The Happy Hollisters

I did a lot of reading as a child, and I can recall many excellent books that were enjoyed along the way, but my hands-down childhood favorites were The Happy Hollisters series by Jerry West (Andrew E. Svenson). This series chronicled the adventures of the Hollister family consisting of Mom & Dad, along with children Pete (12), Pam (10), Ricky (7), Holly (6), and Sue (4), plus Zip the Collie and White Nose the cat.

Some of the stories took place around their new hometown of Shoreham, while others took place at various locations within the U.S. or other countries. Each book provided plenty of adventure and always a mystery, with lots of clues and humorous mishaps along the way. The fun was wholesome, and good triumphed over evil. Illustrations by Helen S. Hamilton also helped to fuel my imagination.

The author, Andrew E. Svenson, also wrote books for other popular series including The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey Twins, and his Hollister adventures were loosely based on the experiences of his own large family growing up. I was recently delighted to discover that the books are now being reprinted in paperback on CreateSpace and available through Amazon at $9.95 each! This has allowed me to purchase some of the books missing from my own collection (I have about 20 out of 33 hardbacks). If I had kids age 8-12, they would be reading these! 🙂 (1953 Doubleday & Co.)


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Inspiration – Write It Down!

If you’ve written fiction for any length of time you know how important it is to seize upon ideas when they come, and not put them off until later. When a plot point, a character, a title or a perfect ending pops into your head at 3:00 a.m. you’d better roll over, grab a notepad and write it down. Don’t expect it to linger til dawn; chances are it won’t. How many inspired ideas slip into the abyss every year simply because we were too busy at that moment to write or record them?

Early last week I left my station at the library Help Desk for a quick run upstairs. By the time I returned a few minutes later, an opening line had popped into my head, followed by two more sentences. Business was slow at that moment, and so within twenty minutes I had composed a little slice of flash fiction – only 280 words. But it was something – a complete little vignette that had not existed less than an hour prior.

That’s why it is so important to write or record ideas when they come, to somehow find a way of capturing them before they escape. You never know when that particular thought will lead to a poem, a short story or a novel, an international bestseller or a tiny bit of flash fiction published only on your blog.

You can read that bit of tiny fiction at my writer’s blog –

Remember this: Inspiration that gets pushed to the back burner is in danger of burning up! Hey, maybe I’ll write that down for my next book of pithy sayings …

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Fireweed & Scarlet Sails

Note: Neither of the following books is action-packed. They are dramas – well written and good enough to keep me reading, which says something. They are literature, but not pretentious, and a good read for kids or adults who are not hyped up on space battles and kung-fu.

Fireweed Multi

Fireweed is the story of two runaways – boy and girl – who form a bond of friendship after discovering each other during the WWII London Blitz. There is fear and danger, and a bit of romance, as the kids learn to live and survive together. This story also has a realistic ending, always a plus. (Penguin, 1969)


Scarlet Sails is one of the very few books I’ve read that were translated into English. In this case, Russian author Alexander Grin (Aleksandr Stepanovich Grinevsky) has written a love story that takes place in an unnamed and somewhat surreal town by the sea. I’m no expert on translations, but I thought the English version was well-written, with a different “vibe” than many of the books I’ve read. I’m also not a romance fan but this story transcended that for me. I’m pretty sure it’s out-of-print but available used, and has been published in many editions, both English and Russian. (Scribner, 1967)

Scarlet Sails Multi

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Sci-Fi Favorites

SDFirst published by Doubleday in 1967, Stranger from the Depths was a delight to read as a boy in the 1970’s, conjuring an amphibious humanoid from a long dormant undersea culture, full of advanced technology and undersea adventure. The science may be a bit dated but the story was a page-turner. Unfortunately, my childhood copy slipped away at some point and it’s pretty hard to come by an unabridged hardcover edition anywhere, at a reasonable price. But I’m determined to read it again so my search goes on…





Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was, to my recollection, the first attempted sequel to Star Wars. Written by Alan Dean Foster and published in 1978, it took the Luke Skywalker storyline in a whole different direction from the later movie sequels. Let’s just say that Luke and Leia are definitely not brother and sister! But it’s an enjoyable story for any Star Wars fan, and as a first sequel that doesn’t fit into the later official chronologies, it makes a very special addition to any SW book collection.





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Gun Repair

A while back I acquired a non-firing replica of the Colt 1848 “Baby Dragoon” pocket revolver. Although it is non-firing, it has a working trigger / hammer mechanism and rotating cylinder. Somehow I managed to break it so there was no spring tension in the hammer, and I finally decided to disassemble the gun and figure out what went wrong.gun1































After examining the mechanism and fiddling with a couple of improvised springs – to no avail – I decided to remove one side of the grip and check out the innards. Since the grips were not made to remove, I actually broke off the left side, and what do you know? A big tension spring…gun5










The spring had an obvious misalignment, so I worked it back into place, reassembled the gun and re-glued the grip. All is well.

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Locks and Keys

Recently I came into possession of several vintage locks along with an assortment of skeleton keys and other miscellaneous. Three of the locks are stamped YALE while another of the same design is stamped with the company name WILCO. The keys are mostly vintage with a few “faux vintage” mixed in.


Locks7  Locks6



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Am I a Writer?

NOTE: This was originally posted a few years back on Xanga – anyone remember Xanga? – but I thought it appropriate to re-post here for whatever it’s worth.  

Writers and published authors will sometimes state that the act of writing itself is their passion, and so they will always write whether they get paid for it (and published) or not. These folks are among the most prolific, and often successful, writers. Others find writing to be therapeutic, or they write with visions of fame and movie options.

I don’t seem to fall into any of these categories. I enjoy writing to a certain extent, the same way I enjoy some other activities, but I have no passion for writing in and of itself. I could easily go a day or a month without writing a single word. I don’t find writing to be especially therapeutic either. Maybe just never thought of it that way.

What I do enjoy is being able to edit and refine my ideas before sharing them with the world. Too often my spoken words come out like a bad first draft, and I wish I’d have said things differently. That problem goes away when writing. I can say what I want in just the right way. It’s almost like cheating.

Yet despite that enjoyment, I often have to force myself to sit down and put words on paper screen. Sometimes I lose interest in my great story idea because I realize that it doesn’t have any ultimate significance – like it’s not enough for me to merely entertain or inform, I want to change someone’s life. Unfortunately, life-changing ideas are hard to come by.

The one exception to my lack of passion is when I am in the midst of a debate, and many of my debates have concerned some point of faith or theology. I once wrote a thirty-page response to a friend on the subject of free will vs. predestination, and I could hardly bring myself to leave the keyboard until it was typed, edited, printed and bound. I was passionate.

Most other times, not so much. I have already concluded that I’m not a natural born writer, or someone who needs to write like eating or breathing… but am I a writer at all? Well, here I am putting words on a screen, explaining my thoughts in written form for others to read. Many people would never conceive of doing such a thing, so yes, in some way that sets me apart from a large segment of the general population, I am a writer. Whether that will lead to anything worthwhile remains to be seen.

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