Posts Tagged ‘books’

Not quite here and not quite now.

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021

Mudlark ©1993 by Sheila Simonson

From page 42 of Mudlark by Sheila Simonson:
It’s happening all along the dunes, Mrs. Dodge.  Perfectly good houses — not shacks by any means — being torn down and replaced with big monstrosities like something out of Sunset Magazine.  Pretty soon we’ll look like Los Angeles.  The new houses block the view for the people on the crest, too… I don’t know why anyone would need a house that big to retire to.”
“I ventured the possibility the owners weren’t thinking of retirement.”
She snorted.  “Thinking of renting the places out by the wee more likely.  It used to be quiet around here, no traffic, no crime.  Now we’ve got murder and arson and idiots driving sixty miles an our up and down that road to town.”

The book, a murder mystery, was published in 1993, the third in a series by a Vancouver, WA, author who did a number of signings at the Bookvendor when we owned it.  I have the next two in the series but not the first two — go figure — and I don’t think I’ve ever read the three I have.  I began this one the other night when I was suddenly out of reading material and it called to me from a bookshelf in the bedroom.  I’m enjoying it and was struck by some of the prescient observations that the author made all those years ago — observations that I’ve heard made about the “here and now” in almost the same words.

Meadowlark ©1996 by Sheila Simonson

And no wonder!  On the very first page of Mudlark, Mrs. Simonson writes:
A Note on Geography:  The Shoalwater Peninsula is my gift to the state of Washington.  In Larkspur, I inserted a fictional county on the northern California border.  Nobody objected, so I have felt free in this book to edit Washington, too.
Residents of the Long Beach Peninsula will recognize some features of their own corner of the state.  However, I made the long needle of land subbier, with a little hook of expensive real estate at the northern end where the peninsula terminates in the Leadbetter Point wildlife sanctuary. I substituted all six towns and replaced them with two purely imaginary ones — Kayport and Shoalwater.  The demography of my fictional peninsula, including ethnic composition is deliberately different from that of the Long Beach area.  The Nekana are an imaginary tribe.  Shoalwater Bay is the old name of Willapa Bay.
None of the people or communities in this book is real though the issues facing Shoalwater towns bear a resemblance to problems common to beach communities from the Canadian border to Brookings, Oregon, on the California border.

According to what I can learn on Google, there are five books in the Lark Dodge Series.  I have an order into the library for the first two…  The jury’s out as to whether I’ll wait to read the rest of them in order…

It’s a whole other language, doncha know?

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

For the first time in some years, I am so immersed in a book series that I don’t even like to surface to write something of my own.  The author, Elly Griffiths, is British and the series, the Ruth Galloway Novels, is set in Norfolk County, England, in an area that reminds me of the saltmarshes and tide flats of Willapa Bay. Protagonist, Dr. Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist — an “old bones expert.”

The books fall into the “mystery” category which doesn’t do them justice by half.  Right now I’m in the midst of The Lantern Men — the 12th in the (so far) 14-book series — and like all of the others it contains a good deal of folklore, scientific information, modern-day relationships and complicated family arrangements.  The mysteries are almost secondary — almost!

One of the pleasures of these books is the language — British English, sometimes explained and sometimes not.  And, I’m not always sure I agree with the explanations, anyway.  In this book, for instance, an American friend explains that “biscuits” are called “cake” in the United States.  Really?  I thought English biscuits were more synonymous with our “cookies” or “crackers.”  And who knew that “pudding” at the end of an English meal really means “dessert”?  Or that children “paddle” in the shallow water at the beach — so much more colorful than “wade.”

Author Elly Griffiths, 2018

Besides all that, who among us wouldn’t love a protagonist who describes herself as weighing a bit over “twelve stone” (168 pounds),  who eats with enjoyment and laments her plain-Jane wardrobe, yet has more than her share of sex appeal and charisma — and besides all that she is very intelligent, sensible. and conflicted like every really interesting person I know!  She seems so real and so approachable that I sometimes want to climb right into the book and go for a walk with her!

I’m not too concerned about overtaking Elly Griffiths’ Dr. Ruth Galloway series, though I’m sure it will happen within a week or so.  I am pleased to say that she has written at least one stand-alone novel as well as another crime series, “The Brighton Mysteries,” under her Elly Griffiths pseudonym.  In addition, there are several novels under her real name, Domenica de Rosa.  (When her first crime novel came along her agent told her she needed a crime novelist’s name – and so Elly Griffiths was born.)  By the time I finish all of those, perhaps Number Fifteen in the Dr. Ruth Galloway series will be at our local library!  Or maybe I’ll get back to writing something, myself.



See you Saturday-the-17th in Klipsan Beach!

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Yesterday at BOLD

I do believe I was born to party and that’s what my book signing at BOLD felt like yesterday!  So many friends came to hear me talk and to buy books!  Friends from long ago.  Friends from afar.  Friends from the neighborhood.  Friends from FaceBook. Even “friends” who only know me through my books!  So so so fun!

And when I got home I saw a few laments on FaceBook — people who couldn’t get there yesterday or who hadn’t made it to Adelaide’s the week before.  If you were among those who missed the “party” I just want you to know you’ll soon have another opportunity.  I’ll be talking and signing at the Senior Center in Klipsan Beach from 1:00 to 3:00 on Saturday, July 17th.  And, no, you don’t need to be a “senior” to come!  It’s open to all and they have plenty of chairs and I’m told I’ll be provided with a mic… just in case my old “teacher’s voice” isn’t up to the challenge.


So mark your calendar and come on over!  It will probably be the last signing I do until the ghostly month of October.  Meanwhile, of course, the book will remain on sale at these local outlets:  the gift shops at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and at the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse; Time Enough Books, Ilwaco; Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, Ilwaco; The Cranberry Museum, Long Beach; BOLD, Long Beach; and Adelaide’s in Ocean Park.

If you live elsewhere and can’t get to the beach, I urge you to check with your local bookstores. (If you tell them it’s a hot item and that they can order from History Press, they may begin stocking it themselves. They probably should also stock my first ghost book, too — Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  Several stories in the first are continued in the second and it helps to know the backstory!) Amazon also carries them and has plenty in stock I am told, although I’ve seen several of their websites that say they are “temporarily out” of Historic Haunts — which apparently is not true.  Go figure!

My One Track Mind

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

Sydney After Adelaide’s Signing Event, 7-3-21

From noon-thirty until two-thirty today I was scheduled to give a book talk at Adelaides — my first for this second ghost book, Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.  So, I scurried around with my morning chores — feed and water the chickens, refurbish the hummingbird feeder, spray Deer Fence on roses, hydrangeas, primroses, and camellias.  (Oh… and on nasturtiums!  Who knew?  But someone has been eating them and it doesn’t look like slug work.)

We ate an early lunch (read mid-morning snack) and I was on my way, hoping against hope that Adelaide’s still had enough books!  Every book seller on the Peninsula has replenished once and has called again…  More books on their way but North Carolina’s a far piece and there’s a holiday and will they get here in time for the next signing and and and?  Me worry?  YES!

It was crowded at Adelaide’s.  SRO!  Some people I knew — even from afar! — and many others whose faces were familiar and still others who were completely unknown.  I talked for a while.  I answered questions.  And then I signed.  And signed!  50 books in all — 41 of the new ones and 9 old ones.  Plus, a few that had been purchased elsewhere…

Adelaide’s at the
Taylor Hotel, by Jean Stamper

I finished about 2:45 and then PJ (husband of Jill, both of whom volunteered to “take care of my every need” — and they did!) asked to take my picture.  It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that, despite my best intentions, I had forgotten pictures entirely!  I had intended to photograph the crowd.  And the line of folks waiting for my signature.  And maybe even the parking lot.  Damn!

Thanks, PJ, for sending me a copy of the one you took!  It’s a great one, doncha think???

The Tip of The Iceberg

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

I don’t know about you, but when I receive just a little bit of information about something — especially if it’s not in the Good News Department — I wonder.  Sometimes I even stew about it.  Today was one of those days because of one of those things.

Actually, it began yesterday when my friend Marion wrote from Olympia that she had ordered Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula from Amazon and: there was some kind of glitch so they refunded my money. I decided to go through Time Enough Books in Ilwaco as they could ship it out right away. 

My first thought:  Bless you, Marion.  My second:  What went wrong at Amazon?

Then, today, I received a Facebook message from my friend Isabelle in France:  I’m looking forward to get my copy. The delivery is being delayed. Have a great date, Sydney. Wish I were in the area and could attend the presentation and signing of your New Book.  I wrote:  Amazon?  Yes, she told me, but she is choosing to give it a few days before ordering anew from a local bookstore.

For me, those bits of information were the tip of an iceberg.  Where was the problem — with Amazon or with History Press?  Would the books I’ve ordered for my book signings arrive in time?  What’s the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say?  I got in touch with marvelous Elysia who handles all my book orders. She was wonderfully reassuring:  It must be an Amazon problem. Did they specify what the issue was? We have plenty of inventory and are shipping without issue.  

Whew!  The iceberg seems much less ominous — in fact, melting as we speak.  Take note, dear readers.  Buy locally!!!

Any Charles Todd fans out there?

Friday, June 25th, 2021

The most recent Charles Todd book in the Ian Rutledge SeriesIt’s been a while since I’ve belonged to a book club and I can’t rightly remember if we ever read any of Charles Todd’s books.  Ours was a no-name mystery book club so Charles Todd’s stories would have fit right in.  Plus, I think we would have been quite fascinated with the author — a mother/son duo, Caroline and Charles Todd, who live in North Carolina and Delaware, respectively.

They are best known for a series of novels, set in post World War I England. The books deal with the cases of Inspector Ian Rutledge, a veteran of the European campaigns who is attempting to pick up the pieces of his Scotland Yard career. However, he must keep his greatest burden a secret: suffering from shell shock, he lives with the constant, cynical, taunting voice of Hamish MacLeod, a young Scots  soldier he was forced to execute on the battlefield for refusing an order.

Thus far there are 23 in the Ian Rutledge series — all published by Harper Collins.  I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the first 22.  I love the authentic feel of Great Britain in the twenties — from the distinctive British language that is used (surely one of the duo has spent much time with elderly Brits to get the nuances so perfectly) right down to the descriptions of villages, the “motor cars,” the interactions between people.   It all rings true in each and every book.

Even with number 23, A Fatal Lie, which I’ve just completed, I can find no fault with the setting, the characters, or the plot — except that there were too many.  Too many characters.  Too many towns.  Too many roads.  Too many possibilities.  Halfway through I wished I had kept, at a very minimum, a list of characters and, perhaps a rough map and the trips and return trips Rutledge was making.  But, by then it already seemed too late.

The latest in the Bess Crawford series — also by Charles Todd

By the end of the book, I really didn’t care whodunnit and, in any event, I certainly couldn’t have told you why.  I wish I knew if it was my aging, drifty mind, or if this book really was different.  If only our Mystery Book Club was still meeting (or maybe it is, but it’s a mystery to me), perhaps I could find out if anyone else felt the same way.

Barring that, I looked up a few reviews.  Most seemed pretty boiler-plate-straight-from-the-publisher, but one by L.J. Roberts said:  One does need to keep track of who is where. Between the character names and Ian traveling from place to place, and back again, it can become confusing. Pulling up a map proves helpful. It is also a challenge to follow the timeline. There is a lack of clarity as to when things happened as there can be the impression of something happening in the past only to realize it is in the recent past. Follow the trail of bodies which are always one step in front of Ian. Yet it seems to take a while before any real progress is made and then, after all the to-ing and fro-ing, there is the great and complete confession. Good grief.



It’s out! Get your copy while they last!

Monday, June 21st, 2021

Cover: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

It’s June 21st at last — the official publication date of Historic Hauts of the Long Beach Peninsula!  The books are on the shelves of your nearest booksellers!  On the Peninsula, those outlets include Time Enough Books, the gift shops at the Cape D Interpretive Center and the North Head Lighthouse and the Heritage Museum in Ilwaco; BOLD and the Cranberry Museum in Long Beach; Adelaide’s in Ocean Park.

Also, of course, through Amazon, but I urge you to support our local booksellers — and, besides, I do better financially when you buy from the places I supply.  (Is this called full disclosure?)  I make close to a dollar a book if you buy from the stores I’ve listed, but only a few cents per book from other outlets.  Just sayin’…

But… more importantly, I’m hoping for feedback — especially from local readers.  The very first story in the book, for instance, is about the cadre (Yes! Cadre!) of ghosts at the erstwhile Lamplighter Restaurant.  My question:  After you have read the information about each of these persistent spirits, where do you think they’ve gone (or have they?) now that the restaurant is closed?

Another question is one I, myself, posed in the continuing saga of Mrs. Crouch — the ghost Nyel and I have lived with for twenty-plus years.  The question is the title of the story, itself:  “Closure for Mrs. Crouch?”  I’m interested in knowing what readers think about the additional information concerning the suspect in her murder — if, indeed, it was a murder.  And does that information provide answers for Sarah Crouch that will satisfy her after all these years?

Or… does the book pose still more unknowns?  Should I be starting yet a third book about the ghosts here at the beach?  I’m eager for your input after you’ve read Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.  (But please don’t give anything away to those who have not yet read it!  Message me or email me privately with any revealing thoughts!  But “book reviews” and encouragement to other potential readers would be great!)

Treasure In Plain Brown Wrapping

Monday, June 7th, 2021

A Package for The Author

It sat on the bench by our front door — a small, unprpossessing package addressed to me.  It had apparently been left by FedEx during our Friday Night Gathering and no one had noticed it as they left.  There it was, waiting patiently, on Saturday morning.

The minute I saw the return address, I knew the contents of that little package!  The first five hot-off-the-press copies of Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula!  Nestled in bubble wrap and with a packing slip tucked inside, there they were at long last!  As I always do when those first books arrive, I wondered how Arcadia Publishing arrived at “five” as the magic number for the free copies that the author gets before the books are sent out to retail outlets for presentation on the publication date — in this case, June 21st.

The Ten Stories in Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

Twelve would be a better number — at least for this book.  One for Ralph whose research about Reverend Crouch prompted me to write the book; one for Cate who wrote the Foreword; one for Paul who drew the map; one for Vicki who took a specific photo for me (and did a drawing, besides); and one each for Colleen, Charlotte, Tiffany, Johanna, Michelle, Shelly and Doug, and Stephanie and Dave — all of whom were generous in telling me their stories and in sharing their experiences.  And maybe one for me.

But, eventually, those I’ve ordered will come and my thank-yous can be given!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!  I hope everyone likes this one as much as I do!  (Especially Mrs. Crouch!)


A Wonderfully Humbling Experience

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, American lepidopterist, writer, teacher, and founder of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

We received an invitation from Bob Pyle yesterday to “attend” the PEN America annual literary awards “at a gala ceremony to be announced live in NYC and sent out virtually to everywhere that people love books,” said Bob.  In a “normal” year we, like so many others, would never have had this opporutunity.  But, yesterday at 4:00 PDT, there we were.  OMG!  It was wonderful and totally disconcerting at the same time!

Not only had I read NONE of the books nor seen any of the plays,  I was totally ignorant regarding the authors, the playwrights, and, in some cases, even the genres — except, of course, for dear Bob and his many books.  It was hugely humbling and incredibly enlightening all at the same time.

You can check it all out by watching yesterday’s ceremony, yourself.  Just go to 2021 PEN Awards Youtube.  You’ll see what I mean… or maybe not.  Maybe you’ve read the books and know the authors.  If so, don’t tell me.  I am slowly coming to grips (AGAIN!) with the fact that I am so NOT well read and so NOT intellectual and so NOT well-informed.

Bob was nominated for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay — “For a seasoned writer whose collection of essays is an expansion on their corpus of work and preserves the distinguished art form of the essay.”  He was among the five finalists vying for the $15,000 prize and the priceless prestige that goes with such an award.  Although I’ve not yet read Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays, I am fairly confident that I have read several of the sixteen collected essays in this new (September 2020) book.  That Bob was a finalist did not surprise me in the least.  He is not only an expert in his field, but has won numerous other literary awards over the years.  I find that reading anything Bob writes is not only a delight but is likely to expand my horizons in unexpected ways.

Nominated for the 2021 Pen America Award for PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay

But, I have to admit that my confidence in Bob’s ability to win wavered just a bit when actor Kara Young, host of the awards ceremony, pointed out in her opening remarks:  “We stand in solidarity with all those who are threatened by anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-Trans hatred.”  I just couldn’t help the errant thought that Dr. Robert Michael Pyle is (sorry, Bob!) “an old white guy.”  Did he have a chance in this year of women and people of color?  As it turned out, it was Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Had I Known: Collected Essays, who won the “Art of the Essay” category.

Disappointed doesn’t half describe my feelings.  However, I was bursting my buttons with pleasure and pride at knowing Bob, and so glad for this virtual stretch into the world of literature.  My must-read-list has expanded exponentially.  I wonder how many of those winning authors’ books I can read before the 2022 PEN America Awards roll around.  I doubt that I’ll be lucky enough to attend the ceremony next time — much less know one of the finalists!  Thanks for inviting us, Bob! We loved “being there!”



Books, covers, and what you can tell…

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

The “Sequel” is Coming

So… the publisher has sent the book cover for my approval and, thus far, I’m having a love/hate reaction.  I love how it looks — the Oysterville Church, gorgeous as always, and with a rather ominous background that seems ghostly, indeed.  But I hate the implications with the picture situtated, as it is, right below the title: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.

Perhaps I’m being super-sensitive, but the insinuation (at least to me) is that the church, itself, is haunted. It is not. Never has been.  Nor has there ever been an idle rumor to that effect.  But, sure as shooting, if the book wears that cover, the “reports” will begin and before you know it the TV cameras and the ghost-busters will arrive…  Or, that is my fear.

I expressed my concerns to my editor who, I hasten to say, has been great!  She is in consultation with the cover designer to see what can be done.  I thought it might be easier to change the title than to find a different, more suitable photograph but she said that it’s too late.  It’s been “finalized and logged for their retailers” which I guess means the word about the book is being circulated as we speak.

Stay tuned for Book Launch information!

Maybe that old adage “You can’t tell a book by it’s cover” will hold true and people will realize that there are no stories in this one about the church being haunted.  On the other hand, perhaps the article by Corinne A. Kratz of Emory University in the May 1994 Cultural Anthropology journal is right.  In “Telling/Selling A Book By It’s Cover” she wrote:  “… a cover is a marketing device, an aesthetic prduction, and a representation that may relate to the book’s content. What picture can help sell a thousand books?”

Or maybe my concerns are for nothing.  Maybe I should just be content with the thought that the reading public has more sense than we credit them with.  Maybe…