I Taught Myself How To Grow Old…

Walk Alone

It’s been a rough few months…or years…and I’m on the verge of a major personal overhaul. A Hail Mary pass, even. I’ll write more about that soon. In the meantime, a song of the week…or the years…that really speaks to the jagged depression that has eaten so many of my days since I was a kid…

Celebrate All Hallow’s Read! Get “Dead Folks” for FREE!

Dead Folks

Back in 2010, Neil Gaiman, who doesn’t really need me to introduce him, but whose past glory includes the work-of-dark-genius Sandman for DC Comics, had a great idea. As he recounted on his blog, “I was on a flight home last night, and I thought, You know, there aren’t enough traditions that involve giving books…And then I thought, Hallowe’en’s next weekend…”

From that inspiration grew a wonderful new tradition Neil called “All Hallow’s Read.” As explained on its official website, the idea is simple: “All Hallow’s Read is a Hallowe’en tradition. It’s simply that in the week of Hallowe’en, or on the night itself, you give someone a scary book.” As a lifelong reader, and writer, of tales dark and fantastical (such as my novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, now in a marvelous new expanded edition fully illustrated by ace comic book creator Gary Chaloner), I embraced this tradition immediately. In previous years, I gifted classics from folks like the brilliant Fritz Leiber, my late, great friend Karl Edward Wagner, and George R.R. Martin (who also doesn’t need much introduction these days, but whose short story “Sandkings” is one of the scariest things I’ve ever read). Last year, I treated my girlfriend in Brazil to a video of me reading Ray Bradbury’s “The Foghorn,” the story that made me decide to be a writer.

This year, I realized I was in the position to share the tradition with even more people. Now through Halloween, I am offering my semi-spooky tale “Dead Folks” as a free download on Amazon. The story is in Kindle format, but a Kindle is not required to read it; free Kindle reading apps for gadgets ranging from smartphones and tablets to PCs and Macs can be downloaded here.

This story is near and dear to my heart, as it was my first professional fiction sale years ago. In it, a small Appalachian town is mysteriously inundated with pesky corpses from various historical eras and a young man finds he must make some hard choices. One reviewer wrote, “‘Dead Folks’ ultimately reveals itself to be a clever genre admixture that is nodding toward Mark Twain, perhaps the most American of writers. Byrd puts it all at the service of a winning narrator, a well-delineated supporting cast of characters, and a transcendent love story. If Stephen King were given to whimsy, he might have produced ‘Dead Folks.’”

I hope you’ll accept my gift of this bit of weirdness in the spirit of the holiday, and that you enjoy it. Please spread the word, the more the merrier. If you like it, please consider leaving a short review of it on Amazon, as that sort of thing raises a story’s profile in searches and is incredibly helpful to starving authors like me. I also really enjoy reading what people think. And don’t forget to give someone else a story or a book, and tell everyone you know about All Hallow’s Read. Neil is absolutely right, we need more traditions based on gifting tales. What better time than Halloween, the season of scampering nightmare and sultry mystery?

GET “DEAD FOLKS” HERE

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

What Elmore Leonard Taught Us

Dutch

Elmore Leonard was one of those great pulp writers who helped create modern fiction and along the way taught many writers how to write. Like the best in any “genre,” he proved that genre doesn’t matter, only quality. Whether you’re writing about cowboys or bank robbers or astronauts or superheroes or ennui-laden academics fucking around on their wives and feeling really really uncertain and depressed while they wash the dishes, the content isn’t what’s important, it’s the skill and insight and art that the writer brings to the tale.

Rest easy, Dutch.

On Father’s Day, I Honor My Son

Son

It is Father’s Day, yet I do not honor my father.

My father was an abusive drunk who put me through years of hell and regularly did everything he could to crush my spirit. He did a hell of a lot of damage in that regard; I’ve struggled for years with chronic, enervating, soul-crushing depression that several shrinks have identified as deep post-traumatic shock pounded into my marrow and mind during my childhood.

So today, I honor my son.

Nathaniel is seventeen, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, socially adept and funny, loves his parents, loves being around his parents, and has never been a behavioral problem in any way. When people ask us how we discipline him, we always say we don’t. If there’s an issue, we talk it out, and it’s no longer an issue.

I attribute this mostly to his innate character, but also to the fact that from the day he was born, both his parents have treated him with respect and have never seen dealing with him as an innate conflict or power struggle. He is the way he is because we allowed him to be the way he is, not because we beat it into him or forced him to act certain ways or made him follow stringent rules. We always honored his right to be acknowledged, to be present, to be heard. We pointed out when he was in the wrong, but also stood up for him when he was in the right.

We gave him love and respect at every step along the way, and as a result, he has given us love and respect in return. He doesn’t have to rebel because we’re not holding him back from being who he is and living life on his terms, and because we trust him, which lets him know that he is worthy of our trust.

Because of who he is, and how he was raised, my son didn’t have to bother with being a surly teen. He went straight to being a man.

Does A GAME OF THRONES Hate Women?

The Women of Game of Thrones

I’m a fan of George R.R. Martin, and I’m a fan of A Game of Thrones, both in its original literary and its more recent filmic iterations. And not only do I consider Martin’s epic work to be some of the best fiction I’ve ever read, I’ve been on board longer than most because, through unlikely fortune, I got an early copy of the first book in hardback, signed, well before it went on sale…

signed copy

And yeah, I’m showing off my library…forgive me.

Of course, I’m not alone in my love for this series. But such love is far from universal, and some folks downright hate it. Some hate it because it’s brutal and dark and filled with not-happy endings. Some hate it because it’s loaded with sex and nakedness, and if you’re uncomfortable with the human body and the things people choose to do with it, that can be a turnoff. (If I seem dismissive of people’s discomfort with nudity and sex, that’s only because I am; there is plenty of entertainment available for more chaste tastes, and not everything needs to be appropriate for eleven year olds.) I will say this: the series should show more naked men, both because it would be more fair and because it would head off some of the arguments of misogyny.

Some people’s hatred of this series, though, is starkly political, pardon the pun. Continue reading

My Dumbness With The Blogging

Dumb Owls

I learned something yesterday.

For those who subscribe to both this blog and the Doc Wilde blog, who may not want to get the same stuff in their inbox twice, I’ve been trying to keep from replicating content on the two blogs. This also helps with what’s known as “SEO,” Search Engine Optimization, which is “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s ‘natural’ or un-paid (‘organic’) search results.” Posting identical content in multiple places puts you in competition with yourself with internet search engines and can make your pages appear farther down in search results, thus diluting your signal.

My approach, of late, has been to post most of my stuff here, but to focus the Wilde stuff mainly to that blog. Then I’d post a short note here linking to the post in question, but not repeating the information.

But, and this is probably common knowledge to those who care to spend time on such matters, apparently doing things that way doesn’t work all that well. Yesterday, I posted a blog post at the Wilde site which gave a lot of specific info about what’s happening with our current attempts to publish Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom to various venues. I put a note here that said, essentially, “There’s news, go to this link for all the juicy details.”  Exactly 25% of folks who read the note here clicked over to actually read the post.

75% didn’t bother.

I assume that most or all the people who read the note here did so because they were interested in what was going on, but they missed the information. The note here said “Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is DONE, the epic battle raging across the world in both digital and print form. Read the news in the latest post of the official Doc Wilde blog,” and perhaps I erred not just in requiring an extra click, but also in not being clear with the message here. Maybe people read the short version and thought it meant the book is actually out, when in fact we’re working our way through the obstacle course thrown up by the various vendors, from the persnickety formatting of the Kindle files for Amazon to the recalcitrant uploading process for Nook.

People who read the post over on the Wilde site know the particulars, but maybe folks who read the post here all thought “Great! The book’s available!” Which is annoying to me and probably to them, because if they go to buy it, they won’t be able to just yet.

Whatever the case, this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that click-through on links tends to be low. It’s even the case when a post says something like “You really should go read THIS, it’s funny and fascinating and incredible.” Few people actually bother to go have the experience or get the information or whatever.

So I should probably replicate info between these two blogs, at least when it’s the essential info, so folks who read only one or the other will actually get the information. And with posts in general, I should get as much of the info into the post itself, even if I’m pointing to an interesting article elsewhere, because most people just won’t bother jumping to the article under discussion.

Lesson learned.

Crazy Restaurateurs And The Writing Life

Batshit Crazy

You’ve probably heard about, or seen, the batshit crazy Arizona couple who went on Gordon Ramsay’s show Kitchen Nightmares and were so relentlessly, hopelessly, stupidly terrible, both as restaurateurs and as human beings, that Ramsay, for the first time, wound up simply throwing in the towel and walking away. This was followed by an epic psychotic meltdown by the couple on Facebook.

000

I’ve never seen this show, as I usually ignore reality shows of any sort, but curiosity got the better of me today and I watched the segment on YouTube. And folks, this is some juicy viewing, I tell ya. Being around people like this in real life would be horrendous; I wouldn’t be surprised if you got ulcers inside of fifteen minutes. I can’t believe Ramsay put up with them as long as he did. But watching them on this show, knowing that they are completely ruining their own business once and for all and reaping what they sow, is schadenfreude of the most delicious sort.

So what does this have to do with the writing life? Two things.

First, if you want to be a writer (or artist of any sort, really), you need to be able to take criticism. It can be tough to put aside your ego and listen to someone saying nit-picky or even awful things about the wonderful work you struggled so hard to birth into the world out of your very essence…but if you can’t do that, you can’t grow, and likely you’ll start shitty and stay shitty. Even if you disagree with the person offering criticism, you should honor their opinion and take it with grace. And unless their points are completely, patently stupid, you owe it to yourself to actually consider them before disregarding them. Nobody is perfect, and armoring yourself in ego or defensiveness will stunt your growth as an artist and a human being, just as we see in the video above.

Second, this video is a perfect example of just one of the many reasons why it’s a bad idea for authors to agree to read unpublished material by folks they don’t know. I’ve written about this before, rather colorfully and more comprehensively, and these folks are just some bloody kitchen knives short of the worst case scenario for this sort of thing. People you don’t know may be good writers or bad writers (odds tilt dramatically toward the latter), but they may also be neurotic, obsessive, crazy, or even violent. You just don’t know. And, as I wrote in the blog post linked above, when a lot of folks ask for you to critique them, what they’re really doing is asking for your praise. They don’t want actual critique. And they may react badly if you give it to them.

That was exactly what happened with Gordon Ramsay and these assholes. They had already damaged their reputation and business, and they invited him not to let him help them fix their restaurant  but to come in and use his show to give them praise so that they could be vindicated by an authority on TV. Then, blindly evil fucks that they are, they reacted horribly to his critique and dug themselves even deeper.

Good for them. Nobody deserves such a fate more than they do, except perhaps current GOP leadership.

For more on this, please do read “Why I Will NOT Read Your Stuff“. I’m pretty pleased with that post, but I’m open to criticism on it.

Are You An Asshole? On Satire and Offense

Evil Jester

“If you’re seriously contending that you get a free pass to be an asshole by calling what you write ‘humor,’ or that humorists are under no obligation to have any manners, think again.”

This is a comment from a discussion going on on someone else’s Facebook wall. I’d reply there, but the woman whose wall it is isn’t someone I know and she has already spazzed out about people disagreeing with her public post, which was an attack on the Onion for its story “Heartbroken Chris Brown Always Thought Rihanna Was Woman He’d Beat To Death.”  Her stance — and that of the guy I quoted above — is that satire shouldn’t offend.

Fuck that. If you’re not offending somebody, you’re not doing satire correctly, you’re just being amusing. And you’re not making a point, you’re just making a joke. The last thing a satirist, or a comedian of any stripe, or any goddamned artist of any sort, should be worrying about is whether they’re offending someone with their material, unless being inoffensive is, indeed, one of their goals as a creator. Sure, there are boundaries that you probably shouldn’t cross if you want to be a decent person (publicly attacking a child, for instance), but for the most part, nothing is sacred.

As novelist Tad Williams, who was also involved in this discussion, wrote, “There is no edge. The edge is a movable feast. A good humorist has to go with the gut, and sometimes the audience is in a slightly different place than expected. You can’t have ‘safe’ satire, because that’s not satire, that’s officially sanctioned merriment.”

So yeah, to put it in terms the guy I quoted used, you get a free pass to be an asshole and you’re not under any obligation to have any manners. That may cost you a fan or a friend sometimes, it may cost you a job, it may make you unpopular if you really touch a nerve. That’s why satire, why art, is brave. That’s one of the things that makes it matter. That’s one of the things that makes it real. That’s one of the things that makes it truth.

Sacred cows make the tastiest burgers.

Comics and Me

Comics

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day. It got me thinking about my relationship to comics.

The comic above,  The Amazing Spider-Man # 119, is the first comic I remember buying. I know I had others before it, but perhaps I didn’t actually choose them myself, but had them given to me. Whatever the case, I remember going into the 7-11 and choosing this comic and reading it. The result was an obsession that lasted for years, and a strong love of the medium that I still retain today.

That said, I can’t recall the last single issue of a comic I bought. I still read bound collections here and there, like the recent “Court of Owls” storyline in the Batman comics. There are some things I buy for my library as soon as they appear, like the incredible cloth-bound library editions of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, or the “Absolute” edition of Warren Ellis’s Planetary. But mostly, I just don’t bother with comics these days.

I still love them. But they’re like old friends who’ve drifted away. I keep up with them via gossip. “Oh, Superman is seeing Wonder Woman? Good for him.” “Oh no, Damian Wayne died? That’s terrible, Bruce must be in agony.” “Peter Parker’s dead? Oh my god, that’s…actually really fucking humdrum at this point, unfortunately. Tell me when he’s back.”

It’s not that I’m not interested in reading them, because I am. But the reasons not to are so compelling. They’re too damned expensive, for one thing; for ten bucks, I can get two or three comic books I’ll read in under fifteen minutes. But that same ten bucks will get me two hours of entertainment at the cinema, buy me a book or ten that will give me many hours of enjoyment, get me ten songs I’ll be able to listen to forever, or even pay for a month of Netflix. Comics just don’t offer much bang for the buck when they cost so much.

It’s also a chore to keep up with them. The big companies love crossovers, and to be honest, so do I. But I’m too busy and distracted to have to follow all related series, and read the issues every month in proper order, in order to keep up with a storyline. The latest Batman mega-arc may be incredible, but if I have to hop spastically from title to title, and research the fucking reading order online, to keep up, it’s too much work for too little joy. You can’t just buy a single title, in individual issues or trade collections, and get a coherent storyline.

So, these days, though I miss them, I’m fine following the lives of my favorite comic book characters through hearsay. And, of course, through other media. I’m re-watching The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon at present, and it’s exceptional. Of course, it lasted just two seasons, and now we have Ultimate Spider-Man, which isn’t. DC’s animated efforts tend to be incredible; we watched the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns a few weeks ago, and it was great. And, of course, there are the movies. That’s where most people get their comics fix these days, and there, for the most part, the companies are getting it right.

Speaking of which, today we’re going to see the new Iron Man flick. Can. Not. Wait.

The Jekyll & Hyde Conundrum: Writers And The Public Self

Jekyll & Hyde

We’re all Jekyll and Hyde.

We all have our sunny side, our pat-the-kids-on-the-head-with-an-eternal-smile-of-warmth side, our non-controversial I-breathe-oxygen, how-’bout you? side. That’s our Jekyll, our potential human paragon, our angel.

But we all have our Hyde, too, our goddamnit-won’t-those-kids-shut-the-hell-up side, our you’re-a-fuckwit-because-you-don’t-agree-with-me side, our good-lord-I-want-to-fuck-that-stranger-straight-through-till-sunrise-in-all-the-least-photogenic-ways side.

We’re all the whole Magilla Gorilla, a churning stew of human potential and passion and instinct and mind and soul (whatever the hell that is). And that’s not a bad thing, nor are all the qualities we might shove into the Hyde box actually evilwickedbad in and of themselves. Trying to completely squelch Hyde makes you, at best, neurotic, at worst a slavering hypocrite enslaved by the desires you dare not show. How many anti-gay crusaders have gotten caught with somebody’s dick in their mouth at this point? Probably a small fraction of those who will be.

Still, we all like other folks to think well of us, so we at least refrain from mentioning a lot of the things Hyde says in our heads, and hopefully retain rational control over our impulses and emotions and actions.

Online, we get to fine-tune our public persona a bit. We have the time and distance to choose what we want to present, and how (though it’s all too easy to just hit SEND in an emotional moment and let your Hyde out for all to see; writer Hugh Howey had this happen to him recently and brought down a virtual enraged church picnic of self righteous wrath ‘pon his head). Some splash their personalities all over the internet like monkeys with paintbrushes, or even chimpanzees with machine guns. Some are naturally more guarded than others, and some have concerns beyond the simply personal when it comes to what they’re presenting.

Like writers.

I’ve pondered my own online Jekyll/Hyde mix for a few years now. Continue reading

A Little Less Art In The World

Quinton Hoover

Artist Quinton Hoover has died.

I didn’t know Quinton very well, but he did quite a few cards for us back when I was working on White Wolf’s Rage (best CCG evar):

Rage Card

We got to know each other a bit more on Facebook, and I was actually hoping to possibly recruit him to work on an Outlaw Moon book with me at some point. I’m sad that’ll never happen.

Here’s a posted eulogy from Quinton’s son, Justin:

Today we lost an incredible man. Most only knew him as an artist. A small few knew him as a friend; however only a select few got to know him as a father and husband. My father was an incredible person, even in time of strife. With all of the pride and stubbornness, he fought. He fought for alot of things. Mainly his families lively hood. It brings me great sadness to have lost a man I spent a life time trying to emulate. The last few years had become strenuous, but the little things kept him going. The picture with this eulogy shows that very reasoning. A simple day spent with his friend taking pictures and being outside doing what he loved. Much like the rest of his family, I feel he was taken from us far to early. There was so much he wanted to do, to name a few he wanted to come to my wedding and meet my family for the first time. Unfortunately this was taken away. Out of all this pain and anguish, I know he is finally at peace. My Dad had a lot of hard times, and was in considerable amounts of pain. No more will he have to suffer the things that hurt him the most. Whereever he may be now, I know he will still be fighting for the well being of his family. Truly one of the most selfless people I proudly got to spend 27 years knowing and speaking with. Dad, no matter where you went to, know that myself, my family, and your family have and will always love you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul for everything you gave and tought to me. From shooting my first gun, to the last piece of lead I lay on paper.
He knew I wouldn’t leave him.
He’ll never leave me.
Quinton Hoover was a good man
I Love You

Rage Art

More great art by Quinton after the jump: Continue reading

The Secret To Desire

By the light...

Interested in long term romantic relationships? Marriage? Sexual satisfaction? Sexual adventure?

Give a listen to this TED Talk by Psychotherapist Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. I think she’s on the right track.

Falling Stars: Not Always So Whimsical… (with The Song of the Week, 2/16/2013)

Falling Star

Everyone is all abuzz about the asteroid flyby and the meteorite strike in Russia this week, and it was quite spectacular, and scary. Some of the video footage from Russia is amazing; watching the fireball appear in the sky through someone’s windshield, burning closer and closer, I couldn’t help but think what a pants-shitting moment that had to be.

It also made me remember my own close encounter with a meteor, many years ago. I survived, just as I survived the time I was struck by lightning, though the meteor was both a lot less dramatic and a lot cooler.

I was a teenager, visiting my maternal grandparents in a backward crack in the world called Valle Mines, Missouri. They lived in a farmhouse off a rural highway with a fair chunk of land, much of it thickly forested. The forest, of course, was the good part, especially to a kid who’d retreated to the woods most of his life as an escape from a horrible life at home. The bad part was the isolation from culture, and the lack of things to do. Nowadays, they probably have a big Teabagger dance or something to pass the time.

Anyway, late one dark country night, I was out back, and for some reason I was standing on my grandparents’ picnic table. The only light was from the windows of the house, and the sky was clear. Suddenly, I saw a thin streak of fire lancing toward me. It passed about ten feet over my head, sputtering into sparks as it fully disintegrated about twenty feet away, just short of the woods. A shard of space rock crumbling to fairy dust before my eyes.

Another cosmic encounter also comes to mind. Back in 1997, Comet Hale-Bopp streaked slowly cross earth’s skies, incredibly bright and visible to the naked eye for a record 18 months. Living in town, it was tough to see because of the light pollution, but I had a wonderful visit with it one cold spring night.

We took my son, Nathaniel, who was just under a year old, on his first camping trip, to Lake Conasauga, the highest lake in Georgia, on Grassy Mountain in the Chattahoochee Forest. It was chilly, but he enjoyed the woods and the lakeshore. Our late great akita, Travis, played with us, and charged through the woods like a white rocket. Towards dusk, we retreated to our tent and snuggled in, and Nathaniel was happy. Happy until night fell, that is, and with it, the temperature.

It was like a switch was thrown. The sun disappeared and suddenly it was below freezing. And Nathaniel started crying. We bundled him in several layers of clothing, including a pair of my thick wool socks and my Polartec jacket, and nestled together deep into the sleeping bags. The crying stopped, and he was content.

He fell asleep, as did his mom. I lay there, listening to the night sounds. We had planned to hike to the top of the mountain at night to see the comet, but it was so comfortable in the sleeping bags, and so damned cold outside them. But, knowing this was my best chance, I mustered the strength. I woke my son’s mom to give her the chance to do likewise, but that wasn’t happening. She, and Nathaniel, were too content where they were.

So I pulled on my cold boots and crawled out of the tent. I let Travis off his leash and the two of us headed up the trail.

When we reached the summit, the world was spectacular. Dark ridges of forest stretched away in every direction, and the sky above was utterly cloudless and perfectly black but for its trillions of bright stars, so many stars, up high, without city lights, without smog. Just that sky, alone, would have been reason enough to clamber up that trail that night.

Hale-Bopp burned out there, a streak of star fire, huge and otherworldly, stark against that dark sky, a titan among the glittering pinpricks that were the stars. I stood there staring at it, the cold forgotten, my dog pacing and hunting night critters, for a long cosmic moment.

Back From The Jungle… (with the Song of the Week 1/30/2013)

Tim of the Jungle

…and I will tell you this…

Nyd In Shirt

…a beautiful, petite Brazilian woman wearing one of your shirts may be one of those signals the universe occasionally sends to indicate it is actually benevolent.

Tim Fixes America: GUNS

Minute Man

I believe in the Second Amendment, and it is long past time we set up that “well-regulated militia.” Here is  my proposal:

If you want a gun, you become a citizen soldier. You undergo a full background check to enlist and a gun training course before getting your weapon. You are required to report on one day every three months for target practice and gun safety refreshers. Your weapon is kept, by law, under lock and key in a proper container, and all ammo is allotted and accounted for. Any misuse of your weapon, or lack of care in securing it, will be grounds for suspension from duty and confiscation of all weapons.

Possession of an unlicensed firearm is a crime with a mandatory one year sentence in prison, with escalating higher sentences for military grade weaponry. Convicted criminals in general receive an additional ten years in prison, on top of their sentence,  if firearms are involved in their crimes.

For your service, you are authorized one sidearm and/or one single action rifle, which you will buy with your own funds. Further weapon authorizations may be allowed for sporting or collecting purposes, though responsibility for gun and ammo security and accountability will be the same as for your primary weapons, and further training may be required. You are required to keep an established minimum amount of ammunition in your possession for preparedness purposes, with a maximum amount of ammunition allowed. You are responsible for providing your own ammunition, both for training and purposes of readiness.

In the event your service is needed for public safety, law enforcement backup, or domestic military purposes, you can be called up at any time by your militia superiors. Employers are required to honor your militia commitment just as they would were you serving in the National Guard. During training, and when called up, you will be paid a stipend based on the current minimum wage, with additional bonuses for hazardous duty.

The militia, being constitutionally mandated, will be a federal organization.

Misadventures In Holiday Book Shopping (UPDATED)

bookstore

Being a fan of the local indie bookstore as an institution, I went out to do a bit of holiday shopping on Saturday. I had two books I wanted to buy. My chosen bookstore, a very good shop which has a big inventory and many author events (keys to the fact that it thrived even when the market consisted mainly of the big book chains), had one of the two (a perennial seller) in stock. The other I told them I’d like to special order.

The on-hand volume was twice the price I’d have spent online, but I had credit from previous dealings, so I bought it anyway.

The clerk looked up the other. “We can’t get that,” he said. He couldn’t explain why a book in print, published by Dell, should be beyond the powers of their distribution system. They’re not a new store, and I assume they do special orders all the time.

So, as a customer, I entered their shop with two specific books in mind, aware of the books’ availability and pricing online, but wanting to support the indie. One book cost me double the money I needed to spend. The other book was simply impossible to obtain.

That impossible book just landed on my doorstep, from Amazon. They not only had the book, they had it for cheap, shipping cost me nothing, and they got it to me inside of 48 hours. They got the sale because the local store either lacked a certain competence or wasn’t willing to find the means to get me the book I wanted.

Local shops can thrive, and this one does. If their owners are smart, and make themselves into community institutions that offer great customer service and special benefits and events, they can resist Amazon’s eminence in a way they were never able to resist the intrusion of huge chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. But they need to actually be able to get the books desired by their customers to those customers, efficiently, or they’ll lose valuable business. And that’s never good.

I’ll go back to the shop because I’m fond of it. But someone else may have walked out thinking, “Well, from now on, I’ll just go online…”  They’d have lost not only this sale but all the others that customer might possibly have made.

UPDATE: When I wrote the above, I forgot to mention that two weeks earlier I had gone to this shop’s website and used their automated search system to request ordering information on a title. Nearly a month later, I have yet to hear anything at all back regarding that search.