Category Archives: News

A Very Sick Dog and Another Break from Blogging

As the title of this post suggests, we have a very sick dog in our house. For the past week, Liam has been eating less and less and then for the past few days, nothing at all. Just water.

Yesterday, we brought Liam to the vets, and he had all sorts of tests. His liver count is not good, and he has a fever. The vet suspects an infection, and she sent us home with five different kinds of pills that we have to stuff down Liam’s throat because he is not eating.

An extremely  hard time for us and for Liam. How we love our dog buddy and how we hate seeing him this sick! We are hoping that the vet is right—that the pills will take care of the infection and that Liam will soon be back to his old self. Both Clif and I would like more time with Liam, but only, of course, if he is eating and feeling well.

Besides taking care of Liam, these are busy days in the garden. Because of this, I will be taking another short break from blogging, until Liam is settled and the gardening chores are done.

I must say that the beauty of May and our backyard is a great comfort right now. As Wordsworth wrote, Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.

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First Draft of Library Lost: Done!

Yesterday came that magical moment when I wrote the ending line of Library Lost. Somehow, it is both exciting and a let-down to finish a novel. Wonderful, after all that work, to come to the end, but I felt restless, and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. Fortunately,  plenty of gardening chores await, and I spent a couple of hours removing leaves from one of the beds out front.

I posted the Library Lost news on my Facebook page, and one of the sweetest responses I got was from an acquaintance who lived in central Maine but who has just moved to the Southwest. She wrote that Maya and the Book of Everything traveled with her across country and has just been unpacked. It is now on her bookshelf along with other favorite fantasy novels. That sure made me smile!

Although the first draft of Library Lost is finished, there is still much to do. I need to read it from front to back to see how it all comes together. Some writers work from an outline, and they know, from chapter to chapter, how things are going to turn out.

I am not one of those writers. In my head, I have a notion of where I want the story to go, but basically I just wing it from chapter to chapter, and sometimes what I write in Chapter 15 changes what happens in Chapter 8. This means I have to reread very carefully to be sure that I’ve made the appropriate changes.

Perhaps this seems like a funny way of writing. In a way, it is. But I have tried outlining a novel, and it didn’t work for me. First, it seemed like everything was already mapped out, and where’s the fun in that? For me, the adventure in writing lies with not exactly knowing what the characters are going to do at any given moment. Second, I deviated so much from the outline that it felt like a waste of time to even have one.

Anyway, now it’s time to reread carefully before sending Library Lost to my proof readers, who, with squinted eyes, will go over the story. So again, for the next week or so, I will be primarily absorbed with the book and probably won’t do much blogging.

A lot of work, but it’s good work, the work I want to be doing.

Last night, the weather was warm and lovely, and with drinks on the patio, we celebrated the completion of the first draft of Library Lost.

Cheers!

Weather Report: A Farewell to Winter and Time for a Short Break from Blogging

Well, folks , the time has come to bid farewell to winter and to Clif in his snow-gauge role. As the picture I took this morning indicates, the snow is gone from our front yard  Note the straw hat. Somebody is definitely ready to retire from being a snow gauge, at least until next year.

For a wee reminder of how quickly the snow has melted, here is snow-gauge Clif two weeks ago, on April 9.

However, there is still a sliver of snow in the backyard, which Liam, dog of the north, found. Every since he was a puppy, Liam has followed the melting snow. It’s where he likes to chill. Literally.

But, the temperature  has finally risen above freezing, and that sliver of snow will soon be gone.

Yesterday, we brought out the small patio table,

and toasted Shannon on her Earth Day birthday.

Because she and her husband now live in North Carolina, they could only be with us in spirit on the snow-free patio.  (We did, however, Skype with them .)

Starting today, I’m going to take a short break from blogging—a week and a half or possibly two. I’m coming down the homestretch with my YA fantasy novel Library Lost, the second book in my Great Library Series. I really need to just focus on finishing the book, so that the long process of editing can begin.

My first book, Maya and the Book of Everything, is featured in the upper left-hand corner of this blog. Many thanks to all the blogging friends who have read the book and have made such thoughtful comments. I appreciate it so much.

I’ll back sometime in May, when spring is in full bloom, and there will be many flowers to photograph.

Until then, happy spring if you live in the northern hemisphere and happy fall if you live in the southern hemisphere.

 

News, Fake or Real

Yesterday, Clif and I went to the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) for a panel discussion hosted by its Senior College and the College of Arts & Sciences. The topic, as indicated in this post’s title, was News, Fake or Real. The panel consisted of Bill Nemitz, a noted Maine journalist and columnist; Mal Leary, a senior political correspondent for Maine Public Radio; and Jessica Lowell, a journalist at the Kennebec Journal.

Fake news is an issue very dear to my heart. Indeed, the notion that facts do matter is a central theme in my YA fantasy novel Maya and the Book of Everything.

It is my guess that as soon as humans acquired language, despotic leaders have told lies to maintain power and stroke their egos. However, in the United States, the current administration has brought lying to a new high—or low, depending on your point of view. On Meet the Press, Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s advisors, even came up with a term—“alternative facts”—that many of us had never heard before. When Chuck Todd, the host of Meet the Press, insisted that alternative facts were falsehoods, Conway did not even have the grace to look ashamed and instead barrelled on with her talking points.

At yesterday’s forum, Marilyn Canavan, the moderator, ended her introduction by asking, how are we to distinguish between news and opinion? How will we know if news is fake?

Jessica Lowell suggested that readers need to think critically to separate news from opinion. And fact from fiction. She noted how easy it was to share things on Facebook without knowing where the news was coming from and even admitted to having done this herself. (So have I.) Now, Lowell is more careful, and she stressed how important it was to stop and pause before sharing anything, to check the source.

Mal Leary spoke of how fake news often has a sliver of truth. As an example, he used a recent story about chocolate becoming extinct.  The bombastic headline was designed to draw people in, providing the site with lots of clicks, which in turn gives data and potential customers to advertisers. As it turned out, the article explained how climate change might affect chocolate production at some time in the future. But right now, there is no reason to hoard Hershey Chocolate Bars. Leary warned the audience to beware of websites that have weird endings such as .co. For example, Newsweek.com.co is not the same as Newsweek.com. Leary also warned us to beware of websites with no “About” section and of single-source stories.

Bill Nemitz told an amusing but sobering tale of how his publicity photo was stolen by “T.S. Hunter”—most certainly not the author’s real name—whose website was putting out information to disparage a victim of a police shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. T.S. Hunter had even constructed a snappy bio that described how he was a poet, the owner of a health food store, had two goldendoodles, and was in love with a muse with a guitar. (I must admit that as a writer, I was impressed by these specific details.) Nemitz pursued the matter, and eventually the blog was taken off the Internet.

Nemitz then defined fake news. First, it was news that was 100% false, such as many of the stories found in supermarket tabloids. Second, there was a gray area, which included news with a slant or a bias but had a grain of truth. Third, fake news could be pure propaganda. Fourth, it could be pieces that misuse data or scientific evidence. Fifth, it could come about because of sloppy or imprecise writing. Sixth, and perhaps most important, fake news is not news with which you disagree.

A Q & A followed the panel discussion, and many good points were raised and discussed. This forum started at 2:00 p.m. and ended at 4:00 p.m. Such a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon and such a relevant topic. Many thanks, UMA.

To end this piece, I am posting some pictures of UMA’s small but lovely campus in winter. And readers, not one of these pictures is fake.

 

Liam Update

Yesterday, readers expressed concern about Liam’s swollen nose, which probably happened when he ran into a fallen branch in the backyard. Today, he is looking much, much better. Here’s a shot of his handsome face, and the nose is hardly swollen at all.

However, on his nose, there are a few specks of snow, and they are there because Liam likes to do this:

Liam has always been a dog who has loved the snow, and blindness has not diminished his enthusiasm for crunching on snow when it is crusty or sticking his head in the snow when it is fluffy.

After all, he is Liam, Dog of the North.

(This picture was taken several years ago, and long-time readers will recognize it. An oldie but goodie, just like our dog buddy. )

The Bomb Cyclone Cometh

Here we go again. Miserable weather is coming to Maine. This time it’s a blizzard, a northeaster, a big, bad storm that has been tagged as a “bomb cyclone” by the meteorologists. (According to the New York Times, a bomb cyclone is a storm that has a sharp drop in barometric pressure.) But as Nestor Ramas from the Boston Globe put it, this term “seems designed to evoke maximum terror.”

“Terror” might be too strong a word to describe our reaction, but bomb cyclone, with its potential high wind and resultant destruction, certainly got our attention. We have sprung into action. Pots of water sit on our stove, we bought extra lamp oil, and we have canned soup in the cupboard. For the third time in three weeks, we are ready for a power outage. And, yes, readers, this is getting old.

I love the natural world, and I love living in the woods, but I also love heat and power and movies and other gifts that technology brings. A pioneer woman I am not. As it so happens, I am reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. Let’s just say that Pa and the pioneers were not the exemplary citizens portrayed in the Little House books. For me, this makes Laura Ingalls Wilder’s story richer and more interesting, and I am not bitterly disappointed by these revelations. But I digress, and I will write more about this book in another post.

Back to the weather. In central Maine, the forecast is for twelve to sixteen inches of snow, nothing we can’t handle. The wind is projected to peak at 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. This is more worrying as the high winds might cause power outages.

But for now anyway, we are warm and snug. We had our big meal—turkey burritos with corn—at noon, which gave us plenty of time to wash up the dirty dishes. (No power means no water.)

Midafternoon, Clif will go out with Little Green to clear the snow from the driveway, the area around the woodpile, and the paths to the bird feeders. For readers new to this blog, here is a picture of Clif and Little Green from the last storm on Christmas Day. (Little Green is electrically run, so when the power is out, we must shovel by hand.)

Onward ho, Clif and Little Green!