Category Archives: Books

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.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle Goes To Chapel Hill Public Library

Awhile back, I suggested that an easy way for readers to support indie writers would be to ask local libraries to purchase their books. My daughter Shannon, who lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, took this advice to heart and asked her library to purchase Myrtle the Purple Turtle, written by my blogging friend Cynthia Reyes.

And Chapel Hill Public Library complied! Here Shannon is, posing with Myrtle the Purple Turtle in front of the library’s sign.

Thank you Shannon and thank you Chapel Hill Public Library for supporting a fantastic indie writer.

 

March Cookie Madness

On Saturday, the Friends of the Bailey Public Library hosted a cookie walk and book sale. Not surprisingly, Clif and I were at the library as soon as the doors opened. We wanted to do our bit to help with this fundraiser.  Being more than a little food obsessed, we also wanted to be first in line for the cookies.

Here is how the cookie walk worked: For $5, patrons got a can lined with a plastic bag. Homemade cookies made by volunteers were lined up on tables, and we got to choose which cookies we wanted. The cookies all looked so good that it was quite a process figuring out which cookies to select.

Here I am, with a serious expression on my face, as I think about the lovely cookies. So many tempting choices. (I am happy to report that the cookies tasted as good as they looked.  Lots of good bakers in Winthrop. Also, the fundraiser was a great success, raising much-needed money for our wonderful library.)

Clif helped me, and soon we had a bag of cookies. Then, it was time to look at the books. Again, so many temptations, especially when hardcovers went for $1 and paperbacks were $.50.  We used great restraint in only picking out six books, and some of those will be going to family members.

This one, however, is staying in our kitchen, at least for a while.

As I’ve written previously, Clif and I are now vegetarians, and although we will probably never be vegans, we are interested in eating a mainly plant-based diet. So this book caught Clif’s attention. The Betty in the title, of course, refers to Betty Crocker, an American icon of everyday cooking for everyday folks.

Full disclosure: I have a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1970s, and it is my go-to book for cornbread, muffins, banana bread, and chocolate pudding. These recipes are simple but are all made with whole ingredients.

Betty Goes Vegan seems to be designed for people who are on the cusp of vegetarianism. They might like the idea of eliminating meat, but they are unwilling to give up the texture and flavor. The recipes in this book go to great lengths to replicate the experience of eating meat while not actually using meat. Clif and I are not in this category—although we do like faux chicken nuggets with our fries. For the most part, we are perfectly happy to eat legumes and other veggies as long as the meals have flavorful spices.

Still, as Clif pointed out, we’ll be able to get some tips from Betty Goes Vegan, and if we eventually decide it doesn’t need to be a part of our cookbook collection, then we can donate it back to the Friends for a future book sale.

 

Birds, Tea, and Poetry

On Sunday afternoons, especially in the winter, Clif and I like inviting friends over for tea. When the weather is cold, there is something so cozy about sitting around the dining room table as we chat, drink tea, and nibble on something I’ve baked.

Yesterday our friend Mary Jane came over. As I was getting ready, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a female cardinal at our feeder. I stopped what I was doing, grabbed my camera, and trotted to the bathroom, which has become a sort of bird blind. Slowly, slowly I opened the windows—there are two down in the winter—hoping I wouldn’t scare her away. Success!

Cardinals are relative newcomers to Maine. Even as recently as eleven years ago, we didn’t have cardinals in our backyard, and my mother, who died around that time, never did see one in Maine. I sure wish that she had lived long enough to see cardinals in our yard. I suspect that climate change has brought these lovely birds ever farther north, and if so, this is an example of it’s an ill wind that blows no good. We love having cardinals come to our feeder.

After taking pictures of Mrs. Cardinal, I returned to the kitchen to finish making my oatmeal squares and to get the table set for tea. Glancing out the dining room window, I saw a movement in the woods, a flock of turkeys picking their way through the trees. The dining room windows do not open easily. Could I get a good picture through the window? Turns out, I could. Not quite as crisp as the cardinal, but not too bad, especially when you consider the shot was taken through the window, and the turkeys were quite a distance away.

Turkeys are another newcomer to Maine. Or rather, they are a species that has been reintroduced. Twenty years ago, I did not see them in the woods behind my house. Between habitat loss and overhunting, turkeys had been wiped out in Maine. The technical term is extirpation, meaning that the species is not actually extinct, just no longer in an area. A cold word for a brutal act.

Well, the turkeys are back. Hunting is more controlled than it was in the old days, and Maine is actually more forested now than it was in the 1800s, proof that not everything is going to heck in a handbasket.

With all that excitement, it’s a wonder that I managed to bake the squares and set the table. But somehow, I did.

Mary Jane came over, and we had a wonderful chat. Clif and I even shared some poetry from From a Far Corner, a new book that we received from my friend Jerry George, who lives in East Machias, way up north by the Canadian border. But Mainers call it Downeast, a sailing term that sailors used to describe how they utilized downwinds to sail east from western ports. Downeast Maine is a beautiful, remote place that, believe it or not, is hospitable to poets and retirees. The cover of the book, taken by the talented Ray Beal, gives a good indication of the stark appeal of the area.

All in all, it was quite a Sunday.

Another Way to Support Writers: Ask Your Library to Purchase Their Books

Recently, courtesy of my daughter Shannon, my book Library Lost traveled south to the public library in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Shannon asked the Chapel Hill Public Library to purchase Library Lost to add to its collection.  And voilà! They honored her request, and Library Lost is now in the library’s young adult section. (Two years ago, Shannon did the same thing with Maya and the Book of Everything.)

Readers, this is such a wonderful way to support writers—not just me—and it only costs a little bit of time. Now I know very well that not all libraries have big book budgets, but it never hurts to request the purchase of a book. And if the library does honor the request, checking out the book, even if you’ve already read it, gives the book a good start.

Finally, when returning the book, take a few minutes to tell the librarian how much you liked the book and provide a brief synopsis. By calling it to a librarian’s attention, you will have given the book a little leg up, something that cannot be overemphasized, especially for indie writers. Librarians’ recommendations go a long way toward promoting a book.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I’m going to ask my own Bailey Library to purchase Myrtle the Purple Turtle written by the fabulous Cynthia Reyes

In addition, I will request Myrtle’s Game, again by Cynthia and also with her daughter Lauren Reyes-Grange. Both books would make for a terrific and timely program on bullying and inclusion, and I will be sure to mention this when I ask my library to purchase these books.

Finally, if you do ask your library to purchase my books, and Maya and the Book of Everything or Library Lost are added to your library’s collection, I have a favor to ask. If you have time, take a picture similar to the one of Library Lost in front of the Chapel Hill Public Library.  Send the picture to me, and I will feature it on my blog.

What fun it would be to see either Maya or Library Lost or both in front of different libraries.

 

 

Another Treat in the Mail: Myrtle’s Game by Cynthia Reyes and Lauren Reyes-Grange

This has been quite a week for receiving packages from afar. On Monday, a box of oranges and lemons came from my blogging friend Betsy. Today, it was a book—Myrtle’s Game by the mother and daughter team Cynthia Reyes and Lauren Reyes-Grange. Myrtle’s Game was sent all the way from Canada by the author herself. Oh, the wonderful world of blogging!

Myrtle’s Game, the sequel to Myrtle the Purple Turtle, is a bold, vibrant picture book featuring the irrepressible Myrtle and her friends. The story opens with them playing water soccer. They are, after all, turtles.  But then the turtles notice other woodland animals playing soccer on land.  When they ask to be included, Myrtle and her friends are snubbed. They are told that because they are turtles, they are too slow for playing the game on land.

While their feelings might be hurt, Myrtle and her friends are not discouraged, and they come up with a way to be included in the game. Most young readers will have had experiences similar to Myrtle and her friends. Because of this, children will be able to identify with the turtles and admire their persistence. By the end of the story, a lesson is learned, and it is a good one.

Jo Robinson’s vivid illustrations are both energetic and friendly, exactly right for young readers.

Along with the book, Cynthia sent me a magnet, which is now on my refrigerator.

What better words for these times, when some “shells” are considered better than others?

Vive la différence!