Norton Creek Press


Classic Reprints and Old-Time Wisdom

Most of the best books ever written are out of print and forgotten. A few old books are considered classics and stay in print, but many equally good books vanish without a trace. At Norton Creek Press, we are bringing a relative handful of the very best books back into print. We read mountains of old books so you don’t have to.

Norton Creek Press is a family business run by Karen L. Black and Robert Plamondon (both writer/farmer/editor/engineers). We started out with a line of poultry books because, when we moved to our Oregon farm, we discovered that the more recent poultry books were not in tune with the needs of small farmers, while older books were. We read several hundred poultry publications, eventually choosing three to bring back into print (and writing a fourth). We’re branching out in directions that match our interests and experience, starting with back-to-the-land books. And there’s more to come!

Chickens and Poultrykeeping

Our line of classic poultry books cover many aspects of poultrykeeping. Most modern poultry books are disappointing, either because they are written at the post-graduate level for industry professionals or superficially for hobbyists. Thoughtful, thorough books that can be understood by the interested layman are no longer being written. With that in mind, we have reprinted the best poultry books of all time. These include Robert Plamondon’s Success With Baby Chicks, Milo Hastings’ The Dollar Hen, F. B. Hutt’s Genetics of the Fowl, and G. F. Heuser’s Feeding Poultry.

Gardening and Ruth Stout

We’ve brought back Ruth Stout’s classic Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent, which has been called “the best gardening book ever!” Ruth Stoute was a simple-living advocate who nevertheless had an active and colorful life. Most people find all her writing delightful, even when it’s on a topic they otherwise aren’t interested in.

And since no one ever gets tired of Ruth Stout, we’ve rediscovered and republished two more of her books: Company Coming: Six Decades of Hospitality and If You Would be Happy: Cultivate Your Life Like a Garden.

Back-to-the-Land Adventures

We think you’ll love our back-to-the-land adventures as much as we do. We found all these books helpful when we were making our own back-to-the-land transition. They aren’t step-by-step handbooks, but they are inspirational and entertaining, and occasionally useful. All these books are classic success stories about people who moved from the city to the country and made a go at farming. The oldest is Edmund Morris’ classic Ten Acres Enough from 1864, M. G. Kains’ charming We Wanted a Farm from 1941, and Margaret Leatherbarrow’s fascinating Gold in the Grass from 1954.

Writing Fiction

If you write stories, you know what it’s like to have most of a story idea, but not a complete plot. Wouldn’t it be a relief to have a tool that adds some structure to the process of coming up with plot elements, and suggests twists and turns? We’re proud to reprint William Wallace Cook’s Plotto: The Classic Plot Suggestion Tool for Writers of Creative Fiction, (previously published as Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots), which for decades has been so scarce and so prized by professional authors and screenwriters that you would count yourself lucky to buy a used copy for a hundred dollars! Our exact reproduction of Plotto retails for just $18.95, making it a tool everyone can afford.

We’ve also republished Cook’s autobiography, the Fiction Factory.

Adventure Books

We’ve started our line of adventure books with Percy Keese Fitzhugh’s classic series of boy scout adventures, the Tom Slade series. This wonderful nineteen-volume set of boys’ books from the early days of scouting is just the beginning! Fitzhugh wrote several other, equally good series, and we will be bringing additional gems from other authors.

Through Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers’ Handbook

Robert wrote Through Dungeons Deep when he was in college. It tells you how to play and run fantasy role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. As you can see by the reviews on, it is still considered to be the finest book of its kind.

How to Order

See our How to Order page.


Plotto: Avoid These Three Huge Mistakes

William Wallace Cook’s plot-suggestion system, Plotto, is woefully misunderstood, even by some of its biggest fans. Let’s take of three of the most basic mistakes that will prevent you from getting the most out of this wonderful plotting aid for writers and screenwriters.

Mistake 1: Taking Plot Hints Literally

At first glance, all plot suggestions in Plotto seem either too vague or too specific. The vague ones can be a bit of a puzzler, but the too-specific ones are easier to work with.

Let’s look at conflict #1419(a):

A, caught in a trap and held powerless under a huge burning glass, is saved by an eclipse of the sun.

This sounds a bit fantastic, but that’s not the problem, because it’s listed under “Occult and Fantastic” conflicts. No, the real problem is that readers often think you’re supposed to cut this conflict out and paste it down as-is, when, actually, you’re not supposed to. It’s only an example.

An example of what? Basically, of a situation featuring a self-operating killing machine that our hero escapes on his own, with the aid of a minor flaw in its operation.

Far-fetched? Hardly. This plot has been used before, in stories we’ve all heard of.

Real Stories Using This Plot

  • The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe, where the attention of rats and the slicing action of the pendulum itself allow the protagonist to roll out of its way.
  • Androcles and the Lion, by Aesop, where the reliably savage man-eating lion turns out to have a mind of its own, and chooses not to kill his old friend.
  • Partial credit for the laser scene in Goldfinger, though Bond talks his way out instead of doing it right, with a mirror or something.

Mistake 2: Not Understanding the Masterplot Table

Any A Clause may be used in conjunction with any B Clause and with Any C Clause.
Plotto, page 17

Most people, when they look at Plotto, notice that, if you read across the top of the Materplot table, the protagonist A clauses, the conflict B clauses, and the terminal C clauses seem to go together. And they do. Cook arranged them this way for convenience, so the most common A-B-C combinations will be close to each other.

For example, about the first Masterplot you encounter will be:

  • A1. A person in love,
  • B1. Engaging in a difficult enterprise when promised a reward for high achievement,
  • C1. Pays a grim penalty in an unfortunate undertaking.


But it’s only for convenience. You can just as easily take a B and C clauses from different regions of the table, like this:

  • A1. A person in love,
  • B59. Engaging in an enterprise and becoming involved with the occult and fantastic,
  • C8. Achieves a spiritual victory.

Most people don’t even realize that this is possible! In fact, at least two editions of Plotto (the Tin House Books Kindle edition, and Ashleywilde’s Plots Unlimited, format the Masterplot table according to the usual misinterpretation, making it less likely that you’ll ever figure out that you can use it the way it’s meant to be used, an an any-to-any manner, like my example above.

My own Norton Creek Press edition of Plotto avoids this problem, since is an exact duplicate of the original edition. But it introduces a less fatal form of confusion, since the book is supposed to use half-width pages for the B clauses, but neither my edition nor later press runs of the original edition do this (it’s not technically feasible with the printing process I used).

Basically, all you need to know is “pick any clauses you like from the A, B, and C columns.”


Mistake 3. Not Reading the Plotto Instruction Booklet

Pretty much the moment Plotto hit the presses, Cook realized that most readers couldn’t understand it, so he created a seven-lesson instruction course in the form of a Plotto Instruction BookletYou need this instruction booklet!

Original copies of the booklet are extremely hard to find, though sometimes a old copy of Plotto will include one, perhaps tucked in a pouch on the inside front cover.

I’ve republished the Plotto Instruction Booklet as a stand-alone title (in paperback and Kindle form). Tin House Books includes it at the back of their edition of Plotto (too bad—it should be in the front).

You can use the Plotto Instruction Booklet with:

  • Original copies of Plotto, printed by Ellis Publishing company between 1928 and 1941.
  • The Norton Creek Press edition of Plotto.
  • Plots Unlimited, printed by Ashleywilde. (Plots Unlimited is a bowdlerized version of Plotto.)

There you have it. Three things you can do to turn your Plotto-ing around.



Poultry Production

The Practice and Science of Chickens

by Leslie E. Card

414 pages.198 illustrations. Suggested retail price, $34.95. ISBN 1938099028.

Scientifically based books for raising modest numbers of chickens became as rare as hen’s teeth. There are plenty of rule-of-thumb books for backyarders and massive tomes for poultry scientists, but little in the way of sound, reliable works for serious poultrykeepers. Fortunately, we can find what we need by turning back the clock a bit.

This book, the 9th edition of Poultry Production, is just what we need. It’s from 1961: new enough that all the basic scientific principles had been discovered, but old enough that small- and medium-sized flocks have not been forgotten. Leslie Card’s application of carefully tested methods to practical poultrykeeping problems allows you  to move forward with your own flock.

Poultry Production is lavishly illustrated, with 55 tables and nearly 200 photographs, drawing, charts, and graphs to clarify the details of every aspect of keeping chickens successfully. (For example, a graph showing how a concrete floor affects the air temperature at floor level, warming it by more than 5 °F in cold weather and cooling it by more than 15 °F in hot weather). This kind of detail means there’s a place for Poultry Production on every chicken owner’s shelf.


Table of Contents

A Personal Note to Students.
1. The Poultry Industry.
2. The Structure of the Chicken and the Formation of the Egg.
3. Principles of Poultry Breeding.
4. Selection and Improvement.
5. Incubation.
6. Brooding and Rearing.
7. Houses and Equipment.
8. The Principles of Poultry Nutrition.
9. The Feeds.
10. The Nutrient Requirements of Poultry.
11. Controlling Disease and Parasites.
12. Marketing Eggs.
13. Marketing Poultry.
14. The Business of Poultry Keeping.

Leslie-E-Card-Poultry-Production-Norton-Creek-Press-300pxAbout Leslie E. Card.

Leslie E. Card (1883-1968) was Professor of Animal Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana.

A Norton Creek Classic

This book is part of the Norton Creek Classics series; books from our
past with an important part to play in our future.


Order on Amazon or see our How to Order page.

William Wallace Cook’s Plotto Featured on BBC

plotto_cover250Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots, and its author, William Wallace Cook, were recently featured on BBC Radio, in a program called “Miles Jupp and the Plot Device.” Listen to it here.

Jupp goes into Cook’s tremendously prolific writing life, the difficulty of getting a copy of the original printing of Plotto, and the fact that Plotto does not drop a finished plot into your lap, but takes some effort to master. (Cook later wrote a Plotto instruction manual to clarify how to use the book, which I’ve posted to this site.)

Jupp also discusses Plotto’s influence on at least one other writer, Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason. Every story introduced a new crime and new characters, which required a new plot.

How prolific was William Wallace Cook? At one point he worked with one, two, or even three stenographers at the same time, dictating one story to each in rotation, and filling in any gaps by sitting down at his typewriter and working on a different story.

Is Plotto a magic plotting device? I think it is, sort of. It’s not going to write your novel for you, but when I took Linda Hamner’s excellent scriptwriting course, it was clear that any movie has enough twists and turns to cause serious brain-freeze, and a TV series or a novel is even more daunting. Personally, I think Plotto is a magic device for subplots, especially if you expect not to cut ’em out and paste ’em down, but to use them as a starting point, or even just to jog your brain into coming up with something better.