Monday, April 30, 2012

updated the website....

Today is one of those days....

So I'm taking the update that I added to my website homepage and sticking it on the blog just because.

Honestly, I don't have any research finished on some good blog posts at the moment, and don't have the brain power (stayed up late last night reading again.... sigh) to come up with two bits of writing (one here, one on the website), so I'm cribbing today.

And here it is:

I've continued to steamroll through the old stock -- I'm up to the "CU" section now (and by the way, the letter C is one of bigger areas -- Lots of people have names that start with the letter C).
After that, it's on to the D's etc.
I've already made some space.  However, the new system I'm trying to implement, with all the areas by subject / genre is putting a kink in that new space available... and  I've realized that I have to take all the books that are on portable book shelves (these are generally my better stock -- which gets boxed up and taken to book fairs -- that's why their on the portables) and add them to my list of books to re-list as well. Then I have to find room for them.  This is indeed a long, slow process, no matter how I go about it.
However, progress is being made. I'm happy with the books that I'm keeping. I still have to find homes for all the books that are going away.  I have some idea how I'm going to accomplish that portion of this exercise,  but only a vague idea at the moment.  I'm piling up alarming numbers of boxes of give-aways in the garage at the moment.
So far, I think that the process is not only making the listings more current (as far as price, condition, and jpgs are concerned) but that it's promoting some sales.  Not great sales as of yet (the last month was April - tax month - and that's a notoriously bad month for book sales anyway)  but I'll keep plugging away anyway because it's helping clear out the cobwebs in my house, my stock, and in my head as well.

 If you'd like to wander on over to my website and poke around, here's the link:  S. Howlett-West Books

Let me know if you find anything you like.

Now it's off to figure out what to do for Son Number Two for his birthday tomorrow.  OMG - he's going to be 12!!!!!

I don't have any little one's left. As of tomorrow I will officially have a teen and a pre-teen in the same household.  (where's a wall to bang my head against!)


Friday, April 27, 2012

Somedays it's more fun to read the book....

The Great Taos Bank Robbery And Other Indian Country Affairs- Tony Hillerman

I tucked a few books from the mystery category (actually, the portable shelf with the collectable mysteries) into  my pile of books to be reworked the other day and this title (pointing upwards) was in the pile.

I've read Tony Hillerman books before (when I had time to read) and really liked them. But I never got around to reading this particular title before. Partly because it's made up of short stories and I'm  not really that fond of short stories, and partly because I always seem to have something else to read.

BUT -- since this was in the pile -- AND because I was futzing around at the time and not really putting my nose to the grindstone the way I ought to have been, I decided to check out the first story.

The first story happens to be "The Great Taos Bank Robbery".  

I had completely forgotten how good Tony Hillerman's writing is.  This story featured the landscape of New Mexico and had a bit to do with the Indian country there, but was actually a small town humorous bit of fluff that made me snort out loud several times.

I decided, after finishing this story, that I needed to get to work -- frankly, I'm both the slave and the slave driver in this operation; if I don't force myself to get the data entry stuff done, then it just plain doesn't get done.  But I kept noticing the book out of the side of my eye.

Tony Hillerman is tempting me away from work, darn him.

So I'll make a compromise.

I won't put the book right back on the shelf.  I'll stick it in my pile of books to be read (carefully as it is a first edition) so I can enjoy it when I have time.

I have to say, this is one of the nicest bits about my work.  There are days where I come across wonderful books to read and new (or old, nearly forgotten) authors to add to my favorites.

And while this isn't relevant to anything in particular, I found out, not too long ago, that my dad actually met and worked with (well, they were both teachers at the U of NM but in two different subject areas so not buddies) Tony Hillerman back in the early1970's.  It was back before Tony Hillerman became the Tony Hillerman.    Not relevant, sure, but cool to me - in a proxy sort of way.

Maybe tonight I'll get to read another story or two.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Cleaning, Moving, and Updating kind of day

Today is a day for cleaning shelves, Moving things around on the shelves and updating old listings.

I don't know if you remember, but I've been working on a project to go through each and every shelf of books and update the listings -- taking new photos, updating the descriptions, tossing the books that are no longer good for my stock--  that sort of thing.

Well, I've been working on the project for the last couple of weeks with a passion.  And I'm up to..... "CO". 
(here's a hint - the books are in alphabetical order by author's last name on the shelves).  For me, that's actually good progress.  I've cleared out four shelves in the last week and a half - like Speedy Gonzales.  I have bags of kids books to give to local schools (I decided that they'd go out in bags instead of my good boxes since I NEED the boxes for book fairs -- I learned this the hard way a few weeks ago when I handed over five bankers boxes of books at a local donation site... then realized I was handing away a really necessary part of my business.)

The other books that are not going back on the shelves are in boxes (of course) or piles in my work room right at the moment.  I haven't decided exactly what to do with them yet.  I could have a garage sale and overwhelm Modesto with my extras.  Or I could put on a cape and a mask and drop them off at the local donation site where the proceeds go to cancer research.  or....

At any rate, they're not going back on my shelves.

Some of the books have been sitting in my stock for 15+ years.

It's time for them to go - hopefully this will encourage NEW books (good new books) to arrive and take their place.

In the meantime, here are a few photos of books that I intend to keep around for a while longer.

The Blind Pig - Jon Jackson (yeah, it's not a CO book, sue me)

The Blank Page - K. C. Constantine

The Looking Glass War - John Le Carre (David Cornwell)

 I'm uploading them to my website now, so if you find one you'd like to take home with you (and add more space to my shelves) that's fine with me! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monty the Mouse -- or How did she DO that?

There's an Australian author by the name of Esta de Fossard who, in the 1970's wrote a few books about animals.

Sounds pretty normal, right?

Let me give you a hint about the types of animal books she wrote --

Monty the Mouse Looks for Adventure 

Ok -- take a close look at the photo.

There in the center of the photo, drugged by a sugar overdose, is Monty the Mouse.

Yes, Monty is a real mouse, fur and all.

Here's another peek at him -

Monty the Runaway Mouse

Turns out Monty is quite an adventurer.  He is the featured character in at least three books (though the quality control for Worldcat takes a dive for the one listing that calls Monty a Moose).   Monty gets into all sort of scrapes and out of them just as easily.

Monty is, as far as I can tell, a stuffed mouse that has articulation abilities (i.e.: his arms and legs can be moved ).  I have no basis for this assumption, but I honestly can't come up with a better answer for how the photos for this series of books was accomplished. 

The stories are fairly basic and for young readers.  The images are the main appeal of the books and they are a wild amalgam of kitsch, standard issue kids book styling and pure genius, all rolled up into a package that becomes more appealing with each read-through. 

And Monty was not the only animal that Esta de Fossard featured in her books -- but Monty is, by far the most interesting (as far as I'm concerned).

Frisk, the Unfriendly Foal

Huff the Grumbling Pigeon

Catkin, the Curious Kitten

It's been a while since I read the last three - but I believe that Huff the pigeon is a stuffed beast, just like Monty the mouse is.  The other two, I'm not so sure. And there are other books in the series as well that I have never been privileged to have in hand.

In my research regarding these books I found out that Esta de Fossard is a well respected educator and speaker.  She was, at some point, an actress in Australia.  She has written text books for educators on how to incorporate drama and independent thinking into writing and she has written at least one book on how to write for film and television.  That's pretty much all I could come up with. 

I was hoping to have some background into how she created Monty the Mouse.  I really wanted to know if Monty was alive and just  well trained for his photo-shoot.  If not, the taxidermist who stuffed Monty did a great job. 

Either way, this series of books have wormed a permanent place in my heart. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who would'a thunk it....

Book fairs are a good place for a book dealer (such as myself) to actually talk - at length - to customers / collectors and ask them about what it is they collect and how they started their collections.  These discussions are, to me, fascinating glimpses into the workings of other minds.    Sometimes I can completely understand and associate with the types of collections we chat about. Sometimes, I will be blown away by a collector whose thought processes are very different from mine (this is not a bad thing, mind you, it just goes to show that we all have different ways of seeing the world).


About a year and a half ago, I spoke with a customer who was looking for picture books to add to her collection, but there was a twist - the books had to be by well known collectable authors who were NOT generally known as children's authors.  This customer was specifically looking for Modern Fiction Authors, but when I started to go through my stock, I found that this is an area ripe for the picking.

Today I thought I'd show a few of the books that I currently have in my picture book stock by authors you wouldn't normally expect to see. 

9 Magic Wishes by Shirley Jackson

First, a double dose --

By Shirley Jackson. She was known for her horror and supernatural fiction, including The Haunting of Hill House.

Famous Sally by Shirley Jackson

Yup - she did stuff for young people as well.

How about a bit of Vonnegut?

Sun Moon Star by Kurt Vonnegut  (and yes, I need a new jpg of this book - it will come)

Best known for Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions, he took some time to pen a book for younger folk as well.

Then there are the authors, who are familiar, and seeing a children's book coming from them isn't a stretch --

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me (Maya Angelou)

Maya Angelou is a poet and author and her books are for all sizes and shapes -- including children.

But what about the non-writers?

The Blue Spruce by Mario Cuomo

That's right - the Governor of New York - Mario Cuomo

The Bridge by Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman is an artist / illustrator, so I guess it's not too far astray from his normal work, but.... he was the preferred illustrator for Hunter S. Thompson (of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas fame)  - which is not your normal kid lit.

Swan Lake with text by Margot Fonteyn

This one makes much more sense -- the plot of a ballet interpreted by a premier ballerina.

And just for the fun of it -- one last author for today.

Me  by William Saroyan

This last book, along with one of the Shirley Jackson titles you see above, are both part of a series called Modern Masters Books for Children --  I plan on writing a blog post about this series as soon as I can gather enough information about it. 

Unfortunately, while I was hoping that I'd see the customer who collects these sorts of books at the fair last month in Sacramento, it was not to be.  In the meantime, I'll continue to hunt out more picture books that might make it into her collection.  I might even make another blog post about it if I find some really intriguing items.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wild Ideas...

Sometimes, I get these wild ideas about things I'd like to do.  One of these wild ideas has been kicking around in my brain for a while now -- but I haven't figured out how to put it into operation, and I know I'll need other book dealers who will chip in to make it work (no, not money!)

So a while ago, a book dealer friend of mine wrote a great description of a book he happened to have in stock.  It's one of those sad, sad books that should have been, would've been, could have been great at one point in time but is no longer a contender.  Here's a link to the book description he wrote:  Not-So-Great Gatsby.

I love this description.

I also love the idea that we as book dealers can take some of the books that we have picked up over the years because they are GOOD books, even though they are in rough (to say the least) condition.

I have several books like this Gatsby of Howard's.

Ok.... enough of the build up.  Whoops, not so fast.  Before I can get to the idea I had, I have to fill in one other little blank.

If you've never heard of Cakewrecks, here's a link to the Cakewrecks site:  Cakewrecks

What Howard did for this Gatsby,  the Cakewreck crew has done for professional cake decorators.  It's a hilarious look at all the wacky, weird and just plain wrong things decorators can do to the stuff they work with on a daily basis.  (note- this site is best observed when you are not guzzling a beverage of any sort. Especially if you want your keyboard to continue working).

So - here's my idea:

I would like to start a blog (or use this blog, depending on how things go) to write up, or upload descriptions that other dealers write up, the books that could have been contenders -- just like this Great Gatsby.  Then include photos of the book to show just how awful the book is.

There are a couple of rules though -- (and I'm making these up as I go)

1) It has to be a book that would have had a fairly nice value (though this is relative and dependent on whim).

2) The description  has to make you want to smack your head, or groan outloud, or snort tea through your nose (or all three).

3)  The photos need to have a bit of pizazz as well. (ok, still fuzzy on this point too).

That's it so far. 

I do have a book that would fit very nicely into this category -- I just need to pull it out of the box where it's mouldering and find some snazzy descriptive phrases to jazz it up.  That might be my project for the week.  (note- see the previous blog post for allergy symptoms -- which means that I don't have much of a brain this week so it might not get done as soon as I'd like).

Anyone want to take a whack at it with me? 

An interesting week for online conversations about all sorts of stuff

This has been an interesting week all the way around so far -- and it's only Tuesday!

First, the reviews for the ABAA mega-book fair in New York have started trickling in from people who attended, exhibited, and or stood around and had photos taken of them. (I'm almost ashamed to admit that I recently "Liked" Steve Martin - yes, the "wild and crazy guy!"-on Facebook a few weeks ago, and yes, this does relate to the ABAA book fair.  Yesterday he posted a picture that a fan took of him with a book he might or might not have found at the ABAA book fair. ) There's the photo of Yoko Ono checking out photography material / Japanese material at the book fair. She even parked herself in front of a booth to take closer looks at something.  There were rumors that other celebrity types made at least a cursory run-through of the event.  If you'd like links to some of the fair reviews by dealers, just comment and I'll grab them and fling them up here for you.

Then there was the wait in the LONG line at the post office yesterday.  I knew better.  Honestly, I did.  But, between making a mistake on what sort of packaging a particular book would fit into, and having to readjust my postage charge after the fact, I ended up in line for thirty minutes, having interesting chats with both the USPS personnel (I don't know about you, but my post office is a wonderful place to visit and has a very caring, helpful staff, even on stressful days) and with a couple of the people in line.  What I did notice was that this year there were less people who were sending in IRS forms (using every additional form of confirmation, etc. to make sure that the information arrived) and more people who were trying to mail big packages of all sorts.  A mixed blessing, I suppose -- it was great that people were using the Post Office and still had stuff to send out, but with the online tax forms, that means less mailing done at the P.O. during tax season, which generally means that the post office continues to make less money.   Sigh.

I belong to several online newsgroups / chat groups -- one of them is the Bibliophile newsgroup -- a group that costs $30.00 a year to join and puts you in contact with dealers and collectors all over the world (currently, I would guess there are approximately 1000 members).  If you've never heard of this group, or never participated in the group, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in books, book collecting, or book selling.  It's worth it's weight in gold just from the tidbits of information you pick up -- not to mention the offers of books for sale, etc.

Anyway --  the reason I mention this newsgroup is because of a couple of interesting discussions that have popped up in the last several days.  The first one is regarding Amazon and it's influence on the world of bookselling in the modern era.   Dealers have been opening up about their chances of survival in this business with and without the use of Amazon's third party selling site  -- i.e.: the used and collectable / rare book listings offered there.  Fascinating stuff and very thought provoking too.  Personally, I'd love to say that I could do without listing my books via Amazon's site, but frankly, I need to keep all my bookselling channels open -- to give myself lots of baskets in which I can put my eggs (as it were).  I don't have an open shop as an alternative.  What I sell online and via catalogues or book fairs is it -- those are my revenue sources for better or worse and I'd be foolish to drop one of them without thinking very hard about it first.

The other conversation that has come up is an off-shoot of the original vs Joe the Bookseller  conversation.  And it has to do with business models, and how each of us perceives the model that we have, the models that others have, and how we intersect.   It's moved into the type of buying (including approximate amounts per year spent on inventory), etc.  Again, fascinating stuff.  I would love to add my two cents worth, but my head is stuffed with allergies and allergy meds to counteract the fuzziness and I know it's just not a great thing to do today.  But it certainly gives me much to think about.

Speaking of allergies -- I have to say that this year has been a doozy for allergies for me. Especially the last three weeks or so.  I don't know if it's just my area, but it's really not a great thing to have to deal with when you're trying to get normal life taken care of.  Carrying a box of tissues around with you all day long is really not an option. AND, I've been out trying to get the yard stuff done (well, parts of it. And garage cleaning, and other miscellaneous bits of outdoor housework, etc), which works well for about ten minutes, then the drippy nose and fuzzy head really kick in.  Add to that that my daily walk has also been compromised by this drippy-iness and I'm not really a happy camper this week.

I suppose, since this blog post isn't  filled to the brim with erudite musings on book history, etc. I'll post the default photo for the day --


Izzy on a good day

Friday, April 13, 2012

Boyhood Photos of J-H Lartigue

Lartigue, J.-H. (Jacques-Henri): BOYHOOD PHOTOS OF J.-H. LARTIGUE : The Family Album of a Gilded Age. 1966. Ami Guichard Publisher. Switzerland. Hardcover. 1st Edition/ 1st Printing. VG+ / B&W and sepia toned Illustrations by: J. H. Lartigue.

Lartigue was given a camera of his own at the age of 7 (some references mention age 8) around about the year 1900. From  that point on, the boy became, for all intents and purposes, an avid amateur photographer -- though the quality of the photographs was professional level.  Lartique's love of the photographic medium continued throughout his lifetime, though he only thought of the finished photos as family remembrances and snapshots of his life and the life of the the world in which he dwelt, it was only in the 1950's  that his creative outlet became interesting to the world around him.

 This whimsical scrapbook style book appears to be the first book which features his photographs.  

DESCRIPTION: This book is in Very Good+ condition and was issued without a dust jacket.  This copy is missing the accompanying slipcase.  Purple / Burgundy cloth covered boards have gilt lettering and decorations (in the style of the Gilded Age) to the front cover and spine of the book. There is some light / faint spotting (water spotting) to the top edges of the book cover which can only be seen if you hold the book at an angle.  The book and its contents are in clean, bright condition.   The text pages are clean and bright. The book is illustrated throughout with reproductions of actual photographs by Lartigue. The photographs are in black and white and sepia tone on matte gray card stock paper. The book mimics a family scrapbook with text by Lartigue along with an essay by Jean Fondin. This copy has a previous owner's inked gift notation (dated 1969), and also an ink stamped name and address of Robert Pease & Co. Advertising.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Easter Vacation time again... and you know what that means...

This is a quick note  to let you know that this week is a no-go for blogging for me.

Two teenage boys in the house produce more noise than one would imagine, and since the newest computer game (StarCraft) entered the house -- combined with the fact that we're down to two computers -- the time I have available with brainpower and access to the computer is down to zip. 

Better yet, it has been raining this week.  That's a great thing for the Valley, but bad for tossing the boys outside to play.

So (and I realize this is late notice as it's already Thursday) that's why the blog posts have dwindled to nothing.

Hopefully, we'll all be back to normal next week.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A day for funny (as in weird) book titles / covers....

Since my schedule took a turn today (in a good way), I got to sit and let my mind wander.  As I hadn't had a good idea for a blog post, my mind made one up for me instead.

As a book dealer, I get to handle a large number of books over time.  It was a heck of a lot more when I worked in an open shop, but I still go through boxes and boxes of books on a regular basis.  Mostly the books are either stodgy run-of the mill types (those are the ones I tend to toss back) or cool, or awe-inspiring -- but occasionally I come across books that just hit my funny bone.

Like this one:

Hetch Hetchy and its Dam Railroad (Ted Wurm)

The author's pun hinges on the dam / damned usage -- though I'm not really sure if he meant it the way it scans.  Some railroading buffs have senses of humor. Some don't.   The dam in this case is not a curse at the problems that surrounded the making of this railroad line, but the fact that it had to go over the Hetch Hetchy Dam.

Then there are the books that just look goofy -- at least to me.  Like this one:

The Super Cops Play it to a Bust (By Dave Greenberg)

I just happen to have picked up this book last week -- this book is so 1970's that I couldn't help myself.

The colors.

The mustaches.

The posing.

 They all scream the height of the 1970's.  It's actually a true crime story of two cops in Brooklyn who took on crime with a vengeance which was really big at the time (think Joseph Wambaugh, or Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, or Angie Dickinson as Police Woman).

Then there are the books that have the goofiest of story lines:

I need to take a new picture of this book, obviously.

Here's my description of it for you:

Carmona, Al: ANDY THE FIRST SWITCH-PITCHER 1982. Al Carmona. Encino, CA. Hardcover. 1st Edition/ 1st Printing. Signed By Author NF / VG+.  Self Published   "In baseball there are many switch-hitters. But there has never been a switch-PITCHER...until now. Andy begins his development at the age of seven when he helps his Paw build a daily pile of rocks for the local cement company."    I found very little about this book except that it is listed in McCue's Baseball by the Book bibliography.  There is one small bit about the book elsewhere which I found it is:   "The plot is fairly standard. Andy, a hick who's never heard of baseball, can throw rocks around corners with both hands. He leads a team to World Series Victory. It's the style that sets this one apart: the first 45 percent of the book is a fairly poorly written children's book followed by one chapter of near pornography before reverting to a children's book."   Take from that what you will.

See - just outright Goofy.

And then, just to round things out, there are the goofy books that I find hysterically funny and wouldn't do without.  Here's a trio of books on subjects that... well, kids need to know about, but parents really don't want to talk about.

The Truth About Poop (by Susan Goodman)
The Gas we Pass (by Shinta Cho)

Everyone Poops (by Taro Gomi)

I've got tons more of these  -- but I figure I should go out with a bang.....

or a fart.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What do you DO with something like this?

Ok -- another admission.  Stayed up even later last night (midnight+) to keep going on A Civil Campaign.  Luckily, one more night should finish it off, or I'll be toast soon.

Sometimes, as a dealer, there are books that just break your heart.  Today, I've got one of these forlorn suckers in front of me (not for the first time) hoping I can come up with a good way to deal with it.

Happily, it's NOT a case of a former owner duct-taping the book into zombie-fication, though I have seen that and it's just not a pretty sight.

What I have is a very nice book that has been attacked by the ravages of time and circumstances.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1899 copy with illustrations by Tenniel)

Looks just fine from the front, doesn't it?

 For the most part, the book is in great condition. It has all edges gilt (AEG for those of you who read / write catalogues).  All the pages are intact. The binding is generally quite nice. It's a solid, clean copy.... but....

take a close look at the top edge by the corner...

Yup.  Somehow, some way, this copy turned into food for some toothy nibblers.

It's really just random damage to the rear top board corner and top edge. It's not even really horrendously chawed -- but it's very noticeable and off-putting.

the spine of the book -- sorry for the sideways look

If that wasn't injury enough, the book spine (along with some of the top rear cover) got splashed by something noxious as well.  Don't know what, don't know how - just splashed.

This is one of the books in the consignment collection -- it's a good book  -- illustrated by John Tenniel, with wonderfully expressive vignette's throughout the text -- and he's the one who really came up with the "look" of Alice to begin with.

But -- it's in marginal condition at best.

Personally, I think this would make a great copy to rebind in leather.  Especially if the binder decided to go all out and design something awesome as a replacement.  I've seen some truly spectacular book art done by binders and this book would definitely look better for a little loving care.

I'm going ahead and offering it on my website -- as a starter copy -- I just have to find someone who loves the book enough to give it the tender loving care it needs.

Maybe that person is you.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I've uploaded my occasional list to my website....

First. a confession -- since I got to thinking (and writing) about Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign (see yesterday's blog post)  and because I happen to be between books at the moment -- I pulled my copy off the shelf and started to read it again.

I can't honestly tell you how many times I've read this book over the years (wow, just checked the copyright date and it's actually from 1999) but it's a bunch.  No matter how many times I read it, I'm always finding new nuances to the writing.  I also never seem to get over the snorting (hopefully quietly to myself) during certain portions of the book.

Bujold books bring out the bad habits in me as well -- I stayed up til nearly 11:30PM last night reading because I didn't want to put it down.  Ok, ok, I'll admit I didn't really start reading until after 10:00PM, but that's because it was a Monday and Dancing with the Stars doesn't finish til 10PM.  Yes, I'm one of those sappy people who love Dancing with the Stars.  My family tends to humor me in my sappiness in this case.  And darned if this year isn't going to be a real nail-biter when it comes to figuring out who's going to make it to the final four.  ALL of the competition this year is really good!

So -- back to the actual purpose of this blog post.  I just wanted to mention that I've put together an occasional list (with jpgs) of the consignment books that I took to the Sacramento Book Fair, and have posted it to my website.  If you haven't had a look-see at the books or the catalogue, you can find it here:  Occasional List #1

All of the books on the list should be available on my website and ready for purchase.  (hint, hint)  If you don't find one there -- check with me to see if it either sold, or somehow was accidentally not uploaded.

Finally, tomorrow I'll post the information I found out today about my mysterious envelope that goes with The Story of Babar.   I'll admit, I was terribly curious and kept hitting a brick wall in finding information (and getting outrageously bad information in one case)  so I broke down and asked The Rare Book Guy (Stephen J. Gertz of Booktryst) who, while he had no personal knowledge of this item, had the contacts needed to actually find an answer to some questions about it. Yippee! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Oh, and by the way...

Ok -- speaking of Georgette Heyer brings me to Lois McMaster Bujold and her character Miles Vorkosigan.

Again, if you're not a fan of SF / Fantasy, you might not have heard of either Ms. Bujold or Miles.  (which would be a darned shame, if you ask me).

A Civil Campaign - Lois McMaster Bujold

So -- there's one book that Ms. Bujold wrote expressly as her version of fan fiction  -- or something to that effect.  It's called A Civil Campaign  and it's one of the most goofball / screwball comedy books in the Vorkosigan series, and at the same time, one of the most poignant books about how Miles really has fallen in love with someone, but doesn't know how to go about dealing with the whole concept.  Love is not something that Miles can control. And Miles is a control freak.  The dinner party sequence in this book is un-fricking - believable!

One of the things I find fascinating about this book is the way it reads as both SF and romance at the same time.  And it does both extremely well, without condescension to either the romance or the SF portions.

(As an aside, a note about readership -- female readers of Fantasy / SF also happen, in large numbers, to be readers of romantic / historical fiction.  Some people find this dichotomy to be rather odd and publishers tend to ignore that it exists, but I've seen it over and over through the years and find it awe inspiring that women can use both sides of their brain in their choice of reading. Ok, done with the spouting.)

While the book can be read as a stand alone novel, it's better if you've had some background in the Miles Vorkosigan Universe to understand just how the personalities interact. 

And now, I have to get back to doing real work. 

Data Entry calls. 


You May have heard of him - his name is Terry Pratchett

I had a long post filled with all sorts of philosophical blatherings in progress (started on Friday before Son #1 came home).... but I've decided it's all a bunch of bunk and won't see the light of day.  Instead, I'm going to pimp a few books and make a push for the writing of a great author.

If you have never read anything by the British author Terry Pratchett -- or if you've never heard of Terry Pratchett,  I'd like to introduce him to you.

Yeah, he's considered an author of Fantasy Fiction (right up my alley, as it were), but in all honesty, he's just a darned good writer and FUNNY too.

If you're a fan of P.G. Wodehouse's style of humor I think you'd find Terry Pratchett to be easy on the ear.  Or, if you're fond of Georgette Heyer's screwball comedies (you know, where the one simple idea that sounds SO plausible and turns into this snowballing mess that involves more and more people and turns into something completely different from all expectation ) then just about any book in the Discworld Series will fill the bill nicely.

The Light Fantastic by Terry Prachett (book 2 in the Discworld Series)

Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of this currently, but one of my very favorites (and it's really hard to choose any favorite from his work)  is called Going Postal.  It's another Discworld book.  Terry Pratchett tends to take a particular subject / hot button issue and work with it until he can see the humorous side to it -- in this case, it's a book about the Discworld Post Office and what would seem to be a very dreary, boring job / subject. 

Going Postal  by Terry Pratchett
The operative word here is SEEMS.... because there's nothing dreary about what happens at the main post office in Discworld.   Caution: Don't read while drinking liquids or eating with other people. The spit-take possibilities are endless.

I hadn't read much of Terry Pratchett's work until a few years ago.  When I was writing for Firsts Magazine, I would pitch ideas to them... and sometimes they would pitch ideas to me.  I'm not sure if an article about Terry Pratchett was one I pitched, or one they did (it blurs together after so many years) and it's most likely that I had stumbled onto some information about the printings / points regarding 1st Editions of his works that inspired the article I did write, but if you'd like some in depth information about plotlines and points for First Edition identification,  here's the basics  of the article I wrote: Terry Pratchett: Fantasy, Humor, and....

Guards! Guards! (another Discworld Novel)

Pratchett doesn't limit himself to Discworld  stories (though they are always snort-worthy , and thoughtful at the same time).  No, he has several other series along with stand alone novels as well. 

The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy (again, by Terry Pratchett)

He's done books that are for young adults and even a couple of picture book  / younger reader books -- always with the same flair and humor.

Only you Can Save Mankind (T. Pratchett)

The unifying theme to all of Pratchett's work, if you want to call it that, is the way he can take a subject, make it funny, and at the same time look at it from all angles -- uncovering all sorts of injustice and prejudices that make our world what it is.  There's no preaching going on  (heaven forbid!) but by the time the book is over, readers have a chance to see the way the world has been carrying on just carrying on, completely sightless to things that need changing.  From the mistreatment of those different from ourselves (done via orcs and dwarves), to the strange and staid strictures of higher education (especially towards females), to, yes, the Postal Service and it's stodgy invisibility.  Pratchett even has something to say about God / Gods and how we as humans view them / need them / neglect them.

Reaper Man (again... Mr. Pratchett)

In the case of the above picture -- Reaper Man is the story about Death (aptly named Mort -- that's the French language geek in me going Squee!)  who decides that he needs to take a break from the job of being the Grim Reaper and finds himself an apprentice.  Funny Stuff, and yet, with a twinge of something that make you as the reader think "hmmmm".

Hopefully I've peaked your interest.   His books are also highly collectable -- which is a plus, as far as I'm concerned.