I’ve been to three parties in the last week or so, more than I’ve been to in months; it’s the Christmas Party season. One of the parties was actually a surprise birthday party, but part of the reason it was a surprise is that the victim–ahem, I mean guest of honor–was born on Christmas, not a good day for birthday parties. So that lovely gathering was sort of a not-Christmas Party.
The other two were the annual Christmas parties for my two local RWA chapters. For years we have played the White Elephant game at these parties, the game in which players steal increasingly strange presents from one another. Frankly, it’s not a game I enjoy, and I’ve brought home enough ugly, tacky, and/or totally useless “gifts” over the years to last me a lifetime. So when one of our group suggested we swap books instead of elephants this year, I was delighted when both chapters voted to try the change.
The plan was simple: bring a book you’d like to share (or possibly get rid of), a novel you love, a writing book you’ve found useful, a strange book you don’t know what else to do with, etc. The only rule was: not a book you wrote yourself.
Between the two parties (the membership of the chapters overlaps, so several of us attended both) we saw quite a range of books. The big hit at West Houston RWA was Fifty Shades of Chicken, a rather unusual cookbook (you can watch the hilarious book trailer here at Amazon). Three copies turned up (the only duplicates at the party) and they were much in demand. If we didn’t limit steals to two per book, the game might have gone on for hours. One copy of Fifty Shades of Grey turned up at the Houston Bay Area RWA party; it wasn’t stolen at all. The game produced a lot of fun and laughter at both parties, and I hope it will continue.
I decided to take novels I have loved, and I bought copies at Half Price Books for the parties because I would never give away my own copies. In fact I took two to the West Houston party: one was an old favorite, one relatively new.
The older novel, written in 1949, was George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, a post-apocalyptic novel set after a mysterious disease has wiped out most of the human race. Stewart was a scholar (I have two of his books on American place names and given names on my research shelf) and he wrote other novels, but Earth Abides is the one still being reprinted. I haven’t read it in thirty years or so–finding a recent reprint only made me want to read it again.
The recent favorite was Farthing, the first in a trilogy by Jo Walton, published in 2006. Farthing is one of those rare books that simply blew me away when I read it, and it’s always hard to explain that phenomenon. Set in the 1940s in a Nazi-flavored Britain, it combines a house party murder mystery with solid alternate history. The three books in the trilogy (I have also read Ha’Penny, but I’ve been saving Half A Crown until I have time to reread the first two) are tied together by the Scotland Yard inspector who solves cases while keeping a very dangerous secret of his own.
To the Houston Bay Area party, I took a copy of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, a collection of beautifully written short stories that any writer should enjoy, and a book I have always loved.
You may have noticed that I took three speculative fiction novels to share with my fellow romance writers, but then I’ve always read widely myself, and I think that’s a good plan for any writer. Right now, though, it’s getting late, and I think I’ll go to bed with a good romance novel.