Title: One-Woman Farm
Author: Jenna Woginrich
Genre: Memoir / Farming
Length: 207 pages
I’m in research mode. I’m elbow deep in tree and herb encyclopedias. I’ve been reading every homesteading and nature memoir I can get my hands on. I’m scouring the fields, ditches, and woods for new specimens of plant life to identify, and I just helped my mother-in-law build a compost bin.
One-Woman Farm was one of the recent memoir selections, and it was a breeze to get through. Daily journal entries, basically, of farm life through out the year, the author’s quest for a Fell pony, and to learn to play the fiddle.
I enjoyed reading Woginrich’s book mostly because I want to homestead… but I don’t want what she has. She’s too far north. I want more plants and fewer animals. I want the freedom to get up and travel when the inevitable wonderlust kicks in. I don’t want to be a one-woman farm, I simply want to do EVERYTHING, and also not quite that much. But it was nice to live a year in her shoes for a bit, and I would like to select baby chicks and hold a baby goat. I would love to have fresh milk in the mornings…
The book is full of sweet illustrations as well, which made it spunky. Her talk of pigs felt more in depth with a pencil sketch of a pig sharing the page. Faux paperclips in the margins, like a well-worn guide book to life. Typed recipes and quotes added a richer flow to her sparse text.
Now on to the next… I’m reading The Last Great Walk by Wayne Curtis and The Quarter-Acre Farm by Spring Warren.
Author/Illustrator: Lori Nichols
I would have gotten this review up earlier in the week except every time I pick it up to look at it the kiddo stops me and says, “Oh Mommy, read it again, it’s so beautiful.”
So we’ve read this on repeat all week and have yet to put a line down about it anywhere.
We love that the girls are named after trees. We love that they spend 90% of the story outside. We love that they are sweet, sweet, but realistic sisters.
The girls play outside making fairy gardens and blowing dandelions – something we do a lot of. Collecting worms is also a household specialty; kiddo once delivered earth worms to my sister’s kitchen table and insisted they have lunch along with her and her cousins. My sister was none too thrilled about this and sent kiddo and the worms back outside where they belonged.
We love how familiar the girls’ lifestyle is, how much these aspects of their lives are in fact the best parts of childhood. We love… well, we simply love everything about them. Kiddo has asked that I buy this one for our collection, as we picked this up at the library. We will do just that as soon as I find it. We’ll purchase the other books in the series as well.
Title: Swirl By Swirl
Authors: Beth Krommes & Joyce Sidman
Genre: Picture Book / Educational
We actually read this one quite a bit ago, I was hoping to review it when I finally got around to purchasing it, but I can’t wait any longer. It’s too wonderful to keep under wraps any longer and it has been an inspiration to my kiddo who now draws swirls and “round ups” into all her artwork.
The book is all about finding math in nature. About how snails, flowers, and everything have mathematical patterns that create functional things we can see. It first page by page identifies all these things… spider webs, tendrils on foliage, the curls of animals’ tails, etc.
Then, it explains the how and why of it all.
Kiddo’s eye lit up at the end of the book every time (we had to read it over and over again before we turned it back into the library). My four year old’s mind was blown.
I’m a long time Chris Rogers fan. I met her a few years ago booking signing for Half Price Books books and I’ve enjoyed reading her work, featuring her on my blog, and hanging out in bookstores with her ever since. The following is an interview regarding her latest work, Emissary, which I read and reviewed toward the end of 2014.
1. Emissary is drastically different from your previous work in the Dixie Flannigan series, but I understand you started writing it first. What was it like finally getting such a long term project completed?
The idea came to me just after I published the third Dixie Flannigan book, Chill Factor. I do a lot of driving, and this is often when I get the ideas I turn into stories. On a long trip to Wyoming I was sort of cursing the sun beaming through my windshield no matter how I tried to block it, then reasoning that rain would be even worse, when I flashed on the idea of having no sun at all. What if our sun went supernova? We’d fry, right?
But our scientists would surely see it coming long before the actual event, so what would we do? Build spaceships and try to escape? But to where? And how could we possibly build enough ships for the world’s population?
After pondering that idea for a few miles, I flipped it. What if the supernova occurred to an inhabited planet in another solar system? They’re more advanced that we are, so they build ships and look for a planet that will take them in. One emissary is sent to Earth, where he becomes embroiled in our political and criminal problems. Naturally, I’d want the emissary to connect closely with an interesting individual, and I chose a cop.
I liked it, but when I pitched it to my agent, he said, “Can you do it without the alien?” So I continued writing the next Dixie Flannigan book. But the story stayed with me, and though I wrote others over the years, I kept coming back to this one. So yes, I love this story and it’s wonderful to have it finally launched so readers can enjoy it, too.
2. Emissary is so much bigger than the Dixie stories. Dixie is sort of self contained, the impact is on her own life, the lives of the criminals, and the safety within her community; whereas Emissary involved a full cast of lives, cultures, and worlds. Was this a more difficult writing task? Or was it nice to stretch your wingspan a bit?
Not easy, I’ll admit, but a book I fell in love with as a child was Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein, which is about a boy who attends school on Mars and takes his pet, Willis the Bouncer. So science fiction has been as dear to me as mysteries. When I envisioned Emissary Ruell, I knew he would be young (as most front-line soldiers are young) and inexperienced (since no Szhen had been in this situation before), and the whole “stranger in a strange land” feeling came to me. When I’m writing, I become the characters in my book, the good ones and the bad, so I envisioned how I would attempt to communicate the plight of my people, and also envisioned the difficulties I would encounter. Ruell would start with the “most powerful person in the free world,” which brings in American President Addison Hale. As with any novel, he can’t succeed on the first try, so he expands his efforts globally, which means the book also expands, because extraterrestrial emigration would be a global concern. Then, to rein in the story, I introduced Ruell to Officer Kirk Longshadow, who has his own problems, and they eventually create the “close community” feeling you mentioned, even as they pursue solving an international crime involving the president.
Tackling a story that exists on a broader canvas than my previous books challenged me on many levels. Considering the result, it was well worth the effort.
3. You did your own cover art, which I love by the way. Was this painting done specifically for Emissary or did it merge as one project later?
I was poised to self-publish Emissary when I met Jeffrey Hastings, who was launching his Houston publishing company, Chart House Press. The book was finished except for the cover. The painting I chose was actually one of my early works, but the sleeping woman with blue skin resonated for me with Ruell’s girlfriend, Jianna, who appears in the book only in Ruell’s memory.
It seemed like a great starting place, yet I really didn’t know how to prevent it appearing as purely science fiction, when it’s more of political thriller with science fiction overtones. Once I decided to link my efforts with Chart House Press, I inherited a team who turned the painting into the final cover art, with an excellent result. Sometimes we get too close to a project, and fresh eyes can save the day.
4. I would love to see Emissary put to film. (Despite what it may seem, I’m a huge science fiction nerd and one of my own long term projects is a time and space opera.) If that were to happen, who would be in your ideal cast? What director would you desire? Do you have a favorite film score composer? Would you want a lot of involvement or a little?
For Longshadow, I’d definitely choose David Giuntoli, who plays Nick Burkhardt on the TV series, Grimm. David doesn’t have the appearance of a “typical cop”, which fits Officer Longshadow, who often wonders why he ever thought he was cop material. David does have the toughness of a copy when he needs it, which Longshadow also has. Ruell would be harder to cast, but Neil Patrick Harris in his younger years as Doogie Howser, MD, would’ve been great. President Addison Hale is the third major character in the nuclear family of Emissary, and my choice would probably be Tea Leoni, who is terrific as Secretary of State on Madam Secretary.
And while I realize this is the expected answer to the choice of a director, it has to be Steven Spielberg. It’s not only that he’s an incredible director who makes excellent blockbuster movies but that his attitude about extraterrestrials is similar to mine. In most science fiction films, the aliens are bad guys who come here and make war, or we make war with them in space. I recently watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind again. No war, and I was as moved by it as when I first saw it in 1977. Yes, I know that dates me, but facts are facts.
As for musical score, I’d have to leave that to the experts, and being intricately involved in the film production would be terrific—but not likely. Hollywood likes to keep writers at a distance.
5. Now that you’ve emerged into the science fiction world, after being a long time mystery genre writer, are you here to stay? (I look forward to reading more projects like this one.)
My early writing attempts were neither mystery nor sf. Back then, I didn’t believe I could plot the exciting and intricate stories I loved to read. So I started with children’s books, mistakenly thinking they’d be easy since I had four children. I was wrong. Then I tried the romance genre because I’d had a few romances in my life, whereas I’d never killed anyone and wasn’t a science nerd. Romance wasn’t easy, either and my stories kept being rejected for having “too much mystery.”
A diehard sf reader might say the same of Emissary, that it has “too much mystery,” but it’s a combination I enjoy, and it works for me. So yes, I plan to continue in this venue. For readers, Emissary opens the door to a world where humans interact with extraterrestrials, the way J.R.R. Tolkien created Middle-earth, Isaac Asimov created a world where robots with positronic brains dwell alongside humans, and J. K. Rowling created Hogwarts. Without giving
away the story, I can say that I planned Emissary as a trilogy, and the ending of this first book is the beginning of an exciting new future for the humans who dwell in that story world.
At present, I’m also working on a paranormal mystery about a 300-year-old pirate who runs his many times-refurbished ship today as a Caribbean cruise ship. Passengers attracted to a Molly Dore cruise always include at least one person with a dark paranormal problem that Captain Cord McKinsey helps resolve, despite the fact that he can’t cure his own curse of immortality. I started this story in 2011 and put it aside to work on Emissary. Now it’s scheduled for release in May 2015.
6. If you could interview any existing science fiction author and pick their brain, who would it be? Did that author and their work influence Emissary in any way?
Sadly, I don’t read current sf, but my favorite sf author of all time is Harlan Ellison. He writes the sort of speculative fiction I enjoy. My first introduction to Ellison’s work was his short story, “A Boy and His Dog,” which first published in 1969 and was adapted into a film in 1975 by L.Q. Jones. I’m a feminist, and the story’s hero, 15-year-old Vic Blood, is a knuckle-dragging brute, but I still enjoyed the story. Many fans will know Ellison for his work on the original Star Trek series, his numerous Hugo- or Nebula Award-winning stories, his often caustic personality, which he demonstrated as Guest of Honor at the first AggieCon in 1969, or from his being the first author to win a copyright dispute against a major television network. In picking Ellison’s brilliant brain, I would come away with scars, but I’d still love to sit down with him for an hour or so.
As to whether Ellison’s work influenced Emissary, how can I judge? I’ve read literally thousands of stories and seen hundreds of movies, and all that material is muddled together somewhere in my consciousness. But no, I didn’t base Emissary on any author’s work. That’s not to say I don’t steal from the best when I fall in love with an idea or a great line. What author doesn’t?
7. What’s the main thought you would want readers to walk away from Emissary thinking?
This is the question I tell my students to consider early on in the process of writing a book, yet it’s a hard one to answer without sounding a bit full of myself. I suppose it’s this: people are complicated and wonderful and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into any sort of group analysis. Each of us has value and heart but we also have a dark side that rises at times, and no one is without flaws, so stop throwing stones at strangers who are “different” and look for the wonder that each person can bring. On the other hand, remain watchful for the horrors that rise in certain malcontents, because they really are out there and can be devastating.
8. Do you plan to take Emissary to any sci-fi conventions in the future? (Say, Comicpalooza in May?)
I’m signed up for AggieCon 46, which happens March 27-29 2015 in College Station, Tx. Never having attended a science fiction convention, I’m a little scared.
9. What would you say to a graphic novelization of Emissary?
I grew up reading EC Comics, such as Vault of Horror and Tales From the Crypt, which I loved, so for me graphic novels are still comic books. I know there’s a difference. I have a copy of The Illustrated Harlan Ellison, which features several of his stories and was produced by Byron Preiss in 1978. It’s great. Some truly talented illustrators were selected for this graphic compilation, but I believe some of the stories converted well to graphic presentation while others didn’t. In that light, I don’t see Emissary as a graphic novel. But that’s just me.
10. Has the publication of Emissary opened any new doors for you as an author that were previously closed in the mystery genre?
Not yet. I’m not even sure which doors I’d knock on, but I’m open to whatever happens. Meanwhile, writing and painting continue to make me happy, and that’s what really counts.
On the other hand, Emissary is already available in print, e-book, and audio—which took much longer when I was associated with a major publisher. For me, that’s an important door, because it makes this big-format story that’s so dear to me available to more readers.
One of my literary counterparts, Neon Gods, posted a “February Reads” article. In general, she’s more organized, I think, in her reading ventures. We’ve kept track of each other’s reading habits for years, having met on Shelfari about 5 or 6 years ago. Despite my aversion to meeting people on the internet, she has been a pretty stellar internet friend. I’ve never met her in person, and yet she has influenced me – my reading life, atlas – greatly.
My reviews these last few months have felt less consistent than usual, so I thought I’d take a page from her book and do a monthly summary. At least for this last month anyway.
We wrapped up January with One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. The original, not these new media tie ins you’ll find with the Glenn Close movie cover on them. For once I can actually say, No, it’s not the same book! Typically you can tell book buyers that it was just a marketing tactic. They put a movie cover on an old manuscript and sold the same book again. That is not the case with One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Pay attention when you purchase. Also… now that we’ve read the original, I’ve discovered that there was a sequel. Of course, now me must find it and read it too. (Until then, we are tackling The Wind in the Willows as our evening family chapter book.)
As previously mentioned, I read Guide to Wild Foods & Useful Plants by Nyerges. But I also read through A Game of Thrones last month. (And caught up on the tv show.) There’s a reason the masses are in love with George R.R. Martin’s world. It’s impressive. It’s grossly human. It’s epic fantasy. The prude in me would like a little less nudity and sex out of the show – the books are far less detailed in that regard – but from a cinematic point of view, I’m blown away. The sets, the actors, the crew, everyone just seems to have nailed the feel for the world. Clearly, I’m very late to this party – as usual – but I love it. Obviously, it brought a whole new appreciation to this moment from Comicpalooza in 2013:
Yes, that would be me, braiding the hair of the Father of Dragons. I knew what I was doing, knew what we were emulating, but I didn’t really have a full appreciation for it all until now.
Then, I kind of went all self improvement in my reading. I read through The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace and The Homeschool Life by Andrea Schwartz. I don’t particularly care for self-help books, but I do manage to keep them in my life via my “read for every discipline” mentality. No section of a bookstore is left untouched by the end of the year, if it’s a good year.
I also read through Garden Crafts for Kidsby Diane Rhodes. Unfortunately, this was a library book and I had to turn it back in, but we’ll be purchasing it as soon as possible, because it’s such a great homesteading resource for a homeschooled kid. I love it and can’t wait to dive into all the projects with my kiddo.
Finally, I finished The Gardener’s Bed Book by Richard Wright. I’m not going to touch too heavily on the book here, because honestly, I have far more than an online book review in mind for my experiences while reading it. My favorite thing about a reader’s life are the books written in response to other books. They are like love letters through time and space to people you’ll never meet or know, but feel more akin to than any other humans on the planet. I feel like Melanie Kerr’s Follies Past was her love letter to Jane Austen. I have projects in mind that will be odes to Madeleine L’Engle and Richard Wright. They have moved me so completely and become a part of who I am, it’s only right they are responded to with ink and paper.
I officially quit hosting the Half Price Books Humble Book Club tonight. I was there and no one else was. Again. So I’m giving it up. Along with giving it up, I gave up attempting to read The World Is Flat. I liked the first chapter – a lot, actually. And then I couldn’t get into the rest of the book. It’s old hat. It’s no longer interesting. Yet, it’s far too recent to feel like history to me. Friedman talks about things I remember, but the memory isn’t exciting. I was bored.
I used to be one of those people that could not stop reading a book I started. Now, I find I start a lot of books and only finish about half of them. I’m still reading more books than I did before, I’m just a little less masochistic when it comes to suffering through things I just don’t have time for. There are too many phenomenal books out there to suffer through ones that either don’t suit my mood at the time or are flat out BAD. Friedman’s was a little bit of the first part, not really the second part, but a whole lot of just plain boring.
I find I’m bored more often than I’ve ever been before. The world has always been so intriguing to me that boredom was not much of a problem. With a TBR pile taller than Goliath and a bucket list a mile long, how could I possibly ever get bored? Add a kid to the mix, and man, who has time for bored?
But lately, I’m bored.
I simultaneously find myself missing the noise and the quiet. I’m desperate for a research project alone in a proper library and also nostalgic for downtown dancing of my college years. I want the glorious silence of noisy strangers in a crowded room. Except I’m a terrible dancer, I hate crowds, and noise makes me twitchy. Yet without it, I find myself being that annoying chatty person that doesn’t know what to do with my hands.
You would think that all this internal angst would make for some great writing stints, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. And with my reading enjoyment being on the decline the way it is, it’s hard for creativity to come out when there’s not a lot of it going in.
I’ve been reading gardening books. Yes, gardening books. What the heck? Am I 85? Apparently.
As a homeschool mom there’s a constant struggle for designating specific “school times” through out the day. She is learning that education is a life pursuit, and at four can tell you that. I can’t tell you how adorable it is to have a four year old look at someone when they ask her about school and tell them, “Education is a life pursuit.” Every day, every moment, is a chance to learn something – and she is extremely aware of this as we stop to read information along trails, get sidetracked by research projects after asking a simple question, and discuss the scientific reasons things are happening in the kitchen as I cook. But sitting down for specific lessons, that’s a bit harder to grasp. We open our reading book and she thinks that crazy silly time shall commence. She has a stubborn nature she gets from me combined with her father’s joy of watching me fume with frustration, seriously, I get angry and she laughs at me. It’s a problem.
Someone from one of the homeschooling forums on Facebook gave us a great idea, though. Read Ecc. 3:1 before every lesson. Don’t know that one off the cuff? The “lyrics” were made famous in the 1950’s by The Byrds.
The concept of there being a proper time and place for every activity and emotion, is a necessary lesson to teach toddlers (and kids, and teenagers, and humans at large). Emotions, feelings, and attitudes toward chores can be intense. There is a time to feel those things and a time to suck it up and do what you have to do. Just like a gardener has “a time to plant and a time to uproot” there’s also “a time to weep and a time to laugh.” We end the reading of these verses with, “there is also a time to be silly and a time to focus on your lessons.”
Needless to say, both little girl and I were excited to find this book at the public library last month.
This picture is beautiful. It reveals art styles from all different regions, cultures, and time. It gives a child a great sense of the impact these words have on every human throughout history. Everyone must learn this lesson, the fact that everything has a time and place. That feelings can and will be embraced and (if we want to be overly bookish and quote An Imperial Affliction – a book by a character imagined by John Green in The Fault in our Stars) and say, “Pain demands to be felt,” but as every grown person has learned at some point, sometimes it can’t be felt right now. For a four year old, the wiggles must come out… but they can’t always come out right now either.
And everyone must learn this lesson. Whether you are from China, Russia, Germany, Egypt, or Ancient Greece. Whether you are Native American or from the heart of Mexico. Whether you hail from the Ukraine or Australia, Japan or England. Humanity is united in this one all encompassing lesson of life: “There is a time to mourn and a time to dance… a time to search and a time to give up… a time to love and a time to hate… a time for war and a time for peace.”
I’m 31. I spent my birthday day sitting in a cold house wishing for sunshine. And reading Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club. Actually, I kept putting down the book to write – in my journal, not my computer, as I didn’t have one. Actually, I had 3 computers and none of them would turn on. So I bought myself a new one finally – my publisher will be so proud – as I finally have a computer that even he will admit is worthy of being called technology. I am now an Apple Girl.
Hopefully, this new computer – and this extra year of wisdom and “old age” – will push me into being a more productive writer (both blogging and being a novelist has suffered at the hands of my poor entrance into the realm of gadgets).
At the Apple Store today the guy asked me if I wanted to sign into my i cloud or some such nonsense. He spoke some gobblygook that meant nothing to me about joining my computer files to my phone. I told him no thank you and finally had to wave my flip phone at him before he understood. I thought having my techie brother-in-law all but literally hold my hand through the entire computer purchasing experience was enough for them to know that I don’t normally do this. Apparently, it was not enough, they had to see the flip phone for themselves.
The most interesting thing about this gadgetry world was how I spent my pre-birthday evening. On the 21st, when my brother was turning 31 alone (Alone, as in without me, not necessarily actually alone. He is my favorite birthday partner.) somewhere in Austin, I was hanging out with a younger crowd. It was interesting to watch them play video games, the same games I watched people play when I was in my 20’s, but searching for cheat codes from cell phones instead of spirals and laptops. I wanted to read a book amidst the noise, but hadn’t brought one. At home there’s the noise of the four year old, but I find it distracting instead of soothing.
Noise from a four year old makes you feel oddly old. Noise from boys ten years your junior make you forget that you’ve just blown through ten years of your life and are not quite sure what happened to them. They’re gone, like sand.
Reading a memoir during your birthday week is an interesting task. It reminds you of all the things you’ve forgotten. Especially Mary Karr. She remembers with such clarity, and the things she does not she can at least describe the fog of the memory with such clarity that you’re amazed that she can remember that there was a memory lost there.
The Liar’s Club was described by newspapers as being “un-put down able.” I’m not finished reading the book because I find the opposite to be true. Although I love and adore every aspect of her writing, I find it easy to put down. Too easy. It’s so Texas. It’s so familiar. I’m still stuck in the 60’s and not much has changed between 1960’s mentalities in Texas and the ones I grew up with. It was the last book I should have tried reading during this week, but I couldn’t get the energy to finish the other books I had started.
I’m currently in the middle of reading The World is Flat. I was extremely excited about starting this book. It’s been on my shelf and recommendation list for years. I like economic philosophy a lot. I love history. I love fishing for “textbooks” for my daughter to use as she’s older and I build curriculums about of source books. She will not be forced to read this book. It’s so dull. I don’t know that I’m going to get all the way through it. It came so highly recommended! But there is a reason there are ten of them on the shelf of any given bookstore you visit and the copy I bought cost me 50 cents.
All this technology and aging, memoirs, and history that isn’t really history… it reminded me that I bought a kindle awhile back. I haven’t used it since I reviewed The Year of the Hydra. I find my kindle handle, but I still haven’t really fallen in love with it. In fact, I simply forget about it most of the time.
I’m not old. But I’m still trying to figure out if there are any “new tricks” in me. Therefore, I have committed myself to attempting to learn something new (other than the new POS system at the bookstore, which will simply be depressing if I admit how much it irritates me) this week: I’m going to attend a Magic game and see about that. I played Warlords in college for a bit, so maybe it won’t be so bad.