Archive | My Book RSS feed for this section

First Reviews of My Book Posted

9 Sep

Two reviews have so far been posted at Amazon for my recently published book, Foleytown. I’m pleased to say they are both five-star reviews!

A couple of quotes:

 

“I found this book, as the author hoped it would be, entertaining, humorous and with warmth embedded in its pages.”

“A wistful, nostalgic delight.”

 

I hope to get many more reviews, although I’m sure they won’t all be five stars!

Thanks to the reviewers for their input.

Advertisements

E-Book is Out

1 Jul

The issues surrounding the publication of my book, Foleytown, have been resolved, and both the e-book and the print versions are available at Authorhouse, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. The e-book is only $3.99, so I expect all five of my regular readers to buy one (just kidding!)

From the book’s blurb:

Foleytown is a special place…a place where there is always a shortage of money but never a shortage of laughs. Follow the children of the large, financially struggling Foley clan as they navigate through “bloody” pomegranate fights, epic games of Christmas Card War, homemade bridesmaid dresses, fears of itinerant serial killers, and the cherished summer tradition they called “Prune-Why-Oh” – all while learning how to grow up in a very unfashionable part of California.

As Jack Lord would have said in 1969, “Be there — Aloha!”

One of My Books is Live!

14 Jun

My book Foleytown  is finally on sale online, although the ebook hasn’t shown up at Amazon yet and I’m trying to iron that out with the publisher. But you can order the physical book for $13.99 and the ebook for $3.99 at Authorhouse; the dead-tree version is also $13.99 Amazon. Note: If you buy it from Authorhouse I get a few more shekels than if you buy it from Amazon.

Here’s a description of the book:

Foleytown is a special place…a place where there is always a shortage of money but never a shortage of laughs. Follow the children of the large, financially struggling Foley clan as they navigate through “bloody” pomegranate fights, epic games of Christmas Card War, homemade bridesmaid dresses, fears of itinerant serial killers, and the cherished summer tradition they called “Prune-Why-Oh” – all while learning how to grow up in a very unfashionable part of California.

If you order it, please leave me a review at either Authorhouse or Amazon. Thanks!

Sutton County Line

9 Mar

From my latest collection of short stories, Sutton County Line, here’s an excerpt from a story called Stagecoach Plaza.

     Stagecoach Plaza was two years younger than I was, built in Nineteen Sixty-Two, when John Wayne Westerns ruled the nation’s big screens, and Gunsmoke, The Rifleman and Bonanza ruled the small ones. That was probably why the whole place was deliberately designed to look like a Wild West ghost town, complete with fake dilapidated storefronts, a creaky wooden boardwalk, and weathered wagon wheels leaning against cracked wooden posts at strategic locations.

The storefronts were arranged in a square, overlooking a small grassy central park, in which was set a pretty fair replica of a Nineteenth Century Wells Fargo stagecoach and a bronze statue of Alphonse Seuton, the founder of our small rural California town, Sutton.

Across the square, beyond the park, was a building that looked like an Old West saloon, complete with swinging double-doors and gold-leaf lettering on the front window; it was actually an office for an insurance company. The swinging double-doors opened to another, regular door, that led to a conventional business office full of laminated-wooden desks, clattering typewriters, and black rotary telephones.

The best feature of Stagecoach Plaza by far—and the one that made the place most memorable—was a collection of life-sized wooden figures that were propped up against outer walls of the storefronts at regular intervals along the boardwalk. These were crudely carved and garishly painted representations of Western heroes of yesteryear: lawmen, Indian chiefs, and desperados alike.

Sitting Bull, for instance, sternly guarded the 88 Cents Store, where everything on offer was priced at eighty-eight cents or less. Annie Oakley and Wild Bill Hickock stood on either side of the swinging double-doors of the fake saloon, while General Custer watched over the day-old Kilpatrick bread outlet. The great Apache chief, Geronimo, glowered incongruously in front of the Pink Poodle Beauty College, where my mother got her hair done by the students at a steep discount; Billy the Kid served a similar duty near the Brite-Glo Laundromat.

All in all, there were about two dozen of these enigmatic wooden figures situated on the boardwalk at Stagecoach Plaza. I had adored them as a small child, and even now, in my first whole month of being a teen-ager, they still brought about a slight feeling of awe. They were not realistic at all, rather cartoonish in representation, but they represented a link to the old Gold Rush past of Sutton—a past that was, sadly, disappearing quickly beneath a modern landslide of plastic gewgaws, hippie pants, and labor-saving electric devices.

Here’s the sign for the original model for Stagecoach Plaza. Sadly, I’m not sure if it’s even still in existence, or if the statues of Sitting Bull, etc. are still around.

Snow Time

14 Dec

Not exactly Christmassy, but relevant for those who live in four-season climates. Here is an excerpt from a story in my book Foleytown, which is about the first time I encountered snow. It’s called The Religion of California: 

“I’ve decided that we’re going to the mountains,” my father grumbled, one early Saturday morning in late winter. “So, today, we’re all taking a car trip to see the snow.”

“Finally I will get to see and feel what snow is really like,” I told myself, gleeful beyond description. “Finally!”

We all packed into the car, my four sisters and my brother Bobby and I and my mother, and then my father drove us northward, up into the Sierra Nevada foothills, until we saw pine and fir forests and then, later, little patches of white on the ground. As we drove into higher elevations, we saw it frosting the tops of various large rocks and pine branches, and then, eventually we saw it everywhere.

The whiteness was almost blinding.

“Snow,” my father grumped. “Kids, kids—here it is, look out the window. We’ve come to the snow!”

“Oh, it’s so beautiful,” I said, excitedly pressing my face against the cold glass of the car window. “Just so, so beautiful.”

My father turned off the main highway into some small hamlet or other, and we found a little clearing with a small parking lot; it was a public park, completely buried in snow. A forlorn-looking merry-go-round and a steel jungle-gym jutted starkly out of the white snow blanket on the ground, some yards in the distance.

My mother had made us all dress in numerous layers of uncomfortable clothing and heavy rubber galoshes. She was sure that someone would come down with pneumonia, or at least a very bad cold, and she had not really approved of our trip to the snow. But she went along, resignedly.

“At least we have penicillin now,” she lectured. “When I was your age, Liz, if you got pneumonia from being out in the snow, you could die, like my poor Cousin Loppy, who passed on when he was only fourteen,” she added gloomily.

My mother was like that; she loved to look on the dark side of nearly everything. And she also had an inexhaustible supply of stories about relatives and in-laws and neighbors who had experienced dire misfortunes back there in Kentucky, usually because they did something or other that she disapproved of.

That would be things like staying out too long in the rain or snow, touching something that was infested with Germs and Disease, or playing with sharp sticks.

“Why did they call him Loppy?” I wondered aloud; I could never get my mother’s Kentucky relatives straight. It didn’t help that many of them seemed to have peculiar, scarcely human nicknames like Loppy, Bippy, Aunt Mag, and Meedge.

“Well, we called him that because he had long ears that drooped down, like a lop-eared rabbit,” my mother said. “I think that’s why he got pneumonia—his ear muffs didn’t cover them, and he got frostbite. Your Great Aunt Mag never recovered from it, poor thing—she later died from choking on a fishbone. That’s why I never let you kids eat any kind of fish, except fish sticks.”

That was another thing my mother disapproved of: eating fish. I started thinking about how often she said the bones were just too dangerous to justify eating it, as Great Aunt Mag could have clearly testified. That is, if the poor woman had lived to tell about it.

Now, for folks who didn’t approve of eating fish, it was rather hard to be a Catholic, because we were supposed to eat it every Friday. Fortunately, by the Sixties, there were frozen fish sticks easily available from the grocery store, even in a small, backwater town like Ulloa City.

Frozen fish sticks had made it possible for Mary Foley to fulfill her Friday religious obligations with an untroubled mind.

“The fish stick factory has machines that sift out all of the bones,” she’d once said, duly impressed. She had actually written a letter to the company to make sure, and they had written back to explain patiently how they de-boned all of their fish before squishing it into fish sticks.

“Thank God for Gorton’s of Gloucester, is all I can say,” my mother added.

Christmas Story Time

13 Dec

In honor of the advancing season, here is an excerpt from my upcoming book of short stories, Foleytown, which I hope to publish in its entirety sometime after the New Year. This excerpt is from a story called “Christmas in Foleytown.”

I usually got the honor of arranging the nativity set on the mantelpiece of our tiny living room. Our plaster dime store figures were cheap, common and, in retrospect, rather ugly, but I cherished them all—the Three Kings, the camel, the Holy Family, the cow and the sheep, the wandering shepherd, the donkey, and the two blonde-haired angels with Shirley Temple curls crowned by gilt-painted halos.

There was, however, one glaringly obvious flaw in our nativity set-up.

“There are not enough camels here,” I noted to my mother one year, while arranging our nativity set in what I hoped was an artful and clever way. “Three Kings and only one camel. How did they make it all the way to Bethlehem with just one camel?”

“Well, camels are big, Lizzie; they can carry a lot of things and people,” my mother answered absently.

I tried to position the figurines of all three kings on top of the camel to verify her claim, but it didn’t really work.  None of our Three Kings could fit astride the beast of burden, because each of them had plaster legs that were molded together into a solid block.

“We need two more camels,” I said, decisively. “Even if the Three Kings’ legs weren’t stuck together like that, I don’t think they could all fit on the back of just one camel.”

“I’ll look into getting two more camels at the dime store next time I go shopping on Plumas Street,” my mother replied, soothingly. But she never did actually get around to it—that year or any other.

Still trying to reason the Three Kings dilemma through, I concluded that one King rode the camel while the other two walked beside it.

“Maybe they took turns riding the camel, to be fair,” I told myself.  “That would be the Christian thing to do.”

I worried about things like that when I was small. I tucked my toys and dolls under scraps of old blankets so they would stay warm at night; I wore clothes I didn’t like because I didn’t want them to feel unwanted; I worried that coffee cups with broken handles would be abandoned to the trash heap. It was a rather unique world view, I realize now.”

Prune–Why–Oh

27 Mar

This are the beginning paragraphs of a short story called Prune–Why–Oh from my second book, Foleytown. It’s about picking prunes in the Sacramento Valley around 1970ish. This excerpt also explains somewhat why I call my childhood landscape of memories “Foleytown.”

Prune–Why–Oh

Foleytown was, of course, not really a place, but a state of mind; my childhood landscape of memories, encompassing the domains both spiritual and temporal of the whole Foley clan, of which I was the youngest, the “baby” of the family. Like any family, we had our little rituals and traditions, including a rather important one we called, simply, Prune-Why-Ohing

Prune-Why-Oh was the title of one of my mother’s homemade songs; she had a lot of them, most of which were either eccentric or often, just very dopey parodies of real songs. But the term was also a kind of shorthand: it stood for the many childhood summers we of the Foley clan spent picking prunes for pocket money in the fruit orchards ringing UlloaCity.

My mother, Mary Foley, created the Prune-Why-Oh song and many others to keep us busy while we scooped up the prunes and plopped them into metal buckets on long summer days. The melody was the same as the standard church hymn, Kumbaya— the beloved tune strummed by countless guitar-playing nuns at the “guitar Masses” in the Sixties and early Seventies.

The lyrics to Prune-Why-Oh were simple enough, a simple parody of the original ones, and the chorus went like this:

“Prune-Why-Oh, My Lord

Prune-Why-Oh!”

Oh, Lord, Prune-Why Oh”

Days in the fields usually started with me my mother singing the Prune-Why-Oh song very early in the morning, at 4:30 a.m. or so, while packing a picnic lunch to take with us to the orchards.

Now, we always called `the process prune picking—not plum picking—because the ripe raw, plums were all headed eventually for the SunSweet Prune Drying Plant near Sacramento. There, the plump purplish-reddish globes we picked were sorted, treated and dried into prunes.

Picking prunes was not really that hard; that’s why even a six-year-old could do it. A machine we called The Shaker detached the future prunes from their trees, and pickers like our family were employed to scoop them up, put them in buckets, and ultimately deposit the contents of the buckets into large, square wood-slatted containers called “bins.” We mostly got paid by the bin, although at least one establishment that employed us paid by the bucket—25 cents for a small one and 50 cents for a large one.

These were plum wages for the time.