Sunday, February 28, 2010

another great day in bookland!

Here I am, in the great state of South Carolina, enjoying the hospitality of their Book Festival for the fourth straight year. I live on LI, NY, for those of you who don't know this, and it's a 13 hour trip for me to get here on the best of days. Although I will say, that after the blizzard last year, it was only a 12 hour trip to get home. Amazing how fast you quickly you can get where you're going when there's no one else on the road getting in my way. I posted the pictures of the trip home on my MySpace page last year, too. A lot of snow, all on the grass and the trees. The roads were completely clear. We could use these self-cleaning roads up north right about now.

Anyway, I must really love this place to travel that far for it. And I do. The people here just love books, and they're so nice too. I remember my first trip down here, I was getting ready to head home and a lady at a gas station, who never saw me before, commented that there had been snow up Virginia way and I should be careful.

This year has been the best event yet for us. The weather is cooperating, at last, and there are just so many more book-lovers coming through the doors than I remember from times past. And they all stop at our booth, and want to buy our books! I should mention that I'm here in the persona of Author Guy, bookseller extraordinaire, subletting a space from my publisher, Echelon press, and selling all the books that aren't already being represented by their own authors.

In this case, those other authors include Nick Valentino, in full steampunk regalia and selling his novel Thomas Riley to just about everyone who walks in the door, it seems. I do fantasy (just click on the cover art over there if you don't believe me), and I've never sold as much fantasy-related work as he has. If I wasn't so busy selling everything else I'd watch to see how he does it. In part I think it's because he has a friendly competition going with Teresa Burrell, author of The Advocate, a mystery novel that is taking it's proper place as the best mystery on my tables. The lion's share of the books we-as-Echelon sold yesterday was sold by these two authors. Sam Morton, a Columbia native, was there as well, but the home-town advantage was no advantage here. Everybody he spoke to knew him already, and most of them had already gotten his books. And he's just too much of a gentleman to tell them to leave him in peace so he can get some work done.

Soon the event will reopen its doors, and we'll all be back again, trying to get some work done, making this the best SC Book Festival Echelon has ever had! If you're in the Columbia area today I hope you'll swing by and help out in that noble cause. And if you're not, well, those book covers over there, if you click on them, they'll take you to a wonderful place filled with literary delights. Go on, click one...

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I recently pulled out my overused copy of Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, one of the great Alternate History novels. As often happens, I found myself wondering how gunpowder is made. For those who don't know, this book is about a man who gets transported into a alternate Earth where he reveals the secret of making gunpowder to all and sundry, those upsetting the social order. It also has a lot more going for it than that, but that's the part that's relevant to this post.

Anyway, the difference this time is that I'm sitting in front of my computer, and thus in a position to google how gunpowder is made. Which leads to the question of where saltpeter comes from and how it's refined. Which leads to the Haber-Bosch process, which leads to a very interesting new book that I have ordered and will read as soon as it comes, called The Alchemy of Air, by Thomas Hager.

In a similar WW1 related note (did I mention that the Haber-Bosch process was crucial in keeping Germany's munitions industry going, after the British embargoed Chilean nitrates, which were used in making explosives?), I also got my hot little hands on a DVD version of Oh What A Lovely War, a critical parody of WW1. I saw part of it when it was once broadcast on a local public TV channel, but I lost the last 20 minutes! It portrays WW1 in terms of a seaside carnival, with lots of the patriotic songs and the war itself cast in terms of carnival rides and games, cutting behind the scenes to more realistic portrayals of what was really going on. Can't wait to see the end at last.

Eventually I'll remember to look up how paper is made too, just in case I get transported to an alternate universe.