Unleashed in Oregon blog book is born

Unleashed PB coverWell, I did it. Soon I’ll be holding a paperback book copy of Unleashed from Oregon: Best from the Blog. It will have tangible form, unlike these weekly blog posts in cyberspace, which could disappear if something happened to WordPress, Wi-Fi or the Internet. It will also put together related posts from various times and places to create a new story.

What’s in it? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more. What is a Californigonian? What was waiting by the door that night? What possessed us to adopt two puppies at once? How is playing the piano like ice skating? Why stay in Oregon when it rains all the time and the family is still back in California? Chapters will look at the glamorous life of a writer and the equally glamorous life of a musician, true stories from a whiny traveler, being the sole human occupant of a house in the woods, and dogs, so much about dogs.

With over 500 posts published over the last 10 years, I had to leave a lot out. Frankly, many of those posts deserved to be left out. They made sense at the time, but now not so much. The photos in the book are black and white because the cost of color photos was prohibitive and this isn’t a coffee table book. I refuse to charge people $40 a copy. I wanted it to be fun and inexpensive. And it is.

Putting Unleashed the book together has been a challenge. The cover I loved for the e-book didn’t work for the paperback, so they’re different. Choosing the posts, finding the files, and finding the original photos (I need a better system!) took time. Remind me not to try formatting another book with pictures. Also remind me to use a real camera instead of my phone. Getting photos, page numbers, and headers to line up, yikes, but I think you’ll like the result.

The e-book is already available at Amazon.com. The paperback will be there soon. Click on my name and take a look at my other books while you’re there. It’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas presents. If you can’t wait, you can buy copies of the paperback right now at CreateSpace.com.

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Portuguese grandma book lives on and on

Stories_Grandma_Neve_Cover_for_KindleStories Grandma Never Told was conceived one day more than 25 years ago when I was hiding out in my parents’ vacation trailer making random notes in the wake of publishing my first book, The Iberian Americans. That book was an overview of the experiences of immigrants from Portugal, Spain and the Basque Country. My roots lead back to all of those places.

What about the Portuguese women, I asked myself. What has been passed down from my great grandmother to my grandmother to my mother to me that makes me who I am? The eyes, the nose, the body, yes, but what else? Who were these women? The few books about Portuguese immigrants that I had found focused on the men, as if the women didn’t come at all. There were stories to be shared.

The result was my next published book, Stories Grandma Never Told: Portuguese Women in California. The title is slightly misleading because the book does not include my grandmother’s stories. I never heard them. Instead, I looked up “Portuguese” in the phone book (pre-Google) and started interviewing women: family, friends, people who were active in the Portuguese community and the people they insisted I speak to. I had never been exposed to much of the Portuguese culture. A few words, a few foods, but not much more. My parents’ generation insisted on being as American as possible. Forget the old country. But I got involved, I learned, and I wrote.

It took almost a decade to get this book published. We had already moved to Oregon when I finally got the letter (pre-email!) from Malcolm Margolin of Heyday Books offering to publish Stories Grandma Never Told. It was released at The Dia de Portugal celebration in San Jose in June 1998. That was one of the best days of my life. My family was there, and the books sold like crazy.

Eighteen years later, the book is still selling, but not in the same way. After nine years doing a fantastic job with my book through three printings, the people at Heyday decided it wasn’t selling enough to be worth doing another printing. But it was still selling, and I wasn’t ready to let it go, so I started my own publishing company, Blue Hydrangea Productions, hooked up with a local printshop, Lazerquick in Newport, and produced my own edition with a gorgeous new cover photo of my grandmother, Anne Avina, on her wedding day.Stories Grandma Never Told_justified text.pmd

That first Blue Hydrangea edition kept selling. I went through three printings, and I’m still getting orders. I’m out of envelopes and almost out of books, but Stories Grandma Never Told lives on. I am releasing a new edition this month through Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand program. You can order it online right now. Again, we have a new cover. This one features my great grandmother, Anna Souza. Why go through Amazon this time? Cost and efficiency. It costs me nothing, saving me a big printing bill and allowing me to charge less for the book. I can also offer it as a Kindle ebook for the first time ever. Plus, since most of my orders come from Amazon, they won’t have to get the books from me, meaning readers can get copies more quickly. I will still get paid and should make more money than before.

Why self-publish? These days, it’s a big question in publishing. It’s so hard to get accepted by traditional publishers, although I have done it several times and expect to do it again. Some self-published books are poorly written and badly edited, but many respected authors are taking control of their own careers by publishing their own books. We have the technology now sitting on our desks. Why depend on someone else?

“Grandma” was originally edited and formatted by the best at Heyday Books. I’m just keeping their work going. Why? Because the readers still want the book, and they don’t care how it came to be. I marvel at this, that I wrote something people want to buy and share with their mothers, daughters and friends. How could I let it die?

Grandma Souza, who died in 1954, would be shocked to find her face on the front of a book. She never learned to read in either Portuguese or English. But here she is, digitized in 2016 and being written about in a “blog.” As she might have said, “Ay, Jesus.”