Monday, November 30, 2009

Deer Camp

Deer camp is over for another year. This time we only had three days, but we crammed a lot into those few days. Of course the object isn't so much to shoot a deer as it is to hang out together at the cabin and revert to pioneer life and mountain man ways. If we had a drum, we'd have beat on it, but instead JT brought his guitar. We had some strangers though. When you broadcast an open invitation to your buddies to come join us at the camp, you don't always know who's going to show up. This time one friend brought along two of his friends. They were welcome of course. Always glad to have a few more hunters stay at the old cabin, but within a few hours it became clear they had come to actually hunt. We didn't have the heart to tell them there were no deer in the neighborhood, but by the end of the day Saturday they'd come to that conclusion on their own. The three of them came driving down the driveway in the monster four wheel drive Chevy with the dual exhaust, and piled out of the truck and declared in no uncertain terms, "there ain't no f....g deer within twenty miles of this camp!" Well I knew that, but I asked them if they'd had a good day? Had they seen some nice country? Had they enjoyed being out in the woods? My questions fell on deaf ears. Without pausing too long they announced they were going back home where they might at least "see a deer." It took less then an hour for them to pack up and shove off into the dark. We heard the dual exhausts rubble into the distance as they drove out the camp road. Inside the cabin the gas lights gave off a friendly glow and the old woodstove radiated heat. Too much heat really. Thousands of hibernating house flies had been tricked into thinking it was June and they had invaded the cabin. Flies were everywhere buzzing against the windows and the screens. Falling into our hair. One fell into the bowl of popcorn. Soon it was all out war. We sprayed and sprayed and the flies were dropping like....well...flies. It took two hours to kill, sweep and discard the plague of flies. As the evening drew on we four enjoyed playing cards and knocking back a few brews and stirring up noble hearty meals on the stove. We sang a few songs and read a few stories and later in the evening we began to recall other "deer camps" and days gone by, and past hunts and past meals and history making cribbage hands. By midnight we were all snugged into sleeping bags watching the woodfire flicker through the grate of the stove. Ben yawned and said in a loud voice, too bad those fellers took off. Yeah, we said, they missed the best part of deer camp.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buried treasure

We introduced our friends to geocaching and they loved it. It was our annual autumn get away in the western Maine mountains with dear dear friends. Before going I download
the coordinates for several geocaches in the Sugarloaf area. In case you don't know (and our friends did not know either) geocaching is a game played by people around the world. Geocachers hide things in likely outdoor places and then publish the latitude and longtitude coordinates for the site on the website. Other geocachers look at these caches and attempt to find them by using their handheld GPS. Often going after a geocache is just an excuse for a hike or a road trip, but seeking the treasure is a lot our friends found out. We began with three caches that were supposed to be hidden along the trails of the Maine Huts and Trails association. The friends did not know what to expect. The gps will usually get you within ten feet of the cache but then you must scouer the ground and the trees and rocks searching for the elusive hiding place. Some caches are very cleverly hidden. The first one was hidden in a stump and when we pulled it out everyone laughed and smiled. That only whetted their appetite and enthusiasm. where's the next one? they all wanted to know? This time the box was hidden under a rock. We prowled around the brookside turning over logs and bending down to peer under boulders. Here it is! one of the friends shouted. I found it! I found it! Usually a geocache contains trinkets and small items for trading as well as a small log book for recording your "find". The idea is to take an item and replace it with something you brought And so the game goes on. The ones I had downloaded into my handheld were not high on the difficulty scale. But it didn't matter. Hiking together along the trails and then scattering around in the woods to find the cache was huge fun. The last one was near the road and hidden inside the guard rail. We walked right past it but the gps pointed us back to the location. When we returned to the cabin all the talk was about the morning hunting geocaches, and how this one was obvious and this one was hard to find, and this one was hidden so well and on and on. Who'd have thought six adults would have had so much fun chasing after hidden treasures? But after all its not the cache itself that creates the fun but the searching, and puzzle solving and the sweet feeling of success when you reach under a root and feel the tupperware box. Plus it was a group effort. Working together to unravel clues and then sharing insights on where the "cacher" might have hidden their
stash only added to the fun and feeling of accomplishment. I wasnt' sure they'd even be interested in the sport but now their asking about which devices to buy so they can take their grandkids out in the woods and search for more buried treasure. But as we all found out, the treasure is not in what we found, but in the journey we all took to get to the cache. Happy geocaching. the public site that controls caching around the world is

Friday, October 16, 2009


In olden days the distances along the old Boston Post Road were marked at every mile by a stone post. These were usually chipped out of granite and stood upright in a post hole to mark the progress along the road. They were called "Milestones."It seems I've
been thinking about various milestones in my life of late. For one the editor for my book is hosting a signing and meet 'n greet next month, but I won't be there. Unfortunately her open house conflicts with "deer camp" so I was forced to make a tough choice. Whether to spend the time in the woods with my sons or join a few other authors for a couple of hours when we might meet two or three patrons of the bookshop. I had participated in a similar affair two years ago when the editor had a booth at the local craft trade show. That was fun. But again the traffic on my afternoon was rather thin. Besides "deer camp" is a family tradition and I don't plan to miss out as long as I'm able and healthy enough. Fact is there'll be a day not all that far in the future when I may not be able to go. So this is kind of a milestone, much as I'd like to publicize the book, I'm choosing another route. We passed a milestone too with our 18 month old grandson when he had his first haircut. We were a little surprised we had grown so fond of his longish hair and curls. But his mom was under pressure because people were mistaken him for a baby girl, so off to the barbershop they went. Another milestone of sorts. Its amazing to me how we reach and then pass these significant and not-so-significant events in our lives. In his case its things like taking the first steps (he's a very good walker these days), sleeping through the night, drinking from a cup, his first words, his first haircut, boarding that big yellow school bus for the first time. Oh the immensity of it all! Its a wonder we ever make it to adulthood and beyond. But we hurtle along life's path passing first one milestone then another and before we know it we pass the "last" milestone and disappear around a bend in the road and those left behind us cannot see beyond. I guess what intrigues me the most about all this is the inevitability of it. No matter what we may do, most of these events are going to transpire in our lives. We are going to change and things are going to happen and then we're going to move on to something else. All of which reminds me that the joy is in the journey and so we should enjoy the trip and savor each milestone we reach. Even a first haircut.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Good things come to those who wait...or so they say. Well in this case the results were well worth waiting for. Back in the middle of this rainy wet summer, Carol Standish from Points East magazine paid me a call and we spent part of the morning together discussing the book and life in general. We had a great time thoroughly enjoying each other's company. From that interview Carol wrote a review of the book as well as a description of who I am, and both are published in the September 2009 issue of Points East. You know it is always a thrill for a writer to see his or her name in print, so I'm grateful to Carol for having been so generous and sincere in her remarks. Points East is a local boating and cruising magazine. Usually people on summer cruises have a bookshelf in the cabin of their boat stocked with a variety of books. Some to wyle away a summer afternoon while anchored in some remote picturesque island cove, or to help maintain sanity when becalmed with day after gloomy day of fog. Carol advises that my book might be a surprising addition to any boat library. Actually its been a slow summer for the book. We've been preoccupied with so many other things it seems that selling and promoting the book has taken a back seat. We did enlist the aid of a computer literate friend to help prepare the text for eventual uploading to Amazon's Kindle. This is still a work in progress which we hope we will have to complete this fall. Also the writing goes on and the volume of stories continues to grow. We have the material for a second book, but now we need to find a publisher. Having been turned down by a few here in Maine it might be time to cast our net further afield and see what might come up. I hate to do that as my stories are so closely associated with Maine and our life here, but the impulse to be published again may overcome any allegence to publishers here in the state. So we'll see. But in the meantime go find a copy of the September issue of Points East and read what Carol had to say about the book and about me. It's pretty good reading.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Radio Spot

Well, that was fun. A while back an editor had offered a chance for us to talk on his weekly radio show. It took a month or so before we could both show up at the same time, but last weekend we made it. He was in the studio with two other authors and I was 180 miles away on the other end of the telephone. The engineer called me during the commercial break and when the last strains of the car jingle faded away I was "ON THE AIR." The idea was to talk about my book and so we did in a conversational way. Pretty laid back actually. But we hit some of the key points like the name of the book and where you can buy it. We had fifteen minutes and that was it. On to the next writer and goodbye to me. Good thing I hadn't driven three hours to get to the station. Who knows how far the station reaches or what the listening audience might be? But as I say it was fun nevertheless and one more experience to chock up with publicity for the book. There's another editor who has asked for an interview. She's planning on a book review, so that too will probably be fun. The one I did last year for the newspaper was enjoyable and resulted in a nice complimentary article. Book sales are dragging though. Without being proactive about the selling effort, there's little chance people will just happen onto the new book. Now I'm struggling with Amazon and formatting the book for Kindle. The more I have read and heard, the more difficult the whole process sounds and it seems as if Amazon might have misjudged the computer expertise of many amateur writers. HTML is not something I speak or what's more even care to speak, but evidently its somehow important to getting your book uploaded and looking correct for the Kindle crowd. I think I'll chicken out and call for some help. Years and years ago I remember taking a tour, probably with my Cub Scout Den, of the composition room for the local paper. I'll never forget the formidable type setting machines that clanked
and banged and spit out out lead. The type setter asked each of us our name and then he poked the keys and explained how the type faces were dropped into a tray and then how hot lead was drizzled over them and out came a shiney lead slug with our name neatly spelled upside down and backwards. I'm sure those old guys pounding on the linotype keys would have no problem formatting my book so it would look just great.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Facebook - the experience

Well it's not good. So far at least. We finally got around to trying Facebook and fell flat on our ...face. I guess. It sounded like a good idea. People had suggested we create a page for the book, so we thought we'd give it a go. We went to Facebook and found a invitation that asked if we were creating a page for a band or product or art. Hmmm, we thought. I guess writing is an art, so we clicked on that and sure enough we were allowed to choose "writer" as one of the categories. I thought well this makes sense so far. Next we were asked to upload a picture and write a little something. I wrote that I was creating this page to publicize my book...which was true. It took a while but eventually the picture popped up. So far so good. I wanted to include a link to the Youtube clip and tried that and it also worked. I was feeling better about things and my mind was busy thinking of other things I might add that would let people know about my book. I thought of the book cover and uploaded that too. I had to create a photo album to do that. I wasn't sure why, but that seemed to be how it worked. So bit by bit I was getting there - I thought. Hovering off to the side was this ominous message that reminded me I had not published this page. I figured eventually the chance would present itself for me to "publish" what I'd done so far but it never happened. I clicked on the next choice and was told I needed to create a profile. It was all down hill from there. What high school did I graduate from? What college did I attend? I wondered what those questions had to do with my book but I filled in the choices and that was the last I saw of my book. Gone! I tried everything to return to my book page. I knew I'd uploaded those pictures and entered
those links, but no, I was stuck in a profile somewhere. OK, so I missed a step I thought. I'll bomb out and try again. After all I had created an email and password.
Click. Facebook disappeared and was back at the internet screen. I quickly typed in
Facebook and....I was right back at the profile business. What had happened to my book? Where had my pictures gone? Why couldn't I find my pictures? Oh boy. Talk about frustration. Click click click. I tried every option on the screen. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No pictures and no evidence of my book. I logged out and returned two or three times. No change. I always ended up at the same old place. I even tried finding some FAQ's that might give me a hint. I knew enough to do that. But even then every time I went to Facebook I ended up in that profile section. Finally I quit. Geesh I thought. This website is one of the most popular in the world. Bazillions of people use the thing, and I can't. Go figure. Now I'm afraid to try again. What do I need another identity? Maybe I should go in the witness protection program? I think now Facebook knows about me and won't allow me to proceed or go back. Years ago the Kingston Trio had a hit folk song "Charlie on the MTA". It was about a poor rider on the Boston subway who didn't have the dime that was demanded for him to get off the train. In the 1940's the fare structure for the MTA was so complicated it was laughable and one piece of it demanded you pay a fee to exit the car! Poor Charlie didn't have the dime he needed to get off so he would ride forever on the MTA. I guess that's me and Facebook. There's got to be some toll or trick or bribe that will
get me started again or get my pictures back, but I don't know it, so like Poor Charlie I guess I'm doomed to forever be stuck on a profile screen. I need somebody to slip me the extra "fare" so I can get off. I guess when friends ask me how the Facebook thing is going I'll just have to say "Not so good. Not so good."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just Showing Up

Occasionally I've been asked to read a book and write a review about it Whenever that happens I'm flattered, but also a little hesitant. I have this feeling readers appreciate a book review when it finds fault with the writer and what he or she has created. It seems to me, sometimes, that a reviewer is not doing critical thinking about the book at hand, unless he can somehow find fault with it or at least make suggestions for improvement. I think I've done maybe six or eight reviews and I can't recall finding anything to publicly complain about in any of those books. In the first place I don't feel as though I have the right to criticize another writer's creation. His world and my world are different and there's no way I'm going to be able to put myself inside his head and have different thoughts. For me writing a review is a chance to tell what the book is about and indicate why someone besides me might want to make the effort to read it. Usually there are some good reasons. I'm especially fond of reviewing a new writer's first book. I see it as a chance to be encouraging and perhaps draw some readers to the new book. We joke around these days about some of the lousy work ethics we experience in the market place, and we note that ninety percent of succeeding at a job is just in showing up. For that reason alone the new writer deserves to hear some priase, because he has "showed up." And when your writing fiction, poetry, history, and non-fiction just showing up takes courage. Courage and persistance and determination. I know because I've done it. I was very lucky when someone reviewed my book and wrote favorably about it. They were kind with their remarks and gave the book a nice endorsement. Now I try to return that favor. I've reviewed other books that are antiques. Books that have gathered dust for years on a shelf or in a cardboard box and its been my good fortune to unearth the book and discover it again. That's fun also. To write a review about some long forgotten or minor book and try to convince people it might be worth reading again. Sometimes its surprising how current some old works are and how they too have something valuable to say about our lives today. There's more then enough angst, anger and rage in the world these days. Popular TV "reality" shows make a virtue out of voting people "off the island." Drivers honk their horns and flash hand singles at other drivers out of some mistaken idea that they may be better drivers or know more then the person in front. Audiences shout cat calls and hoots when a non-descript person steps out on to the glaring stage. People have drawn an impression of that person before they've even heard her speak or sing. I think that's as true in entertainment as it is in schools and in business. So you won't read any critical rants or diatribes about books from me. I figure we're all in this together and there's room in the lifeboat for everyone.

Friday, April 10, 2009


"Facebook" everyone says. You got to be on Facebook. Do I? I replied somewhat cynically. How come? Everybody's there, they tell me. You should be too. It's the latest thing. Oh Really? Hmmm. Well maybe they're right. After all I am a computer neanderthal. I thought figuring out how to post this blog was pretty advanced. Well, lets see. I guess if I go on Facebook lots of people will be able to see me and and then I'll be able to see them. It's Social networking, they say. I suppose so. But when I was boy social networking would have been the local Grange and the party telephone line. Everyone knew everyone else's "ring" and would listen in. The soaps were on the radio so the party line provided another form of entertainment especially for the farm wife having a little rest and a cup of tea after putting up her jellies. When a child came up missing at supper time it was an easy matter to pick up the phone and ask if anyone had seen the boy and if they had to send him home. Uncle Mont and Mr. Towle both raised some cattle and they shared vet expenses when it came time for insemination. Sometimes this took a little bit of coordination to set the right day and time and where would the vet go first, so Mont would ring up Mr. Towle to talk about the cattle business. But before launching into the matter at hand, Mont would clear his throat and loudly announce into the mouthpiece that he and Mr. Towle were about to discuss breeding, and maybe the ladies would like to hang up. Mont would have a satisfied look on his face as he would hear the various clicks on the line as the prim farm wives hung up and left him and Mr. Towle to discuss the finer aspects of cattle breeding. I don't know how we did it so many years ago, but people knew their neighbors even those a few miles away. And they knew who had which jobs and where they worked and who their kids were. We recognized everyone's car or truck when we passed
them on the road. Grandfather ran a successful service station and towing business
in town and he used the one telephone in their house. There was no phone in the shop. But somehow he got by. He received the calls he needed to get, he had plenty of cars to work on, and he made a living. Heck even when I was at the university the dorms were so decedent as to have a pay phone on every floor. Imagine. Usually down at one end of the hall. There were no phones in the rooms. Nor TV's or computers for that matter. When the phone rang someone nearby would pick it up and then yell out "Hey Bud its for you." Somehow we lived and prospered and I don't think the quality of our education suffered much. Social networking on campus meant hanging out at the student union. So I don't know. Is Facebook something new and different? Or is it just another incarnation of what we've always done? If Facebook weren't here would we still be listening in on the party line and would we know our neighbors just as well?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maine Authors Collection

Well that was a bit of good news. Received a note from one of the librarians at the Maine State Library indicating they had purchased three copies of Sandbox Camp Tales to add to the Maine Authors Collection there at the library. I was honored. I've been there in that room filled with all the assorted books penned by Maine writers from way back when. It's pretty humbling to think my little book will end up on a shelf there somewhere in "R's". If the book has no more sales or gets no more recognition at least a few copies will have been preserved for some future reader to discover and enjoy. This is turning out to be one long snowy winter. It's been years since we've had snowbanks shoved up so high. Kind of makes us wonder if Spring really is on its way north. For us it can't get here soon enough. The old woodpile is diminishing at an alarming rate. We've already decided we'll need to lay in an extra cord for next winter. Makes you wonder how the old timers got by and how much energy they had to spend just to keep warm and make it through the winter. Guess we're soft today by comparison. A few nights ago I watched an interview with Walter, who is pushing 112 years. He was in a nursing home but still seemed to be doing ok. He talked about the Great Depression and told how things were so bad families had to all move in and live with each other just so they could survive. He said sometimes there might be only one person earning any money and they all had to make do with that. And yet our parents and grandparents survived and their legacy and the lessons they learned back then continue with some of us today. I know some of us "baby boomers" are disappointed and discouraged when we witness the greed, waste, and self indulgence which has come to define the more modern technology generations. Maybe this current economic downturn will have a lasting affect and force people to rethink what something is worth, and the value of family and neighbors and friends. When you read the book you'll find a few stories of what is was like when we were kids growing up in the shadow of those depression times and how our parents continued to live wisely and economically.
And that's the sermon for today. Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Deep midwinter

Darn it's cold around here. And the snowbanks reach to the eves. Reminds me of the Russian winter scenes in "Doctor Zhivago", but this is Maine. Everything seems to have slowed down even the writing. Although I did send off two new pieces last week. In each case the editors responded and accepted them for now. And this morning I launched a home grown direct mail campaign of twenty-six letters addressed to various bookshops within Maine. I had probably sent these same stores emails in the past, but now I'm beginning to think unsolicited emails get rejected about as often as they are read. This time I went with good old "snail mail". Handwritten no less. At least the address and the envelop. This was a two page letter introducing the book and encouraging folks to include it in their plans for the summer. Here in Maine the craft shops and book stores and gift shops all must do their buying early in order to have inventory for the summer tourist season. So I thought I'd try to get in on that cycle. The small number of letters reminds me of a "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoon in which Calvin has set up a sidewalk lemonade stand. He's charging some outlandish price for a single glass of very weak lemonade. When Susie confronts him about his high prices, Calvin says something like he only has to sell one in order to make a profit. I wish it were that easy. The other impediment to creativity has been all the hype about the inauguration. Certainly it was history making and had world wide significance and like everyone else I was carried along on the wave of good feeling and hope that seemed to sweep from coast to coast. But now that the oath has been taken I wish the media would go find something else to write about and let the new guy get on with his job. We'll see. Around here besides shoveling snow, we're still looking for new publishing and publicity opportunities. I'm also reminded of "Come Spring" by Ben Ames Williams and how his families longed for spring and how they struggled to keep warm and fed during the winter. We began the season with just two cords of firewood and they're shrinking fast. I guess if we can make it to March we'll be OK.
Hope so anyway.