Carving Words

Most of us have some kind of creative outlet: photography, painting or drawing, cooking, knitting, making jewelry, whatever. Something to let our creative side run wild.

Table1(Mortise and tenon joinery)

One of mine, when I’m not working my day job or writing, is woodworking. I enjoy crafting furniture, especially the challenge of handcrafting joints. I have always admired the simple beauty of Shaker furniture – the clean lines, the perfect utility of their pieces. I love working in cherry. It has a gorgeous grain and color, but it has its own peculiar characteristics. Each species of wood does. They like to be planed in certain directions; some cut and carve easily, while others are more like glass or a jewel.

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(More mortise and tenon with ebony pegs)

Manuscripts are like this as well. Some flow out of your mind and hands, smooth and silky, while others resist being carved into finished form. Some take more rough work, like research.

I’m writing the second book of a trilogy set in Ireland of about 700 C.E., and I am constantly checking on the origins of words to make sure they would have been in use then. It’s amazing how many words associated with warfare didn’t come into being until the Middle Ages. Says something about that era I guess.

I have to check which plant and animal species were native to Ireland, even if they’re extinct there now. I was describing one character who was carrying a bag on her back as looking like a tortoise, but then thought to check. Ireland has no native turtles or tortoises. Oops.

pens(My collection of fountain pens)

Tools are another thing I love – fountain pens for writing and hand tools for wood. I have some power tools – a planer, a jointer, a table saw – for the big work, but what I really love are the hand tools. Especially the antique ones. A lot of people collect these to have them sitting around on shelves. I look for ones that still have soles in good condition and whose irons are in good enough shape to take an edge.

Tools2

 

Getting the boards cut and jointed into some semblance of whatever they will eventually be is a lot like writing a first draft. Get it down on paper (or in a computer). Give it form and substance, then the fun begins.

 

I start the planing, the shaving, the carving away of extraneous material until each piece fits together seamlessly. Whether it’s carving wood or words, the process is similar. Sometimes, I make a mistake and realize certain things don’t fit together very well, then I have to go back and patch it.

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Thank you, EGK, whoever you were.

Tools1

My furniture will never be mistaken for anything made by a professional, like the late Sam Maloof. His furniture – especially his chairs – are works of art. You can’t help but want to touch them.

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(Source: sammaloofwoodworker.com)

I like to touch the pieces I’ve made, too. Something about wood is very tactile. Unlike Sam’s pieces, mine will always have the plane marks and little tear-outs and boo-boos I made (along with some of my blood somewhere in each piece), but I’m probably the only one who will ever know about some of them. I absolutely love running my fingers over wood I have worked, feeling those little ridges and undulations made by my tools and my hands.

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(Here’s a bead made with an antique beading plane)

 

Likewise, the result of my writing is unmistakably mine. My stories and writing style are not everyone’s cup of tea – and that’s to be expected. But when I hold a book in my hands and run my fingers over the print (yes, you can actually feel the print on a page of a real book), and know that those are my words… that is a really, really cool feeling.

Here’s to our creative sides!

Tools5(Tools can tell a story too. This one has been around!)

Ripples…

Well, June is gone, and that means my fundraiser for my food bank is now over. Time to tally up the donation.

But before I do that, I wanted to update you on some other things that have happened over the past few months. When I try to think about the more recent ones, I realize that they actually began with things that happened before.

Ripples. One thing intersecting with another. Life is amazing sometimes.

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(Source:  quotesgram.com)

So I have to back up a bit. Months ago, when I was searching for review sites for books, I came across a wonderful team of reviewers at Rosie Amber’s site. I normally reach out to reviewers for my newest releases, but earlier this year, I was friended on Facebook by a woman whose twenty-year-old gay son had committed suicide a few months earlier. It’s so tragic that young LGBT people still feel so desperate that suicide feels like their only option. I decided to see if anyone on Rosie’s team was interested in reviewing Turning for Home. I think this particular story is an important one for a few reasons: it depicts the difficulties of growing up gay in a small town (then and now), but it also shows how the things we think we understood as teenagers can continue to haunt us as adults until we see those events through the lens of time.

A couple of reviewers accepted, including Francis Guenette. In addition to her wonderful review (HERE), Francis has a fantastic blog. She is an author whose books have been added to my TBR list; she posts gorgeous photos of her garden, but she also blogged about her experience with BookBub.

For those of you who don’t know, BookBub is a subscription service where readers can sign up to receive e-mails listing free or discounted books in their preferred genre(s). Authors or publishers can submit books to be offered on BookBub. At first glance, it makes no sense to pay to list your book for free or a discounted price, and it’s very competitive to get a book listed, but it works.

I was able to get Neither Present Time listed for a BookBub deal on 15 June. Over 10,000 people downloaded it for free. So how did this contribute to my fundraiser?

Well, Francis described it accurately as the “halo effect”. Not only has Neither Present Time received about twenty additional reviews between Amazon and Goodreads from new readers, but those same people have discovered my other books, generating more reviews for those books, and on and on.

Another unexpected benefit of all of this is meeting new people, including a new on-line friend who wrote me yesterday to let me know that she was just accepted to the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Writing Academy. The GCLS conference starts in two days, where I’ll be moderating a panel and doing a presentation on publishing.

So all of these ripples have led to my writing a check for $400 to The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Thank you to everyone  who bought books these past two months. Your support is so very much appreciated.

Happy 4th of July to everyone here in the U.S. and, to everyone else around the world, have a wonderful Monday.

Pax

Interview with Jae

I am really happy to bring you an interview with best-selling fellow Ylva author, Jae! Her brand-new release, Shaken to the Core, went live on Amazon today.  It’s also available from Ylva and Smashwords

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So, on to the good stuff!

Tell us briefly what this story is about?

Shaken to the Core is a lesbian historical romance set during the Great Earthquake and Fires in San Francisco in 1906. One of the main characters, Kate, is the only child of a wealthy family. She’s expected to marry well, but her true passion lies with photography—and with women.

The other main character, Giuliana, comes from a completely different background. She’s an immigrant from Sicily who barely makes ends meet by selling crabs at the harbor.

As you can imagine, Kate’s family isn’t very happy when the two become friends.

But then a devastating earthquake hits San Francisco and everything changes.

 

What prompted you to write a story set in this turbulent event in history?

For one thing, the turn of the century was a very interesting period in history. It was a time of great change. Many inventions were being made; automobiles and electricity became part of everyday life, and immigration thrived. People had an optimistic outlook on the future.

The Great Earthquake, followed by three days and nights of an inferno, suddenly tilted their world on its axis. Over three-quarters of San Francisco were destroyed; thousands of people lost their lives, and others had to flee from their homes. Wealthy families suddenly had to stand in the breadlines next to working-class people. That’s what prompted me to write Shaken to the Core—finding out what would happen if a rich heiress and a hard-working immigrant are thrown together, having to fight for survival on the streets of their burning city.

Jae author

Tell us about the research you had to do for this story.

I started doing research for Shaken to the Core about two and a half years before I wrote the first word. I knew I’d have to do extensive research to make the story as realistic as possible. I spent countless hours researching how people lived in 1906. What kind of clothes would they wear? What food would they eat? What did they do for entertainment? What medicine was available? How did the servants live, and what did the houses of the rich look like?

I also spent a lot of time reading everything I could about the Great Earthquake of 1906 and about what dangers people would face in the city afterwards. Each and every adventure Giuliana and Kate live through in Shaken to the Core is based on events that really happened.

 

 Which character in this story was your favorite and why?

That’s a difficult choice. I like both main characters, and I’m also pretty fond of Lucy Hamilton Sharpe, the book’s most important supporting character and one of few female physicians at the turn of the century. If I had to pick, I’d say my favorite might be Kate. She’s so determined not to be just someone’s wife but to achieve her own goals, mainly becoming a photographer for a newspaper. I found that really endearing.

 

What was the easiest part of writing this novel?

Probably the action-packed scenes once the earthquake happens and fires break out all over the city. It felt almost as if these scenes practically wrote themselves.

 

What was the most difficult?

I’d have to say the hardest part was getting Giuliana’s dialogue just right. Since she’s Sicilian and has only lived in the US for five years, I didn’t want her to sound like a native speaker, but neither did I want her dialogue be too hard to understand for readers.

I found it amazingly hard to write incorrect English, maybe because I, as a non-native speaker, worked hard to improve my own language skills.

But after a few editing passes, I think I achieved just the right balance. Giuliana now makes all the typical mistakes that many Sicilian people make when they speak English.

 

How smooth was the editing process for this book?

Pretty smooth, actually. I had a team of ten beta readers work with me on the first drafts of the novel, helping me to revise the plot and deepen characterization. I extended the ending a bit to make it a more satisfying conclusion for readers. So by the time I sent the manuscript off to my editor, the rest of the revisions were pretty painless.

 

Would you consider revisiting this setting in a future novel?

Actually, I’m already planning a sequel. I want Lucy, the female doctor, to get her own book. By the way, she’s the granddaughter of the Hamiltons from my historical romances Backwards to Oregon and Hidden Truths. Her book will be set a year or two after Shaken to the Core, so readers will get to see how Giuliana and Kate are doing and how San Francisco is faring after the earthquake.

Jae, thank you so much for giving us some insight into your newest book. I hope it’s a huge success, as all of your books have been!

Jae’s web site: http://jae-fiction.com

Jae’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaeAuthor/

Jae’s e-mail: jae@jae-fiction.com

We Will Find a Way

Like many people around the world, we spent much of the weekend in a daze of sorrow and bewilderment at the events in Orlando. Another mass shooting. Another list of innocent victims of hatred.

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I grow tired of listening to the talking heads on television speculating about the event. I don’t want to read any more stories about the ignorant “they deserved it” posts being put out there. I don’t even want to read any more angry posts by members of the LGBT community.

I get it. I understand the anger, but did we really think this would never happen? I’ve been expecting something like this every June for the past few years, except I thought it would happen Boston-style at a Pride parade because they’re so much harder to provide security for. We know that radicals – be they Christian or Muslim – find us an abomination, but this shooter apparently wasn’t even motivated by religious fervor, just his hatred.

On Sunday evening as everyone was still absorbing the reality of what had happened, I was walking my dog and we went down Stonewall Avenue – a tiny, quiet street in my town, but the irony struck me.

People in the LGBT community feel targeted by the hatred behind this attack. They are taking this personally. And it is personal. Hatred always is when you are its target.

But my brother-in-law is from Belgium, and his mother and sister were in that very concourse of the Brussels airport just a couple of days before it was bombed, and I can tell you they felt it personally. People in Boston took it very personally when the marathon was bombed. Parisians also took it personally when their city was the site of violent hatred.

There are so many people spouting off about this solution or that solution to this ongoing epidemic. Everyone is scrutinizing the shooter’s past and wondering why this couldn’t have been prevented. I have no answers except to say that, no matter how we look at this incident in hindsight, we are not (yet) a nation that jails people for being angry or weird or mentally ill. We don’t charge people with crimes they might commit, short of having a cache of weapons and an actual plan in place. That gives law enforcement a very narrow window in which to charge someone with a crime ahead of actually committing it.

There are, of course, renewed calls for gun control. One of the saddest news stories I saw was that the trading stock in two arms manufacturing companies jumped almost ten percent in anticipation of another run on gun sales due to fears of gun control legislation. Gun control is a monster of huge proportions in the United States, and the fact that the shooter legally purchased weapons is another issue that we as a nation will have to struggle with.

I have no answers except to say that hate will find a way.

It may sound fatalistic to put it that way, but I believe it’s true. If someone wants to do something bad, they will find a way to do it. The terrorists in Boston didn’t need guns (not for their main attack) – they used pressure cookers for crying out loud. Timothy McVeigh didn’t need guns in Oklahoma City. The Paris terrorists used guns and bombs, while those in Brussels blew themselves up.

What makes us a bit different from other targets of an attack like this is that so many LGBT people have been attacked before, maybe not in such numbers or quite so violently, but most of us have experienced hatred.

When someone hates that much, they will find a way. But every time hate finds a way, so will we – all of us who don’t carry that kind of hatred around inside us.

Like the people who carried friends and strangers to safety while bullets were flying around them. Like those who used their bodies to apply pressure to bleeding wounds to prevent someone from bleeding out. Like those who stood in line for hours to donate blood, and the store and restaurant owners who brought food and drink out to those who stood in line. Like people all around the world who attended vigils. Like all the people who have donated over three million dollars to the victim fund.

People like my sister wonder how their children are going to look at a world where things like this can happen. It’s more important than ever for us to show them that love always wins.

We will still march in Pride parades. We’ll cry as we remember those lost in Orlando and other places around the world. We’ll love and laugh and do our best to bring more light to this world.

Every time hate tries to rub us out, to divide us, we will find a way to remember that we’re more alike than we are different.

If you would like to donate to the fund spearheaded by Equality Florida, go HERE.

 

 

My Deal With the Devil

The fantastic folks over at Women & Words hosted me for a guest blog today. Check it out and see how you can win a copy of The Beast That Never Was!

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Like a lot of writers, I spent years penning my first novel, hiding it away, too embarrassed to admit to anyone I was actually writing a book. I wrote it privately, dreaming of someday being published, but not really daring to think it could happen.

After I finally finished it and let a few people read it, I took the plunge of trying to submit to publishers. Back then, that meant querying agents to get an acquiring editor interested enough to request the manuscript. Nada. Somewhere, I still have all of those rejection letters, and the manuscript slunk back into the darkness to languish for a long time.

Read more of this post HERE

 

 

The Beast is Here!

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My tenth novel, The Beast That Never Was, is now live on Amazon. I really love this story, which was inspired by this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that I translated several years ago. The novel is very loosely based on Beauty and the Beast.

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I hope you enjoy this one! And remember, all purchases of my books in May and June support my fundraiser for The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank!

Thank you for reading.

 

Hungry All the Years

bread

(photo courtesy of wisegeek.org)

“I had been hungry all the years;

my noon had come to dine;

I, trembling, drew the table near,

and touched the curious wine.”

-emily dickinson

That poem by Emily Dickinson is chock full of beautiful, poignant imagery of not belonging, of being an outsider. Obviously, I am not the only one to take a book’s title from this poem.

For the purpose of this blog, I am taking a more literal interpretation of her words.

Over the next month, the school year will be ending here in the US, and more than just academics will end. So, too, will the free breakfasts and lunches our public schools provide for children of low-income families.

It’s a sad irony that summer, a time of plenty, is actually a time of greater need for families already struggling to pay bills and put food on the table.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I’ve been doing a spring and fall fundraiser for my local food bank, The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. To date, I have been able to donate over $1000 to them, thanks to your support!

I have a new book coming out June 1, The Beast That Never Was. So this is a great time to combine the fundraiser with a giveaway!

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Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll donate 50% of my May & June royalties. That’s been my standard spring donation.

Here’s what you do: Buy Books! Add a comment to this blog or e-mail me at the address at the end of this blog and tell me which book(s) you bought during the months of May and June.

For those why buy books in May, I’ll enter you in a giveaway for five (5) e-books of The Beast That Never Was. You’ll be among the first to read this new novel.

For those who continue to buy through June, I’ll offer three signed paperbacks of The Beast, open to anyone anywhere in the world.

This is a great opportunity for you to get some great reads and help a fantastic cause. If you already have all of my books and are in the position to do so, consider donating to your local food bank. I’m sure they could use your support.

My e-mail: cjwerlingerbooks AT yahoo DOT com

As always, thank you for reading and for supporting this fundraiser.

Pax,

Caren