Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Guest Review -Observations & Conditions

I thought holding the first copy of my own book in my hands was a pretty exciting experience. But it just keeps getting better. I am making new acquaintances and getting new ideas and things to read. One of those new acquaintances is another aspiring poet with some real life experience, Marshall Armstrong. Marshall hails from southern Minnesota and has his own website: marshallbutcharmstrong.com. He was kind enough to read my poems and send me a very nice review.

What Marshall has to say about my poetry collections:

Painting pictures with words is not something easily done, nor is it often done well. But you have nailed it! That said, I have a confession. I didn't buy your books. I borrowed them... I read them both today and was very impressed. Some of your poems remind me of some of my own. The visuals you create are very real. Everyday things that we think, see and feel are brought forward. I could see the old house with the Asters and feel the pride of the Soccer Dad. I'd like to make one suggestion if I may. In Conditions, the photography is excellent. However, I wonder if it would work better if the photos matched up with the poems a little better. Perhaps a picture of dew on grass for "Dew" or a field of dandelions for "Dandelion" etc.

"Shed" is one of my favorites. It instantly reminded me of places I played and things I did as a child. "Honeysuckle Highway" is another. The use of sight and smell, especially smell, is very powerful. I have never been fond of Haiku. Often times people choose words simply to get the syllables right. I didn't see that in yours. It was very good.

Well, wish me luck. As soon as I have enough material I'm going to look at publishing. My work seems a bit darker than yours. I look at Social Issues that affect all of us, and sometimes those issues are not so pretty. I try to balance it out with stories about my dog or nature but I think some things need to be talked about... I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read your work... Thanks

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review - Witch and Wombat

Witch and Wombat is a fanciful little jaunt through the idea of a magical world connected to the mundane world and the further idea that the former derives its energy from the latter. In this case that energy is seriously depleted as the mundane is losing faith in dragons, fairies, and magic in general due to their burgeoning technological marvels.

However, hope is still alive in the form of the fantasy role-playing gamers. Enter Bentwood and his idea of taking fantasy gamers on real adventures in the magical world. So four gamers are chosen to go on an adventure with Hali the witch, their babysitter/guide and her familiar Bernie, normally a crow but for the adventure changed into a wombat because of "marketing analysis".

Of course nothing goes as planned with the monster unions go on strike and the Tooth Fairy leading an actual revolt. But our intrepid gamers, Hali, and Bernie make everything come out right in the end. Bentwood gets rave reviews for his "tour" and Hali gets the ugly hut she's been looking for.

This book is fluffy. It is not a dark swords and sorcery story nor does the plot have much depth. That said, it is easy to read and pleasant to read. It is recommended for someone who is looking for light fantasy but written for the mature reader (i.e. NOT the Jewel Kingdom or Droon).

Witch and Wombat is available in Kindle edition but is out of print currently (it was originally published in 1994 by Warner). There are plenty of second-hand copies available online (we even have ours up on Biblio.com for $3.77, free shipping).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Don't lose sight of the People

As the holidays approach and the gadget commercials and the want-its get more strenuous, two poems that look to the uniqueness of being a person.


I like to see the eyes of my opponent
I like them to know I’m there
I like it when I watch the hope
Of victory fade from their eyes

I like to see the triumph played out
And the agony of defeat
I like to watch the satisfaction
Of a victory well-won

No vindictiveness, no taunting
No “trash-talking”, no “head games”
Play hard, play to win
But remember, it’s only a game

For the fun is in playing well
And the fun is in the challenge
The fun is in a worthy opponent
And in learning a new stratagem

Smile and laugh and do your best
Come back and play again
Life’s too short to hassle on it
But I want to see you play.


I see them hurry, hurry, hurry,
To get the newest Things;
Keeping to the Cutting Edge.
When they pull out the Newest
Everyone else will gawk and ooh
Attention then surely gathers
But it is all about the Thing.
What do I know about Them,
And what do they know of I?
Take away the gadgets; try.
‘Cause when the Thing’s the Thing
As Asimov and Clarke had writ
Look over your shoulder, son,
Humanity’s lost a bit.
Take away my gadgets,
Look deep into my core,
Find out who I am, sir,
Invest some time, explore
The things that make us us
Without the bells and whistles
Surely you will find, my friend,
Amid the warts and thistles,
A much more interesting whole
A person, unique in all the world.
So find the time to strip away
These modern day designs
Spend some old-fashioned time
To find out who is Who.
Never let the Things take over;
Always keep control
By knowing what is human, man,
By knowing how I roll.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Free Kindle Promotion

Friday, December 7 through Sunday, December 9, my book of poetry, Observations, will be FREE on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Observations-ebook/dp/B009DU8PSM/.

Normally $2.99 in Kindle and $5.99 in Paperback. Our first book, Conditions, which is illustrated with beautiful color photos by Karen O'Malia, is also available on Amazon. Contact me directly if you'd like a signed copy of the paperback for either volume.

Thank you for your support.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Back Titles for Xmas Redux

A few months ago I noted that I have been trying to work through a backlog of books in inventory for my online shops that have not yet been uploaded. This is a time-consuming process since I touch each book to make sure of its condition, including loose pages and marks, before uploading.

Now, these are not the cutting edge, just published books being marketed by the publishers. Often they are the older titles of currently popular authors. Recent case in point - over the past two weeks I have uploaded over 30 titles for James Patterson, 20 for Diana Palmer, and an astounding 100 titles for Nora Roberts.

Many prolific romance authors are also featured, though none to the degree of Ms. Roberts. Catherine Coulter has over 30 titles, as does Janelle Taylor,  Linda Lael Miller and others. I also have reasonable selections of "classic" juvenile fiction series - The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, Sweet Valley, Baby-Sitters Club. Thriller and mystery authors seem to be, as a whole, less prolific but many big names are available as well - Robert Parker, Sue Grafton, Clive Cussler, Nelson DeMille, Dick Francis, Tom Clancy and many more.

For someone who likes these authors (or any of the hundreds of authors we have back titles for) a gift of a title they haven't yet read originally published 5, 10, or even 20 years ago, is a thoughtful, inexpensive, practical gift. One year I even presented an avid reader with a box full of probably 50 paperback mysteries. It was a mix of authors she was familiar with and new authors and provided her with hundreds of hours of enjoyment over the course of the next year.

So, if you have a reader on your holiday list and you want to give them something inexpensive, as an additional stocking stuffer or small gift, consider a back title of a favorite author. Our Biblio account for FindRomanceToRead (http://www.biblio.com/bookseller_search.php?terms=findromance) has over 30,000 titles, many under $4.00, all with free shipping.

Happy holidays to everyone and Good Reading!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My second book of poetry is available in Kindle version (on Amazon) and in paperback everywhere (you may have to order it at brick and mortar shops). This one is just poems and continues the contemplative, observational, calming, style of Conditions.

Also available in other formats on Smashwords.com (10/10/13).

Of course you can preview on Amazon, but here are a couple further into the book:

Little Bird

Little bird, where do you go
When the rain beats down
And the wind does howl and blow?
It can’t be far; you’re always out
As soon as the sun
Returns and the kids begin to shout.
Your tiny voice is so very loud;
When you leave there’s silence.
So I’m happy to see a break in cloud,
Knowing you’ll soon be back!

Passed By

It’s coming!
Wind picking up, gusting, cool.
Clouds piling up, darkening.
The birds excited, racing about.
Thunder rumbling, deep and throaty,
Still distant.
It’s coming!
The wind swirls; you almost
Taste the rain coming.
The trees bend and sway
As the thunder comes closer
And the birds disappear.
It’s coming!
A patch of blue?
The clouds streaming by, breaking up
Thunder less distinct
Wind suddenly weaker
Where’d it go?
Passed us by.

The Bog
 Limpid pools of dark oily water
Call with enchantment strong
As magic can be.
Frogs skitter at the edges
Disturbed by boys’ silent noisy progress.
Muck sucks joyously
At sneakers filling them
With sulfurous black goo.
Spiders hang dangerously close
To the surface, barely visible
In the mystic gloom.
Treasures lurk just below the surface –
Beer cans, half their labels dissolved,
Husks of bottle rockets, and even,
To the lucky, a mud-sodden baseball.
Mom won’t like the treasures
Or the pieces of bog
Tenaciously carried home.
But nothing she says can stay the lure
Of the dim, smelly, bog.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sandy (and no power, heat, light) - We Ain't Gonna Miss Ya!

I was ten days without power and heat in the "superStorm" aftermath. I know people still out and people who lost everything, swept away in the storm surge or smashed by trees falling or uprooted. It is oft said but intimately observed in the past two weeks by me personally, that trying times bring out both the best and the worst in people.

The below, in chronological order, are personal poetic snapshots. Hopefully we all learn a little from this and avoid the severity in the future.

Hurricane Sandy

The wind rolls up in waves.
The roar starts out low and builds
Whipping the trees and bushes
Into a frenzy as it peaks and lingers
The suddenly fades away
Only to begin the cycle anew.

The frenzy starts with a gentle swaying
Back and forth in one dimension
Then, as the wave crests, spreads
To every direction in a madcap dance,
Only to fade to a stiff quivering
As the wave of air recedes.

The sound is my favorite;
It encompasses the whole –
The muffled beginning,
The rapid build-up,
The climactic crescendo,
The equally rapid decline.

Then there is the presence of danger
At the peak, the frenzy’s max,
Will the branches or trunks snap
In the incredible frenetic dance
Or will they recover to face the next
Burst and dance once more?


Waiting It Out

Motors thrum a steady background beat
While inside no dance, no light, no heat.
Hurricane’s come and done her worst
Recovering slowly, we’re not the first.
For a few it was deadly, for others, total loss
For most inconvenience, disruption, emotional cost
And now the recovery, unknown progress
Waiting’s the worst of it, can’t trust the press.
Lines for blocks at the rumor of gas
The kindness of strangers, the rude horse’s ass
The best and the worst in a person comes out
You see it all when you’re out and about.
Not worth crying over; falling into a pout.
Move on, make the best of it, this too shall pass.
Nothing worth fighting over, don’t bring out your brass;
It’s a difficult time for all, remember the worst off
When you complain you have it so tough.
No cable TV, or internet? Some people still sit
Buried under blankets, cold meals, lights unlit.
Linesmen working overtime; many from far away
The fault is not theirs, working day after day.
Maybe the execs, and the big utility boards,
Should have planned better, or fall on their swords.
But for the individual, caught in the mess
Do your best, know your limits, pass the test
By making it through, staying healthy and sane
Good, solid decisions, despite the annoying pain.


Stupid Is

The gas! The gas! It will never return!
Race to the station.
Wait on the line, engine idling,
For hours.
Just to top off the tank.
Because it may be
The last
On Long Island!
Or not.
Every day
More power to the stations,
More tankers to the terminals,
Trucks delivering more every day.

Another storm is bearing down!
It will bring devastation
And the end of the world!
Or at least
More outages
And shortages
And hardship.
Or not.
This one’s just a regular storm
Like hundreds of previous storms.
Nothing special except
In the minds
Of the media
And the cold and the homeless
And the tired.

Myths and Gods
The storm had passed
Leaving loss and waste
And a darkness, black
Against which stand back
The stars in bright relief.
You feel the Greek belief
In their myths and their gods
Without our technical clods.
Closer to the best of nature
Even in the midst of disaster.


Haiku 32
Trunks smashed and splintered
Wires tangled and twisted and down
Awaiting repair

Haiku 33

Small warbler singing
Jumble of uprooted tree
Recovery begins



A child wandered through the devastation
Her mother holding her hand at a sharp elevation
She wanted to know why so many trees fell
And why the garbage had such a terrible smell
Then she found a thin, long, bare-branched bough
And fancied it her memory of the great event
She snatched it up and dragged it home, a moment;
Captured in the object, cast aside by the storm
Summing up her loss and confusion and scorn.
Because it had been fun and terrifying and awesome
And Mommy and Daddy never let the gruesome
Protrude into the excitement and questioning
And so the branch was her silent mentioning
Bare like the shelves when batteries they seek
Thin like the keening of the wind at the peak
And branched like the rest of her life.

Nor'easter After

Snow falls in dangerous beauty
On the fragile survivors.
Sharp winter in soft white clarity
Missed in the misery of "others".

The 47 percent and the 1 percent
Lost in the powerless 30 percent.
Gas lines and travel, psychotic breaks
With gentle, pretty, hexagonal flakes.

It is said, this too will pass
If you survive, you will be stronger
But while the snow is falling fast
Please make the dark be no longer!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Jack Higgins, Tony Hillerman, and Linda Howard

I've been spending some time working through the "old" inventory from my closed brick and mortar shop, trying to fill in the inventory. For simplicity I am rolling through the books alphabetically by author. I just finished the "H's".

This, of course, led me to wonder who these authors were, especially those that had a lot of titles that I had not read. Three of those are Jack Higgins, Tony Hillerman, and Linda Howard.

Jack Higgins is a pseudonym of the British author Harry Patterson, who has more than 60 novels to his credit, mostly thrillers. Higgins' breakthrough novel was The Eagle Has Landed published in 1975. This novel features recurring protagonist Liam Devlin and was about a fictitious commando raid by the Germans in World War II to capture Winston Churchill. His last series featured Sean Dillon, a former Irish terrorist, and is set in recent times, starting with the publication of Eye of the Storm in 1992.

Tony Hillerman wrote 18 mysteries featuring Navajo tribal policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. All of them are set primarily in the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. Hillerman draws heavily on Navajo culture in his novels providing a unique approach to the genre.

Linda Howard is a pseudonym of Linda Howington. She is a founding member of the Romance Writer's of America and was first published in the Silhouette Desire series in 1982. To date she has written over 50 novels and has expanded significantly from her original "serial" romance to include historical romance, contemporary romance and romantic suspense.

Between these three authors my inventory includes over 60 titles, not nearly all of what they have written but a good selection. These and over 30,000 others at biblio.com: http://tinyurl.com/83rz2of


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall is in the Air

Fall is in the Air (at least in New York)
Still getting used to the idea that the people who read this may, even if reading it the same day I write it, be in a completely different season than I am.
Anyway, here in New York, where I am, it has felt like early fall the past week or so, with temperatures in the 70s (Fahrenheit, low 20s Celcius), mild breezes, and a nice sun with puffy cumulus clouds. It has been very pleasant, with cool mornings and evenings and no rain to speak of. The leaves on the trees are still green, so summer isn’t really over but the hint is there.
Just around the corner are the bright colors of full autumn foliage, crisp morning air, where the frost is a short distance away, kids are busy with school and the myriad of activities that seem to be the modern schoolkid’s life, and the animals in constant motion, either preparing for the coming winter or preparing for a trip to warmer climes. In short, it’s a time of heightened activity and constant change compared to the summer where the heat and humidity can cause a lethargy and the number of “required” activities feels smaller, even if it may really not be.
 Once school starts one becomes instantly aware of the upcoming holidays. Here, in metropolitan New York, they parade at a pace to ease the kids along the school calendar – Rosh Hoshannah, Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas; enough for the children to have something to look forward to, outside the normal routine.
From a bookseller perspective it provides both opportunities and headaches. Opportunities because the holiday-themed books sell much better near the holiday and headaches because you need to try to adjust things quickly and constantly, hopefully when the customers are looking for it.
For example, as Halloween approaches, you want to make sure the back titles of the likes of Stephen King and Peter Straub (for adults) and R. L. Stine (Goosebumps) and all the series themed Halloween books (Arthur, Franklin, Sesame Street, etc.) for kids are up and, if possible, prominently featured. But as soon as one holiday is done you need to get the next holiday’s themed books up in rotation.
And, of course, if you are also holding down a full time "real" job and getting into the holidays yourself...

All that being said it is an exciting time and one filled with plenty of projects and opportunities. My best wishes to everyone to enjoy the holidays as they roll in one after the next. I knwo I am going to enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Two (very) short stories

I’ve been a parent for over half my life, now. While that is not very remarkable, it does serve as an introduction. I like the job. It has a lot of aspects to it and I don’t do all of them well but it is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Like most parents, I’ve grown into the job with time and know I am a better parent now than when the first child was born. One of the things I’ve learned is to be active IN the lives of my kids. Today’s post is 2 (very) short stories on that theme of participating IN the life of your child.


       Wexler studied the terrain through the cracks between the boulders
behind which he sat, propped against a flat slab of granite. His tan
polo shirt was plastered with sweat; a stray oak leaf stuck in his
short gray hair.
      The late afternoon sun dappled the scene in a deceptively peaceful
pattern.  Somewhere out there was the shooter who had barely missed a
few short minutes ago. Wexler saw nothing out of the ordinary.
      Undergrowth disturbed only by the slight movement of the wind, trees
likewise gently and naturally moving.  A sparrow landed in a bush 50
feet away and noisily burst into conversation.
      Wexler carefully levered himself up and through a slightly larger gap
between the rock and moved quickly another 30 feet behind a clump of
chokecherries. Just that short burst brought more sweat and hastened
his breathing – damn, he was more out of shape than he thought.
      Peering through the chokecherries he saw a cardinal’s brilliant red
plumage suddenly burst out of hiding in a stately elm and two smaller,
more nondescript birds at the same time from the same tree. Tracing
the line of the trunk to the ground he saw what he hoped: a human
figure clad head-to-toe in a camouflage jumper.
      Wexler crawled to a clump of new maples and drew up onto his knees in
a small depression behind them, bringing his gun up to his shoulder.
Just one mistake, he breathed to himself. The figure in camo was on
the move, cautiously edging from one tree to the next, a few long
strides at a time, forty feet away, thirty.
      The figure suddenly halted and swung its gun up. Wexler fired, center,
left, right, and rolled to his left, came up to a crouch, and raced 15
feet to another clump of maple saplings. Shots spattered his hiding
place and peppered the undergrowth in his trail. He fired another pair
of shots blindly and went to ground, counting slow five before raising
his head ever so slightly.
      His antagonist was barely visible behind a full-grown maple not ten
feet from Wexler’s previous position. Wexler dropped his head and
counted another five before peeking once more above the leaf litter
and grass.
      The figure in camo was inching along Wexler’s back trail, gun at the
ready in a deep crouch, carefully placing one foot forward making sure
to make no sound. Wexler eased his gun to a firing position just as
the other figure loosed three shots.  Wexler dropped the gun and
raised both hands over his head as he stood up slowly, then dropped
his right hand to clean the paint from his visor.
      The figure in camo reached one hand to pull the helmet off, revealing
a pretty, strawberry blonde of probably half Wexler’s 35 years. She
smiled. “Too slow, Dad!”
      Wexler laughed and took his daughter’s hand as they walked together
back to the staging area to go home.


He just made a spectacular play
Determination and skill on display
From deep inside the pride swells over
But the impact! He’s hurt his shoulder.
The striker’s still down, his knee
The keeper waves off assistance, see.
He won the battle and despite the bruise
There’s a lot of game left so he’ll refuse
To show even a smidgen of weakness
It’s that macho, leadership toughness.
Now they’re carrying off the striker
While the keeper stretches out his shoulder
And what of me, what to do?
The pride of the play but concern too.
How hurt is he really, behind the motion?
Is it a drop or the whole ocean?
Play resumes and I watch closely
Fortunately it seems to be mostly
A discomfort not an agony
Not like the striker’s knee.
Oh, the dichotomy of a dad
Loving the good but dreading the bad.
So proud he’s growing up.
So sad he’s growing up.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romance Novels - A General Discussion

All my previous posts have been personal observations and non-commercial. This one is different, in a way. This one is targeted specifically to helping sales at my various pre-read book outlets, but it is also a(n) (interesting?) personal story.
When I owned an actual brick and mortar (funny thing is, it WAS made of brick and mortar) used book store, the majority of sales were romance novels of one subtype or another. Probably 60-70% of the inventory and in-store sales were romance. Until I bought the store I knew nothing of the genre, its writers, publishers, history, nothing.
But I would talk with my customers and learned what they liked and why. I also developed a business relationship with Harlequin, THE biggest publisher in the genre. I now consider myself the most expert straight men on the subject of the people I know.  Perhaps one day I’ll finish editing my “History of the Bodice-Ripper” and publish it.
As with most everything you learn because you choose to, I have enjoyed the process. I also have enjoyed the conversations I have had, with stronger and stronger grasp of the topics, with readers. I still prefer, personally, to read what would be dubbed more manly fiction – historical yarns like the Age of Sail in the previous blog, or thrillers/mysteries like John D. MacDonald and westerns like Louis L’Amour and Luke Short.
Surprisingly (not!) I still have a very large inventory of romance novels, all subgenres, dating from the 1960s to about 2007 with any selection (only scattered titles after that).  This includes significant selections of serial romance novels (generically known as harlequins, even though published by many labels).
Some examples:
I have 29 titles written by Robyn Donald, 32 by Anne Mather, 25 by Lisa Jackson, and 25 by Diana Palmer.  I have literally hundreds of titles in the main series: Harlequin Romance, Silhouette Romance, Special Edition, Desire, Loveswept, etc. And I have hundreds, if not thousands, of “stand-alone” titles from Daphne du Maurier through Barbara Cartland to Nora Roberts and Luanne Rice.
If this is an area of interest to you and you are missing one or more back titles, please browse along. At least on the Biblio account linked here there is free shipping and a coupon for 50 cents off your second and subsequent books on one order.
Pleasant reading!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Captain Monsoon by Victor Suthren

Just finished reading Victor Suthren’s naval yarn, Captain Monsoon, originally published in 1993. This is book 4 in Suthren’s Mainwaring series and is set in the Indian Ocean in 1744.

I cut my Age of Fighting Sail reading teeth on the Bolitho series of Alexander Kent as they came out in the 1970s and have loved C. S. Forester’s classic Hornblower series as well. Most recently I “sailed” through James L. Nelson’s Biddlecomb series. No other series has grabbed me such that I’ve ravenously read through them, though I do keep trying.
Suthren’s book started out well with good characters and an interesting plot line. The first 180 pages or so are very good. However, it ended fantastically with three tiny ships attacking and defeating a squadron including a line-of-battle ship in a driving monsoon.  Another 80 pages to develop the end and come up with a more plausible scenario would have made this a much better book.

I'll try Suthren again (he also has a second series and some nonfiction) but this one was not in the same league as Forester and Kent.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Feathered Neighbors

Despite always having an outdoor cat, I always have birds either just visiting or actively foraging in my back yard. Two in particular are identifiable repeat visitors and have definite personalities.
One is a female cardinal. I am not sure if she also has a nest in the area but she comes to visit almost every morning and most evenings. She is fearless, often perching on a camp chair only five feet from the lounging cat and ten feet from the back door. She is also very talkative, carrying on a running soliloquy aimed first at the cat and then at me. She looks directly at one or the other, bobs her head, flashes her tail as she speaks. After ten to fifteen minutes she flies off but has been known to come back two or three times in the course of an evening.
The second is a catbird. It is a little more timid, tending to perch on the fence another ten feet or so from the camp chair the cardinal uses. He is also a little less talkative and not so direct. He seems to be talking just for the sake of talking and can be looking in any direction, even have his back turned, as he talks. Like the cardinal though he will stay for fifteen minutes at a time and often comes back once or twice in the course of a morning of evening.
Neither bird seems to be looking for food and mating season is well past. They just seem to like the company and the ambiance. The cat occasionally looks in their direction but has not once moved toward either bird, sometimes ambling away when he gets bored. If I get up and move around, even to the doorway, neither bird flinches. They will only move off if I actually come through the door and then only if I move toward them. Otherwise they are perfectly happy to keep talking from their favored spots.
I am sure some of the smaller birds, finches, sparrows and the like, are repeat visitors too but they are not unique enough for me to identify them and they rarely stay more than a minute. There is a blackbird who comes by every morning. I can hear him sing. But he never gets close enough to see clearly – I think he’s well up in the next door maple.
I know they are not “special” birds and certainly not uncommon species; nothing a true birdwatcher would get excited about. But they, especially the cardinal and the catbird, are neighbors to me. Frequent visitors with personalities both they and I understand and with an implicit agreement to enjoy each other’s company, if only for a few minutes most days.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


This morning I published my first ebook, a collection of poems titled Conditions, illustrated with photos taken by my friend Karen O'Malia. I have been working on the collection for about 5 months. But the excitement I felt this morning upon publication was out of all proportion to my expectations.

I have no illusions of the small electronic tome being a million-seller. In fact, at this point, I don't care if I sell any. The journey to create it and format it and actually push the button and see it available for purchase was so enjoyable and the rush of seeing it as an actual publication so large, the rest is gravy.

It was wonderful to collaborate with Karen, with whom I have been friends for well over half my life. It was also fun to get feedback from people I was both close with and others who were just casual acquaintances but who had some experience with publishing or editing or writing.

While in the formatting and pre-publishing phases I continued to work on more poems and am about a third of the way toward another volume. Generally, I think, they are getting better. But the most fun is writing them and talking about them and showing them and getting feedback.

I certainly hope I sell a few copies. I know I'll write more.

Friday, March 9, 2012

1962 and Literature

1962 was a very good year for literature. We've already profiled Ken Kesey and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Other outstanding works include Madeline L'Engle's timeless (pun intended) classic juvenile science fiction story A Wrinkle in Time. I read that one as an eleven-year-old, one of the first true science fiction books I ever read. Needless to say I've read many more since.

Another fiction work from 1962 was Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. A dark and unconventional story, it too was has stood teh test of time and was recently on a best 1000 books of all time list. I read that one at twelve and have recently re-read it. Thoroughly enjoying it both times.

Finally, in the realm of nonfiction icons, stands Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Also first published in 1962 and just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. Just look at the environmental disasters in China in the name of industry and profit.

I encourage anyone to read these classic pieces and share their insights with friends and neighbors.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two Classic 50-Year-Olds

One of two classic humorous, yet with dark undertones, turns 50 this year.

Ken Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest based on his experiences as an employee in a psychiatric ward. His book, and the subsequent movie starring Jack Nicholson, captured the institutional madness (pun intended) of the psychiatric asylum system.

The book is an engrossing read, one of the first books I couldn’t put down. The movie is a classic, being inaugurated as one of the 100 best movies of all time in 1991.

The second book, also 50 years old, is Catch-22, the crazy anti-war book which coined a new term in the English lexicon from its title alone. It was another book I could not put down when I first read it in the early 1970s.

Both are highly recommended. Their story and their message are as valid now as then. And their writing is phenomenal.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reading is Hard

I had a conversation with a friend of mine one morning. Her son was an excellent reader from early on and continues to read a lot and to enjoy what he reads. Her daughter is a different story. She finds reading difficult and does not get much enjoyment from it. The question my friend asked was which came first – the lack of enjoyment or the difficulty. In my experience, the two things come together.

If reading is difficult, and we are not talking about kids whose test scores are even necessarily low, they try fewer things to read. The things given in classes to read, despite the best efforts of the teachers, are generally not interesting to kids. Now the student has a double whammy – it’s hard and it’s not interesting. This quickly becomes a vicious circle. The student only reads what is required, which is not interesting, so they think reading is not interesting and not worth exploring outside school.

My son was in this camp until he found something, by accident, that he liked. Now he will read the topics he enjoys voraciously. He has become a better reader and it is no longer as difficult and he is more likely to try reading new things. 

The moral to the story seems to be keep trying. If it’s not interesting in the first 10 pages, don’t worry but don’t force it. Encourage your kids to read different things but don’t make it onerous. They will find something. Eventually. And it will open the door for them. That door is just more carefully hidden for some than for others.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Back to Youth

I was a voracious reader when I was a kid, literally hundreds of books a year. Now that I'm more mature it is interesting to go back and re-read what I thought was prime literature at the time, or even read a book I wanted to but didn't back then. Since they are written for kids they take hardly any time to read.

One of the latter category is Lloyd Alexander. Best known for his Prydain Chronicles series he also wrote a series of adventures featuring Vesper Holly as well as many others. I must admit to enjoying them. The Vesper series is humorous even today with its historical references to Victorian mores and custom but with a very modernist tilt.

To Kill a Mockingbird was my favorite book and, I am pleased to say, has passed the test of time. It is still my favorite. Another set that also passes the test of time is anything by Ruth Chew. I highly recommend them to any child who is interested in history and adventure.

One that I was not interested in as a youth and still have not plunged into but was incredibly popular is the V. C. Andrews series. I do have a friend who has recently re-read many and she says they still hold her interest even almost 30 years on.

Happy Reading!