Monday, May 19, 2014

Willamette Meridian AKA Stark Street

The offices of Craigmore Creations are located at 2900 Se Stark St in Portland, Oregon. We've been here for a two and a half years so far. The building is not exactly our favorite space. It's boxy, it does not have windows for every office, it has florescent lighting. The air ducts are allergen harboring tubes. I could go on and on, but I won't. This blog post is not about the building that we are located within. It's about the street our building is upon.

Stark Street certainly isn't the first street people think of when they think of Portland, Oregon. The street has two very different personalities on either side of the river. Here on the east side, it has speed bumps and is more residential than commercial so many people do not travel Se Stark unless they need to. Our office is located at one of Se Stark Street's few commercial corners.

One lesser known fact about Stark St is that is is also Baseline for the Willamette Meridian. The Willamette Meridian was established in 1851by a surveying crew of the Public Land Survey System. There is a point up in the west hills known as the "Willamette Stone" by which the Meridian was established. It was required that the meridian not pass through the Columbia River or Lake Vancouver. The east/west line runs from the Pacific Ocean to the Idaho state line. The north/south line runs from the Canadian border with Washington to the California border with Oregon.

From these two master lines, all township and range lines were drawn and then from those, all real property lines were drawn. "Initial Point" is where these two lines intersect. Over the years it has been marked by a red cedar stake, then a stone obelisk (the original Willamette Stone, which was vandalized in the 1980's), and now a cement slab and a plaque located at Willamette Stone State Heritage Site.

Stone Marker 2 Miles from River
At one point in time, the meridian along se Stark St. was marked every mile by stone obelisks from the river all the way to Troutdale. Now only a few of the markers remain, but they can be located with the observant eye. The Willamette Stone State Heritage Site is still open for visitation.

Next time you send a letter to Craigmore Creations, think about Stark Street, especially if you live in Oregon or Washington, because all of this area's property is divided from this original line.

For further reading:
This article has nice pictures and is clearly and informatively written:

It's not official until it has a wikipedia article:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Remembering Gabo

"Trappers" by Alfred Jacob Miller, 1843

I have been deep into the writing of my latest work, a historical fiction novel about the life and times of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau (1805-1866).  Some of my previous blogs have addressed the travel and research that I was doing over the past two years, but now the writing is underway and good progress is being made.

I see an emerging theme of research and writing in my work. Each of the three Terra Tempo books took about a year to research and a year and half to write and produce. I am not sure how long the writing of my current project will take, but I started in January and am now about halfway through. I anticipate having the first draft done by the end of June, if I can keep to my current schedule. 

During the course of my work on the current book I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 1989 book, "The General in His Labyrinth", a fictionalized account of the last days of Simon Bolivar. I was delighted to read about the amount of time that Marquez put into researching the life of Bolivar before he began writing. 

My character of choice holds nowhere near the national importance to the American consciousness as Simon Bolivar does to the people of Latin America, however I do believe that his life and times touch upon so much that Americans do not know about but are still affected by, that it is safe to say that Charbonneau still affects the collective unconscious of the American people. For this reason I have been very diligent in learning as much as possible about not only the man in question, but about his vast web of relationships with people and places that better known.

Marquez's treatment of Bolivar's end days is informative, entertaining, and respectful. These are broad goals I hope to attain in my covering of Charbonneau's life and times.  Marquez's interviews about "The General" have also been very inspirational to me, as Marquez was not a writer of Historical Fiction before attempting that book. I identified with the authors struggles and triumphs in sifting through the mountains of materials available about his subject.  While there are only a few books about Charbonneau himself, there is a vast field of information about the people and places involved in the major phases of the man's life. St Louis in formative years of 1811-1822, the courts of Europe during the tumultuous 1820's, the Rocky Mountains during the fur trade of 1830-1838, the Great Plains and the forts of commerce from 1838-1846, The war against Mexico, the California Goldrush, California during the Civil War, and the departing for Montana when the war was through are all parts of the greater story that is Jean Baptiste Charbonneau's life.

With the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez last week I was saddened to hear the news, but glad that I had read his work. I know that he inspired many writers in many lands and I'd like to thank his memory for having written "The General in His Labyrinth." His style of Magical Realism and his tactful approach to Historical Fiction are guiding lights to me while I attempt my first novel since before I started all the "Terra Tempo" work. May his memory live long!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Walla Walla Weekend

Book and Game Company

This past weekend I went to Walla Walla, Washington for a book signing event at the Book and Game Company. I really enjoy getting to do small events like this. I have a chance to talk to new fans of the book and also a chance to talk with their parents too.  I was told by residents that Walla Walla was once  voted "Friendliest town in the West" and well, after my most recent visit, I'd have to say they are very friendly in Walla Walla. I had timing on my side, as there was the 3rd Annual Coyote Kings Invitational Guitar Festival going on in town. Those bluesy folks know how to throw a party! There was music and dancing all around town during the day and night.

Sisters Turned to Stone
Besides actually being in Walla Wall, the best part about any trip there from Portland is the drive. As the author of a graphic novel about the Missoula Floods, I never get tired of driving around Flood Country. I have to admit that I do as much stopping as driving on these trips. The above photograph is from the Missoula Flood carved "Cayuse Sisters" that were turned to stone by Coyote. The hike is a short one, but the Sisters are certainly worth seeing and they are best scene from the trail.

Fruit Flowers
I took my time on the way home, driving Highway from the the eastern end of the state to Hood River. I  saw a Golden Eagle, heard mating frogs making a ruckus, found a magpie feather, and stopped to photograph the early spring fruit blooms at an orchard.

Thank you Walla Walla! I had a blast and I hope to return again soon!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Independent Bookstores I Have Known and Loved

As a new publisher, one of the first and foremost goals is to find bookstores willing to carry your books. As president of Craigmore Creations, an independent press based in Portland, Oregon, I am ultimately responsible for all aspects of the business. I have had to be salesman, editor, writer, concept creator, public outreach specialist, and more. In the role as salesman, I traveled select parts of the west to gain attention to Craigmore Creations’ growing list of books. These trips occurred from 2012-2013

I also delegated sales visits and tradeshow attendance to other Craigmore Creations employees, therefore, I will not be talking about California or Western Washington. As a result of all my traveling and the hard work of my employees in both the design/editorial phase as well as the hands on marketing efforts, Craigmore Creations will now be distributed by IPG. My days as a pavement-pounding salesman are now to be happily reduced, but my interest in local bookstores will remain strong.

The Willamette Valley of Oregon is a land of long, rainy winters. While this does little to help out with the winter tan, it does lend itself to many days of reading. There are bookstores aplenty to help fill that space on your reading shelf.

Portland is home to Powell’s books, the Mecca of Northwest bookstores and is the bookstore that booklovers dream about. It has so many books and a wonderful café, that it is not uncommon to make a night or an entire afternoon out of a visit to the store. And now, brace yourself, they are renovating and making improvements to the store, so in the future it will be even better.

While Portland has an incredible amount of used and new bookstores, two in particular stand out. Annie Bloom’s and Books on Broadway are both quality stores with great staff, a nice store layout, and a good selection of books for readers of all ages. These stores do not have a café attached, so the shopping experience is a more traditional affair. However, this is Portland and there are plenty of places to get your coffee after you have purchased your new book, and then you can sit down and read it!

Corvallis is a picturesque brick-building town in the middle of the Willamette Valley, south of Portland. It is home to the Oregon State University, it’s team the Beavers, and about 55,000 people. This is a nice town that is often overlooked on people’s itinerary of Oregon. Which is too bad, Corvallis has a few very nice bookstores and a good selection of places to eat any meal of the day. Grass Roots Books and Music is a very cozy store that, as the name implies, combines the best of both worlds, catering to the bibliophile as well as the music enthusiast. The brick and wood interior is very inviting, as is the staff. The Book Bin is another must see bookstore in Corvallis, with a sister store in the state capitol of Salem; both Book Bins are larger stores and both had a healthy number of mid-day shoppers the Tuesday that I visited.

Eugene, at the head of the Willamette Valley, is home to the most impressive used bookstore in the state. The Smith’s Family Bookstore is a veritable maze of books piled in so many ways as to make finding what you want a challenge. However, it seemed to me that one does not go to Smith’s to find what they want to read, but to find what they did not know they wanted to read, but now can’t fathom having done without. There is also a bronze statue commemorating Ken Kesey, poised reading a book to a varied group of listeners. As an author who was very much influenced by “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” this statue was an inspiration to see. The University of Oregon has the Duck Store, which has a very impressive collection of books for both the academically and pop culture oriented. They are among a handful of university bookstores I have visited and are outstanding examples of their kind. The campus itself is also very pleasant to walk around as you admire the old trees and brick buildings.

Leaving Oregon, I am only going to briefly focus on Idaho. The town of Moscow is a hidden gem of a retreat located where the rolling grasslands of the Palouse Prairie meet the first rise of the Bitterroot Mountains. It is home to the University of Idaho and it has a modest population of around 24,000 people. I visited in conjunction with Book People of Moscow who put me in contact with the elementary school librarian who coordinated my visit to the local elementary schools. Book People’s downtown store is spacious, well stocked, and a very inviting place to browse on a snowy winter’s day. The town itself is home to many artists and musicians and you can tell that they like to read. The bookstore is locally very well known.

Walla Walla is another small picturesque brick-building university town of the west in a region that is rapidly gaining recognition for the wine grown in the surrounding hills. Walla Walla, Washington is also a fun town name to say. Walla Walla is home to the innovative store called Book and Game Co. Inc. Book and Game Co has a wonderful selection of books in well organized displays making searching for titles easy for both parents and children. The thoughtfully curated toy selection coupled with the fun selection of gift ideas, makes this store a fun all ages experience. The fact that the store is centrally located on a downtown corner in one of those picturesque brick buildings makes shopping here all the more enticing.

Another Washington locale, Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane has existed as an independent since 1978 and proud of the fact. Their Main Street location is a very attractive store with a great layout and ample selection. The aisles were bustling with mid-day shoppers when I visited, though  since then, I have noticed that they will be closing their smaller location at Riverpark Square. Which is too bad, because that was a nice store too, but their flagship store, will still continue to be “Spokane’s literary landmark.” Spokane is also home to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, which has a very nice, albeit small, bookstore specializing in books, related to the exhibits in the museum.

Missoula, Montana is a place that will forever hold a place in my heart. It was the first city of the West that I lived. The university population adds to the overall reader base of this town of 68,000 people. Fact and Fiction has a great location in downtown, catching the eyes of the many tourists who visit in the summer and is a favorite spot for locals to purchase books in the winter. I did a book signing in the summer of 2011 and the staff was very helpful. They also run the University of Montana bookstore.

The Book Exchange hosts more than 11,000 square feet of knowledge, adventure, mystery, romance, and more. Located on the outskirts of town, this store has good parking. The inside is well kept, the staff is very friendly and knowledgeable and the shop was full of customers during my midweek daytime visit. Missoula is truly a readers’ town with ample parks to find a place in the shade during the summer months and plenty of cafes to read away the winter’s cold all with beautiful scenery to rest the eyes when not looking at a page.

Now, I’ll flip-flop regions and cross over to the Southwest US. New Mexico is known for its outstanding natural beauty and diversity of outdoor activities, but it also has a wonderful array of bookstores. Santa Fe’s Collected Works bookstore is a great example of an independent café/bookstore that goes the extra mile to make the customers feel at home. There are comfortable, fireside chairs that one can sit in and read the day away. The selection of this store is not outstanding, but the carefully picked inventory will be sure to offer something enticing for readers of all ages.

Albuquerque is a city of readers. I would not have known this, had I not visited the city on numerous occasions, but it’s true. Albuquerque loves their books. Alamosa Books is a quality children’s bookstore that will be expanding to capture audiences in all their age ranges. The current location is a great mix of gift items and books in a spacious, clutter free setting. The staff is friendly and when I did a reading at the store, they were very helpful and accommodating.

Bookworks is a cozy independent bookstore blessed with a great location for the weekend shopper. They are right next to a very popular breakfast/lunch café. The interior is attractive with a central fireplace that is used in the display of the great variety of titles for sale. The staff is very friendly and I am looking forward to working with them again in the future in collaboration with two local elementary schools.

Tucson, Arizona is a warm town with warm people. Maybe it’s because I’ve been living in the soggy Northwest for so long, but an October trip to Tucson is something to be savored. When there Antigone Books is a must see. This local independent has achieved cult like status over the years. This is the type of bookstore that made bookstores cool. Their website advertises that the store is 100% solar powered. They have also recently celebrated 40 years of business. Not only do they have a great selection, but they have mastered the store layout to be both spacious, cozy, inviting, and full of books. This is the type of bookstore that when you exit, you want to proclaim to the world, “Long live print!”

Going north, Tempe, Arizona is home to Changing Hands Bookstore. This store combines a very robust book selection with a large café, making a visit to Changing Hands worthy of an entire afternoon. The store has a very well organized children’s section and it seemed to me that during my mid-week visit many of the patrons were mothers with children. As a publisher of children’s books, this was a good sign. The store is very clean, well organized, and run by helpful, knowledgeable people.

I will end my truncated tour of the Southwest with Flagstaff, Arizona. “Flag,” as the locals affectionately call it, is the gateway to the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately Flagstaff is a small town that is dominated by Barnes and Noble. That being said, I was able to get Craigmore Creations books into one of the outdoor gear shops that also had a small selection of books. Never underestimate the power of the specialty market! Starrlight Books is a very cool used bookstore and I would not have mentioned them, save for the fact that it’s places like this that one finds the coolest books. Outside of Flag is the Museum of Northern Arizona, which has a fantastic selection of regional books. They have been very busy the few times I have been in there and their selection of children’s books is outstanding for a store with an educational focus.

There are many stores I have not mentioned and there are many stores in these regions that I did not have occasion to visit. After all the miles I put on cars and my shoes, I can say that the state of affairs of independent bookstores looks good. My visits were almost entirely during the week, and not just that but during the day even. Each of the stores that I mentioned had shoppers who were both browsing and purchasing books. From all outward appearances, it would seem that the independent bookstore trade is still a thriving business. The intrinsic value that a well-run independent bookstore adds to a community is beyond calculation.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Last week I got to do one of my favorite things. I got to present the Terra Tempo: Ice Age Cataclysm to school kids in various grades. I was outside of the city of Chicago and I worked with roughly 920 students in four different schools in grades ranging from K-8th.
The Bears had played and won their Monday night football game the night before I presented to the first group of students. I was sure to play off this when the Short Faced Bear came up in the slide show.
I really enjoyed presenting this material to children who live so far from Missoula and the Pacific Northwest. It was great to see how engaged they were in the material and how curious they were about the place I call home.

I enjoyed the different welcome signs that some of the schools did. It sure does make a writer feel like a star to see their name in sparkle letters! The cutout letters in the window are from the Carmel Montessori Academy. Since they had older students mixed in with younger students I presented "Time Travel Naturalist Style" to them. This slide show is a fun trip through 550 million years of plate tectonics done in about 45 minutes.

Peterson Elementary is near the Vermont Cemetery Prairie Preserve. I had some time before my appearance with them so I checked out a little piece of the prairie.  It was very cold out (3 degrees) but I tracked some animals in the snow and got to see some graves from the 1830's.

Thank you to all the students and teachers! You folks were great to work with. I hope to come back to your schools again in the future!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gorge Radio

I had an excellent interview the other day that I'd like to post to the blog. The podcast link is down at the bottom of all the text. Even though I had a cold, I thought it came out nicely.

Listen and read here: Gorge Radio
The podcast link is at the bottom of the text.

To Louis: I'm pretty sure I got your age wrong. The radio interviewer caught me off guard when he asked about the dedication. Rarely does anyone ask.

When the interviewer asked, "Who is Louis?" I wanted to tell him "Well, that tale is caught up in a Texas Christmas love story and an old country song that sings inside my heart" but I wasn't quick enough on the draw to be so witty.

I also wanted to tell the interviewer about your aunt for whom I wanted to build a pyramid but I couldn't lift the weight of the stones. I also wanted to say that your momma had helped out so much in the brainstorm process and that your dad had built a treehouse for you and your sister in your back yard and that your love of tools was insipred by this labor of love, but that would have involved getting deeper into the story and a podcast interview only last so long.

Merry Christmas Louis and to your family too!  I hope y'all are warm and well and enjoying another Texas Christmas in grand family style.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Buffalo Times

I realize I have not written much on my blog since I started a new project behind the scenes at Craigmore Creations.  I am working on an historical fiction novel based upon the life and times of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacajawea.  I have been learning all about life in the time period of his life from 1805 to 1866 (one of his death dates).  I have also been traveling to California and the mountains and plains of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and New Mexico to get hands on understanding of the places he lived.

I've been pretty wrapped up in this project and I've been neglecting the blog because of it.  But, I can assure you, that things at Craigmore Creations are going nicely.  We have been working on a few new projects that have been exciting for all of us on staff.  Our fall releases are also very exciting to us.  Bronto: Friend of Ceratops a cute picture book sequel continuing the adventures of Bronto, the do good dino, is soon to be released.  In October the much anticipated release of Trailing Tennessee will occur. I'm very excited about this project.  It's a fast paced read about a young man's coming of age on the Appalachian Trail to which he runs to after his father's untimely death.  Full of mystery, lore and and adventure, Trailing Tennessee will be a great read for ages 12 to 16.

There are many exciting things occurring here at Craigmore Creations.  I'll try to stay on top of releasing the news from around here as we enter into the fall!  I'll end off with a pic of me being really happy to be in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming: