Category Archives: Books

Five for Friday: The Golden Age of Illustration

Today’s post is going to be a little different, a reflection of my newest obsession, the golden age of illustration, which ran roughly from 1880 to 1920. As Artcyclopedia puts it, advances in technology allowed for “accurate and inexpensive reproduction of art,” both in books and magazines.

Nowhere was this more evident or glorious than in illustrations for children’s books. Beatrix Potter, of course, comes to mind, but there were many others, too: Edmund Dulac, Jessie Willcox Smith, Walter Crane, and Sir John Tennial, to name a few.

As chance would have it, there is even a Facebook group called The Golden Age of illustration. I joined the group not long ago, and that’s when I became hooked on illustrations from this period, especially the ones for children’s books. Not surprising as I write books for young people.

Many of the images from this period are in the public domain, which means we are free to use them as we wish. Clif, who is a talented graphic artist, has caught the golden age of illustration bug and is working with some of the pictures. He has been enlarging the illustrations, smoothing the pixels, and retouching the illustrations. We plan to sell matted prints at fairs we go to, and he has done research about the artist and the books the illustrations come from. This information will be included with the prints.

Below are five of the illustrations he has worked on, and they are by Edmund Dulac and Jessie Willcox Smith.

This is one of my favorites. The illustrator is Edmund Dulac, and the picture is from the story “A Little Girl in a Book,” written by Mrs. Rodolph Stawell. Funny to think there was a time when women writers went by their husband’s name, but there you are. Progress has definitely been made on that front.

This is another of Edmund Dulac’s illustrations, and it’s from “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s not a scene I’m familiar with, that’s for sure.

Jessie Willcox Smith did this illustration for The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik.

As well as this one—Little Red and the Wolf—otherwise known as Little Red Riding Hood.

And finally, here is a Jessie Willcox Smith’s illustration from The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley.

Today, there are many fine artists who create illustrations for children’s books. But for me, there is something about pictures from the Golden Age of Illustration that captures the wonder, magic, and even the dread of fantasy and fairy tales.

I wonder what it was from that period that allowed illustrators to tap into art that goes so beautifully with the stories.

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March Is Here, but So Is Poet Claire Hersom

Tra-la, tra la! March is officially here. Although we Mainers put a brave face on it and even go out for ice cream, we already feel the weight of this too-long month, rightly known as Maine’s fifth season—mud season. So far, there hasn’t been too much mud, but we know it is coming. Yes, we do.

Right now, March, in typical fashion, is whipping us back and forth. One day the weather will be mild with temperatures in the fifties, and the next day there will be a blizzard with over a foot of snow— the forecast for this Wednesday. Mainers take it in stride, but we do complain. A lot. In fact, complaining about March weather is one of our favorite pastimes.

Here is a shot of our backyard as it emerges from winter. Oh, the glory, and it’s just going to get worse. Clif will have to put planks on the walkway so that that he won’t sink into the mud as he hauls wood.

But enough of March! Instead, let us turn our attention to a very fine poet, Claire Hersom. I posted this picture of her a few days ago, but it is so cute—note the sly look on her face—that I thought I’d post it again.

I met Claire about fifteen years ago, when Clif and I published a literary magazine called Wolf Moon Journal. Via the Internet, Claire submitted some of her poems, and I was immediately taken with her use of language and her ability to get to the heart of things.  As if good poetry weren’t enough, I also learned that Claire lived less than a mile from me, but somehow, even in our small town, I had never met her. So funny!

Over the years, we featured many of her poems in Wolf Moon, and we became friends. As it so happened, she introduced her nephew, Mike Mulkeen, to our daughter, Shannon, and the two hit it off immediately. This August, they will have been married eight years.

Claire has published many books of poetry, and her most recent one, published in 2017 by Moon Pie Press, is Dreamscape.

What a lovely cover! As far as I’m concerned, you can never go wrong with blue, and it features snappy art work by her talented granddaughter, Eleanor Rose Folsom.

Claire has generously allowed me to use one of her poems in this post, and I chose “Dreamscape,” also the book’s title. Many, Many thanks, Claire!

Dreamscape 

It’s always in the early, dark morning
when a chill lingers from the night air
that we balance and
suspend in so many forms
at the brink of the precipice –
that first glimmer of day, of hope,
the new beginning hardly noticed
were it not for the argument of birds,
the bending, dew-filled pine,
the hollow stamp of deer outlined
in the grass under our windows.
Settled in last night beside you in dream,
they too waited, their warm fawn bodies
of stick-legs and too-big ears listening
for sounds; the same sounds as you,
eyes never too far from a flutter,
never completely at rest.

 

An Early Christmas Present

More snow today, and the landscape definitely looks wintry. Here is the view from our front deck.

Unfortunately, the forecast is for freezing rain later in the day, and if there is one thing we Mainers hate, it’s freezing rain. Because Clif and I work from home, we no longer have to worry about driving on slick roads, but we are certainly sympathetic with those who must brave slippery highways to get to their jobs. Fingers crossed that the forecast is wrong, and it snows rather than rains.

Christmas, lovely Christmas, is just around the corner. Soon “the kids”—Dee, Mike, and Shannon—will be coming home, and I am so anxious to see them that I wish they were arriving this weekend rather than next weekend. On the other hand, there is still much to do, and I need that extra week. Nevertheless…

As the title of this post indicates, I received a wonderful early Christmas present from my blogging friend Sheryl of Flowery Prose, who writes about nature, flower, and books from her home in Alberta, Canada. Recently, she wrote a terrific review of my fantasy novel, Maya and the Book of Everything. Here is what she wrote:

“A mysterious library, magical books, and unexpected journeys to new lands and times?  A resourceful, intelligent, and thoughtful teenaged protagonist that we can relate to and love and root for?  A clever, fresh (and extremely relevant) take on the classic battle between good and evil?  Creative plotting, beautifully realized characterization, precisely detailed world building, and perfect pacing?  I’m all in.  Laurie’s book really is everything!

“As it is the season of gift giving, if you’re having a difficult time buying for the young teenagers in your life, well, have I got a suggestion for you.  And while you’re at it, click an extra copy into your cart for yourself.  Because we could all use a Book of Everything in our lives.  🙂

“(I’m sure glad she’s already working on the sequel because I’m not certain how long I can wait, given that juicy wallop set up at the end…).”

Many thanks, many thanks, Sheryl!

 

A Roller Coaster of a Week

The past thirty-four days have been quite a whirl of ups and downs, starting with the wind storm that knocked out our power for a week, which caused us to lose much of our frozen food. Then it took us another week to get things back to normal. On the upside, there were the wonderful fairs where we sold lots of books and met some dedicated readers, both young and old.

Last week all those highs and lows came together for a concentrated burst that left us scratching our heads. Something in the stars? The Supermoon? Who knows? But on Tuesday, after the presentation at our library, Clif got food poisoning from a local restaurant. At least we think it was food poisoning as he had all the classic symptoms.  When he wasn’t running to the bathroom, Clif was flat on his back for three days. Poor guy!

There’s nothing like having a husband who is out of commission to make a wife appreciate all that he does. Holy guacamole, what a hectic week as I folded his chores into my chores. And, as luck would have it, we had another craft fair scheduled for the weekend, this time in the charming little town of Wayne, Maine. (I know. They rhyme. How cool is that?)

So on Saturday, after loading the car the night before, off I went by myself to Wayne, Maine. I realize I’m a little spoiled by having a husband who is happy and willing to go with me to the various events. But it is so great to have another person at the table, to take care of making change, to be there for bathroom breaks, to help with set-up and break down.

So that was the low of the week.

The high? The Wayne craft fair, which turned out to be small but mighty, with a steady stream of customers who, as it turned, were in the mood to buy books. It seems that like Brunswick, Wayne is a community that likes to read. By noon, I only had one book left. By the end of the fair, I had sold out. Wowsah!

As if that weren’t enough, there were two comments that certainly qualified as the cherry on the sundae. First, a woman stopped by and bought a book to send to her granddaughter for Christmas, and the granddaughter lives in Australia. Maya is going to Australia, about as far as she can go from Maine!

Second, a young teen stopped by my table and said, “My friend has this book, and she is going to let me borrow it. She said it’s really good!” And I didn’t know either the young teen or her friend. Oh, that made my day to have an enthusiastic young teen sharing my book!

After all that excitement, Sunday was a good day to sleep late, do some housework, and take a few pictures.  The day was very fine indeed, and off to the little park by the lake I went.

There were more empty benches,

A splendid white birch against a blue sky,

and a classic New England scene.

No more craft fairs or events until next year. Now, I have to organize my Christmas cooking, the cleaning of the house, and the wrapping of the presents. In between, I hope to get some work done on Library Lost, the second book in the series.

And I sure hope that life settles down, at least a little bit.

A Special Anniversary—Maya is One

Yesterday was a very special day for Clif and me. Our fantasy novel—Maya and the Book of Everything-–had its first birthday. Or anniversary. Or whatever. The book was launched on November 28, 2016, and this certainly brightened, at least for us, an otherwise dismal year for the country.

Even though I wrote the novel, I used the word “our” because Clif was (and is) such an integral part of the process that it really is his book, too. First, he was one of a handful of careful readers who found errors and helped me keep the plot on track. Second, he did all the page layout, both for the paper copy and for the ebook. He continues to help me as I give presentations—lord, am I ever grateful for his technical expertise—and he goes with me to various craft fairs.  Many, many thanks, Clif, for your invaluable help.

While we are on the subject of giving thanks, I want to thank the many friends, both near and distant, who have bought Maya. Merci, merci! Because of your generosity, Maya has not only been read in the United States, but also in England, Ireland, and Canada. It is no small thing for an indie book to travel so far. As for my new blogging friends…well, Christmas is coming. Perhaps you have someone in your family who loves fantasy novels. While Maya is technically a book for young teens, it is also a crossover book that adults enjoy reading. Maya is easy to order. Just click on the book’s cover in the upper left-hand corner of this page. There! Done with the shameless self-promotion.

Maya is our first book, and over the course of the year we have learned a lot and, of course, have made more than a few mistakes. The happy thing we have learned is that Maya sells really well at various events, and next year, we are going to increase the number of places we go, not only with Maya but also with Clif’s anthology, The Wave of Time. Lucky for us, Clif and I really enjoy doing this. We both work from home, and it is a nice change to get out, meet people, and talk about our books.

By a very happy coincidence, on Maya’s birthday, I was engaged to speak at my town’s wonderful library, the Charles M. Bailey Public Library. Richard, the director, did a great job with publicity, and there was a nice turnout, with plenty of old friends as well as people I didn’t even know. We sold quite a few books, and what a lovely, lovely way to celebrate Maya’s birthday. Thank you Richard and Shane and to all the people who came to my Threads of Realism in Fantasy presentation.

Now, onward to the second book—Library Lost. I’m over halfway done, and I’m hoping to have it published by next fall.

 

 

When Life Gives You Bruised Apples, Make Cider

The title of this post is a twist on the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But I live in Maine, and we do not have lemon trees this far north. (When that day happens, not even the most ardent climate denier will be able to refute the facts. ) So instead of lemons, I used apples, a fruit that grows in abundance in Maine.

But what I am really referring to is the Pine Tree Con, a  show we attended in Bangor this past weekend. It was a two-day event featuring all things comic books, fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Clif and I had reserved a vendor’s table. As we had recently had a successful time selling books at The Great Falls Comic Expo, a similar show in Lewiston, we had great hopes for the Pine Tree Con.

Unfortunately, the Pine Tree Con was not only poorly attended, but in addition, those who came, mostly older teenagers and young men, were not at all interested in either Maya and the Book of Everything or Clif’s The Wave of Time.  A few vendors did well, but most did not.

Now here comes the cider part. Even though I didn’t sell many books, I still had fun. Simply put, the vendors who come to such events are a terrific bunch of people. I had a wonderful  time chatting with many of them. The table directly behind me belonged to a snappy young artist named Bob Raymond. His wife and young daughter joined him for much of the event, and as I was alone a lot of the time, they drew me into their warm, friendly orbit. Such a lovely family, and I was sorry to say goodbye to them when the weekend ended.

Then there was Nicholas Anderson, a talented artist and storyteller who has created a series called Planet Ripple, which features a young woman named Minnow, a protagonist with many disabilities, including autism.  On his books’ Amazon Page, in the About the Author section, Nicholas notes that he, too, is on the autism spectrum. So I was very touched when Nicholas came to me, as the event was winding down, to tell me how sorry he was that Maya and the Book of Everything did not receive the same public mention that his Planet Ripple series did. My response? You go, Nicholas! Take the publicity wherever it comes. I am also happy to report that Nicholas sold lots of books at Pine Tree Con. The audience was perfect for his work.

Finally there was Shawn French, a former sports writer who now works on video games, horror movies, and comic books. His Escape from Jesus Island is a tale of cloning gone horribly wrong and is “a twisted retelling of the Book of Revelation.” But not disrespectful, Shawn was quick to add. We had a great discussion about editing and writing, and he even gave me some sound advice: When editing, save what you discard. You might use it some other time.

These are just a few of the artists and writers I met,  but I’ll stop with the three I profiled.

Not surprisingly, I did a little Christmas shopping, and the presents I bought are zippy and local, just perfect for several people on my list.

All in all, even though sales were disappointing, a very sweet cider of a weekend.

 

 

A Glowing Piece About Maya by Cynthia Reyes

This week, my blogging friend Cynthia Reyes, whom I recently featured in this blog, wrote a wonderful piece for her own blog—Cynthia Reyes-–about my YA fantasy novel, Maya and the Book of Everything. By rights, this should have gone into my Three Things Thursday post because I am so thankful that Cynthia took the time to write this article. However, I wanted the piece to have its own space.

Here is an excerpt:

Un-Put-Downable: Maya

You know when you’re reading a book – even a mostly interesting book — but you reach a paragraph or page that’s over-written, over-described, over-dense, confusing or just plain boring?

Yes?

Me too.

So I can’t praise highly enough the novel that I finished reading last week. “Maya and the Book of Everything” kept me glued to its pages right to the end.

This shouldn’t be. There are many different characters, the book skips from one time and place to another and takes fantastical twists. And yet, the storytelling is seamless, the characters compelling, the dialogue convincing, the quest believably and skillfully portrayed. It was a pure pleasure to read this book.

What makes me even more pleased? This book about a teenaged girl who takes on a seemingly impossible mission is from a small press, and authored by Laurie Graves, a blogger you may know.

With this book, Laurie demonstrates formidable gifts and skill as a novelist.

To read the rest of Cynthia’s piece, click here.

Many, many thanks, Cynthia. I so appreciate her taking the time to do this, especially as her own children’s picture book, Myrtle the Purple Turtle, was just published this month. I know very well what a busy time it is when a book has just been published.

Cynthia’s article about my book is a perfect example of the generosity of the blogging world, a generosity, I’m happy to report, that I’ve experienced with many of my blogging friends.

Merci beaucoup!