Entries to Win Afghan

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Half Moon a Yard Wide

Remember the Half Moon Cookies? If I'd had a big cookie cutter, the frosting was already in place today. I totally jinxed the snow by buying skis, I guess.

melting snow

After the pump guys came again this morning, pulled the whole pump and took it away... I spent the rest of the day working on getting the sample copies of The Secret Cellar ready to send to my test reader families. I have seven families with a total of 22 kids. (That leaves one sample copy for me.) A few of them are too young to provide feedback, but I think 19 of them can either read the book or understand the story if it's read to them. I'm eager to hear their reactions. Hopefully, I can make changes to make the books better based on their comments.

The interiors are all printed and collated. I should have a sample cover (a step better than my concept covers) in the next day from my cover artist, to go on these. I have a heavy duty stapler to finish the project. This will put something close to a real book in the kids' hands, so they don't have to try to imagine what it will look like.

books without covers

Questions for kids and parents are ready to print. I will buy padded envelopes tomorrow and get them addressed.

The other major project of the day was also for this book, which is the rustic-looking (on purpose) directions for making a willow whistle.

willow whistle directions

Things have been so slow at work all month, I have not worked any Tuesday since Christmas. And this week is no exception, so I'll have tomorrow also to work on books.

You might remember that I did a final draft of the map a couple of days ago, so I think I can actually get back to writing the next book in the series, The Hitchhiker.

See draft of the map that's going in this book
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Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Genesis of the Dubois Files Mysteries

I do have one video from yesterday that is ready to share. This tells how I got the idea for the Dubois Files mystery series for kids.

I'm still thinking there may be a video of me reading from "Druggist" that someone will send me. If so, I'll post that in the future.

In other news: Michelle from work and her husband came and he looked at the pump. Can you believe the water line is still frozen? We cleared out a bunch of the dirt that animal moved in, placed the heater in a hopefully better location, and he assessed the damage. Maybe not too bad. Will call pump guy again tomorrow.

Under the heading of long-standing pet peeves, my scanner has always had issues talking to my computer with Windows 7. I could usually get it to work though. After the last update- the one that sent my computer to the shop because it messed things up so bad- the scanner would not speak to the computer at all. So, today I uninstalled the scanner and started over completely to re-install. Nope. So, a perfectly good scanner is now a piece of junk because Canon won't deal with this issue. You can read message board after message board that there is a driver missing that Canon simply will not develop/supply/whatever. If I have to get a new scanner, I think I'll go with Epson. This all took hours, of course.

I did manage to get the final version of the map for The Secret Cellar just about done. I'm about to go print it out in the correct size to see if it looks good.

See Book Launch Event
See Draft of the map
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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Book Launch Event!

Today was the book launch event at the BookMark book store in Ludington. It was organized by writer/hiker friend Hanne Kelley. She did a really nice job. I've done a ton of "events" that weren't planned at all- the organizer just throws you out there and lets you promote yourself. Of course, you have to do that, but the whole atmosphere is much enhanced, and seems less pushy, if someone else has your back, so to speak.

Hanne introduced me.

book launch event

If I counted right, there were 17 people who came. This is a nice size group. I was pleased, and the bookstore owner was too.

book launch event

I read an excerpt from Dead Mule Swamp Druggist. I have some other people sending me pictures and video yet. If one of them captured that I'll post it, but at the present time I don't have it.

Then I shared about my newest project, the Dubois files mysteries for kids. Linda Sandow, the cover artist, shows some preliminary sketches.

book launch event

I do have a video of my comments about this series. I'm trying to get it moved from my camera so I can edit it. Slow going. I'll have to use it another time.

Finally, there was cake! What a hoot- the bakery spelled my name wrong and then tried to fix it when Hanne picked it up.

book launch event

Nancy Miller, the owner of Shagway Arts Barn, to whom the book is dedicated, was there (despite not feeling well!) She supervised the cake cutting.

book launch event

Sold 14 books. Best of all, I convinced the owner that all the really local authors should have better displays of their books. That's a real winner! And I was invited to participate in a fairly prestigious vendor event next Christmas.

See First Shagway Vendor Event
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Friday, January 19, 2018

Some Things Are Looking Better

I will confess to being a tiny bit grumpy yesterday. Sorry!

Today, we had heat at work. That's a big plus.

Beth decided she wanted to make burgers and homemade fries for everyone. She was the chef.

cooking burgers on a griddle

We brought all the fixin's, and healthy appetites.

potluck lunch

I made the buns last night. They are good, but I forgot how big to make the balls of dough, so they were more like slider buns. We ate 'em anyway.

potluck lunch

Dig right in!

potluck lunch

The electricians were there, so I think the wiring is ready, or nearly ready for the "new" stacker. They also used their handy lift cart to change a couple light bulbs for us. Much safer than how we usually do them with the fork lift.

lift cart

Still no water, but I've got the well pit warmed up. Now I just have to get the pump guy back here to figure out what damage was done.

I'm brain-cooking a new design for a decent cover for the well pit. I also shoveled some of the dirt out that the miserable animal-whatever it is- has moved into the pit. Really a LOT of dirt. And getting it out would be MUCH easier with two people- one in the hole and one above.

In other news: I mailed some books. That's just about it, except for little stuff. I'm chilling before heading back to work. Have good hopes for some writing progress this weekend. The Book Launch party at BookMark in Ludington is tomorrow at 4 pm!

See Fix-it Day at Work
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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Fix-it Day at Work (Sort of)

We had a repairman with us at work all day. First he got the front station on the inserter working, which has been non-functional for two weeks. No picture of that.

Next he replaced this belt that was really torn up. It's just spread out on the floor here, to measure for the new piece, but you can see it was completely split up the middle.

split conveyor belt

It's part of the belt system that carries papers up the wall. Here's where it came off of. It goes around those exposed rollers.

conveyor belt

He was going to also replace the belt that carries papers from my station out the window, but that didn't happen for some reason.

He was also going to hook up our new to us (refurbished) stacker.

newspaper stacker

Guess again. Now we have to have an electrician come before that can be accomplished, and we have a large inanimate object to work around for another unknown length of time.

The strapper didn't heal itself in my absence either, so we have to do the little dance with the strap reel for who knows how long. That's making my hip ache. We've looked at the manual and on line, and can't even actually figure out what part is causing the problem. Clearly not the part that's listed in the troubleshooting guide. If we take it apart now, before the current reel of strap is used up, that will all be trash because they just come unwound if you take them off, mid-reel. So, I'm sure we won't even look at it till it's empty.

And there is still no heat at work. Only in our room... We are special.

And there is still no water here. I thought the heater I bought was defective. I could not get it to turn on in the well pit this morning even though the little light said it was getting power. So I took it to work and it was fine (although it couldn't make a dent in heating our huge room). Brought it back and it still wouldn't work in the well pit. What the heck, right?

Took it to the house, and it's fine. I finally figured out that the sensor to turn it off if it tips is REALLY sensitive. I'll have to go back down in the pit with a board and a level because there is only has a dirt floor, which that clever animal has dug up. What fun. I should do that before I go to work in the morning. We'll see.

I went out to catch you another sunset because color is GOOD!

I also caught the red-tail hawk. Not a great pic, but I'll take it. S/he always makes me smile.

redtail hawk


Bed soon. We hand-stuffed papers for hours today because we couldn't run the machines while the guy was working on them. I'm bushed.

See The Stacker
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tomorrow Will be Warmer

Well, the pump was still frozen despite the heater I put down there yesterday (which is practically new, and was working fine last I used it... who knows?), and the young whippersnappers that came were not amused. I'm sure they get tired of dealing with frozen pumps all winter.

So, they put a concentrated heater right beside the pump, and it should be thawed tomorrow. I went and bought this milkhouse heater to replace the failed one. Don't think I should plug both it and the one the guys brought into the circuit at the same time.


The weather is supposed to warm also, nearly up to freezing, so that will make it easier for whatever heater to do the job on the pump.

I also got chewed out for the not-so-great cover on the well hole. That was somewhat deserved, but it was the best I could do at the time and it's done the job for four years without a problem even in really cold weather. I think the other heater must just have failed.

The biggest problem with covering that hole is that it's a large well pit. There used to be an actual shed over it, but that burned down something like 45 years ago. I've drawn plans for two different style covers, and then got thinking about them and realized each had flaws that were going to be difficult. Not to mention expensive. So nothing decent ever got made.

Guess I'll need to get serious about that this summer and figure out something.

Meanwhile, here's a nice warm sunset.


Tomorrow we should also have water. Maybe there will be heat at work- that would be nice too.

See Four Years is Better Than Three
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Four Years is Better than Three

I'm trying to find some way to stay positive about the water situation, but I confess to feeling a little bit whine-y. We haven't had water since Friday evening. I'm not feeling whine-y about the actual lack of running water (I've lived a lot of my life without water in faucets- see Houston, We Have Soup), but more about the level of my involvement in fixing the situation.

I'm more willing to spend the rest of the winter without water than I am in messing around with the well pit again. I realize, this is not an acceptable answer, but it's how I feel.

well pit

Of course, the lack of water was discovered after dark. I went out to see if the cover I had rigged over the hole after the last episode had gotten compromised, because nothing froze two weekends ago when it got SO cold. The cover was fine, and everything was frozen in around the edges, and it was dark, and I had to go to work. End of Friday story.

Saturday, I was pooped- that was the day I pretty much stayed in bed and read a book. Omer left a message on the pump guy's machine.

Of course, they didn't call Saturday or Sunday.

Monday, Omer left on a trip. I talked to the pump guy and he won't even come till we've checked to make sure it isn't frozen. I tried to explain that once I open this cover, it's just going to be fairly unprotected until it can be closed up tight again. There's no hatchway or door. It's layers of boards, tarp and styrofoam insulation. Basically, they don't care. They aren't coming until I check to see if it is frozen.

But, you may recall that I was doing Girl Scouts all day yesterday.

I finally managed to talk myself into going out and opening the hole this morning. Frankly with my iffy shoulders and wrist that hurts all the time, I won't exactly say that I'm getting too old for this, but it's not a lot of fun.

Anyway... I took the shovel and went out and got one corner open. I guess the heater could have failed in the last week. Some animal has dug in under the block walls and added about 6 inches of dirt to the whole floor. The bottom of that oil-filled heater was buried fairly deep. Would that make it fail? I pulled it out of the dirt (you can see how deep it was by clumps stuck to it.)

I have a little ceramic heater, so I put that in there and it's blasting on high. No water yet... If it's not thawed by morning, I think I can tell the pump guy that I tried.

So, the only good news here is that I thought we last had pump problems three years ago, but it was actually just over four years. Time flies when you're having fun (or water).

See Thankful for Water Fall 2012
See The Object of Today's Affection 2010
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Monday, January 15, 2018

Girl Trail Power

Today was devoted to Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts and the North Country Trail

Girl Scouts and North Country Trail logos

The troop- 5th and 6th graders- from Ravenna was looking for someone to come talk to them about hiking, and specifically how to be prepared for day hikes.

I said I'd do it, and I sure had a good time. The troop wants to take on the challenge of 50 miles on the NCT in this next year for a patch. I think I talked too much, but the girls seemed to enjoy seeing all the gear, and they listened very attentively. I was impressed.

hiking gear

I couldn't both talk and get any action shots, but I did have someone take a group picture afterwards.

If you are wondering why I wore the "Bad Decisions Make Good Stories" t-shirt, that was my kickoff line. Sometimes we end up with funny stories to bring home and tell, but sometimes we end up with really bad things happening. My mantra is plan, plan, plan, and plan some more. I think I hammered that message home.

Girl Scout troop

Anyway, we did a list of 10 things to take even on a day hike, and 10 things to do before you go.

Now I'm home, and I have to put all that stuff away again. But it was worth it.

See Shamu is Packed
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Flurry of Production

It would be really great if this level of snowfall had persisted beyond the few minutes it lasted. I think I jinxed the snow by buying skis. The next day it turned to slush, then ice, then melted. There's not enough on the ground to ski yet. Bummer.


My flurry of production lasted longer. All day really. I know this isn't my writing blog, but it's pretty much all I did, so I guess you get to hear about it.

I formatted The Secret Cellar, and it's nearly whipped into shape to print sample copies for the test readers. I have to do one more iteration of the map, and another interior drawing that I can do.

I'm also working with the likely cover artist to get closer to the final cover. Here's my most recent concept cover.

concept cover for The Secret Cellar

Still no water. Didn't even expect to hear from the pump guy today.

See The East South River Road Neighborhood
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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Still Life with Water Jug

A still life is an artistic arrangement of inanimate objects, right? I was pretty close to inanimate myself, today. I got out of bed only to get something to eat. No water yet- the pump guy hasn't even returned our call. Thus the water jug.

plate of orange slices

Work last night was challenging. We had no heat in our part of the building. It wasn't too terrible because once we get working we warm right up, but it added to the challenge. And until it's fixed the brake on the strapper spool wheel isn't engaging, so I had to apply the "foot brake" (my foot on the reel edge) for every bundle, which made for an interesting little dance routine throughout the shift!

I read a book that had a great premise for the plot. It was even a NYT best seller, and yet, I figured it out about a quarter of the way in. There was a ton of descriptive writing that was all well done, but the story could have been told in about 250 pages instead of 500 and still been good, maybe even better- I got impatient for it to move along several times. There were no big plot twists (or even little ones). It's billed as a "biomedical thriller," but there wasn't much med-tech in it at all, which I wanted. A good enough read, but oddly disappointing. This is what happens to your reading when you become a writer.

Bed again soon. More productive tomorrow, I suspect. This was clearly my day of rest. There is no other news.

See The Saturday Clause
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Friday, January 12, 2018

The East South River Road Neighborhood

I love maps. I love hand-drawn rustic maps. Of course, I've mapped Forest County as it has evolved in the Dead Mule Swamp mysteries.

The Dubois Files young readers' mysteries will be set in the same location but about 50 years earlier. So tonight I fooled around with the map to see what will fit decently on a page of the books. I think this is about right, and gets in all the children's homes, and the elementary school, and the canning factory where Mr. Dubois works. It needs a few tweaks, but overall, I'm happy.

Anastasia Raven's house is #1- the old Mosher house. Cora Dubois Baker Caulfield grew up in #3, a house which plays an important role in Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp, although it hasn't been lived in for decades. All of the buildings at Cherry Pit Junction have fallen into ruin, since the canning factory (#5) blew up (this fact is revealed in The Hollow Tree at Dead Mule Swamp). The Szep (tenant) house, #2, is also long gone.

I've made the map so you can right-click and choose View Image to see it larger.

In other news: Worked all day. Did this map. We have no water- and of course discovered that after dark. I couldn't even get the well pit open. We'll deal with it tomorrow.

See The Secret Cellar
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