One of the Highlights of My Year

On Saturday, I went to The Art Walk in downtown Winthrop. It’s a lovely shop that features handcrafted items from local artists, authors, and crafters.

As it turns out, The Art Walk features my books, and I am happy to report that my novels have been selling well there and in many other places, too. So well, in fact, that almost every day, UPS comes by with another box of books to replenish our supply.

While I love to go to The Art Walk to buy special gifts for family and friends, last Saturday I was there for a book signing. (In between signing books, I did manage to buy several presents.)

As I sat by my table and listened to Christmas music and the happy chatter of holiday shoppers—somehow small stores have such a good vibe—two women, a mother and daughter, walked in and came right over. I am friends with both on Facebook, and I knew they might be coming, but because it has been thirty years since we last got together, it was such a treat to see them. Thirty years ago, the daughter was a little girl. Thirty years ago, they lived in Winthrop. Thirty years ago, the mother helped me bake a peanut butter cake for Clif’s birthday.

But then, as such things happen, they moved out of town, and we lost touch with each other. I know there are a lot of bad things about Facebook, but thanks to Facebook, we reconnected.

And here’s the most wonderful thing—we chatted as though we had met as recently as last week. There were no awkward silences, and the conversation just flowed. As the title of this post indicates, seeing them was one of the highlights of my year.

They bought books, and I signed them. Before they left, I promised to have them over next summer for lunch on the patio when the flowers in the back garden are in bloom.

The mother promised to make a peanut butter cake to celebrate finally getting together after thirty years.

Can’t wait! I’m already planning what I will make for them.

 

Simple, Quiet, and Good

At our home on the edge of woods, Thanksgiving was simple, quiet, and good. I made two loaves of pumpkin bread and thought we would have one to eat and one to freeze for Christmas. Silly me! We ate those two loaves as quick as can be, which means I’ll have to make two more for Christmas.

We had a nice little brunch on Thanksgiving morning. As you might notice, we even had dessert, leftover homemade chocolate pudding from the pie I made. Good thing we don’t eat like this every morning.

I forgot to take pictures of our Thanksgiving dinner. Too busy cooking and getting ready for our little feast. Afterward, we were all too stuffed to do much of anything, and we settled in for some episodes of Season 4 of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition. Past seasons of the Baking Show—British and American—are available for free on the Roku channel. There are commercials, and they are often clumsily inserted, but the shows are still worth watching.

*****************************************************

Outside, the snow has all melted, and the gardens are in a strange in-between state, not quite fall, not quite winter. There’s still plenty of green on the lawns, but one morning there was a skim of ice in the ornamental bird bath.

Black-eyed Susans, their petals long gone, lean into another plant, whose name, alas, I have forgotten.

And Minerva, in her wisdom, presides over the front garden.

*****************************************************

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas tree. It is an artificial one, and while I miss having a real tree, I don’t miss the mess or the expense—in central Maine, $50 is about the least you can pay for a decent-looking tree.  (I know it is much higher in other places.)

Still, it gives me pleasure to put up our ornaments—some plain, some silly, some old, some new, some poignant. The house ornament was made by my blogging friend Judy of New England Garden and Thread. 2020 was indeed the year we stayed home, and to me the ornament is a lovely reminder of all the ways we stayed in touch during that first terrible pandemic year. Many thanks, Judy.

*****************************************************

A couple of days ago, a special card came into our home—another beauty from my blogging friend Alys of Gardening Nirvana. Alys made this card from a 100-year-old National Geographic. In the lower-left-hand corner is the word Maine. In the middle, White Pine. The white pine is Maine’s state tree, and the tassel is its state flower. My oh my! Thanks so much, Alys.

Yet again, as the day grows shorter and the nights grow longer and the cold settles into our yard, I am reminded of how much there is to be grateful for.

 

 

First Snow, First Plowing

Last Wednesday, we had the first snow of the season. It was not a lasting snow—rain followed, and by Friday the snow was mostly gone. However, on Wednesday, enough had fallen for the roads to be cleaned, and late morning I heard the comforting roar of the town plow as it went by.

Somehow, there is always something exciting about the first snow. Before Clif even had time to shovel the front porch, I tottered down the steps to get some pictures. The day was gray, and the tone of the pictures reflects this. Very appropriate for a snowy day.

Here is the front of our house.

I love the way garden ornaments look in the snow. I always leave them out until the first snow so that I can get some pictures of them. Today, most of them will be coming inside for the winter.

And here’s a picture Clif took of the backyard. He was in the dining room and got a pretty good shot through the window.

Time for the chairs to come in, too. The covered table, along with the grill, will stay outside for the winter.

 

******************************************

For a completely different landscape, courtesy of my blogging friend Alys of Gardening Nirvana, here is a postcard she sent me not long ago of California beauty.

Quite a contrast to the Maine countryside, and I so love seeing what other places look like. Yet another blessing that comes with having blogging friends here, there, and everywhere. Many thanks, Alys!

******************************************

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States. For those who celebrate, a very happy Thanksgiving to you all. Ours will be quiet, and because we are vegetarians, turkey will not be the centerpiece. Ours will be a dinner of sides.

Nevertheless, it will be a weekend of simple pleasures—board games, decorating the tree, and—at long last—Christmas shows, which I have been eagerly waiting for.  There are quite a few new ones this year, ranging from an animated Christmas Carol to A Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas special.

Let the festivities begin!

 

 

 

Presenting: Of Time and Magic

It wasn’t that time stopped in the library. It was as if it were captured here, collected here, and in all libraries—and not only my time, my life, but all human time as well. In the library, time is dammed up—not just stopped but saved.                                                                                                          ~The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The big day is here with the release of Of Time and Magic, Book Four in the Great Library Series. Of Time and Magic concludes the story begun in Maya and the Book of Everything, when Maya began her fateful journey on that train from New York to Boston and gained possession of the enigmatic Book of Everything.

Already the response has been excellent, and I’ve begun receiving orders.

If you would like to order a paperback copy of Of Time and Magic, this link will bring you to our Hinterlands Press website. Shipping is free in the U.S., and I would be more than happy to inscribe your book.

Even though the ebook is available through Amazon, the paperback book is not yet available through them. Unfortunately, we have been having problems with Amazon, and the issues are yet to be resolved. But Of Time and Magic is available through Ingram, which means that you should be able to order the book at your local bookstore.

Finally, dear blogging friends, you might be interested in knowing that Of Time and Magic is dedicated to you.

Here is what I wrote:                                                                                                       Of Time and Magic is dedicated to my wonderful blogging friends. Because of your support and encouragement, my Great Library novels have traveled all around the world. No small feat for an indie series.

Many, many thanks to you all!

Maya and Mémère: The Strange Case of Life Imitating Art

Last weekend, Clif and I took our books to a big craft fair in Gorham, over an hour from where we live. Neither Clif and I are morning people, and we had to get up at God-awful-o’clock in the morning to go to Gorham and set up before the show opened. This we did, with only a bit of fuss. After all, Clif and I are no longer spring chickens. Even with a cart, lugging boxes of boxes, the table, and chairs is a lot of work for us.

But how worthwhile it was. Not only did we sell quite a few books, but I also met a customer—a woman about my age—whose story tickled me silly.

Coming over to the table, she smiled at me. “I want to buy the first book in the series.”

“Great” I replied.

“It’s for a girl named Maya.”

“Oh, nice!”

“And I’m her mémère.”

Delighted and nearly speechless, I stared at the woman. Now, I have had many grandmothers buy books for their granddaughters, and there have even been a few named Maya, but as far as I know, not one of the grandmothers went by the Franco-American term mémère.

A brief backstory for readers unfamiliar with my Great Library Series. Maya, as the title of the first book suggests, is the main character in the series. When Maya and the Book of Everything opens, Maya is traveling by train from New York to Maine to spend the summer with her mémère. (On that train, Maya gains possession of the mysterious Book of Everything.) Mémère becomes an important character in the series, and in Library Lost you might even say that she kicks butt.

Naturally, I related all this to the woman, and she was as delighted as I was. Unfortunately, in Maine—where at least 30% of the population are descendants of French Canadians—very few novels  feature Franco-Americans who have mémères and pépères. To say Franco-Americans are underrepresented in Maine culture doesn’t even begin to describe the situation.

Although my books are fantasies, they are also rooted in reality, and it was important for me to bring my Franco-American heritage into the stories.

In my upcoming book, Of Time and Magic, Maya’s mémère continues to play a big role in the story. The series begins with her and ends with her.

It might even be fair to state that the Great Library books are a love letter to mémères everywhere.

And the Winners Are…

For the past month, readers were invited to enter a contest where my upcoming fantasy novel, Of Time and Magic, Book Four in my Great Library Series, would be given away. Also included in the contest were three calendars featuring a map of Samaras Island—home of the Great Library—and Watertown, the small city across from the island.

Designed by Clif Graves and made with Inkarnate.com

 

In the post where I announced the contested, I noted that I would send the book anywhere on this planet. I encouraged readers from away to enter, and enter they did, from Scotland, Wales, England, South Africa, Singapore, and Australia. What a thrill to have readers from around the world enter my contest. I also had plenty of entries from the United States and Canada, and that, too, was gratifying.

And the winners are…

A copy of Of Time and Magic—Betsy Stevenson

The calendar—Burni Andres, Donna Lambert, and Oscar of the blog Hermits Door.

Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to all who entered.

In the next two days, I’ll be in contact with the winners to confirm addresses.

Of Time and Magic is at the printers and copies should be available in a couple of weeks. Or perhaps sooner. I’ll keep you posted.

The calendar is also at the printers, and like the book, it should be available in a couple of weeks.

Again, many, many thanks to all who entered the contest.

 

A Simple Birthday Celebration

We are not a fancy family. Our celebrations are usually held at home, and they feature favorite foods of the people being honored. So it was with our eldest daughter Dee’s birthday gathering on Friday.

Dee wanted biscuits, and I was particularly pleased with the way they came out. Once upon a time, I made them regularly, but now that we are on a low-carb diet, they are an occasional treat. I was glad I hadn’t lost my touch, which can easily happen when you don’t bake often.

My old tattered recipe gave Dee a giggle. It is certainly a minimalist recipe.

I also made a potato and cheddar soup, which everyone loves. Alas, I forget to take a picture of it. The soup is served with tortellini and steamed broccoli.

But I did remember to take a picture of the cake, also made by me.

Although we like to keep things simple, we do like a pretty table, with flowers as the centerpiece.

Our daughter Shannon, her husband Mike, and their dogs Holly and Somara came for the celebration, and what a jolly time we had. The day was warm enough for drinks and appetizers on the patio in the backyard, where the dogs could stretch their legs. We talked about all the things we love to talk about—books, movies, television shows, and, yes, politics. (Fortunately, we are all on the same page when it comes to politics.)

The day was particularly golden.

Both up

and down.

In Maine, October is such a beautiful month for a birthday.

And how lovely it was to have everyone around the table once again.

Happy birthday, Dee!

A Clarification about the Contest

A blogging friend just sent me a note letting me know that the comments section is closed on my October 3 post—October Delights and a Contest. (This is to win a copy of my upcoming book Of Time and Magic. I will also be giving away three calendars that feature a map—designed by my husband Clif—of the Great Library and its surrounds.)

A few years ago, Clif set the comments section on posts to close after a couple of weeks. I was getting slammed with spam, and limiting the comments section for two weeks really helped with that.

However, the two-week window for commenting makes entering the contest a little difficult for readers who are catching up on Hinterlands posts. But never fear! Readers can enter the contest via a comment on any post.

So don’t be shy! If you haven’t entered the contest but would like to, you can let me know in the comments section on this post and on any post going forward.

The contest ends in a little under two weeks, on November 5.

Good luck!

Walktober: Walking Toward Our House on the Edge of the Woods

With this post, I am joining Robin of Breezes at Dawn for her annual Walkotober event, where blogging friends are invited to go on a walk in October and then share it with her. This year, because home is so important to me, I decided to feature a short walk down the road toward our house.

As the title indicates, our home is on the edge of the woods, and the trees hide the house until suddenly you come upon it.

Here I am, just up the road, no house in sight.

I walk a little farther, and a school bus goes by. Before the bus disappears down the road, I manage to snap a picture of it.

Finally, a glimpse of our red house.

A clearer, view, but still through the trunks of trees.

Finally, here it is, our home: modest, cozy, in need of repairs (we’re working on it.) One of the places I love best.

Leaves, Leaves Everywhere

Last Friday, a powerful storm blew up the coast of Maine, and because we are only fifty miles inland, we felt the effects, too. At the storm’s peak, over 100,000 customers were without power—keep in mind we are a state with a little over a million people.

Half the town of Winthrop lost its power, and although our lights flickered, we were not among those who were in the dark. Thank goodness! As I’ve noted many times, we have a well, and no power means no water.

Clif thinks our power stayed on because we are on the same line as the fire department’s new building, just up the road from us. Could be. Whatever the case, we keep our power through most storms, and when we do lose it,  the power comes back fairly soon. And, yes, we are ever so grateful.

Saturday morning, after the storm, there were leaves, leaves everywhere, making a colorful mosiac.

Here, from above, was the view of our backyard and patio.

Now for a closer look.

Leaves on the patio.

Leaves on the table.

Around the front, leaves on our small deck.

And, finally, leaves on the moss.

Even without a storm, this is a time of year when the leaves come down, down, down.

Is it any wonder we Americans call this time of year fall?

A blog about nature, home, community, books, writing, the environment, food, and rural life.