Literary Techniques

Recently, I’ve been looking for guidance about writing short stories. Why? Because short stories are recommended for new fiction writers, and I’m new to fiction writing. They help us hone our skills before delving into the complex work of writing a novel. Practice makes perfect. Mistakes can be made without wasting a lot of time because writing is an investment of time. Staying true to my nature, I ignored this advice and dove head-first into a novel. I might be setting myself up for failure, but I feel have nothing to lose at this point.

So if I’m not creating short stories to practice the craft, why am I interested in learning about writing them? Simply said, to make money. According to some sources, making money selling short stories might be as improbable as a new writer tackling a novel. The trade-off is the loss of time spent on my book. But at least, I’ll be practicing my craft using the recommended approach. A win-win from my point of view. And if I’m lucky, I’ll make a few bucks, too.

During my quest to educate myself, I happened upon a book about the subject. The Write Practice Presents: Let’s Write a Short Story! by Joe Bunting. It contains a lot of great content about writing short stories and selling them, too. While I highly recommend this resource, this post is not a book review. It is about something I learned about my own writing during this exploration.

My ah-ha moment occurred while reading a segment about the literary techniques used for award-winning stories. Namely, Pulitzer and Nobel award-winning pieces. Now I am not a literary writer by any stretch of the imagination. My genre of choice is speculative fiction, urban/contemporary fantasies in particular. The style of this genre tends to be edgy; some have a noir feel to them. But my style is more characteristic of literary writing.

Let’s start with a list of the techniques cited:

1. Using long sentences
2. Using short sentences
3. Lyrical prose
4. Making an allusion
5. Using an eponym for character names
6. Be specific
7. A story within a story
8. A wide scope

Using Long Sentences
Whether it’s technical or fiction writing, I tend to write long compound sentences. Here’s an example of my writing:

Holding her Celtic cross necklace in the palm of my hand, I whispered a few verses of her favorite song, “Vincent,” into it and told her to wear it tonight to keep my spirit near her heart.

My sentences aren’t too long. The above example is only thirty-seven words, which is about average for my long sentences. Eleven words less than Cormac McCarthy’s forty-eight-word sentence cited in the book. Neither of them even close to the Tim O’Brien’s seventy-seven word cited example.  

Another difference is both book samples are full of conjunctions whereas I rarely use more than one in my long sentences. Also, they disregard the punctuation rules whereas I’m a stickler about it, even if it’s first draft. I know it’s a fault, but I unabashedly own it.

Using Short Sentences
One of my favorite techniques is punctuating my long sentences with short sentences. It’s so satisfying.

Twilight cast brilliant shades of yellow and orange bleeding into red, purple, and deep blue upon the horizon as we cruised over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, the gateway to our destination, Sullivan’s Island. Red brake lights flashed intermittently.

They are great at grabbing the readers’ attention after a series of compound sentences or long run-on sentences, full of conjunctions.

Lyrical Prose
My style has a lyrical quality:  

A warm summer breeze scented with the sweet fragrance of nearby lilac blossoms caressed my skin. My grandpa sat next to me. With each gentle rise and fall of the swing, his voice grew stronger and louder, drowning out the static noise ringing in my ears.

I hit the jackpot with this example of my writing. It includes a long, a medium and a short sentence. More importantly, it has quite a rhythmic flow to it. I used it as my illustration because several critique partners commented on its quality. In particular, they noted my descriptive language which I think is characteristic of fantasy writing. But not so much for urban fantasies like my story. Descriptions in this genre are more straightforward, not too fluffy or willowy.

Making an allusion
This term was new to me; I had not heard of it before I read this book. It involves making a reference to another literary work by using an image, a character, or even a direct quote. Most readers won’t recognize when an allusion is made, but it’s exciting for those who “get it.” It adds depth to their reading experience and makes them feel like they connect with the author on a different level.

Technically, I don’t make allusions. Instead, I pepper a lot of symbolism throughout my story. For example, the theme of my story is new beginnings, and I refer to birch trees whenever possible as they are symbolic of new beginnings. A grove of trees is described as a grove of birch trees. A character throws a couple more birch logs onto the fire. Another character makes a cup of tea with Chaga mushroom, which grows on birch trees. Most readers will miss these subtle details, but they will be really cool for the reader who picks up on them.

Using an eponym for character names
Eponym, another literary term I was unfamiliar with, but its definition is simple. It means naming a character after someone famous in some manner. Oddly enough, I was very deliberate when I bestowed my characters with their names. I wanted them to have significance and mean something to the reader. Some of the names I use are Lilith, Sam, Darcy, and Damion. They are a bit cliché, but again, I proudly own it. Other names include a nod to King Arthur and Magnum PI.

I suspect I’m not unlike my peers when it comes to character names. They are something most writers are thoughtful about. If you’re a writer and haven’t thought about the role of your characters’ names, you might to think about them. On a side note, rethink using names that are difficult to pronounce. While they add nuance to your story, they can distract your readers, too.

Be specific
This technique means not speaking in generalizations, and I associate it with the artful use of descriptions. Based on examples in the book, literary writers describe blue birds as blue jays and red birds as cardinals. Or the wind whipped the willow’s branches rather than the tree branches.

If one thing is consistent in my young writing career, it is my descriptions. I’m a very descriptive writer, and critique partners either love them or hate them.

A story within a story
I’m not sure if my story within a story is comparable to this literary technique. Simply put, it means one character tells a story to another character. An example used in the book was from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, where the courtship of Petruchio and Katherina is a play performed for a drunkard who’s made to think he is a nobleman. A little bit of a complicated illustration of the concept, but nonetheless, illustrative.

My story involves a legend about the demise of former rulers. Throughout the tale, details about the legend are revealed, which impact the plot. To me, this scenario seems like a story within a story. In fact, a lot about my Book 2 is included in Book 1.

A wide scope
The scope of most literary novels is national or international, meaning they are set in times of war like Hemingway’s For Whom the Bells Toll set during the Spanish Civil War. Or other notable time periods like The Great Gatsby’s portrayal of the Roaring 20s.

The setting of my story is contemporary, but the legend mentioned above is rooted in the early 19th century England. A time of transition between the Georgian and Victoria eras. The culture and practices of these eras are interwoven throughout my novel. Another technicality where my setting doesn’t quite fit the definition. Yet there is a presence of a historical time period.

Literary writing is about experimental styles and breaking the rules. I’m certainly not an Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Atwood, or Cormac McCarthy. But I think I’m breaking the rules of my chosen genre by using some of the same literary techniques used by them.

More importantly, I didn’t intentionally apply these techniques; they came naturally to me which continues surprise me. It proves we learn about ourselves as we seek knowledge. The take-way is never stop learning, make it hobby.

East is West

The woods appeared unchanged on the other side of the archway. Hanging near the horizon, the sun warmed the chill of the previous night as it began its climb. The yellow and orange foliage glistened in its rays. Dew on the green ground cover freshened the air like clean bed linens. The girl basked in the splendor of the new day before continuing her exploration of this unknown path.

Venturing further away from the entrance, the sunlight faded, and a long shadow followed her. A few fireflies blinked in the depths of the forest. As twilight waned, thousands twinkled in every direction, illuminating her way. A cool breeze whistled through the trees, intensifying their enchanting flashes. Mesmerized, she ambled down the path without purpose.

Darkness descended upon the woods. The lightning bugs danced around her. Using her hand, she brushed a few of them away from her face. She imagined her breath’s web ensnaring an errant bug. The trail of luminous juice that it left in its wake as it traveled down her throat. The thought of the magical properties it might have. She giggled and skipped along her way.

The hum of their wings chimed in her ears, compelling her to twirl and prance down the trail. Her movement synchronized with their tune. The trill of flutes, fiddles, and mandolins filled the woodland. But she stopped dead in her tracks when she heard a tiny voice ask, “Won’t you join us in our merriment?”

My inspiration for this bit of fiction was originally posted on Instagram (suzeq221) as part of my #wednesdaywriting initiative. I’d love to hear your story idea inspired by this photo. Where does your imagination take you?

Dear Critique Partner

Let me start by thanking you for your thoughtful feedback about my recent submission. It’s apparent you spent a considerable amount of time on it.

First, I hope my effort to provide a good clean copy for your review didn’t go unnoticed. I don’t believe in submitting an unedited first draft because it inevitably includes more telling than showing, the dreaded info-dumping and careless grammar mistakes. I don’t want these obvious issues to hinder your review. I want you to focus your expertise on the story elements like plot, characters, dialogue, and worldbuilding. I think I accomplished this goal as most of your comments are related to what I’m looking for.

I noticed several of your comments were tagged “it’s only my opinionandit’s your story.” Yes, it is my story, and I want your opinion. I want to know what you learned about the world in which my story takes place in. Do you understand their culture and customs? Their magic system? Do my characters have depth, their own voice? Do you know what they look like? Do you care? Are my descriptions flat? Or over-the-top and distracting? In your opinion, what do you think about the pacing, dialogue, the rhythm and flow of the prose? Was there enough tension? So please, please give me your opinion.

Where you commented you couldn’t remember or recall certain details, I understand. There are gaps in time between the review of chapters. I have the same problem at times. Being a hoarder pays off when it happens to me – I think I have every critique I’ve ever written. The hardest part is the time it takes to find the submission with the detail I’m looking for. Usually, it’s my forgetfulness. If it’s not, I let the writer know to make the detail in question more memorable in earlier chapters.

Another favorite comment of mine is “I’m not very good at explaining myself.” I’m sure you’ve gotten it a time or two yourself. I struggle with this remark because we’re writers. Describing a character’s thoughts, their emotions, their actions, and the settings are the essence of our work. So, shouldn’t we be able to convey our thoughts in a critique? I know it can take some time to find the right words to express ourselves, but take whatever time you need to voice your impression. Otherwise, don’t make the comment if you can’t explain it. Right?

Many thanks for a couple of your suggestions. One of them triggered an ah-ha moment about how to fix a pacing problem that’s been testing my patience. Another inspired me to approach the description of a scene from a different angle. The result was a black and white noir-type setting: Escorted by the detective, I trudged down the shadowy hallway in a surreal daze. Nondescript gray walls, gray doors, gray linoleum. The pools of dim light cast by the overhead lights lead us towards our destination. The morgue. Inside, white walls, shiny white floor, bright lights, and the stark reality. A truly wonderful writing experience for me. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

Oh, and by the way, my main character is a woman, not a man. Just want to make sure you knew since you used the masculine pronoun “he” throughout your review.


* * * * *

The above post is my cynical look at the critique process. It is a vital part of writing, and I honestly appreciate and enjoy the feedback I receive. But at times, I question its authenticity. Yes, we are reminded to take critique comments “with a grain of salt”, which literally means to not take something literally; to view it with skepticism. What’s the point of the critique then?

On Board ‘Seascape’ 1968, Part 2

The North Channel in Ontario, Canada
July 27 – August 8, 1968

The last six days (days 8-13) of our 1968 summer vacation on our boat, a 36’ Chris Craft named Seascape. Accompanying us on this voyage was the Playmate II with the Phillips family – Ron (captain), Joyce (first mate) and Carolyn (greenhorn) along with their friends John and Lois. I don’t recall the boat type and size of the Playmate II, but it is in several of the photos.

The log is written in my Mom’s words. I’ve only added punctuation or corrected spelling if needed. Otherwise, the integrity of her log is maintained. Italicized notes included parenthetically are my recollection of events or additional information about the story.

SHIP’S LOG – Saturday, August 3 (day 8)
What a lovely morning. Had breakfast, and before we left, the girls and I took a nice swim. John took the sailboat back to base camp to get his sunglasses. We were just about ready to send out the Rescue Squad when the red sail appeared around the corner. Picked up all our things and also a little of the debris left by some other boats and headed for Killarney on our way to Collins Inlet. Had a nice ride but the sky wasn’t looking too good. Stopped at Killarney for gas and the boats that were tied up there we’re talking about thunder squalls. Took a vote and decided to stay and head for Collins tomorrow. Got a chance to vacuum and straighten things around. Went to Jackman’s for a few supplies. Late in the afternoon we did get a small shower. Had dinner up in the Georgian Room of the Sportsman’s Inn. Very good. Docking rates went up from last year – $4 plus a dollar for electricity. All to the fellows rode around town on the motorbikes. Suzie got real friendly with the owner of 42-foot Pacemaker. Had a little Canadian Mist after dinner and us girls played one game of cards. Joyce won. The fellas girl-watched on the dock. Lights out around 1.

42-foot Pacemaker

SHIP’S LOG – Sunday, August 4 (day 9)
Another fabulous day. I think this is about the hottest we’ve had so far. Had our breakfast and headed for the second red spar to do some fishing. Got a few but there not biting like they usually do. Fished for about an hour and a half and started for Collins Inlet. Trolled all the way to Mill Lake and nothing. Tied up at the little dock by the Rock of Gibraltar. Got a party together and went back to the waterfall. Again the ice had changed things. No large waterfall at all. Found a natural bathtub and everyone had their Saturday bath on Sunday. Hunted for garnet and had almost given up when for the first time in 3 years I found what looked to be hard (quality of the stone?). Took all of them back to the boat and spent the rest of the evening washing them. Lots of mosquitoes.

Saturday’s bath on Sunday

SHIP’S LOG – Monday, August 5 (day 10)
Another real nice morning. Sky looks funny though to the South. Decided to walk back to the fishing village again to see to the dachshund and back to see the waterfall again. This time, everyone went further down and played in the small falls. Found a slide and even Nick went sliding, but not by choice.  Liz grabbed him because she was slipping, and in he went, clothed and all. Hunted for some more garnets, but only found soft ones. Did get some pretty stones though. Had a little lunch and moved down to Mill Lake. Anchored by the Verneta, Jackie, and Lake Drake from Flint. Tried to fish off the boat, but all we caught was cat fish. Nick and I went in the dinghy, but the rains came and all we got was wet. To make things worse, Liz said Elmer (the dog) had to go so we took him to an island in the rain and nothing. Oh well, a nice shower. Got really foggy towards dark. Ron heard Soo Control say that the locks were closed and all boats should drop anchor and take cover until further notice. What an eerie night. Lightening, wind and fog. Played cards, and Joyce and I couldn’t get a thing. Fellas beat 4 to 3.

Map of Mill Lake and Collins Inlet playgrounds for us

SHIP’S LOG – Tuesday, August 6 (day 11)
Morning dawned very peculiar. Around 7am, it was quite foggy, but the sun was trying to break it up. By 9:30, it was a beautiful day. Nick and Liz went fishing. Suzie and I slept in or tried to. They came back with 7 pike, Liz taking 5 and the biggest ones at that. Got things squared away and headed for Killarney. Needed supplies. Sky again looks like a real storm brewing toward the southeast. Weather very humid. Pulled into Cover Portage Cove for the night. Caught 0 fish, but had a real community fish dinner. Joyce sick to her stomach all day. Went to bed very early. Loris taught Liz to play pinochle. Sat until 11:30 discussing the world situation. Weather very funny. A full moon with a few clouds, but down towards the end of Killarney Bay, lightning.  

Cover Portage Cove

SHIP’S LOG – Wednesday, August 7 (day 12)
Morning not too good, but as it neared noon, a little better. Decided to get things together and head for Little Current. Got a few things we needed and decided to head for Oak Bay and spent the night there. Explored the eastern end a bit, but the bay we thought would be good, had a cottage built at the end. Moved back to our original spot. Tried to tie up to the rocks, but no place was suitable. Too sloping. No choice but to anchor out. Nick took the girls fishing and Suzie caught a big one. Had a wiener roast on the rocks and got ate up by mosquitos. Big full moon came up and finally peeked out from behind the clouds.

Me and my fish. Look at the smile on face.

SHIP’S LOG – Thursday, August 8 (day 13)
Got up to more gray skies. Girls had a ball playing with the dinghy. After we cleaned up a bit, Nick and I went out fishing. Only the silver flatfish seemed to work this year. Got a real nice pike, and wouldn’t you know it, the rains came. That’s twice I’ve gotten wet for a fish. Had a couple of strikes after, but only the one fish. Had a little lunch and held a conference. All in favor of trying for Meldrum Bay. Has a pretty good run, but were just a little concerned when we got near because there was one cruiser anchored out. Maybe all this way and no docks. Ivan was on hand and there were a couple of empty spaces on the inside. Secured everything and settled down or at least I thought so. The girls were fooling around on a dock that was partly submerged and Liz’s glasses fell in. Nick tried a couple of times, but couldn’t get them. Finally, John put on his suit and went in for them. Success! By this time, Nick had turned from blue to purple from the cold. Had a good stiff shot of Canadian Club with dinner. Wrapped up in a blanket and read on the couch. Girls went to bed and I knitted for a while. Moon came up big and bright. Very clear and would have been really nice if the racket on the docks had quieted down.

My sister and I playing around on the dinghy

This installment concludes our family trip to The North Channel in 1968. I want to thank my Mom for taking the time to document our trips. Although a few years are missing, there are other trips to share coming soon. Up next…1969 trip coasting the American coast of Lake Superior.

Happy Father’s Day to my dad…thanks for throwing caution to the wind and taking us on these fantastic voyages. I’m a lucky girl to have had such an adventurous dad, but I’ll never forget what happened to the Titanic.

Door to My Imagination

Most photos give me story ideas when I contemplate what they say to me. I like to use the stream of consciousness style as I consider the subject. With this approach, a common theme usually emerges. And sometimes, my rambling thoughts morph into a piece of flash fiction or short story afterwards.

Here’s this week’s introspected look at the elements of this door in my imagination.

Photo credit: unknown

Rotted wood in corner damaged left open too long not opened soon enough; two angles met but never cross never intersect; don’t run parallel one horizonal one vertical up down sideways back and forth going one way or the other; linear straight angles no curves twist of fate.

Ivy crawling on the door invasive intruding insistent on getting in won’t take no for an answer breaking down the barrier or setting boundaries sealing in thoughts emotions feelings; no doorknob on outside of the door can’t get in no shelter; locks both inside and outside feelings locking emotions inside keeping them out open your mind close your mind.

Ivy on the tree strangling wringing life out of it invading its trunk its core thick solid its heart and soul protected against adversity rejection abandonment; slithering its way to the branches the bearers of seeds creators of new life more than one way to accomplish a goal take another tack driven to succeed blind ambition.

Moss on the floor organic natural nature smothering the inanimate manufactured lifeless concrete stone gravel break down into soil add water sunlight life reborn the cycle; cracks on the wall cracks in armor crumbling walls more barriers breaking down nothing can keep thoughts beliefs feelings out hidden away exposing secrets insecurities letting go of doubts liberating freedom confidence strength fortitude opening a world of possibilities the world’s your oyster find your pearl.

Groundcover undergrowth over the threshold of the doorway more ivy door can no longer be closed once opened can’t be close can’t put the lid back on can of worms don’t like worms they ruin the smell of rain slimy hands when baiting a hook but good for the dirt creators of rich black fertile soil; uh-oh off track off the rails thoughts too deep too heavy pause take a breath bring it back online in line; was the door left open to let in fresh air welcome new perspectives why did the ivy invade, did it take advantage of the opportunity laid in wait for the opportunity to creep in to block the exit or seek out the negative smother it allowing the positive to come in.

Glass in door looking out transparency seeing with clarity a clear vision the possibilities of letting go not holding back wiping the fog from the window to see out; no it’s opaque clouded not veiled by curtain but obscured hiding secrets self-doubt covering up inhibitions vulnerabilities not letting anyone see the fragilities ashamed.

Light bright sunlight in meadow beyond the tree openness unobscured let in the light see the light facing fears releasing those fears open the mind to new possibilities; more dense woods beyond, doors open and close, when one door closes don’t look back look forward look for new doors to open new opportunities fresh perspectives.

Stream of thought writing is so much fun for me. It got a little heavy at times in this piece, but the contrast of ideas was compelling. Now I’ll let it simmer on the back burner while I think about what elements like characters, setting, and of course, magic are needed to create an appetizing story.

He’s Watching

This piece is an attempt at the stream of consciousness style. I’m not sure I nailed the technique, but I enjoyed writing it. It stirred my emotions, and it’s good any time we are moved by something whether it’s art, music, a novel, or a conversation. The setting is a bar where a woman is talking with a man, a friend, and she catches her lover watching them from a distance.

He’s watching us, not wondering what we are talking about; if the topics of our conversation are engaging, boring; or having his own thoughts, taking it to another level, down another path, oh the places we go, no;

He’s watching me interact with you; do I look at you when I speak, if you look at me; when I’m listening, I look at anything but you, disinterested, interested; my gazed fixed on you, my attention hanging on your every word;

He’s watching me laugh, giggle like a school girl, purr like a kitten; my smile, my lips soft, supple; coy, pouting; my eyes sparkling, affectionate, rolling, sneering; am I’m watching him, feeling his piercing wonder;

He’s watching me, am I sitting back, relaxed and at ease, sitting forward on the edge of my seat, anxious, nervous; crossing uncrossing my legs, shifting my posture, turned towards you, turned away, neutral, facing forward;

He’s watching me talking with my hands, clasping them, wringing them with doubt, pointing my finger, twirling a strand of hair, tapping them to the beat of the music, snapping in time, picking my nails;

He’s watching me, my demeanor, my presence, enchanted, intrigued, come closer, tell me more; dreary, obnoxious, he’s out of his mind, disturbed, an opportunist, preying on his friend’s lover; smitten by me;

He’s watching me, my every move, gesture, admiring, learning, who am I, nonverbal cues, signals, no words, silent observing, interpreting, contemplating, what does it mean, am I faithful, loyal; or two-timing, double-dipping;

I’m watching him as he watches me, what is he thinking about, his sweet smile, smoldering eyes, hand resting on his knee, sipping his drink, elbow on the bar, does he trust me, know I’m committed, truehearted, does he love me?

Writing Styles: Active Voice

Another writing exercise using an active voice.

Learning the craft of writing includes lots of reading, and as an aspiring writer, I read several novels over the holidays. One of my favorites was Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.

A husband-wife team co-authored Magic Bites using the pseudonym, Ilona Andrews. Published on March 27, 2007, it is the first book in the Kate Daniels series. There are twelve books from Kate’s point of view and a number of novels from the other characters’ point of view. I aspire to be as prolific as this writing team.

The urban fantasy takes place in Atlanta, where magic and technology vie for superiority. Set in 2040, Kate’s sole-surviving family member, her guardian, Greg Feldman is murdered. During her investigation, she interacts with rival factions, each with their own agenda, and an ancient supernatural being.

Kate earns her living as a mercenary in a world of shapeshifters, necromancers, and vampires. In the simplest terms, she’s badass. Obstinate and sarcastic, she wields a magic sword, named Slayer, which she carries in a sheath on her back. When looking for the leader of the Pack faction, Curran Lennart, a lion shapeshifter, she calls out, “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.” The undercurrent of a developing romantic relationship between Kate and Curran flowing throughout the tale is palpable and enticing.

The created world is well developed. But I’m not sure the book would have been as enjoyable if not for the bonus material including FAQ, character bios, and descriptions of the factions. I love speculative fiction, but the worlds in even well-written books boggle my mind sometimes. In this case, reading the supplemental information beforehand kept me engaged through the entire 366 pages.

For me, Magic Bites was a great case study since I’m in the process of writing an urban fantasy from a first-person point of view. I’m looking forward to diving into the prequel soon.

On Board ‘Seascape’ 1968, Part 1

The North Channel in Ontario, Canada
July 27 – August 8, 1968

The first seven days (days 1-7) of our 1968 summer vacation on our boat, a 36’ Chris Craft named Seascape. Accompanying us on this voyage was the Playmate II with the Phillips family – Ron (captain), Joyce (first mate) and Carolyn (crew in training) along with their friends John and Lois. I don’t recall the boat type and size of the Playmate II, but it is in several of the photos.

The log is written in my Mom’s words. I’ve only added punctuation or corrected spelling if needed. Otherwise, the integrity of her log is maintained. Italicized notes included parenthetically are my recollection of events or additional information about the story.

SHIP’S LOG – Saturday, July 27 (day 1)
Awoke this morning to the beautiful sound of rain on the roof. Rolled over and went back to sleep. Everyone got up about 9:30 am. Got dressed and went up to the (Indian Trail) motel for breakfast. Ron and Joyce and their company came in. Had a northern-type meal and came back to the boat and started to put things away. Meanwhile Nick installed the radio and changed oil. Went up into town for a few last minute items, gassed up, put the bike on board, and finally left the marina at 3:40 pm. Skies over cast with the sun coming out periodically. Winds picking up from the northwest. Got as far as Cheboygan. Only a couple of boats docked. Tied up and settle down for the night. Went out and had a nice dinner at Step In. Turned cool while we were in there. Took the dogs for their walk in bedded down for the night.

Indian River Marina ~ Indian River, Michigan

SHIP’S LOG – Sunday, July 28 (day 2)
Left Cheboygan at 7:20 am. Skies clear, winds seemed to have dropped. By the time we got to Poe Reef, the waves were rolling pretty big. Had a little relief after we past the light, but got hit again from Spectacle light and all the way into Detour. Everyone was really happy to put a shaky foot on solid ground. Had breakfast up at the motel. Suzie (that’s me!) caught the first fish, a nice perch. Gassed up and left detour around 10:45 am. Had a rockin and rolling ride again. Started up the downstream channel, so we had to backtrack a little way and cut over into the right channel. Coast Guard registered our number and name with binoculars as we passed the first checkpoint.    

The further north we got, the harder the winds blew. Tried calling the cruising club but they didn’t answer. So we decided to spend the night at the Municipal Dock. Had a terrible time getting into the slip. The winds kept pushing us around. Ron made 3 or 4 trips before he got in. We caught a piece of molding on our way in and bent it off. Have to put a couple of screws in before we leave. Got Ron settled and then made some sandwiches. All of a sudden the wheels of the bike appeared on the dock. Somehow the fellas got it off without dropping it in the drink.   

The wind has begun to blow harder. Overheard the Flying Gull talking to another boat. They were coming in from Superior. Waves running 16 feet. The other boat was in Lake George. Winds blowing 35 steadily with gusts near 40 miles per hour.    

Nick went exploring. The town is about 3 ½ miles. Just a short walk. Decided to settle down for the night. Joyce came over and soon Ron strolled in. Decided to play cards. Us girls got beat 4 in a roll. Finally won the 5th game. Going to sleep in a bit tomorrow.

SHIP’S LOG – Monday, July 29 (day 3)
Got up at 9:30 am. Skies clear but still windy. Had breakfast and we all decided to go into town. Rented 2 taxi cabs and off we went. Started out at the Soo Locks. Boy, what an operation. Watched the Alva C Dinkey lock down. From there we walked across the street to the Old Town. All sorts of antiques. Took the train ride around town. It took us across the International Peace Bridge. What a sight: the locks, St Mary’s rapids, and a real good view of Superior. Had lunch at the Lamplighter. From there we walked down to the freighter Valley Camp. That was quite a tour, from stem to stern, on deck and below. Called for a cab in the Captain’s quarters.

All very glad to be back. Winds have died right down. Checked over the charts and big black book and decided to gas up and head for Dead Boy Cove in the St. Joseph Channel. Had a beautiful ride from the Soo but when we finally found it, there was a sailboat at anchor in the middle. Decided to poke our noses around the corner. Found a nice rock wall to tie up to. Much better than Dead Boy Cove. Explored the rocks, watched chipmunks, picked blueberries and tried the fishing. Ron sailed around in his little boat. Had dinner about 10:00 pm and settled down for the night. Temperature in the forties. Weather clear and winds 0.

I couldn’t find any links about Old Town and the Lamplighter. Also, Dead Boy Cove is referred to as Dead Boy’s Bay on the maps, etc. However, Great Lakes Cruising Club boaters still call it Dead Boy Cove.

SHIP’S LOG – Tuesday, July 30 (day 4)
Awoke to very grey clouds. Started to rain even before we actually got out of bed. Had breakfast and took the dogs out on the rocks for a walk before we left. The girls picked another batch of blueberries. Can’t really recall exactly when we left but it must have been around 11:00 am. St. Joseph Channel wasn’t bad at all. A little choppy. We really started to take a beating about halfway across the North Channel. We hit one wave so hard that the dingy broke loose on one end. Had to turn the boat and take the waves on the stern (at an idle) and Nick went out to fix it. Suzie about this time was completely hysterical. Liz was able to get her a Dramamine tablet.

I have vivid memories of incident. In my child’s mind, my dad was going to die! The boat was violently tossed about especially at an idle. I was certain he was going to get knocked off the davit, and he was going to drowned before we could get him. Or the boat would get pushed over him when we tried to pick him up.

Please note that Dramamine includes the word “drama” and there was definitely drama on board.

We were real lucky we didn’t lose the motor. Had to cut our speed because of the banging. One time took green water right over the windshield. Nick headed for the shore of Cockburn Island to get some relief. Then we could pick up speed again. Pulled into Meldrum Bay and it was jammed. Had to wait in the bay for about ½ hour before we could get in for gas. Tied up across from the Normac ramp. Seeing no one was leaving and the Normac was due in at 7:00 pm (this about 5:00 pm) decided to try anchoring at the end of the bay. Maybe we can get some relief from the wind. Tried a couple of spots but the anchor wouldn’t hold. Finally after the 3rd try, success. Playmate II tied alongside. Everyone completely beat out especially me. Wind really picking up again, but out of the south this time. Nick made one more trip to shore. Dog run this time.

SHIP’S LOG – Wednesday, July 31 (day 5)
Awoke again this morning to grey clouds. Thunder in the distance and, and before we even got out of bed, rain. Had breakfast and cleaned up the cabin, still raining. Along about noon, the skies started to clear and at 1:00 got the MAFOR weather. Winds were supposed to change and reach gale force by evening. That will make this bay very rough. Still no docking space at Meldrum. Took a vote and decided to make a run for Harbor Island. Seas will be at our stern so the ride won’t be so rough. Got a call from the Pretty Baby tied up in Gore Bay inquiring about the waves and also Meldrum Bay.

Pulled into Harbor Island just behind three other boats. Probably no dock space left. Very lucky Joe put us up at the very end where he ties his boats. He remembered us from last year. Walked around a bit. Toured the Club house. After dinner, Nick rented his boat and we all went fishing. Suzie, her same nervous self (Clearly, I was traumatized!). Did catch two, a rock bass and a small mouth bass. Rest of the late evening very quiet.

SHIP’S LOG – Thursday, August 1 (day 6)
Well, had something different this morning. Sun for a change. Nick and Liz went fishing even before they had breakfast. Just took the cookies. Suzie and I had our breakfast and I cleaned up the floors, sewed my slacks, and by that time, it was really getting warm in the sun. Decided to wash my hair and gave Elmer a bath. The more I looked at that water, the more I felt like a swim. So I did. Both Suzie and I went in. When Nick and Liz came back from fishing (didn’t catch a thing), they went in to. Water was real cold when you first got in, but after it felt really good. Had lunch, got the weather in decided you had for Little Current and some supplies. Only had 2 small catastrophes. Carolyn was fooling around on the dock and fell in. No emergency. She had on her bathing suit and a life jacket. Liz was walking along side of the boat by the antenna, saw fly and went to swat it and fell onto the dock. On the way down scraped the side of her leg.

Left Harbor Island about 2:25 pm. Had a nice ride to Little Current. Stocked up and food, goodies, etc. And left for Bay Finn (Baie Fine). Check out the map in link. Had another real good ride. A number of boats in the Pool but our rock was untaken again. 4 times in a row is record. Got everyone tied up and started the fire for charcoal broiled steaks and were they ever good. After it got dark, the boys shot off their fireworks. Pretty good show. This side of the pool looked like the Fourth of July in August. Us girls decided to play cards. Called it quits after four games.

Surprisingly, there is not a lot of information about Bay Finn and the Pool on the internet. At least, I couldn’t locate much at all. Maybe, it is good if these beautiful secluded places are off the beaten path. But I think they are more widely known and traveled than what my searches located.

SHIP’S LOG – Friday, August 2 (day 7)
Woke up at 7:00 am. Sun shining bright but rolled over for another 40 winks. Finally got up about 9. Had my coffee on the back deck. Joyce was the early bird on the Playmate II. Within half an hour everyone was hustling about except Nick. He was the last one out of the sack today.

We did get things underway and Nick played taxi as we all went ashore for a mountain climbing expedition. Lois only made it about half of the way because of height sickness. As we climbed over the rise at the one-third point, we met up with a big furry black bear. Suzie almost had apoplexy. John and Liz went after it but we must had scared the poor thing silly. Probably never expected us up there.

Had a short break after that and Lois decided to stay there. The rest of us forged ahead. Reached the top and headed down the other side by Crater Lake. Got about halfway and down decided to stop. Kids getting tired. Had our lunch under some pine trees. John went off himself. He did reach the lake and said water was quite warm. Sat for a while admiring the view and getting our second wind.

Started back for the long trip down. No unusual happenings. Reached the base camp and jumped in clothes in all. Got everyone going and pretty soon everyone was splashing about. Boy, did that ever feel good. Stirred up the mud bottom pretty good. Nick started taxi service and back we all went but none for the worse.

Nick went fishing and it was a good thing we didn’t wait for supper. He did catch on fair size pike. Saw two big bass but they weren’t biting on anything. Built a bonfire after dark and sat around for a while. Closed up shop around 11:30.

As with Bay Finn and the Pool, there doesn’t seem to be any information about Crater Lake. A few mentions, but nothing specific about this Crater Lake.

Please come back to to read the last week of our cruise to the North Channel…

Peter Frampton’s Finale — The Farewell Tour

I wrote the following review for an assignment in one of my workshops. It’s a little dated, but the concert continues to resonate with me. It was a great show, and I still get teary-eyed when I think about it.

In August, I indulged my love of classic rock music by going to see Peter Frampton. It was a poignant show to go to because it was part of his farewell tour. Suffering from a rare degenerative muscular disorder called Inclusion-Body Myositis, Frampton will eventually lose his ability to play guitar.

 The opening act was Jason Bonham’s Evening with Led Zeppelin. As the name implies, the show consisted of Led Zeppelin covers. I’m a little fussy about tribute bands that cover only one artist or group. And I understand Jason Bonham is rock royalty as the son of original Led Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham. However, I don’t like seeing a cover band at a major ticketed concert. Like millions of others, I’d rather see the original band if I’m dropping a substantial amount of cash to see a show.

Frampton opened with an obscure but favorite song of mine, Somethin’s Happening. His voice was clear and crisp and sounded not much different than I remember from my first concert back in 1975. His guitar playing was tight, his fingers hitting every note. His band, a perfect accompaniment. He played another favorite of mine, Lines on My Face, before launching into his mainstay favorites like Show Me the Way and Baby, I Love Your Way.

Frampton did his fair share of covers, too. In addition to a few from his recently released album All Blues, he performed an inspiring rendition of Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden. Saving the best for last, his cover of The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps was emotional. Knowing it was the last song of his last concert I’d ever see, tears rolled down my cheeks.

Thankfully, Frampton continues to tour as long as his health lets him. Check out his website for 2020 dates, but you’ll have to travel to Europe. Let’s hope he stays healthy enough to make another trip around the States. One more time.

SETLIST: click on link to see music videos
* Baby (Somethin’s Happening)
* Lying
* Lines on My Face
* Show Me the Way
* Fig Tree Bay
* Georgia On My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra cover)
* Me and My Guitar (Freddie King cover)
* Same Old Blues (Freddie King cover)
* Breaking All the Rules
* Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden cover)
* (I’ll Give You) Money
* Baby, I Love Your Way
* Do You Feel Like We Do
* Four Day Creep (Ida Cox cover)
* I Don’t Need No Doctor (Nickolas Ashford cover)
* While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles cover)

Paczki Day 2020

Outside, the sky was dark with rain-laden clouds. The lightning temporarily blinded the people coming and going on the sidewalk. Thunder rumbled, shaking the foundations of the centuries-old buildings lining Main Street. One thunderclap released a torrent of rain, soaking everything not shielded from it within minutes. Soon, water rushed through the streets, and the awnings over the front doors sagged from the weight of the rain collecting in them. But the violence outside was nothing compared to the battle raging inside the bakery.

It was Fat Tuesday, celebrated in Pole Town with paczki, fried fruit-filled donuts. Bakers across town labored all night, making sure they had enough inventory for the hundreds of fervent people who started lining up at 4:00 am to get their hands on a dozen of the delights.

With wands drawn, late comers Doretha and Eloise waged war over the last dozen, scattering chairs and tables with bolts of energy when they missed their mark. Among other casualties were shattered dishware and cracked glass of now empty display cases. As the combatants danced around each other, Doretha’s bolt made contact with Eloise, thrusting her out the front door onto the sidewalk. Doretha rushed forward to gauge the effectiveness of her strike when the awning above the entrance collapsed, sending a wall of water crashing down on Eloise. She screamed in agony as she melted into the sidewalk. Turning away from the scene, Doretha casually collected the last dozen paczki.