Of Blizzards and Travels

1526322_10152084803344590_1648012390_nLast week, we intrepid northerners had our first blizzard of the winter. The snow was so lovely. The storm started rolling in on Sunday evening while I was at a friend’s house. So, Lydia and I did the most logical thing possible under the circumstances—went for a walk in it. Bundled up with scarves and hats and lots of layers, out we went. Lydia’s cat, Edward, followed us all the way there and back, complaining loudly to us as he brought up the rear. Lydia would pick him up and carry him for a few minutes until he complained again and wanted to get down. Down he went until he complained some more and wanted to get picked back up. This went on for quite some time. Silly, old cat. While we were out, we had to take advantage of the all the picture-taking opportunities, which I will now share with you.

It took a long time to get home that night. Lots of snow, lots of wind and lots of ice. Thankfully, my brother was driving.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, all of the schools in my area were closed, so I gave myself  and my music students an extended Christmas vacation which I spent by 1514994_640876972636406_2071139016_ndrinking a lot of coffee and tea  and catching up on writing assignments. I finally emerged on Thursday to get back to teaching.

And that’s when I remembered how full this coming weekend was going to be! Tomorrow, I need to be up at the crack of dawn, pack a day’s worth of clothes, my violin, my books, a bunch of The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club movies and other sundries into my car and take off for the greater Kalamazoo area for another round of presenting my book to various audiences. On Friday, I’ll be at a Homeschool Partnership class where I’ll give the kids a talk about my book, why I wrote it, etc…and show The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club.  That evening, I’ll make my way to Broadside Productions studio to record a song my dad wrote a long time ago. It’s called How Fail Thee I, My God

Lydia and Edward
Lydia and Edward

and King. Written for voice and guitar, it is simply beautiful. My goal is to record it first and then get together with the video guy, Seth Haley, who filmed The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club, and turn it into a non-corny, very low-key music video. I have plans to use that video for a larger project that I will announce at a later date.

After all that, I’m going to crash at my Aunt Karen’s house, where I will visit with my two cousins, Anthony and Johann, plus Anthony’s wife and two kids, whom I have not seen in a very long time.

Saturday morning will find me at a lady’s book club where I’ll give my talk and play a few tunes on the violin. That afternoon, I’ll head to the Otsego Public Library, where I will give the same talk I gave earlier in the day! Afterwards, I will be hoarse and go back home.

That’s all for now. I must do a bit of cooking so my brother has something to eat while I’m gone! Take care, all. And if you’re interesting in coming to the talk I’m giving at the Otsego Public Library, you can check my Facebook page event for more details.

 

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Mahler and a Rag Rug

My concert on Saturday went very well. I had many of the two hundred people in attendance come and talk to me afterwards, saying how much they appreciated the music and how I shared a bit of my life’s experiences with them. It would be fun to do that again. This week, of course, I’m gearing up to play Regeneration—a concert of classical music presented by the orchestra I play in, Kalamazoo Philharmonia. We’ll be playing Mahler’s first symphony and Strauss’ Four Last Songs with soprano Rhea Olivacce. In rehearsals we’ve played straight through the entire symphony a couple of times. Phew! It’s intense, especially the last movement, but definitely worth the effort. As usual, you are all invited to the concert—that is if you live close enough to attend. Here’s a sample of our playing: Egmont Overture by Beethoven

Once this concert’s over, I plan to devote some time to writing projects that I’ve needed to get to but haven’t had the time so far. I intend to plow into a Union Gospel Press assignment come next week and start wading through another film script using my brother’s Mac and the handy dandy film script template that comes with Pages. (Oh, why can’t Word do something like that?) 

In the meanwhile, though, I can’t seem to stop myself from crafting.

Me and my rug
Me and my rug

A few weeks ago, I got started on a crochet rug, using up some fabric scraps I didn’t want to go to waste. Some scraps came from fabric I had left over from dresses I made for my nieces, some scraps came from old curtains, some came from a dress project for myself. Few things make me happier than making something useful from stuff I can’t bear to throw away. Makes me feel better about being a pack rat. Anyway, here’s the progress I’ve made.

Cora likes to help
Cora likes to help

 

We’ll see how big it gets. My brother wants me to make it one of those ginormous rugs that can cover an entire living room floor. That would be kind of neat. I’ll post pictures from time to time as it gets bigger.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back next Thursday.

Events of Note and a Book Review

Hope everyone has had a good week! Mine was good, though somewhat eventful. The back right tire on my faithful, rusty old car kept losing air over the weekend. Tuesday, I took it in to get it fixed. Turns out the air valve was loose and the mechanic was nearly positive that someone had tampered with it. Thinking about it, I recalled that I first noticed the tire being low the day after Halloween. Some little scamps must have been fooling around with it Halloween night. (Growls and shakes fist in the air.) Ah, well. It was easily solved.

This Saturday, I’m playing and singing for  Grace Christian School’s Fall Gala. My dad taught at this school for several years before I was born and up until the time I turned five. So, I’m excited to be “going back,” so to speak, and sharing my book and the songs that have meant a lot to me over the years. I do have one prayer request. One of my collaborators for this concert is going through a personal tragedy right now, but wants to continue with the concert. Do pray for her that God would comfort her through the message of the songs and for God’s blessing on her life.

Next Saturday, I’m playing in an orchestra concert that you’re all invited to. I’ve played the violin in the Kalamazoo Philharmonia for the last five years and our first concert of the 2013/14 season is coming up next Saturday. Titled “Regeneration” it will feature the music of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler as well as guest soprano Rhea Olivacce. It starts at 8:00 PM and will take place at the Dalton Theater in the Light Fine Arts building of Kalamazoo College. Tickets will be available at the door–5.00 for adults and 2.00 for students. The price is right. Hope you can come! You can find more information here.

Last but not least, there has been a new blog review of my book on www.griffinshoney.com by Heather Pfingston. You can read it here. This has been, by far, the most personally touching review of my book. I think you’ll see what I mean if you read it. Suffice it to say, I have always hoped my book would have just such an effect on those who have struggled with why God allows painful things to happen. Also, sign up for Heather’s book giveaway! You could win a copy!

 

 

The Testimony of a Well-Lived Life

Last Saturday, I had a book signing in Battle Creek. I wanted to get there early to meet up with my history and world religions instructor from college and have lunch. So, I packed myself and all my stuff into the car and got there in plenty of time. I had an excellent time at lunch, catching up with my instructor and discussing the Bible, which we always end up doing whenever we get together! At the appointed time, I made my way to Barnes and Noble and walked up the information desk.

“Hi, I’m Amanda Barber here for the book signing,” I began.

The girl on the other side looked back at me, confused. “Book signing?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Uh…”

Just then, the acting manager came up and the girl said something like, “There’s a book signing today?”

The manager looked back at me, dumbfounded.

That’s when I knew things weren’t going to go very well.

After some rummaging around on the counter, they finally discovered the event fliers for the book signing and apologized profusely.

“I wasn’t actually supposed to work today,” the manager explained. “And the person who was supposed to work, didn’t pass this information on to me. We’ll get you set up with a table right away.”

Soon, the table was laid and I got out my chocolate that I use to lure people over and my book marks. The only problem was, they hadn’t brought out the books yet, plus the store alarms were going off for some strange reason. Once the employees stopped running around, trying to figure out what was going on, I asked the girl I’d spoken to first, “Do you know where the books are?”

“Uh, books?”

My heart was beginning to sink.

“Um, let me go ask my manager.”

So, I sat at my table for quite some time, watching the manger scurry back and forth, while people helped themselves liberally to the candy on the table. I’d never seen so many people come right up to my table before. Such a pity there weren’t any books there for me to point them towards! After fifteen minutes or so, the manager walked up to me. Her eyes were all red and she looked about ready to burst into tears.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” she said, “but we can’t find your books. I tried to call Tom” (I’m assuming this was the guy that was supposed to be working that day) “but I can’t get a hold of him.”

Well, after a few more minutes, Tom called back and it was ascertained that someone had sent all the books back contrary to orders. So, there weren’t any there. There was nothing more to do than pack up and go back home. The poor manager was so distressed and apologized over and over again. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a bad mood to begin with, which I’m thankful for or it might have been a lot more difficult to respond correctly. As it was, I felt so bad for her, I just told her that it was really okay, it wasn’t her fault and would Tom please call me back some time to reschedule?

As I left, I began to ponder the incident. I wondered, “What if I hadn’t responded well? What if I had become angry at the lack of competence? From a purely business standpoint, I had every right to be angry and demand some compensation for gas money at least. Supposing I had done all that and she had picked up my book at some point and read it. Would she have been impressed by the love of God that I was attempting to portray?”

I doubt it. She might have thought, “That’s nice and everything. But I know how she really is.”

This was sort of brought home to me a few days later. An acquaintance of mine (whom I will designate as “A”) through a social media venue abruptly messaged me and asked if I was a Christian. I replied that yes I was. This person wanted to know how I knew that I was a Christian. A little bemused, I obliged by giving my brief testimony of faith. And that was that. I guess if I had said that I wasn’t a Christian, A would have taken the opportunity to evangelize me. And as it goes, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. It would be commendable and courageous to a certain degree. The problem is, I’ve been observing A’s online testimony for some time. “A” often criticizes people in very harsh terms (especially A’s spouse) and is a chronic complainer. One memorable day, I observed A railing against another Christian for challenging A’s position about an area of Christian practice. Plus, A had shown very little interest in me as a person or a friend up to this point. My conjecture was that the preacher at church that morning had been preaching about the importance of soul winning or something, and  A thought I looked like one of the first opportunities. Regardless, I thought to myself, “If I were an unbeliever and A had asked me the same question, would I have given A much room to speak to me about my soul? Probably not. Because nothing about A’s visible life looks particularly attractive.”

I am thoroughly convinced that no area of my life should ever be secular. Every area should be infused with the fruits of the Spirit. I believe it was St. Francis of Assisi that said, and I’m probably paraphrasing, “Preach always. When necessary, use words.” That’s only half true, and as it stands, rather silly. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. But I understand the sentiment behind it. If what I’m saying on social media or at work or in a novel is loudly contradicted by my actions, then the words are rendered nearly useless. (I say “nearly” because God can even take the words that hypocritical people say and use them for his glory.) I hope and pray that I will continue to grow into  more and more consistency between my outward life and the inward reality of God’s grace in my heart,so that I do not unintentionally drag my Lord’s name through the mud.

Fall = Sweaters and Crafts

photo (1)The weather has most definitely taken a chilly turn. Some of my friends have even reported snow on the ground. Here in St. Joseph, we rarely get the brunt of snowy weather. It seems like the storms cook up over the lake, skip over us and dump everywhere else. Nevertheless, I did see a few snowflakes yesterday morning and last night. So, I get the best of the fall season–a nip in the air, turning leaves, coffee, and sweaters. Okay, coffee really has nothing to do with fall, but it tastes and feels so much better when it’s chilly outside. Ambiance and all that.

Maybe it’s the weather that has produced a fit of craftiness in me. When it gets cold, I feel especially inclined to break out my fabric scraps and make something. (Often times when I should be practicing my violin or working on a writing project. Shameful.) Pinterest doesn’t help much. When I go browsing on Pinterest, my cursor wanders to the DIY and Crafts category of its own free will and there I am, stuck for the next half-hour, delighting over all the neat things I could make with my old stuff or thrift store finds. I could write an entire blog post on thrift store shopping, but I’ll spare you for today. photo 1

Anyway, last week and this week, I succumbed to temptation, and made some stuff. I had a pile of fabric scraps that I’ve refused to throw away for several years because I knew I could put them to good use, plus a pile of dried leaves that I’d pressed in a book last fall. It was time to do something with both. I discovered a neat way to use fabric strips and polyester rope and made this cute little basket. Once again, I found this idea on Pinterest. You can find the how-to here . It was terribly fun and easy to make.

Now I’m going to try to make one without using the rope. I don’t like to have to buy special things to make crafts out of old stuff I have around the house. So this time, I’ll braid the fabric strips together for more stiffness and then sew it up. We shall see how it works.

Next things on the agenda were my dried leaves. Somewhere a long time ago, I saw a picture of a leaf and greenery garland where the leaves were tied to a long piece of string and hung up on the wall. So yesterday, I pulled out my leaves and some old tatting thread and went to work. This was the result:

photoPretty, huh? I still have a lot of leaves and stuff left, so I think I’ll make a bigger one and hang it somewhere else.

This week has been slightly more laid back. I got a free lance writing assignment that I did some brainstorming for today. I only have one book signing. This one will be in Battle Creek at Barnes and Noble from 1:00-4:00. If you’re in the area, be sure to drop in and say hello.

 

 

Book Signings and Other Hazards

At Barnes and Noble, Mishawaka
At Barnes and Noble, Mishawaka

This was my first big week of book signings. How do I describe it? Maybe by how I felt at the end—exhausted. I started out the week with the interview with Brenda Layne on WSJM, as you all know. That went quite well and I enjoyed it. I taught music students the rest of the afternoon and all day Wednesday. On Thursday, I taught music and gave a lecture at Dowagiac Public Library in the evening. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all book signings—one at Parable Books, and two at Barnes and Noble locations. So, you can imagine why I was tired.

It’s really coming home to me that American culture or I should say, American attention spans are extremely diluted. In other words, people are spread so thin right now, that the likelihood of them remembering that I had a book signing or even being able to attend if they did remember, is incredibly thin. If you think about all the concerts, events, activities and things you were personally invited to last week, I think you’ll know what I mean. My publicist worked hard to get the word out about my events, and just a handful of people showed up to any of them. The fact is, we live in a noisy world. People are positively bombarded with messages, things to do and places to go. To me, it’s amazing even a few of them heard my small voice last week. So, this book promotion thing is proving to be as hard as I thought it would be! Yet, there were good signs, as well, and small steps taken in the right direction.

In spite of the small turnout to all the events I did last week, I still got rid of quite a few books. I made a number of contacts with store managers and customers. In fact, I just got off the phone with a freelance writer who called to interview me for a piece he’s doing for Publishers Weekly on new authors and self-publishing. He got my name through the manager of Parable Books in St. Joseph. So, through that little book signing, it looks like I’m going to have my name in a well-known periodical. Every little bit helps!

Humorous happenings at book signings: Often times, people would mistake me for an employee. At Parable, for instance, one lady asked me where Beverly Lewis’ latest book was. I snickered to myself and went to help her find it. That happened a couple of times. So, I’d just point people in the right direction or find their books for them and then steer them back to mine. So sneaky. At Barnes and Noble, I’d get these confused guys coming up to my table asking, “Man, don’t they have bathrooms in here?” “Right there, in the corner,” I’d reply. Or there’d be that random guy that would walk up and start flirting or offer to buy me coffee. Ugh. Oh, well. Modus operandi: deflect admiration from me to book.

So, I carry on. I’ll be back next week to report on my book signing this Saturday at Barnes and Noble in Holland, MI.

Something of interest: The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club was accepted at the Flint Film Festival. This festival is competitive, so we have the potential to win an award. It’ll be showing at 7:30, tomorrow night. We shall see what happens with that!

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A Radio Interview

At WSJM Tuesday morning for an interview with Brenda Layne!
At WSJM Tuesday morning for an interview with Brenda Layne!

On Tuesday morning, I did my first radio interview with Brenda Layne of WSJM’s In the Spotlight. You can listen to the whole interview here: Amanda’s Interview. Originally, I was to be one of two guests to appear that day. It just so happened that I ended up being the featured guest the entire hour segment because the second guest didn’t show up!

Something I learned: Apparently, radio studio mics are so good, you don’t have to close the door to the studio anymore. The door was wide open and a window was open too. But if you listen to the interview, you won’t hear any outside noise. Interesting.

Tonight, I’m going to be speaking at the Dowagiac Library. You’re all invited. Tomorrow, I’ll be at Parable Book Store in St. Joseph from 4-6 pm. Saturday, I’ll be at Barnes and Noble in Mishawaka, and Sunday, I’ll be at Barnes and Noble in Kalamazoo. For more info on any of these events, just click on the “Events” tab up top and it will take you to my complete Fall Tour Schedule.

Well, it’s time to go through the main points of my talk for this evening. Hope to see you there!

Fall Book Tour

My book on display at Kalamazoo's Barnes and Noble!
My book on display at Kalamazoo’s Barnes and Noble!

I felt the business of my life increase exponentially on September 1 for several reasons. 1. All the kids are going back to school which means all my violin and piano students that took time off during the summer are coming back too. 2. Orchestra rehearsals start in about two weeks for me. 3. This week includes two more showings of The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club. 4. But more to the point, this month begins my Fall Book Tour. I’m on the docket to perform at least one musical concert for a ladie’s retreat, give two speeches, appear at a local bookstore for a signing, go to several libraries, do a radio interview, and do book signings at six Barnes and Noble locations. Phew! This will be a learning experience for me, as I’ve never done anything of the sort before! God give me wisdom, health, strength and please keep my car alive. Old Faithful is looking rustier than ever, but still runs like a trouper. The worst possible scenarios will run through my mind, though, as I contemplate all this traveling ahead of me.

I’ve added three more tabs to the top of the blog. Do you see? There’s a link to Twitter, Events and The Pursuit of Elizabeth Millhouse. If you click on the Events tab, it’ll take you right to a listing of all the places I’m going to be this fall. Maybe one of them will be near you! If you haven’t bought a copy of The Pursuit of Elizabeth Millhouse, you can click on that tab which will take you to where it’s listed on Amazon. And the Twitter tab will take you to…Twitter.

That is all for now. I hope to see many new friends as well as older familiar faces this Fall!

New Screenings!

As promised, here are the three new screening dates for The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club!

August 29, Sister Lakes, MI

When: August 29th at 8:00 PM
Where: Sister Lakes Community Church 67119 Michigan 152, Dowagiac, MI
Cost: $6 at the door

Call (269)-463-6846 for any other questions.

September 5, Berrien Center, MI

Where: Berrien Center Bible Church
8830 Highway M-140 | Berrien Center, MI 49102
When: September 5
Time: 7:00PM
Cost: $6 at the Door

 

September 6, St. Joseph, MI

Date: Friday September 6th
Time: 7:00PM.
Tickets: $5.00
Where: The Box Factory 1101 Broad St, St Joseph, MI 49085

For More Information about tickets contact The Box Factory at 269-983-3688

 

I’ll be at all three of these showings. I hope you can make it. If you have a copy of The Pursuit of Elizabeth Millhouse, bring it along, and I’ll sign it for you! If you don’t have a copy, I’ll be bringing extra copies you can purchase after the showing. (Copies of the DVD, of course, will be available also.)

Let me know if you have any questions!

 

The New Duke Street Productions Headquarters

Last week, Duke Street Productions (that is, myself, Justin and Mr. Cade) rented office space on Hilltop Rd. I cannot tell you how happy and relieved I am about this new state of affairs. First of all, for the last year, the apartment I share with my brother has been positively overrun with movie paraphernalia—posters, soundtrack CDs, rewards from our Kickstarter campaign, one large slider made by a dear church member for shooting the movie last summer, lighting equipment, a bunch of sale copies of The Pursuit of Elizabeth Millhouse, etc… Now, it’s all over in the new office space and I can walk around at home without tripping over anything, and I can actually use the dining room table for…dining. But the best part is that I now have my own little writing space at the office, which in fact, is where I am at this moment! Here’s what my spot looks like:

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Items of interest: 1. My book is now on the shelves of at least one Barnes and Noble store in Mishawaka! 1150424_552077481496135_590542299_nThat’s gratifying. Now you can pray that people will actually buy it and come back later on for the book signing I’ll be doing there on October 5 at 1:00! 2. If all goes according to plan, a thousand copies of The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club DVD should arrive tomorrow. The following day, Justin and I will proceed to the new office space and pack and address about 200 of those or more and ship them out to all of you wonderful people who contributed to our Kickstarter campaign or pre-ordered the movie at the premiere. 3. You can now order the movie and the soundtrack through our website using Paypal. Both will also be available on Amazon. 

That’s all for now. I’ll be back next week with more updates as well as a list of new showings for The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club. If you missed the premiere, you can still get in on these!