Posts Tagged ‘the writing process’

Not the Bay, Ira… the River.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

The Parsonage c. 1900 — where Mrs. Crouch lived

As far as I know (though these days, I am sometimes a bit forgetful), I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Ira Wesley Kitmacher.  He lives in nearby Ocean Park, according to his biographical material in the October 22nd “Our Coast Weekend” which is the weekly insert in the Chinook Observer and in The Daily Astorian.

It was only after Nyel questioned me about Mr. Kitmacher’s  “Haunted History Series Part II” — as in, “Did this guy ever talk to you?” — that I read his article and was quite interested in some of the familiar ghost information printed therein.  (And how did I happen to miss Part I, anyway?) The answer to Nyel’s question is “no” but I’m going to assume from some of what he has written that he has read either my book,  Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula, or some of the other articles or blogs I’ve written — especially about Mrs. Crouch, the ghost that roams our house.  As far as I know, no one else has written about her and yet he talks of her in very familiar terms.

Several other mentions hopped out at me that were also covered in my 2014 ghost book.  Both were “first time” ghost stories, at least in written form.  One was as a result of extensive interviews I did with the niece of Aunt Frances Sargant (but perhaps Ira also interviewed her?) and the other was about the boys who drowned at Sprague’s Hole — which was not in Oysterville, Mr. Kitmacher.  It was in Ocean Park.  And only one (not all three) of the boys is hanging around in ghostly form.  Both “The Ghost of Aunt Frances” and “The Tragedy at Sprague’s Hole” were based on primary research and interviews done by me.  As far as I know, like the Mrs. Crouch stories, neither Aunt Frances nor Phillip Brooks had ever been written about previously.

Sargant House, 1918 — where “Aunt Frances” grew up

I should point out here, AGAIN, that while I do not really believe in ghosts, I do find stories of them a wonderful vehicle for documenting the history of this area.  It’s the history of the buildings, the people who lived in them, their occupations, and the factual information about their lives that I am interested in.  When there is a ghost story associated with any of that history — so much the better.  I go to great lengths to research and document the historical information surrounding the ghost stories I write about.

So… it’s one thing to assume that a ghost story (or three or ten) are “out there” in the community and that there is no necessity of giving credit where credit is due.  But it is quite another to change historic facts.  Sara Crouch was a real person.  My grandfather and his brothers and sisters all knew her.  No doubt everyone who lived in Oysterville in 1902/1903 knew her.  She was drowned in Willapa River (not in the Bay) and she was buried at Fern Hill Cemetery in Menlo which was the closest burying ground to the site where her body was recovered.  She was not buried in Oysterville.  Sara’s demise was well documented in local contemporary newspapers and court documents.

Frances Sargant was also a real person, the aunt of my childhood friend, Sally Sherwood.  Sally shared her memories with me in many communications by telephone and email in the early 2000s and my impression is that she had not talked of her experiences before.  Ditto my friend Nanci Main.  She shared the story of Phillip Brooks who spent his young boyhood the house where she now lives.  Phillip’s mother, Mrs. Brooks, was a teacher in Oysterville much beloved by our family; Phillip’s brother was a classmate’s of my uncles Willard and Edwin.  The article about the boys who drowned in Sprague’s Hole was published in the April 6, 1912 Ilwaco Tribune — a factual account concerning a real tragedy.

The Brooks House, c 2000 — where Phillip Brooks lived in the early 1900s.

I’d really like to talk to Mr. Kitmacher to learn if my irritation with him is well-founded or if I am being patently unfair.  I looked for him on FaceBook, and in the local phonebook to no avail.  If you know him, please ask him to give me a call.  I’m also curious about his “soon to be published book, A Road-trip Through the Most Haunted Place in America: the Graveyard of the Pacific.  (And how do you take a road trip through the “Graveyard of the Pacific” anyway? As most of us know, the reference is to the area where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean — the area, according to maritime historian James A. Gibbs, in which “the number of vessels which have sustained damage or been lost… would likely exceed two thousand, with more than fifteen hundred lives claimed.) I’d like to know if his upcoming book includes the stories mentioned in the Coast Weekend account.  And if he credits his sources.  Or am I being way too picky?



After nearly 40 years… vindication (of sorts)

Sunday, October 11th, 2020

On Territory Road Across from The ORF Meadow

Probably most everyone has had the experience of “knowing” an important truth but being unable to prove it.  But it’s not everyone who knows (but can’t prove) that they are right about something and who actually sees that “truth” become public knowledge.  Certainly not after almost 40 years!  And, certainly not about two separate situations in the same week.  But, that’s exactly what has happened to me.

First was the undeniable identity of the “Oysterville sign stealer” who was the one and only suspect by the Espy Company in a sign issue in the mid-eighties .  A large wooden “Property For Sale” sign in the Espy Meadow (now the ORF Meadow) kept being trashed — as in the four-by-four posts supporting it were sawed off in the night and the sign was gone.  It happened twice or maybe three times.  I have forgotten.

My folks were then living in this house and as members of the Espy family (and of the Espy Company) were “caretakers” of the family property that was gradually being sold.  They felt they knew who was responsible for the vandalism.  So did most people in Oysterville.  But you can’t prove gut feelings.  I so wish the folks were still alive to see the photos of the present-day sign thief — the very same person they suspected.

On the 1980 Publication of the Peninsula Primer

The second “vindication” came yesterday via the Chinook Observer’s FaceBook site.  In a series of photographs from past issues, up popped a December 1980 picture and article about Nancy Lloyd and me.  It concerned the publication of the Peninsula Primer which I wrote and Nancy illustrated all those years ago.

If I had remembered that article back in 2006 when I found that Nancy had listed the Primer as one of her earlier publications without mention of me and without mention that she was the illustrator (intimating that she had also written the book),.. I’d have saved myself a lot of angst.  And money.  Nancy, of course, did not remember that she only illustrated but hadn’t participated in writing the book. The copyright attorney I consulted said I might have a  “case” but only if Nancy and I had signed an agreement or a contract ahead of publication.

I don’t know if the clear description of our roles in that endeavor reported by the Observer in this little article would have sufficed.  But it surely would have gone a long way toward vindication — especially among some of our mutual friends who looked at me with decided skepticism when I mistakenly appealed to them for memories and support.  I soon dropped the subject.  But I never forgot.


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.

Will Covid-19 add to children’s literature?

Friday, April 17th, 2020

“Ring Around The Rosie” by Kate Greenaway

Ring around the rosy,
A pocketful of posies,
Ashes, Ashes,
We all fall down.

I’m not sure when I learned that this nursery rhyme is not the innocent childhood song it seems.  I only remember it as being one of the first that I sang and danced to with delight.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned about its grim origins — which didn’t slow me down a whit when it came to teaching it to my own children.

The rhyme, of course, refers to the 1665 Great Plague of London.  The “ring around the rosy” presumably refers to the rash associated with the bubonic plague. The “pocketful of posies” describes the handfuls of herbs people would carry to mask the smell of the sickness and death.  “We all fall down” refers to everyone dying, and the “ashes” are the cremated bodies. Pretty dark for a children’s rhyme, but maybe the philosophy was something like my mother’s, “It’s better to laugh than to cry.”

And it wasn’t the only nursery rhyme that, according to today’s sensibilities, seems too horrible for children.  How about “London Bridge is Falling Down”  that might be about a 1014 Viking attack with a bit of child sacrifice thrown in?  Presumably, it concerns the alleged destruction of London Bridge at the hands of Olaf II of Norway some time in the early 1000s. (“Alleged” because some historians don’t believe that attack ever took place.)

“London Bridge Is Falling Down”

The song’s popularity around the world is often cited as further proof that it was the Vikings who created it and brought the tune to the many places they traveled. Oh, and that whole child sacrifice thing? The theory goes that in order to keep London Bridge upright, its builders thought that it must be built on a foundation of human sacrifice, and that those same humans—mostly children—would help to watch over the bridge and maintain its sturdiness. There is no archaeological evidence to support this but I’m glad I didn’t know about the theory when I was singing, “Build it up with silver and gold, silver and gold, silver and gold….”  So much better than “Build it up with children’s bones…” don’t you think?

Which all leads me to wonder what the children of five hundred years hence will be playing and singing about the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020?  Or will all their games be played virtually in a future well beyond present-day video games?  A pity if that is how it turns out.  I did love those games when I was a child!  Didn’t you?

Just like old times!

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

Lentil Soup

Cynthia and Casey were here for lunch today.  “It’ll be simple,” I wrote them.  “Soup and bread.  And maybe a salad.  You bring dessert.”

“Done!” they wrote back.  Little did I know that yesterday was Casey’s birthday. Fittingly, they brought a cake — chocolate and mousse from the Cottage Bakery!  “Delish!”  But not nearly as good as the conversation, the catching up, the laughter, and the bittersweet feeling you get when you know you have to store it all up until a next time, who knows when.


We spent a while reviewing family members and their progress — not so much from our side or Cynthia’s side, but quite a litany when it came to Killingsworths.  It was the next best thing to seeing then all, but still…

I had written a few days back that Carol Wachsmuth was finishing up the Vespers 2020 schedule and it was coming home to me that the Killingsworth Family had said that last year would be their final one.  After 20+ years!  I really couldn’t take that in.  They wrote back that they would be in Cathlamet later today and could they stop by.  “Yes.  For lunch,” I answered

Casey and Cynthis and Their Spiffy German Fire Engine Camper!

It was perfect!  Nyel made lentil soup and a salad and we had warm, crusty bread to go with it.  We talked about poetry and fiber arts and ghost stories and physical therapy.  And people — so many friends in common!  Some like Tom Taylor, long gone.  And some like David Campiche and Nancy Campiche whose circumstances have changed since Casey and Cynthia moved.  And how Facebook binds us… when we think to go there.


The day went by in a flash.  And then they were off.  A part of our hearts went with them as always.  But also, as always, they left us with much much more than we had before they arrived.  And I’m not talking about the cake!

Flowers! Candy! Cards! Plus A Gift of Time!

Friday, February 28th, 2020

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday!  My birthday was yet a day away when the cards and gifts began arriving!  A gorgeous basket of spring flowers from Charlie, a Birthday Gift Card from Marta, plus a box of chocolates from local friends and cards in my postbox from far-away friends and relatives!  Surely today, the day my 84th, is off to an auspicious beginning.

It’s the ending I’m concerned about, of course.  It was on this day a year ago that Nyel fell and fractured his hip.  He was on his way out to lock up the chickens for the night.  This date, a year later, marks the end of his first week of physical therapy and early glimmers of hope that he will walk again.  My fondest birthday wish is that this day will be a Friday “as usual” with no reason for EMTs or aid cars or ambulances.

Straight from the Coop

I think the plan is for a special brunch featuring (of course!) eggs from the girls and maybe even a birthday Bloody, though that will just lead to a nap when my plan is to spend some solid writing time.  That would be the best treat of all — four or five hours in a row just to sit at my computer and work on my book.  Under ordinary circumstances, I’m lucky to find two uninterrupted hours.  Surely, I can lock myself away from other duties and demands on this day!  (To which Nyel would instantly say, “Don’t call me Shirley!”)

And, anyway, we all have a bonus day tomorrow!  I was born in a leap year so tomorrow will be my 21st February 29th!  My friend and up-the-hill neighbor, Sandra, was actually born on a 29th but I’m not sure which year.  She’s younger than I by several leaps I believe, and I hope she is planning a big hoopty-do.

And speaking of such, in this household we usually don’t do anything special unless the birthday ends with a 5 or a 0.  So…Nyel has another year to get back into stride (so to speak.)   And everyone else… you have a year to get ready to do some serious partying!

What could be better?

Monday, February 17th, 2020

It’s President’s Day!  It’s a holiday!  The sun is shining here in Oysterville and I can’t think of a single place I’d rather be spending the day.  And besides all that, two of my favorite people have been here visiting.

First came a phone call from Tucker.  “Are you available for a few minutes?” he asked.  “I have a couple of things to talk to you about.”  Within five minutes the doorbell rang and there he was with a book to return and an actual list in his hands — the topics he wanted to talk about, just in case we got off on a tangent and he forgot his purpose.  (Which often happens when we get to visiting…)

Tucker and Carol

His list included: 1) a Christmas tree ornament he’d found and yes, it was ours;  2) a big truck that’s been stopping in front of our house about 10 o’clock at night with lights on and motor running and no, we had no idea;  3) an annual meeting of the Oysterville Cemetery Association in May; 4) a question regarding re-purchase by the Assn of a cemetery plot.

I added one of my own — my delight that he and Carol had auditioned for the Readers Theater production of “American Dream.” Also, we talked about the rehearsal coming up on Thursday afternoon at the Ocean Park Timberland Library.  It should be great fun.

Maggie Stuckey

Tucker left just before lunchtime and, shortly afterwards, Maggie arrived right at the time we had agreed upon.  She and I, as we often do, caught up with our latest writing/publishing challenges.  Maggie is always 100% reassuring to me, a total neophyte in comparison to her years in the publishing biz.  She always makes me feel like I know what I’m doing even though (don’t tell her) I really haven’t a clue.

It was the best possible way to spend the middle hours of President’s Day.  I truly hope all of my friends and relations got as much enjoyment out of this day as did I.  ¡Viva los presidentes!

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!