May 20, 2018

Michigan’s Music Festivals

Image result for michigan state sealI have a friend who attends at least one music festival almost every year in Michigan.  I’ve never been but my friend says, “Just go-it’s a blast anywhere you go.”  
Now, I know this post isn’t about writing but isn’t music writing in a universal language?  And my sole Michigan person dropped and I just happened to be talking about Michigan music festivals to my friend and I said, “HMMM…here’s my subject for the blog.”  And if you have ties to Michigan and you'd like to guest here next year, let me know. 

Because of my music-minded friend from Michigan, I knew Michigan celebrated music a lot but, click on the link  and you’ll find how much.  There’s got to be something that interests you musically in Michigan this year. Plus, there's plenty of festivals ALL the time so there has to be one that fits any busy schedule. 

I’m partial to Wheatland Music Festival in September because it’s just one of the many that holds a Woodstock feel. I was too young for Woodstock #1 and not even close to in the same experience growing up in small town Nebraska when Woodstock was going on but I do remember it happening.  I had aunts and uncles who talked about it.  Years ago I had the original Woodstock album—which I foolishly traded to someone as barter for, I don’t even remember what. Funny how some things strike a person when they’re a kid and stick with them lifelong. 

Anyway, check out the Wheatland Music Festival in Remus, Michigan.

The Wheatland Music Festival is an annual celebration of music and the arts, dating back to 1974. Each year, both local and world renowned musicians gather together in early September for three days of singing, dancing and friendship.

Wheatland Music Festival, Sept. 9-11, Remus
THE VIBE: Hosted by the Wheatland Music Organization, this is the undisputed granddaddy of Michigan folk festivals, with the inaugural event taking place 43 years ago on this rural tract of land amid scenic pastures and woods. Tradition, family and all styles of roots, folk and world music are a big part of Wheatland, which always showcases some international treasures on its main stages.

Also, check out this site about the music in Michigan.  What a list.  If you have ears, you’ll find a festival that suits you on this site.

Credits to all this info downloaded from  and

May 13, 2018

Update in Massachusetts with Margay Leah Justice

Here are the details on my latest project-how knitting and writing are similar.

I jumped into this with a gung-ho attitude, confident in my past successes and then it happened - I hit a wall. An email from my older daughter prompted me to try again. So here is my take on how two totally different crafts are alike:
First and foremost-the key is patience. Don't try to take shortcuts. Pay attention to what you are doing. Don't focus on the finished project or what to do with it. That's how mistakes are made.
Each begins with an idea upon which the foundation is built. For knitting I search for a pattern and gather my supplies. When I write, I decide which idea to tackle and gather the tools to accomplish that.
In knitting, you begin by casting on the stitches to build the foundation of your project, and then the first row establishes the pattern. In writing, you decide where you want to start your story, and then you lay your foundation with a hook that draws your readers in and establishes the story.
Sometimes the project doesn't progress the way you expected. While knitting a hat after several rounds of knitting, I realized the project didn’t resemble the picture. How does this relate to writing? One word: Revision. Like my knitting, I worked the pattern until I got a product I liked. Writing is the same. Thank heavens for second drafts.
If you follow through, pay attention to the details and persevere, in the end you get a project you are proud of.

Similar? With knitting and writing, a whole lot of something is made from nothing.
I hail from the beautiful state of Massachusetts where history is literally around every corner. We have the Freedom Trail in Boston - which I think everyone should walk at least once.
We have the historic towns of Concord, Lexington and Plymouth.
Our museums are worth a trip.
If you like sea life you can check out the New England Aquarium or visit the Institute at Woods Hole. 
Into science? Visit our Museum of Science.
Into literature? Check out the homes of Edith Wharton, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
If you want to learn more about the Salem Witch Trials, you can visit the very place where they occurred or if you want to discover more about our rich shipping history, you can visit Gloucester. Gloucester has its very own castle.
If you visit in autumn you have the added bonus of leaf-changing season - definitely not to be missed!
Massachusetts is a beautiful state with warm summers and cold winters, perfect for knitting and writing ---there, another similarity! 

Margay Leah Justice is the author
Updates Downloaded from Author Website
Descended from the same bloodline that spawned the likes of James Russell, Amy and Robert Lowell, Margay Leah Justice was fated to be a writer herself from a young age. But even before she knew that there was a name for what she was doing, she knew one thing: She had a deep and unconditional love for the written word. A love that would challenge her in times of need, abandon her in times of distress, and rediscover her in times of hope. Through her writing, Margay has learned to cope with every curve ball life has thrown her, including the challenges of single parenting, the harsh realities of living in a shelter, coping with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the roller coaster ride of dealing with a child who suffers from bipolar disorder. But along the way she has rediscovered the amazing power of words. 

Margay currently lives in Massachusetts

May 6, 2018

Maryland Revisited with Jaye Valentine

Although I've been living in Massachusetts for several years now, a part of me will also be a Marylander and, more specifically, a Baltimorean. I grew up in a small, blue-collar neighborhood in the northwestern section of Baltimore, and when I was a kid, we used to walk to the old Memorial Stadium to see the Baltimore Orioles play. When they announced that the Orioles would build a new stadium in the Inner Harbor area, I was nervous that the spirit of the old place would be lost. The architects did a great job, and the new facility—Oriole Park at Camden Yards—turned out better than I had hoped, with the look and feel of an old-fashioned ballpark.
My stories—both my solo creations and the collaborations with my partner, Reno MacLeod—have locations that range from small towns in Massachusetts to the exotic man-made islands of Dubai. We have managed to squeeze my hometown into a few of our stories though, and I have to admit they were a real treat for me to write. "Firecracker" features the downtown neighborhood of Mount Vernon, which is central to the gay community in Baltimore. In our "Let Them Try" series of paranormal novellas, our heroes are a Baltimore City police officer (who lives and works in the neighborhood in which I grew up) and his demon lover. While it can be fun to research new places and write about exotic locations that I'll never see in person, there's something equally as satisfying in writing about a place I know so well.
As the seventh state admitted to the Union, Maryland has a long, rich history, and some of the more interesting places to visit have paranormal elements. Ghosts have long been reported to haunt the grounds of Fort McHenry, the bombardment of which during the War of 1812 inspired Francis Scott Key to compose "The Star-Spangled Banner." In September of 1862, the North and the South waged one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War outside of the picturesque town of Sharpsburg, Maryland, called the Battle of Antietam. Angry apparitions reportedly haunt the so-called Bloody Lane there. And of course, how could a house once occupied by Edgar Allan Poe not be haunted?

Although Maryland is the ninth smallest state in area, one of the state's nicknames is "America in Miniature" due to the wide range of topography. Sandy beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, oak forests on the Piedmont Plateau, wetlands and marshes on the Chesapeake Bay, and dense pine groves in the Appalachian Mountains to the west are just some of the myriad features of the state. The weather also runs the gamut, from hot, humid summers to cold winters with a fair amount of snow. A lot going on for such a small state, and I hope to revisit Maryland in future stories.
Jaye Valentine lives in a small New England town with his partner, Reno MacLeod, and their menagerie of cats, freshwater fish, and dust mice. Jaye enjoys writing, watching movies, and is shamefully fond of competitive reality shows.
In addition to the gritty, not-for-the-faint-of-heart urban fantasy, horror, and sci-fi novels Jaye co-writes with Reno, Jaye also writes short stories under the pen name of Acer Adamson.
Visit Jay Valentine here:  where you’ll discover all about this talented author and his writing partner.
(re-posted from archives)

April 29, 2018

Maine Encounter by Kenneth Weene

We set out early that morning. Leaving Boston on Route 1 along the coast to Newburyport, into New Hampshire, and across the border to Portland. Then, turning north-northeast and heading inland to Lewiston and Auburn. Stopping along the way at a stand outside of Gray for the best burgers I’d ever eaten. Crossing the Androscoggin River, redolent of the sulfur fumes of the paper plant that was the major employer of the twin cities. Another 20 miles or so—stopping for another treat of burgers and pie—and then a left on 219, a road that soon turned to gravel. Up a great hill that strained the luggage-laden, old car’s overheating engine. Finally, after six hours, we arrived.

Where? I had no idea. Only five years old, everything that was happening was beyond my
“We’re here,” my father announced.

“Are you sure?” my mother countered.

My older brother hit me in the arm to mark the occasion.

“Of course, I’m sure,” Dad replied checking the instructions once more before he walked over to the front door of the old farmhouse. Later, I came to know it as The Big House, and big it was. Five bedrooms, an attic, a living room complete with fireplace, kitchen, a root cellar, one bathroom, and a dining room capable of seating fifty or sixty campers and staff. This was the main building of the summer camp my parents had purchased, a camp at which I would spend the next twenty summers.

Of course, at the time I had no idea why we were there, and nobody was taking the time to explain. Too busy with brooms and mops and carrying clothes and god knows what else, my parents told me to go outside. “It’s a beautiful day,” Mom said.

Three years older, my brother was, I suppose, trying to be helpful. Clearly the best help I could give was to do just as Mom had said. Out I went.

The grass had been cut—not so fine as our downstairs neighbor in Massachusetts kept the yard, but still fine for lying on. There were flowers to smell and a big rock with a plaque to be climbed. Later, I learned that plaque commemorated the girls’ camp that had once operated on that site. It had been founded in the 1920s. Absent electricity, on dirt roads, bathing in cold spring water and hiking up and down the side of a small mountain, those girls must have been tough. On that day, I didn’t realize how tough. I hadn’t yet realized that we didn’t have normal electricity and that our refrigerator would be the ice house out back. I just knew that rock was made for climbing.

After a while, I tired of the rock. One thing about mastery for a kid of five, after some repetition, it’s time to find a new challenge. Mine was the path that led downhill from that rock. With no sidewalks or fences to remind me of limits and boundaries, down the hill I went.

At the bottom of the path, there was a field. Later, I realized it wasn’t very big, but for a kid who measured the world in comparison to his backyard, it was enormous. To one side there was another building, one that I would later know as the rec hall, but for the moment it held no interest. Just to be in the middle of that wilderness, in the middle of all that grass, to be out of my parents’ view: what bliss.

I lay on the grass and watched clouds tell stories.
From one side of the field, two small animals—cats I thought—made their waddling way towards me. They were cute, black with white stripes. Again, I would learn that they were skunks, but at the moment, that name meant nothing. I lay there and let them approach.
Skunks are curious and friendly creatures. Let alone and unthreatened, they are happy to snuffle a small human lying on the grass. Perhaps, they could have been rabid, but that wasn’t the way this story was to end. It ended with them waddling away and my calling after them. “I hope you guys want to talk again.”

The funny thing, I was getting rather lonely. I did want somebody with whom I could talk. I might even have gone to look for my brother. Being beaten up might have felt better than being alone and—oh, no, what am I going to do, lost.

Perhaps I would have cried. I certainly might have panicked. But, fate had something better in store for me. His name was Harold Bryant; although that day, he introduced himself only as Harold. Harold was to become for me the symbol of all that was best about Maine.

“So, Kenney, what are you doing?” he asked once we’d properly shaken hands and I had told him my name in return.

“I don’t know. My mom and dad are up the hill,” I replied not sure where up the hill was.

“Oh, so they’ve arrived.”
“Do you know them?”

“I work for your father.”

My eyes must have widened. My father was a school teacher back in Somerville, Massachusetts, wherever that too might be. How did he know this stranger and how could this man with his rough hands, blue-eyed smile, bib-overalls, and fascinating tool belt work for him?
“I’ve been working on the cabins.”
What cabins? Where? And more questions: Dare I ask them? 
He gestured me to the remnant of a rock wall and we sat on the cold Maine granite.

Harold told me about the place we were, more exactly about building it, particularly his part in the work. His first job years before had been carrying the rocks that composed the fireplace inside that nearby rec hall. Now, I’m your father’s carpenter,” he finished the tale. “I arranged for my son-in-law, Donald, to cut the grass. Not just up here, but down below.” He gestured in the direction of what I later learned was the lake, which lay at the base of that mountain. I’m not sure I had any notion of what a lake might be or what lake grass was. There was, I learned, another even larger field, large enough to play softball and football. But, for the moment, I didn’t need to know that or much more. God had gifted me with something far better, a grown man who would talk with me, pay me attention, actually answer my questions—if I dared to ask them.

Eventually, Harold announced, “I’d best be getting back to work, and you’d best get back to your parents.”
“Where are they?” I squeaked afraid that he would leave me perched on that wall and never able to find my way. Terrified to admit I didn’t know and risk the scorn of this new hero with his hammer and screwdrivers, and other tools I didn’t know.

Bless Harold Bryant for not laughing. Bless him for understanding. He showed me the nearby path. “I’m sure you’ll learn your way around real fast.”

I did. But, more importantly I learned that the kindness of this man, who was over the years to teach me many things, most importantly to have faith in myself because nature makes us to be who we are. That is one of the great lessons of Maine, to be true to oneself.

Now, years later, I live far from New England and Harold is long dead. Still, I think of him and recall his simple strength. When I wrote Broody New Englander, it in part was to honor Harold Bryant, not just by using his name for one of the characters, but by actually using his character.
When I got back to the top of what seemed a giant hill, my parents hadn’t missed me. Why would they? I was out of their hair. Had my brother not said something about my not getting in the way, they might have ignored my return altogether. Perhaps, they were hoping I had been eaten by the bears that didn’t frequent that part of Maine. Who knows. Still, when I started telling them about my adventure, my mother told me that I shouldn’t have wandered off, which brought my father’s shouts of, “Stop getting in the way; we have work to do.”
It was only when I mentioned meeting Harold that Dad stopped his yelling. Off he went, down the hill, shouting back to Mom, “Fran, you finish up. I have to talk with him.”

“Yeah,” I thought, “I have to talk more with him, too.”


You can find more of Ken Weene’s writing at his website, and you can win a copy of Broody New Englander by commenting on this post. And, of course, you can have a wonderful time by visiting the Pine Tree State.