Posts Tagged ‘the writing process’

My Current Parallel Universe

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Mind-boggling Possibilities

When I went out to the coop with the girls’ breakfast this morning, I found myself talking to them about Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost.  I was asking them if they’ve ever had occasion to speak with her.  They clucked and chirped a bit, but I think they were mostly telling me to get on with their morning treats.  I’m not sure they are into paranormal stuff.

Nor am I.  But, I’ve been in the  midst of going over the copyreader’s edits and stewing about the cover image for my upcoming book, Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula, so I’m traveling along some ghostly parallel plane just now.  Come to think of it, the chickens probably are, too.  Just not the same one as mine.

Which makes me wonder just how many parallel universes there might be.  According to an article titled “Parallel Universes: Theories & Evidence” written by Elizabeth Howell in 2018, the concept of a parallel universe “is a facet of the astronomical theory of the multiverse.” (And never mind that the multiverse term immediately puts my puny thought processes in a musical mode.)  Ms. Howell goes on to say, “There actually is quite a bit of evidence out there for a multiverse.”

She briefly expains five different multiverse theories — all of which are totally beyond me and none of which mentions Mrs. Crouch or any of the other ghosts in Historic Haunts…   On the other hand, Ms. Howell does point out that physicist Stephen Hawking questioned the multiverse theory shortly before his death. “We are not down to a single, unique universe, but our findings imply a significant reduction of the multiverse to a much smaller range of possible universes.”

I wish I’d had a chance to talk with Dr. Hawking about where Mrs. Crouch might be in the great scheme of things.  Unfortunately, the closest I ever got to meeting him was when he visited this house via his appearances on “The Big Bang Theory.”  Perhaps he noticed Mrs. C. in passing.  But whether he did or not, it all begs the question: Whatever will I tell the chickens now?


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…

Not quite a “sea” of blue… perhaps a pond?

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

I don’t know about other authors, but the day I dread most in the book-writing process has arrived — the first edits by the copy editor for my “approval” — or not. Perhaps it works differently with a mainstream publisher but with History Press I have had a new copy editor with each book I’ve done for them.  I believe this is the eighth book and eighth copy editor.  Which means starting from square one each time.

For instance — hearing that the History Press policy frowns on “sidebars” and having to explain that I am known for sidebars, that it’s an important part of how I deliever ancillary historic information etc. etc. gets my dander up from the get-go.  Always in the past the copy editor has capitualated but I still must engage them in the discussion and hope that my reasoning is accepted.  Otherwise… Actually, I can’t wrap my mind around the “otherwise.”  A complete re-write?

Then there are the terminology issues — copy editors never like it that I capitalize Peninsula when referring to the North Beach (or Long Beach) Peninsula.  I do it, as does our venerated local newspaper, to differentiate it from the many other peninsulas along our watery coast.  That issue always reminds me of an ongoing discussion that Willard had with a NYT editor about the Long Beach Peninsula NOT being part of the Olympic Peninsula.  It took almost a year, as I recall, for him to win that argument.  “East Coasters can be very parochial in their attitudes,” he said.

References to “the weatherbeach” or  “weather beach” are often difficult for copy editors, too.  Although it’s a term that is not heard much nowadays, it was certainly in common usage historically.  And, these are books about history to be published by the History Press.  Go figure.

Not that I don’t make my fair share of errors well beyond typos and spellcheck glitches.  But usually, my word choice and my manner of presentation has been carefully thought out and I get prickly when copy editors change my pearls of thought.  Fortunately for me, this copy editor has said in his note accompanying his changes:   I was very careful during my review of the text to maintain the original voice and wording as much as possible, and my efforts are simply to present the material in a readable and entertaining way for the reader.  We can but hope.

April 2021 Calendar

My comments/adjustments/explanations are due back to him by April 8th.  Turnaround time is always tight — especially if you have a life.  Or a doctor’s appointment.  A week seems short for the consideration of possible changes to a 45,000 word manuscript.  His concerns are noted in blue.  I took a quick look — maybe not a sea of blue, but definitely more than a puddle.  Oh my!

On the other hand, the publishing date for Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula has been moved up from June 23rd to June 21st — unless that’s a typo.  You never know…

Authors and Food and Recipes, Oh My!

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

We are deep into the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series by Robert Crais.  Set in current-day Los Angeles, the plots deal with all manner of current-day cultural problems, the protagonists are tough yet quirky, and there is a huge dollop of humor in each book.  Plus, there is a sizeable food component throughout.  I almost have it in mind to write to Mr. Crais and ask if he has considered doing an Elvis Cole (or Joe Pike, for the vegetarian readers) cookbook.

Probably a cheeky thought.  But I do feel that I have one of those six-degrees-of-separation relationships with Robert Crais.  In 2009, Nyel and I surprised Charlie with a visit to the final production of “Fuggetaboudit” — a play by his writing partner, the late Gordon Bressack,in which Charlie had a leading role.

As it turned out, Charlie had been invited to a graduation party that night for the daughter of his building contractor, Gene.  He gave Gene a call, asked if could bring along two old folks from Oysterville, and we spent a fabulous evening at a huge outdoor barbecue with a hundred or so of Gene’s family and friends.  We felt like we’d known everyone for years and during a long discussion with Gene, himself, (when it came out that I was a writer) he told us that he had done a lot of work for a local writer of detective novels — “a guy named Robert Crais.”

So, you see?  Armed with that much background material, maybe I could write Mr. Crais and suggest that he do a cookbook along the lines of “The Nero Wolfe Cookbook” by Rex Stout.  And perhaps I could urge him to do it soon — before everyone else is trying to reconstruct the dishes referred to throughout his stories.  That’s what happened to the non-existent Spenser Cookbook that Robert Parker spoke of but never managed to write.  Just sayin’.

So… how to begin?  “Dear Mr. Crais, We almost know each other…”

A Truly Wonderful “Normal” Morning!!

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Michael and Charlie at Our Grand Affair, Sept. 2019

Yesterday morning our friend Michael Lemeshko came bearing drinks (café mochas and English Breakfast tea) and a book (UNSETTLED GROUND – The Whitman Massacre and Its Shifting Legacy in the American West by Cassandra Tate.)  It was so great to see him and have a “good-and-proper visit,” as my Great Aunt Minette used to say.  My cheeks still ache from all the  smiling!

It was our first visit with Michael since long before we went into sheltering mode.  We had lots to catch up on starting with the changes at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, the future prospects for the Community Historian program, and the status of local history in general.

Grandpa Michael with Two of Six!

We lamented the many “academic” and “otherwise” sites on the internet that are grabbing their history from who-knows-where and disseminating amazing flat-out-lies about once-upon-a-time here in Pacific County.  And we hope Frank Lehn’s ears were ringing — he is our hero in the local history department and if you haven’t caught his FaceBook site you are definitely in the minority among local history buffs.

All-in-all, it was a lovely visit.  Long overdue doesn’t begin to cover it!  And we hardly even touched the important stuff — like family and book projects and when “next time” will be.  We’re hoping it’s just the beginning of the New Normal around here!

My new Observer series — coming soon!

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

In The Works

I’ve recently completed the first article in my new “Doctoring in Early Pacific County” series for the Chinook Observer.  Watch for it!

Like my last series about Pioneer Schools, the doctoring series has been prompted by some of our major concerns during the pandemic.  It seemed to me that as we began to break new ground with virtual schooling at all educational levels, it might be interesting to look at how far we’ve come (or perhaps not) education-wise in the last 170 years here on the Western Edge.  It was great fun to research and write about the one-room-schools, the valiant teachers who taught in them, and the obstacles that our forebears overcame to get an education.  I hope readers got as much enjoyment from reading the articles as I did in writing them.

Image from the Internet

The doctoring series is even more interesting in some ways, perhaps because there have been such strides in medicine during that same 170-year time period.  It’s hard to believe that many of the diagnostic tools such as X-rays and medicines such as penicillin didn’t come into use for generations after our pioneer ancestors were carving out their homes in this wilderness of early Pacific County.  And yet, they endured and recovered from many an illness or accident without benefit of “modern medicine” or hospitals or even doctors.

The Sou’wester

I’m so grateful that our forebears sometimes wrote of their “doctoring” experiences and that the Pacific County Historical Society’s quarterly magazine, the Sou’wester, has published these accounts over the years.  As you might expect, however, the most difficult part of my research, so far, is finding illustrations.  Schoolhouses were easy.  Sick rooms… not so much.



Suddenly, up came my name over and over.

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

My Byline but Not My Writing

Disconcerting and frustrating don’t begin to express it.  This morning I was searching Google for articles by Frank Turner in the old Ilwaco Tribune  and up popped a site called “Muck Rack” with excerpts from article after article by  “Sydney Stevens.”  The problem:  some were by me; some were not.   The ones that were by me seemed to come from the Chinook Observer.  Most were from series I have written during the past few years.  But several that I saw (and I have not yet done an extensive search) are purportedly by someone with the same name and written for a site called  I haven’t checked it out yet.

No, thank you.

But I have taken a look at this “Muck Rack” site.   The home page says: “The all-in-one PR software you’ve been waiting for — A centralized Public Relations Management (PRM) platform to help your team build media relationships, collaborate from anywhere, and measure success.”   And it offers a “Demo.” So I guess it’s some sort of advertisement or “opportunity,” though it doesn’t say so.  And I’m not sure how it targets me, in particular — maybe just because i’m doing the Google search.  Another cyberspace mystery — and not in a good way.

Presumably you can let the site owners know of problems but, try as I might, I could not access them through their little box which gives problem choices (none that fit) to check.  I checked several, anyway, but it appears that the process is an example only — doesn’t go anywhere, so there is no recourse.

Badgers??? Not written by me…

The more I think about it, the more I conclude that it’s a site that can help you find articles by a certain author if he/she has been published on the internet.  I wish the screen that popped up had shown articles by Frank Turner rather than by me and other people named Sydney Stevens.  I might have been interested in exploring further.

I can’t decide if the site presents a good opportunity or not.  If I follow-through enough to find out, I’ll probably be inundated with email messages etc.  from them.  (Ms. Skeptical) Or, be sucked to spending money for something that doesn’t work. (Ms. Frugal) If any readers have used it, I hope they let me know.  (Ms Hopeful)  Also, the name is a bit-off-putting.  Too similar to muckrake which to this author, does not have good connotations at all.  Boo!  Hiss!

Catching Up With Reality

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

July 26, 2017

Last evening a friend called — a friend who lives not all that far away, but whom I’ve not seen or visited with since The Sheltering began.  It was good to talk with her.  But hard.  Lots of changes in her life that I wish I’d koown about, though there was nothing I could have done.

Among other things, we spoke about a couple of families who were deported by ICE a few years back — families I wrote about in my “Stories from the Heart” series for the Observer.  My friend has kept up with those families through occasional phone calls and she brought me up to date.  Especially she told me about “Maria” (as I called her in my story) and her three young children.

When I met them in the summer of 2017, Maria was working out on Willapa Bay, trying to save enough money to move with her three children.  Erin Glenn and I went calling — to see how we could help:
“…Dos años he said in answer to Erin’s ¿Cuántos años tienes?  Two years.  And he solemnly held up five fingers to prove his point.  Oscar is the middle child.  Curly-haired Alexa is ten months, and Joel, who was off playing with a friend, is ten and on summer vacation from Ocean Park School.  Their father, Miguel, has been gone for three months – deported to Mexico.”

From The Daily Astorian, December 10, 2018

“How are they doing?” I asked my friend.  “They’re having a very hard time,” came the answer.  “Miguel has planted pineapples but it takes a year for the crop to mature.  Meanwhile, he does odd jobs for a friend.  Maria and her sister-in-law cook during the week and sell their food at a roadside stand on the weekends.  Joel has a job, too, — digging graves.  He is 13 now.”

Digging graves.  At thirteen.  OMG.  I flashed on the regulation-sized volleyball court Miguel had built in their back yard here and how there was often a game going among adults and kids, as well.  I thought of how Joel had chosen to leave with his family rather than stay here with a friend, though the offer had been made.  I thought of Oscar, now truly as old as his fingers had told me…

Sometimes “catching up” isn’t all that great.  Sometimes “reality” sucks.

Reading Between The Lines

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

I’ve never thought about the possibility that I am a literal thinker.  In fact, I take a bit of pride in being able to connect the dots.  To read between the lines, so to speak.  But sometimes, as in the case of When Captain Flint Was Still A Good Man, the dots are just too far apart.  Or the lines are too close together.

The book, by Nick Dybek, was suggested to me by my friend Aaron Rabin.  So I should have known.  Aaron, like my former brother-in-law, the late Jim Howell,  often thinks and talks on a plane that I only fully understand when we are face-to-face.  It’s as if we float along a wave length that doesn’t need literal translation.  But the wave length disappears when we part company.

Jim, now well known for his minimalist artworks,  once hired me to write some biographical material about him and his newly developing understanding of art.  I took copious notes in our many interviews and we communicated perfectly — or so we both believed. But once I got to writing, I found my notes undecipherable.  I simply could not put into words (or even thoughts) what we had discussed so thoroughly only the day before.  I had to tell him I couldn’t follow through.

Aaron Rabin

With Aaron, it’s more a matter of the books he likes and recommends.  Actually, the first was one I told him about — To Know What Dream by Millie Sherwood, my friend Ann “Memi” Anderson’s mother.  Aaron went to great lengths to borrow the last known extant copy from Memi, herself.  Aaron loved the book — even had it rebound for her in gratitude. I appreciate the book because of Millie and Memi — but I never could “get” it.

And now: When Captain Flint Was Still A Good Man.  “…it’s a fantastic PNW novel – and I couldn’t help thinking of you!” Aaron wrote.  So I borrowed the book from the library.  I’m reading it now.  I love the descriptions, the imagery.  But… so far we are not as one.  It makes me wonder…  literally.

A new perspective on history?

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

How many facts?

“Ah well, I reflect as I brew the coffee, I might as well try to enjoy my errors since I make so many of them…”  Sylvia Ashton Warner again.  I wish it was one her bits of wisdom that I had absorbed long ago.  I’m hoping it’s one of those never-too-late things.

Probably, like everyone else, there are some mistakes that don’t bother me, no matter if it’s I or someone else who is making them.  But I have an especially hard time with factual errors involving history.  I hate it when I write something and am found to be wrong about a date or a name or a circumstance.  Once it’s “out there” it’s hard to take it back, hard to correct. no matter who was mistaken or when the error first appeared.

I’ve spent many an angst-filled hour, for instance, trying to correct the historic record regarding my great-grandfather Espy’s role in the founding of Oysterville.  I have his own words in a diary to corroborate his claim that an Indian named Old Klickeas told him where to find “more oysters than the Bruce Boys ever thought of.”   Not Nahcotti as so many have claimed.  It was Old Klickeas, not Nahcotti,  who met Espy and his friend Clark here on the bayshore.  Espy said so, himself, and even his grandson, my venerable Uncle Willard,  got it wrong.

How many errors?

But, try as I might, I cannot correct the record — I cannot expunge all of the references to Nahcotti being “the one.”  Once written, once published, once copied, once on the internet — multiplied a gazillion times, the error persists forever.  I hate that.  And yet, as new information is uncovered, the errors multiply.  It’s just the way it is.  Lost documents are found and clarify a date or a name or a place.  A first hand account — a diary or a letter, perhaps, can update or even change one’s perspective on history.  But changing the historic record is another matter. It is the most frustrating part of trying to write (or tell) about the past.  It’s why it’s probably best to claim to be a storyteller — not a historian.

However… “try to enjoy my errors?”  That’s probably an impossibly quantum leap for me.  Maybe I could just be more forgiving of myself.  And of others… especially of others.