Archive for July, 2009

Are you a book collector?

July 27, 2009

There’s more than one kind of book collector.  Dan Krotz of  Sow’s Ear Books and Antiques in Berryville, AR, blogs about that….

On Collecting Books (No. 4)

By Dan Krotz

There is no right or wrong way to buy books if the aim is the simple pleasure of reading. And since fewer than half of all Americans read a book once they graduate from high school. God bless that exceptional person for being a reader. But collecting books versus just buying and reading books is an activity that requires organization, purpose, and planning. Starting questions that collectors must ask are, “What am I collecting, and for what reasons?”

A few people indiscriminately collect “old” books as investments because they intend to resell them some day. That can be a disappointing strategy if profit is the goal because the age of a book often has very little to do with its value. Book dealers, collectors, and librarians, however, do use some broad time spans to establish dates of books with likely importance and value: e.g., all books printed before 1501, English books printed before 1641, books printed in the Americas before 1801 and books printed west of the Mississippi before 1850. Yet, even these dates are rough guidelines at best and are always subject to the overriding factors of intrinsic importance, condition, and demand.

“Intrinsic” importance really has to do with what is important to the collector himself. For example, I collect books written by Larry McMurtry. I suppose I have several copies of everything he has written, yet only a first edition, first printing Lonesome Dove—with a specific (and single) typographical error—is really worth much, and then only about $100. Still, there is something about McMurtry’s style that I find truthful, lyrical, and elegant in a laconic way. I collect him because I like the writing.

Another collector is the “accidental” collector who begins reading someone like Sue Grafton and her “alphabet” series of mysteries. One day the reader notices that she has “A” is for Arson and “C” is for Crime but is missing “B” is for Burglar. Suddenly the reader has a mission. And, since Grafton is up to “S” is for Silence, we can only assume that our accidental collector will one day own all 24 Grafton Titles.

Some books are always in demand by collectors. These include early editions of novels by the trinity of American literature, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway (Faulkgeraldway in book-speak). There are also books that represent a transition point in literature such as Ulysses by James Joyce, Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, or On the Road by Jack Kerouac.  Certain books by these writers can be worth as much as two or three thousand dollars—or more.

Other collectors are people who are only secondarily interested in books, but who are interested in a particular subject such as the Civil War, certain makes of cars, or birdhouses, and on and on. No matter how esoteric or narrow an interest may be, a writer—and maybe several hundred writers—have written books about it. “Of the making of books there is no end” and thank goodness, for otherwise there would be no occupation for booksellers like me, or for librarians, writers, and publishers.

A lot of young people (and some not so young) have started collecting Harry Potter books. While I can’t argue the literary merits of Rowling’s oeuvre—I wasn’t able to finish the first of her novels—I am quite certain that first editions/first printings of her books, especially UK editions, are going to be worth some serious money. I am always happy when I find one at garage sales, or in a jumble shop somewhere.

Conversely, Stephanie Meyer’s vampire books, among them Twilight, as an example, will never be worth much, if only because the publisher printed about a zillion first editions/first printings on relatively cheap paper. The abject silliness of a book rarely enters into a bookseller’s assessment of its future valuation since lots of profoundly goofy books are highly collectible. In Meyer’s case, however, production factors plus stupid equal ho hum.

Books written by people who have never actually read a book—so called public intellectuals like Al Franken and Michael Moore on the political left and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh on the right—aren’t worth any money at all less than 30 days after publication, and are functional doorstops by day 31. These “writers” are never collectible in the way that genuine public intellectuals, such as Ambrose Bierce, William F. Buckley, G.K. Chesterton, H.L. Mencken, and Mr. Dooley will always be.

Good bookstores are characterized by the number of informal collections it has amassed, and which are interspersed among the general run of books. Because I love Graham Greene, Stanley Elkin, Harry Crews, and Hillarie Belloc, to name just a few, I always have several of their books on the shelves—and they stay there because these writers are simply out of fashion. Even though they probably will never sell, I can’t resist buying even more copies. If you find yourself in the same fix it is safe to say that you are a collector.

The single piece of advice I give to a prospective collectors is that if a book makes you cry, collect it. I suppose that’s why I own nine copies of The Sun Also Rises.


Book Signing: John Krankhaur, author of By Night a Fabulous Tap Dancer, signs his book Saturday, August 1, 2:00PM—4:00 PM.

Book Night: Roughing It by Mark Twain, 4:00 PM, Thursday August 19th, Grandview Hotel.

Non-Fiction seeking: Western and Native Americana, Railroading and Trains, Regional (Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas), Antiquarian and rare agriculture, Machinery and Tools, better cookbooks.

Fiction Seeking: Cormac McCarthy, Sufi poetry, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jean Auel, Mary McCarthy and Edmund Wilson, Charles Bukowski,. Visit: My blog at

Shop: At the Berryville Farmers’ Market, Saturday Morning 7:00 AM to 12:00 PM


Daniel Krotz
202 Public Square
Berryville Arkansas 72616

Answering your questions: “Where did DEAR EARTH come from?

July 21, 2009

Though I am a native Oklahoman, I have to admit up front that my heart is in Arkansas.  And though I suspected as early as grade school in Tulsa that, on occasion at least, I was a pretty good writer, was encouraged by teachers throughout school, and even edited a college newspaper, it wasn’t until my husband and I came to Spring Hollow in Arkansas that what one of my favorite authors, Mary Stewart, calls the writing virus, really caught me.  Because I loved a place, because it filled holes in my life, made me think and feel as I never had before, the writing simply exploded out of me from then on.  I had to write about Arkansas and the Ozarks.  And that’s what I’ve been doing since my first Ozarks essay sold in 1985.  The hills and hollows, the trees, wildflowers, animals, fruits of the land…all of it, really unleashed a creative rush that showed up in newspapers and magazines all over the world.

That was the beginning.  I continued to write and sell individual essays and articles about the Ozarks and our experiences there.  I had some success, accumulated quite a body of published individual pieces and, finally, in the early 90’s decided I was really writing the story of my husband’s and my transition from Tulsa city dwellers with demanding careers to Ozarks hillbillies, and I use that term in a positive light to mean self-reliant Ozarks hill dwellers.  That’s when I put previously written work together with new material in a story line that became DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow.

From the beginning of my interest in writing about the Ozarks I had been increasing my knowledge about my new profession.  I read informational  magazines and books for writers, I attended classes about writing at Tulsa Junior College, I joined organizations for writers and listened to information shared by others working as writers.  I learned proper manuscript preparation and magazine querying, then I studied book manuscript preparation, how to write a book synopsis, proposal, and query letter.  I studied publishing options, submitted my book idea, and–when requested–my manuscript.  I got rejections, and that went on for over a year.  Through all this I learned that successful writers never treat writing as a hobby…it is a profession, and it’s hard work.

In 1993 I read–in a professional magazine called The Writer— about a publishing company in New York that bought inspirational non-fiction books.  I queried, learning only later that the head of this company had recently come to the Ozarks to speak to an organization I was in the process of joining, Ozarks Writers League.  I began to have a very good feeling about this publisher, and not long after I got the big phone call…”Radine I’d like to talk with you about your lovely book.”  I was on my way as a book author.  For that book at least, the waiting and trying and trying and being rejected–was over.

Y’know…no matter how many other things I write–no matter how much I really enjoy creating my mystery series and short stories, DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow, will always be the book of my heart.

Interested in coming to the Ozarks for a visit?  You’re invited to begin by joining me at Spring Hollow in the pages of DEAR EARTH.

More about “travel” writing:

July 9, 2009

(Thanks to Kaye Barley for suggesting I double-post this…it’s on her blog, too.  SO….)


I love both travel reading and travel writing. Nope, I don’t do magazine features that begin something like this: “The yellow sand beaches of San Poopio will take your breath away this time of year, and the meals at Nightmare’s Inn manage to surpass my ability to describe them….”
You guessed it! There are better ways for me to travel at little cost. For example, when I want to escape extreme weather:
Ahhh, the driveway is shoveled and my toes are thawing in fuzzy slippers. Think I’ll begin reading one of my new book purchases. Um, which one…?  Oh yes, that one!
Page 1:
“Summer in Benteen County, Kansas, is a season possessed of all the gentle subtlety of an act of war…. A week ago, the thermometer had risen past the unbearable mark…and, in automatic response, the humidity rushed after it–-to a level technically described as obscene.”
(From J. M. Hayes’ mystery novel, Mad Dog & Englishman.)
But it gets hot in the Ozarks, too. In August I prefer escaping into something like Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger, (where you can experience a white-out blizzard and frozen body in northern Minnesota), or Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters.
Good mystery writers are master manipulators, aren’t they? They create atmosphere and location inside minds, take us to places dark and stormy or glaring and sharp, thrill us with chilly caves, steaming jungles, and worlds far away from the familiar. The more skillful the writer, the more willing we are to believe, share, travel, and enjoy–riding along eagerly with characters and events and seeing new places that become real for at least the space of a novel.
Many works of fiction offer this real place reality, some taking us into actual locations where we are intrigued by the story unfolding there. I love this type novel. Readers don’t have to pack a bag, endure airlines, or make long car trips, though quite often they do end up wanting to see the described location for themselves at a later date.
One author who gives readers a vivid location experience is Ellen Elizabeth Hunter, a real place writer sharing the area in and around Wilmington, North Carolina. I learned about her novels while planning a trip to the Cape Fear Crime Festival, a mystery fan convention once held on the North Carolina Coast. Someone recommended Ms. Hunter’s mystery novel, Murder on the Candlelight Tour, as an introduction to the area, but the book ended up being much more than that. My husband and I toured Wilmington by using Murder on the Candlelight Tour as our guide. We visited historic buildings and restaurants portrayed in the story. We even ordered the same dishes Ms. Hunter describes so deliciously.
Hunter is not a Carolina native–perhaps one reason she notices Wilmington details with a newcomer’s freshness and a tourist’s excitement. She says, “I fell in love with Wilmington and wanted to live there, but couldn’t because of my husband’s work. I decided the next best thing to living in Wilmington myself would be creating a character who did.”
(If you’d like to enjoy the Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach area wherever you are, go to
Meanwhile, back in the Ozarks, my own fiction writing career was getting under way in the same time period as Ellen Hunter’s. She and I are both relative newcomers in our areas.  My husband and I chose Arkansas for our home after spending time thinking about going “back to the land” in several parts of the United States. My love for Arkansas led to an interest in writing about it, and I spent more than ten years selling articles, essays, and poetry about the Ozarks to publications in the United States and other countries. After publishing one non-fiction book set here,(DEAR EARTH, A Love Letter from Spring Hollow)I decided to try my hand at writing the type of book I enjoy reading most–-the traditional mystery.
My first effort, A Valley to Die For, (St Kitts Press, 2002) was set in the same remote Ozarks area as Dear Earth, an easy location to describe, since it’s where I live. In my second novel, Music to Die For, I sent my protagonist, Carrie McCrite, accompanied by her friends, to another Ozarks spot I love, Ozark Folk Center State Park. (Picture Sturbridge Village with an Ozarks setting and a theater where old-time music can be enjoyed.) From then on, each novel’s setting has been at a different Arkansas tourist destination.
It wasn’t long before I, and my location destinations, discovered it was not only fun to site books in areas enjoyed by tourists, it was good business for the locations themselves. Settings are real enough that, at signings, I give actual tourist brochures and location maps to everyone buying one or more books in the To Die For series.
As a reader, I’m excited when I find a new author who takes me to a real place, tells me about a career I’m not familiar with, and joins these with mystery/adventure puzzles. As a writer, I love telling stories set in places I have chosen to visit, absorb, and share with readers. As a result, many tourist-oriented publications, including airline and National Park magazines, have carried feature articles about my writing.
My next To Die For story takes Carrie McCrite and Henry King to three popular tourist destinations: a ride on a restored 1920’s Arkansas train, the historic district and river front in Van Buren, Arkansas, and The Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City. Danger times three! I had a wonderful time traveling to do research for this novel, and hope you’ll soon enjoy this Journey to Die For with me!