Friday Favorites: Out of Time Compliment; Thanksgiving Meal; Melancholy Christmas Song

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I received this comment from my blogging friend Susan, who very kindly put my new YA fantasy Out of Time at the top of her TBR list and quick as a wink read the book: “I really enjoyed it – yet another page-turner from you and I was grateful for some precious escapism. I just need to complain that you kept me up very late finishing it.”

What a nice compliment! Music to a writer’s ears, actually. Many thanks, Susan.

As was planned, Clif and I had a very quiet Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, it was a nice one, with the food being quite a treat. We have been eating low-carb and low-cal for so long that we both thought it was bliss to have stuffing and share a baked potato. All a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Finally, a melancholy Christmas song—“The River”—from the great Joni Mitchell. Somehow, this song really captures the mood of 2020.

 

For more favorites and small pleasures read Thistles and Kiwis and All Things Bright and Beautiful.

 

 

Just Clif and Me

For the first time ever, Clif and I will be spending Thanksgiving alone. No children, no friends, just Clif and me. It hardly needs to be said that there will be no going to the cinema to see the beginning of the season’s blockbuster movies, a family tradition that stretches way back.

For the most part, Clif and I have accepted our situation with what might be called equanimity.  Or acceptance. Or whatever. We’re not angry, and we’re not depressed. However, I would be lying if I stated that we aren’t a little wistful as we remember past Thanksgivings. That’s allowed, I think.

More than anything else, this holiday feels flat. There hasn’t been a flurry of cooking and cleaning, the way there usually is before Thanksgiving. No planning. No anticipation. In some ways, this week seems like any other week during the time of Covid-19 and not like Thanksgiving at all.

However, I will be preparing a meal that’s a little special for the two of us: a green bean casserole made with with cheese and a sour-cream sauce, stuffing, potatoes, and carrots. For dessert we have a chocolate satin pie, commercially made but good nonetheless. No turkey, as Clif and I are vegetarians, but we will enjoy our veggie feast.

We have also put out our holiday lights, to brighten the long nights of November and December.

The wee camera has made the lights more purple and glaring than they actually are, but this gives an idea of how the lights look, a glowing spot on a dark country road.

We will be Zooming with the kids, which perks up any day, Thanksgiving or not. Thank goodness for technology!

We also plan to watch Babette’s Feast tomorrow, an oldie but goodie. The story, set in the 1800s, revolves around a French refuge—Babette—who is taken in by two Danish women, the daughters of a strict (and selfish) father who was a pastor. I don’t want to say too much about the plot in case you haven’t seen this delightful movie that deals with coming to terms with a difficult and disappointing past. And food. Lots of food. Hence its appropriateness for Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American blogging friends. I hope you find a way to make the day special even if there isn’t the usual gang of loved ones and friends around your table.

The day might be lonely and quiet, but truly there are things to be grateful for. A very effective vaccine is on the horizon, and in January, we will have a new president.

Onward to the longest night of the year. Onward to 2021.

 

Almost Like Haiku

In Maine, late fall is a time of subtraction. The golden glow of October has been replaced by the more austere pleasures of November. Gone are the brilliant autumn leaves, and instead we have a landscape that is marked by the dark bones of leafless trees.

However, I find trees beautiful during any season, and to me a tree with bare branches is spare and poetic, almost like haiku.

This picture of our friends’ home—a classic New England farmhouse—illustrates the beauty and sweep of the bare trees.

If you click on the picture, it will enlarge the photo, and you will be able to better see those bare trees and the red roof, which I absolutely adore.

Until spring comes, I will be admiring the bare trees whenever I go for walks.

Less is not necessarily more, but seeing the essence of the trees somehow brings me closer to them.

 

 

Friday Favorites: Builder’s Tea, Dash & Lily

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have recently finished proofing my YA fantasy, Out of Time, and it is now officially published. And what a lot of work that was! Lucky for me that as I was proofing, I had something to give me a little pep, a recommendation from my blogging friend at Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal. That something was Builder’s tea, which bills itself as a full-flavored “cuppa.”

Yes, it is. I can only let a bag steep for two-and-a-half minutes rather than the customary five. But after all, Britain wasn’t built on chamomile, and I suspect few writers are fueled by chamomile as they labor and toil on their books. (A fun coincidence: Chamomile tea plays a major role in my new book, Out of Time.)

By the time I was coming down the homestretch with proofing, I was gulping down Builder’s the way a lost traveler in the desert would gulp water at an oasis.

Recently I confessed that I have begun putting up my Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, a sort of no-no in the United States. Well, I have another confession: I have started watching Christmas movies and specials, too. I know, I know:Talk about jumping the season. But I can’t seem to help myself. For the most part, Clif is a pretty good sport about my holiday-movie obsession, but my kids are starting to wonder if some kind of intervention is necessary.

However, because of my early viewing, I am able to make recommendations to those who need a little holiday cheer. And this Friday that honor goes to the Netflix limited series Dash & Lily, a sweet, charming Christmas Rom-com that will became an annual tradition in our house.Now, it must be said that the premise of most, if not all, holiday shows requires a willing suspension of disbelief, not a problem for someone like me who reads and writes fantasy novels. In short, these are not plots that will stand up to nitpicking. And so it is with Dash & Lily, the tale of two lonely teenagers in New York City who start a romance via a red notebook—left by Lily—that Dash finds at the fabulous, wonderful Strand bookstore that calls to me like a beacon whenever I visit the city. (Eighteen miles of books? Holy cats!)

Dash is a cynical teenager who has been hurt by his parents’ divorce and by a former girlfriend who has left the city. Lily is a creative book nerd who feels out of step with kids her own age. (Did I identify with Lily? You bet I did.) For different reasons, both Lily and Dash are adrift at Christmas.

Most of the episodes involve Lily and Dash, without ever meeting, leaving clues and tasks for each other via the red notebook. But through the course of the series we see that Lily and Dash are kindred spirits, and gosh darn it, we sure do root for them.

As an added bonus, New York City is gorgeous during the holidays, and in Dash & Lily, Christmas time in the city has never looked so beautiful.

So if you want a little holiday cheer during these gloomy times, do watch Dash & Lily. I guarantee you will be smiling by the end.

For more joy and small pleasures, check out the blog Thistles and Kiwis.

 

2020 Reprise: I Need a Little Christmas, Now!

For the first time ever, I have begun my Christmas decorating before rather than after Thanksgiving, the time when most folks in the United States think we should be decking the halls. (I do, however, have a cousin who bucks the trend, and she sets up her Christmas village well before Thanksgiving. Go, Cousin, go!)

Here are some of the many Santas that are decorating the bookcase in our living room  Most of the Santas are gifts, and how wonderful it is to see them again after nearly a year.

This picture features two gifts: The lovely panel is from my blogging friend Judy of New Hampshire Garden and Thread, and my mother gave me the Santa Clause.

Let’s face it—2020 has been one heck of year, and I suspect many of us need a little Christmas now. Here’s a rousing version of the song the title of this post borrows from, with Angela Lansbury belting it out as Auntie Mame. Wasn’t she cute as a button in her younger years?  Confession Time: I have never seen Auntie Mame as a play or a movie, and this just might be the year I rectify that mistake.

Haul out the holly, and slice up that fruitcake, now!

An Announcement and Some Giveaways

Glory be and Hallelujah! Clif and I have finished proofing Out of Time, Book Three in the Great Library Series.

Do I feel like butter spread thin on too much bread? I certainly do. But I also feel a keen sense of accomplishment. Out of Time took two years from beginning to end, and finally it is ready to go out into the world.

Right now, Out of Time can be ordered through Amazon. Next week, our book can also be purchased through bookstores and other online vendors. By November 28, we will have books on hand so that we can sell signed copies to readers in the United States. I will keep you all posted as I know many of you like to order directly from us.

For readers new to my blog, here is a brief overview of the Great Library series: In our universe, two forces—Time and Chaos—battle for control of the Great Library, a mysterious place where all information flows. From the Great Library come the sentient Books of Everything, which contain the vast knowledge of the library. The Books are sent to planets across the universe to help the various inhabitants.

In the middle of this battle between Time and Chaos is one kid from Earth—Maya Hammond, a girl who has the ability to see to the heart of things. She comes into possession of Earth’s Book of Everything, and adventures ensue as she tries to protect the Book and the Great Library from Chaos. In Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost, Maya goes back in time and across the universe, all the while being pursued by Chaos’s minions.

In Out of Time, Maya travels to Elferterre, which is in a dimension ruled by Magic. On Elferterre, Maya hopes to find a magical artifact that will help tip things in Time’s favor.

The overall message of the series is that facts do matter, which somehow never stops being a relevant topic in our real world.

So there you have it. Nearly 900 pages in a nutshell.

Now here’s the fun part—to celebrate the publication of Out of Time, we are giving away one signed copy of Out of Time and three calendars that feature Clif’s snappy map of Elferterre.

Click here to enter the contest.

Prizes will be mailed anywhere on the planet.

Entries will be accepted between 11/14/2020 through 11/28/20.

The drawing will be held on December 1, 2020.

So don’t be shy! Sign up for the giveaways.

Walking on Sunshine

Yesterday, I felt as though a great weight had been lifted from me.  Pennsylvania was called for Joe Biden, and he therefore had more than enough votes to win the electoral college, the arcane way our country selects a president. Each state is assigned a number of  electors, who in turn have one vote. The number of electors in each state are based on population. In turn, those electors are pledged to vote how the majority in each state has voted. The winner must get at least 270 votes. With Pennsylvania, Biden reached 279. (President Trump has vowed to challenge in court the results of the election. The general feeling is that too many votes have gone to Biden for any of the challenges to change the outcome of the presidential race.)

Do I think this is a strange way to elect a president? Yes, I do. But it is the system this country has, and for now we must go with it.

At any rate, despite the fact that Trump has not conceded—customary but not required—Joe Biden is now our president-elect. There was literally dancing in the streets as people across the country celebrated the news.

On Saturday night, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and President-elect Joe Biden gave speeches that were full of empathy, hope, grace, and resolve. On the stage I saw joy and love as their families joined them after the speeches were over.

As they face formidable challenges in this country and around the world, Biden and Harris will need every bit of grace and resolve they can muster.

Best of luck to them!

And the song below, sung by the buoyant Katrina & The Waves, exactly captures the way I felt yesterday.

 

Correction: My daughter, Shannon, very nicely let me know that when Pennsylvania was called the numbers were 273, before Nevada was added. ;))

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