Book Signing–Is It Worth the Time?

Yes, appreciate that Hastings would give the books I published for Stanley McShane some shelf space and encourage the book signing as a way of promotion. They want a 4-hour block of time. Encouraged in articles or instructions are “About the Author” posters, enlargement of book cover, postcards, bookmarks, little give-a-ways, and additional numbers of suggestions for a successful book signing–all also requiring  large amounts of time and investment. Large on the list of successful book signing suggestions: WORK the crowd–something few of us are accustomed to doing. My grandfather is largely an unknown author. He is not here to help promote his books and probably could not have worked the crowd either. Indeed, his manuscripts are nearing 85+ years old and describe much of his life on schooners, barques, and whalers on the high seas from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Guinea, woven into plots standard fare 110 years ago. Friday evening the customers of a book store/movie sales and rentals/coffee shop are a younger family set looking for a good movie and some popcorn. Perhaps NOT the best way to tap sales goals. Unknown author; poor timing? So why would you consider doing it again–even given different day/time?

Is Old Measured in Years or Centuries?

I find it interesting that we here on the left side (West Coast) of the U.S. measure our history in terms of when the region added statehoods. Certainly there was plenty of pre-U.S. history; fascinating at that, with the Native American population and the expansion of Fr. Serra with his missions into California. However, it seems we gaze at our gold rush era buildings with pride in their age as if they’d survived a Roman invasion. Given the California gold rush happened in 1848 making them barely an infantile 160 years at best, I guess we can look upon them as real history in the making.  Continue reading Is Old Measured in Years or Centuries?

So What Happened to Brummagem?

In his latest book, “Lucky Joe”, Stanley McShane referred to Birmingham, England, (as the locals called it), “Brummagem”. Finding the word irresistibly magnetic, I’ve been drawn repeatedly back until digging for information, actually found it has some surprising and ancient origins.

Birmingham actually is an Irish name (Norman-Irish), according to genealogist, Eric Birmingham. Eric maintains the name Birmingham originates from a knight or knights who participated in William the Conqueror’s army that won England in 1066 and were awarded this remote Saxon hamlet as a lordship[1]. Continue reading So What Happened to Brummagem?



According to one source, this might have been an autobiography. Stowing away on the Elginshire, two teenagers hiding from vastly different circumstances out of 1900 Birmingham (aka Brummagem), England, are dreaming of the golden streets of San Francisco in America. Shanghied aboard a whaler, however, was NOT the intended goal. So did they ever get to seek their fortune in the golden hills of Sonora?

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Another Old English Sea Shanty

“A whaler’s life is hell, me lads,
Blow, boys, bully boys, blow!
We caught a rotten whale, me lads,
Blow, boys, bully boys, blow!
The captain’s drunk and so am I,
All hands are sick and ‘bout to die,
But we don’t care a hang, but cry,
Blow, boys, bully boys, blow!”

A great little ditty borne of the hardship of whaling in the early 1900’s as related in my grandfather’s forthcoming book, “Lucky Joe”. Laws curtailing whaling didn’t only save a lot of whales. Whaling was really nasty business!

Sailing? Better Hope for Some Wind!

Map-AtlanticThinking about some of the ports listed in my grandfather’s book, “Sons of the Sea”, I tried to map it out and get a rough idea of how many miles that might have been. SO difficult to get nautical miles and some of these ports do not show up on any destination list. If I can assume at least 4500 miles to Annobon Island from London, England, with stops in LeFevre, France, Cape Finisterre, and Funchal at a top 2-masted schooner speed of 10 knots,19 kilometers or 12 miles per hour, that doesn’t sound so bad. (What are we talking? Three weeks one way?) However, this does not account for days without wind and stops for fresh water and food stores. Annabon Island at only 4 miles long and 2 miles wide was certainly an attractive stop with abundant provisions that offered a safe roadstead. As the island described in his previous book, “Cocos Island Treasure”, this haven was punctuated with lush valleys and steep terrain but is habitable. Traveling on a schooner at the turn of the 20th century, I can imagine it was a welcome sight to those sailing the mid-Atlantic, Gulf of Guinea.

Sea Shanty


“Have you heard the talk of foreign powers

      Building ships, increasingly?

Do you know they watch this Isle of ours –

       They watch this Isle unceasingly?

But there’s one thing they forget – they forget!

Our boys in blue they have met – they have met!


SONS OF THE SEA, all British born,

Sail on every ocean, laughing foes to scorn.

They may build their ships, my lads,

       And think they know the game;

But they can’t beat the boys of the bull-dog breed,

       That have made old England’s Name!

  Continue reading Sea Shanty