Sunday, December 25, 2005

I'm in Cyberspace - for a Second Time!

Blogging hasn't produced a book deal yet, but it has conjured up a column. I've been a devote of BookThink site for some time and Craig, the editor asked if I'd be interested in writing for him. My second submission appeared today and the editor had some very nice things to say! Talk about the perfect Christmas Present!

You can find it, and the comments on the Book Think site , however since it appeared in Craig's freebie newsletter I can also include it on my blog.

Witches, Mice and Cats - Oh My!

When it comes to children’s books it is not Lions, Tigers and Bears - Oh My!
Instead it’s Witches, Mice and Cats- Oh Yes!

There is something about these three subjects, be they in a picture book or a fiction / chapter book that usually guarantees a sale. A "chapter book" for those who do not hang around school libraries is a child’s novel, called a "chapter book" or a "fiction book" to differentiate it from a picture book. Not only do they appeal to the collectors of children's literature and baby boomers bent on nostalgia but they are also tempting to people who collect anything witch, cat and mice related. Any picture or chapter book with a copyright date prior to 1963 is worth up if picking up the subject is witches, mice or cats and the book is in decent shape.

When it comes to witches, the wee ones rule. Little Witch, a chapter book by Anna Elizabeth Bennett will easily net you $50 on E-bay. Avoid the "I Can Read" series with the same title by Deborah Hautzig. The Littlest Witch by Jeanne Massey is another book you'd love to have fly into your bag. Weeny Witch by Ida DeLage is also a winner. DeLage wrote a series of picture books about an old witch that sometimes do well and sometimes do not. Then there is Little Left Over Witch by Florence Laughlin. This one is copyright 1978, which again proves that when it comes to bookselling all rules of thumb have their exceptions.

Patricia Coombs wrote numerous picture books about a little witch named Dorrie - snatch any that come your way. Prices vary widely, but a copy of Dorrie's Magic, the first in series just sold for $295.00 on E-bay. It didn't seem to matter that it was ex-library, had been rebound and was quite shabby.
Sally Watson is the author of Witch of the Glens - another that will easily sell for over $100. There is a paperback reprint, but her die-hard fans want a hardback. She wrote historical fiction; keep an eye out for her.

Witch on a Motorcycle by Marian Frances and Blue Nosed Witch by Margaret Embry do not command terribly high prices but they are tried and true sellers.

Of course old and ugly witches abound too. The Old Black Witch series by Wende and Harry Devlin is the top seller. The Develin's also wrote a series of holiday picture books - Cranberry Thanksgiving, Cranberry Halloween, Cranberry Christmas and so on so be on look out for them too. Librarians tend to weed by letter of the alphabet so you'll often several books by the same author piled next to each other at a FOL sale.

The queen of the Mice books is Mousekin by Edna Miller. Again, there are many in this series so don't pass up any of them. The Holy Grail is Mousekin's Golden House, in which Mousekin goes to live in a Halloween pumpkin. It will definitely top $50 and if you are lucky enough to find a really clean copy you're holding a three figure sale in your hands. There are assorted other Mousekins, most with a holiday theme. No matter the title, never pass up the royal little mouse.

Rumer Godden, a very prolific author of adult and children's books claims a couple of mouse books to her credit - Mouse House and Mouse Wife. Graham Oakley wrote the Churchmice series in the 1980s, he is currently out of print and many of his books sell in the $20+ range. Oakley very common at the library sales. The books are now 20 -25 years old, which puts them right smack in the weeding rotation.

Jill Barklem is the author of the Brambley Hedge series. Set, in the England these feature little mice in seasonal adventures. Some aren't worth much, but do well in lots, other titles - The Collected Works, The Baby Mice of Barmbley Hedge sell for $20 and more. Barklem spilled over into bric brac so when you are trolling the thrifts and estate sales keep an eye out for mugs and other assorted china pieces Her style is somewhat similar to Beatrix Potter, author of the Peter Rabbit books.

Beatrix Potter, by the way is now in the public domain and is not worth bothering with unless you stumble across a first edition, something that is unlikely to occur at a FOL sale.

The Basil of Baker street series are regaining their popularity. Written by Eve Titus in the late 1950s, early 1960s they are about a mouse size Sherlock Holmes. These have double appeal since Sherlock Holmes collectors want him too.

I do realize I have omitted the most famous mouse of all - Mickey Mouse. He falls under Disneyana, not mice so I will leave him for a Disney expert.

When it comes to cats, even folks who never bother with kiddie lit know that a first edition of The Cat in the Hat will put food on the table for many, many months. However, the points on a Dr. Seuss book are complicated to extreme and way beyond my knowledge base. If you are lucky enough to find one, contact Craig. Quickly.

For the rest of us there is Esther Averill and her Jenny and the Cat Club series. Jenny and the Fire Cat was a Weekly Reader book club book and is common as dirt but the others are collectible. Prices have fallen a bit since some of her titles are once again in print but she is still a strong seller. As a rule, never buy Weekly Reader Book Club Books - they are to children's books what BOMC books are to adult book sellers.
Carbonel, King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh has also been reprinted (reprints are the bane of my existence) but there is a still a market for the original edition. Once again, her other books are also collectible - she wrote a couple about witches and magic too. There is a sequel to Carbonel, Carbonel and Calibor which blessedly is still out of print.

Artist Peggy Bacon wrote childrenÂ’s books to pay the rent, and The Ghost of Opalina, written in 1967 would easily pay part of yours. I once found a copy in a thrift shop, bought it strictly because it had a cat on the cover and sold it on E-bay for $150. She is also the author of The Good American Witch, which does not go for what Opalina does but it will pay for a good meal in a nice restaurant. Look for Peggy Bacon among the art books too - she has quite following among print collectors.

Have you discerned a pattern that many folks who write witch books also write cat books and sometimes they combine the two in one story? Ruth Chew did that.. She is the author of the Would Be Witch, Witch's Buttons, Wednesday Witch, The Witch's Cat and more along the same line. She is not as sought after as she once was, but does well in lots, even in paperback.

As with any book, a first, with a dust jacket not ex-library will net you the highest price. Nevertheless, as with all children's books ex-library copies are often the only copies out there so do wander by the childrenÂ’s book section at the next Friend of the Library Book Sale.
Remember your mantra is "Witches, Mice and Cats - Oh Yes!"

December 25, 2005

A Happy Holiday to All and to All a Good Day (and Good Night).

This has been an eventful year and I'm thankful for everyone whose blog I read and for everyone who reads mine. My life has been enriched a thousandfold.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Dreaded Christmas Letter

This is the year I choose just which parts of the Holiday Season I wanted to observe. I love getting Christmas Cards and I love Christmas letters - they are so addictive so I wrote one and send cards to the women on my Besty Tacy List.
Dec, 2005

“When I am an old woman I will wear purple”
Write Christmas letters!

I don’t feel old, but according to Madison Avenue I am. To make up for not being a desirable advertising base I shall consol myself by composing the dreaded Christmas Epistle.

2005 was a year of milestones. Christine and Katherine both graduated from college in May. In typical fashion, they picked colleges 1,500 miles apart and said colleges scheduled their graduations on the same day. We elected to attend Christine’s in San Antonio. Lana is a graduate of Trinity and never thought she would have a legacy. Their father went to Miami. Katherine is going on to Graduate school so we told her we would catch her at the Master’s level.

Afterwards, Katherine moved to Fort Lauderdale to begin work on her Master’s in Marine Biology at NOVA University. She has a job and an active social life and despite having endured
Hurricane Wilma still adores South Florida.

Christine heeded the call of “Go West Young Girl” and packed car, baggage and cat and moved to Los Angeles. In the space of a month, she had an apartment and a job with benefits. . She’s poor, thanks to low starting salaries and the astounding cost of living in Los Angles. However, her job comes with liberal travel benefits and she is having a good time. She did tell me that life consists of getting up, going to work, coming home, going to bed, getting up, going to work, and repeat and repeat and repeat. I told her that is what being an adult is all about.

Much to everyone’s amazement Lana sold both her motorcycle and her SUV. She now drives a sporty sedan and would if she could, play golf 24/7. She is busy rebuilding the Texas Medical Center and enjoys her job, except when the alarm clangs in the morning.

I am at the “can’t change jobs because I need my pension” stage of life, but luckily, I still like my job, though it is exhausting. Trust me, teachers need all those breaks and holidays we get Bookselling on Amazon keeps me busy and I opened up an E-bay store this fall. My blog is still current and I am finding great satisfaction in honing my writing skills. It is as eclectic as I am and can be found at http://www.http:/

In June I offered to help a bookseller who was very ill pack up some books. Things snowballed and when she died in October, I’d learned more about cancer, hospice, , home health care and courage than I ever thought possible. While it is not something I care to repeat anytime soon, it is also one I feel privileged to have been a part of. I also meet yet another big hearted internet community and enriched my life with some new friends.

All our traveling was stateside this year. We went to Duluth, Minnesota and had a lovely visit with a couple we’d meet on the motorcycle trip we took in 2004. We had our first look at the Great Lakes and got to wear sweaters in June. July took us to North Carolina for the every 5 year family reunion – our first since my father died. We had some mis-adventures with B&Bs and fell in love with the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. My E-bay bookselling pal and I made assorted book buying trips to such exciting towns as Waco Port Arthur and Boerne.

The days and weeks seem to speed by faster and faster – yet another symptom of growing older but not up (to quote the Bard, Jimmy Buffet). Considering how quickly this year flew by, 2006 should be gone in the blink of an eye.

We hope it brings you much joy and happiness.

The Stages of Christmas

Being off work gives me the time to muse and ponder. We appear to at the time of our life where we are having an "Un Christmas".

When you are child Christmas is the high point of the year. You can't wait, you listen for Santa Claus, you help pick out the perfect tree and thrill at the sight of the ornaments reappearing each year. Christmas is cookies, carols, presents all add up to total and utter excitement.

You go to college and Christmas means going home, sleeping late and relaxing. Yes, the tree and ornaments are important but so is sleeping late, eating your Mom's cooking, catching up with all your friends and of course presents ( you fervently hope for some of the green folding kind).

Then there is "Our First Christmas" together. You put up a tree, by your first ornaments, shop for the perfect present and cook your first Christmas dinner. Much to your amazement, it turns out quite nicely; thank you very much.

You have your own children and pressure begins. You want their Christmas to be magical, perfect in the best Norman Rockwell, Leave it to Beaver, Tiny Tim, It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street tradition. You bake, you decorate, you take them to see Santa Claus, you spring for a velvet dress for the annual picture and Nutcracker expedition. You scour the stores for that one Rainbow Brite Color Kid they do not have and want so desperately. You take them tree shopping and decorate it while carols play in the background. You wrap presents, watch the children shake them, find stocking stuffers and take a zillion pictures. It’s all great fun but somehow you never quite measure up to your expectations.

Said children grow up, go to college and graduate and begin their own lives.
Trying to figure out what clothes are acceptable or what the latest electronic gizmo that’s needed by Generation Y is an exercise in futility so you opt for gift cards. Baking seems rather pointless, what with the extra 20 lbs that you are suddenly packing.

And then you realize Christmas isn’t about all the stuff, the trappings and the trimmings. It’s about realizing your children are all grown up and doing a good job of making their own way in the world. It’s about having a few days of leisure, looking Your Beloved napping on the sofa and realizing that life is very, very good indeed.

Christmas – no tree necessary.

Why We Don't Have a Tree This Year

My Beloved spent 3 years remodeling a major mall. Christmas began in mid October and she was responsible for coordinating the construction without affecting the retailers’ bottom line. This was accompanied by non stop Christmas elevator music and crowds of shoppers. By the time the job was over her only opinion of Christmas was a resound "Bah Humbug".

Our Christmases are always been spent at her Mother’s house. In the best Southern Matriarchal tradition, the family gathers at the appointed hour for food and festivities. Her mother has an unsurpassed knack for decorating and the house always looks like a stage set for Southern Living or a Christmas store window. Food's really good too.

Our girls live on the respective coasts and arrive home on Wednesday the 21st of December.

“Shall we go get a Christmas Tree?” I propose.

“Nope, not tonight, we are having dinner with our Dad, he’s about to leave town and then we’re going out with friends”.

Thursday morning they both drift downstairs at around noon both looking a little worse for the wear.

“Want to go pick out a tree?” They both scrabble for aspirin bottle and return to bed. Looks like they celebrated a bit too heartily the night before.

They reappear at dusk; we go out to dinner with them and some of their friends. We go home; they head out with said friends.

Friday morning we come downstairs to find one friend has spent the night and all three of them are scrabbling for the aspirin bottle.

“What about a Christmas Tree?” I ask.

“Can’t, we’re having lunch with A., then Uncle Bill is taking us to dinner, then we’re going out with K & V.”

That brings us to Saturday, Christmas Eve Day. One gets up early to meet some friends for breakfast. The shock of seeing the sunrise is so great that she must go back to bed to recover upon her return. Her sister opts to sleep till 1pm.

“Christmas Tree?”

“I’m going to the movies” says one, “I’m spending the afternoon with A”says the other.

”What time is dinner?” – unlike Christmas trees, which would require their participation they have a stake in dinner which doesn’t.

“6” I say – “everything you asked for, turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.”

“Great, we’ll be home – can we bring A, K and V?”


Since I’m not feeling like being the Little Red Hen this year, there won’t be a tree at our house.

And you know what, that’s perfectly OK with me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

You Get What You Pay For....or Money Talks

My Beloved is recovering from sinus surgery. Her doctor of choice specializes in plastic surgery to the rich and famous and the ladies who lunch, though he has a small group of ENT patients. My Beloved also likes her hand held so I've been accompanying her to the follow up visits.

It's interesting to compare this office to that the emergency rooms that I spent so much time in this past fall.

The walls of this waiting room are painted that of so flattering pink, the lighting is dim and the chairs are cushy and comfortable - no rows of plastic airline waiting room seats for this guy. Not one single tattered copy of Readers Digest or a 3 year old People Magazine. The waiting room is stacked with pristine copies of W, Harpers Bizarre, Town & Country and Vogue.

His staff is all young & slim, with short skirts, high heels and collagen lips. It is obvious they get a hefty staff discount on his services. Instead of scrubs printed with puppies and kittens (size XXL) they wear white lab coats with their names embroidered (in pink) over the left pocket.

The clientele is Anglo, female and over 40. The combined cost of their jewelry, purses and shoes is most likely more than the GNP of some third world nations. Every hair on their head is professionally colored and styled, every nail carefully painted and filed.

This office hasn't one single notice about letting the staff know if your insurance has changed. They know most of their clients are here by choice and will be paying in cash. The brochures (glossy and professional done) do mention a payment plan option, if you should need it.

I flashed back to one of the emergency room visits I made with my friend Pie. It was a Saturday, she'd fallen and we ended up at the closest hospital.

The chairs in the waiting room were hard, uncomfortable and there wasn't an empty one to be found. The floors were battleship grey linoleum, the walls green and lighting harsh and florescent. The noise level was deafening a combination of blaring televisions and ringing cell phones. The clientele was as diverse as the city of Houston and the majority of the people were Hispanic or African American. Many extended families, many whining children who had colds or earaches. The staff was harried, overworked and wore comfortable shoes and baggy scrubs.

There weren't many signs about insurance there either - but not because the people would be paying cash, but because most of the people couldn't pay at all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

All We Want for Christmas.....

Torrential rains blew through today. A veritable winter monsoon descended on the Houston metropolis. At 9:30, just as I ‘m explaining the STAR test to a group of 3 graders the lights go out. And stay out. It is very dark in the library which has only a few narrow windows.

No STAR testing will happen, no books will be checked out, no internet will be surfed, no stories will be read. I pull out my portable treasure box (a very fancy cigar box I got in a thrift store), drop a set of keys in them and we play “What’s in the Box”. The keys give way to a stapler, which gives way to my watch, which gives way to my cell phone.

It is still dark and in tromps a kindergarten teacher and her kids. It is their library time. Just what they thought I could accomplish is beyond me but it is her library time and she is going to have it. I resort to story telling and a from memory retelling of “The Polar Express”.

Lunch time rolls around. The first couple of grades get a hot lunch, since it was already cooked, the older grades get peanut butter sandwiches. I’d planned two Brownies and Ice Cream reading celebration lunches. We decide that brownies and ice cream taste better in the dark.

The lights come on at 12:30 but the rain is coming down harder, in fact it’s horizontal and we have open walkways ( a legacy of a building partly built in the pre air conditioning days). We also have thunder, lighting and a tornado warning. The sidewalks are flooded, the grounds are one massive puddle and the street in front of the school is hubcap deep in water.

Principal gets on the intercom and requests that all teachers keep their students in the classrooms. 10 minutes later a class shows up at the door. The kids are wet to the knees and their shoes are ruined.

“Didn’t you hear the announcement?”

“Yes, but it’s their library time.”

“But look how wet they are”

“Yes, they walked through rather than around the puddles”.

Of course they did, they are kids, all kids are genetically predisposed to plow through any body of standing water. The inmates appear to be running the asylum.

We proceed, at least we can check out books. They leave.

Another class shows up. ”Didn’t you hear the announcement? “

“Yes, but it’s not raining as hard as it was”

She’s right, we’re down to puppies & kittens as opposed to cats and dogs. However, from the looks of the sky, Tigers and Wolves are expected very shortly.

We suggest they go back before they arrive. We’ve turned all the computers off because the lights have begun to blink again.

Phone rings.

Teacher on the other end “Can we come to the library”.

“Didn’t you hear the announcement?”
Teacher “Oh I forgot”.

I check with the nurse who is across the hall. She’s having much of the same, complete with gashed chins and knees from kids who have slipped on the slick cement walks.

We e-mail the principal “Just what part of “wet” do they not understand?

Principal get back on the intercom. This time everyone finally gets it.

Forget the two front teeth, all we want for Christmas is some common sense!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Home Again, Home Again,Jiggity, Jig

The hospital threatened to keep My Beloved overnight but we dug in our heels and convinced them otherwise. We both knew from experience that I'd be doing most of the nursing care and we'd both rather be in the comfort of our own home.

So, here we are with pain meds, a DVD of The Thomas Crown Affair (Rene Russo is hot!), 6 sleeping kitties and a very high tech method to reduce swelling given to us by the hospital.

And just what is this high tech item? Why, a ziploc baggie of frozen peas! I wonder what the hospital markup is on those?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Observations in the Day Surgery Waiting Area

Small Children: Why do people bring small children? Small as in little children to young to be engrossed in a book or video game, can’t sit still and whine non-stop children? From the number of people in the extended family group it is quite apparent that someone could have stayed home with said child. Or at the motel room. Or taken said child to the zoo which is only half mile up the road.

Waiting : The number of people in this place without a book, magazine, a laptop or needlework is staggering. One does not wait here for a mere 10 minutes or so, you wait for a mind and butt numbing 4 or 5 hours. I cannot imagine doing nothing for that amount of time. I, being the classic Type A have my laptop, several magazines, a book and my Christmas cards.

DayTime TV: Just as mind numbing. Soap operas and game shows. This waiting room blessedly has nooks and crannies so it is possible to isolate oneself from the drone.

Telephone : There is only one. A woman with her appointment calendar open has it totally monopolized. She’s indifferent to the “3 minute” sign and the daggered looks of others who want to make phone call.

Computers : This waiting room has some exta plugs (a rarity) but no wireless networks. I know there are numerous ones in the hospital but they are carefully encrypted. Which I understand but it would be nice if they freed one up for their captive audience.

Coffee: Muddy.

But like Horton I'm faithful 100% so I sit, and I sit and I sit.

Report at 6:30 am.

And we wait. And we wait. And we wait.

My Beloved is scheduled for day surgery. Surgery Time: 10:30 am. Report time: 6:30 am. That means getting up at 5:30. That is normal for me on a workday, but My Beloved is not a morning person and arises much later. Nobody could ever tell us why a 10:30 surgery required a 6:30 arrival time.

We navigate the maze that is the Medical Center and arrive at the seventh floor desk. We are immediately directed to the first floor to fill out yet more paperwork. This is despite 2 pre-opt visits and yesterday evenings 45 minute phone call. Trailing bread crumbs in our wake we go downstairs, give more of the same answers and then follow our breadcrumb trail back to our original destination. Where we sat And we sat. And we sat. And we sat.

Horton the Elephant has nothing on us.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

One Neighborhood...Part 2

Oddly enough our local paper, Houston Chronicle is running a series on the very subject I addressed yesterday. The neighborhood they profile is half a mile from where I live. My route to the silent Starbucks goes right past the corner of Washington and Shepherd. Sometimes on the way to work I stop for coffee at a little place around the corner from Case Juan Diego. On cold mornings there is always a line of bundled up people waiting in line for food. The day laborer site at 11th & Shepherd is within walking distance of my house.

Across the street from our house is a cramped, falling down house that houses a succession of Hispanic men, most of whom commute to work on bicycles. I know one works nights because I see him coming home as I am leaving for work. We nod and smile at each other.

They have assorted women and children coming and going. Sometimes they stay for a few days. Try though I might I've never quite been able to figure out the relationships.

I've often wondered what they think of us, with our revolving collection of cars (My Beloved changes her cars at the rate some people change their shoes), the constant arrival of packages, and expensive hobbies of golf and travel.

No matter what the anti immigration folks say, we need each other. Without the men across the street and the day laborers standing on the street corner just blocks away the entire economy of Houston (and the US in general) would come to a standstill. Without them My Beloved wouldn't have the labor needed to complete the buildings she builds and I wouldn't have any children to teach. There wouldn't be anyone to clean our house, serve our meals at the local coffee shops and cafes or manicure the golf courses we play on

Almost every good thing we have in our lives comes from the sweat of their brows and the aches in their backs.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

1 Neighborhood, 2 Parallel, Never Intersecting Lives

The Houston Heights is, as I have mentioned in other posts a transitional neighborhood. It is located near downtown and appeals to those who like an eclectic neighborhood and loathe commuting. As with most transitional neighborhoods it is a mixture of the old and new, the rich and the poor, the falling down and the under construction and the Anglo and the Hispanic.

The same mix goes for the restaurants. There are a number of fast food places and independently owned cafes and coffee shops. Not much in the way of fine dining, due an early 20th century quirk, The Houston Heights is dry.

Normally on the weekend, we will go have breakfast at Java Java or one of the other cafes. The clientele there is much like us, gay & lesbian couples, single professionals reading the New York Times, young couples with one, very well cared for, doted on child, and retired folks with good pensions who have moved back into the city from the suburbs.

Dressed in name brand casual clothing, they talk in muted tones over their omelets, hash browns and lattes. They have the look that comes from time to exercise, money to pay for professional hair coloring and dental insurance.

Today I felt the need for my annual grease fix so I headed to Mickey D’s for a sausage biscuit and a potato cake.

I ran smack dab into the other population who live in the Heights.

I was the only English as first language person in the place. Actually, considering that I spoke Dutch before I spoke English it would be safe to say there was not one person, either in front or behind the counter who was born speaking English. The menu and all the signage was in both English and Spanish.

It was crowded with multigenerational, extended familes – mother, father, cousins, grandmother, children and assorted shirttail relations. Everyone dressed in that thrift store look – clothes that don’t quite match or fit. The women & girls like their clothes much to small and much to tight and the boys like their pants baggy and their shirts hanging to their knees.

Despite the fact that most people there were carrying an extra 20 pounds or more; food was being ordered with no thought to fat grams, cholesterol or future diabetes. The children carried much more poundage than their parents – the American passion for fast food is playing havoc with the offspring of the Hispanic immigrants. We see the same among the students at my school; so many of them, especially the boys are overweight.

No New York Times, no reading material at all and not much conversation. About the only activity was the chomping of jaws and fussing of the babies. Very little coffee was to be seen, most folks were drinking soft drinks. Mickey D’s prides itself on offering “healthy choices” but nobody appeared to very interested. Can’t say that I blame them – after all I skipped the orange juice in favor of hash brown cake!

It is interesting that these 2 very diverse populations live side by side, yet rarely collide. And it’s interesting to observe the businesses that have sprung up to serve them.