Category Archives: Books

The Pull of Abandoned Places

This was a weekend of selling books, and what a good weekend it was. We went to two shows—the Summer Arts Festival in our own little town of Winthrop and the Sunday Indie Market at the Baxter Brewing Company’s Pub in Lewiston. The Summer Arts Festival was fun, and we sold lots of books. Other vendors did well, too, and as I’ve noted before, it means a lot to us when people come to these events and buy what we have created.

However, a big highlight of the weekend was the setting of the Sunday Indie Market in Lewiston, a huge mill complex that is slowly being renovated, where shabby is juxtaposed with new. Clif and I are both drawn to buildings that have been abandoned. Somehow, in their neglect, these buildings acquire a dignity that they often didn’t have when they were in better repair.

For many people, Maine is a state of quaint seaside villages that caters to those who are from away, as we say here. The coast is certainly one beautiful aspect of the state. However, Clif and I were born inland—in Bangor and Waterville—two communities that do not give Maine its quaint reputation. We are old enough to remember when these cities were filled with factories and were more than a little gritty. These places feel like home to us.

Once upon a time, Lewiston was also a city of mills and factory workers.

Here is the gate at the pub, where the Sunday Indie Market was held.

We set up a booth on one side of the walkway. Behind us were shiny  new silos and old bricks.

Across from us, green growth reached up to cover neglect,

and water rushed by.

From afar, the walkway almost looks as though a mural has been painted on it. But here is one of Clif’s photo that takes a closer look and reveals peeling rather than painting.

Finally, old next to new.

While we love nature as much as the next Mainer, these half-abandoned places exert an almost gravitational pull on us, and we had mixed feelings when we heard that the rest of this mill complex was slated for renovation. I know. I know. We really don’t want these factories to fall to the ground, and we want them to be useful once more.

But gussied up, the buildings lose their striking visual appeal. Good for the community, perhaps, but not so good for photography.

 

The Corpse in the Compost

Fortunately, the title of this post does not come from personal experience. So far, there have been no corpses in my compost.

Instead, this is the title of a mystery novel written by A. Carman Clark. This lovely book captures the essence of rural Maine through the eyes of its protagonist, Amy Creighton, a woman of boundless curiosity who loves to cook and garden. She cherishes her solitude, but at the drop of a hat, she is ready to make muffins for friends and guests. When a corpse turns up in a neighbor’s compost, what is this freelance editor to do but to start investigating?

Amy’s knowledge of small-town life and her sympathy for the confined lives of some of the villagers makes her a sympathetic listener for both young and old.  Gradually, the details of the crime begun to emerge.

A. Carman Clark, a good writer and a good cook, was a friend of mine. When she was eighty-three, Arley published her first Amy Creighton mystery, The Maine Mulch Murder. Encouraged by the reception, Arley wrote a second book, The Corpse in the Compost. Unfortunately, Arley died before it was ready to be published, but she did leave a draft manuscript with notes and suggestions from a friend, from an editor, and from her daughter Kate Flora, also a writer.

On the Maine Crime Writer’s blog, Kate writes “Two summer ago, in the space between my own books, and nudged by Ann and Paula at the Mainely Murders bookstore http://mainelymurders.com, who had created a following for Maine MulchI sat down with the manuscript and started editing. As I’ve blogged about before, there were a lot of questions I wanted to ask my mother. As she was unavailable, I had to wing it. I’ll never know whether I made the right choices. But we were close, and I could usually find her ‘voice’ in making changes or amendments to the book.”

I’m happy to report that Kate succeeded beautifully in capturing Arley’s voice—crisp, precise, sympathetic, and observant.

“The Corpse in the Compost” is available through Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Corpse-Compost-Amy-Cre…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Be sure to buy two copies: One for yourself and one for a gift.  This is a gem of a book you’ll want to give to your mystery-loving friends.

Alas, Poor Cabbage

On Wednesday, Clif and I set up our canopy and book display at the Gardiner Farmers Market, held at the lovely, expansive common on the hill above downtown. The Gardiner Common—or Green, as it is often called in New England—is a wonderful place for children.  The Common is large enough so that parents do not have to worry about children  running into the road. There are swings and slides, and on hot days, a fountain to play in.

We were next to a vendor—Mike from Andrews Farm—with the most gorgeous array of veggies.

Here is a picture of Clif staring pensively at one of our purchases.

All in all, it was a relaxing day. There were no mosquitoes—praise be!—and the day was fine, warm but not too hot. We sold some books and prints. We listened to children play. We watched people walk their dogs. We bought a cabbage and some sugar snap peas, both of which we used in a stir-fry last night. Utterly delicious.

We have reserved another date in August to return to this farmers market, and we are looking forward to going back to the beautiful Gardiner Common.

 

 

Kind Words from Canada about Library Lost

Kind words about my books Library Lost and Maya and the Book of Everything are always appreciated, but when they come exactly at the right time, it is even better. So it was with my blogging friend Sheryl of Flowery Prose, a master gardener and writer from Calgary Alberta, Canada. Connecting with people from afar is a wonderful example of the joys of blogging. Readers, if you haven’t checked out Flowery Prose, then please do.

Sheryl recently wrote a review of Library Lost. As for the timing…this book has been published for six months, which means the flurry of its arrival has subsided. I am in the middle of writing Out of Time, the next book in my Great Library Series. While it might be an exaggeration to state this is a “dark night of the soul” phase for me, I am definitely in the Oh-my-God-how-am-I-going-to-get-to-the-end phase. I know where I went to go. I’m just not sure how I am going to get there. A good metaphor for life in general, don’t you think?

Here is some of what Sheryl wrote, used with permission.

The fate of the Great Library – the source of all of the knowledge and information in the universe – remains at stake in Library Lost. As Time and Chaos battle for such a powerful and valuable prize, other players have their own agendas. It’s up to our smart, strong teenage heroine, Maya, and her allies to stay out of danger and initiate a plan to save the Library. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans don’t always pan out the way they should, and the result is an engaging, action-packed (and magical!) adventure with brilliant pacing and and an exquisitely detailed and realized setting.

Many thanks, Sheryl! And onward, ho for me.

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Windy

On Saturday, we went to Steep Falls Farmers Market with our books and display. As the title indicates, it was an up and down kind of day.

Being a person who likes to look on the bright side of life, I’ll start with the good.

First, it was a gloriously sunny day—it had rained the day before— and the Steep Falls Farmers Market is on a pretty green complete with a gazebo.

Here we are all set up.

Here’s a longer view of the green.

And our books and prints started out looking pretty.

Now comes the bad. I am going to borrow from another crafter by noting that we had to get up at God-awful-o’clock in the morning to get to Steep Falls—over an hour from where we live—and set up by 8:30.  (The market opens at 9:00.) To put it mildly, I am not a morning person. By the time we were set up and I had the first sip of tea from my thermos, I felt as though I had been whacked between the eyes with a 2 x 4. In short, not exactly my usual perky self. (Go ahead, morning folks. Yuck it up.)

Then came the windy. Apparently, the green is in a breezy spot in town, and because it had rained the day before, the wind was even worse than usual. A particularly strong gust knocked over our canopy and bent one of the legs. It swept our books and prints and most everything else off the table. Fortunately, none of our items are breakable, and aside from the canopy’s leg, nothing was damaged.

However, no longer did we have a pretty display where our books and prints were neatly arranged. Instead, everything was higgedly-piggedly, set out for easy protection from the wind rather than for any kind of order. (No, I did not get pictures of the brouhaha.)

By the time the end of the fair rolled around, we were just plain tuckered out.

But I don’t want to finish on that note because something very good happened to perk up what was an extremely trying day. Across the green from us, Feathers and Scale Farm had a booth, and as their business card proclaims, they sell “soap, milk, cheese, and all things goat.”

Just before the market ended, Wes Woodman—who owns the farm with his wife, Carissa Larsen—brought over two puddings for us. One was a luscious chocolate, and the other was an even more luscious vanilla. What a cool, delicious treat! I can taste it still, and I could have some right now.

Here is a picture of Wes Woodman by his booth.

Readers, if you are ever come across some of Feathers and Scale Farm’s delectable products, do not hesitate to buy them.

Thanks, Wes. for the scrummy treats.

 

 

 

A Short Break to Focus on Writing and Gardening

Every once in a while, I have a time crunch in my life, where it becomes necessary for me to pare things down to basics. Right now is such a time.

I am working on the appropriately titled Out of Time, the third book in my Great Library series. For Out of Time to be published in 2020, the first draft must be finished in 2019. After the first draft, there is still a lot to do—editing, revising, and more editing. When the book is written, the work is far from over, and I have to allow for that when I plan the publishing schedule.

Anyway, we are nearly halfway through the year, which means that if I’m going to stay on track, I need to be halfway done writing my book by the beginning of June. With 39,500 words written, I’m nearly there.

But—isn’t there always a but?—it is also gardening season. Because I live in Maine, there isn’t a big window of opportunity for spring chores. Spring comes to this northern state at a mad gallop, and I only have the month of May to get things done.

Therefore, until June, I’m going to take a break from writing for this blog so that I can concentrate on my book and on my gardens. I’ll continue to read other blogs and comment when I can. Sometimes, I might only be able to “like” a piece.

I’m sorry to have to pare down like this, but it is necessary.

See  you in June!

 

To the Bar Harbor Comic Con

Clif and I are two homebodies who don’t travel much. We work from home, and if we rove too much, the work doesn’t get done. Also, we are acutely concerned about our carbon emissions, which means that nowadays, the car is primarily used for necessities, with an occasional trip for pleasure thrown in.

Going to events to sell books falls under the category of a necessity, as we have found that personal appearances work best. Fortunately, our little red Honda Fit—a.k.a Sparky—gets great gas mileage, and the hatchback allows us to bring books, tables, chairs, banners, and lunch. With careful packing, there is even room for our canopy for outdoor events. (Tootlepedal, this green bean is green with envy over your new electric car. Someday, we hope to follow your example.)

On Saturday, we took our traveling road show to the Bar Harbor Comic Con, about 120 miles from Winthrop. Tucked by the ocean and surrounded by mountains, Bar Harbor is surely one of the loveliest towns in Maine.

Here is a shot from the pier in downtown Bar Harbor. The day was overcast, but the picture gives some idea of the beauty of the town.

The Comic Con was a few miles from Bar Harbor Village. Like all Comic Cons, there was a lot of fun and folderol.

Here is a nearby vendor, Cheryl Rathbun of Myth’s N’ Monsters, with one of her marvelous creations. What would you call it? A merhorse? A seahorse? Whatever the name, she was kind enough to pose with her delightful creature. (How my daughters would have loved this blue beauty when they were young. I can picture them prancing around the house with them. Yes, there would have been two.)

And where else do you see a race between two BB-8s? And with  Batman at one of the controls?

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a crowd at this event. I suspect the day was good enough for yard work. I spoke with another vendor who had been to this Comic Con two years ago. Then, the event  was held in April  when the ground was still slushy and being outside was really not a good option. That year, the Comic Con was packed.

Still, we had a good time. Several people mentioned that they had heard of me and my books. When you are an indie author and publisher with a budget as big as a minute, this is always a great thing to hear.

Finally, because we live inland and stay close to home, we don’t often see the ocean. And that is always a treat.