Welcome to my Author Blog

Welcome to my author blog, Friend. I am so pleased you found me.

I’ve been hanging out here for three years with an amazing group of followers. It is because of them that my blog is going strong, and I want to take this opportunity to say, “Thank You!”

The overall purpose of my blog is to familiarize you with my writing. I enjoy creating novels, short stories, and picture books as well as interesting and informative blog posts. In between all the writing, I am currently seeking representation for my manuscript.

Following me is quite easy. Just click the +Follow button hovering in the bottom right hand corner of the screen or take advantage of the sign-up directly on the Home page. In addition to my blog, there are various ways for us to become better acquainted. I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us. I look forward to getting to know you better.

HL Gibson, Author

She Called Her a What?

Danny Tedesco, Joe’s younger brother, is the black sheep of the family. He’s long on money-making schemes and short on work ethic. And although Danny and Joe get along—they really do love each other—more often than not, Danny is a bit of a thorn in Joe and Shirley’s side.

Joe springs it on Shirley that Danny and his new girlfriend are coming to dinner, and Shirley is not at all happy. She doesn’t want to cook for her loser brother-in-law and the latest bimbo he’s picked up Lord knows where. Unfortunately, Danny is family and must be welcomed. In defiance of the dinner party, Shirley announces that she’ll make spaghetti alla puttanesca. Joe questions her choice, but his strong-willed wife has made up her mind.

The elegant sounding dish is really quite delicious, and Shirley’s choice wasn’t altogether a bad one. If you aren’t familiar with the history of the dish and/or you don’t speak Italian, allow me to explain. Spaghetti alla puttanesca literally means spaghetti in the style of a whore. According to various websites, the dish was created in Naples and dates back to the mid-twentieth century. One legend says the meal was quick and cheap for prostitutes to make between customers while another says the robust aroma drew clients in.

I lean more toward the belief that Italians use the word puttana as an all-purpose swear word the way Americans use sh*t. It would be like saying, “I threw a whole bunch of sh*t into the pan and came up with this.” Reinforcing my opinion is the fact that I watched a cooking show years ago where the Italian Momma taught the host the meaning of, “I just sh*t.” Much laughing was involved, but Momma explained it meant to take stuff from the cupboard and toss it in the pot without the benefit of a recipe.

There are variations to the recipe with a particular ingredient omitted or added based on preference and locale. The sauce is traditionally served over spaghetti, but can also be served over linguine (as pictured above), penne, or bucatini. Trust me when I encourage you to use all the ingredients listed even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy them. I admit there was one on the list that made me hesitate, but ever since I discovered spaghetti alla puttanesca, I have come to love the simple, flavorful dish.

Shirley Tedesco’s Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

1 lb. dried spaghetti

Sea Salt

8 T extra virgin olive oil (reserve 2 T)

6 – 8 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced or finely chopped

8 – 10 anchovy fillets (packed in oil), finely chopped

1 – 2 large pinches red pepper flakes

½ c capers, coarsely chopped (press them dry in a paper towel first)

½ c pitted black olives, drained and coarsely chopped

1 – 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes with the juice (recommend San Marzano), crushed by hand

Minced parsley or basil for garnish

½ – 1 T Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated (optional)

Ground black pepper (I used quad-colored peppercorns)

Place the spaghetti in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan and cover with water. Add a pinch of sea salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking.

In a medium skillet, combine 6 T olive oil, anchovies, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and cook over medium heat until the garlic turns a light golden color, approximately five minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the mixture sizzling without burning the garlic. Add the capers and olives, and stir to combine.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes and juice and bring to a light simmer. Continue simmering the sauce until the spaghetti is cooked to al dente (about 1 minute less than recommended on the package). Use tongs or a pasta spoon to transfer the spaghetti to the sauce. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water.

Add a few tablespoons of cooking water to the sauce and increase the heat to bring the spaghetti and sauce to a vigorous simmer. Add more cooking water as necessary to keep the sauce loose until the pasts is al dente (about 1 – 2 minutes). The spaghetti cooks more slowly in the sauce, and the starchy cooking water helps the sauce to thicken and cling nicely to the pasta.

Season lightly with sea salt (anchovies, olives, and capers are quite salty already) and heartily with black pepper. Stir in the remaining 2 T olive oil and parsley or basil. Some purists say that cheese has no place in puttanesca, but I find Pecorino Romano or Parmesan perfectly complements the dish. If using cheese, add it at this point and stir to combine. Transfer the spaghetti alla puttanesca to a platter or individual dishes and serve with more grated cheese if desired.

Enjoy!

It Didn’t Cost Me a Thing

I remember how much a loaf of bread cost the year my husband and I married. I remember the price of a gallon of gas the year I started driving. I also remember the hourly rate a teenage girl could make babysitting in the late 1980s. Unfortunately, I have never written about any of these things in my novels or short stories.

When I need to know how much something costs for the year during which my story takes place, I can usually find it by Googling. But every now and then, I use an inflation calculator to go backward or forward in time and come up with a price.

Most often, the US Inflation Calculator, which works for prices between the years of 1913 and 2018 (updates to current year), is my go-to source for pricing. In the event I need to tiptoe farther into the past (1800), this Inflation Calculator is my second favorite. It’s not as official, but the site offers some other inflation-related links which may prove to be beneficial.

I know inflation calculators are not new or impressive, but I find them fascinating and most helpful when writing. Besides, nothing is worse than having to stop the flow of writing to research a detail.

Children Need Pause and Rewind Buttons

Well, we finally did it! The hubby and I survived high school. We made it through all four years and came out the other side relatively unscathed. There were some bumps and bruises along the way in the form of forgotten homework, mad dashes to school with hastily packed or forgotten lunches, and most recently, the delivery of two loads of cardboard that entirely filled the back of hubby’s SUV to the school our son attended in the afternoon for Civil Engineering and Architecture. Oh, did you think I meant hubby and I survived our own high school years? No, no, no… I’m talking about our son, Joshua, and how despite all the snark thrown our way (and that’s when he was actually communicating) we are now the proud parents of a high school graduate.

Man, did that go quickly. I put him on the bus for kindergarten on Monday, and he graduated on Friday? When I dressed him for school, he had on shorts, a striped t-shirt, and sneakers that lit up when he ran. He loved those shoes. What came home that last day wore a backpack bigger than he was when he started school and sneakers longer than the bus. His sense of fashion didn’t change much. He still leans toward t-shirts, but if you ever see him in shorts it’s only because someone pulled a prank and cut off the legs of the sixty dollar jeans he conned out of his grandfather.

I have vague memories of a little kid who never ordered anything to eat except “chickie fries” suddenly being the young man whose stately walk into the auditorium and perfect pivot at the aisle deposited him at his seat where he promptly clasped his hands behind his back like a Marine standing at attention. And after the ceremony, the only way I could spot him among the sea of blue and white caps and gowns was to look for the face that had once been soft and round and was now square and chiseled. I can recognize that jawline anywhere.

Leap past the graduation dinner at his favorite restaurant to all of us fast asleep in bed that evening. Everyone except me because my mind and heart aren’t quite sure if I’m supposed to be happy or sad. I believe that mix is called melancholy. Add to it a dash of “what do we do with this young person now,” and you will be standing outside the fence of the ballpark in which hubby and I are now playing. Perhaps you are familiar with this scenario, but Joshua is our one and only. We won’t even have the opportunity to apply what we learn to another child.

As I sit here typing this, watching him brush his teeth in the kitchen sink like some kind of animal, I have to wonder how we did with him. Is he truly ready to be unleashed on the public? How much will his behavior reflect on us? Is it too late for Catholic military boarding school in Siberia? Does he love us? Does he even like us?

I suppose we could have done this instead of that. More of A and less of B. Chosen what was behind curtain one as an alternative to taking what was in the box. Would it have made a difference? Life is not a dress rehearsal, so who can really say? I made a promise to infant Joshua to never lie to him no matter how many times he asked me the same question as a toddler (it’s true that airplanes don’t fly when it’s too cold). I tell teenage Joshua that I’ll pay for any therapy needed due to emotional scarring endured while cleaning his bedroom.

Sometimes I wish we had a crystal ball so we could see where all this is heading because it feels like we’re riding a roller coaster in the dark. There are times when I think that’s a good thing because there will be no witnesses when I push Joshua out of the car. But most days, I cling to him in case there is a sudden drop up ahead that none of us can see. We know he wants us to loosen our hold on him for the thrill of rising out of the seat on the dips and hills. And we will… once we check that he secured his seat belt for life.

Quotation Station

Shabbat Shalom to all my friends!

May your weekend be peaceful, productive, and worth writing about.

Whenever I am unable to write on my current work in progress, I find that journaling helps ease my frustration. It’s a great tool to overcome writer’s block and jump start one’s mind back into the process of writing. I’d be lost without my journals.

Take the Money and Run

It’s Cotton Tail in the lead by three lengths…

You probably think today’s blog post has something to do with The Steve Miller Band song of the same title. You know the one where the lead singer (possibly Steve) throws grammar and rhyme to the wind? Actually, today’s blog post is about the phrase give them a run for their money. I used the phrase in my novel, The Tedescos, when describing the success of a peripheral character’s sisters.

Per the Collins dictionary, if you say that someone could give someone else a run for their money, you mean you think they are almost as good as the other person. Per the Macmillan dictionary, it means to compete very well against someone so that it is hard for them to defeat you. And about the phrase, the Urban dictionary offers the definition to challenge someone.

Other websites dealing with phrase origin claim that the saying came from horse racing where one wants a run for his money. This means he wants a horse upon which a bet has been placed to participate in the race. If the horse withdraws from the race after bets are placed, the bettor does not get a run for his money.

Also going along with the horse racing theme, to give someone a run for their money is to give a good race (even if you don’t win) in return for their backing. The definition suggests a challenge, and it is in keeping with the definition presented in the Urban dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary agrees that the phrase originated with horse racing and suggests that it could be used in a figurative or extended sense to mean any sort of challenge whether or not money is spent. The OED supplied the earliest usage of the phrase that I could find.

“1874 Slang Dict. 274 To have a run for one’s money is also to have a good determined struggle for anything.”

It has also been suggested that the phrase originated with the British style of hunting where one chases animals with hounds but doesn’t shoot them with guns. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the fox die at the end of these hunts? I’ve watched enough BBC shows to know Brits use guns to kill animals. But I digress.)

Supposedly, if an area of the country wasn’t well stocked with animals to kill, a hunting party had to purchase a fox or stag to set free so they could chase it. The purchase of an animal to hunt added to the already high costs of hunting (good horse, proper riding clothes, and correct footwear) but was considered to be worth it if you had a good run for your money. It all sounds so civil. I wonder if they recycled the fox or stag.

I used the phrase when describing the rate at which my peripheral character’s sisters supplied grandchildren. The sisters gave rabbits (well known to be prolific producers of progeny) a run for their money, and yet the challenge wasn’t really for rabbits.

If you are at all familiar with a grandparent’s desire for grandchildren, you know that more than a simple challenge was presented. The gauntlet was thrown down at the feet of their childless sister. I expanded the definition to show an elevated level of aggression. Wouldn’t it be lovely if this additional aspect was added to the definition of the phrase with the line from my novel cited as the first usage?

Love is Sharing Your Popcorn

When I was little, I loved to sift through my mother’s recipe cards. I believe a gas station issued a pack of cards with every fill up as some kind of incentive. The cards had to be sorted into a holder according to the type of recipe. Each card bore the number of the category into which it fell. I particularly liked the section on children’s parties and recipes kids could make.

Nowadays, libraries and bookstores are full of cookbooks for children. As a former library employee, I enjoyed browsing these books while shelving them to see what kids might be cooking up. One recipe I don’t find anymore is that for making popcorn. I suppose that’s because today’s kids simply unwrap a package of popcorn and toss it in the microwave.

In my novel, The Tedescos, I chose to write about the old-fashioned method of making popcorn on the stovetop. The first popular home model of a microwave had been introduced in 1967 as the countertop Radarange. It cost about $495 (approximately $3700 today), so it wasn’t practical for my story.

Jiffy Pop, which I had once as a child during the same era in which my novel takes place, was also around, having been marketed since 1959. I believe the thrill was watching the popcorn bursts through the foil because the flavor left much to be desired.

Admittedly, I didn’t bother researching when air poppers came on the scene because, quite frankly, none of these methods were real cooking. Again, for a tasty and fun experience, popcorn made on the stovetop the way Mom did was the best. I know someone out there will gasp and clutch his/her heart when I suggest teaching a child to cook on a real stove, but honestly, a whole generation of children born in the 1970s who learned to make popcorn on the stove with mom are alive and well today.

In my novel, Joe Jr. attempts to make popcorn without his mother’s help. He forgets the oil, has the heat too high, and ends up with scorched kernels. Not to be deterred, Joe Jr. keeps adding fresh kernels to the skillet he’s using, but he never quite achieves success. The following recipe is what he should have done.

Perfect Popcorn

3 T olive oil

½ c popcorn kernels

Sea salt

4 T butter

Add the oil and popcorn kernels to a large pot with handles on each side. Put the lid on the pot, and turn the burner on to medium heat. When you hear the kernels begin to pop, gently move the pot back and forth over the burner. A gentle toss during this process encourages un-popped kernels to fall to the bottom. It only takes a few minutes for all the kernels to pop. During this time, don’t be tempted to lift the lid or hot popcorn may fly out and hit you in your face.

When the popping slows to about three seconds between pops, the popcorn is done. Use a large spoon to transfer the popcorn to a clean serving bowl. Wipe the pot in which you popped the kernels with a clean paper towel to remove pieces of hull and any un-popped kernels. Use the pot to melt the butter over a low heat. Pour the butter over the popcorn and salt to taste.

I cook on a gas stove, so I find maintaining even heat to be quite simple. Never having cooked on a modern electric range, I have to assume the burners are like the ones my mother had when I was a child, and that they don’t cool quickly just because one has turned down the heat. I mention this because you don’t want to burn the popped corn while waiting for the last kernels to pop, and removing the pot from an electric burner rather than shaking it back and forth to prevent scorching may be necessary.

Enjoy!

PS – Charles M. Schulz of “Peanuts” fame is responsible for the quotation that is the title of my blog post.

Who’s Your Momma?

Shirley Tedesco has her hands full with eight children ranging in age from five to sixteen, but she loves being a mother. She’s also very practical about the whole endeavor and readily distributes hugs or spanks as needed to keep her brood of eight angels/hoodlums in line. In the chapter of my novel, The Tedescos, titled “Soul Food,” Shirley is feeling like less of a mother than she normally does. Her husband, Joe, knows she’s experiencing a bout of the blues, and his heart breaks for her. Joe springs into action with a Mother’s Day celebration sure to lift Shirley’s spirits and quite possibly earn him some points.

While writing, I knew that Mother’s Day had been established long before the year during which my novel took place, but the research provided some interesting history with which I’d like to honor mothers everywhere.

One of the earliest example of celebrating mothers came about with the Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” This holiday fell on the fourth Sunday during Lent, and it was once a major tradition in England and parts of Europe. Faithful church attenders would return to their “mother church” (the main church nearest their home) for a special service.

Over time, Mothering Sunday became a more secular holiday. Children began presenting their mother’s with small tokens of appreciation or flowers. This custom started to fade in popularity, but it eventually merged with the American version of honoring mothers, Mother’s Day, in the 1930s and 1940s.

In America, the origins of Mother’s Day date back to the 19th century. Prior to the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis, a resident of West Virginia, helped start the “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” in an effort to teach proper childcare to local women. Later, the clubs served as a unifying force in areas of the country still divided by the Civil War. In 1868, Jarvis promoted reconciliation between mothers of Union and Confederate soldiers by organizing “Mothers’ Friendship Day.”

Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist and suffragette, also provided an important aspect to what would become the modern Mother’s Day. In 1870, Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” Her call to action asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873, she campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, was instrumental in promoting the official Mother’s Day holiday in the 1900s. After her mother’s death in 1905, Anna Jarvis regarded Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

John Wanamaker, a Philadelphia department store owner, provided financial backing for Anna Jarvis allowing her to organize the first official Mother’s Day celebration in 1908 at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. Thousands of people also attended a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia.

Anna Jarvis, who never married or had children, started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and influential politicians in an effort to have Mother’s Day added to the national calendar. By 1912, many states, towns, and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Anna Jarvis established the Mother’s Day International Association to assist with promoting her cause. Her perseverance paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure to officially establish the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

There is no set way to honor and celebrate mothers and motherhood. My experience has been that small, private celebrations or those grounded in faith touch a mother’s heart the most. It isn’t about what you can give to and/or do for your mother; it’s about maintaining the relationship throughout the year, and then taking one special day a year to say an extra “I love you.”

The Artist’s Corner – Arthur Miller, Woodworker

As a writer, I like to keep it simple. A spiral-bound notebook and a no. 2 pencil sharpened to a precise point are all I need to make my ideas a reality on the page. I love the sound of the pencil scritching across the paper. It’s the sound of progress being made. But every now and then, a writer needs to raise the quality of her writing instrument if for no other reason than the sheer pleasure it brings in owning a piece of artwork.

I cannot describe the thrill of writing with my custom-made fountain pen created by woodworker Arthur Miller. So far, I’ve saved my beautiful pen with its specially chosen color of ink for journaling. But art such as Mr. Miller creates is beautiful, functional, and durable. It would be a shame to keep my pen locked away for only occasional use. I simply love the feel of the pen in my hand and how the silky flow of ink makes even a humble grocery list look like a masterpiece of calligraphy.

Mr. Miller was gracious enough to share his passion for woodworking and explain the process behind the fountain pens and other beautiful works of art he creates in his studio.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Akron, Ohio. I attended Springfield Township Schools and graduated from Buchtel High School. The Vietnam War was on, so two years after graduating I joined the U.S. Coast Guard. My first airplane ride was from Cleveland to Philadelphia, where I boarded a bus for the trip to Cape May, NJ where I attended boot camp. I have been stationed in Ogdensburg, NY on the St. Lawrence River; Cleveland, Ohio; Honolulu, Hawaii; Cape May, New Jersey; Little Creek, Virginia; New York City, and back to Cape May thus completing thirty years, two months, and fifteen days of service and retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer, CWO4. Following retirement, I worked for a durable medical equipment company, at a hardware store, and at a destination resort in Cape May. I have always been interested in wood turning, and my hobby, now in full force, somehow got out of control.

I am married to my first wife, Diana (from Medina, Ohio), and have two married daughters who live close by, and one grandson.

How did you develop your interest in woodworking? Was it a career or hobby? How long have you been at it?

I have long loved wood. Our childhood home was made from wood of one form or another: barn siding in the kitchen, pine paneling boards in the living room and office, mahogany panels in the bedrooms. The only plaster in the house was in the bathroom. I loved the smell, the feel, and the look of wood since forever except when we moved and I had to remove all the green paint from the oak paneling and woodwork in our new city house. I loved to climb trees and build things from wood. In high school, I took wood shop from Mr. John McKay who further enhanced my woodworking experience.

Are you professionally educated/trained in wood working or self-taught?

While I have been exposed to several of the foremost wood turners in the country since starting my business, and I don’t make any claim to match them. I am largely self-taught beyond the high school years.

What tools do you use in the process of woodworking?

For tools of the wood working trade, of course there are the lathes of which I have three: two bench top (a 10 in. x 24 in. and a 12 in. x 24 in. capable lathes) and a larger 16 in. x 36 in. floor model. The smaller number indicates half the distance from the spindle to the bed x 2 which is the maximum turning diameter over the bed. Of course, the lathe can be reconfigured. The headstock can be moved to the end of the bed where by the maximum diameter is half the distance from the spindle to the floor—in my case about 7 feet. I am not turning 7 foot diameter items at this time!

Then there are the tools of wood turning. They come in two types: HSS (High Speed Steel) and carbide. The HSS come in several categories, gouges, scrapers, and specialty. This category of tool is sharpened on a diamond grinding wheel. Carbide tools are not sharpened. The cutting surface is replaced when it is no longer sharp. Both tools are important in the studio of Sweet N Round. Resins are another important tool used for casting.

What are some products you make from wood?

The product line at Sweet N Round is quite extensive. I make Pepper Mills, Salt Mills and Shakers, Coffee Mills, Platters, Bowls, Kaleidoscopes, Pens and Pencils, Sewing and Knitting items (Seam Rippers, Yarn Minders and Yarn Barns, Crochet Hook Sets), Marker Rings, Shawl Pins and Rings, Key Rings, Pill Boxes, Purse Hangers, Clocks, Garden Dibbles, Pizza Cutters, Bottle Openers, Wine Cork Extractors and Stoppers, and many other items.

Do you make furniture, sheds, toys, porches, framing, or other large items?

All items are made in my studio. Funny, in 1996, my brother-in-law and I built a shed. Soon, since I did a little mechanical work at that time, it was called a “Shop.”  Today, that same building is now called my “Studio.” I do make toys—toy tops and kaleidoscopes.

Describe the process of making a fountain pen.

How to make a pen: first and foremost, select the style pen to make—be it a simple ball point, an advanced ball point, a roller ball, a fountain pen (which also come in simple and advanced), or a dip pen.

Most pens share these steps: select the kit (metal parts which will make up the pen), match with the material (see more on material later), we will call this the blank. Mark the blank to maximize the probability the grain will match. Cut to length then drill a proper hole for the tube that holds the workings inside—ranging from 7 mm to 27/67 inch. The drilling is done on the lathe using a special chuck, which holds the material tightly on the lathe, and of course the proper size drill. All brass tubes used on the interior of the pen must be roughed up with sand paper. This process is also done on the lathe using a mandrel. Tubes which will be used in acrylic pens must next be painted white. When the blanks are measured, drilled, and ready, the tubes are glued into the blank using either CA (cyanoacrylate) or two part epoxy glue. You know CA by its more common name, Super Glue. When the glued blanks have set, the next step is to mill the ends of the blanks (make the ends of the pen square with the tube). Once squared, the blanks are almost ready to be turned. Each blank is marked inside to indicate the end. In my shop, the mark is either the nib end or the finial end. In the case of many high-end writing devices, the finial end is larger than the nib end. Finally, the piece is turned. The blanks are mounted on a pen mandrel and turned to the proper sizes—sanded to usually 5000 grit in the case of wood—and then an appropriate finish is applied. In the case of acrylic or other similar products, the blanks are finished to 12,000 grit, polished with cream, and then buffed on the buffing wheel.

If wood, the finish may be wax, wax and oil, or CA. If CA is used to finish, seven coats of CA are applied and cured, and then the blank is finished in the same manner as acrylics.

What types of wood do you work with? What’s your favorite wood to work with?

The most expensive exotic woods used at Sweet N Round are composites. A composite is wood or other material which, standing alone, has no value. The wood or other material is cast in different materials and then cut into blanks. Seashell blanks come to mind. The seashell material destroys regular cutting tools. Think of sanding sand in resin with sand paper.  It cannot be cut using a regular saw, drill, etc.

We work with local woods (maybe from my back yard), domestic and exotic woods, acrylics, Corian, antler, horn, composites, and other materials.

My favorite woods to work with are those that smell nice. Pau Ferro, aka Bolivian Rose Wood, of the Rose Wood family comes immediately to the front. Included in this family is Cocobolo, a wood from Mexico. Many people are allergic to these woods though once finished it poses no issues to the user.

What other materials do you work with?

I like to turn a variety of acrylic and Corian although at the initial turning stages the chips are shrapnel. One must protect oneself from the hundreds of flying sharp pieces. Also a consideration in wood turning is the dust.  Air filters are an absolute must in a closed shop and studios. Masks are also a must to protect the lungs from the dust. However, they also cause the eye protection to fog, so everything comes to a halt until I can see once again. Another wood I use is color wood. Grown in Maine, bass is cut, sliced into thin plies, dyed different colors, glued into slabs, cut to size, and sold to me for a ton of money. Colored wood items, such as mills, sell ten to one over the most beautiful grained cherry, oak, mahogany, maple, sassafras, etc.

What has been your biggest challenge with woodworking?

Finishing. Most of the time I use a finish called friction finish. It is mostly shellac and carnauba wax. I have no problem with small surfaces, but bigger surfaces are not always so good. I would like to learn lacquer and colors.

Many artists love turning a concept into a reality. What is your dream project?

I would like to turn items frozen in ice. Assorted shapes, permanently mounted on a base of some type, and then frozen in a block of ice to hold the smaller pieces in position. The result would be perhaps a wood or other material ball with a concave shape cut into it or a pyramid or a box. I’m still thinking about it.

What has been your most complex project to date?

I’m thinking the most complex, which should be the simplest, drilling a hole through a baseball bat.

What do you enjoy most about woodworking and/or working with your hands?

I like taking a piece of wood, conceptualizing, mounting on the machine, and then have the wood dictate to me what it wants to be.

Does your chosen craft require practice? If so, how much?

How do ya get to Carnegie hall? Practice, practice, practice. I often get pieces of wood from someone’s family farm, or the yard, or something Grandpa always liked. The instruction: “I dunno, see what you can get from it”.

How critical are you of your own work?

I’m pretty tough. My quality control lady (wife) is way tougher. My burn box is full of items that did not make the grade.

Of what product/piece/project are you most proud?

I like my “Dark Side of the Moon,” my “Lunar Lander,” and my large “Natural Edge Cherry Burl Bowl”—I don’t know what to name it.

Do you teach your craft to others?

Absolutely. Belonging to the Cape Atlantic Wood Turners, an AAW affiliate (American Association of Wood Turners), one of the missions of our club is to spread the word. Each member has some private instruction arrangement and several of us teach basic wood turning at our local Technical Night School.

Do you participate in trade shows, craft shows, lectures, demonstrations, or conferences?

Shows are where it is at. I enjoy meeting the people, explaining, demonstrating, showing, and selling my work. It is a joy to see someone come to my table and their eyes just light up. One show, it was a Sunday afternoon, a lady came to my table, and tears immediately filled her eyes. I didn’t know what to think. Her son was about to graduate from college and her husband, a Vietnam Vet, had just passed away. She was looking at my wooden Sierra Vista Pen, which was a rendition of the Vietnam Service Ribbon, in wood. Something we enjoy but have not done a lot is the home parties.

Are all your pieces unique? Do you work by commission?

I tell people all the time that my pieces are unique. I never (well rarely) measure. If you find two alike, it was an error or a forgery. Bring it back!

I am honored when people ask me to do commission work. I once made a lid for the urn for Uncle Fred’s ashes.

When I do this kind of work, we understand we will aim for this or that goal. If my work misses your goal, we will try again until you are happy. However, woodworking is an art form.

Where would you like to go with your woodworking?

I’m pretty happy with where I am though not stagnating. There are items I must make to sell—that is what pays the bills—and there are items I call bait. Be they big or small, bait are items people want to drool over but really, where will they put it or how will they afford it?  I like to make captured ring items.  Typically a wine glass looking piece with a ring of the stem.

Does your skill set include carving or wood burning?

I burn my fingers all the time! I do not (have not) carved. Occasionally, I will burn a ring into a piece as accent.

What are you currently working on?

Pens, pens, pens. I make usually sixty pens at a time. Pepper mills for the summer.

Where is your workshop set up?

My shop is at the rear of my home. It is 12 x 16 feet. I have no radio because I want to hear the machines and the work as it is developing.

Where can people find you on social media?

We call ourselves Sweet N Round, and we can be easily found on Facebook.

Sweet: because we are honeybee keepers. We also honor my wife’s heritage as a Medina Bee. Medina is the honey capital of the world and home of the A. I. Root Company—formerly the largest honeybee supplier in the world and now the premier candle producer in the world.

N: for a conjunction

Round: well, I make round things.

The Buzz About Last Names

Making the last name of the family in my novel, The Tedescos, plural was quite easy. I simply added an S to their name when speaking or writing about the entire clan. And then I assigned one character the last name Roberts and decided to write about his family as well. Time to apply “The Joneses Rule.”

Of course this isn’t the official title of the grammar rule; it’s just my way of remembering that when I make a last name ending in S plural, I add –es. The AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, the Cambridge Guide to English Usage, Garner’s Modern American Usage as well as many grammar websites agree with this practice.

Then there is the annoying little pronunciation rule that pops up every now and then. If a last name ending in S sounds like a Z, as in Jones, one shouldn’t add the –es. A trick to determining this is to place your hand on your throat, say the name aloud, and see if you can feel your throat buzzing. Really? We’re supposed to trust proper grammar to the buzzing in our throats? This is made doubly ridiculous because sites that uphold this rule still say that Jones should be Joneses when making the name plural.

Here’s my advice: play it safe by trashing the buzzing rule, be consistent in your writing, and add –es to any last name ending in S. Regional dialects pronounce names differently, and it’s too difficult to pin down whether a name is ending in an S sound or a Z sound.

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