November 22


Archived Newsletter Content


Newsletter #109 March May, 2015

41st Anniversary Sale

        Uncle Hugo’s is the oldest surviving science fiction bookstore in the United States. We opened for business on March 2, 1974. To encourage you to help us celebrate Uncle Hugo’s 41st Anniversary, we’re having a sale. Come into either Uncle Hugo’s or Uncle Edgar’s and get 10% off everything except gift certificates. A discount card will save you even more–you’ll get both the 10% savings from the sale and the 10% savings from the discount card. (Sale prices apply to in-store sales, but not to mail orders.)
        The 41st Anniversary sale lasts Friday, February 27 through Sunday, March 8. That gives you two weekends to take advantage of the sale.

Award News

        The finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award (for best sf published as a paperback original in the U.S.) are Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett ($18.00), The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan ($7.99), The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison, Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta ($14.99) Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest ($15.00), and Reach for Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan ($9.99).

        The Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees for the 2015 Edgar Allan Poe Awards.
        The nominees for Best Novel are This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash ($14.99), Wolf by Mo Hayder ($26.00, $14.00 trade pb due mid-April), Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King ($16.00), The Final Silence by Stuart Neville ($26.95), Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin ($26.00, $16.00 trade pb due early March), and Cop Town by Karin Slaughter ($9.99).
        The nominees for Best First Novel by an American Author are Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman ($24.95, $14.95 trade pb due early April), Invisible City by Julia Dahl ($24.99, $15.99 trade pb due mid-March), The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens ($15.95), Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie ($24.99), Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh ($14.00), and Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver ($24.99).
        The nominees for Best Paperback Original are The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani ($16.00), Stay With Me by Alison Gaylin ($5.99), The Barkeep by William Lashner ($14.95), The Day She Died by Catriona McPherson ($14.99), The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner ($14.99), and World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters ($14.95).

        Many mystery awards are presented at the Left Coast Crime Convention. The nominees for the Lefty Award for the most humorous mystery are The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews, ($24.99, $7.99 paperback due early May), Herbie’s Game by Timothy Hallinan ($15.95 due mid-April), January Thaw Jess Lourey ($14.99), Dying for a Dude by Cindy Sample, and Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere ($7.99).
        The nominees for the Bruce Alexander Mermorial Historical Mystery Award are Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen ($25.95), From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins ($25.99, $15.99 trade pb due mid-March), A Deadly Measure of Brimstone by Catriona McPherson ($26.99),City of Ghosts by Kelli Stanley ($26.99), and Cup of Blood by Jeri Westerson ($17.99).

        The nominees for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel are The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews, ($24.99, $7.99 paperback due early May), A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet ($25.99), Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan ($24.99), The Long Way Home by Louise Penny ($27.99 signed), and Designated Daughters by Margaret Maron ($27.00).
        The nominees for Best Historical Novel are Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd ($14.99), An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd ($25.99, $14.99 trade pb due early May), Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland ($24.99), Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen ($25.95), and Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson ($25.95, $7.99 paperback due early May).
        The nominees for Best First Novel are Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy, Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris ($7.99), Finding Sky by Susan O'Brien, Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran ($7.99), and Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber ($14.99).

How’s Business
by Don Blyly

        Sales this winter have been up quite a bit compared to last winter (although nothing to brag about compared to 2, 3, or 4 years ago), in part because of less severe winter weather. Also, thanks to everyone who gave their friends and relatives Uncles gift certificates for the holidays. We saw some new faces in January, ready to spend their gift certificates, and hope they will be back to shop again. And, as always, many thanks to our customers for braving the winter cold and gloom to enliven our winter doldrums and help keep the business going. Thanks to the 60 or so people who decided to switch from the paper newsletter to the electronic version, which will save us about $300 per year in expenses. And thanks also to those who chipped in to help cover the cost of their paper newsletters. I'm more optimistic about the business now than I was a year ago.
        We’ve had some problems other than sales. The afternoon I was supposed to go out to the printer to pick up the previous issue of the newsletter, somebody broke 2 windows on my van while it was parked behind the store. There wasn’t anything very valuable in the van, and I have no idea why the thief had to break 2 windows to grab the jumper cables (which he then threw under the van, rather than taking them away) and a pair of gloves (which he did take away). The insurance company arranged for replacement of the windows. The glass company used windows that were not from the original manufacturer, and that was no problem with the back window, but the window for the sliding door behind the driver’s door was off by about 1/8 of an inch, so that the driver’s door scraped against that window every time it opened or closed. It was so hard to open the driver’s door from the inside that the inside handle broke, so I had to roll down the window (when it wasn’t frozen shut) and use the outside handle and a strong push on the door to get it to open. It took over a month and three tries before the glass company finally got things fixed.
        Three days after the broken glass incident, a drip from the ceiling started in the back room about 4:30 pm. About 6:15 pm a second drip started in another location in the back room. We hadn’t had any leaks during the summer, but in the winter enough snow can pile up to stress the roof and open tiny cracks. And the heat leaking up through the ceiling can produce a lake underneath the heavy layer of snow. I keep a snow shovel with a blade of soft plastic for such times, and I spent most of the night alternating between moving buckets in the back room and trying to clear snow and water from the roof. The first two leaks did not hit any books. Around 9 pm a third leak started above a shelf full of books. Around 10 pm a fourth leak started above another shelf full of books. By 4 am there were about 10 leaks scattered around the back room. Around 8 am I finally got all of the roof cleared, and the leaks stopped dripping. It was obviously time for a new roof. It took about a month to get 4 bids, and the highest (and first) bid was almost twice the lowest (and fourth) bid for the same type of roof. I accepted the fourth bid, but there was another problem. The adhesive for the roof will only work if the temperature is 30 degrees or warmer, and we were in the middle of a long cold spell. So it was about another month before we had a January thaw and the work could get done, which meant another month of taking the snow shovel up to the roof whenever we had more than flurries. We had a few more drips during that month, but didn’t lose any more books. Now the new roof is in place, with a lot of new insulation, and hopefully the problem is solved for at least another 15 years. And it only cost a little over $8000 that I had not expected to have to spend.
        Six days after the night of many leaks, I started feeling a little light-headed in the afternoon. After closing the store for the night, I went home and had supper. After supper, I got a pins-and-needles feeling as if novacaine was wearing off on my upper and lower lip, but only on the left side. I did some quick checks to see if I might be having a stroke, but everything seemed fine. The next morning I still had the tingling lips on the left side and a little light-headedness. I went up on the roof to do some shoveling, and when I came back down I had tingling to my left arm from just below the elbow to the fingertips. I did some quick checks again for stroke, but everything seemed fine. In the afternoon, I still had all the tingling going on and was feeling more light-headed, so I took off to urgent care, where it was discovered my blood pressure was quite high (unusual for me) and that the top chamber of my heart was mis-firing about every fourth to every eighth beat. The doctor also ran more checks for a stroke, but everything seemed fine except for my heart. I was told to go to the emergency room if things got significantly worse, and to go to the clinic for a check–up in the next few days if things stayed the same. The next morning I woke up with the tingling in my left arm going from just below the shoulder to the fingertips, and the tingling on the left side of my face going from the chin up to the cheek bone. I again ran the quick checks for stroke and everything seemed fine. I took an aspirin and the tingling went back to what they had been the day before, so I went in to work. After about 4 hours, the tingling had spread again, so I walked the 3 blocks to the emergency room and described what was going on. Instead of being told to go to the waiting room, they rushed me in. My blood pressure was again quite high, and I again passed all the quick checks for a stroke. They drew some blood, and then did an MRI of my head and neck, which showed blood flow in my brain and in my neck was fine. After about three hours they referred me for more medical tests in the future, and released me. I went back to the store to handle the end-of-day stuff, and the tingling became even worse, and I kept dropping stuff from my left hand because I wasn’t getting enough feedback from the nerves in my left hand to be sure of what I was holding or how tightly I was holding it. Over the next two days, the tingling and the light-headedness just faded away and has not come back. But I’ve been going through so many tests to try to determine what caused the problem and what should be done about it. I’ve learned that I have a small hole between the left side and the right side of my heart, and that it used to be that doctors wanted to operate when they discovered such a situation. But they eventually discovered that between 15% and 25% of the population have this condition, and that taking an aspirin a day (as I had been doing for over 20 years) produced results just as good as the heart surgery, but with a lot less expense or pain. I learned that my heart was mis-firing between 1% and 2% of the time over a 24 hour period, but that it has to get up to about 15% of the time before a pace-maker is called for. One of the tests involved them drugging me and sticking an instrument down my throat to take an echo-cardiogram from inside my body. One of our customers who had gone through a similar procedure told me that she knew at the time that they were doing terrible things to her body, but the drug was so good that she just didn’t care. I remember looking at the clock on the wall and reading 9:15 and then I blinked and I was in a different room and the clock read 11:15. I’m perfectly happy to have no memory of them sticking anything down my throat. But the tests just keep coming, and I’m sure that more bills will be flowing into my mailbox soon. But I’m willing to put up with some more tests. I’m now 64. My father (who spent most of his adult life very overweight, heavy smoker, heavy drinker, getting almost no exercise–all of which I’ve avoided) died of a heart attack just before he would have turned 65. And the day before he died, he went to the V.A. to have his heart checked, and was told that his heart was in fine condition. The autopsy showed that he had suffered several previous heart attacks before the massive one that killed him. I’m hoping that medical testing has improved a lot over the last few decades.
        Getting back to the bookstore business in general, the statistics are a little confusing. For the first 11 months of 2014, bookstore sales dropped every month while retailing in general was up 3.9%. For the entire year, bookstore sales dropped 4.5% compared to 2013 (when sales dropped 4.9% compared to 2012). Retailing in general went up 4.0% for 2014 over 2013. But unit sales of print books went up 2% in 2014. Unit sales of print books bottomed out in 2012 before increase each of the last two years. And e-book sales were pretty flat in the U.S. for 2014.
        Borderlands Books of San Francisco announced that they are going out of business as of the end of March. They report that sales in 2014 were the best they’ve ever had, but the voters in San Francisco approved in November a referendum to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. Borderlands has both the bookstore and a café next door, and the café will be able to stay in business because they can raise their prices to cover the increased overhead, and all their competition will also be raising their prices to cover the increase in the minimum wage. But bookstores sell books with prices printed on the cover by the publisher, so it is not possible for a bookstore to raise their prices to cover the increase in wages. Seattle has also been talking about raising their minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, and a few people have been talking about a $15.00 minimum wage for Minneapolis (which would result lots of empty storefronts as businesses either closed down or moved to St. Paul, Bloomington, St. Louis Park, etc.).
        I read an article from London that Amazon is in trouble over it’s tax avoidance schemes for Europe, and might face billions of dollars in back taxes. (Like most multi-national corporations, they assign expenses to the divisions in high tax countries and assign profits to low tax countries.) Since their stock price keeps going up as they keep showing losses ($241 million loss on $88 billion in sales last year), it will be interesting to see what happens if they are forced to pay billions of dollars in back taxes.
        Melissa F. Olson will be signing at Uncle Hugo’s on Friday, April 10, 5-6 pm. Melissa has an urban fantasy trilogy set in Los Angeles featuring Scarlett Bernard. Scarlett can nullify any magic within 10 feet, and is often called in by the supernatural communities to clean up crime scenes before the police can discover the evidence. The series consist of Dead Spots ($14.95), Trail of the Dead ($14.95), and Hunter’s Trail ($14.95). Her next urban fantasy novel, Boundary Crossed (new series, $14.95), is officially a May release but the distributor thinks we will receive copies in time for the April signing event.
        Kelly McCullough will be signing at Uncle Hugo’s on Saturday, May 9, 1-2 pm. Kelly has two fantasy series, the 5 book Webmage series and the Fallen Blade series, with Darkened Blade (#6, $7.99) coming early May.
        Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have a new Liaden Universe novel, Dragon in Exile ($26.00) coming at the beginning of June. We’ve arranged to have Sharon and Steve to sign a couple hundred copies and ship them along to us. If you order from our website by May 1, you can also get your copy personalized if you like. If you wait until after May 1, you’ll have to settle for just a signed copy–until we run out of signed copies.
        David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and perhaps Eric Flint will be in Minneapolis May 22-24 for the Manticon, a convention celebrating military science fiction. (Go to for more information about the convention.) We might be able to set up a signing at Uncle Hugo’s while they are in town, but nothing is confirmed. Watch our website for more information.
        Last year the Northern California Booksellers Association sponsored California Bookstore Day, to try to get as many people as possible to visit an independent bookstore on the same day. It was so successful that the idea has gone national. National Independent Bookstore Day is Saturday, May 2. Everybody is encouraged to visit at least one independent bookstore on that day, and perhaps buy something as long as you are there surrounded by books. Come in on National Independent Bookstore Day, spend $50 or more, and get a free Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s bookbag.
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