Category Archives: Books

Three Things Thursday: Three lessons Learned through a Book, a Singer, and another Book

My weekly exercise in gratitude, or as some of my blogging friends put it, three things that made me smile this week.

As this blog surely indicates, I love the natural world for its beauty as well as its struggles. Because I live in the hinterlands, my posts often reflect this. But I also love art—books, movies, music, theater, and paintings, and today’s Three Things Thursday will illustrate how this love illuminated my life, the way it so often does.

First, Myrtle the Purple Turtle a delightful new children’s picture book—released just a few days ago—by my blogging friend Cynthia ReyesMyrtle the Purple Turtle is a gentle book that address a serious subject—not looking like most everyone around you. Race certainly comes to mind, but you could also add ethnicity, disability, or any number of things that make people feel different. In the time-honored tradition of many children’s books, Cynthia Reyes uses animals to explore this especially relevant subject. In short, Myrtle is not like most other turtles. Instead of being green, she is purple. After being bullied because of the way she looks, Myrtle takes steps to change her color, and the results aren’t exactly what she had expected. I don’t think I’m giving too much away by telling readers that the book ends on a hopeful note.  Jo Robinson’s illustrations are charming but vibrant, giving warmth and personality to this lovely purple turtle.

Second, the singer George Ezra and his song “Don’t Matter Now.” All during the summer, after the work of the day, my husband and I would go to the patio, have a drink, and listen to music. It was our response to all the horrendous news and decisions coming from Washington, DC. Ezra’s song somehow exactly fit our mood.

Sometimes you need to be alone
It don’t matter now
Shut the door, unplug the phone.

One day, I was wondering what George Ezra looked like. The radio doesn’t give you any idea, and none of the DJs really discussed him. Ezra has a big, deep bluesy voice, and in my mind’s eye he was African American, maybe from the South, maybe from Detroit, in his  mid-thirties, and ruggedly built. You can imagine my surprise then when I Googled Ezra and discovered he was a skinny white boy from England. (I hope my British blogging friends aren’t laughing too hard.)

What I especially love about this is how George Ezra’s voice upended my expectations about the way he looked.  And having expectations upended shakes up the mind, which is often a very good thing.

Third, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Actually, this is a double gratitude that should be shared by Title Waves, the wonderful book group I belong to, hosted by the library and facilitated by the equally wonderful Shane Billings, the Adult Services Librarian. But I digress.

How to describe A Tale for the Time Being? In essence it’s a tale told in two parts. The journal of Nao, a teenager in Tokyo, is washed up on the shore of an island in the Pacific Northwest, where it is found by a woman named Ruth. The story rocks back and forth between the lonely, suicidal Nao and Ruth, who suffers from writer’s block. Throughout this quirky but often harrowing story, Ozeki explores Buddhism—Nao’s great-grandmother is a Buddhist nun and a fabulous character. She also touches on bullying, family, honor, conscience, depression, right livelihood, and memory. Finally, Ozeki examines the nature of books and readers and  how they relate to quantum mechanics.

Phew! That’s a lot for one book, but Ozeki pulls it off with grace and warmth, coming up with memorable characters along with some very zippy concepts.

 

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A Great Time at the Great Falls Comic Expo (2017)

Last Saturday, right on the heels of all the birthday brouhaha, Clif and I had a table at the first ever Great Falls Comic Expo in Lewiston, Maine. Tired from all the festivities of the past two weeks, we weren’t sure what to expect at the Expo, but I am happy to report we had a great time. While the focus was on comic books and costumes, there was plenty of room for fantasy and horror and other overlapping genres.

First and very important, we sold enough books—Maya and the Book of Everything and The Wave of Time–to make the day worthwhile. This is always a very good thing. (How depressing to go to an event and barely make the table fee. Alas, this has happened to us a few times.)

Second, the other vendors were so friendly and wonderfully generous. They gave me tips about the many other comic book conventions in Maine. (I had no idea there were so many.) It didn’t take me long to realize I was among a group of kindred spirits who had a passion for fantasy and folderol.

Third, it was just plain to fun see all the people in various costumes—Ghost Busters, many Doctor Whos, and lots of other wild and creative characters. There were various events to spice up the Expo, including a drawing smack-down where two artists on stage had to quickly draw a scenario suggested by members of the audience.  One particularly good rendition—I think it was of a dragon being analyzed by the Cat in the Hat—was immediately sold to someone in the audience.

Many thanks to Benjamin Santos of Cosplay Convention Center for organizing such a terrfic event. Thanks to Benjamin, Clif and I will be attending more comic book conventions.

The Once and Future Lobster Roll

Yesterday, I went to Fast Eddie’s in Winthrop to have lunch with my friend Barbara. Fast Eddie’s is a seasonal restaurant and more than a little retro, with a drive-in as well as a place to eat inside. There are also picnic tables and an old-fashioned playground that looks like it came straight from my childhood.

Another friend, Alice, had given me a priceless tip: Not only is Fast Eddie’s a funky place to eat with lots of Rock ‘n’ Roll memorabilia, but it also has incredible lobster rolls.

Lobster rolls are one of my favorite things to eat, and as my 60th birthday is right around the corner, I decided to indulge when I went out to lunch with Barbara. Oh, am I glad I did because Alice was absolutely right—those lobster rolls are fantastic. Mine was piled high with fresh lobster held together with just a hint of mayonnaise.

Our server was a perky young woman who knew what was what as we discussed the makings of a good lobster roll.

“There are four ingredients and only four,” I said. “Lobster, enough mayonnaise to hold it together, lettuce, and a roll.”

“That’s right,” she agreed.  “Do you know that some people actually want celery in their lobster salad?”

We both made a face.

“What is up with that?” I asked. “I’ve also heard of cooks wanting to add peppers or spices.”

We  shook our heads over the misguided taste of some people, usually those “from away.”

Well, they can’t help it, can they? After all, they’re not from Maine, the lobster capital of the country. Poor things. (I do want to hasten to add that not all people from away have misguided tastes when it comes to lobster rolls. Fortunately, most people from away like lobster rolls just the way they should be.)

Here is a picture of my amazing, utterly delicious lobster roll. Or should I say “lobstah” roll.

Then, because this was a pre-birthday celebration, I decided to guild the lily by having an ice cream sundae with Eddie’s homemade ice cream—chocolate with peanut butter.

You better believe I was full as can be after that feast.

As if all that weren’t enough, Barbara gave me this book for my birthday.

I’ve already flipped through it, and along with recipes for dishes using fruit, it also has recipes with winter squash, including one for a soup I’m itching to make.  Soon!

No two ways about it. Yesterday was a finest kind of day.

 

 

Reading Maya at the Vassalboro Public Library

Yesterday, I was the featured author at the Vassalboro Summer Reading Festival, and I presented my slide show Using Real Life in Fantasy. This, of course, included reading excerpts from my novel Maya and the Book of Everything.

What a day it was! Although the photo doesn’t show this, so many people came that extra chairs had to be brought out, and there was standing room only at the end. Many thanks to Donna Lambert, the Vassalboro Library director,  and David Theriault, the Vassalboro School librarian, for the wonderful publicity and for putting together such a fabulous event with a multitude of activities. Also, many thanks to friends and family who came.

There were several highlights to this presentation.

First, this is my hometown library, and it plays an essential role in my book. Several times, as I was talking about East Vassalboro, I actually got a little teary eyed.

Second, a young girl came early to buy a copy of my book. She and her mother had another commitment and were not able to stay for the presentation. The young girl actually used her birthday money to buy the book, and I was extremely touched by this.

Third, another young girl had me sign the book to both her and her friend, Mya—a little different spelling of my own “Maya.”  I hope they both like the book!

Over the past two weeks, I’ve tweaked my presentation so that it is more child friendly yet still appropriate for a general audience. There is a bit more tweaking I will do, but it is pretty close to the way I want it. I even have a writing exercise planned for children when I go into schools next year.

Anyway, such a terrific day yesterday. Again, thanks to Donna and David for organizing  the Summer Reading Festival. Not only was it  meaningful for me, but according to Donna, the festival was a big success for the town, with many people attending the various events.

Donna and David are prime examples of what can happen when positive, energetic people invest time and energy in a town. May the Vassalboro Summer Reading Festival continue and may other children’s writers join the festivities.

 

 

 

Maya at Vassalboro’s Summer Reading Festival on June 3

This Saturday—on June 3, at 2:00 p.m.—I will be the featured author at Vassalboro Public Library’s Summer Reading Festival.  There will be food, African Drumming, a book fair, crafts, and Maya and the Book of Everything.

I’m so looking forward to this. East Vassalboro and the Vassalboro Public Library are key elements in my book, and how wonderful it will be to go there with my presentation about using real life in a fantasy novel.

While I’ll be highlighting the real places I used—Waterville as well as East Vassalboro—I’ll also be reading a section where Maya has her eyes peeled by the giant Toad Queen.

Nothing like a little eye-peeling to pique interest in my book 😉

 

 

Maya and the Book of Everything at the Chapel Hill Library in North Carolina

Yesterday, I received a wonderful email from my daughter Shannon, who lives in North Carolina. She had put in a request for the Chapel Hill Library to carry my YA fantasy novel, Maya and the Book of Everything. And, by gum, they have! So now Maya and the Book of Everything is in a library in North Carolina.

Requesting that a library carry a book is a wonderful way to promote writers and to help spread the word about their books. (Some of you have also done this for Maya, and I thank you very much.)

Readers, if your library has Maya and the Book of Everything, be sure to let me know. After all, even though there is plenty of adventure and fantasy in my book, there are also some serious issues: the importance of libraries for spreading knowledge and the notion that facts do matter.

Perhaps in today’s world, that last notion seems a little quaint, but it is my belief that facts have always mattered and always will.