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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Rivertown Crossings Experiment

So today was the day I expanded into the "big time." Who knows if that is what it really was, but it sort of felt like it. This is a really nice mall in the Grand Rapids area, and most of the vendors (although not all) were selling franchised commercial products. Although a couple of people I know came to buy books, the market was primarily not only people who did not know me, but who came to the mall to buy from big stores like Body and Bath Works, Victoria's Secret, or Dick's. I name those three because we saw a LOT of their bags going by. Most people didn't even give the vendors a second look, but the ones who did usually bought something.

The booth was expensive, but I found an author to share the space with each day, so that cut the cost in half. Today I shared with Janet Vormittag who writes short stories about cats, and has two mysteries about rescue dogs.

I shared this story on Facebook, but I want to put it here as well. The neatest thing was that a little girl had been looking at The Secret Cellar, but she only had $5. Her mother was thinking about giving her the other $4, but they went away and said they'd come back. The girl came back alone and was trying to decide which book to get (her mother was just across the way) and another lady who had just purchased North Country Cache asked me if I knew the girl. I said "no", and the lady seemed concerned that she was alone. I said, "her mother is just over there." Well, the lady whips out cash and said, "I'd like to buy her the whole set."

Wowzer. One very happy little girl, who payed it forward by using some of her $5 to buy a copy of Devotions for Hikers for her teacher!

Rivertown Crossings vendor event

The financial success of vendors was all over the map, and didn't seem to be related to their location. I think my location is excellent. Even though I'm not in the main transverse hallway, I'm right across from the Dicks' Sporting Goods entrance, and a lot of people came in and out that way. I have no comparable event to judge this against, but I paid for the space and made money today, so tomorrow is all gravy. The only thing that is tough is the long hours. Including set-up, I was there for 14 hours today. Tomorrow isn't quite so long.

My big treat was hot soft pretzel nuggets and a Diet Coke. I love hot pretzels and haven't had one in years. Yum.

Rivertown Crossings vendor event

One more day! I held up well for that many people hours. Now I just have to do it again tomorrow.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Manistee High School Band

 I am in Grand Rapids, settled in for the night. This way I don't have to leave home at 6 o'clock tomorrow morning.

Last night, even though I was not too interested in going out again, I went to hear the Manistee High School Christmas concert, because the director is a friend of mine, Andrea Mack. We actually met through trail stuff, and I didn't know she was a music person at all. Then she took the position here, much closer to me than we were before. But we still haven't managed to go hiking together!


And the concert was very good. High quality music for high school level. The jazz band was the first to play. I forgot to bring the program with me, so I won't/can't give you the rundown of the pieces they played. One was "Santa Baby," and one was "Kings of Swing," which was a swing version of "We Three Kings."

Manistee High School jazz band

Next up was the Eighth Grade Band.

Manistee High School eighth grade band

Finally the full concert band played several pieces. One I really liked was a new work called "Letchworth Fanfare." I'm kind of a sucker for fanfares, and I really want to know if it was inspired by the gorge in New York. Again, there was a nice variety of selections. I really appreciate it when every piece doesn't sound like all the others.

Manistee High School high school band

I sure wish I'd brought the program with me so I could tell you the other numbers. Andrea says the band has been invited to play at some festival, which of course I've forgotten the name of. But the point is, they are good. It's not just me that thought so.

In other news: I can't say I took the day off, but I switched gears. I did some cleaning and laundry and let the writing simmer a bit. It was desperately in need of some slow cooking. I think I've solved the logistical problem I had with a scene, and I'm actually writing a little bit right now.

See WSCC Wind Symphony
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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Two Hundreds on Opossum Highway

Today a friend and I both finished our 2018 100 Mile Challenges on the North Country Trail. The friend is Deb Cox who came on our chapter hike in July

hikers doing 100 Mile Challenge on the North Country Trail

We did 5.5 miles, and I'm here to tell you they were a bit of a challenge. The snow is not deep enough for showshoes or skis, but it is just deep enough to throw your feet off with every step, and make you slide, and give you mighty sore calves in 5.5 miles.

North Country Trail

We passed through Dead Horse Marsh, starkly appealing in any season.

Dead Horse Marsh on the North Country Trail

The most interesting thing to me was that on almost the entire length of trail we walked there were opossum tracks. Usually only one animal at a time, although sometimes there were tracks going both directions. Some were large and some were small. A LOT of opossums have been using the trail! If you look closely, you can see the tail drag marks in this picture.

opossum tracks

We finished in good spirits, despite the challenge, and now I just need to send in my paper to get the patch!

hikers doing 100 Mile Challenge on the North Country Trail

We saw quite a few other tracks, which I will share another day.

I also went to another concert, and I'll also save that till later.

No writing happened, but I did not expect it to, with both of these activities.

Hike 100 Challenge miles: 101 of 100!

North Country Trail, Tyndall Road to Riverside Dr., Mason County, Michigan

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

WSCC Wind Symphony

In addition to hearing some great music, I also learned something new. I was trying to figure out what the difference was between a wind symphony and a band. Seemed to me to have all the same instruments. Check. The difference is in the style and difficulty of music played. This is the "new" name for what I would have called concert band.

And it was a concert I really enjoyed. There was great variety in the music played, most of it quite difficult and played well.

They began with a saxophone ensemble playing "On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss," and "Feliz Navidad."

WSCC wind symphony

The symphony is under the aegis of West Shore Community College, but the concert was at Shelby High School, about 35 miles away.

Next up was the percussion ensemble, and they did some really interesting pieces. First was "Dance Macabre," one of my favorites. The picture is just one of the four marimbas/xylophones they used.

WSCC percussion ensemble

Then they did a really complicated piece called "Just Like That" on concert toms and wood blocks. I liked it!

WSCC percussion ensemble

They finished with "Trinidad Tidings," a medley of Christmas songs.

After that a select group of the larger symphony played "Pas Redouble," a really fast-paced piece. Please note the size of the ensemble.

WSCC wind symphony

Then the entire symphony came on stage-- over 100 musicians! I took this picture while they were setting up, just to show the size of the group. It absolutely fills the stage, and this is a pretty large stage.

WSCC wind symphony

They played Shostakovich's "Folk Dances," a really difficult piece called "Where Never Lark or Eagle Flew," and then concluded with two movements of "The Divine Comedy."

I have to say, I'm becoming quite pleased with the quality of artistic opportunities our area is providing.

Since the group was large, I tried to get some better close-ups. Most aren't in focus, but this one is OK.

WSCC wind symphony

In other news: I struggled mightily with writing today, whined on Facebook, got some encouragement, and managed to get two half-chapters done. That's better than nothing.

See Gold Coast Chorale
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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fugue for Chimes and Cymbal

I told you I was going to do music this season. And the walk on Sunday provided a different kind of concert. I've showed you the chimes (see link below). Here are the cymbals.

This hi-hat was bouncing up and down to the rhythm of the river. The up...

disc of ice on a stick in the river

...and the down. A movie would have been great, but since my computer crash this summer I haven't gotten all the software re-deployed to process them. Sigh.

disc of ice on a stick in the river

Can you hear the tinkling icy music of the river?

I'm blogging early because tonight is writers' group, and since I didn't sleep well again last night, I may want to crash as soon as I get home.

In other news: I wrote 1 1/2 chapters, mailed some books, got an estimate for repairing the next car problem, and I have writers' group coming right up.

See Riverside Ice
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Monday, December 10, 2018

Gold Coast Chorale

I warned you that I'm trying to take in a bunch of Christmas concerts this year. Tonight I went to hear the Gold Coast Chorale.

This is a group connected with the community college, and is a bit more elite than the other choirs, in that auditions are required to join, and they do more complex music.

Gold Coast Chorale

It's pretty cool that I know five of the members. Which only means I hang around with people who do music well. I just do music anyway. Haha!

The director, Elliot Plummer, explained that their purpose is to do mostly modern choral music. Indeed, I only knew two of the songs they did. One of the ones that was new was a South African hymn, Thixo nothando. I liked the rhythms and the sounds of the words, even if I didn't know the language.

Snapped a picture of the stage before the singers came out. Modern LED stage lights can really spill intense color. Dramatic.

Gold Coast Chorale stage

The day as a whole was notable in that we saw the SUN. That big lake that moderates our temperatures also keeps us gray an awful lot of the winter. I enjoyed the brighter light.

winter sunrise

In other news: I wrote a chapter and outlined the rest of Dead Mule Swamp Mistletoe in enough detail to connect up all the pieces. There are a couple of weak areas to shore up a bit and editing throughout. I'm feeling quite wrung out with this pace of writing. But if I can keep it up for five or six more days, then it will just be editing, and I'll be pretty sure I can meet my (self-imposed) Christmas release date.

See We'll Be Home for the Holidays
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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Riverside Ice

Had to get gas today, and decided to go a little farther and take a walk at Scottville Riverside Park. This used to be one of my favorite short walks near home, but the city has defintely abandoned the trail. I wasn't sure I'd get very far, but the view of the Pere Marquette River from the parking lot is always pretty.

Pere Marquette River

I looked to see if you could get across to the trail, where the water is often too deep, but it was passable, so I kept going.

The best finds were interesting bits of ice. This one, with the help of its reflection, looks like a large water strider leaping to escape.

ice on crossed twigs

A translucent topographic map.

ice with curved lines

Reflections are always worth a second look.

reflected trees on the Pere Marquette River

And my favorite, a display of crystal chimes waiting for the river to play a tune.

ice drips

Want to see that closer?

ice drips

I was able to follow the river to the place where there is no longer a bridge. But the water must be low. I was able to get across the swampy area and climb around above the drainage creek. I tried to follow the rest of the trail "backwards," but encountered a really messy downed tree across another bridge. I guess even that section isn't being maintained at all. The city put in a disc golf course, and no longer does anything with the trail. Makes me sad, but then again, I haven't run to town to volunteer to do the maintenance.

So I took one of the service roads back through the Old Engine Club grounds, and returned to my car. A nice walk. Since the "trail" is very much over-run by poison ivy in the summer, this was a good time of year to check it out.

In other news: I repotted a plant and wrote two chapters. OK, the second one is not quite done, but I will finish it before I let myself read.

See same view different season
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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Home from Holland

I just had to post a sunset picture. Mostly because we haven't seen the sun for days and it's really cheery. Picture taken by pointing the camera at the car window and snapping it without looking! There were some beautiful shots with rays I could have had earlier, but no place to stop on the freeway in time.


I left home in the dark this morning, and returned just at dusk tonight. But what a day!

author event

This was the Holland Civic Center Vendor and Craft Show. There were 50 vendors- most of them commercial products but a few crafters.

There was heavy traffic all day long. This picture was taken later when things thinned out, so isn't representative. I did extremely well. Best sales ever. Most of the time I was selling books as fast as I could talk.

author event

The booth across the way was Mary Kay cosmetics, and I made friends with Brenda (on the left). She bought a set of the children's books for her grandchildren. People were buying my books and then going and showing them to her, and saying they liked the books already. How's that for awesome! So she came and got some too. Two teachers bought the first one to read in the classroom.

author event

And... a friend I haven't seen for years was suddenly standing at my table with a smile! That was a really cool part of my day. Busy, busy, tired. But it's all good. Bed early because I only slept about 4 hours last night.

If you think there is other news today, you would be mistaken.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

We'll Be Home for the Holidays

Well, yes, we will. But this was a name of the Ludington Area Center For the Arts annual Christmas show that I went to tonight.

I won't give you a complete blow by blow- there were too many numbers to do that, and many of my pictures aren't worth showing.

The Baldwin School Choir led off. I'm showing you the first picture so you can see how many kids are involved!

Baldwin School Choir

I loved how much they loved to sing.

Baldwin School Choir

They did two songs with complicated rhythms and about a third of the kids playing either drums or a rhythm instrument. I was pretty impressed, actually.

Baldwin School Choir

Local artist, Fremont John, sang.

Fremont John

Brothers Kai and Pascal Miller were pretty amazing. They did three German carols, and then an Irish song in trio with their teacher. They played violins, guitar, recorder, and sang.

Miller Boys

There were rock versions of several traditional songs. The violinist has a really interesting instrument.

electronic violin

Several other vocalists performed as well, including Carrie Rangel

Carrie Rangel

The program was broadcast live on local radio, and was completely free, courtesy of the Arts Center. Pretty neat local opportunity! I got to see and greet several people that I usually only run into at Christmas. Always fun.

In other news: I wrote two chapters, did laundry, and got more promotional stuff ready for tomorrow. We finally got some snow and I skied, too. Now I'm beat. Have to leave the house by 6:30, so bed is coming up quickly.

See First 2018 Christmas Concert
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