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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 Amazon.com, it is still considered to be the finest book of its kind.

How to Order

See our How to Order page.

 

Ten Dungeon Mastering Tips for D&D and Other RPG Campaigns

dungeon mastering: the partyHow can you make your role-playing campaign run more smoothly and be more fun for everyone? Here are ten quick dungeon mastering tips for any campaign:

  1. Supply paper, pencils, and dice. Counting on the players to provide even their most basic requirements doesn’t work, so don’t try. Always have more sharpened pencils available than players. Bring lots of paper. Have more dice than you can possibly use.
  2. Enforce a “No touching” rule. Some players can’t keep their hands off the other players. This is disgusting and must be stopped before the other players abandon your campaign just to get away from the offenders. Declare a “no touching” rule and enforce it. Come down hard on even minor infractions, or when the game gets exciting, the offenders won’t be able to control themselves and will be pawing and pummeling the other players like six-armed monkeys on acid. (“No touching” also includes “No pretending to touch, no brandishing, no looming over the other players.” They need to stay out of each other’s personal space.)
  3. Enforce a “Hands off other people’s stuff” rule. Players are not allowed to touch other people’s possessions without permission, or read their notes, or use their laptops, or anything like that. In particular, anyone who knocks around someone else’s lovingly painted miniatures should be taken out and shot.
  4. Side conversations are okay, but should be done away from the gaming table. Suppose there are five players but you’re DMing a situation that involves only two of them. What do the other players do? Well, frankly, if they aren’t fascinated by the action involving the other two players, you’re better off without them. If they can go off somewhere (not too far) and amuse themselves until it’s their turn to role-play again, that’s great. Better than having bored and fidgety players annoying everyone else. If the other players go off and have a conversation, or watch TV, or play video games, fine. It relieves you of the burden of entertaining all of the players, all of the time.
  5. Keep notes in a spiral notebook. Or use some other method to keep your notes from scattered to the four winds. Loose sheets are horrible. Three-ring binders take up more than twice as much precious table space as a spiral notebook. Laptop computers are okay. Smartphones and tablets usually don’t allow a fast enough typing speed.
  6. If you use a laptop for notes, set your editor to autosave very frequently. You won’t like it if your computer crashes and you lose an hour’s worth of notes. I’d set autosave to five minutes if I were you.
  7. Have a break every hour. It helps. A lot. A 5-10 minute break adds a lot of pep back into the players and yourself.
  8. Watch out for super-sized drinks. A single giant soda can destroy multiple laptops and a lot of expensive gaming books if spilled, and you can count on it happening eventually. Use a separate table for DM materials or ban large drinks from the gaming area. This can save you a lot of grief.
  9. End the session before you’re exhausted. When a gaming session runs late, I gradually take fewer and fewer notes, and the next day I can neither find any notes nor remember anything from the last hour or so of play. I guess I’m running on autopilot. Apparently my unconscious mind is okay at dungeon mastering but not at keeping me informed. This isn’t good for me and it’s not good for the players. Wrap things up before your performance (or theirs) falls off too much. Do something else if it’s not time to go home yet. There’s no law that says the whole session has to be devoted to D&D.
  10. When in doubt, ask the players. Have you forgotten what happened in a long-ago session? Ask the players. Probably no one will remember the events exactly, but as soon as one player remembers something, anything, another will remember another detail, and in a few minutes, the whole sequence of events will be recovered. Works like magic.

through_dungeons_deepBonus Tip: Read My Book

If you like these tips, there are hundreds more in my book, Through Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers’ Handbook. Check it out!

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.
Index.

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.

Ordering

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.