Archive for the ‘The Writing Process’ Category

In retrospect…

Friday, September 4th, 2020

So, who to believe?  I’ve just finished reading The White Rose by Jan Westcott and am beginning The White Boar by Marian Palmer.  The first is the story of Edward IV of England and the second is about his successor, Richard III.  Both books were written in 1968 and are works of historical fiction.  Each presents opposing views of the kings and of the tumultous times which put them in power.  And, already, I feel biased.

My knowledge of that period of English history — the War of the Roses (1455-1485) — is a bit sketchy, at best, and comes mainly from Shakespeare’s four plays: Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III and Richard the III.  He wrote them in the early 1590s, about one hundred years after the actual events depicted.  My own impression has always been that Richard was the bad guy.  Reading The White Rose certainly did not disabuse me of that attitude.

Richard III

But now I find myself immersed in The White Boar which puts Richard III in a wholly different light.  Although I’ve just begun the book, I find him a sympathetic character, at least as a young man.  But, as I read further, I think it’s going to be difficult for me to fully become engaged in author Palmer’s viewpoint concerning Richard.

It occurs to me that it won’t be many years before the John Kennedy assassination will have happened 100 years in the past.  I wonder how playwrites and historical novelists will view that occurrence with all its conspiracy theories and conflicting  viewpoints.  Presumably, the contemporary documentation will be more available to writers than was such material about King Richard accessible to Shakespeare.

Trump Statue in Seattle, August 2016

And one hundred years from now, what will be written about our current president?  There should be no dearth of information — even plenty in his own words.  Unless, of course, we continue to purge our history as we seem to be doing in recent years.  Maybe all we’ll have left will be a few TV serials and twitter messages.  The mind boggles…


Attention All Ghosts: Good News!

Friday, August 21st, 2020

The wait for my forthcoming ghost book will be longer than usual — a reality that I’ve known since before I signed the contract in February.  “Congratulations! I am very excited to have your book underway as part of our 2021 publishing program,” wrote the editor.   Yikes!  2021!  I was hoping for October 2020 — in time for Halloween.  THIS Halloween.  But as things stand with the pandemic, it probably makes little difference.  I can’t quite imagine a big book launch and signing party taking place anywhere right now.

There is no final “release date” yet so I can’t figure out the exact number of gestation days that are in store — but probably at least as many as are required for the birth of a baby hippo (225-250).  That would put the date somewhere between April 14th and May 9th.  Maybe someone should run a pool — first person to guess the closest date without going over gets a free book. lol

Yesterday was the first big milestone to be made since everything (text, photos, captions, cover materials, kitchen sink) were finally submitted.  We have agreed upon a title!  Drumroll… …  Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.  I’m still a little sorry that it doesn’t connect more closely with the title of my first ghost book but I do think it’s an accurate reflection of this new book’s content.  And finally settling on the title is good news, indeed!

Next steps — checking the copyedits and then reviewing and marking the page proofs.  Once I sign the “passed for press” approval form, it will be on its way to the printer and then… only a matter of time.  Or so they say.

Today might be the day!

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Now Available in Hardcover

I’ve checked and double-checked and I think my manuscript is ready to send off to the publisher.  I’m about three weeks ahead of my deadline, thanks to sheltering (sort of.)  All the images — 60 of them were sent off in Drop Box about a month ago.  As always, some adjustments had to be made — file size, etc. and I had to make one substitution which was, actually, an improvement.  So now, only the text material remains — all 39,312 words of it!

I still marvel at the helpful nature of computers.   The word count, for instance, (about which the publishers are rather picky) is done for me — automatically and without even depressing a key.  I remember the old days when we approximated — 250 words to a double-spaced, typewritten page.  Or, if it was crucial, hand counting word by word.  Another ‘plus’ is spellcheck.  It’s not perfect, of course, but it saves a lot of time during the early draft stages.

Sydney Works Against Deadline, 1970

So… one more double-check and I think it’s good to go.  Woot!  Woot!  But, there will be no breath-holding until publication on this one.  I had sent my proposal last January, thinking there was plenty of time for this 2nd ghost story book to come out by Halloween of October 2020.  That’s how it worked with the first ghost book but… not this one!  This “sequel” will not come out until Spring 2021.  Peculiar timing for ghost stories by my reckoning, so I hope fans of the first book are patient.

There is no name for the book yet.  I wanted it to be “More Ghost Stories from the Long Beach Peninsula” as in KISS (keep it simple…).  But the publisher wants ‘eerie’ or ‘hanted’ or ‘weird’ or something similar in the title.  They say we will compromise.  Hmmm.  I guess more stories by any other name are still more.  Stay tuned!

Getting to the Bottom of Things

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

From K is for Kidnapping the County Seat by Sydney Stevens

Research is not my long suit.  I’m not an expert in that department like my friends Michael Lemeshko and Ellen Wallace and Cuzzin Ralph Jeffords.  I am constantly amazed at their tenacity in sussing out information and mentally putting it in the right spot, historically speaking, to be of use in their quests.

Thanks to the big surge of interest in, almost everyone has some degree of research skill, at least with regard to people and, in particular, family members.  But getting a handle on the history of places and properties or, perhaps, on artifacts and keepsakes can be a bit harder.

Oregon Historical Society, Portland

This time around (and for the first time), Community Historians have been “assigned” research projects — all to do with the “Grand Hotels of the North Beach Peninsula” at the turn of the last century.  I attend their Wednesday morning sessions at the Columbia Heritage Museum and try to be useful in pointing  the researchers in the right direction.  (Or, maybe I should say in a different direction.  The “right” part will depend on whether their questions can be answered or not.)

Yesterday, several of the researchers were lamenting their lack of progress about something-or-other, even though they had gone to all the right Pacific County and Washington State sources.  “Have you tried the Oregon Historical Society?” I asked.

Portland Hotel, Long Beach c.1900

I was met with a bit of a blank look so I plunged ahead with a reminder that Pacific County was a part of Oregon Territory before Washington Territory was created.  Plus, in the early days, our connections were  more likely to be with Portland (or even San Francisco) — they were easier by far to get to than were Olympia and Puget Sound.

I hope they pursue that suggestion and I hope it’s helpful.  Meanwhile, I’m pursuing a quest of my own — an easier one than theirs.  However, the difficult part for me is not in finding the sources for information but in recognizing what might be important down the line and then — hardest of all! — remembering it for later.  But that’s another issue entirely!  Lawyers have paralegals as research helpers and some writers (the best-selling ones who can afford it) have research assistants.  I have helpful, generous friends and relatives.  Thank goodness!

A Pause That Refreshes? I can but hope.

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Now Available in Hardcover from Amazon

A three-day weekend!  When you are retired it shouldn’t make all that much difference, but this time around… I am at least hopeful that I’ll find my way forward along what has proved to be a difficult path.

History Press and I are still deep in contract negotiations.  I think.  Late in their North Carolina workday yesterday, they emailed me a contract by PDF attachment.  Also an addendum that must be agreed to by me along with the contract. That addendum requires that I buy 500 copies of my book (for resale by me), to be paid for in full plus shipping by the publication date — probably Spring 2021.  I am not a happy camper.

Never, for any of my seven books published by Arcadia Publishers or their imprint History Press, has author purchase of books been a part of the deal.  I write the book, pitch it to them, am offered a standard contract, and Bob’s your uncle.  Not this time.  A whole new ballgame, even though of all my books with them, I believe Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula has done the best.  You’d think they’d be eager for the sequel.

I’m using this three day weekend to research the price of self-publishing — a process I tried (and hated) years ago, but I think self-publishing has come a long way.  On the other hand, all book sales and distribution would be my responsibility…  forever.  So maybe taking History Press’s deal for a finite 500 would be better.  But the shipping costs are the sticking point.  My pencil just doesn’t sharpen to a fine enough point.

Now Available in Hardcover

Plus I sure would like to know if this is standard operating procedure for them all of a sudden.  Do all contract offers now come with an addendum requiring the author to buy 500 books?  Or have I, somehow, come under special scrutiny and attention?

If you know of anyone who has recently been published by History Press, I’d be interested in hearing from them…   And BTW, Happy President’s Weekend!

I think Mrs. C. is at it again…

Saturday, February 1st, 2020

There is nothing quite so frustrating, annoying, or maddening as having computer problems when you are working against a deadline.  Granted, it’s sort of a self-imposed deadline, as in I told the publisher’s acquisitions editor that I’d fill out the Publication Proposal and send it right off to her.

That was yesterday.  It’s a 13-page proposal and runs the gamut from personal questions (education, employment history, published works, affiliations with community organizations etc. etc.) to detailed descriptions of the proposed book.  Not only the overall concept, proposed chapter titles, and sample photographs, but the word count for the entire manuscript, the number of photos, the target audience, possible competing books, etc. etc. some more.

And that’s only the first seven pages.  The next part is titled “Sales and Marketing” and begins with the explanatory statement, We require authors to be active partners in helping us promote and sell their books locally…  There follow four categories concerning possible sales venues to fill out in detail:  independent bookstores, gift shops and pharmacies, hardware stores, community organizations (historical societies, chambers of commerce, local history museums,etc),and  other unique sales opportunities.  The business name, contact person, address, phone number and local insight/personal connection must be included for each listing in those four categories.  Not impossible to do, but time consuming to look up specific contact information etc.  (Besides which, I have agreed to buy 500 books to sell myself.  I am struggling to be totally transparent concerning this category which is for their sales/marketing people.)

Next came the media information — local newspapers, radio stations, websites and blogs, magazines, and newsletters (church, synagogue, community organization) etc. etc.  Again, not onerous.  Just time-consuming.

It took me six hours to complete the form.  I printed it out to have my Number One Copy Reader (that would be Nyel) take a look.  Then I saved the document, and took a break for lunch.  When I returned to my task… the document was gone.  G-O-N-E.  As in nowhere to be found.  Honestly!  As in don’t even bother to make suggestions — been there, done that.

Tomorrow is another day.  Fortunately I have a printed copy that I can work from.  Of course, the scary part is… what if it happens again?  Before I can return it to History Press.   Aaauurrgh!!!

Come on, Mrs. Crouch! Give me a break!

Let the parleying proceed!

Friday, January 31st, 2020

Methodist Church 1872-1921

The good news is that the conversations with my publisher are proceeding apace and we are getting closer to a workable understanding regarding terms and title.  And, for now anyway, there is no bad news — at least not with regard to my up-coming book.

But, birthing a book seldom goes perfectly smoothly.  That, of course, is one of the big advantages of self-publishing.  On the other hand, it is really helpful to have other eyes looking at your work before it is set in stone. (“Set in type” doesn’t work these days either, but “before your work is digitized” sounds kind it’s being chewed up and digested.  Which in a way, I guess it is.)

My experience with the editors at History Press has been mixed but has always turned out well in the end.  I have to remind myself that, mostly, they are two or, more likely, three generations younger than I and their understanding of some of my nuances may differ from my intent.  And, I also remind myself that they probably are more representative of my potential readers than I, so I try to lighten up.

S.A. Matthews

I seldom back down, however, when it comes to local peculiarities.  I remember a big argument (actually with an editor from WSU Press) about my use of “North County” when speaking of Raymond and South Bend.  He carefully corrected all those references to “East County” which, of course, was true if you looked at a map…  “Back when Oysterville was the Pacific County Seat,” I told him, “this was the point from which county directions were figured. The rest of the Peninsula and  the Columbia were south, and the Willapa Valley, Tokeland, and Raymond were north.”  More or less.

Another one that the editor and I went around about were holly trees. “Holly grows on bushes,” he said.  “That may be,” I said, “but not our holly.”  And I dashed out into the lane, took a picture, and sent it to him.  Discussion closed.

Well… as yet no contract for this book has been negotiated.  And discussions with editors are still moot.  But… I am ever hopeful.

Between A Rock And That Other Place

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

Day before yesterday, I felt that my sequel to Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula, was about finished so I submitted a proposal to the publisher to get things started.  I felt it would be more-or-less a slam dunk.  The first book has sold well (at least by my standards) and, since writing the second has been in response to “popular demand,” I didn’t think there would be any problems.

Silly me!  I heard almost immediately from one of the acquisitions editors who said they couldn’t publish it as part of the same “Haunted America Series” and I would have to change the title.  Take “ghosts” out.  Use “weird” or “scary” instead.  They had found, she wrote, that “sequels” diminish sales of both the first and the second books.

Say what?  I was totally gobsmacked.  That certainly was not our experience when we were at the other end of the process as owners of the Bookvendor in Long Beach.  In fact, in a similar situation people invariably asked (as they ask me, the author, now). “Will there be a sequel?  When will it be out?”  Or, conversely, if they had read the sequel first, they would come back to get a copy of the original book.

Mrs. Crouch’s Typewriter

My response to the editor was, “Perhaps we need to talk.”  This morning I called and we “negotiated” as the editor called it.  Bottom line — what she said initially PLUS I need to guarantee that I will buy 500 books, myself, for resale.

Those are the conditions that she will pitch to the publisher.  I pitched the same conditions to Nyel, my business manager.  We sharpened our pencils, looked at six years of sales history on the first book and decided that this plan would be way too close to self-publishing which we’ve long ago determined we can’t afford.  Plus, without Nyel to make sales pitches and schlep books hither and thither, there would be one more layer added to my already maxed schedule.

So, there you have it.  Maybe no “sequel” will be forthcoming after all.  We’ll see what the next few days will bring…

Everything Except What I Was Looking For

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

You’d think — if you were to think about it at all — that the elusive part of writing a ghost story would be pinning down the facts about the ghost, itself.   But, I’m here to tell you that when the ghost in question is roaming around in a historic building or causing consternation at a notable landmark, there are other specifics that sometimes need pinning down.

Like the nuts and bolts (or wires and poles?) of electricity.  Specifically, I’m looking for the details of electricity arriving in Ocean Park. Long ago, I read that Adelaide Taylor of the Taylor Hotel held a community fundraiser to bring street lights to Ocean Park — probably in 1936-ish — but, look though I might,  I can’t find the reference right now.

In a somewhat related way, I also know through family correspondence that electricity came to Oysterville, thanks to FDR’s rural electrification project, in 1936.  And, I know from an article in Pacific County Historical Society’s Sou’wester magazine, that our P.U.D. District # 2 was formed in 1937.  And, in that same article there is reference to the Willapa Electric Company which had served Raymond, South Bend and Willapa Valley communities since 1913!  Wow! 1913!  Twenty-three years before Oysterville got their first electric lightbulb!

Andrews’ Store, Oysterville c. 1920 — note telephone/electrical lines

Although… my mother remembered that her father had a generator of some sort in 1926 and when the family moved to Redlands for my grandfather’s health, that generator was given to Bert Andrews.  Helen Heckes told it this way in Marie Oesting’s Oysterville Cemetery Sketches:  “As I remember the story, I think Harry Espy put up the money for it, and Bert ran this little Delco electrical system.  We made an arrangement with him to get electricity and one drop light in the kitchen until 10 o’clock.  Then he shut everything off at 10.”  That’s when Bert and Minnie went to bed.  Lights out!

But when did the average household in Ocean Park have access to electricity?  Where did it come from?  Those are the questions I’m wrestling with as I work on a sequel to Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  There’s lots of great information out there, but pinning down just what I need is as difficult as getting a handle on those wily ghosts.  Shocking to think about, eh?

I shoulda paid more attention…

Monday, January 13th, 2020

H.A. Espy Windmill c. 1920

In my school days, I was much more interested in words than in numbers.  English and Creative Writing, yes.  Math and Science, not so much.  Maybe that’s why, in my teaching years, I was most comfortable with the primary grades.  Whole numbers and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, I could handle.  Basic science, especially biology and the natural world, yes.  Physics… no way.  I could scarcely teach the principals of those seven simple machines.  You remember…  inclined plane, lever, wedge, wheel and axle, pulley, and screw.

So it is, that all these years later, I still don’t understand how the windmill in our front yard during my mother’s childhood pumped the water from the well up to the rain barrels on the roof.  I do understand how the water in those rain barrels supplied my grandmother with cold running water at the kitchen faucet — water she could use to fill the tank in her wood cook stove to heat for washing dishes, clothes, and family members.  Gravity feed I get.

H.A. Espy House, circa 1930 — note windmill and rain barrels

I imagine that the same up-to-the-rain-barrels and down-to-the-bathroom principles might have been applied so that the family could have had a flush toilet.  But they didn’t.  Not until FDR’s rural electrification project got as far as Oysterville in 1936.  That year the family installed an electric pump on the east porch and their first-ever flush toilet.  But, for many years, they kept the outhouse “just in case.”

I’m thinking about all of this because of my current book research,  I’m trying to understand why a house built in 1913 in Ocean Park included a “modern” half bath on the second floor.    Did Ocean Park get electricity earlier than Oysterville? Was there a windmill on the property?  Was there another way to manage the water flow?

I really should have paid better attention to those basic science lessons.  As it is, I think I’ll give our plumber friend Don Anderson a call.  Maybe he can explain some of those fundamental physics mysteries to me.