Friday, November 25, 2011

Better Than Shopping

After indulging in an excellent turkey feast on Thanksgiving, on Friday I tootled on down to the Montlake Fill, where the first thing I saw, not ten feet from my car, was this:

This is a female Cooper's Hawk.  She scanned the surrounding field for about five minutes, then suddenly swooped down and away -- I couldn't see if she caught something tasty for breakfast or not. 

I felt grateful that I did not need to hunt down my turkey!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Another book I'm enjoying

I've been reading a lot of nonfiction lately (truth to tell, that's not much different from not-so-lately) and have been especially keen on nature writing because I hang outdoors a lot when I can -- and when the weather cooperates, and even when it doesn't.  (Here, for example, is what it looked like the last time I was outdoors for a spell, this past Friday):
Anyway, this week's book is Northern Farm: A Chronicle of Maine by Henry Beston, originally published in 1949.  Basically, it chronicles his life on the farm through the seasons.  Here's the opening paragraph:

"The train gathered speed, and from the red plush of the day coach, I watched the city withdraw to the south, and the immense slaty-black and brownish pall of smoke thin to a brownish veil over the suburbs and the dirty snow.  Houses and open spaces which were neither country nor town slid fugitively by through the winter morning, together with local wildernesses of gravel and weedy birch, and then, after a crossing and a crossing bell, came a first sight of the true snowcovered country and a barn with patterns of snow upon the roof.  My own land of the deeper snowfalls and the great evergreen woods was still close upon two hundred miles away, but the train was making good time, and the morning sun had cleared the cloud bank to the east.  Home.  Going home."

I've read about six chapters now and so far it's all about Winter in Maine, and his descriptions of the huge drifting snowbanks and the frozen water and the deep chills are making me glad once more that I live in the Pacific Northwest.  Though they say we may be in for a bad winter here (they say that every year), one like the one we had recently where no one could get anywhere for days.  Though hey, I still went outdoors then, too -- look, I took this photo of my favorite birding spot:
Unlike Maine, though, this sort of stuff goes away around here after a week or so.  Whew!

Anyway, I'm enjoying the book and can also highly recommend his earlier effort about a year spent in a small house on Cape Cod in the late 1920s, called The Outermost House.  Good stuff all round.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How To Get People To Buy Your Book

These days I hear a good deal from writers and publishers about author self-promotion, and how ideal it is to have a blog, to comment on other blogs, to be on Facebook et al and have an author page and yak a lot about books and writing and "build a platform" and a "brand", all of which makes selling books seem not so different from selling cars or beer or toilet paper.

So I see folks engaging in these activities left and right and I think, "But that's not how I find new books to read."   I don't go wandering all over the Web hoping to stumble upon an author's Facebook blurt which will be so fascinating that I simply MUST go find that book RIGHT NOW.  Nope.  How I find books is by wandering the aisles of BOOKSTORES.  Also, sometimes my friends will recommend things, or the book reviewers for my local newspaper, which I still get delivered at home in a three-dimensional fashion.

My next book is coming out in March, and my publisher is busy gearing up for the whirl of publicity, which will mostly occur on the Web.  That's fine, it must be done and I trust it will reach some potential readers.  But let me tell you what happened this past weekend.

I was having a lovely High Tea with friends at a lovely Tea Room when someone I knew walked in, said hello, and asked me if I had a sequel coming out soon to my fantasy novel.  I said, no, but I did have a historical mystery coming out in Spring.  She said she'd buy it.  Then, as we were leaving, a complete stranger came out to ask me for details about that mystery, because she had overheard our conversation, her husband loved historicals, and they both enjoyed supporting local authors. 

So there you have two probable sales and neither involved an electronic device of any kind.   All it took was personal, non-digital interactions between people who love books.  And that's the kind I prefer.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Watching Paint Dry

I snapped this photo recently of some trees (aspen?) which caught my painterly interest:
Yesterday, I made my first attempt (watercolor) at capturing the unusual colors, and wound up with this:
As you can see, I lightened everything considerably.  I had trouble getting that weird blue-gray tree color right, and the contrast between the trunks and the background was not strong enough, but I liked the background colors a lot, and that glow up top. 

Today I tried a different approach, dispensing with the unusual colors and reverting to more standard aspen trunk colors:

Again, much brighter than the photo, and I do like the contrast in this much better, though I prefer the background colors in the first one. 

Neither painting looks anything like the original, which is fine -- that was merely an inspirational jumping-off point. 
This was an enjoyable exercise, though I spent more time waiting for paint (and masking fluid) to dry than anything else.  Watercolor does dry quickly, thank goodness.

Now I want to return to painting birds.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Recommended Reading

A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm
Edwin Way Teale
originally published 1974; reprinted 1998

Edwin Way Teale and his wife Nellie, long-time naturalists, bought a 150-year-old farmhouse in Connecticut in 1959, and this delightful book Teale chronicles their experiences over the next 15 years.  In his always engaging, conversational style, Teale takes the reader along on ambles through the woods, meadows, and trails of "Trail Wood Farm", as well as on explorations of its ponds and streams, sharing the joys of discovery among the plants, insects, birds, and mammals that also call these 130 acres home.  He guides us through the seasons, takes us on brief history tours, lets us view things anew through visitor's eyes, and keeps up spellbound over and over again with simple yet powerful observations of all that nature has to offer.  This book is an absolute joy to read.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Get Thee To A Bookshop

The Seattle Mystery Bookshop is one my personal favorites, and they have a nifty web site and a blog and you should go check out this entry:

because it's a fun video done by mystery author Parnell Hall with the help of fellow writers at a recent convention, in support of bookstores.  

Speaking of which, if you are in the Puget Sound area, go support another wonderful bookstore, Third Place Books ( which is having their semi-annual 40% off all used books sales this weekend (November 4 and 5).  Great selection, great prices!