The Closing of “My” Bookstore

As I write this, another bookstore is about to die. This, on its own, would be a tragedy in itself. For a booklover, the bookstore is almost as much a part of the experience as the book. From the rainbow of spines peppering the worn wooden shelves to the intoxicating odor of old paper, a bookstore is a special place.

But this isn’t just any bookstore, it is my bookstore, and that makes a world of difference. When I say it is my bookstore, I don’t mean I own it. Not in any literal sense, though I’ve probably spent a month’s rent inside. The store is owned by Half-Price Books, but for me and the regular customers, it was ours.

I know where to find everything, from the Clearance rack that is always my first stop and has been the location of assorted treasures, to the somewhat misplaced genre authors (Caitlin Kiernan and Richard Matheson can be found in Science Fiction and Fantasy, rather than horror). This place is the reason I could go six years without purchasing another book and probably not make it through my collection. They have fueled a sort of addiction, but have also given me the comfort that only a good bookstore can provide.

This story is nothing special. It happens all over the United States, probably every day. Amazon has proven to be the femme fatale mistress of the bookstore. While I love Amazon and my Kindle, it saddens me that physical bookstores are unable to compete.

Yesterday, all the regulars received a letter from Half-Price Bookstore thanking us for our patronage and reminding us of other locations: Olathe, Kansas City, and a new store in Independence, MO. The Lawrence location, they say, didn’t get enough traffic. Of course there are other bookstores. Others in town, others of the same chain in other cities. Unfortunately, 15% off coupons and other options can’t ease my melancholy mind. They aren’t my bookstore.

I’m sure I and the other customers will move on. It’s human nature. But in the meantime, I will miss the little treasures I have found, and the staff that was never anything but nice. Books are very personal things. I’ve found postcards from a trip to Yellowstone in a copy of Bird by Bird, an essay on Faulkner inside a copy of As I Lay Dying, and numerous inscriptions from anonymous loved ones within numerous books that were loved and then passed on.

Books are like people, in that they contain more than their outward appearance. Similarly, while the closing of a bookstore is sad on the surface, it is tragic for the staff who gave so much, but will now be looking for new jobs. I wish the best for all of them, and for all of the customers who will now go on a search for a new bookstore to call their own.

A View from a Park Bench

I’m still recovering a bit from ConQuest 44, but Sara and I already have tickets for next year’s ConQuest 45. You can get advance tickets a lot cheaper, as the price keeps going up over the course of the year. If you are planning on attending, why wait?

This week, over at The Confabulator Cafe, I shared my thoughts on choosing the point-of-view for a story. Check it out.

“A View from a Park Bench”

Review: Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon

Red Moon: A Novel
by Benjamin Percy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Benjamin Percy is a fantastic, talented writer. His prose is tight and descriptive. He’s got great imagery and you never question his characters’ motivations. I enjoyed this novel. It has a weight to it that we are sometimes missing in the horror genre. This is true “literary” horror, steeped in political tensions. Like the best of its predecessors, this book is reflective of its time, an artifact of the particular fears of a particular generation. The best horror has always stripped away the pretenses of modernity, cracking the facade and letting through a truer light of our fears and our reactions to them.

The weakness of this novel is structural. Writers of our generation grew up with television and film, and you can see that influence in a lot of modern writing. There are several parts of this book that read like a movie. The scene will cut from a character, just as something is about to happen, creating tension. However, when you return to the character, the action has already occurred and the character is left to reflect upon it. As a result, you may find out a character is dead, and then spend the chapter finding out how they died. But just as human memory is not as strong as human experience, flashback is never as strong as active narration.

Percy rectifies some of the structural damage of this narrative style by writing in present tense. As a result, the flashbacks read in the past, rather than past perfect, which would have weakened them further. However, I couldn’t escape the feeling that we are sometimes robbed of visceral, immediate experience that is such a trademark of good horror. We don’t get the cathartic emotional release because we already know the outcome of the scene.

Ultimately, the book feels like something very good, that had a shot to be something special, but just barely missed. I highly recommend it, but can’t help but think of what might have been.

View all my reviews

Questing with Friends

This weekend, my girlfriend and I are attending Conquest 44 in Kansas City. This is my second Conquest and my girlfriend’s third. It is an interesting convention for me, because the crowd is largely Fantasy and Science Fiction. Horror writers are sort of the unspoken minority, both on the panels and in the dealer room. However, there is a lot of crossover in genre fiction, and it is always exciting to meet new writers, see old friends and colleagues, and just generally relight the fire.

This year, I heard a couple of writers I hadn’t read yet. John Hornor Jacobs (Southern Gods) and Alan Ryker (Among Prey) were both new faces for me. I was impressed enough by Jacobs to pick up his two novels, Southern Gods and This Dark Earth in the dealer room. He shares a lot of my influences. Southern Gods is described as Lovecraftian Southern Gothic, so should be right up my alley.

Being a Fantasy writer, my girlfriend was especially excited about the author Guest of Honor Patrick Rothfuss. We were on our way to his autograph signing, when who should step on to the elevator with us, but Patrick Rothfuss himself. He saw that I was reading Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon and we struck up a bit of conversation about Percy on the elevator ride down. My girlfriend was a little bit starstruck, but seemed to get over it by the time they met again during the signing, when both expressed their love for Joss Whedon.

I love conventions, which is part of the reason I’ve making this one a part of my birthday weekend the last two years, and hopefully the foreseeable future. Jacobs said it best. The conventions really light a fire under you to work. For whatever reason, you go home itching to write. Whether it is competitiveness or reaffirmation of dreams, I always leaving with the itch to produce something great.

Part of it, I think, is the realization that while we are all essentially businesses in direct competition with each other, we are also in it together. The support and camaraderie of other writers will always be a part of this business. We are all after the same thing. While we compete with each other for publications, the irony is that we can go so much farther together than we can on our own.

“Victor’s Indifference” now available in the May 2013 print edition of The Rusty Nail

51M13YCRtlLThe May 2013 print edition of The Rusty Nail is now available. My flash fiction piece “Victor’s Indifference” appears inside. Pick up your copy at by clicking the link below.

The Rusty Nail, May 2013