Cometary Tales Blog,On Books My Instagram Adventure

My Instagram Adventure

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve started a little Instagram project that allows me to play with my old books. This post essentially is an introduction to the content I’m putting into the Instagram series. Technically, these are supposed to help with promotion of my own book, but if I’m to work on a new platform several times a week, there has to be something in it for me–and renewing old acquaintances is as good a motivation as any.

Since this is my first try at an Instagram project, naturally, I’ve let myself start on a softer topic: ponies! yay, ponies! Below are my first two posts in that series:

Joanna’s Special Pony, by Hilda Boden, 1964 paperback edition

A friend put up a challenge on FB for us to tell about the first book we read on our own. I was stuck; I couldn’t remember. My mother used to say I learned to read “too early”, so that memory is, I suppose, lost to the fuzziness of preschool memory neurons.  But . . . I do vividly recall the first book I bought by myself, for myself, and read until it was so ragged with overreading. It was about this girl, Joanna, who was just awesome–she could tame a wild horse, she could take care of herself on a deserted island, she could stand up to bad guys. I wanted to BE that girl so very much–so much so that when I had to choose a saint’s name for my Catholic confirmation (and, yes, we did that at age 10 in those ancient times), I insisted on Joanna. My mother was dismayed–she had already picked out a name I was supposed to use–Ann. It wasn’t too far off, though, so maybe Mom just had slightly-off foresight.

Anyhow, while trying to explain the book to my friends, I found a copy for sale on ABE Books UK. It was the exact paperback edition I’d owned back then–so . . . now it’s mine. Again.  Joanna’s Special Pony is a classic “pony book”, with clever, courageous young teens up against adult malfeasance and bonded together by their love of horses and nature in general.  The characters are distinct, not cookie-cutter–even the villains of the piece have second thoughts about what they’re up to.  (Spoiler alert . . . When they connive to strand our heroine, one packs her a nice big picnic and the other insists she bring along a warm coat.) It’s set in Scotland, too, which for me is a nice bonus. (There are these little asides about “the English” that still ring true.)

I wish my mom had saved my pony books–but, then, they’re still out there to find.  You can explore this wonderful “lost” genre at or snag the Kindle edition of Jane Badger’s comprehensive book on the topic, Heroines on Horseback at  

#formativebooks #whatimreading #mybookshelf #ponybooks #outofprintbooks #ilovebooks

Joanna Rides the Hills, by Hilda Boden, first edition, 1960

Once I found my first favorite book, it dawned on me there could be more out there. For one, my favorite book had a sequel . . . I actually found Book 2 while searching for Book 1. In the sequel, Joanna and her friends grow closer and become better friends. And they do a bunch of riding around on ponies.

It’s difficult to explain why finding the sequel to a kids’ book that I liked when I was 8, 9, and 10 got me so excited. Back when I was collecting pony books (in between the boarding-school books, the mystery books, and the cowboy books–no, cowboy books are not the same as pony books), I never managed to get my hands on the continuation of my absolute favorite book, to spend just a few more hours with the girl who was my childhood idol. Someday, I was sure, I’d find and rescue a wild pony and it would be my best friend and we would have people friends too, and we’d ride the wild hills all the time. Or at least until time for supper.

According to Jane Badger Books (The Source for all things pony-book, e.g.,, this particular book is actually kind of rare. Some crazy has a “new” copy up on Amazon for nearly $1,000. Yeah, right, it’s “new”.  I hesitated only long enough to be sure my copy of Joanna’s Special Pony was paid for on ABE Books UK, before clicking back to the Other Bookseller for a properly-priced, accurately described copy of sequel. Other Bookseller actually happened to be on this side of the pond, so I received the two books in reverse order–but both of them in time for my birthday!  So, Quarantine Birthday came with lovely memories of wishing so very hard for my very own pony, while looking out the back door at . . . our family’s current pony-pet, Echo, as he whinnied for an extra round of supper.

Though I’ll try to keep the blog and the Instagram distinct, please don’t imagine it’s only pony books. The theme is “formative books,” which offers a broad landscape to roam. I’ve just done a post on a recent fantasy landmark work by Leslie Ann Moore, Griffin’s Daughter, which does have horses in it, but they are by no means the focus of the story. And I’m currently re-reading Leonard Wibberly’s The Road From Toomi, which, though two characters do make a long trek on horseback, primarily offers insights on racism and colonialism that survive the over fifty years since its publication. The next one on my list, Missing Man, by Katherine MacLean, has no horses whatsoever, so the streak will break there.

You might also like to read:

Saturday at BayCon 2013Saturday at BayCon 2013

In this exploration of theory and practice of bayconning, the divergence between plans and reality appeared to be diverging after only two days.  Will this trend continue?  Or will it stabilize?

Well, what can you expect?

Time Frame What the Plan was What really happened
Saturday morning Attend either the panel on how cultural norms affect people with autism or the one on how masquerade works.  Then go to the panel on Fans of Color.  About time.

QueenOfHunger by LEHLight

Queen Of Hunger by L. E. H. Light


Tankborn, by Karen Sandler

Tankborn, by Karen Sandler


Griffin's Daughter by Leslie Ann Moore

Griffin’s Daughter by Leslie Ann Moore




Remembered I have my first 5k run in exactly one week.  Did a training run, helped with horse chores for the morning, made sure my goldfish got fed and cat got his meds.  Got to con about 11:30, squirreled around to find the room for the Fans of Color panel.

Last door on the hall.  What a great panel, wish I’d been there the whole time.  Highest concentration of folks-of-color ever–on panel and in the room.  Great discussions.Especially interesting to hear real people—not canned advice-mongers–talking about how to deal with multi-ethnicity and whether or not any individual should be expected to represent their ‘race’ (or really, culture, since race is technically meaningless) to others.  There seemed general agreement that if one is uncertain about another’s background, it’s much preferred to be asked than pigeonholed in the wrong category.  As well as some shared amusement at turning people’s expectations upside-down.

All of the published writers in the group complained about the difficulty of marketing their work when the standards in cover art lean strongly to picturing characters as white, regardless of how they are described in text.  At the same time, they were each somewhat philosophical about bending a bit in that regard if it could get someone to pick up the book in the first place.


Self-published authors have more control over cover art but need to make their own choices to draw readers;  Leslie Ann Moore chose cover art in which her lead character is pictured from the back, but directed the artist to be sure the character’s hair was like her own natural African-American hair, so the observant reader looking for books with “people like me” in them would be quickly clued-in while the casual browser would be first attracted to the scenery the character is contemplating and by then have the book in hand, ready to purchase.


Afterwards, chatted briefly with Heidi Stauffer, a Ph.D. candidate at the UCSC Earth Sciences department who happens to be Singaporean-American as well as female.  She also sees a dearth of women in her field and is politely exasperated by people assuming she’s Mexican-American.     I got her card to share with my Berkeley Earth&Planetary Sciences son.  It’s a relief to talk to someone who isn’t characterizing climate change as something that is “controversial”.

Saturday afternoon Eat lunch, then go build something in the Arduino workshop, then stop in to the Bujold autograph session and, if time, go to a panel on self-promotion for writers.








Arduino Labs Workshop--Organ

Arduino Labs Workshop–Organ






Sandra SanTara is also Windwolf Studios

Sandra SanTara is also Windwolf Studios

Daniel Cortopassi does more than Cat Art

Daniel Cortopassi does more than Cat Art



On the way to the parking lot (where my lunch is hiding), spotted sign for the blood drive.  Well, why not?  The Stanford Hospital van was parked in front of the hotel, cookies and juice prominently on display.  “Is this where the free cookies are?” I kidded.  And up into the van, for filling out electronic forms which repeatedly want to know if I might have BCE or HIV.Fortunately, the blood transfusions I had for surgeries in the 1960’s don’t count, so I was declared qualified to enjoy having a needle in my arm for fifteen minutes.  Felt dizzy partway through, but helpful nurse-in-charge had practical suggestions to get rid of that feeling.  Got more than cookies, too.  As a first-timer, was awarded a cool key-chain and a brag sticker, plus they had badge ribbons, pretzels, juice, and…wait for it…ice cream!  Ice cream was so solidly frozen, I ended up eating a snickerdoodle and a bunch of pretzels and taking the ice-cream to go.And just in time, too…barely made it to the Arduino workshop.  This was totally great, but we only had time to get most of the way through building and decorating our boxes, collect our electronic parts, and pay, before time is up.  Have to come back in the morning to finish during the second workshop.I’d forgotten to bring any Bujold books with me today, so no point going to the autograph session.  And sign-ups for tomorrow’s Kaffeeklatsch with Bujold  had been at 9 a.m., so, oh, well, at least I got to listen to her reading.  Stopped at info desk to pick up a newsletter.  And there was the sign-up sheet, with only 5 people signed up so far.  Weird.  I put my name down, fast.  Then read the form.  Oh, ah, they moved the session from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and so the sign-ups had only just started.  Woo-hoo.


Feeling lucky for the moment, I turned back and sought out the Art Show, signed up as a bidder, and took a serious look at the offerings.  Found two small pieces with “direct sale” prices I could afford and paid for them.  And placed a minimum-bid on one of the butterfly-dragon prints, positive I’d be outbid, but enjoying the feeling of taking part.


Finally, decided it was time to retire for a delicious “lunch” of a peanut-butter-or-jelly sandwich and some chips, in the quiet of my personal car.  Plus, it being late afternoon, I was able to move the car close in.


Back into the venue, for a stroll through the Dealer’s Room.  Not too overwhelming.  Maybe worth coming back later.  One of the people from the Fans of Color session was reading upstairs, so I ducked into that session.  Dang.  Her name was last in the list, but she had read first, instead.  I listened to two readings and started to feel faint in the hot, stuffy room.  Out again.  Time to sit a bit and review the program for the evening.

Saturday evening Play Through the Looking Glass Croquet, then go watch the Masquerade and go next door to give my sword a try-out in the Boffers room.  Take in some music.  Maya and Jeff Bohnhoff are playing.

BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

The Two Alices setting up croquet

BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Wonderland croquet team in action






BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Tops! Amazon Warrior, Katniss, Knit Klingon



BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Strange Synergy–My Favorite



BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Songs of Chalion



Keepers of the Gongs--Klingon Auction

Keepers of the Gongs–Klingon Auction


BayCon 2013, Triskaidekaphobicon

Top-Earning Merchandise

The first step was to wonder (pun intended) where the croquet would be happening.  The Pocket Program says,  “Other 4.”  What???I continued my Dealer’s Room stroll out the back door of that room, and there encountered Alice.  Actually, Double-Alice.   Two of them, that is, one a traditional blue-dress Alice, one a scarier white-pinafore-with-blood-on-it Alice.  There were no Flamingoes.  But they did have handmade (yes, made by Scary Alice) PVC wickets, proper mallets, and rather bouncy croquet balls.The hallway turned out to be problematic for croquet, as it was also the hallway for the dealers and shoppers exiting the Dealers’ Room, as the stores close down for the day, AND it was also the hallway in which participants and audience were queuing for the Masquerade.    There was an issue with Scary Alice having left her petticoat in her hotel room. One does NOT play croquet with no petticoat on.  But, in due time, we were set up, we had seven players and a patient Gofer guarding the end wicket, and the game was conducted.Traditional Alice forged swiftly into the lead, I had a lucky break and overtook her, coming to a turn-end at the entrance to the final wicket, but Green came up behind, knocked me clear, and won the game!  Naturally, we had agreed to continue until all completed the pass.  It took a couple of turns, but, yes, I came in second, so have time to take some pictures while the rest finish.  Yay!

And am starved.  And it is still some time before the masquerade, so I stop at the little store and buy a sandwich.


I got myself back at the Masquerade hall a few minutes after 7:30, but, uh, it was over bar the judging.  Wow.  Fast.  Probably they started at 7 instead.  Oh, well, I could sit and watch the robots from RoboGames dance about while the judges finished and watch the awards and take some pictures afterwards.  My personal fav–the group of women dressed as Dr. Who villains, plus K-9.  Today was my day to wear my Tom Baker Dr. Who scarf.  In fact, during the croquet game, a passer-by awarded me a “Jelly Baby?”  ribbon for my Whovian-ness.


I peeked into the boffers room briefly, but the Stanford nurse had been very firm about “no strenuous activity for 24 hours”, so instead I hiked to the music room.  There was a Bujold-themed performance coming up.  When I arrived, a harpist and a guitarist were in the middle of their last piece.  Then Diana Paxson and friends arrived in Chalion costumes, explained the concept–she wrote songs using the themes from Bujold’s book, and with the help of the previous pair, Margaret and Christoph, they performed five songs to the “Chalion” gods.  Then they forced Bujold to stand and be applauded, too.


Enough music for now…there was supposed to be a panel discussion on science fiction down the hall.  I’m kind of dozy in the small room, but Altoids help and the discussion is relatively lively.  I’m annoyed to be embarrassed when the response to my question about fiction related to games (one panelist had said he works in gaming) was “it’s sh***”.  Great place to find a closed mind.  Good questions from the one young teen in the audience did get some reasoned responses.  Still, kind of relieved to head back to the music room.


However, on the way, I heard gongs and laughter from another room and stopped in to watch the Klingon Slave Auction in progress.  It’s fun for a bit and nice to see people bidding each other up to donate to the Make-A-Wish foundation.  But there was a concert I wanted to see!  And I just barely caught the last few songs from the Bohnhoffs and feel sorry I didn’t get to hear more.  Maya K.B. has always been one of my favorite Analog short-story writers, but I’ve only just learned what a good singer she is.  Darn, should have skipped the panel talk.



Aeromen Take the First Playoff Game, by Mike GreenAeromen Take the First Playoff Game, by Mike Green

Here is some feedback from the game. I kept score of Layin’ Pipe when they batted. Susan, the acting manager, kept score of the Aeromen and has the batting stats. The game was played on Field 5 so we expected a low scoring affair. The Aeromen led the entire game for a efficient and satisfying 5-3 playoff victory. A blend of 7 veteran (i.e. older) Aeromen and 4 younger so-called “Other” players (Jose, Nick, Ulongo(?), and Mandy) provided the winning lineup. It was a fast paced win taking only 55 minutes.

Everyone contributed to the win. Alan (P) pitched a gem. He gave up only 2 earned runs. After the 4th hitter in the 1st inning, he retired the next 10 in a row. He only gave up 8 hits and only an one extra base hit, a double. Charlie (C) was his supporting battery mate. The defense was almost flawless. There were 14 fly outs and 7 ground outs. In the outfield, Antonio (LC) had 5 putouts, Ty (LF) 3, and Jim (RC) 1. In the infield, Jason (SS) was busy with 6 assists and 4 putouts, and Mike (3B) had an assist and a putout. He had the most creative play of the night when he dove to his left to snare a one-hop line drive, got to his knees, and shot put the ball to Ulongo for a force out at second base.

I asked our fans —OK, really our fan— to respond to such an artful win by the Aeromen. Vanessa stated matter-of-factly, “Isn’t that the way they’re suppose to play!”
That’s why we love the Aeromen Nation.

Next week we progress to Round 2 game, and with a win, to the Championship game. The Round 2 game is against New Market Mallers, who are 1st seed and had a bye.

Think: Aeromen are the Champions

The Scoop



(Note:  Detailed coverage of the Aeromen will occasionally appear in these pages.  Guest authors retain copyright.  Less-detailed game reports can be found on the team’s Facebook page.)

Friday at BayCon 2013Friday at BayCon 2013

As exemplified by Thursday evening’s brief exposure to the timesense-warping effects of Triskaidekaphobicon, clearly the theory of attending BayCon is direct and clear, albeit a little boring, while the practice thereof is circuitous and exciting.  Here we will continue our study of these contrasts by once more comparing plans and realities with a half-day experience on Opening Day:

Time Frame What the Plan was What really happened
Friday afternoon Arrive early, go to opening ceremonies, then “Irreproducible Results” panel, then to a reading by Lois McMaster Bujold. Just couldn’t get out the door.  Forgot reading glasses, then key, then left door slightly ajar while trying to find my sunglasses (for driving), then became convinced (older/medical-issues) cat had sneaked out, so searched out front and called out back and looked under furniture.  Finally discovered cat hunkered down behind a chair.Arrived halfway through Irreproducible Results panel, but got a front-row seat & enjoyed panel, from nuts and bolts revelations such as that the staff of JIR are unpaid to the audience teaching JIR’s editor the song “There’s a Hole in My Bucket” and locating for him several online sources for flexible rubber with which to make graph paper.

I took a quick look at the Art Show, where they were nice enough to take care of my bag for me.  Theresa Mather‘s dragons were there.  Which one is it that I bought for Tirion?  I wondered, Should I bid on one of these dragon-butterfly prints?  I decided to come back later and sign up as a bidder.

All of the cat-oriented artwork reminded me that I was worried about my cat (not to bore anyone with a pet’s medical issues, but no-one was home to check on Manta that day), but didn’t want to miss the reading.  So stayed put for that.

Bujold read a piece she doesn’t really plan to publish at present, a work-in-progress that may or may not become part of something, but it’s a “Miles” story, so she knew it would please her fans.  The humor bits got big laughs.  And she was good about doing a little Q&A while waiting for late-comers to arrive. Turns out that one intellectual goal for “Curse of Chalion” was to work out a society in which religion had a basis in physical reality.

By then, it was after five, but decided to drive home to check on the cat –through Memorial-day weekend traffic.  The freeway was a parking lot from San Thomas Expressway to, probably, LA.  So, enjoyed elaborately costumed Fanime fans thronging streets of downtown San Jose on the unfreeway route home.  Made pretty good time, actually.  Oh, yes, and the cat was fine.  Time for a quick freezer-cleanup dinner and half an episode of “Castle” before evening sessions.

Friday evening Find out what a “boffer weapon” is and make one in the new DIY Room.  Then go upstairs and learn some Regency dancing.  Maybe get in to panel on talking to people. Boffer-making was not in the DIY room.  I had to go alllll the way to the “Ballroom” and creep past the big room where they were having the “meet the guests” reception.  Way too scary in there.   In the farthest room, kids were whapping each other with foam objects.  Aha, that’s boffing.

But no one was making weapons.Wandered about. Became “brave” and strolled nonchalantly through the reception.  Darn, there had been food.  Extroverts were  happily chatting each other up.

Wandered back to boffers room to watch the swordplay.  Maybe the “make your weapon” thing is over?  I wondered.  The program said they started at 6 and it was already nearly 8.  Suddenly, someone called out, “Who wants to make a weapon?”  Apparently, I had arrived at exactly the right time.

Two hours later, I was working on the trickiest duct-taping tasks on three swords at once, after two teen sisters frantically realized they must dash off to what they described as “Mom’s Concert” and begged for coverage while they were away.   Another hour later, and they were back in time for adding the blade tape and the final decorations.  Clever girls.

So finally 11:30 rolled around and I had myself a lovely PVC and pipe-insulation and duct-tape sword.  But not prepared to wield it yet–too exhausted.  Parked my sword in the car and wandered about a bit.  Regency dancing was already up to a lesson on the Congress of Vienna waltz, which I can’t do with my broken shoulder yet, and which they use as the final dance.

Oh, well.  Time to go home.  Big plans for tomorrow.


There are anime fans at BayCon, too.

There are anime fans at BayCon, too.

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