting in line or relaxing after work. Honestly, staring at a phone screen is not relaxing. It forces your eyes to stare unblinking at a source of light which can fatigue your mind. So, I’m trying to reduce that. Yes, I am aware of the irony that I am typing this on a laptop.

Anyway, I have been rotating my resolutions accordingly and it helps keep me motivated. We’ll check back down the road and see how well it all goes.

Keep the momentum!

The Beginning of a Plan

I need books. I plan to sell books. I will have a selection of used and (some) new books which I will sell at various popup locations in my neighborhood and surrounding area. I hope to be able to visit each site monthly and develop a routine which clients will come to learn and love. If I meet at each location on the same day (for example, the third Thursday of the month) each month, I will eventually have regulars who come by to see what is new and different.

I do have my tax permit set up and running. I have an account with various book suppliers and publishers and look forward to setting up accounts with many more. If any of you are publishers and would like to set up an account with you, please contact me.

So, local retail shops, businesses and offices with a good volume of employees who traverse the lobby, places who will allow me to return on a regular basis and set up shop for a few hours. I’d be available for lunch rush and breaks in the offices and retail during morning and evening rush hours.

I intend to have a selection of history, business and economics, some fiction and lit. I’ll add to my inventory over time. I need to find an inventory tracking system which doesn’t cost a fortune. I may likely end up using Excel and a handheld scanner for some time. I have a Square account and a variety of card readers for it. I need to develop promotion and marketing skills. I need to develop relationships with shop owners and office directors in the area. That is key.

Anyway, these are my thoughts for now and it helps me to get them down somewhere. Here’s to making them happen. Thanks for reading. Keep the momentum. ‘See ya next time.

A New Year

It’s been too long since I wrote a blog post. It’s been three and a half months. It’s been so long that WordPress prompted me with the introductory blog lessons when I logged in. Wasn’t that nice. LOL

As would be expected around this time of year, it’s a time of new beginnings and I am “beginning” again with this blog. My goal to one day having a brick-and-mortar book store has not changed and documenting the journey, regardless of it’s course and it’s inevitable roadblocks, is supposed to be done on this blog.

There has not been much progress since the last time I posted. I am still thankful for my full-time job because it IS a great job and pays my bills, however, one day I intend, God willing, to retire and, when I do, I’d like to have another source of income a little closer to my dream of having a book store. I will have a book store with a little cafe and be an integral part of the neighborhood. That’s the goal.

Mostly, I’ve been in the planning stage. And by ” planning stage”, I mean I’ve been looking at properties on Loopnet, reviewing all incoming copies of Publishers Weekly, and spending copious amounts of time daydreaming about running a book store.

It will happen…one day. It will happen sooner if I win the Lotto. In the mean time, keep watching this blog. Watch as I trudge forward, make mistakes, and arrive at the day when my dream becomes a reality. It’s going to be a slow journey, but it’s going to happen. Just watch.

You Read My Mind

Welcome to Another Notch, the podcast about writing prompts. I try to get thoughts on paper and stretch ideas until they become stories. If it inspires you, you need to subscribe! If my writing needs help, show me the error of my ways. The whole idea is to make me a better writer, so lets get to it.
Here’s today’s writing from a random prompt I found on the internet. A 16 year old kid living on a ranch get struck by lightning and can now hear what people are thinking.
As always, I write what I can in one day’s time and what ends up on the table is a rough first draft of however far I got into the story. These are not finished stories. Perhaps, one day, I’ll get around to finsihing some of these stories. In the mean time, I think I’m benefitting from the practice. So, keeping that in mind…

…here we go…

Chapter 1
Caleb couldn’t see anything. All he could hear was a shrill, high-pitched whine. He couldn’t see, even though it was late afternoon and the sun had been shining bright all day. He couldn’t move. Actually, he could, but it was painful, and he hurt enough already. Just breathing was painful. His lungs hurt, his heart was racing. His throat and nose were sore and filled with the scent of warm sulfur.
As he lay there…was he laying down? Was he standing? He thought he had been standing but he certainly couldn’t be standing now. He could sense the Earth beneath him. Yes. He could feel the ground. He was laying on his back, spread-eagled.
As he lay there, his vision began to register once more. He could start to see some light, then some semblance of different colors, and shapes. He blinked, and it hurt, but it helped clear his vision a bit more. He was definitely laying on the ground. But where was he
Caleb could see a building to the right. He tried to turn his head a bit. Pain shot through his body. He stopped and blinked some more. It looked like…a barn. It was a barn. It was his family’s barn!
He lived here, on this property. He glanced toward his feet and could barely make out a more distant building. It was white with green trim. The house. He loved in that house. He felt some comfort in realizing where he was. Flashes of views of the inside of the house ran through his mind; sitting in the living room watching TV with his parents; lighting a cigarette on the gas stove when his parents weren’t home; playing with the dogs in the backyard. Memories trying to come forward and offer some context, some comfort.
Caleb came sprawling back to reality as he realized he had no idea how he had ended up on the ground somewhere between coming out of the barn and heading back to the house. What was he… He had been feeding the horses. It came back to him slowly.
He had been feeding the horses and he brushed them a bit and then he went to collect eggs from the hen house. Caleb looked around to see if he could find out what happened to the eggs.
There were at least half a dozen eggs laying splat on the ground, as if the Johnston kids had come crashing through with a Halloween prank with really bad aim. Not a single egg could be salvaged. He looked closer. The ants had already started in. He had to have been knocked unconscious for a bit. Caleb sat up and wondered what in the hell had happened.
The ringing in his ears was gradually letting up. It was more of a tinny sounding whine and he could start to make out some of the sounds from his immediate environment. He could hear birds now. He could hear a dog barking in the distance. And he heard MIldred Faulkner telling her husband he was a fat, ferocious pig.
That last bit was quite remarkable. Shocking, actually. Not because of what Mildred had said, but because Mildred lived next door, in the house down the road…half a mile away. He had been looking in the direction of her house when he heard her voice. That was impossible…well, improbable. He had heard her voice…from a half mile away.
The last wisp of high-pitched whining spun out of Caleb’s right ear and he could hear just fine once again. His head cleared a bit. He slowly leaned forward and, pushing against the ground, managed to stand upright. He turned his head to look down the hill into town. He might have to go get some aspirin. He knew his father had used the last of it the other night and Caleb had a feeling he was going to be sore for a while.
Hell, he was going into town to get aspirin. He might even stop at Doc’s and tell him what’s going on, have him check him out. He still had no idea what happened. He was looking down the hill and started to walk when he heard Doc’s voice in his head.
“Yes, two a day, one every twelve hours, with a meal, just like I said thirty seconds ago when you asked. God, I hope you even remember to take this stuff, Catherine. God knows you need it.” said Doc’s voice. It wasn’t like Doc was talking to him, and it wasn’t like Doc was standing anywhere near him. It was like Doc was wearing a hidden microphone and everything he said was being broadcast directly into Caleb’s brain.
Caleb closed his eyes and turned his gaze downward and gently shook his head. He went to the porch swing and sat down, putting his arms up on the back rest of the swing. He kept looking down at his feet as he slowly pushed back and forth on the swing.
What…in God’s Green Earth…was going on?! thought Caleb.
The things these people were saying, it’s not like things they would say to these people. Mildred and Doc were way too polite and he had never heard them talk like that. It’s like he was, maybe, hearing their thoughts. Is this what Doc actually thought of poor old Cathy Grayson? That must have been who he was talking, er…thinking of when Caleb heard his voice. And, is that how Mildred really thinks about her husband? Well, that’s no surprise, really. Mister Faulkner is kind of an ass.
A thought struck Caleb. He had to try something. A quick little experiment to see if what he was thinking was actually the truth. He stood and walked down the porch steps. He glanced back down at the little town towards the bottom of the hill. Over the treetops, he could see the trailer park off to the East. He followed the trees and trailer tops until he saw the tallest pine power pole sticking up out of the ground. He stared at the trailer right in front of it. And he thought of Amanda, that beautiful girl with the shoulder length black hair, from school.
“ooooh…ooooh…ooooh…ooooh…” said Amanda’s voice in his mind. “That’s it! Now push! God, it’s so hard!” Her voice sounded close to exhaustion, but energized.
“Yes! Now hold it…hold it…right there… that’s it! and five… four… three… two… one.” said Amanda’s voice, collapsing at the end. “Damn this stupid exercise video. It’s gonna kill me and then I’ll lose weight for sure!”
Caleb’s face was flush. He quickly looked up into the sky. He could feel the heat escaping from the top of his close cropped hair. Something was definitely going on but it wasn’t something he was going to waltz in and tell Doc about. Suddenly, he felt a stabbing pain in his chest. Whatever was happening, he resolved then and there that a trip to Doc’s was definitely needed.
Chapter 2
“These lines right here,” said Doc, tracing along the dark lines on Caleb’s calves with the tip of his pen, “these are called Lichtenberg scars.” The dark scars running the length of his calves was purple and sore and tender.
“Most of the time, they tend to fade in a couple days. I don’t see why these would be any different.” said Doc. He put his pen in his shirt pocket and, looking straight at Caleb, he folded his hands and smiled. “The cardio tests we ran all came back ok. I think you were most likely under a lot of pain and perhaps a little duress from the confusion of not knowing what happened, but you seem to be recovering just fine.”
Caleb was sitting on the examination table with the big roll of paper at one end. The comedian Jerry Seinfeld used to have a bit about those little tables, about how he always felt like a piece of salami at a deli sitting on one of those tables, waiting to be examined, or maybe wrapped up an placed on the counter.
“Thanks, Doc,” said Caleb, “that’s a relief. I’m glad to know I’m gonna be alright.”
“Not a problem, Caleb,” said Doc, “your mother is waiting for you back at the house. Make sure you get home.”
“I wish you hadn’t told her, Doc.” said Caleb, “You know she just worries about stuff.”
“It’s not like I had a choice, Caleb.” said Doc, “You’re sixteen years old. You’re a minor. You’re mother gets notified.”
“AND…” continued Doc, “you were struck by lightning. Did you think I wasn’t going to notifity your mother? She would have my license to practice if she found out from anyone else.”
Caleb looked at him and smiled and was about to thank him when he heard Doc say something else, except…Doc’s lips weren’t moving.
“You’re a damn lucky kid. Lucky to have a mother like that and lucky to be alive.” said Doc’s voice…in Caleb’s head.
“Are you alright?” said Doc, lips moving and all. “You got kinda still there for a minute. You look kind of pale.”
“No. No, I’m fine, Doc.” said Caleb, sliding off the examination table. “I’m just still getting over the shock, that’s all.”
“Ha. Pun intended?” said Doc, with a smile.
“What? Uh…yeah. Ha!” said Caleb, realizing he had made his own joke. “Thanks, again, Doc. I’ll see ya later.”
“Straight home, Caleb. Tell your mother I said hello.” said Doc. He gave a little wave and a nod and disappeared out the door and on to the next examination room.
Caleb was out the door, down the hall, through the lobby and onto Main street. It would be about a twelve minute walk up the hill and to the house.
Chapter 3
While he walked, and relieved from the stress about his previously unknown medical condition, he started thinking about the strange new…skill, he had in his head. It had to have been the lightning strike. He had heard about stuff like this, but it was all science fiction and nonsense, like UFO’s and people getting abducted.
But this was real. He was living it. He didn’t understand it, and didn’t know how long it would last, if it would go away, or if the lightning had affected him in other ways. So many questions.
He kicked a rock in his path. The tiny rock skittled across the concrete sections of sidewalk until it hit a metal sign post and deflected at a right angle into the alcove doorway of the town hair salon. Caleb looked up as he passed.
For a moment or two, his eyes met with the eyes of Peggy Sue, the assistant manager of the hair salon. And by assistant manager, I mean she was the OTHER hair stylist in the shop. She was on duty when the first one wasn’t working.
Caleb heard her voice clearly inside his head, right through the shop window, above the sound of a passing car, and despite the radio echoing out from the shop.
“That poor kid. ‘Doesn’t even know what’s going on with his mom right now.” She went back to spraying and teasing out a her client’s hair while she continued thinking to herself…and, unwittingly, to Caleb. “If he ever found out…”
She didn’t finish the sentence but Caleb glanced back to see her shaking her head while she combed and clipped. Caleb turned his attention back to his house on the hill and kept walking.
“What is going on?” Caleb thought to himself. “I’m going nuts. First, I almost get killed by a lightning strike on a sunny freaking afternoon, and now I can…what, read minds? Hear people think? And now there’s supposedly some secret about my mom?”
Caleb stopped in his tracks. He wanted to go back and grab Peggy Sue and ask her what in the hell was going on with his mom, but that would probably put her right over the egde. He stood a moment longer before making his decision.
“Ya know what? Who cares…” thought Caleb. “Today has been an absolute shit show and I’m going to get some answers before anything else happens.”
He reinforced his resolve, turned on his sneaker and started walking back to the hair salon, thinking about what he was going to say to Peggy Sue when he got there.
He saw a guy in a leather jacket walking up to the salon. It was about eighty degrees today. Caleb slowed his pace and watched as the man approached the door of the shop.
“Quick and easy.” said the voice in Caleb’s head. “Cash register on the counter, safe in the back next to the clothes dryer…24 – 17 – 34. Three minutes, in…and…out…”
The man reached the doorway just as he reached into his jacket to pull out a snub-nosed .38 revolver.
Chapter 4
“Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do. Everyone remained calm. No one tried to play hero. And everything worked out.” said Sheriff Belton. He gestured to the man handcuffed in the back seat of his cruiser. “You did real well, Peggy Sue.”
Both of the town’s police cars were parked in front of the salon, lights flashing. Belton’s deputy was still talking to people and taking their statements; Everything that could be done to make sure this guy stayed in jail for a long time. And it was all because Caleb called 911.
Caleb sat in one of the faux leatherette seats in the little waiting area of the salon. He pretended to be reading a car magazine while everyone around him was hustling and hugging and chattering about the recent events in the shop. He would wait. He was determined to talk to Peggy Sue.
Another fifteen minutes and the sheriff and deputy had everything wrapped up and they moved out. Most of the shop patrons were gone, having to come back another day for their appointments, except for one woman who was having her hair dyed. She had a towel wrapped around her head and was past due the time she was supposed to have the dye rinsed out of her hair. Peggy Sue was rushing to get to her client and get the shop back to normal. She had a hectic afternoon but this poor customer was about to lose some of her hair if she didn’t get rinsed soon.

Alright! Thank you for joining me in today’s writing prompt. I wish I could hear what lot of you are thinking right now but, alas, you only wish that I had been struck by lightning. What about you, have you written today? If not, get on it. If you have written something, good for you. You deserve a cup of coffee.
That’s today’s writing prompt. I’ll be back with more. Be sure to subscribe if you find this interesting. Thanks for listening and thanks for your feedback. This is Kurt Copeland. Keep the momentum and take your writing up Another Notch.

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