Do they say that? Do they say "Author?"

The best and worst part about being a book dealer -- for me, anyway -- is meeting authors.  I really enjoy going to author events and listening to them tell about how they got started or what if anything inspired a certain plot or character, but actually getting the books signed really takes me way out of my comfort zone.  Nevertheless, the rewards, both personal and book-related, make it worth it.

I went to a number of signings in the last six months or so.  These photos will give you an idea of the variety of authors I was able to meet.  (I apologize for the blurriness of some of the photos; the lighting wasn't always the best.)

  A couple of illustrator-authors:  Chris Van Allsburg 
answering questions from the audience...

  ...and Brian Selznick, giving an interesting and 
humorous powerpoint presentation on Wonder Struck

F Paul Wilson (he writes the Repairman Jack novels)

Geraldine Brooks discusses Caleb's Crossing

 Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (Barry and Pearson were very nice; 
they shook hands with everyone who went through the signing line)

 Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert with a non-Dune book

 Neal Stephenson signs Reamde

L E Modesitt signs any number of books

 Victor Villaseñor - very dte, as my kids would say.  
He gave everyone in the signing line a hug.


You're all living in a fantasy world

I attended my first World Fantasy Convention at the end of October.  Connie Willis was the toastmaster, which was a big draw for me, and Neil Gaiman was one of the guests of honor.  And several authors I was interested in were also going to be there.

The World Fantasy Convention is a little different from others I've attended.  It tries to keep the focus on the literature and art and not on the peripheral stuff, which suits me fine.  There are no gaming rooms, for instance, no masquerade, and hardly anyone wears a costume so you don't get freaked out like you do at Comic Con.  (I did see one kid dressed in a pretty good steampunk outfit, but steampunk is the exception I would allow.)  I must say, it was rather refreshing to go into the Dealers Room and see dealers dealing mostly in books and not a lot of gewgaws.  There is lots of programming, some of it even of interest to me. And there's a ritual Friday night 3-hour mass autograph session where all the authors in attendance who want to participate sit at tables while you bring in your ton of books and get them all signed, unless the author is someone with the status of a rock star, like Neil Gaiman, whereas you have to stand in a seemingly endless line during two and two-thirds of the hours allotted, and when you finally get to the front of the line you can only get three books signed by him, and then you rush over to the other tables only to find that all the other authors you wanted to have sign your books in the remaining twenty minutes have left early and are nowhere to be found.

But it pretty much worked out in the end because most of the authors are also willing to sign at pretty much any other time during the convention (within reason).  I was fortunate enough to meet Robert V S Redick, one of my favorite authors, who was participating in a panel about ships (both of the air and of the sea) in fantasy and science fiction.

It was an interesting discussion, although, for my taste, there was a bit too much about space ships and the computers that control them and not enough about sailing ships and dirigibles.  Still, I learned something.  Afterward, Redick was very generous with his time and signed a pile of my books while chatting with me for five or ten minutes.  

So, right now, before I go any farther, please take note.  Here are the books in Robert V S Redick's Chathrand Voyage series that have been published so far (one more volume is forthcoming):

If you haven't read these books, give yourself a treat and do so.  If you appreciate an exciting story told with skillful and compassionate writing, you will be well rewarded by these books.

I also had the opportunity to talk briefly with Connie Willis, another of my favorite authors.  I've mentioned before how nervous I get in situations where I'm meeting people I don't know, especially if I'm also asking them for something, like their signature on a book.  But Willis has a real knack for making me feel at my ease.  I mean, from what I've seen, she's that way with everyone.  And I appreciate it because there have been authors I've met who've acted like they can't wait to be done with a signing.  That's very disconcerting.  Fortunately, amongst all the authors I've met, those impatient ones are in the minority.  So thank you, kind people, for being kind.


One of the highlights of the convention was going to Connie Willis' reading of material from the first chapter of her new book, tentatively titled "The Road to Roswell".  It's an alien abduction story, and it's hilarious.  I'm really looking forward to it.

Aside from the one about ships, the other most interesting discussion I attended was a panel by three of the founding authors of Steampunk literature:  K W Jeter (who coined the term "steampunk" back in 1987), James P Blaylock, and Tim Powers. 

It was fun listening to them reminisce about how they came up with the stories that would become some of the seminal steampunk works, and to hear what they have planned for the future.  Some of the things they said were so interesting that I took a bunch of notes on my program.  Then, a few days after the convention was over, I cleaned out the book bag I had been using and threw away what I thought were a bunch of random papers.  So, yeah, I have no notes.  I do remember one thing James Blaylock said, though.  He said he wished the people who were interested in steampunk would read steampunk.  He says you go to a steampunk convention and in the dealers' hall there's maybe one table selling steampunk books and 40 tables selling jewelry.  I was in total agreement with his sentiment, so I guess that's why his is the one comment that stuck in my memory without benefit of notes.  If you've got an hour to spare, you can watch a video of this session here.

The World Fantasy Convention was an interesting experience and one I hope to repeat.  In fact, I'm making plans for Brighton in 2013.


The goose is getting fat

If anyone's thinking of getting me a Christmas present, here's my wish list.  Naturally it includes a number of books, but there are a few non-book items at the end of the list.
1.  Shakespeare's First Folio.  I know the Folger Library in Washington, DC, has quite a few copies.  Maybe they would sell one to you.

2.  The first edition of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.  I don't have just one favorite book ever, but if I had to choose just one on pain of death, I suppose I'd choose this one.

3.  The first edition of Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope.  Everyone should read this book.  Everyone should chip in together and get me the first edition of this book.

4.  Signed first editions of all the Tim books (there are 11) by Edward Ardizzone.  He is one of my favorite illustrators.  Looking at his pictures sometimes makes me want to cry.  I'm not sure if they would be tears of nostalgia or of appreciation, or both, but that's how it is.

5.  Jane Austen's writing desk.  You can find it at the British Library.

6.  A steampunk laptop computer.  You can order them here.

7.  The Nautilus Car.  It was created and built by Five Ton Crane, a group of artists in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I don't have to have this exact one, so if you don't want to deal with Five Ton Crane, you can build me one yourself.

Except for peace on earth, I guess that's all I want for Christmas this year.  Thanks in advance.


The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.

Wow, it's been half a year since I've updated my blog, and yet it seems like it's only been six months. I've been doing book-related things, though -- book signings, visits to famous libraries, the World Fantasy Convention -- and I will, for good or ill, share them here.

Most recently, I was in Utah for the release party of Brandon Sanderson's Alloy of Law. (I haven't read it yet; I have to finish two other books first.)

Naturally, Megan went with me. She's great company and we had fun playing Authors and eating snax. It was also nice to see Brandon Sanderson again.

While I was at Megan's house, Nathan came up to me and said, "Grandma, can we go to Barnes & Noble?" I tell you, someone is raising him right. Anyway, that reminds me: December 3 is "Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day". It's a new "day", and you can read about it here. I think it's a wonderful idea and I hope everyone participates, whether you take your own child, a grandchild, niece, nephew, brother, sister, godchild, whatever.

On 13 November, I celebrated Robert Louis Stevenson's birthday. That's kind of an annual thing for me. When the kids were little, I'd make shortbread and everyone would read a poem by RLS. I enjoyed it. This year, again, it was just Gary and I, so I read a poem to myself ("Windy Nights", my favorite) and shared the shortbread with him. I'm planning ahead for Jane Austen's birthday, though, when we'll be in Utah again, and can have a proper celebration.

I continue to attend my book groups, although I had to miss the RS book group because of a conflict. At the Library book group, though, I finally got a chance to use some of those leftover Dracula teeth I mentioned before. We were discussing Bram Stoker's Dracula, so it was a perfect opportunity to bring along a few sets of teeth.

Finally, I came across a book a few weeks ago, about Greek history and art and so forth, and on the cover was this statue:

The description inside said the Greeks used to make these depictions of humans with big eyes to show their awe when they looked upon the gods. But I think it's just a precursor of steampunk:

Seems pretty obvious to me.

Well, there's lots more to tell about, but it'll have to wait. I've got to catch up on my reading.


Remind me to give myself the Firefly Medal for this!

I had occasion the other day to review titles of Newbery medal and honor books, and it occurred to me that maybe the winning titles reflected either some observation about kids and their dreams and desires, or an ideal that the Newbery committee wished kids could attain. So I decided to count the instances of certain key words in the titles and I came up with the ideal Newbery child.

The Newbery kid owns or at least has access to a horse. There were six titles with horses in them. Cats and dogs tied for second with five mentions each (unless you take the title of Wanda Gág's 1929 opus, Millions of Cats, literally, in which case cats win paws down). Bunnies (or rabbits), bears, goats, and scorpions all tied farther down with two mentions apiece. I confess I'm a little disturbed by the scorpions.

The Newbery kid prefers nighttime illumination to come from the moon (four mentions) rather than the stars (three mentions). One might naturally conclude, therefore, that nocturnal adventures are to be preferred over diurnal ones, but the word "night" shows up only once, while there are four mentions of "day". No mention of the sun, however.

The Newbery kid prefers to hang out in the mountains (eight mentions). If the mountains are unavailable, the next best choice in geographical features is the island (six mentions). I suppose an island with a mountain on it would be perfect. There were a few less desirable locations that got one mention each: the fens, a volcano (but who'd want to live there?), and the devil's cave (but ditto?).

The Newbery kid loves rivers more than any other body of water. Rivers got five mentions, the ocean (or sea) got three, and lakes, two.

Many cities, from Paris to Birmingham, from Vancouver to Athens, are mentioned in Newbery book titles, but our ideal kid prefers New York over them all.

The Newbery kid prefers trees (five mentions) to any other plant material, and blue (four mentions) is the favorite color.

Ships (including sailboats) are the best method of transporting a Newbery kid. Other modes of transportation (roller skates, dragonwings, 21 balloons) sound intriguing, but are not very practical when one considers that our model child will most likely be living near a river (or possibly on an island). And don't forget, the kid also has access to a horse (or millions of cats).

A Newbery kid's favorite season is summer and favorite holiday is Christmas.

A Newbery kid's preferred occupation is either princess (three mentions) or king (again, three mentions). The third-most popular occupation is doctor (two mentions).

A Newbery kid's favorite food? Either strawberries, apples, maize (corn), soup, or waffles. And he or she prefers to drink out of a goblet. Or a cauldron, for those with larger appetites.

A Newbery kid's best weapon is a gun (either a musket, a matchlock gun, or a rifle), but the sword comes in second.
The Newbery kid likes to live (or at least hang out) in a house (four mentions). The next favorite dwelling is a bridge (two mentions), or such diverse places as the circus, a castle (good choice for the princess or king), a tomb (handy if you choose scorpions for a pet), an inn, or a graveyard.

The Newbery kid has a number of choices when it comes to making a fashion statement. Options include a dress, moccasins, pigtails, a crown, and a cross of lead.

Well, being a Newbery kid sounds pretty good to me. I wouldn't mind living in a tree-shaded house near a river with a horse (and a cat or a dog) to keep me company, a strawberry patch in the garden, and a boat to take me to town (or to the mainland). I wouldn't mind being a princess, as long as I was a deposed one, because I don't want the responsibility. I would enjoy watching the moon rise above the mountains during a perpetual summer. And I'd love a pair of moccasins.


A forty-two-inch flat-screen TV fell on her. She was killed instantly.

I read an article recently that talked about a trend where people are removing all the bookshelves from their living room or family room and replacing them with bars, cabinets, closets, and flat screen tvs. It's happening because people have all their books on an e-reader so they don't need the shelf space anymore.

At first I was a bit dismayed by this trend. Wild thoughts went through my head, like, first of all, it should be obvious that there's room for both bookshelves and flat screen tvs, or cd cabinets or whatever. Why do you think rooms have four walls? And, fourth of all, a wine refrigerator?! (My second and third thoughts of all will not be shared in this space.)

It reminds me of a really stupid e-reader ad I saw. This girl is reading a book and this guy is reading a Kindle or something. She says something to the effect that she prefers to read "real" books because she can read them in daylight. Then the guy says that the e-reader screen is such that it can be read in daylight, too. And he shows her. Then she says something else lame, and he counters it with something lamer. Then she says she can turn down the page of her book to mark her place, and he shows her how he can mark his place on his e-reader. Then she says "Yeah, but you don't get the physical pleasure of turning down the page." Then she pretends to make a big deal about dog-earing her book.

Okay, not only does the ad make people who prefer physical books look stupid, it uses a strawman argument. A book lover would be appalled at what she did. If she's going to go about moronically dog-earing books, then she shouldn't be allowed to handle them anyway. Someone should give her an e-reader already and put a stop to her defacing of books.

Then I remembered something I read recently in Shelf Awareness, a quote from Penguin CEO John Makinson: "There is a growing distinction between the book reader and the book owner. The book reader just wants the experience of reading the book, and that person is a natural digital consumer: Instead of a disposable mass market book, they buy a digital book. The book owner wants to give, share and shelve books. They love the experience. As we add value to the physical product, particularly the trade paperback and hardcover, the consumer will pay a little more for the better experience."

Except for wanting to replace "book owner" with "book lover", I agree with that statement. But to be clear, I personally have nothing against e-readers. I think they're fine for book readers. I think they're even fine for book owners/lovers to use on occasion as a supplement or for convenience. I also personally have nothing against people who drywall over their built-in bookcases. In fact, I think it's for the best. Working in a bookstore that depends solely on donations for its stock, I've seen the difference in treatment of books from book readers and book owners. When a book owner's collection comes into our store (because the owner has moved or, sadly, passed away), it is cause for rejoicing. The books are in very good condition and the selection is varied and interesting. When a book reader's collection comes into our store, there are times - more than you'd think - when we find that a huge part of it must be thrown out. I've seen box after box of books stinking and warped with cat piss, books with mouse droppings all over them, books inhabited by spiders and earwigs and silverfish, books coated with animal fur and dust and (once) dried grass cuttings, books with missing pages, moldy pages, scribbled-on pages, torn pages, chewed up pages. I'd much rather deal with a book owner's books than a book reader's.

So, yeah, I'm keeping my built-in bookshelves, and my shelves for cds and dvds, and one of these days I'm even going to get a flat screen tv. And they'll all be in the same room!


Don't get too conventional all at once, will you?

The Gaslight Gathering (official website here), held last weekend, was San Diego's first dedicated steampunk convention ever. As someone who easily developed an interest in steampunk culture (I think because of my interest in Victorian literature, films based on stories by Jules Verne, and goggles), I decided to participate.

First of all, it was an interesting visual experience. It was fascinating to see the different interpretations of the steampunk aesthetic:

Lots of people had rayguns of varying shapes and sizes

A Victorian/steampunk ghostbuster

Handy for yardwork or for defending yourself against zombies

Old West steampunk (which reminds me,
Cowboys and Aliens
is coming out this summer!)


A steampunk mobile communication device - right now he's texting

The wire from the gadget on his wrist connects to the telegraph key in back

Fun with electricity!

Another dangerous-looking appendage

Zombie butler

More wings: he made these retractable wings from cds and twist-ties

My favorite outfit: the steampunk sock monkey!

There was entertainment . . .

. . . including a concert and a dance, which I did not go to, a magic show, some belly dancers, a guy riding around on a velocipede, and demonstrations of (low voltage) electricity.

There were also various informative panels and author discussions. I went to a few of the panels, but mostly I was interested in the authors. I listened to their discussions and discovered some new suggestions to add to my list of steampunk books. I haven't read any of them yet, so I don't know how they are, but they do have high recommendations, and in the case of Anno Dracula, there's the proof of longevity: it's been around since 1992 or something, and just received a new printing.

Leanna Renee Hieber, who writes what she calls Gaslamp, as opposed to Steampunk

There are three books so far in her series about a group of Victorian ghostbusters

Dru Pagliassotti, author of several books, only one of which is steampunk

Her only steampunk book (so far); unfortunately, Clockwork Heart
is out of print, so you have to get it from a used book seller (which I did)

Kim Newman, who has written several Dracula books

This is, as I recall, the only one set in the Victorian
period and so qualifies as steampunk.

Kaja Foglio, co-writer and illustrator of the Girl Genius graphic
was also at the Gaslight Gathering. I failed to get
her photo, but here's one I took at WonderCon last month.

She and her husband, Phil, have written a book based on the
graphic novels. Although I got no photo, I did have
enough sense to get her to sign my copy.

I had a good time and plan to go again. I'm thinking I might even check out the steampunk convention in Seattle, which is considered by many to be the American capital of Steampunk. We shall see.