Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Friday, August 19, 2011

I found an early Harry Potter edition and I review Wizards by John Booth

While planning my blog on fantasy with reviews of three Indie authors, I found an early edition of Harry Potter, a mystery edition.  After I tell you about that, this post will review John Booth’s Wizards, a teenage fantasy set in Wales.  In the next post, I’ll be reviewing Catherine Condie’s Whirl of the Wheel, a time-travel, and the 15-year-old Sarah Renee’s The Tiger Princess. 

It was a short but exerting walk up the steep hillside of Duluth to a Saturday morning moving sale.  I usually leave my laptop on in case I have solved another fiction riddle during my early morning quest.   

As I looked over the two rows of books in a garage, I talked to the woman who was moving.  The books weren’t very unusual except that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was slimmer than the usual series volumes.  I learned that the woman’s husband, after avoiding the doctor for some time, had been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease.  They were moving to California, she said.  Her husband had greeted me and I was surprised to learn that he had that disease.  She told me more about it, how he was adopted so the inherited disease was unexpected.  There was a harp case in the garage!  She said it was her husband's sister's and not for sale.  I found a few other books that were alright for stock and went back down the hill, thinking that I could write more.


When I checked my Harry Potter edition at Abebooks, I could only find one other like it.  I
knew the book had cheap binding, all red paper, and without printing numbers, it might be an early edition.  But it didn’t have a price on the dust jacket which meant it was probably a book club edition.  With most books, a book club edition isn’t very valuable. 

But early Harry Potter book club books were starting at about $150.  What was strange was the cheapness of my edition, its having no printing numbers, no series “Year 1” on the spine, no J. K. there either, only Rowling.  I looked at this cheapie, thinking that Scholastic might not have yet realized Harry Potter’s worth at this printing time, 1998.  I was working at a new bookstore that year and never knew of Harry Potter.  It wasn't until after 2000, when I was working with used books and antiques at another store, that I heard of Harry Potter and read it at work.

Of course, there’s a whole slush pile of Harry Potter editions on the internet.  But mine, it seemed, was an early book club edition.  It looked as if it was from before the book club edition that was selling for $150 since that one had printing numbers.

It only goes to show that a Harry Potter book can be thrown into pages and pages of internet listings and be of questionable worth.

That’s where authors start!

When John Booth announced at that he was having a book entitled Wizards published, it wasn’t just me who found that laughable.  Why compare yourself to Harry Potter?  I’d read his gold star book Shaddowdon at Authonomy and I knew John had original and haunting ideas for juvenile reading. 

Wizards is upbeat and yet it expresses well the quandaries of a guy who is testing his own power. In this case, that involves two worlds and two girls. His loyalty to his girlfriend in Wales causes much humor when Esmerelda from another world needs him.

Jake Morrisey is thrown from one dilemma to the next.
  A news photographer captures his secret dragon in a photo; other rare wizards take him into bizarre but illuminating conversations; a vanished girl is last seen with him.

All of these scenarios don't detract from Jake's prevailing issues with his identity and decisions as a guy who has a wage-paying job in the real world and is also a wizard that police use for cases.
  Wizards is a book that gathers reader affection as it unfolds.

The teenage sex in Wizards isn’t the fantasy type.  Most of it is in the normal world and as real as the parents, the police, and the caves in Wales.   
Unlike many fantasies, what happens in Jake's fantasy world has some serious repercussions for Jake in the real world.  Yet that all provides escape for the reader.  Wizards is an entertainment for teens to try.

And it can stand up to Harry Potter because it's for an older age with the humor for that age and a plot so different that I forgot about Harry Potter after a few chapters.

In the next posting, more about fantasy and reviews of Whirl of the Wheel and The Tiger Princess.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book publication with a publisher!

I was going to write about fantasy and review Indie authors in this and the next post.  But reading an email, I suddenly leapt into a realm I had never known before.  I am to have my first book published by a publisher.  I won the Prize Americana for Fiction which means I’ll have my short story collection, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories, published by Press Americana’s imprint, Hollywood Books International.

This last year, another small press publisher was interested in that collection and mentioned a contract.  But the book was ultimately rejected and the reasons why made me look at the stories again.  I had been involved in writing an adult novel in recent years.  The stories needed work so I put everything down and concentrated on revising them.  Then I sent the collection to the Press Americana contest.  Review Americana published a short story of mine in 2007. 

I’d written children’s novels before short stories.  A few years after I began to write short stories, I sent one to Gordon Lish’s journal in New York.  It was a joke to me, thinking about the thousands of short stories that he probably received.  I was jolted then when he became interested in my story and wanted to see all I had written.  He invited me to his workshop that year.  Since, I much regretted not going to it.  It was a bad year for that and I was a fool.  Opportunities like that don’t happen often and they might not recur. 

I hadn’t succeeded with creative writing at that point.  Gordon’s workshop was in Bloomington, Indiana.  My father lived in Indiana with his third wife who was also his first love.  My father loved the city of Bloomington.  I couldn’t have attended the workshop without him wanting to come there and meet Gordon Lish, the New York editor.  Problem was, my father wasn’t very happy with me pursuing creative writing.  He had his reading stacked near him when he watched TV.  Usually,  the books were on economics.  His basic comment about books was, “There are too many books being published.”

A few years before, he had discouraged me from moving to Boston.  Previously, I had visited friends there and gotten a job interview at Little, Brown and Company.  My father was from old Midwestern people and they just didn't know Boston.  Well, they thought Boston didn't know them so the feeling was mutual.

I didn’t know how I would get to the workshop without him finding out.  And it was a bad year for it.  So I plunged on alone and it took some years before I could put my short stories into my best form.

I wouldn’t in any way blame my father when I know I’m really like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, lacking courage.  The other girls defied past convention and went with opportunity.  I might have become a performing flute player but I did the same thing.  In high school, I was invited to a barbecue with Jean Pierre Rampal and other flute students of my symphony musician teacher’s.  I vowed that I wouldn’t be such a coward again after I didn’t face a renowned editor. 

I think it’s about being a Midwesterner.  This publication is thrilling to me because of the Press Americana’s mission.  And it’s thrilling because it proves that publishing does work if a person is willing to do the difficult work.