Blogs

Viking. Woman. Explorer.

The Far Traveler Book Jacket
When you think of Vikings, perhaps you envision a grim-faced man in a horned helmet, wielding an axe as he stands at the prow of a longship, long hair streaming in the cold wind, mind set on pillage and plunder. But how accurate is this image? What about Viking women - did any of them go along with the men on these voyages? And what did Vikings do when they weren’t raiding or exploring?

My interest in all things northern recently led me to read The Far Traveler by Nancy Marie Brown, which answers these questions and more. It’s a fascinating look at the life of Gudrid, an Icelandic woman who traveled far indeed, from Iceland to Greenland on a harrowing voyage in which half the crew died, then further to the distant continent of Vinland, and in later life to Rome. The book jumps from describing modern-day excavations in Iceland to bits of the ancient sagas (I loved hearing about the brothers, known for their tight pants, who took over as the local ruffians after Eirik the Red got kicked out of Iceland). By combining archaeology with literary evidence, a compelling case emerges that Vinland was in North America, and that Gudrid was there.  As she follows Gudrid’s story, Brown also reveals much about life in Iceland and Greenland around the year 1000. If you ever wanted to know how to build a turf house that will stand up to an Arctic winter, this is the book for you. Some of my favorite parts were details about Viking food, such as bone jelly soup and bog butter. How tasty! I also enjoyed the description of the fuzzy tufted cloaks the Icelanders were fond of for their warmth and rain-shedding abilities, and which they liked to dye… purple?

For more fact and fiction about Iceland and Greenland in the times of the sagas, take a look at the list below.

The story of this country is the story of people coming and going, but mostly coming. The very concept of America has captured the imaginations of millions, among them writers, artists and bloggers. I was reminded of the amazing pastiche of people who have come here after looking at artist Maira Kalman's latest on her blog The Pursuit of Happiness. In "I Lift My Lamp Beside the Golden Door", Kalman takes a long view of the history of this country, beginning with Leif Ericson and ending with a trip to a cemetery in the Bronx, where the diminutive immigrant Irving Berlin is buried, the one who gave us the line "heaven, I'm in heaven...".

New York is a fine place to start if you want to hear stories about outsiders and newcomers. A recent trip there inspired me to read, watch and listen to everything I could find about the city. Intrigued by the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side, I searched for some fiction of that era and discovered Up From Orchard Street  by Eleanor Widmer. It's a 'slice of life' story about a family living in a crowded apartment in 1920's Manhattan and trying to make ends meet by running a restaurant out of their front room. A earlier and grittier portrayal of immigrants is the movie Gangs of New York. Though Scorsese took artistic liberties in describing the rivalries between immigrant gangs, he did draw from the book of the same name Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, by Herbert Asbury, first published in 1928. Be sure to watch the extra footage provided on the DVD if you're interested in the environs of 1800's Lower East Side.

A recent album by Steve Earle, who himself 'immigrated' to Greenwich Village from Tennessee, celebrates his adopted home. Washington Square Serenade includes several love letters to the city. "Down Here Below" tells the story of Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk who took up residence near Central Park and became a media darling. Another song rejoices in the diversity of NYC: "I've no need to go traveling; open the door and the world walks in, living in a city of immigrants."

book and e-book
You’ve written something, and it’s time to publish! Self-publishing isn’t what it used to be - expensive, sneered at as a "vanity" project, and often ignored by booksellers. Now you can bring your writing into physical form relatively cheaply, and it can be as glossy and perfect-bound as you like, or if you prefer, hand-stitched and hand-painted. With print-on-demand (POD) services,  you can have one beautiful book printed for a family member or friend, or you can print many to distribute to bookstores. It can also be an e-book - many authors are finding great success with self-published e-books. With a self-published ebook, you can have the satisfaction of getting your book into the hands of readers quickly, via many platforms, and even for free or very low cost. The avenues to self-publishing are diverse!

Because there are so many options, you’ll want to inform yourself as best you can. Things to consider include:

  • Do you want your book to have an ISBN?
  • How do you plan to market your book?
  • Who is the intended audience for your book?

Check out our booklist featuring books about self-publishing. Many of the books on this list discuss these questions, among others, that you should consider as you plan your self-publishing project.

What follows are just a few of the many resources available for you to choose from as you consider your self-publishing process.

If you'd like to be able to hold a print book in your hands, print-on-demand (POD) publishing might be for you. Some popular POD printers include CreateSpace (owned by Amazon.com), Ingram Spark (owned by Ingram, a major book distributor) Lulu, and Blurb. Many POD publishers offer ebook publishing, too. 

If you choose to self-publish an ebook, you might consider using the popular self-publishing services Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)Draft2Digital, or Smashwords

The services listed above are only a few of many available, and the landscape of these services and what they offer changes frequently. These services, whether for print or ebook publishing, vary in terms of rights that you reserve as an author, costs you may incur, the commission they keep from the sales of your books, the support they provide with formatting and design, among other things. Read up on the differences! Please let us know if we can help. 

There some local resources that might be relevant to your project, too: 

  • Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) is a membership organization with resources and workshops related to printing and book-making. They also have certificate programs in creative nonfiction/fiction, poetry, and comics/graphic novels.

If you’re interested in making contact with a local publisher or association, you might find the following organizations useful:

For advice and news, the Alliance of Independent Authors has an advice blog about self-publishing.

Are you interested in having your e-book available in the library? OverDrive is a service that many libraries, including Multnomah County Library, use to provide access to e-books. Like publishing houses, self-publishers must fill out a Publisher Application found on OverDrive's Content Reserve site. OverDrive has also created a helpful Intro to Digital Distribution pdf for new authors and publishers. OverDrive's public contact info can be found here. If your e-book is added into the OverDrive catalog, you can then suggest that we purchase it.

MCL also selects ebooks written by local authors during our annual Library Writers Project

In your creative work, you may find yourself wondering about copyright law and how it applies to you. We have quite a few books that provide guidance on these subjects - two of these are The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know by Stephen Fishman and Fair Use, Free Use, and Use by Permission: How to Handle Copyrights in All Media, by Lee Wilson. You’ll find quite a few others under the subject heading Copyright -- United States -- Popular Works.

Have fun, enjoy the process, and feel empowered to get your work into print! As always, please let us know if we can help direct you to books or other resources to help with your project. 

 

 

At this year's Portland Zine Symposium, we found that quite a few zinesters were offering new zines about food - from the practical to the poetic to the bizarre. Read, relish, cook, laugh, enjoy!

(Also, check out our other blog post about new zines from the Zine Symposium!)

 

FoodStampFoodie3
Food Stamp Foodie #3 by Virginia Paine

This issue of Food Stamp Foodie includes recipes, self-care tips and DIY projects in comics form. Simple vegan recipes, easy sewing projects and more!

 

Carnage

Carnage by Kelly

A zine about cooking and eating meat, from the perspective of an author who was formerly vegetarian.

 

 

Kosher
Kosher

A zine about eating kosher!

 

 

Burgermancer

Burgermancer #1 by Jason “JFish” Fischer

A burger fanzine, full of comics, recipes, reviews and articles - all about burgers. It’s delightfully weird, and features an interview with Hamburger Harry, burger connoisseur and curator at the Hamburger Museum.

 

Flavor
Flavor by Sofie Sherman-Burton

Rich prose (or prose poems?) recalling the author’s most prominent food memories.

 

 

Make Your Own Ginger Ale

Make Your Own Ginger Ale

 by Kione

This teeny-tiny 8-page zine features clear instructions and tips for making your own ginger ale!

 

I started re

ading The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti late last week.
The subtitle says it all. Love, betrayal, revenge, great cheese. If there were room on the cover I would add the words 'Family' and 'Sun-burned Small-town Spain'.
For the first couple days I would think about the book for hours, clock-watching until I could get a few more minutes with it. But it's the kind of book that deserves more than 15 minutes between loads of laundry and emptying the dishwasher. It deserves a quiet space and a steaming cup of coffee. Now one week in I'm getting up extra early to read in bed during that delicious time before the city is awake. Every single page is densely packed with delicious writing and humor. There are on-page footnotes (love them) that make a Siamese twin to the story itself.
I'm not finished yet but I can tell you this book is my favorite of the year. And I know in my heart that Paterniti will find himself receiving accolades and awards for months to come.

Old newspapers are a rich resource for satisfying casual curiosity, finding surprising sources of amusement, broadening knowledge
 of family history, and academic research. Thanks to an enormous effort taking place in libraries around the country more and more of them are available in full online. 
 
The Library of Congress has brought together work from many states in Chronicling America, an archive of newspapers covering 1836-1922. Chronicling America can be searched by keyword, state, or date. It also includes a selection of Recommended Topics where selected articles on subjects such as the Anarchist Incidents,  Lizzie Borden, and Orchidelirium are gathered together.
 
If your interest is family history, try searching for an ancestor’s name and limit by state. You may find an obituary, an election to minor office, a prize for the best yearling colt, or a host of other tidbits that made up their lives.
 
Report on Battle of Gettysburg. New-York Daily Tribune, July 3, 1863.
Occasionally these digitized pages provide a raw reflection of our nation’s most difficult days. For example, on the day after the San Francisco Fire, the three newspapers of San Francisco united to publish a joint issue under the name The Call-chronicle-examiner. It is a heartbreaking read.
 
Many states have separate sites to access their content. In Oregon that is Historic Oregon Newspapers  (maintained by the University of Oregon), which includes some newspapers that have not yet been added to the Chronicling America collection, such as selected years of the Oregon Journal
 
Questions? Ask the Librarian!  We are here to help!
 

 

When genetically-modified wheat was discovered in an Oregon field in the spring of 2013, the long-standing debate over genetically-modified foods intensified. How was Roundup Ready wheat created? And how did it end up in a field in Oregon, years after it was discontinued? What is the government’s role in regulating such technology?

Citizens and scientists have been debating the pros and cons of GMOs for years. Polls have shown the public is skeptical. Environmental and food safety organizations are concerned about the risks GMOs pose for humans and the planet. However, the companies engineering the crops, such as Monsanto, insist they are safe, as do some farming groups. A number of scientists take a middle ground, acknowledging the potential benefits of genetic engineering but criticizing the current use and regulation of GMOs. Some writers have even argued for an open-source” model of food genetics.

For an excellent overview on this issue, check out Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center in Context, which contains articles, statistics, audio files, and images. You’ll need to log in with your library card number and password to access this resource from outside the library.

Are you looking for some specific information not covered here? Contact a librarian for help.

A few

years ago, I walked the Great Glen Way in Scotland. Ever since, I've been wanting to go back to Britain and do another walk, but I wasn't sure exactly where to go. After reading a review of Simon Armitage's Walking Home: A Poet's Journey, I immediately put a hold on the book.  I had heard of the Pennine Way and thought perhaps I might like to try a portion of it as it is mostly in the northern part of England which I love.

Thankfully, I actually read the book and learned that there is no way in heck that I would ever attempt even a small part of 268 miserably wet and foggy miles that Armitage experienced on his journey. That being said, it was a lot of fun to read about someone else doing the trail! Armitage is a well-known poet, and decided that he would fund his trip by doing poetry readings almost every night of the 19 days he spent on the trail. Sometimes only a few showed up, but other nights the pub or hotel where he was staying was packed, and people gave generously. Armitage mixes in several poems he wrote along the trail with his thoughtful, humorous and self-deprecating journal. While I won't attempt his journey, the narrative has inspired me to seek out his poetry.

Felt Swan from the Hermitage Museum
The felt swan shown here, on display in the Hermitage Museum, dates from the 4th-5th centuries BC.  An object made of felt and deer hair with the figure supported by wooden stakes, it was part of a burial mound in the Eastern ranges of the Altai region in Russia. This image is from the book Felt, by Willow G. Mullins, an account of the many uses of felt over spans of centuries to contemporary times. It is an example of a type of book in the library that can serve as good starting points for your imagination, beginning with raw materials.

When experimenting with various types of media and processes associated with them, another type of book that is useful to remember about are the books about art hazards. As many people know from studying art, it's easy to forge ahead and forget that some of the properties of materials may be less than benign for health.

 

Not every novel needs to be a great classic of literature -sometimes what you need is a fun read. One popular sub-genre of science fiction these days is urban fantasy.  These stories are set in the real world but with the addition of magic.  Examples range from Charles De Lint's literary works to thinly disguised paranormal romances.
One of the first urban fantasy novels I can remember reading is War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. It won the Locus award for best first novel back in 1987.  It still holds up in spite of the outdated tech. A newer discovery is Stephen Blackmoore.  I turned up my nose at his first book because zombies just don't interest me.  Somehow Dead Things did catch my eye with the blurb "Necromancer is such an ugly word but it's a title Eric Carter is stuck with".  The protagonist isn't a nice guy or a hero but he's not evil either.  He's just trying to muddle through a really bad situation as best he can when he goes back home after his sister's murder.
 
If you're looking for a bit of light weight campy vampire fun, try Jeaniene Frost, starting with Halfway to the Grave. I give this author a thumbs up. The paranormal romance sub-genre isn't usually to my taste, but I devoured all of this author's books in short order.  Make no mistake. These are not technically "good" books.  Parts are even laughably bad, but somehow I just kept picking up the next book.  Think of it as a bag of chips... You know you ought to just pour a few in a bowl and put the bag away and yet... 
If you'd prefer more plot with your monsters try Patricia Briggs' Mercedes Thompson series, starting with Moon Called.  Mercy is a VW mechanic in the Tri-Cities in eastern Washington.  She's also a skinwalker who can transform into a coyote.  However, in a world with vampires, fae and werewolves turning into a 30 odd pound coyote leaves one rather under-powered.  
 
Soon I'll be catching up with is Charles de Lint's Newford series.  Set in a fictional Canadian town that borders a magical otherworld, the series features a number of standalone novels and short stories that are mentioned frequently in awards shortlists.
 
Happy reading!

Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer  by Siddhartha Mukherjee

There are loads of you out there who love to read a fat book (Hi, Mom!). You're drawn to authors like David McCullough, Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin. I've always regretted that I'm not one of you. I was not at all looking forward to reading this fat book, but it was for a book club so there was no getting around it. I cajoled myself with thoughts like, 'it won the Pulitzer Prize--it'll be good for you,' like it was a giant vitamin, and 'c'mon, you really like science writing.'


So I did it. I read Emperor of All Maladies  because I had to. And sometimes when you read something you wouldn't normally choose, you stumble on something that will keep you thinking for weeks after. Like the little boys, as young as 4, who were apprenticed or indentured as chimney sweeps in England during the 17 and 1800's, working nearly naked in flues as narrow as nine inches square. If asphyxiation or burns didn't get them as kids, then dying in young adulthood from cancer caused by the soot that stuck to their bodies seemed almost guaranteed. I'm thinking of the sort of 'why don't we try this?' experimentation on cancer patients through history. I'm thinking of the horrifying, radical surgeries, done for decades, with the idea that cancer could be physically removed by surgeons if they just removed enough flesh. I'm thinking of the amazing discoveries of scientists that seemed almost random, like a light bulb suddenly went off over their heads in a very, very dark room.

We've all lost a loved one or friend or neighbor or coworker to cancer. Or maybe you're fighting its spread in your own body right now. Every week it's in the news. A new medication, a gene discovered, a warning about food or chemicals or the environment. Strangely, and I didn't expect this, reading Emperor was a comfort to me. That we really have made progress. That each form of cancer is so specific, working on the big picture is important. And working on the rare, one-in-a-million cancers is just as important, because the science behind a discovery is always connected to something else, even if we don't know what it is right away.

A six year old boy is bereft and lost when his father dies "after visiting friends". He begins to stake out a claim to his father's life. "Death hung over the hous
e...Your absence is greater than your presence," he says. The family is complicit in the silence about this death.
 
I could feel the ache in this boy's heart as he seeks to conjure and reconstruct his father's life and to make him whole again.
 
The father, Bob Hainey was a hard-drinking, hard living newspaperman as was the custom in the newspaper world of 1960s Chicago. Now a deputy editor of GQ, Michael Hainey searches for clues and stories about his father.
 
In short, sharp, pointed sentences, Hainey paints a picture of his determined mother, his extended family and the Chicago world of newsmen and cops.
 
After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story is a quest for the truth. The lessons learned along the way and the discoveries awaiting the journey's end will keep you reading.
 
 

Whether you’re just beginning to work on expressing yourself in writing,

Ernest Hemingway writing
or have been working at it for a while, there is always room to improve your writing skills. From the basics of grammar and punctuation to the finer points of style and persuasive rhetoric, there’s a lot to learn. Practice helps, of course, and all writers continue learning as they go!

We have many books and other resources (including DVDs!) about developing those writing skills. A selection of resources for beginning and intermediate writers is available here as a booklist, but you might also browse the following subject headings:

There are also some great resources online, many of which are developed by college writing centers to help undergraduate students (and anyone else!) finesse their writing. Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a favorite, and UT Austin’s Undergraduate Writing Center and Colorado State’s Writing@CSU pages are also quite helpful. William Strunk and E.B. White’s classic guide to writing, The Elements of Style, is also freely available online.

Please feel free to stop by any library location or contact us if you have a question about writing, or would like some help finding just the right writing guide or other resources for you!

Library notices sometimes are filtered as spam by email providers and this happens because the library sends out many notices at one time. You can prevent this from happening if you add notices@multcolib.org to your contacts or address book.

Sometimes, library notices are bounced by email providers and the notices come back to us as undeliverable so it appears that your email is no longer valid. If this happens, the library removes your email from your account and you will begin to receive telephone notifications. You should contact us, if you start receiving telephone notifications instead of email notifications.

Where do you go once you’ve mastered sewing basic items of clothing and are ready to branch out into more challenging fashions?  

Step one is to make sure you are getting the best out of your sewing machine.  The Sewing Machine Classroom is more than just information about your machineIn the first chapters, Charlene Phillips talks in-depth about needles and thread. Think of it this way -- you can have the best car (sewing machine), but if you use the wrong tires (needles and thread), then the only thing between your car and the road (fabric) won't perform well. And may crash--badly.

Picking out a more advanced pattern can be intimidating, but the website PatternReview.com helps you get the scoop on which patterns work and which don’t. The site is a little clunky and cluttered, but there is a wealth of information there. You can create a free profile to access sewing pattern reviews, get reviews of sewing machines, visit forums, find tips and techniques, register for classes and the list goes on. If you need help with anything to do with sewing clothing, you can probably get your answers here.

You might be intimidated by trying a more complicated garment because you are worried it might not fit and you will have spent all that time creating something unwearable.  Check out Fitting & Pattern Alteration by Elizabeth G. Liechty. I’ve found fitting solutions in here I’ve never seen anywhere else.

So now you’ve got it to fit, how do you give your garments that extra special touch?  Try some couture techniques.  Claire Shaeffer has really studied couture garments in depth and has stellar techniques in her book Couture Sewing Techniques, as well as interesting histories of some garments from couture designers. Made a v-neck top that gaps? She’ll tell you how to fix that.  Know all about closures? This will tell you even more.  Claire is also featured on the Couture Allure Vintage Fashion Blog.

If you are making a shirt, take a look at David Page Coffin’s book, Shirtmaking:  Developing Skills for Fine Sewing, and companion DVD, Shirtmaking Techniques, in order to get seriously professional results:  well-turned collars, perfect plackets, and impeccable hems.  I would recommend these techniques even if you aren’t sewing a shirt. They can be applied in other areas of other kinds of garments. For example, I use his instructions for attaching a sleeve cuff to attach waistbands to pants as a way to avoid bumpy corners.

If you’ve gotten to this point, you’re probably ready to try some tailoring. Tailoring, a volume from the Singer Reference Library, goes over classic tailoring techniques, but gives you the option of shortcuts with modern fusible stabilizers, too, making the process a little less daunting. 

Maybe you’re still not sure what you want to sew next. Look for some inspiration in the form of online blogs.  Two standout blogs I regularly visit are Gretchen Hirsch’s blog, Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing and Peter Lappin's Male Pattern Boldness. Gertie sews her own clothes with a vintage flair, and has transformed that into a successful teaching business, a book, and even her own line of patterns.  For every creation, Gerie provides tutorials or photographs of the process.  Peter makes dresses and suits and everything in between.  He also takes photos of his sewing process which are really helpful, and his writing style is a joy to read, even if you don’t sew.

And, lastly, if you’re feeling really adventurous, check out this drool-worthy blog of period costumes at Before the Automobile. Wow!

Rebecca is a library clerk at Belmont who has been sewing since a very young age, but recently realized she was resting on her laurels and needed more of a challenge.

 

I don’t seek out dystopian novels:

I’m not usually looking for a downer, but somehow I end up reading dystopian novels for young adults, and I like them. These books have appeal that crosses genres. Usually sci-fi, they have the intrigue of thriller, the creative world-building of good fantasy, and strong characters who are capable of facing hard times. Unlike those for adults, dystopian books for teens often have a more hopeful ending, or aren’t quite so...um...grim. Unlike...cough...The Road.

Imagine living in a bottle two kilometers by two kilometers, and that people have been living there, reproducing, evolving as a society, well, forever now, and the small contained world is bursting at the seams. Maria V. Snyder creates such a space in Inside Out. Society is divided by the “uppers” in the upper two levels, and the “scrubs” packed into the lower two levels. Feisty scrub Trella tries to keep to herself, but ends up turning this world upside down, or is that inside out?

My
first thought on encountering Uglies is remembrance of that old Twilight  episode in which the beautiful woman undergoes surgery so she can be as beautiful as everyone else - that is - ugly. At 16, everyone undergoes this surgery to be Pretty, except a few rebels. And that’s unacceptable.  Here we have the seeming elements of a utopia, with everyone happy, hoverboards and hovercars, ready-made food, and parties all the time. But then there’s that dark underside, that shadowy governing body that does anything to keep it that way. When Tally, so looking forward to her own Pretty-making surgery, is coerced to find rebels, adventure and coming-of-age hardships ensue.

A technol
ogical living prison gone rogue in which people inside have lost belief in the outside - that’s Incarceron. Outside, the prison world is also a myth. Outside, by royal decree, advanced technology is banned. Yet an insider and an outsider find a way to communicate. The insider’s memory has been wiped, but with clues that he once was outside. The outsider is a pampered daughter of the warden...the one person who has a clue about the forgotten experiment in incarceration. Of course, once the secret’s out to these two, action and intrigue develop.

Want to impress your friends by serving them that delicious crab and mango salad from The Heathman menu? Need help replicating the flaky, crispy crust that ring the pies at Ken's Artisan Pizza? Ready to try cooking with Caprial? Then this is the blog post for you. Check out these great cookbooks that offer recipes from some of Portland's favorite chefs.

 

 

Savor Portland Cookbook offers recipes from over 25 area restaurants including several James Beard Award winners and Stumptown stalwarts including Papa Haydn's, Saucebox, Veritable Quandry, Paley's Place and Higgins. A culinary glossary and a list of sources for hard to find ingredients will help guide your dishes to success. You can preview the book here

 

 

 

Few can do comfort food better than Lisa Schroeder, the chef behind wildly popular Mother's Bistro and Bar. Chicken and Dumplings, Pot Roast (oh, that pot roast!), Meatloaf and Mac n' Cheese are some of the delicious homestyle plates offered at Mother's. Lisa has shared over 150 of her fabulous recipes in Mother's Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again.

 

 

 

If you've never eaten one of Ken's Artisan pizzas, or croissants, or walnut bread, raisin bread, brown bread, or a brioche bun, or.....sorry, I got lost daydreaming for a minute there! Well, if you haven't yet tried one of these delectable treats, you must go grab one of his out-of-this-world creations. Go ahead, I'll wait. Okay, see what I mean? This man knows dough! And he's sharing his secrets with us in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast.

 

 

 

Caprial and John Pence have been feeding Portland for the past seventeen years, first from their Sellwood Bistro and now at Supper Club and by teaching cooking classes at their Chef's Studio or in your own home. If you want to try making some classic cuisine that is sure to please, check out Caprial and John's Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking Together.

I read a lot of books last year and kept a little list as I finished each one and gave them a point rating.  As the year closed I sorted them by rating looking for some really good titles I hadn't yet recommended. I finished out last year with the Grey Walker series by Kat Richardson.  Set in

modern day Seattle, the series features Harper Blaine, a P.I. who develops the ability to move through the Grey after dying for a couple of minutes and being revived.  The Grey is the the realm of ghosts, vampires, witches, and magic that exists between our world and the next. Aside from this ability she's a very human and real-feeling character.  

Harper is possessed of human flaws and foibles.  She's touch too self centered: at one point when she has someone gunning for her, she hides out at the house of friends who have a little child.  She does keep trying though, and learns from her mistakes eventually. The secondary characters are also well-developed.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens to a certain major secondary character whose background and family history has been gradually revealed.  (I fear giving out the secondary's character name would be too much of a spoiler for early books in the series.) Sadly, now I've got to wait until August 2013 for book 8.  This is now one of my top ten favorite urban fantasy series.

Speaking of character driven urban fantasy, I'm currently enjoying the second season of Alphas.  In the short first season the viewer is introduced to a small group of characters who all have super-human ability, and a shrink who is studying/helping them.  None of the characters strike me as being very likable but they're all so very interesting that watching the unfolding story was one of my viewing highlights last year, not counting Game of Thrones of course!

When faced with a blank page, how do you begin a new writing project? Sometimes just getting the pen moving or keyboard clicking feels like the toughest aspect of creative writing.

Writing prompts or exercises can help you create an entry point into your work, provide a little momentum, and release the pressure of the scary expanse of white page. Whether you’d like to write a novel, short stories, poetry, memoir or other nonfiction, you have to start somewhere.
 
There are some great books that offer advice about the craft of writing, advice about the writing life, as well as offering prompts to get you started. A few web resources also offer writing prompts, including Poets & Writers magazine and LitBridge.
 
Of course, writers and other artists find inspiration in all sorts of places. Perhaps a visit to browse the shelves at your favorite library will turn your eye to something that makes you want to write!

You can find lots of detailed information about your neighborhood, your street, or even your house from maps. The maps below have historical information about property ownership, building footprints, old out-of-date addresses, and more! 

Digital Sanborn Maps. Library resource containing digital versions of Sanborn fire insurance maps for Oregon for various dates. Compiled for insurance companies, these maps show the location and composition of buildings. They also note potential fire hazards like gas stations, lumber mills, movie theaters, bakeries, and show the location of steep slopes, water mains, and other infrastructure details. Maps for Gresham, Troutdale, and Portland are in this collection, as are maps for the former cities of St. Johns, Albina, and Multnomah (now all part of the city of Portland). Be ready to enter your library card number and PIN; this is a special library resource! (If this collection doesn't have what you need, take a look at the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability's list of Sanborn Insurance Maps Covering Portland, Oregon that are owned by other libraries and archives.)

The Portland Block Book. Two-volume book of maps of the city of Portland, circa 1907, showing ownership of residential property and other real estate information. You'll need to know a property's legal description -- the name of the addition/subdivision and the block and lot numbers to use this book. You can usually get the legal description of a property from PortlandMaps (see below). Visit Central Library to use this two-volume set in person.

Metsker's Atlas of Multnomah County, Oregon. Atlases showing the names of property owners (for larger lots), lot lines and street names. The library has Metsker atlases from 1927, 1936, and 1944, as well as atlases for Clackamas, Washington and most other Oregon counties. Visit Central Library to use the Metsker atlases in person.

PortlandMaps. Maps and current property information for Portland and much of the surrounding area, including maps, tax information, crime data, school and park information and more.

 

  Questions? Ask the Librarian.

Pages