Posts Tagged ‘books’

Lay off, Mrs. C.! After all… I’m on your side!

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Blankety Blank Blinkin’ Light

The little internet light on my modem blinks furiously most of the time.  And most of the time I have an internet connection.  But it’s the other part, perhaps the nano-seconds between blinks, that is giving me grief.

I’ve been downloading (or trying to) the possible cover photos for my new ghost story book.  For days. Each file is large — anywhere from 15 to 35 megabytes so my choices for getting them to the publisher come down to using a flash drive or a drop box.  I’ve had good luck with drop boxes before and they seem more secure than trusting a flash drive to the vagaries of mail (sorry Mark S.) to South Carolina.

A Story for Mrs. C.

I began uploading my top choices for the front cover on Friday.  There were seven photographs and it took about twelve hours for them all to upload but, fortunately, only an instant to then share with my editor.  She liked one in particular and asked if I could send a few other versions.  No problem, I thought.  She also suggested that a few of them might be good images for the back cover, as well.  I hadn’t been thinking beyond “front,” and when I did, I realized I had better choices than those already sent.

So it was that Saturday evening I began the process of uploading eight more very large photographic files.  I worked on it all day yesterday.  One by one they “almost” uploaded and then there was a “connectivity failure.”  Over and over and over again.  Maddening!  I finally got seven loaded and got a message that the box drop was full.  I needed to upgrade the drop box size.  For money, of course.  Whatever…

The Haunted America Series – 294 Titles (so far)

Then… home free!  Or so I thought, but try as I might, I could not “share’ the images with my editor.  I emailed my distress and she, somehow, accessed them from her end.  That left one more image that, fortunately, was just under the size limit so I sent it as an email attachment.  The first attempt failed but after loud raging at CenturyLink and a serious talk with Mrs. C., it went the second time.

Howinthehell will I send the 60 equally large files for the book, itself?  Fortunately, I have a week or so to think about it.  Meanwhile, I am reading aloud to Mrs. C.  It’s the chapter about her earthly husband, the unrighteous Reverend Crouch.  I hope she likes it.  I believe I’ll need her help to get this show on the road.

Oysterville: Twixt Hamlet and Tref?

Monday, June 8th, 2020

“The Summer of the Danes”

I’m re-reading Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael Chronicles — or at least the few that we have on our shelves left over from our bookstore days.  As it happens, we are also watching the old Masterpiece Theater Cadfael series right now.  The books are infinitely better.

It’s our first viewing of the TV series and, in some ways,  it might as well be my first reading of the books.  It’s been at least 30 years since I’ve picked one up and I’ve forgotten most of the plots — but not the characters and certainly not the twelfth century world of Brother Cadfael.

The series is “okay,” but the books are glorious.  It’s the  liberal usage of medieval vocabulary and the cadence of the language that make all the difference.    English author Ellis Peters (nom de plume of Edith Mary Pargeter, 1913 – 1995) was a master of both.  Her published works cover many categories, especially history and historical fiction, and she was also honored for her translations of Czech classics.  I don’t know how her expertise with the Czech language might have related to her ear for medieval English, but somehow it must.

The Brother Cadfael Series

Currently I’m reading The Summer of the Danes and from the get-go I am enthralled.  Right away, on the first page of Chapter One, my eye was caught by this phrase:  …and the laity from the princes of North Wales down to the humblest cottagers in the trefs of Arfon.  Trefs??  What in the world is a tref?  A valley, perhaps?  Or in medieval-speak, maybe a dale?

So, I looked it up.  Said Merriam-Webster:  a group or area acting as a single community as regards cattle and plowing, constituting a taxable unit, and consisting typically of nine houses, one plow, one oven, one churn, one cat, one cock, and one herdsman.

Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael

OMG!  Not a landform at all!  And now I know that Oysterville is somewhere between a hamlet (100 to 150 people) and a tref!  In the definition of tref, of course, is the implication that those nine households do a lot of sharing.  I’m not sure that we could find that many people here willing to share an oven and never mind the plow or churn or cat.  The cock, of course is long gone.  We’ll have to find one for sale (or barter?) — perhaps in the nearby hamlet of Nahcotta.


Leave It To Maggie!

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

The Perfect Answer to Current Conditions!

Yesterday I received “A Special Message from Maggie.”  Maybe you did, too, if you are lucky enough to be on Maggie Stuckey’s mailing list.  And, if you are even luckier and count Maggie as your friend, her message will delight you but not surprise you in the least!

She begins her message this way:  There has never been a better time to plant a vegetable garden.  It’s the Maggiest sentence ever!  At once it underlines her concern for our present situation — the pandemic and consequent sheltering — and combines two of her passions– food and gardening.  Right off the bat:  Maggie, the quintessential nurturer!

Her message concerns her 2002 book (with Rose Marie Nichols McGee), Bountiful Container, which can help get even the neophyte gardener started on “a small garden plot or a few containers jam-packed with veggies.”  Apparently, the book is unavailable right now and Maggie is offering to fill the void from her own private stash.

Maggie’s Other “Must Have” Book!

You, too, can get a personalized, autographed copy directly from Maggie. To find out how, go to: I don’t know how many she has on hand, but my suggestion is: get ’em while they last!

In our house, the spin-off to Maggie’s book offer has been a serious discussion about having a cement patio poure in the area we jokingly refer to as “the kitchen garden” in order to make it wheelchair friendly.  A few containers out there at the proper height for Nyel would go a long way to satisfying his gardening itch.  The project is under serious investigation, thanks to our friend Maggie-the-Nurturer!

P is for… Pleased as Punch!

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Yesterday at our weekly Community Historians gathering, the class was devoted to the early history of Pacific County government.  It’s a topic that we’ve only touched upon lightly over the years — almost “in passing” you might say.  So, last fall when we were planning the sessions for 2020 (our 8th year!), I suggested that we devote one of our 2020 sessions to the beginnings of our county.

So it was that class members gathered around tables in “the little conference room” at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum yesterday for a read-aloud experience using my 2004 book, K is for Kidnapping the County Seat – The A-B-Cs of Early Government in Pacific County, Washington.  I think there were eighteen of us but (of course!) I didn’t think to take a picture which might have corroborated that impression.

It took about an hour and a half to read through the book, each of us reading a page in turn.  I had provided sticky-notes for people to use for marking pages or points they’d like to discuss afterwards — so we wouldn’t get sidetracked during the reading.

From my viewpoint it went very well.  We spent the rest of our time (about twenty minutes) discussing points that people had “marked” —  in particular, specifics about early Donation Land Claims, the  changes in the distribution of our population over the years, and how improvements in transportation have affected the location of the county seat.

I came home feeling  elated — not just because I thought the class session was successful.  Far, far beyond that!  I felt totally gratified that I had witnessed, first-hand, this book being read (and enjoyed!) by a group of adults interested in our local history.  That was my intent in writing it, but in retrospect I have realized that I should never have packaged it as an A-B-C book.

As I explained to yesterday’s class,  from the get-go, my A-B-C series were written specifically for adults who want a basic overview of a subject. Whether it be O is for Oysters or C is for Papa Train or any of the other nine titles in the series, these books were NOT written for children.  A glance at the concepts and vocabulary should be the first clue.  They were written for people who want some factual information about our history — whether it be an industry or an event — but who don’t have time or inclination to read a more definitive treatment.

Nevertheless, I have been unable to convince booksellers or the buying public that A-B-Cs can mean “nuts and bolts” about a subject… that A-B-C books are not necessarily meant for Kindergartners.  Maybe if I had named the series something like “Information for Dummies” they’d have had a better reception among my target audience.  You know what they say about hindsight…

P.S.  Lest you think I’m name-calling potential readers, I want to point out that a very successful series on basic information about a variety of subjects had “Dummies” in the title.  Hence my reference.

I can put it down but… do I really want to?

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was recommended to me by several people after I expressed delight with Where the Crawdads Sing.  I wonder why.  What did they see in this book that reminded them of the other one?  And why don’t I see it?

It’s not that I dislike the book.  Quite the contrary.  But I don’t see much similarity between it and Where the Crawdads Sing.  I am finding Book Woman scary and depressing on just about every level.  But super informative.  And not that I don’t love the concept of women on horseback delivering books to those who would otherwise have no opportunities to read or to learn or to expand their horizons.

But this book covers so much more — extreme poverty, terrifying prejudice, and ignorance of unimaginable proportions.  It’s a horrifying story made more so by it’s proximity to truth.  Mind you, I’ve not finished the book yet, and I may find that it redeems itself, but so far…

And yet… I cannot return it to the library unfinished.  It seems that with each turn of the page there is a new reveal. Like this:

Nester Rylie’s been reading it, and she told me in passing last year, she ain’t rubbed groundhog brains on her babies’ sore teeth or needed to use the hen innards on the gums of her teething ones since.  An after she’d read about a good paste recipe that cured thrush, Nester said, none of her nine young’uns ain’t ever had to drink water from a stranger’s shoe again to get the healing.

More than anything, I wonder what my friends saw in the one book that reminded them of the other.  And I wondered what I am missing.  Come to think of it, though, that’s the best part about expanding our horizons — no two of us end up in exactly the same place,

I’m not sure I’m recommending this book.  But maybe…

Once Again… The Last To Know!

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Now Available in Hardcover

Rodney Dangerfield’s “I don’t get no respect” came to mind yesterday, but in somewhat altered form.  The voice in my head said, “Why am I always the last to know?” Last or not, though, the news absolutely delighted me.  Five of my six books published through Arcadia Publishing are now available through Amazon in hardcover!!  Who’d a thunk it!

Now Available in Hardcover

I learned this is a most convoluted fashion.  I’d been out yesterday morning and when I returned home Nyel said that Jim Pells had dropped off a book that he’d like to have me sign — a hardcover edition of my Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  “Hardcover!” (Did I raise my voice?)  “How did that happen?  Where did he get it?  Why is the author the last to know?” (Was I shouting?)  Apparently, the book was a late Christmas present to Jim sent by his daughter.

Now Available in Hardcover

It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone else, but every author knows that a hardcover edition is infinitely preferable to a paperback, for longevity alone.  But most authors, unless their books are expected to do very well, have to accept the inevitability of paper covers.  Especially books about a local area as small as ours with a limited selling potential.

Now Available in Hardcover

I called Arcadia and talked with a representative in their Customer Service Department.  “No, we don’t ever publish in hardcover,” I was told.  “But sometimes Amazon or Ingram (a wholesale book distributor) do.”  So I went online and looked up my books on Amazon…  Sure enough!  Five of my six Arcadia titles (all except Legendary Locals of the Long Beach Peninsula) are now being offered in hardcover versions.  More expensive, to be sure, but worth every extra penny in my mind.

Now Available in Hardcover

I have no idea what their criteria for going hardcover might be.  I’d like to think that it’s because those particular books are selling well, but if that’s the case, my six-month royalty checks (still in the single or low double digits) aren’t reflecting any huge stampede by the reading public.  I am thrilled nonetheless and so grateful to Jim for asking for my autograph.  Otherwise, I’m sure I’d still not know.

And, oh yes… I immediately ordered the five that are in hardback!!  They’ll be here next week!

The Oysterville Sewing Circle – The Reality

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

The Oysterville Sewing Bee, 1907

My phone messages and Facebook messages — even my email messages — have been full of the news of a brand new book by Susan Wiggs called “The Oysterville Sewing Circle – A Novel.”  People want to know what I know about it (nothing), if I’ve read it (not yet), and if it’s based on our Oysterville (not that I know of.)

However, what I THINK I know is that there is no longer another Oysterville — at least not in the United States.  There is an Osterville ( ‘y’) in Massachusetts (on Cape Cod) and there used to be an Oysterville, Oregon until it fell in.  Now there’s just us, at least as far as I know.

As for the “Sewing Circle” part of the title — we did, indeed, have a sewing circle here.   The women of Oysterville, calling themselves “The Sewing Circle,” or sometimes “The Sewing Bee,” met on an irregular basis in one another’s homes to work on the mending, darning, or other needs of the hosting household.  Female visitors in the village were included at the get-togethers.  Each session concluded with refreshments provided by the hostess.

Oysterville Women’s Club, 1932

In the mid- 1920s, they organized themselves more formally, founding the Oysterville Women’s Club and electing Mrs. Stoner as the first president.  They continued to meet weekly or bi-weekly and, while they spent some of each meeting on sewing projects, their endeavors by then included fund-raising for school equipment and acting as guardians of community needs.  During both world wars they worked on many projects for the Red Cross including knitting socks for soldiers and gathering sphagnum moss for bandages.  Sometime in the 1940s, they regrouped, included the men of the village, and called themselves the Oysterville Improvement Club.  The present-day Oysterville Community Club which meets in the schoolhouse is the present-day configuration.

“The Oysterville Sewing Circle – A Novel”

Two photographs of the Oysterville Sewing Circle are displayed at the schoolhouse — one taken in 1907 and one in 1932.  My grandmother is in each of them along with several other relatives as well as neighbors I remember from my childhood.  I wonder what they would think of the new book called “The Oysterville Sewing Circle — A Novel.”

And, as for that — the blurb on says, “Stitched together with love, this is a story just waiting for your favorite reading chair. With her signature style and skill, Susan Wiggs delivers an intricate patchwork of old wounds and new beginnings, romance and the healing power of friendship, wrapped in a lovely little community that’s hiding a few secrets of its own.”

Could it be our Oysterville?  I guess we’ll have to read the book to find out.





Books, Bookstores, and Travel Dreams

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores

Last week as Sue and Bill left our Friday Night Gathering, Sue said, “Don’t forget to open the box.  You’ll love it!   It might be the next trip you take!”  I couldn’t imagine what she was talking about and as soon as the last guest had left…

Inside the box was a book.  A most unusual book, indeed.  Its cover opened the wrong way ’round, it was at once a book of paintings and of the written word, and all about a subject near and dear to our hearts – bookstores!  The title: Footnotes*from the World’s Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein, Foreword by Garrison Keillor, *True Tales and Last Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers and Book Lovers.

You may ‘know’ Bob Eckstein as a New Yorker cartoonist or as author of The Illustrated History of the Snowman. You may even know this book which was published by Clarkson Potter in 2016 and landed immediately on the NYT best seller list.  Garrison Keillor needs no introduction.

Unusual Cover Arrangement

Nyel and I spent the next few afternoons sitting side-by-side on the couch, taking turns reading aloud each double-page spread on the 75 bookstores included in this delightful book.  We had not been to all that many – Powell’s in Portland and Elliott Bay in Seattle, of course.  Shakespeare and Company in Paris, Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, and (maybe) the Brattle Book Shop in Boston.

Moe’s in Berkeley and City Lights in San Francisco were old stomping grounds for me and since Nyel has never been to either, that might be our first trip.  How right Sue was!  Each page just calls out. “Come visit!  Come browse!”  And, too, it made me think of favorite bookstores not included – places I hadn’t thought of in years like Foyles in London and Blackwell’s in Oxford.  Time to re-visit those, too.

Plus, the “footnotes” were such fun.  For the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans (weren’t we there?):  “Anne Rice once arrived at a book signing at the shop by means of a jazz funeral procession in an antique hearse pulled by mules.  She emerged in the bookstore from inside the closed coffin.”

Powell’s – A familiar Favorite

Or in the footnotes about Richard Booth’s Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. “Throughout Hay-on-Wye, there are honesty boxes to leave payment for books available on the al fresco bookcases.”  And Anthony Tao of The Bookworm in China:  “During his campaign, President Obama phoned in and fielded question over the speakers from a packed Bookworm bookstore.”

When we owned The Bookvendor in Long Beach we used to say that giving a book is giving a present that can be opened again and again.  This particular book, however, gives you the pleasure of planning journey after journey with entire bookstores to visit along the way there and back again!  What could be more pleasurable? Great idea, Sue!

High Tide Season

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

High Tide at Our House, Dec. 20, 2018

Toward the end of December here on Willapa Bay, the tides are typically higher than at most other times of the year.  Depending upon which tide table you check, we’ve already had the highest tide of the year – an 11.57-footer at 11:05 a.m. on December 20th (which was this past Thursday.)  My neighbor Cyndy referred to it as a “King Tide” – a term I’d never heard before.

According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) “a King Tide is a non-scientific term people often use to describe exceptionally high tides.”  I didn’t know that.  In my (admittedly limited) experience, I’ve just heard winter high tides referred to as… “winter high tides.”

I don’t know what an average high tide is, or even if you can really call a tide’s height “average” but, around here, any high tide in the ten or eleven-foot range is considered pretty high.  If the timing is such that there is a big storm behind such a tide, the incoming water has been known to roll right on into town – over the meadows, up the lanes and onto Territory Road.  Old-timers can tell you about people who have rowed their boats right down the street!

Oysterville by Willard Espy

My favorite high tide story has been told for several generations in our family.  My uncle Willard Espy memorialized it in his book Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village.  In honor of High Tide Season and of my great-grandfather R.H. Espy, I reprint it here:

One day in the 1850s, a winter tide lifted the Stout home from its location on the bay bank (the house must have been about the size of a two-car garage) and carried it seaward in the midst of a driving rain with Mrs. Stout and their three small children trapped inside.  A neighbor rushed to grandpa with the news.  Grandpa set aside the accounts on which he was working, unlaced and removed his shoes, pulled on wool socks and gum boots, donned slicker and sou’wester, and waded down the flooded lane to his dinghy.  He upped the anchor, settled the oars in their locks, and began to row, using short, even strokes.  The wind was intense, the rain was heavy, and the house had been bearing toward the bar for nearly an hour.  Grandpa, however, followed without hesitation the path of the now retreating tide glancing over his shoulder at intervals to see where he was going.  At last the Stout house hove dimly into view, already listing to starboard, and well down in the water.  Overtaking it, he snubbed his boat to a porch post, waded over the porch, and forced the front door open against the pressure of the water inside.  In the living room he found Mrs. Stout in water up to her balloon-like breasts, which she appeared to be using as water wings.  She was holding the head of her one-year-old above the surface with one hand and that of her two-year old with the other.  Her three-year-old sat on her shoulders, his hands rooted in her hair.     

The Meadow at High Tide, 2017

The building had sunk too deep to be towed back home against the tide.  Grandpa used the painter and anchor from his dinghy to moor the house for future salvage, and rowed the Stouts back to Oysterville.  He could not swim, but he knew how to row.

Beginning on Christmas Day and continuing for a week or so, there will be a series of ten-foot-plus morning tides.  I don’t think any of our houses along the bayside are in danger of floating out to sea, but you might have your dinghies ready for a rescue run just in case!

By the Heft of It…

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of getting an unexpected package in the mail, even at Christmastime.  When the postmaster hands me a package all done up in brown wrapping paper, I still get that fluttery feeling in my stomach that I did when I was six years old.  Only then, we were living in Alameda and the postman carried a big sack over his shoulder.  When there was something in it for me, I felt like it was Christmas no matter what the time of year!

Yesterday, there was no mistaking the shape and feel of a book under that plain brown exterior.  The return address said that it was from my friend Memi (pronounce it Me-My) whose name is really Ann but, since I first met her in the late thirties or early forties, she’s always been Memi to me.  Again, I felt six years old!  But why on earth would Memi be sending me a book?  I couldn’t wait to get home and rip off that disguising paper.

With Ann (Memi Sherwood) Anderson — Now

It was a thick blue paperback with a bold white title:  The Way They Were.  “The Whimsical Short Stories of Harry A. Biggs” it said.  “Edited by Lila Biggs Mitchell.”  I know several of the large Biggs family.  Some of them grew up in Oysterville and they are related to Memi… but these particular names weren’t ringing any bells.  The note that Memi had taped to the front helped:

This book was put together by my cousin Lila, daughter of my Uncle Harry Biggs.  It’s a collection of articles he wrote for the South Beach Bulletin plus a few other stories.  Since Harry ad Iva lived in Oysterville, quite a few stories have reference to their time there…

Memi (in front) Then

A quick look in the index revealed so many familiar names…  Bert Andrews, Glen Heckes, Ted Holway, Millie Sherwood, Gary Whitwell.  All from my long-ago six-year-old past.  And the stories!  Oh my!  About clam-digging when licenses weren’t required and there were no seasons.  And about Tin-Lizzies and early day radio.  A hundred-plus stories on 355 pages!  It’s one of those books that’s hard to put down – a new story every other page.  Perfect for a blustery Oysterville day by the fire.  I can’t wait!  (And I don’t really need to – it’s windy and stormy as all get-out here!)  Thanks, Memi, for this wonderful gift!