Friday, January 28, 2011

A temporary breakout...

My future bookshop has the measles!

Don't worry, it's only a temporary case. I asked the landlord to fill in the holes in the wall. When I walked in and saw this, I had to laugh. He did a great job!

Now it's my turn. I'm not the best at picking out coordinating paint colors, but I have to try this weekend so I can paint the walls before the carpet arrives.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Building a Bookshop — driving all over town

Today seemed like a more productive day for this future bookseller.

I went to a store supply place to look for bookshelves. They didn't carry that kind of furniture, just items like manikins and clothes racks. But I did pick up a baker's rack (a folding shelf) on clearance and some pretty, recycled bags to give to customers.

After lunch, the realtor and I went over the lease, then I stopped by the insurance company to purchase liability insurance. Next on the list was City Hall, to apply for a license. After dropping off my baker's rack and bags at the shop, I went to look at carpet and picked out a style and color.

I feel tired tonight, like I've put in a good day's work. Hopefully, someday, I'll get paid for it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Building a Bookshop — waiting by the phone

I recently bought Patience and Fortitude, Nicholas Basbanes' book about bookselling, although I haven't read it yet. It looks like I'm going to need both virtues to open my book store.

I've spent all of my non-library days for the past couple of weeks taking steps to start a bricks-and-mortar business. I got a tax ID number and opened a bank account, paid the first month's rent and started turning on utilities. I admit I was in a bit of a hurry once I made the decision to open a store, because I wanted to accept some inventory (with more possibly coming this weekend) and buy furnishings, and because I needed the address to write on all my official paperwork. You see, you need a physical address to open accounts. And you need those accounts to rent the place... well, it all worked out.

My friends have been very supportive and people are starting to ask me when the store will open. I told them mid-February, but that was optimistic. I need to get shelving, which is the biggest intimidation for me because I have no idea how much it will cost. I'm still shopping, but I can't set up shelves until the carpet is down. I can't install carpet until the walls are painted. And I can't paint until the owner makes some repairs. I'm also still working out details with the lease; yes, I'm already in the place, but I'm dealing with multiple levels of people, not just the owner. Since I'm one of those people who actually reads every word, I tend to find problems and negotiation has been a challenge.

So, I tried to run errands today as I waited for phone calls. I need patience, because I have to depend on other people who aren't constrained to my schedule. And I need fortitude, because this kind of investment is scary, but it's an investment in the future. Let me add wisdom, and prayers, to that list.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Genealogical Epiphany: A Blessed Injury

I recently made a Storybook (photo book) for my uncle, which required scanning my dad's negatives from the 1950s. The fun part was getting together with my maternal aunt so she could tell me who the people in the pictures were. But she mentioned something that really surprised me. She said, matter-of-factly, that my uncle's brothers were given a vaccine in the military that made them sterile. What?!

Yes, she nodded. Something that was supposed to protect them from biological warfare. Hallie never had any children. Neither did Husie. Clark had a child before going off to war (I'm not sure if this was World War II or the Korean War), but never had any more after he came home. My uncle, who never went into the military, had children, and so did his sister.

I filed that tidbit away in the back of my mind and a couple of busy weeks passed. Then one morning in the shower (a popular place for brainstorms), I started thinking about my dad's side of the family. Daddy's brothers served in World War II. It suddenly occurred to me that Jack never had any children (he had a stepson). Gene couldn't have children, so he and his wife adopted. Wayne never had children, either. All three were overseas in combat. Their younger brother Randall had children (16 years apart!), but he stayed in the U.S., stationed in Texas near the end of the War. Most of our cousins came from the girls in the family.

I think Daddy was drafted. He packed his things, gave his class ring to his sweetheart (Momma) and reported in. But Daddy had a bad ear from a childhood injury, and they sent him home. That ear bothered him all his life.

I'm not one of those anti-government people at all; I've always relegated clandestine experiments and government cover-ups to the X-Files and other fiction. And this is all conjecture; I don't have any proof.

But here's the epiphany (as the water in the shower grows colder) — if it weren't for Daddy's injured ear, my sister and I might not be here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book nook

I found a large ottoman at the Bouldin House auction a couple of weekends ago. It was just what I needed to finally turn one of my dormer windows into a cozy corner for reading or working on my novel. I even moved a couple of books around to make room on the bookshelf for a cup of hot coffee or tea.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Following my dreams (part 2)

I did it! (I can't believe I did it...) I rented a building for my book store!

If you've read this blog before, you know about my obsession with books and how they seem to (ahem) follow me home. I guess I've dreamed for years about owning a book store, but I consciously didn't think it would ever happen. My subconscious, however, has been acquiring books by the hundreds over the past few months.

As I worked at the newspaper last summer, a couple of neighboring stores left and I watched the empty spaces. Months passed. I knew I could get a decent rent, and last week I finally contacted the realtor.

You may be thinking: Beth, didn't you just start your dream job as an archives assistant last week? Yes. I love that job! But here's the catch — it's only 10 hours a week. Oh, I have a couple of other jobs, including freelance writer and proofreader, but they're sporadic. I'm hoping to build this shop into something steady. And as the owner, I can set the hours around other commitments.

It's pretty scary, though. I'll have a lease (I'm committed, now!). I need carpet, shelves... electricity, phone... a long list of expenses and things to do. Here's what it looks like: almost a blank slate.

The space next door had more outlets (I looked at that for you, writer buddies!) and water options, but I liked the character of this space better, including the arch on the right and a small storage room. This one needs more work, but it has a more comfortable, homey feel.

I'm not worried about inventory, although that could change after I set things up and actually see what I have. I've already lined up a couple of venues where I can get more, including a large book sale later this month. I can't wait to get the boxes of books out of my house and put everything in order for people to enjoy.

I'll be surrounded by books at both jobs. It doesn't get much better than that!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Following my dreams (part 1)

I started working at my dream job last week. No, not astronaut — the other one! I'm the new Archives Assistant at the Friends Historical Collection at Guilford College. I get to put my Quaker history knowledge to use and learn more, as a job!

FHC has always been one of my favorite places as a genealogist, but I've already learned that it's not a genealogical library, it's an archives. The difference is that they collect books, documents, and items related to Quakers, and Guilford College, and that's it. Although there are plenty of family histories and local history books, they don't collect all the state and federal censuses or other general records.

I spent my first day going through old issues of the N.C. Yearly Meeting's newsletter (1940s to 1980s) to get them ready to bind into a book. I saw lots of pictures that I recognized, from meeting houses to my childhood pastor. It was fun to see photos of people I know now, back when they were first starting out in ministry, before they had any gray hair.

My homework
This week I manned the research room, which was pretty quiet because the few researchers were absorbed in their work and didn't need much help. When things are quiet, I'm supposed to read books about archiving, which is something I've always wanted to learn. When I need to stretch, I catch up on the genealogy newsletters by the door or send myself on a brief scavenger hunt through the family histories and indexes.

I'm surrounded by history. Life is very good.

(Tomorrow: pursuing another dream)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Books in strange places

On my way home, I took the old highway for a change and saw a huge banner across one of the furniture showroom buildings: "Going Out of Business Sale." Locals in the High Point area don't usually buy from the showrooms because of the tourist prices, but a sale is a sale, and I need bookshelves for my future book store. I decided to go in and look around.

The sales people were very eager to assist me. When a young man named John said he could knock $1,000 off the price of this sofa or chair, I knew I wasn't going to find the kind of bargain I was looking for. But I decided to browse around the store, just in case. Lots of elegant stuff, fun to look at. What was that? I backtracked and found a couple of old books they had used for decor. And a couple more over here. I looked through them: mostly single volumes of encyclopediae and Reader's Digest books. They were scattered all over the store.

I made a circuit back to the entrance and decided to check out a few more books on a table before I made my getaway past the antsy staff. These weren't encyclopediae. But they weren't in English, either.  John saw me pause and bounced over. Each book had a plastic-coated price just like the furniture. I held one up and asked him what he would take for it. The answer was very reasonable.

"We've got some more old books in the back, if you're interested," he said. I followed him to an office area, where they had stacks of readable decor on a table and a shelf. He let me look through them and I walked out with an armful.

I don't know the difference between Norwegian, Swedish or Icelandic, but the language was something in that area. I picked up an Ayn Rand and a few others that just looked interesting, including an 1899 text about horses and hooves. I also weighed my arms down with a London tome listing all of the ships in the world in 1964 — before computers kept up with that sort of thing.

Does this only happen to me? Anybody else walk into other types of stores and walk out with old books?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Books at the Bouldin House

OK, I did that thing again. That buying books instead of food thing. I was about to start two part-time jobs (finally!), but I just couldn't get rid of the bookstore idea. I had almost forgotten about last weekend's auction at the Bouldin House, a historic bed & breakfast that is up for sale. The auction had already started and I was just finishing my breakfast when I saw a reminder online. They advertised furnishings, appliances. No books were mentioned. But it was a lovely house and I wanted to see what they had. So I went.

They had books. I saw one or two crates I was interested in and tried to keep track of them as the helpers carried them down. I didn't want to accidently bid on the ones full of magazines or old software boxes. I didn't have a choice though, because they put all four large bins up for one sale.

I got all four, for a decent price.

There were some great buys at the auction, and a few things sold at higher prices. This is furniture country, and a friend of mine got a nice bedroom set for her daughter. It was entertaining to watch her with a cell phone to her ear, trying to hear a family member while keeping up with the auctioneer. Our youth group happened to be there, selling hamburgers from the large wraparound porch, and other people I knew showed up to check out the bargains.

I waited around to try for a comfy kitchen chair, but of course it went with an entire set which was out of my league. I bid on a couple of benches that went up in price, but finally got a large ottoman. Then I started bidding on a large, very nice rug. I never thought I'd get it, but the auctioneer nudged me and I knew it was worth something. The other bidder gave in and I ended up getting it for one-fifth of the sale price on the tag. When I got it home — my car was full by now — I looked at the tag. Did I mention this was furniture country? With all the design and carpet businesses, too? I found myself the proud owner of a new, hand-woven oriental rug from India, that I had bought at one-twentieth of its original price.

It's a very large, very nice rug. For the bookstore. That I don't have. Yet.

Oh, and the books. Yes, there were a few magazines and useless software guides. What drew my interest were the coffee table books about local cities. I'm hoping those alone will pay for the rest of the books. Now, here's the hard part about bookselling. High Point, Reflections of the Past had old photos of familiar places, including the Bouldin House.

The idea of bookselling is that you're supposed to sell the books. But I wanted to keep this one. I looked through the crates and — voila! There was more than one! This time, at least, I get to have my cake and eat it too.

I was pleasantly surprised to find travel and history, as well as a few mysteries. Another book tempted me: A Museum of Early American Tools. I tried to tell myself that I couldn't keep everything. But then I saw drawings of tanning tools and thought, that's just what I need for my novel! One of the main characters is a tanner. So Tools stays, at least for now.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Movies of 2010

I watched a lot of movies in 2010, most of them at home on Netflix, because I don't have TV reception or cable. Lately I've been watching the series Lois and Clark for my suppertime entertainment (love it!). Sometimes I watch The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I didn't realize it was a series, but the book has a lot of short stories in it and they filmed it as separate episodes. I like the African music, accents, and unique characters. I also liked Who Do You Think You Are?, but only saw two episodes.

These are the movies I would label:

Awesome! (I would watch these again)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (subtitled, Swedish). Pretty brutal, definitely not for kids nor the faint of heart. But I just finished the book, and I'd say the movie is even better, with lots of minor changes like a revision.
Oklahoma! Hugh Jackman. Talent, talent, talent. And fun.
Up! For laughing and crying. Like falling out of your chair laughing. Appropriate for watching with family/friends/kids.
Captains Courageous with Spencer Tracy. Wow! Powerful movie about a boy who starts out as a rowdy troublemaker and accidently becomes a crewmember on a whaling ship.
Eat Drink Man Woman. (subtitled, Chinese) About three very different sisters, who are wondering which one of them will be stuck taking care of their aging father. Meanwhile, he's wondering how long before he can get them out of the house. Lots of lovely food.
Jodhaa Akbar (subtitled, Indian) Sweeping epic, love story, traitors, religious tolerance, sword fights — it's all there and very well done. And not all of the sword fights are between husband and wife.
Ben Hur with Charlton Heston.

Really enjoyed: The Last Airbender, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr. & Jude Law), Lawrence of Arabia, Notorious (Hitchcock), The Forbidden Kingdom (a little campy, but Jackie Chan and Jet Li — what's not to like?), National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (old books!), Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (Bollywood humor/drama that reminded me of Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor), The Big Sleep (Bogart and Bacall), Julie and Julia

A bit dark: The Constant Gardener (not a happy story at all), Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four, No Man of Her Own with Barbara Stanwyck. I wasn't too crazy about any of these. The last one finally has a happy ending, but they sure go through a lot of misery to get there.

Enjoyed, but rather shallow: The Proposal (Sandra Bullock), The Art of Travel (gratuitous nudity), Sky High (has some redeeming angst and morals), Journey to the Center of the Earth (Brendan Fraser), Duck Soup (Marx brothers), Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Inspector Gadget, Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, Flight Plan (OK, these last two aren't shallow; I liked them OK but don't need to see them again.)

None of them were really awful, but some of the films really stand out and stick with you, while others are just a way to spend time.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Books of 2010

It's hard to count exactly how many books I've read this year, because I started some of them in 2009, but I think substantially more than last year — approximately 20. Wow! Instead of just listing them in order, I've put my 2010 reads into categories to share.

Books that totally drew me in (4 or 5 stars): The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Vulcan! (an old Star Trek fan-fic paperback), Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (yes, I am an Outlander newbie), The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters

Books I read part of and probably won't finish (more for reference): Get a Freelance Life, Great Private Collections, Start Your Own Retail Business

Children's books: Stuart Little: Stuart at the Library (got great reviews from my nephew), Llama Llama Holiday Drama

 (reviews pending)

Books I enjoyed (3 stars): The Bourne Legacy, The Exile by Diana Gabaldon (the new graphic novel), The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters, The Day the Falls Stood Still, SOS by Barbara Arntsen (a mystery set in the shagging subculture of Carolina beaches), Books of the Century by N.Y. Public Library, Scratch Beginnings

History, historical fiction and research for my writing: The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, My Folks Don't Want Me To Talk About Slavery (oral history from former slaves, recorded in the 1930s), The Peaceable Kingdom by Jan de Hartog, Roots by Alex Haley, The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate. Most of these were excellent. I read The Peaceable Kingdom, about early Quakers, as research for my historical novel. It was much more of a page-turner than I had expected — and there wasn't anything peaceable about it. Roots was also for research. I read Haley's work for the first time, but with a writer's eyes. Black Beard was an example of what not to do as a genealogical writer. The author put a lot of work and research into the book — and made it as boring and confusing as possible. He seemed to be trying to write a Discovery Channel special, where you try to stall your audience until the end and drag in every useless bit of information as you stall them. It took me all year to plow through this frustrating, but pretty, book.

Books that made me think, a lot: The Last Lecture, Mutant Message Down Under

Books for encouragement: Peaks and Valleys, Fearless by Max Lucado (almost finished)

Books I read and wished I hadn't: The Penwyth Curse. I picked up this audio fantasy for my trip to New York and I was stuck with it during the long drive. It was basically porn. I won't be choosing any more of Catherine Coulter's books.

Books I've started (you may hear more about these later): Arctic Ireland, This Book Collecting Game (1928), Deep River Quarterly Meeting (1919 history)

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2010 wrap-up

It seems like everybody is making their goals for 2011, but I need a few days — or months — to recover from the ones I made in 2010. I just finished number 4 on Dec. 31, after burning the midnight oil all week. Here's how I did:

2010 Goals (highest priorities in blue)
1. Finish novel. Not finished. I worked pretty consistently on this the first half of the year, thanks to some friends from NaNoWriMo who met for weekly write-ins all year long! But last summer I hit a mental wall with my story and hurt my shoulder so bad I couldn't type, so I had to take a break. I just started working on it again two weeks ago.

2. Declutter. Not finished. One step forward and two steps back. I made a little progress, then left my day job and moved all my newspaper files home. I've also been acquiring books, as if I'm going to open up a bookstore or something...

3. Get published in a magazine. Not accomplished. I sent one query and never followed up. But this was a lower priority item.

4. Make a Storybook for a relative who had a big birthday this fall. Done! This involved scanning Daddy's negatives from the 1950s and getting names and information. After my injury, a broken scanner, and then a new scanner that wouldn't work, most of this was done in the past few weeks.

5. Make a Storybook of my trip to Ireland. Done. I finished this last summer, thanks to the deadline of a prepaid coupon.

6. Index the 18th-century church records from the meeting in Ireland. Not finished. But I made good progress on this the first half of the year, with 321 pages of handwritten documents indexed so far.

7. Run in a 5K. Done. I was so busy I suddenly had two weeks to go with no training, so I had to walk quite a bit, but I finished! Hopefully this year I will walk less.

8. Go on a mission trip. Done. In March I went with the Friends Disaster Service to help build a house in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana. People there are still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

9. Most of my minor goals fell by the wayside, partly because I focused on the major goals, which is good, and possibly because they weren't specific enough. I did blog and network more than last year and I'm starting to get a better handle on the time it takes to do that. I did not market my first book, work very well on my direct sales business or scrapbook the past few years. I did manage to visit some of my older relatives, something that's very important but often gets pushed to the back burner.

I was distracted by some new goals that popped up, such as traveling to New York and Florida and looking for a job. Thankfully, I'll be starting two part-time jobs this week, and I'm excited about both of them. I also wrote a draft memoir (56,000 words!) for NaNoWriMo in November.

I know I will want to focus on my novel, and there may be a major trip this spring... But I plan to see what the new work routine is like and "let the dust settle" before I plan out 2011.