September 11 – 16 years later

Taking a break from my writing activities for a moment, I thought I would mention some of the thoughts I reflected upon yesterday.

Sixteen years seems like such a short time and yet so many things can happen. On September 11, I was in Maine with my daughter and several other kids. We’d taken a ferry to an island, only to be told at the little general store/post office what had happened. We all thought it was a joke. But when we returned to MDI and put on the television, there it was.

I was frantic. My son had gone home for a new – and I think his first job – after college. In the city. I kept trying and trying to reach him or my ex-husband, he also worked in the city, but of course I could not get through. I did not hear until much later that night that both were fine. My son had to walk uptown from Wall Street through the crap in the air. A day or two later his lung collapsed and he had to be hospitalized. He missed the wedding of his step-sister which took place the following Saturday.

I worked in a Rockland County library then, near Pearl River. The funerals were on-going for police and fire lost that day. In the Library, always a diverse and warm community, there was conflict with the Muslims, who then blamed the Jews – fully half my staff at the time. Although we papered over the differences, some of those friendships never recovered.

Sixteen years later so many things have changed. One of the young men with me in Maine met his future wife on that trip and they now have a little girl. Other relationships ended and others began but all are married with kids of their own. The country as a whole has changed, more than I would ever have thought possible. Just think about the security at the airports. I can’t even count the number of pat-downs (and I am blond and blue-eyed) that I have endured. As a country we seem to be more fearful – and now have our own homegrown terrorists. If bin Laden’s aim was to destroy the America as we knew it, he certainly succeeded.

As for my husband and I, we’ve moved to Maine and back again and then several times in New York. We have different jobs now – and 2011 was the year my writing career finally took off. In some ways sixteen years has been a long time, but in others how short it is.

 

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Paul Bunyon and logging

When I was a child my mother told me and my brothers stories of Paul Bunyon and his big blue ox Babe.  Re was a giant, as was his ox, and they had many adventures. There is even a statue to him in Bangor, Maine.

 

Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor, Maine.JPG

In my childhood mind, he ranked right up there with Batman and Spiderman. Human, yes, but with extraordinary powers.

When I was researching my latest book, however, I discovered that Paul Bunyon represented a certain truth about the early American experience: the loggers or lumber men. In Maine, logging camps were set up in the woods and the massive trees were cut down with nothing more than human sweat and axes. Lumber was important for building, yes, but this was also the era of sailing ships and tall masts were a requirement.

In the spring the loggers would ‘drive’ the logs down one of the many rivers to Falmouth. The lumber drive would end in Falmouth with a celebration. (I’ll bet. Talk about dangerous work!)

If by chance you should visit Maine, you can see the art of log rolling on the road between Ellsworth and Acadia.

 

Goodreads Giveaway – End

I am happy and excited to report that 1382 people participated in the giveaway of Death in Salem.

death in salem

 

Of the 20 winners, 15 were from the US, 4 from Canada, and 1 from Great Britain. I’ve put the 15 in the mail and add the others on Monday. It always takes me a little longer to mail the ones to Canada and Great Britain because I have to fill out customs forms.

The Devil’s Cold Dish will be released in less than a month. I have my first copy and it looks beautiful.

devils

Kirkus Review

So happy to receive this great review from Kirkus. For the non-librarians among you, Kirkus is one of the big three review sources for public libraries, the other two being Library Journal and Booklist. With limited budgets, libraries buy based partly on reviews.

Really happy with this one.

THE DEVIL’S COLD DISH
Author: Eleanor Kuhns

Review Issue Date: April 15, 2016
Online Publish Date: March 30, 2016
Publisher:Minotaur
Pages: 336
Price ( Hardcover ): $25.99
Price ( e-book ): $12.99
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-250-09335-6
ISBN ( e-book ): 978-1-250-09336-3
Category: Fiction
Classification: Mystery

In the 1790s, a New England weaver tries to solve a murder made to look like his handiwork. Will Rees is always eager to see something new outside the boundaries of Dugard, in the District of Maine. Ever since he helped solve a murder in Massachusetts on his last trip away, he’s been having a hard time settling down to farming. Instead of the tedium of milking and haying, he’d rather work at his loom while he and Lydia, his wife, await the birth of their first child. His sister Caroline wants to move her family in with Rees, though the farmhouse is already crowded with Rees and Lydia’s five adopted children. Her whining demands are hard to withstand, since Rees’ hot temper is partly to blame for the accident that disabled Caroline’s husband and caused her financial distress. Even worse is the town constable’s news that a man with whom Rees had a public fight about politics now lies dead on a rocky hilltop. Although the constable is Rees’ friend, believes him innocent, and wants his help in finding the real killer, a second and even more brutal murder implicates Lydia as well. She was a practicing Shaker who gave up her religion when she married Rees, but the ignorant and superstitious among the townspeople believe whispers that Lydia is a witch. Shocked when he learns who started the rumors and slow to accept how much some of his childhood companions have come to dislike and resent him, Rees must awaken to a painful reality as acts of vandalism threaten to turn into something uglier. An angry mob demanding Lydia’s arrest forces him to take drastic measures for his family’s safety, and when suspicion falls on him for more than one murder, he learns who his real friends are. Kuhns’ fifth dispatch from the early days of a new nation, faster paced than the last installment (Death in Salem, 2015), builds mounting sympathy for its beleaguered leading couple.

Lets talk about pencils

First of all, pencils are not lead pencils. They never have been. I can remember as a child being told not to lick the pencil because lead was poisonous. The center of the wood casing, the drawing medium, is graphite.It always has been.

When discovered, graphite was thought to be a form of lead because of its color. So the word for pencil is several languages means lead pen.

According to Wikipedia, Cumbria England is the only naturally occuring site of pure hard graphite. Until a method of reconstituting graphite powder into a solid form was discovered, England enjoyed a monopoly. Because graphite could be used for lining the molds for cannonballs, the graphite mines were flooded between mining operations, Graphite for pencils had to be smuggled out.

Because the graphite had to be encased in something to use it, sheepskin was used first. Then some time in the late 1500s an Italian couple invented a wooden holder involving a hollowed out stick of juniper wood. A later invention involved two wooden halves that were glued together after the graphite core was inserted.

Even the humble pencil has an amazing history. Who knew?

Writing tools – circa 1795

My first book, A Simple Murder, was written entirely in longhand on lined paper. I can tell you, writing in this way takes a long long time. And the finished product still has to be put onto a computer (unless one wants to type on a typewriter and that’s assuming one can even find such a tool now.)

So, for my second boo, Death of a Dyer, I wrote the entire thing on my laptop. (There are advantages and disadvantages to both but I digress.)

How far we’ve come since Rees’s time.

The quill pen and ink were the approved methods of writing at this time. But paper was valuable and ink expensive. So how did children learn to read and write? I know I had the picture of a slate in my head but Noah Webster says slates were not in common use in schools prior to the Revolution. They came into common use in the late eighteenth century so Rees’s children might have had slates. Rees probably would have used birch bark and would have made his own ink. I can only imagine how pale and unreadable some of those concoctions might have been.

But what about the pencil? Well, although Benjamin Franklin advertised pencils in the early 1700s, they did not become common. First American manufacture of pencils with a graphite core was 1812.

So the frameless slates hung on a string were actually an advance for the early students.

Most of the students were, of course, boys. It was not thought important for girls to learn to read and write, let alone cipher (do arithmetic). Her household duties were far more important. As I have indicated in previous posts, the Shakers were far in advance of this thinking, as they education the girls as well as the boys.

I don’t know if this is true but I read that the shape of the Ipad is based on the slate. Cute.

 

Schenectady – beyond the pines

I had a workshop this past Saturday in Schenectady. I spoke about writing historical fiction.  Not that I’m an expert but I have learned a few things. I enjoyed sharing some of the tips I’ve learned these past few years.

Unexpectedly, I met an old friend, the Salvation Army officer that married my husband and I almost twenty years ago. He took me on a tour of the city and what a beautiful city it is. This is the city where Thomas Edison started GE. The city was also famous for building locomotives. Bounded by the Mohawk River, it was settled by the Dutch and then a variety of other immigrants. We ate at a long time Schenectady restaurant called Morrette’s. They had the best homemade potato chips.

My favorite part of the city is called Stockade. Why? Well, in the 1600s the early settlers were wiped out by an Indian attack. When they village – and it was a village then – it was enclosed in a Stockade. Really old houses, the oldest in the city, are sited on these streets. Some of them resemble the brick homes one sees in Williamsburg. One white house, the oldest in the city, has been added to over and over so it looks like connected blocks.

Erie street not only follows the path of the Erie canal; it IS the canal, filled in now. I think Will Rees will have to visit Schenectady!

I also want to give a shout out to the Schenectady Public Library. What a beautiful library.