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Newsletter #70 June - August, 2005

Award News

        The Nebula Award for Best Novel went to Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold ($7.99 pb or $24.95 signed 1st printing hardcover). The other finalists were Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow ($12.95), Omega by Jack McDevitt ($7.99), Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell ($14.95), Perfect Circle by Sean Stewart ($15.00) and The Knight by Gene Wolfe ($14.95).

        The Philip K. Dick Award for best SF published in paperback original in the U.S. went to Life by Gwyneth Jones ($19.00), with a special citation to Apocalypse Array by Lyda Morehouse ($6.99 signed). Other finalists were The Coyote Kings of the Space-age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust ($14.95), Stable Strategies and Others by Eileen Gunn ($14.95), Air by Geoff Ryman ($14.95), City of Pearl by Karen Traviss ($6.99), and Banner of Souls by Liz Williams ($6.99).

        The Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel went to Iron Council by China Mieville ($24.95).

        The Edgar Award winners include:
        Best Novel to California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker ($24.95, signed copies available);
        Best First Novel to Country of Origin by Don Lee ($24.95);
        Best Paperback Original to The Confession by Domenic Stansberry ($6.99);
        Best Critical/Biographical to The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: Complete Short Stories edited by Leslie S. Klinger ($75.00);
        Best Fact Crime to Conviction: Solving the Moxley Murder: A Reporter and a Detective's Twenty-Year Search for Justice by Leonard Levitt ($24.95);
        Best Young Adult to In Darkness, Death by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler ($5.99).
        An associated award given in the same ceremony, The Mary Higgins Clark Award for a book written in the style of Mary Higgins Clark, went to Grave Endings by Rochelle Krich ($24.95).

        The Agatha Awards are voted on by the members of the Malice Domestic mystery convention. The nominees and winners include:
        Best Novel: The winner is Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear ($25.00 signed 1st printing hc), and the other finalists are We'll Always Have Parrots by Donna Andrews ($6.99), By A Spider's Thread by Laura Lippman ($24.95, signed copies available), High Country Fall by Margaret Maron ($24.00), and The Pearl Diver by Sujata Massey ($23.95 signed 1st printing hc).
        Best First Novel: The winner is Dating Dead Men by Harley Jane Kozak ($12.95), and the other finalists are Till the Cows Come Home by Judy Clemens ($24.95, signed copies available), Arson and Old Lace by Patricia Harwin ($6.50), I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason by Susan Kandel ($6.99), and The Clovis Incident: A Mystery by Pari Noskin Taichert ($14.95).

        The Dilys Award winner was Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay ($22.95).

        Three awards were given at the Left Coast Crime mystery convention in Texas. The Lefty Award for best humorous mystery novel went in a tie to Blue Blood by Susan McBride ($6.50) and We'll Always Have Parrots by Donna Andrews ($6.99), and the other finalists were Carnage on the Committee by Ruth Dudley Edwards ($24.95), Holy Guacamole by Nancy Fairbanks ($5.99), and Perfect Sax by Jerrilyn Farmer ($6.99).
        The Bruce Alexander History Mystery Award went to The Witch in the Well by Sharan Newman ($24.95), and the other finalists were Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear ($25.00 signed), Five for Silver by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer ($24.95), Murder on Marble Row by Victoria Thompson ($24.95, $6.99 pb in June), and Tyrant of the Mind by Priscilla Royal ($24.95).
        The Calavera is for the best mystery set in the geographical area covered by Left Coast Crime, and the winner is Grave Endings by Rochelle Krich ($24.95), and the other finalists are Family Claims by Twist Phelan ($6.99), Shadow Play by David Cole ($6.99), Snap Shot by Meg Chittenden ($5.99) and What Others Know by L. C. Hayden ($14.95).

Neighborhood Update
by Don Blyy

        As I'm writing this, the concrete work on the top floor of the Sheraton Hotel across the street is being finished, and soon they will start doing interior work. Last I heard, the hotel is still planning to open by the end of the year. Things are very busy in the former Sears building, where Allina plans to move in by the end of the year. The parking ramp on the east side of the former Sears building is going up with amazing speed, with all the components being built off-site, trucked in, and then assembled like a giant Lego structure. Most of the condos in the former Sears building are already sold, although I have no idea how many were sold to people who actually plan to live there and how many were sold to speculators. In a couple of months the new transit hub will start construction on the west side of the former Sears building, with completion scheduled for November.
        The city engineer who had been planning the bridge work had told me repeatedly that all the equipment and materials for the bridge would be stored down in the ditch, and there would be plenty of on-street parking on Chicago Ave. during construction to help the businesses stay afloat. About a week before the city closed Chicago Ave., the new city engineer came around to show maps of the construction area and explain how things were going to work. The new staging area for the destruction of the old bridge and construction of the new bridge consists of the street and part of the sidewalk in front of the Uncles and in front of the dental clinic next door. All of the materials will be stored on the east side of Chicago Ave. farther south. This results in most of the street parking being wiped out on this block of Chicago Ave. The dental clinic next door needs their parking lot for their patients until 5 pm Monday through Thursday, but our customers are invited to use their lot after 5 pm or all day Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. I talked to the regional manager for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and she agreed that our customers can use the KFC lot while visiting the bookstore if the customers also buy some food from KFC during the same visit. (KFC is also hurting from the street being closed and their many regular customers among the hospital employees not being able to reach them because of the bridge being torn out.)
        There is currently a narrow segment of sidewalk open from the dental clinic parking lot to the Uncles' front door. (The city tried to make it so narrow that a large wheelchair or the UPS driver with a large load of boxes on a dolly would not have been able to reach the front door, but I had a talk with them, and they adjusted the location of the fence.) At some point, they think most likely in September, they will completely tear out the sidewalk and pour a new, higher, fancier sidewalk. When that happens, everybody will have to go through the alley and enter Uncle Edgar's back door for perhaps a week or so. But we don't expect construction to force us to close for even a single day. (Of course, if they really screw up and knock the building into the ditch, that's a different matter.)
        The destruction process has been interesting. They replaced a crane's bucket with a device that reminded me of a tyrannosaurus's mouth - massive steel jaws with big steel teeth. The device would chomp down on a piece of the bridge, rotate a bit to the left, rotate a bit to the right, pull back a bit, and concrete would crack off of the rebar. It ate the entire 4-lane bridge in just 4 days. After that, things got less interesting for a couple of weeks as they separated the steel from the concrete and hauled it away, dug out the support pillars, etc.
        The bridge was built in 1915, my building was built in 1916, and they weren't sure if my foundation was connected to the foundation of the bridge. The city talked for about a year and a half about how they were going to protect my foundation while removing the foundation of the bridge. They were going to inject a plastic liquid into the soil around my foundation to hold it in place while removing the bridge foundation. The day they closed the street, a subcontractor came up with a new idea-bring in a pile driver to drive I-beams into the ground all around the site. The city vetoed that idea. Then the subcontractor wanted to drill holes to put the I-beams into, but the city didn't like that idea either. So, they did nothing to hold the soil in place. One day, they simply dug all the soil away from the place where my foundation met the bridge foundation to make sure exactly what they were dealing with. Over the next couple of days they cut the bridge foundation into pieces that could be removed without damaging my foundation. Then, one Friday afternoon, one of the cranes scraped away all of the soil along the entire basement wall along the north side of the building down to a depth of about 10 feet. (Yes, the city promises they will repair the bite they took out of the corner of my building while doing this.) Then they went away, and haven't been back for weeks to finish removing the old bridge foundation on the far side of the ditch.
        The official estimate for the work to be finished is November 15. One of the engineers told me that they were actually hoping for October 15, but if they told people October 15 and ran into problems or bad weather and it took until November 1, everybody would be mad at them. But if they tell people November 15 and get done on November 1, everybody will consider them heroes. They hope to get the bridge itself 95% done by September 15, but then have to tear out the block north of the bridge down to the sewers, put in new sewers, build the road back up again, and then pave the road on both sides of the bridge so that it smoothly meets the top of the bridge (which will be a foot higher than the old bridge, so that whatever kind of mass transit eventually gets put into the ditch will be able to fit under the bridge). They will also have to remove and replace all the sidewalks and lighting from 28th Ave. to Lake St. and put in some new "streetscape" elements, which will supposedly include a tree and an area for locking up bicycles in front of the Uncles.

How's Business?
by Don Blyly

        Business is not good, but we're hanging in there. Which is better than a lot of others can say. The Twin Cities lost six bookstores in a three month period around the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005. One was a new bookstore, one combined new and used, and the other 4 were used bookstores. I've heard that the owner of one of the used bookstores received a job offer that was so good that he decided it would be foolish not to close his store and go to work for somebody else. The other 5 bookstores closed because of tough times in the book biz. The largest independently owned new bookstore in the metro area, Bound to Be Read, has also announced that they are going out of business this summer.
        The U.S. Census Bureau issues monthly reports on all kinds of business activities. While total retail sales last year went up a few percent, book sales were down most months and down for the year in the U.S. At the Uncles, 2004 was up by .1% compared to a very bad 2003. For January and February of 2005, the Census Bureau reported significant increases for total retail sales and significant decreases for book sales, while the Uncle stayed about the same as the year before. Since then, the Uncle has seen a large drop in sales, but not as bad as I had expected from the road being closed, the parking wiped out, the buses diverted, etc.
        Book people not only complain to each other about how bad business is. They also complain about how it just isn't as much fun as it used to be. There are many days when the lack of enjoyment bothers me more than the lack of business. Of course, I also hear from customers in many different lines of work that they also don't enjoy their work as much as they used to. I've really heard an ear-full of complaining from UPS drivers about how much worse their company has become to work for. And then there are the customers whose jobs got outsourced to India who wish they had a job to complain about.
        Let me give you a weird little example of something that makes the business less fun than it used to be: Gift Certificates. A few months ago the American Booksellers Association ran an interesting article on gift certificates. First, the article claimed that traditionally gift certificates were only good for one year. This is a tradition I'd never heard of and certainly don't intend to honor. About once a year somebody turns in a gift certificate that is at least 10 years old, frequently with a story about packing it into a box three moves ago, and finally opening the box and finding it.
        The article went on to discuss the various things many of the big national chains pull with regard to the plastic gift cards that they now use instead of gift certificates. All of the information is stored on the chain's central computer, and the holder of the card has no idea how much money is supposed to still be on the card. Many of the national chains charge a monthly "service charge" of up to $1.50 per month per card, sometimes starting immediately after purchase, sometimes starting after 6 months of inactivity. If you've ever received one of the plastic gift cards and then found that you had less money left on it than you thought you should have, you've probably fallen victim to this.
        As more consumers have found out what many of the big national chains have been pulling with the plastic gift cards, many consumer advocacy groups have gone to state legislatures to get their state laws changed to prevent some of the worse abuses. Unfortunately, this also focuses the attention of cash-starved states on gift certificates that are not redeemed.
        Most states have laws on the books regarding inactive bank accounts. If a bank account has been inactive for a certain period of time, which might be 3 years, 5 years, 7 years, or 10 years depending on the state, the bank is supposed to turn the money (and the information about who the money belongs to) over to the state treasurer, who will hold it until somebody comes along and manages to prove that they have a right to the money. Some states are now looking at gift certificates that have not been redeemed as a source of temporary funding.
        We've been selling gift certificates for over 30 years. If somebody brought in a $50.00 gift certificate and bought $30.50 in books, we would write on the gift certificate that they had $19.50 left to use and we'd hand the certificate back to the customer. But the only record we'd have in the store was the original stub that showed we had sold a $50.00 gift certificate. And many people received gift certificates for wedding anniversaries, graduations, and other special events; after they had used all the money on the gift certificate many asked if they could keep the certificate as a souvenir of the special event, so we'd mark the certificate as redeemed in full and hand it back to them. I wonder how many people who kept the redeemed wedding anniversary gift certificate 20 years ago still have it after the divorce? But we still have the stub that shows that we sold the certificate, and never dreamed that allowing a customer to hold onto a fully redeemed gift certificate could come back to bite us decades later. From now on, if you bring in a gift certificate and only use part of it, we'll suggest that you allow us to transfer the remaining balance to a credit file in the store. (This also eliminates the risk of you misplacing your gift certificate.)
        When a bank turns in the money from an inactive account, they also pass along sufficient information to identify who the money belongs to. When people buy gift certificates, sometimes they have us fill in the full name of the person (who may or may not be in our customer data base, and who may or may not live in the state), but sometimes they have us fill in just a first name and sometimes they have us leave the name blank. If we are forced to turn over to the state all money from all gift certificates that we can't prove have been redeemed in full within X years of issue, we won't be able to honor the gift certificate after the money has been passed along to the state. Instead, the recipient of the gift certificate will have to tackle the state bureaucracy to try to get back from the state treasurer the cash value of their gift certificate. If somebody brings in a $15.00 gift certificate from 10 years ago and we refuse to honor it and tell the person that they have to jump through legal hoops to get $15.00 back from the state treasurer, I doubt that they'll be very happy with us, and I also doubt that they will even attempt to get the money back from the state.
        If you have an older gift certificate, you should consider bringing it in soon-even if only to get the amount transferred to a credit file. And if you still have an older, fully redeemed gift certificate, we'd really appreciate hearing from you so that we can match the number on the gift certificate to the old stub and mark on the stub that the certificate was redeemed.

Old SF Magazines

        With business down due to the economy and road destruction in front of the store, and with 3 kids in college at the same time, Don Blyly has started bringing in his personal collection of old science fiction magazines to sell at the store. The collection includes a complete set of Galaxy, a complete set of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Astounding/Analog complete since the end of WW II and most issues from WW II, almost complete set of Worlds of IF, plus many, many other digest magazines. Over the next few weeks Don will be hauling many, many cases of magazines into the store, pricing them individually, and trying to find room to display them. Collectors: get your wants lists and charge cards ready.

More Signed Books

        In addition to the signings announced in the last issue of the newsletter, Uncle Hugo's had Terry Pratchett drop by to sign all of his paperbacks plus hardcovers of The Art of Discworld ($29.95), Going Postal ($24.95), A Hat Full of Sky ($16.99), and The Last Hero ($35.00), plus assorted trade paperbacks. Lois McMaster Bujold dropped in to sign the NESFA Press reprint of Falling Free ($23.00) and will probably drop by again when Hallowed Hunt arrives for those who can't wait for the formal signing.
        At Uncle Edgar's, Ken Bruen dropped by to sign The Killing of the Tinkers ($22.95 hc or 12.95 tr pb) and The Magdalen Martyrs ($22.95), Harley Jane Kozak dropped by to sign Dating is Murder ($19.95), John Sandford dropped by to sign Broken Prey ($26.95), Leslie Silbert dropped by to sign The Intelligencer ($24.00 hc or $14.00 tr pb), and P. J. Tracy dropped by to sign Monkeewrench ($23.95), Live Bait ($23.95) and Dead Run ($23.95). We've been promised that in the next couple of weeks we'll see Michael Connelly drop by to sign The Closers ($26.95) and Theresa Monsour for Dark House ($25.95).
        Uncle Edgar's has recently received pre-signed copies from the publishers of Susan Wittig Albert's Dead Man's Bones ($23.95), Isabel Allende's Zorro ($25.95) C. J. Box's Out of Range ($24.95), Harlan Coben's The Innocent ($26.95), James Crumley's The Right Madness ($24.95), David Ellis' In the Company of Liars ($24.95), Charlaine Harris' Dead as a Doornail ($22.95), Michael Jecks' The Chapel of Bones ($25.00), Jonathon King's A Killing Night ($23.95), Nancy Martin's Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die ($19.95), Iain Pears' The Portrait ($19.95), Elizabeth Peters' The Serpent on the Crown ($25.95), and Randy Wayne White's Dead of Night ($24.95).
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