Category Archives: Books

The Cover of “Of Time and Magic”!

Woo-hoo! Double woo-hoo! Here is the cover of Of Time and Magic, the fourth book in my Great Library Series. James T. Egan, of Bookfly Designs, created this beautiful cover. I really do think it’s my favorite.

 Of Time and Magic spans two universes, many planets, and the high seas. It concludes the story begun in Maya and the Book of Everything, when Maya began her fateful journey on that train from New York to Boston and gained possession of the enigmatic Book of Everything. Publication will be in the fall, probably in October.

Sniff. My little baby’s all grown up.

Back after a Much-Needed Rest

My two-week staycation zipped right by. It was a quiet but pleasing blend of books, resting, and puttering around the house. What a treat to read in the morning and not have work tapping on my shoulder.

And what was I reading?

About a month ago, I fell in love with the Slow Horses series on Apple TV+.  The series, based on the book by Mick Herron, is about a group of misfit and disgraced spies—dubbed “slow horses”—led by the acerbic Jackson Lamb, played by the great and good Gary Oldman. Their headquarters are the decrepit and depressing Slough House, a far cry from MI5’s Regent’s Park.  Naturally, trouble finds the band of misfits, and it doesn’t take the viewer long to wonder who the real misfits are. Only six episodes long, Slow Horses ended all too soon, and I decided to check out the book, the first in the Slough House series.

It was love at first read. Slow Horses is quirky but so well written with a cracking plot and a gripping cast of characters. There are eight books in the Slough House series, and courtesy of my library, I whipped through them with the speed I usually reserve for a box of See’s chocolates. I read like a woman possessed, with the contradictory feelings of both wanting and not wanting to finish the series. Hats off to Mick Herron, who writes impeccable prose at a clip that any hack writer would envy.

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I also spent a lot of time on the patio, where the garden is at its best.

Here is a longer view.

And a little abstraction of evening primroses and lilies, taken through the back of one of the lawn chairs.

The front yard is abloom, too. July is definitely the month for the gardens at our home at the edge of the woods.

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The cover for my book Of Time and Magic is underway at the fabulous Bookfly Design. Soon I will have a cover to share with you. I’m very excited about this. It’s also a little bittersweet as Of Time and Magic concludes Maya’s journey and the battle for the Great Library.

 

 

 

Summer, Beautiful Summer

Summer, beautiful summer is here. At night June bugs, as large as small stones, whirr and rattle against the screens. No doubt they are attracted by the light. Some people don’t like the noise, but to me June bugs sound like summer, and I always look forward to their return. Also on the screens, fireflies blink on and off, on and off, little sprites in the dark night.

“Look!” I cry whenever I see a spot of light, and Clif and Dee duly look.

In a month’s time, the leaves on the trees have gone from a bright fringe to a deep mature green, and I love the sighing sound they make when the wind moves through them.

On the brink of blooming, my gardens are still mostly shades of green, which is a color, too, as my blogging friend Quercus once reminded me. But there are bits of color here and there.

Tomorrow—June 21—is the longest day of the year, the first day of summer, and one of the sweetest days. It is also the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, and if she were alive, she would be eighty-six.  Happy birthday, Mom! Wish you were still here so we could celebrate it with you.

The weather this June has been absolutely delightful—a little cool, which this Mainer loves—with exactly the right amounts of sun and rain. Because of this, I’ve hardly had to water the gardens, and it’s no surprise that everything is lush and green. Unlike last June, we’ve not had to use Eva, our air conditioner, at all. Indeed, yesterday was so rainy and chilly—the temp didn’t get above 60—that Clif started a small fire in the wood furnace to take away the chill and damp. My kind of June.

The editing on my book Of Time and Magic continues. The deadline for the cover is next Tuesday. Even afterwards, I’ll continue to tweak and polish. I can’t seem to help myself. As long as I don’t add any pages, I’ll be fine.

The  forecast for this week promises more delightful summer weather, with rain and sun and temps in the 70s. I know some of my blogging friends are enduring very hot weather, and I wish I could send a little of our perfect Maine weather your way.

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And now for something completely different, courtesy—surprise, surprise—of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

This is not the kind of music I usually listen to, but somehow I find Monsieur Periné’s peppy music irresistible. The lead singer is so quick and cute that it makes me smile just to watch her.

And Back Again

As it turned out, my wee break lasted much longer than I had expected. Note to self: Do not ever plan to finish writing a book during peak gardening season, which in Maine is the lovely month of May.

Not surprisingly, for the entire month, I pinged back and forth between my book—Of Time and Magic—and the gardens. Because there is a deadline for the cover, the book took precedence. In three weeks, I wrote 10,000 words and brought Maya’s story to what feels to me like a satisfying conclusion. (I certainly hope readers feel the same way.) Now it’s time to edit, edit, edit.

As for the gardens…I am behind; there are no two ways about it. Two-thirds of the beds have had compost spread on them. One half have been fertilized. But I keep plugging on. Yesterday morning I got up early and tucked compost here and there under plants that are approaching full grown. In a normal year, composting and fertilizing would have been done the third week in May. Fortunately, I did a lot of dividing and moving last year, and there wasn’t much to do this year.

Then there’s the house. The less said about that the better.

However, despite my slow ways, the gardens seem to be doing just fine.

About two weeks ago, we were treated to deep purple irises in the backyard.

The irises have gone by, and now there is lush green. More flowers will bloom in June and July.

Until then, this cheery sign—with places from my books—provides a splash of color. (Thanks yet again, Beth Clark, for this wonderful present.)

The beds out front are abloom with white, cool and soothing.

With a bit of blue from Jacob’s Ladder.

I have missed reading all your lovely blogs and am happy to be back in the swing of blogging. Such a wonderful community! From now on, I will be posting once a week on Mondays. Unless, of course, I get such exciting news that another post is needed.

See you next Monday.

 

 

 

A Wee Break

The time has come to take a wee break from blogging. Between finishing Of Time and Magic and spring gardening, I don’t have much energy for anything else.

Two days ago, I crested 100,000 words, and today I’ll begin the chapter I’ve been heading toward since Book One, Maya and the Book of Everything.

Thanks to Mick Herron and his excellent Slow Horses, I’ve figured out how to structure the end of Of Time and Magic. I love the Slow Horses television series, which features the great and good Kristen Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman. I love the book even more—good writing, vivid characters, cracking plot. I highly recommend both the TV series and the book.

So goodbye for a week or two. I’ll miss reading your posts, but, as the saying goes, needs must.

Here’s a parting shot of a hyacinth that my mother-in-law planted thirty-seven years ago. My mother-in-law has been gone for seventeen years, but I’m still enjoying the flower’s spring beauty.

The Great Unfurling

Busy, busy, busy. Spring has officially come to Maine—the black flies have reared their nasty little heads—and gardeners have about one month to get their gardens in order. By June, the plants are too big for easy fertilizing, composting, and dividing. So the race is on!

I am happy to report I am pretty much on schedule. My first job is to remove all the leaves that have blown into the various beds, and this is no small thing when you live on the edge of a small forest.

I am about two-thirds done with leaf removal. After that, it will be on to spreading compost and fertilizer then dividing perennials and planting annuals, which is one of my favorite things to do.

In between removing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of leaves from the beds, I have taken time to admire to admire the unfurling of the ferns, which I always love to see. For couple of weeks, the curled ferns are so tender and delicate looking. Then just like that they spring into sweet leafiness, and year after year, I am enchanted as I watch the process.

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As many of you know, I am also working like crazy to finish Of Time and Magic, Book Four in my Great Library Series. I had hoped to be wrapped up by now, but it looks is though I won’t be finished until either the end of this week or the beginning of next week. I want to take my time with the ending of this book, which is the culmination of ten years of work, when I began the first book in the series, Maya and the Book of Everything.

I probably have three more chapters left to go.  The winds of the writing gods blow me to and fro, but I am getting there.  I can definitely see the harbor and many friendly faces on the dock.

Of Time and Magic‘s current word count: 99, 180

A Time of Firsts and Beginnings

Spring is a time of firsts, a time of beginnings.

Last week, for the first time, I saw these flowers in our yard.

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to identify them as coltsfoot. According to Mother Earth Living, coltsfoot is too invasive to go in the garden. Fortunately, these flowers are blooming on the side of the driveway, by the woods, far from my gardens.

For beginnings: Clif started cutting up the tree that had fallen in the backyard. The wood is too punky for our wood furnace, but we will be able to use it in our fire pit.

Drum roll, please! On Friday—for what counts as big excitement at our home on the edge of the woods—Clif brought out our small patio table.

The patio is now ready for action. And even though Friday was a little chilly, we had our first drinks (and snacks!) on the patio.

How lovely it was to sip rum and Coke, watch the birds and the squirrels, and admire the red buds against the blue sky.

For the first time this week, we heard the exuberant spring song of the peepers, tiny one-inch tree frogs whose small size belies their robust voices that come together each night in a rousing symphony. They sing, “Spring, spring, spring!”

Dee also heard the melancholy call of a loon, which means they have returned to the Narrows, about a quarter of mile from where we live.

As I’ve written before, spring is an old story that never feels old. The renewal, the rebirth, the sights, the sounds are always stirring, no matter how many springs I have seen.

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Book report for Of Time and Magic

Word count this week: 6,006

Total word count: 86, 795

To continue with the metaphor of writing and being at sea…not only can I now see the harbor, but the docks, ships, store fronts, and houses have also snapped into view.

 

 

 

 

Pick-Up Sticks

For whatever reason, spring clean-up has not been too bad this year.  I think it’s because we had fewer wind storms to blow branches down. There is one big exception to this, but more on that later.

Last week, I went around the yard and collected all the sticks and small branches that came down over the winter. I filled the wheelbarrow twice, and the sticks, which will be used in the fire pit, have been tucked into a big garbage can.

As the picture above indicates, the patio is no longer empty and lonely. Clif brought up the blue chairs, and we are ready for warmish weather when we can sit on the patio and enjoy the backyard.

The raised beds, where I plant a few herbs and vegetables, need a bit of tidying. But to my winter-weary eyes, they are a sign of good things to come.

Clif straightened the clothesline, but the ground is still too soft for me to hang my laundry on it. Soon, soon. Like my mother, I am dedicated to hanging laundry on the line. Good for the planet, and good for the budget. Plus, you can’t beat the smell of laundry hung outside.

Now, here is the exception to our easy spring clean-up.

During a high wind a week or so ago, we heard a  mighty roar, and when we looked at out the kitchen window we saw what had caused it—a tree had blown over in the backyard. Fortunately, absolutely nothing was damaged. Next week, Clif will be getting a new chain for his chainsaw and begin cutting up the tree. The wood will probably be used for the fire pit on some chilly spring night when with mugs of tea, we sit around the fire. Always so cozy and relaxing to look at the night sky and hear the night noises in the woods.

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Writing update for my novel Of Time and Magic: For various reasons, I fell short of my 6,000 word goal for the week. Instead, I clocked in at 4,140. Onward I press, hoping for 6,000 next week. My plan is for the book to be about 99,000 words, the same length as Library Lost.  74,000 is my current word count.

25,000 more words to go!

 

 

What’s on Your Bookshelf: March 18

This Friday, I’m joining Donna at Retirement Reflections and some of her blogging friends for their monthly What’s on your Bookshelf?

Even though I’ve read five books this month, I decided to focus on just two of them, both set in Maine but very different. That way, I could go into a little more detail about each book. For future What’s on Your Bookshelf?, I will probably continue to focus on two or three books.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Confession time: Romance novels aren’t my thing. I don’t mind reading books that include a romance, but I usually want some larger plot to bind it all together. However, Evvie Drake Starts Over is indeed a romance novel, with the central story being the relationship between Evvie, a young widow, and Dean, a baseball pitcher who can no longer pitch.

I decided to read this novel because I’m an admirer of Linda Holmes, one of the hosts of the excellent podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. Despite not being a fan of romance books, I stayed up late to finish Evie Drake. Holmes makes us care about Evvie and her struggles with depression and anxiety as she deals with the her husband’s death and the memories of her unhappy marriage. Meanwhile, Dean is dealing with his own issues, and I cared about him, too. I wanted things to turn out well for Evvie and Dean. Do they? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

One final note: This book is set in Calcasset, a fictitious Maine town. And—not to put too fine a point on it—Linda Holmes is “from away,” as we would say in Maine. Because of this there were a couple of missteps. Evvie calls her father Pop, and I’ve never heard any Mainer call his or her father Pop. Usually, it’s Dad. Also, I’ve never heard crickets sing in Maine in the spring. As far as I know, late summer is when they begin their sad, sweet songs. But these are small errors that most people wouldn’t catch, and overall Holmes did a fair job of portraying Maine, albeit from an outsider’s point of view.

We Were Not Spoiled: A Franco-American Memoir by Lucille Verreault Ledoux with Denis Ledoux

We Were Not Spoiled: A Franco-American Memoir is a quiet book about growing up in Maine from the 1920s, when Lucille Verreault Ledoux was born, to the 1950s, when she was a young adult with a family of her own. While nothing exciting happens—this is a chronicle of everyday life—I found it compelling nonetheless. Perhaps it’s because I’m Franco-American, too.

A quick note for readers unfamiliar with the Franco-American ethnic group. Between 1840 and 1930 nearly one million French Canadians came to the United States. The largest number of these  immigrants settled in New England. The immigrants worked in factories, in brickyards, in shipyards, and on farms. They formed French-speaking communities that were known as Little Canadas. Today in Maine, Franco-Americans comprise 25% of the state’s population.

In 1920, toward the end of the French Canadian migration, Ledoux’s parents settled in Lewiston, Maine’s Little Canada, where French was the common language. They were originally from Thetford Mines in Québec. Ledoux, born in Lewiston, was the eldest of twelve children. In We Were Not Spoiled, she describes how they were crammed into small apartments and homes where the children often slept three to a bed.

We Were Not Spoiled is not a nostalgic book about how magical life was in the old days. Instead, Ledoux writes frankly about the hard times she and her family endured and how poverty and class limited her opportunities. Her parents valued work over education, and Ledoux dropped out of school when she was sixteen, working at odd jobs to help support the family.

When Ledoux marries and begins her own family, she and her husband, Albert, who also dropped out of high school, vow to do everything they can to encourage their children to finish high school.

In addition to the hard times, Ledoux also writes about the good times—skating, playing with her friends, joining a Drill Team. She notes how despite the challenge of feeding fourteen people, nobody went hungry in her family. No small accomplishment when you have to feed that many people on a tight budget.

The book ends when Ledoux is thirty and is about to move out of Lewiston to nearby Lisbon Falls to begin a new life with her husband as a chicken farmer.

I was sorry to come to the end of this book, to not be able to read about Ledoux’s years in Lisbon Falls.

But then again, wanting to read more is the sign of a good book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s on Your Bookshelf—October 2021 Edition

With today’s post, I am joining Donna, of Retirement Reflections, for October’s What’s on Your Bookshelf challenge. Thistles and Kiwis is also taking part in the challenge, and one book on her list was written by a Maine author. How about that? A Maine book in New Zealand.

Below is a photo of the books I read in October, and it illustrates my eclectic tastes. I am a reader who likes stories about everyday life, but I also like stories that feature myths, magic, and archetypes. However, whether a book is a slice of life or high fantasy, everything I read shares the same requirement: It must be character driven. I really dislike books with one-dimensional characters who are marched through the plot.

Marcia Willett, an English author I discovered via A Corner of Cornwall, writes about everyday life in Cornwall and Devon. Romance figures heavily in her stories, and I must admit that romance is not my favorite genre. However, when it comes to her characters, Willet is both sympathetic and shrewd, a winning combination for this reader.

Although at times overwritten, Willet’s books are usually a bon-bon of a read. The Courtyard, with its swirl of characters, young and old, certainly falls into this category. Old age and poverty are addressed with compassion. Infidelity rears its ugly head, but there is also forgiveness. The extreme difficulties of some of the characters are perhaps too neatly resolved, but the book’s message of friendship and generosity never gets old.

Alas, the same cannot be said of First Friends, a tedious chronicle of the many infidelities of navy wives and their husbands. This is Willett’s first book, but fortunately I had read several other of her books before First Friends. Pardon the tangle of puns, but if I had read First first, it would have been last.

Speaking of last…I have saved the best for last—Katherine Addison’s goblin/elf books.

Uncharacteristically for fantasy, both books, set in the same magical steampunk realm, are primarily character driven. In The Goblin Emperor, Maia, the main character, half-elf, half-goblin, is the unloved child of his father, the emperor. When Maia’s father and brothers are killed in an airship crash, Maia, young and inexperienced, becomes emperor. Struggling to remain decent, Maia must navigate the intricacies of court life while dealing with various treacheries and plots.

Densely and beautifully written, The Goblin Emperor is referred to as a fantasy of manners, where, according to Wikipedia, “The protagonists are not pitted against fierce monsters or marauding armies, but against their neighbors and peers; the action takes place within a society, rather than being directed against an external foe; duels may be fought, but the chief weapons are wit and intrigue.”

For those who don’t read fantasy, The Goblin Emperor would be a good way to ease into the genre.

The Witness for the Dead is set in the same world as The Goblin Emperor, but with a different protagonist— Celehar, a minor yet important character in the first book. Celehar is able to get thoughts, impressions, and memories from those who are newly dead and is therefore able to help solve crimes, settle disputed wills, and in general tidy up the loose ends that those who have died sometimes leave behind.

There is still political intrigue in The Witness for Dead, but the story is also a murder mystery, another genre I don’t usually read.

But with these two books, Addison proves that genre is not important when the writing is good and the story revolves around a vivid character.