Category Archives: Books

That Nip of Fall

Just like that, fall is here. It seems that only a short time ago we were using the air conditioner. However, the temp has dipped so low  that there have even been frost warnings all over the state. So far, our cozy home in the woods has escaped being nipped by frost. Nevertheless, we have to use heat in the morning and at night.  Too sudden? You bet. But this is Maine, and that’s how the weather rolls here.

Fortunately, it gets warm enough in the early afternoon for lunch on the patio. Yesterday, Clif grilled Beyond Beef burgers, and as a side, I had some little tomatoes courtesy of our own Farmer Kev. How nice it was to eat in the sun. (Again, what a change from a mere couple of weeks ago.)

The garden is definitely past its best.

But along the edge of our yard, asters are still in bloom.

And the leaves are just beginning to change.

This is a busy time for me. The proof copy of my YA fantasy Out of Time is in. Now begins the extremely picky task of going over the book line by line to catch any errant typos or formatting errors.

Onward, ho!

Friday Favorite: Between Heather and Grass

I decided to change the title for my Friday posts. Formerly, it was What’s Making Me Happy, but I had borrowed this from the excellent podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, and I thought maybe it would be best to have something different. There is a fine line between admiration and plagiarism, and I didn’t want to cross it.

So now the title will be Friday Favorites, but the content will be the same as I list things that made me happy or caught my attention during the week. Often I list three things, but today there will only be one as it needs to stand by itself.

Long overdue to be featured on this blog is the very beautiful book, Between Heather and Grass: Poems and Photographs Filled with Love, Hope and Whippets. It was published by my blogging friend Xenia Tran, who has the lovely blogs Whippet Wisdom and Tranature. Both blogs feature fine poetry as well as gorgeous photography of Scotland. Whippet Wisdom, as its name suggests, also features two graceful whippets, Eivor and Pearl.

Between the Heather and Grass also features fine poetry, gorgeous photographs of Scotland, and those two elegant whippets. In addition, there are short paragraphs of prose that expand on the poetry and photos.

About Between Heather and Grass, Xenia writes, “We are donating thirty per cent of any net profit from the sale of this book to a children’s cancer charity in memory of our nephew Jamie Baker and another thirty per cent of net profit to the UK’s largest dog welfare charity in memory of Flynn, Fergal, Seamus and Ruby. ”

Readers, I have a confession to make. I was moved to tears by the poignancy of the photos and words in this book combined with the dedication to Xenia’s nephew, who alas, did not survive his bout with cancer. I, too, have a nephew who had cancer, but fortunately he survived.

Anyway, this is a book to cherish, to have have in your own library and to give to others who love photography, poetry, and dogs.

Addendum: Oops! I had meant to delete this music video and include it in next week’s Friday Favorites. But it was pushed so far down that I didn’t notice it was on this post until a reader commented on it. Well, two things are featured this Friday.  Enjoy Jon Batiste’s fantastic music.

 

Addendum 2: Hoo-boy! Really missing the beat this week. On my Friday posts, I always like to include Thistle and Kiwis small pleasures for the week. Because let’s face it, especially during these times, you can’t have too many small pleasures.

Slowly, Slowly Getting Back into My Schedule

Last week was truly a gift. The weather was August perfect, a reminder of why people come to Maine in the summer. The days were hot, but not too hot, and the nights were cool enough to need blankets for sleeping.  Much of my time was spent on the patio, where I read, napped, took pictures, and ate. It was absolutely wonderful not to hurry through the day.

One night we had shrimp and Farmer Kev’s corn on the cob. Delicious!

Every evening we had drinks.

As we sipped our drinks and chatted, hummingbirds visited the last of the blooming bee balm. Soon those little lovelies will be gone, winging their way south to warmer weather.

Cardinals also came. But instead of bee balm nectar, they wanted to eat seeds at the brown feeder.

Truthfully, I could use another week off, but there is much work to do over the next few months. However, I am going to ease back slowly, first with blogging and then with other writing—my podcast and the final editing of my book Out of Time.

But all is not labor and toil at our home in the woods. This week we are having a Tri-State Virtual Film Festival where one night the whole family watches a movie and the next evening we get together—via Zoom—to discuss it.

We’ve already seen two movies, and I’ll be writing more about this on Friday as our Tri-State Virtual Film Festival is definitely making me happy.

Oh, My! A New Book & A Podcast in the Works

Last night the rain finally came, and what a wonderful thing to hear it dripping from the eaves. It was a perfect rain—not too driving—and I think we might have gotten at least an inch.  Rain is in the forecast for the next few days, and while I like a sunny day as much as the next person, I am grateful for the rain as we surely need it. June has been such a dry month.

Here are a couple of pictures of our rainy yard. (Or garden as my friends across the pond would say.)

Lots of green, as you can see, but as my blogging friend Quercus wisely noted, green is a color, too. Yes, it is.

I am happy to report that Clif and I rose to the strawberry challenge, which I mentioned in my previous post. That is, two quarts of very ripe strawberries that wouldn’t keep long. In two-and-a-half days, those strawberries were gone. Utterly delicious! A good example of what you can do when you put your mind to it.

July is going to be a busy month for me. In the fall, Out of Time, the third book in The Great Library Series, will be published. In the next week, I have to get details about the book to James at Bookfly Design for the cover.  As with any book, there is also lots of picky copy editing to do before Out of Time can be published.

In addition, Clif and I have been working on an exciting new project—Tales from The Other Green Door, a podcast that will air sometime in July or August. The Other Green Door is a spin-off from Out of Time, and it involves two elves, Jace Willowdale and her cousin Thirret Greenwood. They have come from New York City to Portland, Maine, to open a café called The Other Green Door. Jace and Thirret are hoping for a quiet life in this small city by the bay. But because Jace accumulates magical relics from Elferterre, a mysterious dimension, the quiet life eludes them.

Because of the book and the podcast and all the work I must do to get them ready, blog posts for the next month or two are likely to be brief, with maybe a few pictures and a few lines.

Onward, ho!

And stay tuned for the podcast cover.

 

 

 

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.