Sunday, September 25, 2016

Baker's Island: A Seventy Year Old Mystery

In 1988 I moved to Marblehead, Massachusetts, to live in a house overlooking Salem Sound. The house was owned by a wealthy family and they needed someone to live there for awhile—“awhile” turned out to be seven years. From my bedroom window I could see three real lighthouses and the fake one in Manchester-by-the-Sea that was built as a watchtower during the Second World War. Another was Baker's Island.
Keeper's House and Lighthouse today
Baker's Island is a sixty acre island about four and a half miles off the coast of Salem to which it belongs. It served as my model for Hephzibah Regrets, the island home of the Ravenscroft family in my book, Depraved Heart. As early as 1630, Baker's Island was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and in 1660 it was granted to the town of Salem. Most of the coast is steep ledges but on the western coast there is a stretch of rocky beach. Sometime in the 1790s the federal government took control of 10 acres at the northwest tip of the island and built two lighthouses, one of which still stands. The rest of the land was privately owned.
View of the island from the north
In the nineteenth century a Dr. Nathan Morse from Salem built a large summer home for his family, followed by a 75 room hotel called The Weene-egan. Eventually another fifty cottages were built by affluent families from Boston and the North Shore to be used as summer cottages. A private dock was built and the property owners were very reclusive. No one who was not a resident was allowed to use the dock so access to the island was limited. The hotel burned to the ground in 1903, but the cottages remained.
Ariel view showing the ponds, pier, and rocky coast
The island has three land-locked ponds and numerous wells containing water suitable for bathing and cleaning but not for consumption. There are no roads. People use golf carts and four-wheelers to get around. The only power comes from solar panels and generators. There is a small store and a community center, but people have to go to one of the surrounding towns to buy water and groceries. For over seventy years the island was a mystery to anyone not fortunate to have property there. When I was living in Marblehead a friend and I took her boat out to the island, but there were numerous signs on the only pier warning non-residents to stay away. The natives were most definitely not friendly!
The hotel resort before it burned in 1903
During this time I met a woman who had worked as a caretaker on the island for a few years. The lighthouse was automated so she had no responsibilities there. She lived in the lighthouse keeper's cottage with just her dog and did some maintenance and repair work on a few of the cottages. She told me she was writing a book about the many strange things that had happened while she lived there. She spoke of fog horns that would suddenly sound for no reason and then go silent. She said she often heard voices, laughter, and the moaning and sighs of lovers as she went about her work. I asked if she was ever frightened. At first she said, no. Then she added that she was glad she had her dog with her at all times. I asked if her dog sensed anything and she nodded. She said she quit the job because it was starting to get to her.
A postcard when both lighthouses stood.
In 2003 the Essex Heritage Commission took possession of the ten acres on which the lighthouse is located. They wanted to start tours of the property but the residents put up a fuss. New residents for the lightkeeper's cottage were found and they set to work restoring the remaining lighthouse, the cottage, and grounds. Finally, in 2015, the Heritage Commission started taking tour boats out to their property but signs are posted warning tourists to stay away from the rest of the property. The residents maintain their privacy.
Interior of the remaining lighthouse
The trip to Baker's Island is not an easy one. The boat docks on the rocky beach below the lighthouse and visitors have to scramble over the beach and then climb a steep incline to the property but, once there, the views are spectacular. So far I have not heard any reports of ghosts.
Path leading to the private property and cottages.
A few cottages as seen from the water today
There is one more island I want to write about—Thacher Island, with its twin lighthouses. I have climbed to the top of one of them and will tell about that next time.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 23, 2016

How My Dad Prepared Me for the Loving's Story

I've been juggling so many projects lately that I forgot to post my mid-week blog. I was about to go see what I planned to post, but then something came up on social media that I decided I wanted to write about. It concerns the movie Loving about Richard and Mildred Loving, the Virginia couple who challenged the Supreme Court in a case that was settled in 1967. The case challenged the state of Virginia's prohibition against interracial marriage.

I was in high school when the Loving case was in the news. Of course, back then there was no internet and news outlets didn't sensationalize stories like they do now. I first learned of the story through a story in a magazine—maybe Look or Life—and I sort of fell in love with it. A lot of that had to do with Richard Loving, a construction worker, who was a big, blond, tough-looking guy. Mildred, his wife, was a sweet, demure, black woman and I thought they were a beautiful couple. The thing that got to me—being a starry-eyed teenager at the time—was the way he looked at her in all the pictures. He just loved her so much and they went through so much. I thought it was the most romantic story ever—better than anything in a novel.

My hometown in Pennsylvania was very, very, very white. Most of the people there were the children of either German or Irish immigrants. As one of my friends used to say, “We thought minority meant Italians.” I think I was eight or nine the first time I actually saw black children when I was visiting my aunt in Erie, PA. In school the nuns told us that we were all God's children and no one was better than the other, which was easy enough to live if you grew up in a town with no African-Americans living in it. But I read a lot and watched television and I knew racial prejudice was everywhere.

But something happened one day when I was about 11 or 12 that deeply influenced me and that is what I want to tell. It was a beautiful autumn day and my parents, siblings, and I drove up to the Kinzua Bridge in Mount Jewett, PA, for a picnic and hike. As we always did, we walked across the bridge to admire the foliage. When we got to the other side, Dad said he wanted to climb down the hill and walk back through the valley. I decided to go with him while Mom and the other kids walked back across the bridge.
Kinzua Bridge when I was a kid
It was a steep climb and not for the faint of heart. We were almost to the bottom when we encountered a couple climbing up the hill—the man was white, the woman was black. My dad and the guy looked at each other and their faces lit up. There was hand-shaking and shoulder slapping. It turned out they were old Army buddies and had served together in the South Pacific. The man, whose name I have forgotten if I ever knew it, introduced the woman and I remember she and Dad shook hands. She was very pretty and I remember she wore bright red lipstick and wore a white dress with flowers all over it. After they talked for awhile we both went on our way and I was sort of waiting for Dad to say something. He didn't and finally I said, “Was that lady really his wife?” Dad said, “Yes.” He paused and then said, “Boy, she sure is good looking, isn't she?”

That was it. All he said was how good looking she was. Later I heard him telling my mother about meeting them and he never mentioned she was of a different race. At the time it just surprised me, later it made me very proud of him. So when the Lovings were in the news I thought of Dad's friends, and I wondered if they ever had to face the prejudice that the Lovings did.

A lot of years have passed since then. When I was young I dated men of different races, some of my friends made inter-racial marriages, and I am now the aunt of two absolutely beautiful biracial nieces. Like a lot of Caucasians, I find myself wondering how free of racial prejudice I really am. These days it seems there is so much racial tension—it's hard to know what to say sometimes. But I'll always admire my Dad for the way he handled my first encounter with an interracial couple, and I'll always love the Lovings for letting me see what a really loving couple looked like.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Misery Islands of Salem Harbor

When I was creating Hathor, the fabulous but deteriorating island mansion in my novel Depraved Heart, I relied a lot on my experiences some years earlier of visiting Baker's Island and Great and Little Misery Islands, all in Salem Harbor. From land they don't look that formidable, but when you approach from the water it is quite a different story. Finding a place to dock and then climbing up can be a challenge. Great Misery Island is 83 acres of absolutely astonishing landscape. It contains an aspen grove, meadows, and all manner of wildlife. It is also home to the ruins of an old resort that burned down in 1926.

Little Misery is only four acres but those few acres are lovely to explore. At very low tide you can wade between the two islands. In 1923 a steamship out of Maine called The City of Rockland wrecked and was scuttled off the coast of Little Misery. Its remains can be seen there to this day.

The islands were inhabited for centuries by the Masconomet Indians but legend has it that they got their name from the misfortunes of one Captain Robert Moulton. In the 1620s Captain Moulton, a shipbuilder by trade, was testing out a new boat when a sudden winter storm blew in. He was lucky to make it to shore and endured three miserable days on the island until he could make it back to Salem. It is from that experience it is said the islands' names came.

Perhaps the most intriguing feature Great Misery has to offer is the overgrown ruins of a grand hotel and resort that was built there in the early 1900s. It was quite a work of art with a pier, a clubhouse, a saltwater swimming pool, a tennis court, and a nine-hole golf course. It was the playground of the affluent from Boston who flocked there for regattas, as well as, tennis and golf tournaments. The few pictures that survive show an impressive structure with hardwood floors, exposed beams, and a large brick fireplace. Of course, all that wood—beautiful though it was—was an invitation to disaster which happened in the form of a fire in 1926. Between the time the resort was built and the time of its destruction more than 25 cottages had been built by people who came for the summer but when the fire broke out it claimed a number of the cottages as well as the hotel. People lost interest in Great Misery and nature, as nature always does, began to reclaim it.

Of course there are rumors of ghosts wandering the island. Ghosts, especially New England ghosts, seem to have a fondness for islands. One ghost is that of a long ago sea captain who was in love with a Masconomet maiden. The captain was killed by the girl's brother and they say that on nights when the moon is full he can be seen wandering the island in search of his love.

I have a great love for ruins and abandoned places. They always fire my imagination. On my only visit to Great Misery I found myself touching the remaining pillars and arches and listening—listening to hear if they had secrets to tell me.

Next time I'll blog about the other island—Baker's Island. It is, I was told by someone who lived there, a very scary place at certain times of the year.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

THE UNHOLY by Paul DeBlassie III #AuthorLove

This is a repost from 2013. Paul DeBlassie III is a very interesting writer. 

I think you will enjoy his work:

Paul DeBlassie III

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Lightning streaked across a midnight dark sky, making the neck hairs of a five-year-old girl crouched beneath a cluster of twenty-foot pines in the Turquoise Mountains of Aztlan stand on end. The long wavy strands of her auburn mane floated outward with the static charge. It felt as though the world was about to end.

Seconds later, lightning struck a lone tree nearby and a crash of thunder shook the ground. Her body rocked back and forth, trembling with terror. She lost her footing, sandstone crumbling beneath her feet, and then regained it; still, she did not feel safe. There appeared to be reddish eyes watching from behind scrub oaks and mountain pines, scanning her every movement and watching her quick breaths. Then everything became silent.

The girl leaned against the trunk of the nearest tree. The night air wrapped its frigid arms tightly around her, and she wondered if she would freeze to death or, even worse, stay there through the night and by morning be nothing but the blood and bones left by hungry animals. Her breaths became quicker and were so shallow that no air seemed to reach her lungs. The dusty earth gave up quick bursts of sand from gusts of northerly winds that blew so fiercely into her nostrils that she coughed but tried to stifle the sounds because she didn’t want to be noticed.

Paul DeBlassie III, Ph.D., is a psychologist and writer living in Albuquerque who has treated survivors of the dark side of religion for more than 30 years. His professional consultation practice — SoulCare — is devoted to the tending of the soul. Dr. DeBlassie writes fiction with a healing emphasis. He has been deeply influenced by the mestizo myth of Aztlan, its surreal beauty and natural magic. He is a member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.  His web site is:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Reflections on Norman's Woe

Norman's Woe as seen from
Hammond Castle
I don't remember what grade I was in when we first learned the poem The Wreck of the Hesperus by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but I'll always remember the imagery in my head of the captain's daughter lashed to a mast. The poem says:

At daybreak on the bleak sea beach
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair
Float by on a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And her streaming hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the waves did fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Oh! save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of 'Norman's Woe'.

The Captain of the Hesperus  lashing his daughter to a mast
I found that a haunting image and it has stayed with me throughout my life. I had not been living in Massachusetts long when I made my first visit to Hammond Castle in Manchester-by-the-Sea. I toured the castle with a group and I remember our guide pausing for us to appreciate the view of the Atlantic Ocean from the castle. “See that reef,” she said, pointing out rocks jutting up out of the water, “that's Norman's Woe. Nobody knows how many ships have crashed on that reef in storms. That's where Longfellow's Hesperus was supposed to have been wrecked.”

I was fascinated and amazed. The reef is located about 500 feet off shore and, at its peak is 23 feet above water but at high tide much of it is submerged. This no doubt accounts for the many shipwrecks on it. These days there is a bell buoy about 1000 feet from it, but there was a time when it was a voracious eater of sailing ships.

Hammond Castle seen from sea with Norman's Woe in the foreground
Nobody knows how Norman's Woe got its name. Legend tells us that a man named Norman was stranded there and died. Others say it was named for a man whose last name was Norman who owned land along the coast. But the history of shipwrecks are quite frightening. In 1823 the Rebecca Ann wrecked there and ten crew members were swept out to sea. One man survived by clinging to a rock. In 1839 the Favorite, out of Wiscasset, Maine, was lost and twenty bodies washed ashore, one of them a woman lashed to part of a mast.

Lashing people to masts during storms was a common practice. Seafaring literature is full of stories of captains who lashed themselves to the wheel of their ships to keep from being washed over board.

Norman's Woe by Fitz Henry Lane
Throughout the years Norman's Woe has been a popular subject for painters. Gloucester's Fitz Henry Lane painted it in a dreamy, mysterious style that captures some of the elusive fascination of the place. It's interesting that it is Lane who did this because, as a painter, he is nearly as mysterious as Norman's Woe. Many of his paintings survive and are on display in the Cape Ann Museum but Lane did not keep a diary nor did he write many letters. His paintings embody the transcendental philosophy of his contemporaries—like Longfellow—but his thought process remains a mystery.

Norman's Woe on a lovely day. It looks so innocent.
Hammond Castle and the North Shore play a big role in my novel, Depraved Heart. Every time I have occasion to drive down Hesperus Avenue here in Gloucester, I cannot help looking for Norman's Woe. It looks so innocent—just a pile of rocks. But they are rocks that have eaten ships, claimed lives, and inspired art.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Interview with Stone Carver Michael Foley #ArtistLove

This post is a re-post from March 2013. Michael continues to create 
beautiful stonework here in Gloucester. Enjoy the interview.

Michael Foley of M S Foley Stoneworks in Gloucester, Massachusetts, did this interview in 2013:

I'm really amazed by your stone carvings. How did you get started doing this?
Thank You.  I got my first jackknife when I was about eight years old, along with a piece of soft pine.  I don't recall the subject of that first carving, but I do remember the first finger cut and the tears.  I don't cry as much these days, but I still get an occasional need for a Band-Aid. 
Did you have a background in art? I know you are a musician but sculpture is a very complex art form.
Artwork has been been a constant companion in my life, but I haven't taken formal lessons, other than in glass blowing which I found very difficult.  Most of my art education has been learning from doing, and by studying the work of artists who really know what they are doing.  I've dabbled in various media, but just didn't do so well with art forms requiring the use of color.  I am in complete awe of the painters of Cape Ann who are able to do this.  I was a career mechanical design engineer which helped to develop three dimensional visualization skills, but the things I designed were not very pretty.

Do you have a preference in the kinds of stones you work with? Where do you get them?
I began with the bounty left locally by the last glacier.  A brief look at it doesn't reveal the huge variety of stone types on Cape Ann.  We have a wide variety of granites, jasper, basalt, serpentine, quartz and many others.  We don't see the beauty in these stones when we walk on a pebbled beach, as the tumbled finish and surface oxidation makes these wonderful stones look like shades of gray and tan.  I've worked with local boulders and pebbles from all around Cape Cape Ann and the North Shore, but the remnants from our granite quarrying industry provide some very nice sculpture stone.  I have also begun over the last few months to work in various types of marble, of which there is very little in the area, although I have found a small and very old cliff quarry in Newbury which still has some very hard white marble with beautiful green veining.  I also have a friend from western Massachusetts who drops off some marble boulders from time to time, and I've traveled to Vermont to buy various types of quarried marble.  I don't think I have a real preference, as there are many trade-offs with stone, such as hardness, ability to hold detail, and finished surface appearance.

What is your inspiration for your designs?
I have been fascinated by the beauty and variety of marine life since my childhood Golden Book days, so much of my earlier work and some current projects are of crustaceans and fish.  Symbols of many types have also been a life long interest, and  some of my work has been in astrological symbols.  But I feel my main focus is on abstracts which depict geometric and mathematical functions, although I've more recently done abstract shapes for their own sake, without a natural or mathematical basis. 

I take it you work out of your home. Where do you exhibit your work and how have you gone about marketing them?
I work at my home, and preferably outdoors, as dust control is a very serious issue, particularly in working with silica based stone such as granite, or serpentine which may contain asbestos.  My less-than-ostentatious studio is in my ground level garage, where I've devised dust control measures and do my work in colder weather.  I also showcase my inventory on hand there, and will participate this year in the Cape Ann Artisan's Open Studio Tour, June 22 & 23, and Columbus Day Weekend October 12, 13 & 14th.  I have pieces exhibited at the Rockport Art Association and Bodin Historic Photographs on Main Street in Gloucester, Mass.  Beginning soon, my work will be on sale at Dogtown Philosopy and The Art Nook, both on Bearskin Neck in Rockport, Mass.  In early July, I will be participating in a particularly interesting show in Gloucester which is currently in the planning stages.

Tell me about the show you have coming up.
This show will be a cooperative effort with myself and other artists of different media.  We are teaming up in such such a way as to provide a truly synergistic experience in the art community.  I am happy to say that the other players are better known and more highly experienced than I am, and that even the venue will be unusual and very interesting.  We are are in the detailed planning stage at this time, and expect to make announcements on the details within the next couple of weeks.

Have you participated in other such exhibits?
I participated in two shows last year, one at the Annie in the Blackburn Building, and the other at the 283 Gallery in Nashua, NH.  Both shows were with two other artists, and also offered interesting synergies.  The show at the Annie was particularly successful with an estimated 300 visitors, and in addition to my own work featured the brilliant floral paintings of Gail Gang of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. and the stone carvings of Mindy Trafton of Rockport, Mass.

Where can people see your work other than at this exhibition?
In addition to the shops and shows I've mentioned, I and others will be planning shows over the next few months.  My website,, will be showing more of my current work as soon as the spirit moves me to do the badly needed updates.  My limited experience in public display of sculpture, however, indicates that real-life exhibits are vastly superior to anything which can be done on line, although I am experimenting with video, which may tell a better story of sculpture forms.

Can you tell my readers anything more about your background?
In addition to carving work, I have had a very full career in the mechanical engineering business, providing technical and managerial services to companies such as Varian Associates in Gloucester, as well as others requiring the design of factory automation of various types.  Some may also remember my sabbatical in the 2003 to 2006 time frame, when I ran my home repair business from Gloucester, Mass. as North Shore Home Repair.  I've been known to play the guitar and sing a few original songs from time to time, and hope to do more of this in the near future.  I also enjoy motorcycle riding during our painfully short warmer seasons.  I live in Gloucester with my wife, Ann, my daughter, Colleen, and Madonna the Old Lady Dog.

What is the best way for people to contact you?
I may be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 508-284-5885.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Elk Porn? The Rut Is On

This morning on Facebook a group called PA Great Outdoors made a post of a bugling elk with the announcement “The rut is on! Make your vacation plans now for an unforgettable experience.” I had to read that several times before I believed my eyes. I guess making an elk rut the object of one's vacation plans could be good for tourism, but it unnerved me a bit.

But, seriously, the elk are really active at this time of year as horny (yuck-yuck) males begin bugling to warn all the females that they are on the prowl, and will be headed their way soon. An elk bugle is an incredible thing. Visitors to elk country who have never heard the high, shrill, plangent call of elk are frequently startled by it and wonder what on earth that sound could be. I have been in the woods and heard it echoing down through the trees, and been startled until I remembered what I was hearing.

The county I grew up in in Pennsylvania is called Elk County and these days it is the home of a substantial elk herd, estimated to be over a thousand elk. When I was a kid that was not the case. Elk were rare then, but we always looked for them when we were out driving around. I remember one summer a female elk decided to join a herd of cows not far from my Uncle Gus's camp and whenever we were at camp we'd walk over to have a look at her. She didn't blend in very well and wasn't much good for milking.

In my Marienstadt books, I've written a lot about elk, they have provided good material. I told the story of how the State of Pennsylvania was able to restore the elk herd in a story called The Wilds in The Bucktail Cap in the Trunk. And in Wapiti, in The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall, I was able to combine two rather fascinating bits of elk lore. Years ago someone told me a story that he claimed was true about a boy who got separated from his family while camping. It was late fall and a sudden snow storm descended upon them falling so fast and hard that he could not see. The boy huddled under a tree sure that he was about to die when two female elk came out of nowhere and settled down on either side of him, pressing their bodies against his and keeping him warm through the night. I always loved that story and am so happy I had the opportunity to build on it for my story.

Also, according to Native American lore elk are said to be the protectors of women and that they represent true love. In my story one of the characters has fallen in love with a woman, but is hesitant because of a mistake he made in the past. When he finds a wounded female elk he takes care of her. She limps off into the woods and he does not know if she survived but the next spring he sees a female elk with a calf and he recognizes the scars on her haunch where he patched her up. He knows then that it is safe to love again.

The last time I visited my family in Elk County, I drove through the Pennsylvania Wilds to Benezette where the Visitor's Center for the elk viewing area is. As I was carefully navigating the twisty windy roads I noticed cars pulling off to the side and, there in a hollow beside a stream, were half a dozen elk, two with incredible racks. It was a beautiful sight and made me realize just how majestic these animals really are.

So, for the elk voyeurs among you, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has set up a web cam where you can keep an eye on the elk. So far all I've seen them doing is eat, but, 'tis the season. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wordsplash Hodgepodge by Joanne Faries #AuthorLove

I first met Joanne Fairies through the AtoZ Challenge 
and I loved her little poems that she posted, so I was delighted 
when I learned she had a book coming out. 
I hope you find her work as charming as I do!

Wordsplash Hodgepodge brings a mixture of whimsy to your day. Hodgepodge is a hash, a jumble – a word stew. The author’s poetry from A to Z exudes energy, reflection, and food. Eat a waffle for dinner as you waffle over life choices.

Dash through a sprinkler or shed a shoe as you experience other random poems.

Want a quick read? Splash in the flash – six wee stories with some tiny twists to surprise and delight.

Finally, is a memoir ever truly done? Enjoy three more tales – additions to My Zoo World and Athletic Antics. 


of nothing
I write this poem
as I contemplate the alphabet
string together words
silly beats seek a sly smile
from A to Z, we shall wonder
as we wander to a place of


Joanne Faries, originally from the Philadelphia area, lives in Texas with her husband Ray. Published in Doorknobs & Bodypaint, she also has poems in Silver Boomer anthologies and Old Broads Waxing Poetic. Joanne is the film critic for the Little Paper of San Saba. Look for her humorous memoirs My Zoo World: If All Dogs Go to Heaven, Then I'm in Trouble and Athletic Antics, a story collection Wordsplash Flash and three poetry books - Wordsplash Poetry Puddle: Nature, Hazy Memory, and Tread Water. Her latest book, Wordsplash Hodpodge, is on Amazon now.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Enduring Beauty of Folly Cove Design

Shortly after I moved to Gloucester a friend had a little birthday party for me. One of the gifts I received was a linen tea towel printed with a charming pattern of very stylized little women sharing gossip. I was told it was a design by the Folly Cove Designers and I had no idea what that meant.

As I got to know my new home, I occasionally noticed items in shops printed with similar designs in bright colors that were absolutely delightful. Worked into the designs were lobsters, sailing ships, all sorts of flowers, children on swings, people dancing, people harvesting hay, etc. Always they were identified as the work of the Folly Cove Designers. I knew where Folly Cove was—my friend Leslie had her goldsmith and jewelry design studio in a little house there, and it was in a tavern on Folly Cove the day after the “perfect storm” that I first learned the Andrea Gail was missing.
Home Port

Eventually, I was at the Cape Ann Museum when I discovered their collection of work by these remarkable designers. The group was founded in Folly Cove when children's author and designer Virginia Lee Burton wanted someone to teach her two sons to play the violin. A neighbor, Aino Clarke, agreed to teach music in exchange for Burton teaching her the art of design. Burton decided to teach the art of block printing and before long she and Aino were joined by a group of neighbors, none of whom had much training in art. Burton was an excellent teacher and before long the women were designing their own patterns which they carved in linoleum blocks and began printing with—mostly on linen and paper.
The Swing Tree

What Burton did that made their designs so charming, was urge them to look to nature, and local, familiar scenes for inspiration. The designers each developed their own designs and, working in their own homes, they created items to show at their monthly meetings. In 1943 they instituted a jury that evaluated the new designs to determine which ones would be part of the Folly Cove Designers collection.

Between 1941 and 1955, the designers participated in 16 museum exhibitions. They also began producing textiles for big name wholesalers and retailers. In 1948 they acquired a barn in which to continue work and they expanded their offerings. When Virginia Lee Burton died in 1969, the group agreed to disband and, eventually, donate their materials and linoleum blocks to the Cape Ann Museum.
Lily of the Valley

Sarah Elizabeth Halloran, one of the original designers, continued to produce designs on the Acorn press that the designers used. In 1974, she began her own collection of Folly Cove Designs and took as her apprentice a woman named Isabel Natti. Eventually, Isabel opened the Sarah Elizabeth Shop in Whistlestop Mall in Rockport which is where I met her. She was a bright, charming woman who loved design. Sarah Elizabeth died in 2009 and Isabel followed in 2011. Fortunately a young woman named Julia Garrison acquired the blocks made by Sarah and Isabel. Some blocks were too fragile to continue to be used so she converted them to silk screen. The rest of the blocks are still used in the production of runners, placemats, tote bags, etc. all printed on that historic Acorn press from inks similar to the originals. They are now available through her Etsy shop.
For me Gloucester has always been a place of endless inspiration and the Folly Cove Designers are just one more example of why.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A New Dawn in Deer Isle by Tom Winton #AuthorLove

Tom Winton has a unique and interesting writing style which I enjoy. 
Here is his latest book. Enjoy!

A New Dawn in Deer Isle 
by Tom Winton

George McLast is not a happy man. He's been mourning his wife's death for three years, his financial situation is worse than ever, he hates where he lives, and lately he's been getting some very unnerving feelings in his chest. But George isn't quite ready to throw in the towel yet. He still has one burning desire. Despite all his troubles and his son's vehement disapproval,he loads a mattress in the back of his old van and takes a trip--the cross-country trip he and his beloved Lorna had only dreamed of taking when she was still alive.

When George first hits the road his expectations are low, because he has not been happy with the changes he believes America and its people have undergone over the years. But that soon changes. Not long after leaving his Florida home he meets a succession of people who cause him to reevaluate his negative beliefs. He also finds himself agreeing to take a highly unlikely traveling companion along with him on his journey. And that works out well, too. But then something unexpected happens. Something George definitely is not prepared for.

On his first night in Deer Isle, Maine, while eating at a diner, he's deeply attracted to the free-spirited owner of the establishment. But George is getting up in his years, and the last thing he's looking for is romantic relationship. On top of that, he's still in mourning. Nevertheless, drop-dead-gorgeous Sarah Poulin thinks he is a very special man, and she's not a woman who gives up easily.

Every now and then we read a book that deeply affects the way we perceive our lives - A NEW DAWN IN DEER ISLE is one of those books. 

“The main character reminds me of another I came to treasure...Atticus Finch.” 
“If you only read one book this year make it this one.”
“When it comes to writing about finding the bright side of things when life seems to fall apart, Tom Winton has few equals.”
“Truly inspired by the lure of the winding road to self-discovery, like so many of America’s greatest writers, Tom Winton follows a proud tradition…”
“This is without doubt one of the best books I have read in a very long time."
"This is a vintage Tom Winton tale, a book that returns in memory."

Tom Winton has done everything from working on a railroad gang in the Colorado Rockies to driving a taxicab in some of New York’s most dangerous neighborhoods. He has also been a mailman, a salesman, an entrepreneur and more. Since having his first book published in 2011 he’s written seven more, and they’ve all been bestsellers.  

Said to be a man who writes with his pen dipped in his soul, Tom has been listed as one of Amazon's  Top 100 "Most Popular Authors" in both Literary Fiction and in Mystery, Thriller and Suspense. He has also been named by Wattpad (the world’s largest online reading platform) as one of their most followed authors.

Although Tom Winton was born and raised in New York he lived in Florida for many years. Now he resides in the Great Smoky Mountains with his wife Blanche and their ill-tempered but lovable Jack Russell Terrier, Ginger.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Legendary Beasts: Hodag and Squonk

The Hodag
If you search the internet for information on a ferocious beast known as a hodag, you'll find all sorts of information that links him to the town of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. However, Rhinelander does not own this ugly, surly, elusive fellow! When I was growing up in Elk County, Pennsylvania, all the boys who spent a week or two at a nearby Boy Scout camp, called Camp Mountain Run, had terrible tales to tell of the hodag that lurked in the woods there. Of course, none of the boys ever actually saw him. They heard his screeching, roaring, and the slapping of his tail. And they heard stories.

A logger brutally murdered by a hodag
According to the legends, a hodag is the size of a rhinoceros. It has a face like a frog but with long fangs. It also has tremendous claws, and a long tail with spikes at the end of it. Hodags live very far back in the forest, but the ground trembles when they approach and they apparently consider young Boy Scout flesh to be quite tasty.

One of the stories in my collection The Bucktail Cap in the Trunk is called Father Nick and the Hodag. In the story Father Nick talks two parish boys into helping put a fright into a bunch girls camping out. It does not go as anticipated and both Father Nick and the boys wind up nearly pummeled to death when girls, who were making mountain pies over a camp fire, beat the poor hodag with hot pie irons. A punishment likely worse than getting attacked by an actual hodag.

It is sort of interesting, given the native land of many of the people of Elk County, that the hodag should also surface in a town called Rhinelander. Many of the settlers to our county came from the Rhine Valley in Germany. I have not been able to find a source for such a beast in German legends but it is highly likely one existed. Hodags are mentioned in several Paul Bunyan stories.

The Squonk
Another beast that appears to be native to Pennsylvania is the squonk. In 1969 the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote a book called The Book of Imaginary Beings. In it he mentions the squonk which is alleged to dwell in the dark, dense hemlock forests of north central Pennsylvania. According to Borges's story, the squonk is a very ugly creature with loose fitting skin and covered with warts and blemishes. The poor little squonk is very, very ashamed of his ugliness and spends all his time hiding and crying.

No squonk has ever been captured and for a very interesting reason. The squonk has the mysterious ability, when cornered, to dissolve into a puddle of tears. A certain J.P. Wentling claimed to have captured one and, as he carried the beast home in a burlap sack, the sack got lighter and lighter. When he looked inside there was nothing but a puddle of tears sloshing around.

No one seems to know the origin of the squonk but they are persistent. In the song Any Major Dude Will Tell You by Steely Dan, the lyrics go, “Have you ever seen a squonk's tears? Well, look at mine.” And the rock group Genesis have a song called Squonk on their album A Trick of the Tail. The squonk also appears in a number of plays and stories.

Walking home that night
The sack across my back, the sound of sobbing on my shoulder.
When suddenly it stopped,
I opened up the sack, all that I had
A pool of bubbles and tears - just a pool of tears.

- part of the lyrics of "Squonk" by Anthony Banks, Michael Rutherford

As for the hodag, one would be hard-pressed to go very far in Wisconsin without coming across hodags mounted outside restaurants, as mascots for radio stations and sports teams. There are hodag festivals and a huge hodag sits in front of the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce.

Where hodags and squonks come from one can only imagine, but they are a delightful part of local folklore wherever they appear and just custom made to be used in stories by writers who have a love of such things.

Thanks for reading.