Climbing Mount TBR

Most of my friends have a pile of books in the house that we call Mount TBR (To Be Read). I bet you have one, too … books from your book club, maybe, that you didn’t get around to. Books that folks at the office are reading. Books that grabbed your attention as you were walking past in the bookstore.

I fall into the third camp, and also a fourth: Books That Feed My Brain and Might Come in Handy Someday. Here is a picture of that TBR pile just at the moment (its size fluctuates depending on what I’m working on):

To Be Read pile How To Read Water. Now, there’s a title. I was walking through a train station bookstore in London and that one grabbed my eye. From puddles to oceans, it’s about how to read liquid movement and the effects of wind and tide. As a person who grew up on an island on the west coast, the tides become part of you. Can we do such-and-such today? The tide will be low at noon. Okay, then let’s do such-and-such!

When you’re writing about Corsair’s Cove, water and tides are part of life, and can make interesting details in a story. They can even affect the plot. And how about American Sailing Ships? That one ties right in with water and tides. I’ve loved the sight of sailing ships since I was a child. From the shape of a hull to the names of sails, I look forward to learning about the ships that our characters might have spent their lives on.

And the books about the supernatural in New Mexico and the southwest? Well, those are for Mysterious Devices, my new steampunk mystery series, written as Shelley Adina, launching around the end of this year. Because you never know what’s going to happen in the Weird West!


Towns with ghosts

Port Townsend, Washington
Photo and Waterlogue by Shelley Adina

One of my favorite places in the world (okay, that list is pretty long, but still in the top five) is Port Townsend, WA, home of the Brass Screw Confederacy, Sirens pub, Pygmy Boats, Fort Worden State Park, and the Old Consulate Inn, among many other delights. It’s also the home of a startling number of ghosts.

This isn’t surprising, when you consider the scandalous reputation the town possessed in the nineteenth century. Between its founding in 1851 and its heyday in the 1880s, Port Townsend had the worst reputation on the west coast for brawling, crime, and murder. Worse even than the Barbary Coast (San Francisco). Divided into two parts—Downtown on the waterfront and Uptown on the cliff—the well-heeled residents in their Victorian mansions Uptown could ignore or at the very least pray for what was going on down there, literally under their noses.

A room at the Palace Hotel, photo by Shelley Adina
A room at the Palace Hotel, photo by Shelley Adina

By the 1890s, it was clear that the railroad was not going to come to this busy port, and it faded into obscurity just as rapidly as it had risen. But the one advantage to being out of the way was that the Victorian buildings were left alone. So were the ghosts. Two of the most famous are the Manresa Castle Hotel Uptown, which has two spirits (don’t stay in room 306), and the Palace Hotel Downtown, which used to be a brothel and has ten.

Ten ghosts! I went for a walk through the Palace Hotel and didn’t see a single one, but it was broad daylight, so that may have had something to do with it. I did see a lot of lovely quilts and Victorian architecture, however. Nowadays Port Townsend is a destination that for me, still holds its old moniker, City of Dreams. I can walk on the waterfront, squint just a certain way, and see Corsair’s Cove, hovering out there just beyond reality.

A little like a ghost.