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The other evening when temperatures in Carpenter Country dropped to chilly thirty-nine degrees, we looked at our old fireplace and wondered if we should keep it or replace it.
The old wood burner had been providing heat on long winter nights for years. It also provided smoke, fumes, dust, dirt, and ashes, all of which caused sneezing. Then there was the work of felling trees, splitting logs, storing wood, and hauling the finished product into the house.
While looking at the flames was relaxing and the heat certainly pushed back the chill in the room, we wondered if there was a way to have the good without the bad.
A shopping trip was in order.
After visiting several big box stores, we chose an electric model that would heat a 400 square foot room. The unit came with sidelights in various colors, flames in several heights, a timer, and a thermostat, and it all worked with the heater on or off.
The carpenter in the family grabbed hammer and saw and soon the new fireplace covered the front of the old fireplace. Last night, we gave it a tryout. Though it wasn’t quite like the real thing—no snap, crackle or the flinging of sparks up the chimney—flames danced in the firebox and the heater warmed the room.
So is the new fireplace an improvement? Well, no one is sneezing or jumping up every few minutes to haul in firewood…
…on the other hand, we haven’t received an electric bill yet.
Here’s what fall looks like in Carpenter Country.
Here in Carpenter Country we’ve discovered adventure awaits if we leave the GPS, smart phone, ipad, and other electronic devices at home and travel the “old fashioned” way—using a map and our ingenuity.
Before venturing forth, we stash a few emergency bottles of water in the cooler along with a several packs of snack crackers. We check our vehicle’s tires and oil, and of course, the window washer, since most byways are buggy places. Lastly, we grab our atlas or an up-to-date map, and–
Ready, set, go!
As soon as we’re out of our comfort zone, we choose the path less traveled. That means avoiding interstates and toll highways. We find the name of a town or a state or county road (preferably one we’ve never heard of before) on the map and head for it.
Once on our way, we enjoy the scenery, check out farm stands, small mom-and-pop restaurants, and the local attractions. We stop for lunch or gas and mosey around the town square. We’ve come across craft shows, health fairs, and carnivals with merry-go-rounds. Chowing down on hot dogs, cotton candy, and ice cream—whatever suits our fancy–is part of the fun.
Locating a place to stay overnight can turn into an adventure of its own. Hotels and motels are great, but if we pass a bed and breakfast that looks inviting we stop in to ask if beautifully decorated rooms with those wonderful high beds and goose down quilts are available.
We’ve thought about what to do if we find ourselves in a scary situation too.
Our rule: Should that unlikely event occur, don’t panic! Reach into the glove compartment for the phone (yes, you knew we hid it there 🙂 ), and call for help.
But we try to remember we’re traveling the old fashioned way—
So getting lost is not an emergency.
Weather forecasting is for the birds—bluebirds, that is.
Here in Carpenter Country, the magical place where we write, we offer room and board to local avians in exchange for the pleasure of their company. We built two of our community birdhouses especially for bluebirds, and they’ve been continually occupied over the years.
During that time, the bluebirds-in-residence have followed the same routine. In spring, for warmth, they raise chicks in the box that sits in full sun. In summer, to keep the nestlings cooler, they use the quarters that occupy a shady spot close to a leafy Sycamore.
Last month, Mr. and Mrs. Blue reversed the procedure and built a summer nest at their spring address.
We’re pretty sure bluebirds don’t move house because the kitchen in the new place is equipped with great appliances or the bathroom has a hot tub. We think they’re more into the realtor’s creed of location, location, location. They decide—in advance—which location will offer the best conditions for the survival of their chicks.
So, are bluebirds better at long range forecasting than human meteorologists?
Turns out they are. Every day during the month of July, the weather people predicted an occasional shower and lots of sunshine. But the birds knew July would be cloud-covered and rain-soaked.
Perhaps forecasters should watch birds instead of computer models. How about putting bluebirds on the air? A live-stream webcam of bluebird activity would be more interesting than swirling maps of radar simulations. And, given the accuracy of recent forecasts, Mr. and Mrs. Blue would earn their salary of insects and berries.
What do you think? Is employing bluebirds as forecasters an idea whose time has come? Or could it only happen in Carpenter Country, a place that, like our stories, is unreal but not untrue?
This post is part of the Long and Short Reviews 7th Anniversary Bash taking place August 25 to 29, 2014. Marianne and Judy, who operate Long and Short Reviews, are giving away Amazon and Barnes & Noble gift cards, along with books and other prizes offered by participating authors. Long and Short Reviews features and reviews romance, erotic romance, YA/Middle Grade, Mystery/Suspense, SFF and mainstream fiction, so you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.
Walled In is the story of Vandy Spencer,
who discovers her entire life has been built on a
heart-shattering deception when her father is accused of fraud.
Click here to read the first chapter of Walled In.
For your chance to win one electronic copy of Walled In, log onto the Rafflecopter entry form below and make a comment on this post.
Prize: One winner will receive one copy of the e-book, Walled In by HL Carpenter
Contest ends: August 29, 11:59 pm, 2014
Open: Internationally (The e-book is only available in English and will be delivered via email)
How to enter: To win a free copy of the e-book, Walled In by HL Carpenter, sign into the Rafflecopter widget below and make a comment on this post.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.
If you have questions, email HL_Carpenter(at)HLCarpenter(dot)com.
Good luck, and happy reading!
Wondering what’s been going on in Carpenter Country lately?
This week, the English heritage rose started out like this:
and ended up like this:
and hosted this visitor:
We clicked on these links:
Power Up Your Summer
These words and phrases caught our attention:
Wanderlust of the mind (from a Wall Street Journal article Monday 7/28/2014)
Ohnosecond (from How-To Geek) – An Ohnosecond (short for Oh no! Second) is the very short moment of time it takes you to realize that you just messed up in a big way while working on your computer.
We learned that:
July 31 is the birthday of JK Rowling, the author of Harry Potter. She doesn’t have a middle name and the “K” is for Kathleen, which is her grandmother’s name. She received an advance of $2,500 for the first Harry Potter book, which was published in 1997.
We revisited a poem by our favorite author, Anonymous:
Early one morning, late at night,
Two dead boys went out for a fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard their noise,
And came and shot the two dead boys.
If you don’t believe this lie is true,
Go ask the blind man, he saw it, too.
How was your week?
Last week we mentioned we’ve been busy here in Carpenter Country. Here’s the proof.
That’s the print-out of our soon-to-be-released e-book, Walled In, with lots of pink and blue ink decorating the pages.
We confess, the ink is ours. The actual editing suggestions were in the digital copy. What? You mean our stories are…ummm…less than perfect when we submit them?
Welllllll…yes and no. That is, we think they’re perfect—and then someone reads the submitted draft and says, “Hey, this IS a good story. And it can be even better, if you…”
When the someone who offers suggestions for improvement is an editor we respect, we listen, and then we get busy. We went through Walled In, changing and revising, tightening sentences, and making our hero more heroic.
That part of the process is the substantive first edit, or as we call it, a LOT of work.
And it’s only part of the process. Next comes the cover art, the tag, the blurb, the excerpt, the line edits and the galley proofs. Then the publicity tour, which needs to be planned in advance (meaning now), since the release date for Walled In is May 2.
So we’ve been busy, and we’ll be busy, and we’re not complaining about any of it. Well, all right, there was some complaining about the edits. Those were OUR MARVELOUS WONDERFUL PERFECT WORDS!
But we’re over that now, because after we re-worked our MARVELOUS WONDERFUL PERFECT WORDS, the story got even marvelous-er wonderful-er perfect-er. Maybe even marvelous-est wonderful-est perfect-est.
Of course, you’ll be the final judge.
In the meantime, we’re getting started on line edits for Walled In and gearing up for another round of substantive editing on a novella that will be released in June. We’re also starting a new story, revising another already-written book, and writing four upcoming guest blog posts.
Did we mention we’ve been busy here in Carpenter Country? We hope you’re busy with work you enjoy too.
Spring arrives in five days, but the garden is already a palette of pink, red, and white thanks to the azaleas, dogwoods, and camellias. And on top of all that color, the oak trees are raining brown leaves.
Yes, in Carpenter Country’s mystical part of the world, oaks drop their leaves in spring instead of fall.
What kind of oaks?, you ask. Well, for years, I’ve called them Live Oaks, but I was wrong. The oaks dropping tons of leaves all over the yard are actually Laurel Oaks.
According to a 2006 study done by the University of Florida, Laurel Oaks grow tall, have a compact, oval top and usually live fifty to seventy years.
In contrast, the branches of a Live Oak can spread into a canopy of over 100 feet and the trees often live as long as 300 years.
Avenues of Live Oaks, decorated in Spanish moss, festoon a street in our county. They’ve also beautified photos, movies, and books. It’s hard to imagine how many snowbirds these magnificent shade trees have welcomed to the Sunshine State.
If you have a Live Oak in your yard, consider yourself lucky. A study done in 2003 found that a single Live Oak can add as much as $30,000 to the value of a home.
Darn, I wish I had at least one of them growing in my yard.
Two would be even better.
Last week, Carpenter Country ushered in spring highs of eighty degrees. Pansies, delphiniums and azaleas bloomed beside a hibiscus. This week icicles festooned our fountain and temps dropped into the twenties.
And while Florida shivered, relatives across the pond said their weather was spring-like.
Today’s erratic weather patterns are called global warming and climate change. Yet historical records show extreme swings in temperature are nothing new. Fifty years ago, before a series of deep freezes, orange groves blanketed North Florida, legacy of the citrus first brought to the state by Spanish conquistadors five centuries ago.
Which makes me wonder what the early residents of St. Augustine and Jacksonville thought of the ups and downs of temperature. Probably they pulled on their woolies, kept their bathing suits close at hand, and hoped for the best.
So I’m going to ignore the icicles and listen to the flowers.
They may be shivering, but they already have a jump on the next heat wave.
Saturday is the start of the winter solstice. In ancient times lots of beer, wine, feasting and merrymaking marked this midwinter event. After all, if you didn’t think you were going to live through the coming months of famine you might as well counter the stress with hearty eating, drinking and joyfulness.
Fast forward to 2013–while most of us aren’t looking at long weeks without food, the holidays can make us feel stressed and depressed. Luckily we’re more fortunate than our ancestors. Why?
We have National Humbug Day!
On December 21, it’s okay to grumble about the traffic, cuss about the lines in the stores, or vent about the money you’re spending on gifts. But you’d better hurry because these twenty-four hours are all the time you have to enjoy behaving like Scrooge. Tomorrow it’s back to a smiling positive attitude.
Of course, if you’re still feeling stressed, we invite you to check out our latest stories. Books make wonderful presents for family and friends—and hassle-free gift shopping is always a plus.
So, here’s to the winter solstice, made better by a happy Humbug Day. To those who have bought our e-books, we thank you. To those who haven’t yet done that, we hope you will.
And to everyone, best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season!
In Carpenter Country, it’s time to celebrate holidays, old and new. Traditional ones include Chanukah, which ends this week, and Christmas, followed by Kwanzaa, the two that will round out the end of the month.
So, what’s to celebrate from now until then? You’d be surprised.
December 8 is National Brownie Day, while December 9 heralds National Pastry Day. When you’re finished rolling out the dough, we hope you’ll take a break, grab a leftover brownie, skip over to Musa Publishing, and enjoy our free read, Dream Stealer. If you like the story as much as the brownie, we’d love a review.
Moving right along to the third and fourth week in December let’s celebrate Ding-a-ling Day and Bake Cookies Day. The eve of wrap-up-the-last-gift ushers in National Egg Nog Day, a treat that’s also welcome at Christmas dinner.
By now you’re probably exhausted from all the festivities, so settle back and grab a slice of fruitcake. Yes, December 27 is National Fruitcake Day—and drum-roll—the release by Musa Publishing of our second short story, The Demise of Fyne Literature. (Here’s a look at the cover.)
Since all of December comprises Read a New Book Month, we’re sending a shout from the rooftop to every bookworm. Please check out the novels by other Musa authors, as well as our work, both new and old.
We wish you weeks of happy reading–
And holidays filled with laughter and cheer.
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