"" Writer's Wanderings

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Have You Ever Traveled With A Mopsie?

 This is a video of a reading I did from In A Pickle. While it is fiction and carried a bit further than my own experience with a lady and her dog on a plane it is a fun little scene from the book. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Bookcovers - My Designs

 Not only do I enjoy writing my novels, I also enjoy designing the covers for the books. This latest release, The Christmas Prodigal, was fun. I usually use one of my photographs or use my graphic designer to blend my pictures together to create a design. This time I took a new direction. I made a colored pencil drawing of a scene that fits in with the story (pictured here).

Now after the initial drawing was done, I had to take a picture of it and using the editing program in Photo Gallery, I deepened the colors. Amazon self-publishing has a creative program that allows you to add the title and back cover information. I enjoy the creative process, start to finish. 

One of my favorite cover designs is the one I did last year for Letters From Santa. It's a photograph I took of a Santa hat, a letter and a pen (designed and made by my son, Ron). The letter was something I printed from one of the letters in the book. The items sat on a small desk in our foyer. 

My recent Annie Pickels series book covers were designed using a picture I took with my iPhone at the grocery store in the produce section when the pickles and dill were displayed together. Thankfully no one asked me what I was doing
arranging the dill a little more artistically.

The cover of A Pocketful of Christmas is from a picture I took during the winter after a snowfall in our backyard. 

My Casey Stengel series books feature pictures I took as well. I'm sure people on the cruise ship wondered why I was taking a picture of an empty deckchair. The next in the series will feature a photograph of a castle I saw in Ireland. But here I go, putting the cover before the finish of the story. I hope to have booth finished by St Patrick's Day, 2021. 

Monday, November 09, 2020

Mackinac to St. Ignace - The Funky Breakfast Place

 It was time to leave Mackinac Island. We were ready. The weather was definitely turning cold but at least we were happy to find that the wind had eased up for our ferry ride back to St. Ignace on the mainland. There were not a lot of good choices for breakfast on Mackinac partly because it was the end of the season and I'm guessing COVID maybe had something to do with it as well. So, we decided to hold off on breakfast and find a place in St. Ignace after our early morning ferry ride. 

Bob had done a little googling and found a place with a menu that totally outdid any breakfast menu I've ever seen. Granted, a lot of it was variations on pancakes and omelets but it sure looked good to us and it was just up the road from Shepler's ferry dock.

We collected our luggage from the ferry and started off to find Java Joe's--even the name was promising a good cup of coffee. What we found made me laugh at first. It was a tiny shack-like operation that was painted in outrageous colors and designs and motifs. If I had to categorize it, I'd say it was out of the early sixties.

It was just as small on the inside as it appeared outside and maybe even a bit smaller since the tables all had clear plastic shower curtains separating them because of the COVID restrictions. Now that I think of it, it kind of reminds me of some of the places we've been to in the Florida Keys. The floor was painted brightly and all sorts of interesting things hung on the walls. I couldn't explore a whole lot because, well, it was small and of course there was that COVID thing that deterred you from getting close to others.

The menu was in a newspaper format about the size of a neighborhood newspaper and one whole page was nothing but the menu. There were so many choices of pancakes that I had a hard time deciding but finally settled on banana nut pancakes which turned out to be absolutely wonderful. Bob settled on eggs and corn beef hash but was a little disappointed that the hash appeared to be from a can. 

The newspaper contains a story of Java Joe, a family legend which looks a bit suspicious in the telling of it. If you click on the picture and enlarge it a bit you can read the legend.

The other very interesting article was Java Joe's Five Day Road Trip. I had already decided that if we ever came back we needed to explore the mainland area around St. Ignace. Here was an outline for that very thing!

1. In St. Ignace go to Castle Rock, Deer Ranch and Mystery Spot.

2. Take Highway 2 west to Fayette State Park, an old mining town set on a natural harbor. Also see Kitch-iti-kipi, a large spring as well as Garlyn Zoo.

3. A day at Mackinac Island.

4. Whitefish Point Lighthouse and Museum on Lake Superior followed by Tahquamenon Falls and Oswald Bear Park.

5. Cross the bridge from St. Ignace and take the first exit to Fort Michlimackinac and in Mackinaw City see the Lighthouse and Museum and historic Mill Creek. 

Don't know if I would see it all but it would be worth looking into. Not to mention, it would be a chance to try all those other pancakes!

Friday, November 06, 2020

Mackinac Island -- The 8 Mile Bike Ride

 Remember how your parents always said they walked 10 miles to school in the wind and snow and it was uphill both ways? I almost felt like I was living it the morning we decided to take the 8.2 mile bicycle trip around the island. The first two days of out stay on the island had been sunny even though a bit chilly but according to our Weatherbug things were about to change. It assured us though that the rain and wind wouldn't come until after noon. Like all good weather predictors, it was wrong.

After breakfast on the last full day on the island we headed to the bike shop across from our hotel. At the Mackinac Island Bike Shop, we rented two bikes for $11/ hour. We picked this shop because it prorated the rental fee after the first hour. It also offered a free helmet if desired and a basket on the front with a bottle of water. The seats were comfy and adjusted for our heights and with fear and trepidation, I started off.

Thankfully I didn't immediately take a spill and once I got going the pain in my bad knees eased up. I would find though that it was better to keep going than to stop and start up again. Because there wasn't a lot of bike traffic (in the summer, I think they want you to follow the arrows of the bike route) we chose to go clockwise which was actually backwards from the prescribed route. We were concerned with the wind picking up and wanted to get to what we thought would be the lee side before it did.

About a third of the way, we stopped to get some pictures of where it was the British landed July 16 of 1812 just at the start of the war. They took the high ground overlooking Fort Mackinac and frightened the commander, who didn't know the war had begun, into a surrender to save having an Indian massacre. Really. That's basically what the historic marker says.

The clouds were moving in and we began to feel the wind pick up as well as the waves that were pounding an already eroding shoreline. Soon enough we got a light rain, not too bad. I figured we could survive. We had all weather jackets on. I pulled up my hood and we peddled on. Before too long our gentle rain turned steady with the wind whipping it into our faces. 

When it seemed to relax a little, I couldn't resist stopping at a sign that said, "Resting Place of the Ancestors". We rested a moment, took a picture and then we took off again--for me painfully. I told Bob I wasn't stopping again. It turned out we didn't want to stop. 

Just before entering town again, we made a quick stop for a little different view of the Arch Rock. I couldn't decide if I liked the view better from the top or the bottom. Of course at this point when you looked up the rain was hitting you in the face. 

The rain didn't let up. Our "leisurely" bike ride took only an hour and a half. The ride around the island would be a lot more fun in nice weather and with good knees. We asked if there were electric bikes but the answer was that they were not allowed. Hmmm. The golfers got to have their golf carts on the courses. Not fair. But as I said, with good knees and nice weather the ride would be very pleasant and there are lots of places to stop and stay a while. A picnic lunch wouldn't be bad either. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon going in and out of the shops that were still open. Most of them were just your run of the mill souvenir places. One or two had some unusual items but all of the clothing was emblazoned with Mackinac Island. I would have enjoyed buying a nice sweater and just telling everyone I got it there. 

We rest3ed in our room, watched a little TV and then went out to dinner. The weather was definitely turning colder and I was glad we hadn't waited any longer to visit the Island. Next time maybe a little earlier in the Fall.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Mackinac Island - The Fort


Since we were up on the hill above town, we chose to walk straight over to Fort Mackinac. We had no idea what we would see once inside. We've been to some forts that were nothing more than a ghost of their past but once we paid our $13.50/person fee, we started in and were pleasantly surprised.

Fort Mackinac was founded during the American Revolution. The original fort was on the main land where Mackinaw City is now but the British moved it to the island in 1780 when they determined it would be a better location to protect the Straits of Mackinac. The Americans took the fort in 1796 but in the first engagement there during the War of 1812, the British regained the Fort. In 1814, the Americans failed to take it back but after the war, the fort was returned to American control. It was occupied until 1895 when the island became more a summer resort than a center for fur trade.

There were many buildings to explore and lots of interesting facts to absorb. And again, it was a beautiful fall afternoon to be in and out of buildings and enjoying the sunshine as well. Many of the buildings have been restored to what they looked like in the last years of occupation but there are also parts that date back 225 years to original foundations and stonework. 

There are scheduled interpretive talks featuring the firing of a cannon and of course a rifle from the period. All of that was of great interest to the kids that were touring the grounds. Well, it piqued our interest as well. Strangely enough, the rifle made more noise than the cannon but perhaps it was because we were surrounded by buildings when the rifle fired and I think it echoes off the walls. There was also an opportunity for a guided tour but we had already explored much of it on our own and just finished exploring by ourselves. 

There is a tea room where you can get lunch or an afternoon snack. It's run by the Grand Hotel. We didn't have time to check it out since we were there later in the afternoon and it closes at 3. Looked like a nice spot especially with the outdoor seating where you'd get a nice view of the harbor. 

The uniforms the interpretive rangers wore were the type of uniform that was influenced by Prussia which at the time the fort was occupied in the later years was a world power. The uniforms were dress uniforms only though but it was a little disconcerting to see that pointy helmet. 

If you go, don't miss the museum. It's kind of set off in an odd spot but worth making an effort to see. 

One of the fascinating things I found was in the bathhouse. There were rooms with bathtubs but at the end of the row of baths was a stove and a large tank of water that was attached with a pipe to provide heat from the stove and then pipes that ran to the bathtubs. A hot water heater! An unexpect3ed luxury.

By the time the fort was ready to close (at 4), we were ready to call it a day and relax in our room before finding a spot for dinner. The sun was creeping toward the horizon and a few clouds were making it a little more chilly for our walk down the hill to our hotel. We could only hope that the weather forecast that said it would be a dry morning would hold until our bike ride was over in the morning. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Mackinac Island - The Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel certainly lives up to its name. It is an imposing white structure sitting up a hillside and overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. Its eloquence speaks of times gone by when life was much more formal and mannered.

We ended our carriage ride at the entrance road to the hotel and after thanking our driver and leaving a tip, we started ahead. A lady in a red uniformed jacket stopped each of us who were headed in the direction of the main entrance and informed us politely that if we were not registered and wished to proceed, we would need to go into the side door and purchase our pass for the day. The pass to explore the hotel and its grounds was $10. It was worth it to us to be able to see the hotel from the inside and not have to pay for a night's stay which would have been at least $350.

A little history: Mackinac Island was becoming a popular summer resort in the late 1800s but there was a lack of accommodation. In 1886 the land was purchased for the hotel and construction began. In 1887 it was opened to guests at $3-5/night. By 1897,  a second wing was added and rates soon increase to $6/night. Another wing with 47 more rooms was added in 2001. There are now 397 rooms all individually decorated. Seven of them are dedicated to former first ladies. The Grand Hotel employs some 700 people during the season.

If you have seen the movie, Somewhere In Time, filmed at the Grand Hotel, you'll know that the decor is the same. The carpet and the chairs in the lobby all are themed with the iconic red geraniums, a reflection of the geraniums that line the porch in flower boxes. 

We wandered through the lobby to look into the huge dining room. I know there were more restaurants available but who wouldn't want to dine elegantly in the main room? Well, maybe because it was expensive but if you could afford a splurge it would be wonderful. Breakfast is $30, Grand Luncheon buffet $50 and dinner is $85. I heard that you needed to pay the $10 to just get in to dine but I don't see that on their website. That could add to the price. Or perhaps it is taken off the price of the meal.

There is also a dress code during the day as well as evening. It's more relaxed during the day but in the evening ladies are asked to wear dresses or dressy slacks and tops and men are required to wear jacket and tie. That would have kept us away even if we wanted to pay the price to eat. We didn't pack any good clothes.

There are other restaurants at which you can eat. Some are off site a bit and don't require the $10 fee to get to them. The Jockey Club is one and we enjoyed a very nice lunch there after we'd explored the hotel.

We spent several moments with a cup of coffee enjoying the rockers on the 660' long porch and the warm sunshine that was so pleasant. (The porch is said to be the longest in the world.) Then we went down the front steps to the garden area which was partially blocked by construction equipment that was there to work on the Ester Williams swimming pool.

While it might be fun to spend one night there for a special occasion, we were quite happy with just a look-see. Our room at the Main Street Inn and Suites was more than adequate.

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