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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

“A book is a magical thing that lets you travel to far-away places without ever leaving your chair.” – Katrina Mayer

Yosemite's Half Dome, which Nevada Barr wrote about in "High Country."

Yosemite’s Half Dome, which Nevada Barr wrote about in “High Country.” — Photo by Pat Bean

When a Travel Book is Not about Travel

As a person with wanderlust in her soul, I find that on any list – and there are many – of the best travel books, I’ve read almost every one. And if I haven’t, give me a year and I usually will have.

Sara Peretsky's Chicago. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Sara Peretsky’s Chicago. — Photo by Pat Bean

But this avid traveler has also discovered that a travel book isn’t always found on the travel book shelves. Two of my favorite authors, Nevada Barr and Sara Peretsky, write mysteries, which I love to read as much as I do travel books.

Barr’s character, Anna Pigeon, is a park ranger; and each of this author’s books increases my knowledge of one national park or another. Since I visit national parks as often as I can, reading Barr’s books has let me look at such parks as Yosemite, Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend and Isle Royal through more knowledgeable eyes.

Peretsky’s character, V. I. Warshawski, meanwhile, gives me an insider’s look at Chicago.  What Sara has written about Chicago makes other travel books about the Windy City seem dull in comparison. Thankfully I get to visit Chicago more often than not because I have a son who lives there.

Isn’t it great when you can find two passions, like mine of reading mystery books and traveling,  that fit together so perfectly?

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Canoe Communications http://tinyurl.com/n9wvdx6  I loved this blog quote because it reminded me how connected we are to every living thing on this planet.

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Of course, there are those critics – New York critics as a rule – who say, ‘Well Maya Anglou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer.’ Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.” – Maya Angelou

Words That Sing

If I remember right, Treasure Island was the first book I read from my grandfather's book cabinet.

If I remember right, Treasure Island was the first book I read from my grandfather’s book cabinet.

“Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

This quote from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” sang to me when I was a young girl who had claimed her dead grandfather’s stuffed book cabinet.  As did the final words of Lord Byron’s “Prisoner of Chillon:”

These heavy walls to me had grown
A hermitage – and all my own!
And half I felt as they were come
To tear me from a second home:
With spiders I had friendship made,
And watch’d them in their sullen trade,
Had seen the mice by moonlight play,
And why should I feel less than they?
We were all inmates of one place,
And I, the monarch of each race,
Had power to kill – yet, strange to tell!
In quiet we had learn’d to dwell;
My very chains and I grew friends,
So much a long communion tends
To make us what we are: – even I
Regain’d my freedom with a sigh.

Jack London's books encourage my love of animals; and it was a big thrill when I got to see his Yukon cabin.

Jack London’s books encouraged my love of animals; and it was a big thrill when I got to see his cabin in the Yukon.

Even as a 10-year-old girl, I understood the words of Lord Byron’s sonnet, and even memorized it. It was simply something this girl did growing up, and occasionally still does although the memorizing doesn’t come as easy.

I also memorized Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky:” which I didn’t understand, but whose language enchanted me; “ and Alfred Noyes’ “The Admiral’s Ghost,” whose opening lines “I tell you a tale tonight, which a seaman told to me, with eyes that gleamed in the lantern light, and a voice as low as the sea”  gave me goose bumps.

            I can still recite Jabberwocky from memory, and much of the other two pieces. Their words sang to me. Also in my grandfather’s book cabinet were the works of Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Jack London and many other classic authors, along with some not so classic.  But not having television, video games or a cell phone, I read them all at a very young age.

While Jack London’s books encouraged my friendship with animals as a young girl,  I didn’t know I was meant to be a writer until I was 25. I wonder if I ever would have known if it hadn’t been for my dead grandfather’s book cabinet.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Get Your Own Coffee http://tinyurl.com/o7spuxw As a woman fighting for job equality back when females were breaking into good-old-boy worker conclaves, I was fortunate to never be asked by a male colleague, or a boss, to get them coffee, or I might have responded much the same. But just to emphasize my equality, I never brought home-baked goodies to the office, as some of the other women did, or volunteer to be the social organizer for office events. Perhaps this is why I really liked this blog

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I learned to identify birds, like this lilac-breasted roller, one bird at a time, which is the same approach Anne Lamott suggests we use for writing. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I learned to identify birds, like this lilac-breasted roller, one bird at a time, which is the same approach Anne Lamott suggests we use for writing. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” – Anne Lamott

Who Gives the Best Advice?

My favorite book about writing is Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” which by the way is also a good book for how to live your life.

Anne-Lamott-2013-San-Francisco

Anne Lawmott — Wikimedia photo

In it, Anne quotes E.L. Doctorow, who once said that “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

She thought it was right up there with the best advice on writing she had ever heard. So do I.

I also identify with this quote by Anne:” “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstance, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it, and find out the truth about who you are.”

As I said, “Bird by Bird,” is about living as much as writing.

As for her advice that perfectionism isn’t a good thing, I find myself fighting this battle each time I’m about half way through a writing project, and start thinking my writing is not good enough.

Then I find it’s time to take advice from a Nike slogan: “Just do it.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: A Recorder and Puberty  http://tinyurl.com/lhkptek This blog took me back to my parenting days, and I laughed because I got through them.

Bean Pat: Yellow-crowned heron http://tinyurl.com/ow8xjyu You can even find them in Queens New York.

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“I noticed every time I spent a lot of time in the bathtub, I would just get fantastic realizations about myself, and they were so valuable and liberating.” – Leonard Orr

I don't care who invented it, but of all the bathtubs out there the best is the claw-footed, whose shape invites one to soak and read at the same time. I can't tell you how many books I've read over the years that ended up waterlogged.  A bathtub was the only thing I truly missed in my nine years of living on the road in Gypsy Lee. -- Wikimedia photo

I don’t care who invented it, but of all the bathtubs out there the best is the claw-footed, whose shape invites one to soak and read at the same time. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read over the years that ended up waterlogged. A bathtub was the only thing I truly missed in my nine years of living on the road in Gypsy Lee. — Wikimedia photo

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

One of the blogs I follow is called Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/  I thought it an odd name for a blog, but that’s as far as the little gray cells went – until I read “The Crocodile’s Last Embrace,” a Jade de Cameron mystery by Suzanne Arruda.

Jade is constantly using odd phrases as a substitute for cursing, and in this particular book, one of those phrases is Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. My little gray cells lit up like a neon Las Vegas Strip sign on coming across a second reference to the phrase. It was a sure sign that I was going to learn something new this day.

But I don't think I would have missed this early version of the bathtub. -- Wikimedia photo

But I don’t think I would have missed this early version of the bathtub. — Wikimedia photo

It seems that in 1917 (Arruda’s book takes place in the 1930s in Africa), H. L. Mencken wrote an article about the introduction of the bathtub to America, saying it was opposed until President Millard Fillmore had a bathtub installed in the White House in 1850,  which made it more acceptable.

The article was entirely false. Not only had an earlier president had a bathtub installed in the White House, but the tub’s invention was much earlier than 1842, which is when Mencken said it was invented.

Mencken fessed up in 1949, saying: “the success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity … Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions.”

The story still won’t die. Even today there are sources that quote Mencken’s story as fact. Now I ask you, in this enlightened age of the Internet, how many other stories do you read that are fabrications of the truth?

Too Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub many for sure.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: A Mixed Bag http://tinyurl.com/prdkb6c If you want it, then make it happen. Lots of good advice on how to do it.

Bean Pat: Antelope horns and gray hairstreak butterfly  http://tinyurl.com/kqdhgxm If you like nature, you can’t help but love this blog. I had never seen a gray hairstreak butterfly before. It’s beautiful.

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I find it deliciously intriguing that Miranda James is a male author posing as a female author.

I find it deliciously intriguing that Miranda James is a male author posing as a female author.

“After all those years as a woman hearing not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not this enough, not that enough  … I woke up one more and thought, I’m enough.” – Anna Quindlen   

And Ain’t It Great

I nearly bust a gut laughing when I discovered that Miranda James, who writes the “cozy” Cat in the Stack mysteries that I enjoy reading, was actually a male author.

Shades of George Eliot and Harper Lee, I thought. George and Lee were just two former female authors who used male pseudonyms for a better chance of getting published and read. Eliot, who was the author of such Victorian era books as “Silas Marner” (1861) and “Middlemarch (1871), was actually Mary Ann Evans; And Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is actually Nelle Harper Lee.

Nelle Harper Lee is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007 -- Wikipedia photo

Nelle Harper Lee is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007 — Wikipedia photo

Other early day authors who used male pseudonyms included Louisa May Alcott, who wrote as A.M. Barnard before “Little Women” was published under her own name; The Bronte sisters, who first published under the names of Currer Bell (the first editions of “Jane Eyre”), and Ellis Bell (the first editions of “Wurhering Heights”); and Karen Blixen, who wrote “Out of Africa” as Isak Dinesen.

I guess just as these women writers thought to get more attention as males, author Dean James, AKA Miranda James, realized readers of cozies might be more attracted to mysteries in this category written by a female.

I suspect he’s right. What do you think?

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Queen of the Gypsies http://tinyurl.com/p7m4gog I read blogs because of all the trivia I learn. And this one intrigued me. I’ll stop by the next time I’m in Meridian, Mississippi. I love the early-day motorless version of my RV Gypsy Lee, and wondered what it would be like to travel the country in that.

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  “Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write, one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying…” – Pablo Picasso

The Vermillion Cliffs in Northern Arizona is part of the Mongollon Rim. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The Vermillion Cliffs in Northern Arizona is part of the Mongollon Rim. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Mongollom Rim

            I don’t quite agree with Picasso’s reasoning. While I do think of painting a landscape when I’m writing, I’m totally satisfied doing it with words. But then finding the right words to let a reader see a specific place never comes easy – at least it doesn’t for me. And reading about a place in a book often never satisfies me.

Oak Creek Canyon, which follows the Mongollom Rim between Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizonia. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Oak Creek Canyon, which follows the Mongollom Rim between Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona. — Photo by Pat Bean

Take this morning, for example. I was reading a chapter in “The Desert Southwest: Four Thousand Years of Life and Art,” and within a few sentences, authors Allan and Carol Hayes, mention the Mongollom Rim, the 38th Parallel (which of course made me think of the Korean conflict dividing line) and the Tropic of Cancer.

Now while all three terms were familiar to me, I didn’t know exactly how their locations were being used in reference to the American Southwest. Having a mind that must be satisfied, I did a bit of research.

First I found a map that followed the 38th Parallel around the world, and learned that it bisected the United States north of San Francisco, south of St. Louis and south of Washington D.C.

Next I refreshed my memory on the Tropic of Cancer, which bisects Mexico south of the U.S. border, and relearned that it is the circle of latitude on Earth that marks the most northerly position at which the Sun may appear directly overhead at its zenith. This imaginary line is called the Tropic of Cancer because when the Sun reaches the zenith at this latitude, it is entering the tropical sign of Cancer.

So from this, I knew the area referred to in the book was located south of San Francisco and north of Baja California Sur.

I knew more about the Mongollom Rim because of my travels across this country, and knew I had crossed it quite a few times, but didn’t remember exactly where. The rim is the edge of the Colorado Plateau, and often the dividing line between landscapes below 5,000 feet and above 8,000 feet. Pin-pointing the rim on a map, I realized I had recently followed along it when I drove from Phoenix to Flagstaff on Highway 17.

And now you know what my wondering-wandering brain was up to this morning.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat:  Losing Leroy http://tinyurl.com/pteym6y I once met Leroy. And this blog brought tears to my eyes – but joy, too. My mother

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“Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” – Sam Ewing

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” – Albert Einstein

My mother riding on the back of my brother's motorcycle when she was in her 70s. She was a real character, worthy of being a role mode for my fictional characters.

My mother riding on the back of my brother’s motorcycle when she was in her 70s. She was a real character, worthy of being a role model for my fictional characters.

Thinking About Creating Them

Back in my early teen years, I thought the way to be liked was to be nice and smile all the time. And it worked. But over the years, it turned me into a thin character, one whom people may have liked, but gained me little respect.

I love Maxine's character. Don't you?

I love Maxine’s character. Don’t you?

It took my mother, a feisty, plain spoken, quick-tempered, cigarette smoking (until she quit cold turkey at the age of 76 because the “damn” things became too expensive), to make me look at things differently. My kids adored her, and I had to wonder why.

It was her rough edges. And so, while I’m still nice and do smile

One of my favorite characters was Molly Ivins Now that's whom I would like to grow up to be.

One of my favorite characters was Molly Ivins Now that’s whom I would like to grow up to be.

a lot, I began to let the imperfect edges of my character leak out. I liked it – and evidently so did others because I gained more friends, and one of the nicest compliments I ever received was from a younger friend who told everyone “I want to be just like Pat Bean when I grow up.”

Currently I’m involved in a writing project with my oldest daughter, Deborah. After attending a writing workshop together,about the value of writing 20 minutes a day that Len Leatherwood taught during the Story Circle Network conference in Austin last month, we are both doing just that. Her project is a fantasy book that she has been playing around with for years. Mine is also a fantasy book that I’m making up as I go.

To keep us on track, we’ve established a slackers’ jar that is collecting quarters, one for each day one of us doesn’t write on our projects for 20 minutes a day. So far I’ve contributed a $1 to the jar, and my daughter only one quarter. She is also writing more in her 20 minutes a day than I am.

Right now I’m stuck on giving my characters character – the same way I was stuck for far too many years giving myself one. Ouch!

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: 20 Minutes a Day http://lenleatherwood.wordpress.com/ Thought you might want to see Len’s blog after I mentioned her. She mostly sits down at the end of her long days and writes whatever pops into her head.. It’s kind of a public diary, but I’ve gotten inspiration from many of those blogs. She is also an illustration, compared to me who must write early in the day or I don’t write, of how different writers write.

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Great book, great art from my bookshelf.

Great book, great art from my bookshelf.

“The soul becomes  dyed with the color of its thoughts.” Marcus Aurelius

I Like Color

A page from the book, and one of my favorite paintings by Donna.

A page from the book, and one of my favorite paintings by Donna.

Totsymae commented on “Cowgirl Rising,” one of the books on my bookshelves that I gave readers a peek at yesterday. The comment gave me a laugh, but reminded me that I hadn’t looked at this particular book recently.

It’s an art book featuring the works of Donna Howell-Sickles, whose work I first saw at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. I immediately fell in love with her work. I saw her huge, colorful art again at an art gallery in Jackson, Wyoming, a half dozen or so years ago.

Totsymae’s comment on yesterday’s blog  encouraged me to simply spend some time with Donna’s book. All I can say now is “Thank you Donna for once again giving me such pleasure, so much so that I simply had to share your work with readers.”

So enjoy all. And a big Bean to totsymae at wordpress.com for your comment.

And another page.

And another page.

 

 

 

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“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.” — Edward P. Morgan

“The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.” — James Bryce

Seeing lions in Africa might have been the very first thing I put on my bucket list, thanks to reading Osa Johnson's lion watching stories. And in 2007, I crossed it off what over the years grew to hundreds of things I wanted to do. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Seeing lions in Africa might have been the very first thing I put on my bucket list, thanks to reading Osa Johnson’s lion watching stories. And in 2007, I crossed it off what over the years grew to hundreds of things I wanted to do. — Photo by Pat Bean

The First 10 Books That Popped Into My Head

I’m always coming across best book lists. While they often have many of the same books on them, they also can differ tremendously depending on the genre of the list or the compilers.

Gypsy Lee was my version of Charles Kuralt's "On the Road" RV, which now sits in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. -- Photo by Pat Bean.

Gypsy Lee was my version of Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road” RV, which now sits in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. — Photo by Pat Bean.

So on reading one of these lists recently, I decided to put together my own list of “10 Books that Influenced my Life.” I came up with the list in just a couple of minutes, and afterwards I could probably have listed another 10 books.

But here is the list of the first thoughts that scrambled through my little grey cells.

“I Married Adventure,” by Osa Johnson. This was the first travel book I ever read, and it gave me my first inkling that I was born with wanderlust in my soul. I checked the book out of the library, from the adult section, when I was about nine years old.

“Forever Amber,” by Kathleen Winsor. I found this book in the bookcase of my grandfather’s book cabinet, the same place I found the works of Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Fennimore Cooper, Charles Dickens, and many more of the classic writers, all of which I read at quite a young age. “Forever Amber” sticks out in my mind because when I reached junior high school,, I overheard a group of girls calling it a “dirty book.” I didn’t know what they meant so I went back and reread it – and still didn’t know what they meant. I was a late bloomer. The book, by the way, would almost get a G rating in today’s world. It was this book, however, that prompted me to never censor books my children read.

And reading about Tim Cahill's outdoor adventures encourage me to seek out my own adventure trails. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And reading about Tim Cahill’s outdoor adventures encourage me to seek out my own adventure trails. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Gone with the Wind,” by Margaret Mitchell. I so loved this book that I read it three times in the same year. Each read gave me a different meaning to the ending. It was this book that taught me that readers put their own interpretations to writing, and that there is more than one interpretation – and not always the one the author visualized.

“Blue Highways,” by William Least Heat Moon, the second most influential travel book I read. It was this author’s van travel that started my own travel dream, which I fulfilled when I spent 9 years living and traveling full-time in my small RV, Gypsy Lee.

“Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand, Wayne Dyer’s “Your Erroneous Zones,” and “The Women’s Room” by Marilyn French were read at a crucial turning point in my life. From one I learned that there was more than one way of looking at life, and came to the conclusion that the one and just about only true evil was to harm another person. From another, I realized that only I was responsible for my life and what I allowed in it, and from the third I accepted my strong feminine self that social expectations had dampened. As far as forming the core of my being, these three books are significantly responsible.

“The Snow Leopard,” by Peter Matthiessen. This is one of the books that fed my passion for the outdoors, travel and the natural world. It turned me on to environmentalism and gave me a new way of looking at things.

And “On the Road with Charles Kuralt,” and “Road Fever” by Tim Cahill helped define my travel writing style. I wanted to capture both the simplicity and joy of life that Kuralt brought to his writing and TV segments, and I identified with Cahill’s love of the outdoors and adventure and understood his understated sense of humor. I wanted to write like Cahilll, but with a feminine voice and eyes.

Just off the top of your head, what 10 books most influenced your life?

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Where’s My Backpack, http://tinyurl.com/lkxupke and Incidentally http://tinyurl.com/oyjp95f These two blogs let readers travel from their armchairs, a pastime I indulge in frequently when I’m not actually on the road. The first blog takes you on a walk through Rome, and the other lets you enjoy the beauty of stained class art if you are in the vicinity of Chicago.

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   “Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Fall was in full progress when I arrived in Maine, and followed me on my southward return. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Fall was in full progress when I arrived in Maine, and followed me on my southward return. — Photo by Pat Bean

Is Finished

For all of you who have stuck with me for a bit, and followed the writing journey of my book, “Travels with Maggie,” I’m delighted to inform you that it is now ready to go out to the world.

Maggie claiming the driver's seat during a stop for gas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Maggie claiming the driver’s seat during a stop for gas. — Photo by Pat Bean

The 75,000-word travel book/memoir is about a six-month journey my canine companion, Maggie, and I took in 2006. The title is inspired by John Steinbeck’s  “Travels with Charlie,” and I’ve been telling prospective agents it would sit nicely on a book shelf between his book, and Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road,” with Tim Cahill’s “Road Fever” nearby, but that its uniqueness lies in the fact that it was written by an old-broad, wandering-wonderer.

I’m currently in the process of looking at ways to get it published as an e-book, and getting a cover designed for it. Next will come a printed book – I’m hoping.

The journey began in Camden, Arkansas, where my youngest daughter lived at the time, and ended in Rowlett, Texas, in time for Thanksgiving dinner at my oldest daughter’s home. It was a trip of 7,000 miles that took me to Maine and Acadia National Park that wriggled its way through 23 states and Canada.

Any advice those of you who have self-published a book is welcome. Especially helpful would be experiences any of my readers have had with Vook or Bookbaby.

Meanwhile, this is my way of yelling from the mountain top that the third rewrite of “Travels with Maggie” is now behind me.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Two short videos. Footloose and Kevin Bacon fans will enjoy this one, even if they saw it on the Jimmy Fallon show: http://tinyurl.com/oldwfxj And old broads and anyone who loves life will enjoy this one. I smiled all the way through it. http://tinyurl.com/qz8btq6

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