Category Archives: Books

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.

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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!

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.

 

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.