Category Archives: books

Bonding over Books

This morning at the library, as I was picking up my held books, I overheard a budding friendship in the next aisle over. Two five-year olds had an extended conversation about what books they were getting, visiting their grandparents, puppies and like all good Minnesotans, the weather.

I met my best friend on April 16, 1983, in a small room 4 floors below the IDS Center. It was my first day at the soon-to-be-opened B. Dalton IDS. Since I was new to B. Dalton, there were several training modules that I had to read through and then take corresponding tests. Sara was transferring over from another store and needed to do some paperwork as well.  We talked while we worked, about books and pets and husbands and boyfriends – probably the weather as well.  Then we went to lunch across the street at Eddingtons where we discovered we also shared a deep love of bread and cheese.

We’ve been friends ever since, through weddings, divorces, parents’ deaths, kids, home purchases, health issues, money issues – you name it. I can only hope that the kids at the library this morning can continue a friendship that started with books!

Where did you meet your BFF?

The Wind Died Down

Last Friday, Husband and I left Jamestown, ND after playing hand bells at an Eastern Star convention. (That is a post in itself! ) We left about 7:00 pm.  It was still pretty light, as far north as we are.  By 8:00 we ran into the worst rain storm I have encountered on the road.  We could see the storm coming for miles, a rotating cloud of blue black, with white wind clouds on the fringe, threatening hail.  We learned later that the wind was blowing at 70 mph in this storm. The storm hit with a hard punch, and the rain was torrential. I pulled over and put my emergency flashers on,  since I couldn’t see the road, anything that was in front of me, or any exit from the interstate. It took a good 20 minutes for the storm to diminish and for us to cautiously proceed on our way home.  I found I  was only 20 yards from an exit, but it was obscured by the rain and wind. We saw a pickup and trailer in the ditch not far from where we pulled over. There was no hail, I am happy to report.

We have lived with the wind for 30 years out here.  It is a force to contend with.  Our house is perpetually dusty.  On Saturday, the wind blew steadily at 35 mph with gusts up to 45. The tomato and pepper plants  tossed all day.  They were wind whipped and twisted. They amazingly recover every time this happens.  We chose to stay indoors and dust and clean.  It was so unpleasant to even step outdoors.  One of my secretaries said they were branding calves on Saturday and they had to close the barn door because the wind was blowing dust all over the food for the people helping them.

The wind finally died down on Saturday night. It was such a relief.  Sunday was calm, and we watered and  recovered from the gusts of the days before. In  Giants In the Earth, Rolvaag writes of women going mad with the wind in Eastern South Dakota.  I can relate to them.

Tell about memorable storms. Tell about stories and poems of the wind.

Mother Nature – The Great Equalizer

Thanks to Mother Nature’s prolonged temper tantrum this spring and the bad brakes on Ben’s truck, I ended up getting my bales from Bachman’s this year. I should have made two trips, but I only ever say “I should have made two trips” after I’ve made just one trip and it hasn’t been the best idea.  Case in point – four bales of straw in a teeny little Honda Insight.  It took me 40 minutes and the vacuum to get the car clean afterwards.

As I was conditioning the bales, I was drawn to gardening books. I read Joel Karsten’s latest straw bale gardening book as well as The Potting Shed Papers by Charles Elliott and a fascinating book, written in 1870 by Charles Dudley Warner – My Summer in a Garden.

He could have been writing last week and he had a way of looking at gardening and nature that resonated for me. Here’s one bit I really liked:

“I am more and more impressed, as the summer goes on, with the inequality of man’s fight with Nature; especially in a civilized state. In savagery, it does not so much matter; for one does not take a square hold, and put out his strength, but rather accommodates himself to the situation, and takes what he can get, without raising any dust, or putting himself into everlasting opposition. But the minute he begins to clear spot larger than he needs to sleep in for a night, and to try to have his own way in the least, Nature is at once up, and vigilant, and contests him at every step with all her ingenuity and unwearied vigor.”

Who are you doing battle with these days?

A Bone to Pick….

“But see! nearer and nearer the great fish comes, mouthful after mouthful of the fishes falling into its horrid jaws. It must be starving; so eager is it for its prey that is seems unconscious of the fact that the tide has turned and is moving outward.  Now it discovers its danger and turns, but too late.  The water has gone back to the dep, leaving it struggling for breath in a shallow pool.   It thrashes wildly about with its tail, whose sticky secretions help to envelop it more and more thickly with mud and slime, until at last its struggles cease.”

This is from the autobiography The Life of a Fossil Hunter by Charles Sternberg, written in 1909.  I stumbled upon this title in the afterward of Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton.  His widow Sherri did a nice epilogue and mentioned the Sternberg book as one that Michael had used in his extensive research for Dragon Teeth.

As you can read in the section above, the style of autobiography and memoir was a little bit different back then than it is today. In today’s memoir, we would learn about how abuse in his childhood caused him to seek out a career in the wilderness, how his career caused lifelong challenges in all his relationships and he overcame all kind of obstacles to achieve his desires.  That’s pretty much how every memoir written in the last few years read anyway.  In Sternberg’s autobiography, he mentions a son about 1/3 of the way through the book.  Then he mentions a son about 2/3 of the way through.  We he mentions in the conclusion that he has “raised up a race of fossil hunters”, we learn that there are at least two sons, but that’s it.  No courtship, no marriage, no discussion of any toll his work/travels took on his wife… in fact, the word “wife” doesn’t even come up in this book.

But he did know how to breathe life into his fossil finds!

What’s the oldest book you’ve read recently?

 

Music to Bake By

Photo Credit:  Very Vanilla Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer

I’m a cookbook reader. When I see a cookbook (usually online) that looks interesting, I ask for it from the library and can spend a lazy Saturday afternoon or an evening flipping through the pages, reading through the ingredients, looking at all the photos.  Every now and then I see a recipe that I want, then I mark it with a post-it note and make a copy.  And rarely I will decide that I really need to have this cookbook in my collection.  (This is a hard decision, because my current cookbook shelves are full, so if a new cookbook comes into the house, an old cookbook has to go!)

Yesterday I picked up Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer.  Some very nice looking recipes and I did have a couple of post-it notes, but wasn’t really thinking this was something I needed to purchase… until I got to the back of the book. There, on page 323 was “Music to Bake to”.  She even had two columns, one for Morning Tunes and one for Night Grooves.  A lot of jazz as well as some Joni Mitchell and Peggy Lee.  Even some Over the Rhine!

Here’s one of her morning tunes – a wonderful song, although I would probably never have come up with it on my own for baking background music!

Now I’m re-thinking whether I need to get myself a copy of this cookbook.

Any cooking tunes of your own?

 

 

Another World

[Begun Friday past: ]

I am not turning on the TV till this evening.  I spent most of the past two days allowing myself to surf the tube: the limited stations we get with our basic cable, which you have to have to get any reception here in Winona, because of the bluffs. I am down – nay, flattened – with a virus, onset early Wed. morning. This hardly ever happens to me, and I’m a little out of my element. Of course I have several books/magazines I could be reading, but nnnooooh, my brain would rather veg out. So I started flipping channels.

If you’ve been “grounded” for any reason, you probably know about this:  daytime television is one of the strangest places on the planet. You have your soap operas, your game shows, your talk shows, your day-court shows, and your Dr. shows (Oz, Phil). And now thanks to Decades, we are treated once again to such gems as Donna Reed and Petticoat Junction. MeTV gives us Saved by the Bell, and Mama’s Family, which I didn’t watch, and Matlock and Diagnosis Murder, which I did. There are two or three channels full of all manner of Westerns (who knew there that many of them?). I saw a Gunsmoke and a Wild Wild West. Can’t recall where I ran into Real Stories of the Highway Patrol, but I’d much rather watch Broderick Crawford (Highway Patrol, late 50s)!

It’s probably just as well we don’t get any of the Movie channels.

There are a few bright spots – I can always watch an episode of I Love Lucy or M*A*S*H, and Laugh-in is still a hoot, but one a day is plenty. And for some reason I can still watch Dick Cavett… he was one classy interviewer. PBS has some episodes of Home Fires, one of my favorites, Last of the Summer Wine (for Clyde), plus cooking shows, some Rick Steves travel, some crafts like origami, and Paint This with Gary Yarnell, that I would watch any old time.

What do you do with your down time if you’re laid up for a while?

 

 

MONEY IS NOT THE ONLY MOTIVATION

Being an author whose books have “yet to achieve” major bestseller status isn’t particularly rewarding in the monetary sense. Currently, my greatest rewards come from meeting avid readers, advocating for literacy and the love of reading, and making friends with other writers around the world.

That being said, the biggest motivator for me is helping my favorite charity through sales of my books. All these perks are worth far more than any money I hope to someday earn from my book sales.

GIVING DAY

I recently had the privilege of making a donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern MN for $297 generated from book sales in 2017. I donate one dollar to BBBS for every copy of Castle Danger I sell–print or eBook. I raised additional dollars by asking people to round up the purchase price of the print book to $20 when they buy a copy. I sold 190 books in 2017. Nearly every person who bought a book from me in person gladly rounded up the extra $1.80 to an even $20.

I’m pleased to announce my sales increased from 2016, so I was able to donate more money to BBBS this year. I hope to continue that upward sales trend in 2018. I expect sales will be boosted when Straight River is published (as soon as is humanly possible!!) With steady sales of Castle Danger continuing this year added to new sales of Straight River later this year, I hope to reach a $400 donation for 2018.

(Point of interest: even if I factor back in my BBBS donations, I’ve still only covered about 60% of the total cost of producing, editing, formatting, printing, and promoting Castle Danger. And I don’t even want to think about all the coffee and pastries I’ve purchased to fuel my writing energy! Warning: Think twice before becoming a writer for the income. 🙂 )

What do you do (or what have you done) that surprised you by generating more personal rewards than you expected than financial rewards?

P.S.–If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a Big Brother, Big Sister, or Big Couple, check out the national BBBS website or click on the Southern MN link above.

Blatant self-promotion: Hey, Babooners, I’ve got several signing appearances scheduled in the Twin Cities and greater MN (and WI) this year. The first one is in Rosemount on Saturday, March 24. I’ll also be in Hudson, WI, and Hopkins, Morristown, Owatonna, Hackensack, and Mankato later this year. To get all the details, go to chrisnorbury.com or like my FB author page.