Category Archives: Books

Nature and Technology: The Reconciliation of Opposites

The late great Canadian author Robertson Davies once wrote that the Jungian definition of balance is the reconciliation of opposites. That has always stuck with me, and I am thinking about this a lot right now during this time of the coronavirus.

As someone who loves the natural world, I’ve done a fair amount of grumbling over the  years about technology, screens, and the Internet. From the time I was a teenager, a part of me has longed to live on a small farm with chickens, apple trees, and a big garden.

But I am married to a computer geek, and a small farm was not one of his wishes. Therefore, as it is with many marriages, we have compromised. We live on a rural road, surrounded by trees and nature and wildlife. But our house is kitted out with computers and all the technology that goes along with it. And I’ve got to admit that during this period of self-isolation, I have been ever so grateful for computers and technology as well as the woods outside my home.

Last weekend, in our very own living room, we “visited” with our North Carolina kids via our laptop, where we could talk and see their shining faces. We chatted for about two hours, and it was great.

Daily, I have been visiting with various blogging friends, and through posts and comments, I am connected with folks all around the world. How I value these connections.

At night, Clif and I watch something from one of our streaming services. Last night it was The King of Masks, recommended by our librarian Nick and available through Kanopy. This poignant film took us to China in the 1930s, where it examined poverty, gender roles, love, and generosity.

Yesterday afternoon, via the Internet, our library’s movie club—Cinemates—got together to discuss the 2002 film The Hours, a moving and heart-wrenching look at Virginia Woolf, mental illness, caretakers, and how a book can ripple through the ages to affect both readers and family. One member of our movie club noted how you can tell an awful lot about a person by the way they fill their hours.

Maybe, just maybe, going forward, our society can reconcile these two opposites—nature and technology—and twine them together in a way that in a way that honors nature while electronically connecting us to each other and the world.

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 155

The News from All Over

From CNN

New York has become the national epicenter of the outbreak, as cases there are now doubling every three days, overwhelming hospitals. New York state’s hospitals have enough personal protection equipment for just two more weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said, while it’s in need of 180,000 more beds.

To help stave off a crippling recession, the Senate voted to inject a $2 trillion stimulus into the US economy, a move that now needs approval from the House. President Donald Trump has pledged to get the economy “raring to go by Easter,” a goal that experts warn is too ambitious.

A record-breaking 3.28 million Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week…

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 487,648

Global Deaths: 22,030

My Own Take: Over this week, Maine’s coronavirus numbers have edged up ever so slowly. I am cautiously hopeful that with all the self-isolating and business closures, Maine will be able to stem the horrible  coronavirus tide. Only time will tell. Fingers and toes crossed.

Silly and Serious

Clif has a wonderful feel for graphic art, and to take his mind off the coronavirus, he decided to have fun with my YA fantasy novels, Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost, which are both part of my Great Library Series. In short, Clif pulp-O-fied them. What he came up with really tickled me—he did use a template—and I thought I’d share it for a little relief. When this is all over, I will have a framed copy for my office. Makes me smile just to look at it.

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine Public

Gov. Janet Mills has signed an executive order that adds new restrictions on non-essential businesses….this order turns last week’s recommendations into mandated closures for those… types of businesses beginning at 12:01 – midnight – Wednesday, and extending through April 8th. The order also extends the mandated closure of dine-in services by restaurants and bars until April 8th, while also prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people.

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 142

The News from All Over

From CNN

[T]he White House and Senate lawmakers reached a historic $2-trillion stimulus deal early this morning, amid growing coronavirus fears. The Senate will reconvene at noon to vote on the plan. Wall Street surged, Asian markets rallied and US stock futures pared losses on the news.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 435,006

Global Deaths19,625

My own take: Anyone who thinks that government can never do any good should seriously rethink that position. Certainly, bad governments—authoritarian, incompetent, or corrupt—can do a lot of bad. But a well-run government led by people who truly care about the well being of everyone can do a lot of good. This stimulus deal is much needed and will help individuals and businesses weather this terrible storm. When the pandemic is over, I sincerely hope our country will change course and start providing more services to all the people, not just those at the top. Turns out there are far worse things than having a “nanny state.”

 

Snow-Gauge Clif and Some Amazing Numbers

Another wee break from the coronavirus. Yesterday’s post was pretty heavy, and I thought I’d leaven the blog with something a little lighter. (I’ll be back on Monday with news of the coronavirus from a Maine perspective.)

Here is the second installment of Snow-Gauge Clif, who yearly measures how fast the snow melts from our home in the woods.

This is Snow-Gauge Clif in the front yard. The snow is almost gone! Very unusual for our yard in mid-March. Amazing, actually.

And here he is in the backyard. Note the mud in the foreground. See those footprints? I nearly took a flip once or twice as I went back and forth with a wheelbarrow full of leaves.

Here are a couple of photos of the front garden. For those of you in warmer places, this might not look like much. But this Mainer is very impressed with how little snow is left.

And here is a little acorn that fell on our front porch. It looks as though it has split and is ready to sprout. I am going to throw into the woods where it will have a chance to grow.

To continue on with the theme of amazing…here are some pretty amazing numbers—1,261, the number of e-books that was downloaded during our giveaway last week. To try to cheer up people and give them something do while they were hunkering in place, we offered my two YA fantasy novels, Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost, as e-books for free of charge for five days. (Amazon’s limit, not ours.)

Initially, I thought  we’d give twenty, maybe thirty, of them away. But, no. There are now 1,261 of my ebooks zinging around the world. Holy cats! I know free is a good price, but I never expected so many people to take us up on our offer.

I hope readers can take comfort from Maya, the main character in both books. She faces formidable adversaries, and although Maya is at times afraid, she faces and acknowledges her fears. Then Maya goes forth and carries on.

May all of you carry on.

 

 

March Giveaway: Two Free E-books from Our Very Own Hinterlands Press

Let’s face it: What with the coronavirus and politics, it has been a rough month. To help you stay home and out of harm’s way, for the next five days—starting on March 10 and ending March 14—we are offering two of our e-books free of charge from Amazon. The books are my YA fantasy novels, Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost.

Plucky fifteen-year-old Maya, who travels across the universe with a Book of Everything, might just take your mind off your earthly troubles. Enjoy, stay safe, and be well. Here is the link to the ebooks on Amazon.

Due to Amazon rules, we can offer this for only five days. So act now, and please share this with anyone who might be interested.

Vlog Review of Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost

Here is Shane-Malcolm Billings’s  wonderful, thoughtful vlog review of my books, Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost.  Shane is a librarian extraordinaire who worked in Winthrop for nearly ten years before taking a job at another library. (How we miss him!) He started the excellent book group Title Waves, which is still going strong at the library.

We humans are a species that love stories. It is one of the best things about us, and through his own blog and his work as a librarian, Shane encourages that love. Truly, he makes the world a better place.

Many, many thanks, Shane!

 

 

A Day of Food, Rest, and Jane Austen

Last Saturday was a busy day filled with a movie—Rashomon—in Waterville; grocery shopping; and then a night out with friends at the fabulous Van der Brew in our very own town of Winthrop. (I wrote about Van der Brew a couple of weeks ago.)

On Sunday, it rained, which is most unwelcome in Maine in January. It could have been worse, of course. We could have gotten freezing rain. Nevertheless, what we expect this time of year is snow. However, with a fire in our wood furnace, Clif and I were snug and warm, and with no pressing engagements, we more or less took the day off.

We started out with egg and toast as we watched the news.

After the news, we moved on to Sanditon, a BBC production of Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel. Through Maine Public Television, we were able to stream three episodes. Although Jane Austen had only written eleven chapters of Sanditon before she became too ill to continue, it was clear that her focus was centered on how commerce was changing England’s culture. Some of Sanditon feels contemporary as certain characters fret about what we would now call venture capital. In addition, there is a West Indian heiress—Miss Lambe—whose mother was a slave. These, apparently, are all elements in the book, and at first the show is relatively faithful to the story.

But then the writer, Andrew Davies, decided to tart things up for a modern audience and throw other elements into the mix. (I won’t give any spoilers in case some of you haven’t watched the show but are planning to later on.) By doing this, Davies has departed from the spirit of Jane Austen, and it feels disrespectful to me. Other choices are downright ludicrous. I do like the actors who play the main characters—Charlotte and Sydney—but I am not sure if this will be enough to keep me watching.

If any of you are following the series, please chime in and let me know what you think.

After watching Sanditon, we were in the mood for something sweet, and decided to make some chocolate-covered peanuts. Very tasty, if I do say so myself.

Now with all these treats, how could we end the day? Why, with veggie sausages and Clif’s homemade pancakes. To borrow from my Yankee husband: Pretty darned good.

After a busy week of working on various projects, it was good to take a whole day off to rest. In Maine, winter is the perfect time to do this. Once spring comes, we will busy working outside, but for now setting aside one day a week to relax feels very good indeed.

 

 

Whoopie Pies and Fudge and Cupcakes, Oh My!

Last weekend, Clif and I took our books to the Waterboro Elementary School Craft Fair, a two-day event.  Because the fair started at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and was an hour and a half from our home, we had to get up at God-awful o’clock to get there in time to set up before the doors opened. Never mind. We had our thermoses of tea and coffee, which we drained dry, and we had a fantastic time where we sold lots of books.

This was a down-home craft fair with a broad range of items, from knitwear to handmade cutting boards to baked goods. One table in particular—Bluebird Baked Goods— caught my attention.

As I like to say, I don’t have a sweet tooth. Instead, I have a whole mouthful of them. Is it any wonder, then, that I stopped to gape at these gems from Bluebird Baked Goods?

Here’s a closer look.

Readers from New England will immediately recognize that these are whoopie pies, and I am a huge fan of this delectable treat. These particular whoopie pies attracted me because they were so neat and tidy and professional looking. Did I buy one? No, I bought two—one on each day.

Now, handsome is as handsome does, but as it turned out, the whoopie pie was as delicious as it looked. The cake was moist and chocolatey, and the filling was thick and creamy. The best I have ever had, and I have eaten my fair share of whoopie pies.

As the table was only three down from ours, I had ample opportunity to gaze lovingly at those beauties and sample other goodies from Bluebird Baked Goods.

Allie Owen, an extraordinarily gifted young baker, is the owner of Bluebird Baked Goods.

Before the fair started on Sunday, I had an opportunity to chat with Allie and—in Paul Hollywood fashion—shake her hand. She started her business when she was nineteen and has a commercial kitchen in her home. Allie’s mother is her inspiration and her teacher. One of Allie’s favorite pictures is of herself when she was a baby. Sitting on the counter, baby Allie is stirring batter in a bowl. Thus a young baker was born.

Allie told me that she loves playing with sugar. Laughing, she said, “Sugar is my medium.”

And Allie is certainly an artist who also designs custom cakes for weddings, birthdays, and other events.

If only we lived closer to Waterboro!

As we don’t, I’ll be dreaming of those whoopie pies and hoping that we go to another fair where Bluebird Baked Goods has a table.