Quilts and Barns

How do quilts, a hand­made bed­cov­er, and barns, a large build­ing forquilt-barn cows, go togeth­er? Answer—when a barn sports a quilt­ed dec­o­ra­tion.

It’s a nat­ur­al for the place where I live, Lan­cast­er Coun­ty, Pennsylvania—the home of Amish quilts, dairy farms, fields of hay and corn. But we are sort of a John­ny-come-late­ly. Quilt trails are found in 48 states and Cana­da. A local quilt­ing farm woman saw her first barn quilt in Ohio which inspired the one pro­filed in our local news­pa­per.

Some 7,000 wood­en or Mylar quilts were cre­at­ed by groups such as the Grange (a farm­ing orga­ni­za­tion I belonged to as a teenage farm girl). They can be found fol­low­ing quilt trails, and they aren’t all on barns.

Here is the arti­cle from our local news­pa­per. And, of course, some­thing so pop­u­lar has its own Face­book page.

I had nev­er before heard of quilts on barns, or quilt trails. In the sum­mer, we have corn mazes, tours of dairy farms, and Her­shey can­dy fac­to­ry. Do you have sim­i­lar activ­i­ties where you live? I’d love to hear about them.

Five Stars for LOWCOUNTRY BOIL

I read Low­coun­try Boil two years ago, short­ly after it was pub­lished by Hen­ery Press. Then I went to my first ever Mal­ice Domes­tic in 2013, and vot­ed for it to win as Best First Nov­el of 2012. Of course, I was sure I’d picked a lot of oth­er win­ners as well, but Low­coun­try Boil was the only win­ner I picked. Since I was sit­ting at one of the Hen­ery Press tables, I got a front row seat as the oth­er Hen­ery Press authors helped Susan Boy­er cel­e­brate.

Susan Boyer-Agatha winner

Susan Boy­er-Agatha win­ner

To do jus­tice to this book, I’m reread­ing it now, and enjoy­ing it just as much as I did the first time. Some things come back to me imme­di­ate­ly. I remem­bered the ghost (I love ghosts). When the lock­et turned up, I thought, aha! Oth­er plot points had slipped my mind. Oh, yes, now I remem­ber, I thought as a new dan­ger unfold­ed.

But this isn’t telling you about a great read. A Great Win­ning Read! Not only did it win the Agatha, but it won the 2012 Daphne du Mau­ri­er Award for Excel­lence in Mys­tery Sus­pense.

The low­coun­try of the sto­ry is a South Car­oli­na island along the Intra­coastal Water­way (Did I pass it on one of sev­er­al boat­ing trips, I won­der?) It’s a close-knit com­mu­ni­ty of friends, rel­a­tives, and often, ene­mies who may be both friends or rel­a­tives.

Liz returns to the island home­stead after her grand­moth­er dies. She learns it was mur­der. So, why would any­one kill a sweet old lady? There are con­spir­a­cies afoot, and a ghost who con­fers with Liz, look­ing to save the island from the bad guys.

Are the prob­lems bro­ken mar­riages, land grabs, long remem­bered slights? Or, none of the above? Although Liz runs her own pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tion agency in the city, her broth­er, the local police chief, does not want her help in solv­ing one mur­der and try­ing to pre­vent fur­ther may­hem.

Oth­er review­er com­ments: “I can see why this debut mys­tery is get­ting a lot of buzz.”

The para­nor­mal aspect adds to the sto­ry rather than tak­ing it over, strik­ing the per­fect bal­ance.”

A South­ern Mys­tery to be Savored!”

I agree with all of them.

A Writing Room

A room ded­i­cat­ed to writing—that’s an ide­al for any author. Or not. Some authors pre­fer tot­ing a lap­top or pen­cil and paper to the local cof­fee shop, or out­doors where there’s a love­ly view and pleas­ant weath­er.

Years ago, when I was a twen­ty-some­thing and liv­ing in Seat­tle, I did not aspire to be a writer. I thought I’d be a singer. My broth­er had a beau­ti­ful voice, my sis­ter played the piano. I had illu­sions of a fam­i­ly trio—for a few months. I took singing lessons. Since I lived at a board­ing house with a land­la­dy who said, “No prac­tic­ing at MY piano,” I rent­ed a prac­tice room sev­er­al days a week. All around me, oth­ers behind oth­er doors prac­ticed voice, clar­inet, bas­soon, or piano. But, for an hour, I had my own room.

When I start­ed writ­ing, with teenagers in the house, I heard about writ­ers who rent­ed office space, set it up with type­writer (before most peo­ple used any­thing resem­bling com­put­ers), and escaped into anoth­er world. I set up my type­writer in the base­ment. After a while, I, too, had a com­put­er.

Fast for­ward a lot of years, and my hus­band and I are liv­ing in retire­ment. Our chil­dren have chil­dren, and even a grand­child. I have my writ­ing space in the retire­ment home base­ment. I don’t need to escape from a hec­tic house­hold. But a cou­ple of days ago, I read about a local free-lance writer who has his own small office space in a local build­ing, a restored tobac­co ware­house divid­ed into indi­vid­ual offices.

Gee, should I con­sid­er that?

Nah. I look out my win­dow, and think—drive through weath­er like that, every day? Then I look at my desk, piled high with arti­cles I must save, my desk­top com­put­er, my print­er, my rolling chair, the full book­cas­es sur­round­ing me. Move all that? You think? Of course, if I had Kait Carson’s very neat office, maybe… Nope. Why change per­fec­tion?

I’ve always wondered—does tak­ing your work to a new place, one with­out a dish­wash­er to emp­ty, a dirty clothes ham­per full to over­flow­ing, and dust on every shelf—make for more time spent writ­ing?  Or, does tak­ing one­self away from dai­ly life also take away the inspi­ra­tion? Some­how, I think that answer changes by indi­vid­ual, and per­haps, even by the moment. What do you think? Have you ever tried mov­ing your work to a new space?

Five Stars For JUST ADD WATER

I didn’t have to dig very deeply into my favorites list to come up with 5 star A Just Add Water by Jinx Schwartyz. I under­stand that this author is as at-home on boats as she is in front of her com­put­er writ­ing about Het­ta Cof­fey.

Het­ta doesn’t have a boat as the book starts. She has women friends, an ex fiancé, and a dog named RJ. Let’s just say, boy friends come and go, and their com­ing isn’t always good. Could be fatal, as a mat­ter of fact. But, oh, that does make for good read­ing!

The dead body doesn’t appear right away, but the action is non-stop. Het­ta is after a man, any man. Per­haps buy­ing a boat is the way to go. Then, again, per­haps not. But Het­ta has a boat, and she is intends to learn how to use it. (That’s a quote, more or less, from the author’s tweets, “Het­ta has a boat and she’s not afraid to use it.”)

This is my first Het­ta Cof­fey Mys­tery and won’t be the last! I read Jinx Schwartyz’ Land of Moun­tains before giv­ing it to a grand­daugh­ter and absolute­ly loved it. It is semi-auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal. I don’t think Just Add Water is, but it cer­tain­ly could be, if the child in the ear­li­er book grew up to get involved in mur­der instead of just into boats.

I’d like to quote from a few oth­ers who liked this book:

First, I must say this book was a chuck­le a minute—except for the parts not designed to elic­it chuck­les, of course.”

Whether you’re a fan of mys­tery, chick lit, or humor, you’ll be a fan of Het­ta Cof­fey and author Jinx Schwartz.”

Het­ta is brash and bold with a mouth that doesn’t have much of a fil­ter.”

There are many more reviews, but that gives you an idea. Almost all of them are pos­i­tive.

Just Add Water is avail­able here.

Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine

Of course, I know a lit­tle some­thing about boats as well. Just for kicks, I’ll add a pic­ture of the boat my hus­band and I sailed for a good many years. We didn’t find any killers, but we did run into a few killer storms. And, know­ing a lit­tle bit about boats myself, only made me appre­ci­ate Just Add Water even more.

Does knowl­edge of the sub­ject affect your read­ing? I know, if an author doesn’t get some­thing right that I do know about, that does affects my read­ing plea­sure. It down-right destroys it.

A Bionic Hero

This is a sto­ry that unites recov­ery from the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, my mem­o­ries, and a young man who lost his legs to moun­tain climb­ing while still in high school. Hugh Herr was the boy’s name, and I fol­lowed his progress in the media. He attend­ed a neigh­bor­ing high school; I met his par­ents, and even a sis­ter at one time or anoth­er. His first ambi­tion was to get back on the moun­tains, climb­ing. And he did. He learned how bion­ic legs work, invent­ed his own bion­ic feet to help him climb, and con­quered impos­si­ble moun­tains.

Of course, that’s not the end of the sto­ry. He left the moun­tains and returned to bion­ics. Togeth­er with oth­er experts at MIT, he now works to help amputees return­ing from war as well as the dancer who lost her foot in Boston. The local arti­cle that remind­ed me of this amaz­ing man is “Hugh Herr and ‘the heal­ing pow­er of high tech­nol­o­gy’.” From that arti­cle, I found the site and video (at the end) with Hugh Herr’s talk and Adri­anne Haslet-Davis’ dance. Mr. Herr includes videos of his teen-age climbs, explains the progress of bion­ics, and shows a vari­ety of exam­ples as he walks on his bion­ic legs. The dancer grace­ful­ly demon­strates the ful­fill­ment of her dream. Both are tru­ly inspir­ing.

This post is noth­ing about books, but one that’s inspired me for years and one that I want­ed to share. There are many such peo­ple, even though we writ­ers focus on the evil and dan­ger­ous to amuse our read­ers. Of course, each sto­ry must include a hero, one to bring the world back into bal­ance. Just for today, I want to focus on those heroes in life.

Five Stars For A Cutthroat Business

I’ve read a lot of books that I rate five stars. A Cut­throat Busi­ness by Jen­na Ben­nett is one I’ve just fin­ished read­ing. Now, I must admit, it has been on my Kin­dle for quite some time. (I tend to cap­ture way more e-books than I can pos­si­bly read.) Last week it was “eenie, mee­nie, miney, mo” time, and I’m glad this one got the fin­ger. Even bet­ter, I dis­cov­ered that this is the first of a series, with sev­er­al more to read.

5 star ASavan­nah Mar­tin is a new­com­er to the real estate sales busi­ness. She is a prop­er south­ern belle who always remem­bers what her moth­er says. On a date, a prop­er lady doesn’t eat too much, or ever eat dessert. There’s a few oth­er things a prop­er lady doesn’t do, and, unfor­tu­nate­ly, Savan­nah falls a bit short on some things. Like, I’m sure, it isn’t prop­er to find a dead body, even if it is in the house she’s show­ing and it just hap­pens to be her hat­ed boss. And one def­i­nite­ly shouldn’t be attract­ed to that bad boy, Rafe. Of course, Savan­nah is most polite to the ques­tion­ing police, and that could be a good thing.

All that is good and well, but exact­ly why do I pick this is one of my favorite books? For one thing, when I real­ized I was way over half way through with the book, I stayed awake until 2 A.M. to fin­ish it. For anoth­er thing, there’s a con­sid­er­able amount of sex­u­al ten­sion, but it’s light­ly played, and a kiss is the ulti­mate thrill. (I’m sure that suc­ceed­ing books will go a tad fur­ther, but I do like the fun of this approach.) And, while this is not the first fic­tion­al real estate agent I’ve read about who finds a body in the vacant house, there’s a lot more going on in this book that war­rants applause.

As I write this brief review, I see that the e-book is avail­able for free. How lucky can you get? A Cut­throat Busi­ness avail­able here. (Don’t know if it will be when you read this.) Read all about the author Jen­na Ben­nett here.

Now a word from your spon­sor (me). Leave a note here if you wish. Sug­gest a favorite book of your own. Check out my book page, or my web page. And come back on Thurs­day for a blog that is yet to be determined—but it will be dif­fer­ent. And, next Mon­day, I’ll tell you about anoth­er of my favorite books.

 

New Year Outlook

Today, when I think of all the new things a year can bring, I real­ize some would have been quite unimag­in­able in the not too dis­tant Air­planes, sure—but a tiny drone planned to deliv­er pack­ages? Even famil­iar items get an unex­pect­ed twist as inno­va­tors do their thing.

I’m think­ing the tele­phone here. When I was young (a cen­tu­ry or ago), a tele­phone was firm­ly attached to the house by a cord, or even secured to the wall. I picked up the receiv­er and a voice said, “Num­ber, please.”

My answer was, “Three, four, five, oh, J,” and present­ly, my grand­moth­er answered.

I don’t remem­ber those ear­li­est phones specifically—not until we moved into a farm house when I was in sev­enth grade. That phone was a wood­en box, about a foot and a half tall by maybe ten inch­es wide, mount­ed on the wall at adult eye lev­el. A large mouth­piece stuck out in front. The receiv­er was on a hook at the left. On the right was a crank. To place a call, I lift­ed the receiv­er, gave one long crank and wait­ed for the oper­a­tor. Of course, first I had to be sure no one else was on the par­ty line using their phone. There were quite a few oth­er fam­i­lies, each with their own ring. Ours was two shorts, a long, and a short. Each fam­i­ly heard all those rings, and most­ly, ignored them. But, since peo­ple didn’t call any­one unless it was nec­es­sary, (and noth­ing secret as any­one could lift their receiv­er and lis­ten in), there weren’t too many rings to ignore dur­ing the day.

Par­ty lines. Do you remem­ber them? After I was mar­ried with chil­dren in high school, we still had a par­ty line. There were only two homes, and we didn’t hear each other’s ring, but we had to check to be sure no one was on the line by lis­ten­ing in before mak­ing a call. As hap­pens, some­times the oth­er par­ty doesn’t want to relin­quish their turn. That hap­pened once when our kids had the high school musi­cal cast par­ty in our base­ment. Two of the kids had to call home to get par­ents to col­lect them. You guessed it—that was when our par­ty would not hang up. My hus­band had to dri­ve them home instead. And, when we request­ed a pri­vate line, they turned us down—not enough free num­bers or free lines or some such.

What?

I mean, two homes using one line and two num­bers. With today’s pro­lif­er­a­tion of phone use, our fam­i­ly with two par­ents and five chil­dren would have had sev­en cell phones plus one house phone.

Oh, yeah—cell phones. Wire­less phones they used to call them when we got our first one. It was as big as a large wall phone and looked the same. (Need­ed room for those bat­ter­ies.) But we were boaters, our grand­son was expect­ed, we want­ed to hear the news. We did—and he is now fif­teen. My, how time flies.

Now hub­by and I each have a cell phone that doesn’t do any­thing but take and answer calls. But all our kids and grand­kids have the phones that do every­thing but wash the dish­es. They can’t get along with­out them.

Which is some­thing I read in the lat­est Forbes with their pro­files of thir­ty busi­ness peo­ple under thir­ty who are chang­ing the world. One young woman said, “If we lived in a world that some­how didn’t have cell phones, I’m not sure how I would have been able to do it.” But, look­ing at her pro­file and busi­ness, I think she’d have man­aged. Her busi­ness is chang­ing every-day objects into pow­er sources to light up her par­ents’ native coun­try of Nige­ria. If you can imag­ine it—a soc­cer ball, kicked around for an hour will pro­vide three hours of light. Fif­teen min­utes of using her jump rope pro­vides two hours of light.

Now, that sounds tru­ly remark­able, pos­si­bly impos­si­ble. But stop to think—twenty years ago, did you ever expect to take pic­tures with your tele­phone? Read e-mail? Even play games?

It’s All About The Book

5 star AStart­ing next week, every Mon­day will be my FIVE STAR READS day. I’ll talk about a book I’ve recent­ly read, or, maybe not so recent­ly read, that’s on my favorites list.

What makes a book one of my favorites? Ummm… could be because I stayed up late at night to con­tin­ue read­ing. Could be because I absolute­ly loved the main char­ac­ters, or the plot, or the sen­ti­ment, or… Per­haps I don’t know exact­ly what it is that tips an enjoy­able nov­el over to the superla­tive.

Like they say, my choice might not be your cup­pa tea. Even, on anoth­er day, it might not have been my favorite. But, rest assured, I’ll tell you what shiv­ered my tim­bers with each book. Like­ly it will be a mys­tery. But, not always. (I’m look­ing for­ward to list­ing a par­tic­u­lar mid­dle-grade nov­el.) I also like his­toric fic­tion, espe­cial­ly his­toric mys­ter­ies. A few romances res­onate with me (I have favorite authors). Often, a non-fic­tion will catch my eye.  I like com­e­dy in sto­ries, but I appre­ci­ate good sus­pense as well.

Along with my Mon­day with books, I’ll post anoth­er blog entry each Thurs­day. The sub­jects will be var­ied. I’ll include entries on both days to fol­low my mys­tery, his­to­ry, and spooks, oh my cap­tion. But, I’ll no doubt include some that could only be con­sid­ered ‘ram­bling.’

Come back on Thurs­day, and again on next Mon­day. Hope­ful­ly, I’ll have refined my five star reads logo. And, hope­ful­ly, I’ll find out how to reor­ga­nize my first page to include an option to fol­low my blog, to short­en the list of past posts, and, pos­si­bly, even include oth­er options.

What makes a book one of your favorites?

 

A New e-book

Two years ago I pub­lished A KNUCKLEHEAD IN 1920s ALASKA, aA Knucklehead in 1920s Alaska mem­oir of my father’s expe­ri­ences when he went to Alas­ka hop­ing to earn mon­ey for col­lege expens­es. I’ve now pub­lished it as a Kin­dle e-book.

Here’s the blurb: At age eighty-eight, William (Bill) Collins record­ed his adven­tures as a young man who trav­eled to Alas­ka to earn mon­ey for col­lege. In the 1920s he found adven­ture, but not much mon­ey work­ing in the rail­road yards, in mines, as a pearl div­er (dish­wash­er), and any­thing else between.

Dur­ing three sum­mers and one win­ter, Bill sur­vived hunger, earth­quake, stomp­ing cari­bou, and ici­cle frost. He learned about stopes, sluice box­es, pow­der smoke, and the Fes­ti­val of the Mid­night Sun. He found friends who would face a bear for him and ene­mies eager to knife him or smash him with a twen­ty-pound sledge. Bill had one lucky day and more than a few real­ly bad days.

This is the sto­ry of one hot-head­ed young man deter­mined to earn his own way. In his own words, he was a true knuck­le­head.

~ ~ ~

I’ve includ­ed a bonus short mys­tery at the end, “Yesterday’s News,” pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished by Futures Mys­te­ri­ous Anthol­o­gy Mag­a­zine. Even bet­ter, the entire e-book is free for those who pur­chase, or have already pur­chased, the paper­back from Ama­zon.

Now for a ques­tion: Do you know any inter­est­ing sto­ries from your par­ents or grand­par­ents that your chil­dren might be inter­est­ed in?

And anoth­er ques­tion: Have you ever con­sid­ered telling that sto­ry to a wider audi­ence?

And a hint: Those were the ques­tions I asked myself a few years ago, and with a bit of encour­age­ment, this was my answer.

A Tropical Thanksgiving

Kait Car­son lives in and writes from Flori­da. Her lat­est book, DEATH BYKait-cover BLUE WATER, was released by Hen­ery Press on Vet­er­ans’ Day 2014.  In it, para­le­gal Hay­den Kent dis­cov­ers a man’s body at 120’ beneath the sea. She thinks she is wit­ness to a trag­ic acci­dent. Instead, she becomes the prime sus­pect when the vic­tim is revealed to be the broth­er of the man who recent­ly jilt­ed her, and she has no ali­bi.

A year ago I spent Thanks­giv­ing in Flori­da, but this year I’m at home in Penn­syl­va­nia. Unlike my guest, that was only a some­time vis­it. But Kait remem­bers past Thanks­giv­ings and has her own way of cel­e­brat­ing in the trop­ics. Let her tell you about it…

Tomor­row is Thanks­giv­ing. Known to my fam­i­ly as Turkey Day, it was a favorite child­hood hol­i­day. Whether it was at home or away – there were two con­stants. A groan­ing table of food (fol­lowed by groan­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers), and cold weather—sometimes snow. SNOW, what has snow got to do with a trop­i­cal thanks­giv­ing? Well, noth­ing. But my child­hood turkey days were usu­al­ly spent in the north. Some­times on my great grandfather’s farm. He was a hardy soul who lived into his 100s. Fam­i­ly his­to­ry varies on whether it was 103 or 106. I doubt he knew. He was born in the ‘old coun­try’ at home on, yes, a farm. No records were kept, or no records that he kept were kept.

Turkey day on the farm in upstate New York was spe­cial. All of the din­ner was home­grown. Since both of my great grand­par­ents were immi­grants, keep­ing Amer­i­can hol­i­days, espe­cial­ly Thanks­giv­ing, was a reli­gion with them. Our loca­tion made snow a fre­quent vis­i­tor on Thanks­giv­ing Day.

Fast for­ward to my late teens. Here comes the trop­i­cal part. I fell in love with Mia­mi as a five year old when we vis­it­ed cousins. I nev­er fell out of love. When the time came for me to go to col­lege, it was UM or bust—Go Canes! Once plant­ed, my roots grew in the warm, sandy soil, and I’ve nev­er left. My adult real­i­ty has Thanks­giv­ings far removed from any­thing resem­bling snow, unless you count white sandy beach­es. Tem­per­a­tures of 80 and above are the norm. But it’s Thanks­giv­ing! It’s autumn. It needs to be COLD. I don’t know who invent­ed air con­di­tion­ing. I could prob­a­bly Google it, but that’s been my solu­tion since I moved here. Crank the A/C down to 60, pull on a sweater, turn on the oven and have at it. Turkey, brus­sels sprouts, yams (a South­ern sta­ple I might add), mashed pota­toes, green beans, sweet pota­to pie (nod to the South) and pump­kin pie. It all pours out of my oven and on to the table. I close all the drapes to block out the green grass and palm trees, light the fire­place, and voila, a cool, Flori­da, Thanks­giv­ing.

Hay­den Kent, the hero­ine of DEATH BY BLUE WATER, would nev­er under­stand. Hay­den is a Conch. Born and bred in the Flori­da Keys. Her idea of Thanks­giv­ing runs to Flori­da lob­ster stuff­ing (very good by the way) and ambrosia (also very good). She’s prob­a­bly going to spend her ear­ly morn­ing SCUBA div­ing to cel­e­brate hav­ing a day off, and then host­ing a din­ner for her friends Mal­lo­ry and Jan­ice, and maybe her boss, Grant. Any way she slices it, the pie will be from the bak­ery, and every­one will have a late night, a great time, and left­overs to go.

Come to think of it, that sounds like the per­fect turkey day. No mat­ter where or how you cel­e­brate, I hope you have a won­der­ful day.

Kait-photoBIO: Kait Car­son lives and works in South Cen­tral Flori­da. She shares her home with her pilot hus­band, a Chero­kee Six air­plane, eight res­cued cats, and three birds. So far, there is no par­tridge in the avo­ca­do tree. Kait is a rabid SCUBA div­er and can be found under­wa­ter most sum­mer week­ends. A self-styled warm water wimp, the div­ing stops on Colum­bus Day and the day trips by air begin. Vis­it her at www.kaitcarson.com, or on Face­book at facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor.

Kait’s men­tion of her favorite foods, espe­cial­ly that ambrosia, reminds me of our fam­i­ly specialty—a neces­si­ty for any hol­i­day meal, offi­cial­ly known as apple pud­ding, but also known as red stuff. Do you have a favorite for hol­i­day meals?