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Writing in a Time of Plague

I must admit, when I wished that I had a bit more time to write and research, I didn’t intend that to herald the greatest plague since the post-World War I flu pandemic. But such is life and I have tried to make the most of it way down here in Auckland, New Zealand. I remain employed and officially working 40 hours per week, but I have had more time than usual without commuting, and it is often difficult to fill all eight hours of a day with work when the customer service half of my job is absent.

Over the past month, I have completed final editing of Ronald G. Powell’s The Tragedy of Martina Castro and am now in the formatting and layout phase. The tandem release of this volume with its sequel, tentatively titled The Age of the Lumber Barons, is not going to happen. The first book took far too long to edit and I have not even begun on the second book except for some of the maps and a cursory read-through. That being said, I am happy to say that Stanley Stevens, the former librarian of Special Collections at UC Santa Cruz, agreed to and wrote the foreword to the first volume. Powell’s own words will likely open the second book.

Simultaneous to this project, I have also been finding much new information that will come in handy while writing Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Coast and revising Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. One of the more exciting discoveries is a near unbroken line of companies beginning in the early 1860s that sought to connect San Francisco and Santa Cruz via a coastal route. These discoveries have prompted me to begin researching and composing an article that will hopefully appear in a railroad history magazine or journal at some point in the future. But before that, I first intend to write an article on the complete history of the San Lorenzo Valley Railroad, a company founded in 1861 to connect Santa Cruz to the timber tracts fourteen miles to the north near Boulder Creek. The company ultimately failed and shut down in early 1874, but some grading was done and the lawsuit by Henry Cowell and Isaac Davis that led to the company’s bankruptcy set a precedent still followed today regarding a railroad’s rights regarding easements and marketable goods (such as trees) found on said easements. Some of the new information I have found has made its way into my weekly Santa Cruz Trains website articles, while other may someday make it into my planned Santa Cruz Trains Handbook, so stay tuned!

I am sure that many of you have noticed the expansion of the Santa Cruz Trains brand to photographs and to the Santa Cruz Trains Facebook group, as well as to Instagram and even Twitter. Santa Cruz Trains as a concept began back in 2011 and first appeared as a blog and group in 2012. The page arose out of a need for paid marketing for the first Santa Cruz Trains book, but it had languished since that book’s release in 2015. I decided at the beginning of this lockdown that it would be good to rehabilitate the page and expand the Santa Cruz Trains brand presence across all channels in preparation for the release of new material in the coming years. @SantaCruzTrains is now posting on Instagram (, Twitter (, and Facebook daily, with a new article posted every Friday at 9:00 a.m. and colorized photographs posted every other day around 4:00 p.m. (approximately). All of the colorized photographs are processed using DeOldify, a free-use software that can be installed on any computer. I’ve added watermarks to these photos because they have been edited (in addition to the colorizing) and to make sure they do not get confused with historically colorized postcards and photographs. As I said before, it also increases Santa Cruz Trains’ brand presence and limits artistic theft, which has been a problem with photographs that have appeared on the Santa Cruz Trains website over the years.

Looking forward, The Tragedy of Martina Castro should be ready for publication at some point in May, but the current market may not be ready for it. However, if you are interested in reading a digital preview copy in exchange for writing a review on, please send me a Message and I will add you to the list. Unlike my previous two books, this book will be released both in print and digitally, as will all books going forward. The final product will be approximately 700 pages with 60 pages of maps and figures. I have no timeframe as of the moment for The Age of the Lumber Barons but it will probably be 4Q this year or 1Q 2021. After that, I will resume writing both Railroads of the Santa Cruz Coast and a much-needed second edition of Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Hopefully both those books will be available on the same day at some point in late 2021 or early 2022, pending countless factors I cannot at present anticipate.

That’s all for now. I know this has been a less orthodox Author Diary but I feel it was needed after such a long break without an update. When The Tragedy of Martina Castro is ready for release, I will make sure to do a proper press release on this page and on all other available channels. Stay safe—kia kaha—everybody!

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