There were two literary losses recently that got me down.
Dick Francis died. I read Dick Francis because his novels were widely available, especially in the Reader's Digest Condensed Books my grandmother bought me at garage sales. My dad also liked to take me to the track, although he was hopeless at explaining the betting and odds to me. Multi-variable systems analysis and parimutuel odds are a good thing to teach your daughters when their brains are young and pliable and they haven't been told they are bad at mathematics yet.
Francis didn't write the same book over and over--he fashioned his plots around different things that touched the racing world like wine or photography. I know, but who doesn't need a little general knowledge?
Kage Baker died at the end of January. She's best known for her series about The Company, an organization recruiting lost children and modifying them into cyborgs to travel through history and obtain objects and specimens (lost paintings, extinct plants, gold bars) that will become extremely valuable in the future.
If you like Connie Willis for her humor and ability to integrate many branches of liberal arts and her focus on big questions of humanity, Baker's right up your alley. I'm a little sorry they never managed to get the series based on The Company novels out of development although I can't quite figure out how they could shoot it since Baker's characterization and voice, particularly of the botanist Mendoza, is integral to the text and story.