Traverse City, Michigan: One of my favorite places and here’s why…

Are you wondering about all those Michigan places I write about in my some of my novels? Yes, it’s as beautiful “up north” as I describe. Even though I write fiction, I am not making that up. So I’ve made you a quick guide to some of my favorite places in Traverse City and its surrounding area, in case you want to go. There are many more things to do than mentioned, but I narrowed it down so you can plan a week’s stay. If you cannot make the journey in person, hopefully you’ll enjoy learning about this fascinating area from afar.

I was born and raised in Michigan, so have been visiting the Traverse City area all my life. I no longer live there but go back most summers to visit friends and family, and to do book signings. I also did a lot of research to make sure the history I wove into my novels was accurate, and doing that research led to fascinating discoveries. I’ve included links here that will take you to some of that history if you’re interested.

Here’s a Michigan map to get us started:

Traverse City, in Town

This city on Grand Traverse Bay began as a lumbering community in the mid to late 1800s. It’s a lovely town with plenty of Victorian-era ambiance. History abounds.

Here’s a map depicting the historic areas –

Street map –

Of course, beaches on the bay and opportunities to enjoy summer water sports and winter sports are plentiful. But here are a few of my favorite places to visit and things to do.

  1. Grand Traverse Commons. This enormous Victorian-era structure, built in the late 1800s, originated as an “asylum.” With much of it now converted into stores, restaurants, and lofts, tours of the unrestored areas demonstrate was life was once like there. The stories of the “residents” ooze out of the walls, which instigated my novel Secrets of the Asylum. If you don’t want to take the tour, the shops and restaurants are worth the visit.
  • Landmark Books in the Grand Traverse Commons. Of course, you knew I’d list my favorite bookstores. Primarily a used and classic book store, owner Paul also offers recent books about the area and especially about the asylum. It’s a great place to pick up good stories about this iconic place.
  • Front Street. Stroll up and down this historic main street to find everything you want. Shops, restaurants, coffee shops, brew pubs, a classic movie theater, the old opera house, ice cream, fudge, and more.
  • The National Cherry Festival, around the Fourth of July. You won’t believe how much fun this can be. It’s like a small-town fair high on cherry wine. There’s even an air show most years. I saw the Navy’s Blue Angels, performing over the bay. I’ll never forget it.

Old Mission Peninsula

Just outside of Traverse City are two peninsulas that stretch north into the bay, one on the east side of town and one on the west side. I’ll start with the east side, Old Mission.

  1. Old Mission General Store. You’ll enjoy spectacular scenery as you drive up the peninsula, where you’ll run into this store. It sits at the center of the Old Mission village. At the store you can get snacks, antiques, vittles, and more.
  • Wineries, ten scattered along your way. Stop on your own or take a wine tour. I enjoy all the wineries, but my favorite is Chateau Grand Traverse. I’m prejudiced because my cousin Michael works there. But it is the oldest winery on the peninsula, and I love their wine. (Michael is not that old!)
  • Old Barn Antiques. I have no idea why I stop at this place, seeing that I live in another state, fly into Michigan, and have no way of dragging anything home. But I adore this barn! If you’re an antique lover like me, you’ll want to stop here. Take a truck or trailer to haul things home. (There are plenty of other antique shops in the Traverse City area, too.)
  • Old Mission Lighthouse. This is the pinnacle of your drive up the peninsula. Climb to the top to take in the view. Amble along the lakeshore. Sit and relax a spell. Ahhh, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Leelanau Peninsula

This peninsula is on the west side of the city and is the larger of the two bayside peninsulas.

  1. Historic M-22. Drive up one side of the peninsula and down the other on this road. The scenery is stunning. There are several villages, most on the water and some that were or are fishing villages. You’ll also see farms, vineyards, forests, and miles of lakeshore.
  • Bay Books, in Suttons Bay. This is one of my favorite stops. In fact, the entire village is fun to stroll through. The owner of the bookstore, Tina, has a keen eye for selecting interesting reading. Her store is cozy, inviting, and relaxing.
  • Winery tours. With 25 wineries on the peninsula, tours are popular. It’s enjoyable to take a leisurely day to do this. Caution, though, it’s more than you can peruse in one day. (Or if you do, you’ll be too tipsy from sampling the goods to remember it.)

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

About thirty miles west of Traverse City you can enjoy soaring sand dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan. I can’t leave Michigan without climbing a dune and sticking my bare toes into the sand. The views are amazing. The lake is calming. The hiking trails offer nature at its best.   

The Journey Ends?

No, it won’t end. You’ll want to come back.

I confess, I have not written about all these places in my novels. I got carried away here. (And there is so much more.) But I did include much of this in my historical romantic suspense novel, Secrets of the Asylum, available right here.Let yourself become immersed in the history and beauty of the place while enjoying a gripping family saga.

Next, I’ll give you a tour of my favorite places on Mackinac Island, which I wrote about in Secrets of the Island. (Yup, you see a trend here.) Until then, happy reading.

The Birth of My “Shades of Hope” Novella Collection

I may as well call it my “Covid Collection,” because these novellas were born during isolation in 2020 while the world was terrorized by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Shades of Hope” was not only my offering during a time of global devastation, it was my salvation. I had to believe there was indeed hope for our survival and wanted to provide that positive outlook for others. Thus, these stories demonstrate that no matter what we’re going through, we as human beings can and will survive.

The first one I wrote, Black Forest, had been on my mind for a long time after a friend told me she’d discovered that her grandmother had been a prostitute for the Nazis in Germany during WWII. The grandmother’s husband had been killed, she had six children, and selling her body was her only means of providing for her family. In this book, the heroine’s perseverence, resilience, and love of family will touch your heart.

The novellas can be read in any order, but the second one I wrote is Gold Mountain. This story rolled around in my head for years after I once worked in Alaska in the dead of winter. The majestic beauty of the place has stayed with me ever since. This story started out with a plan but shifted when children arrived on the scene. I fell in love with them and gave them more space than originally intended. I think you’ll fall in love with them, too.

Next is Lilac Island. If you follow my writing, you know I love Mackinac Island and go each year for the Lilac Festival. It was a given that I would write another story about it’s Victorian-era ambiance. Being the widow of a Vietnam veteran (my first husband died many years ago at age 33), it was time for me to write some of that experience into a heartwarming story. This calming setting was perfect.

Each novella stands alone, independent of the others, each set during a different era and in a different place with different characters. What they have in common is the promise of hope. There are three more to come. By the time you read the first three, the fourth will be published and ready for you. May that promise of hope be forever present in your own life.

Start here with the eBook or paperback of Black Forest. Enjoy reading!

The Spark

Myra's memoir, Myra today, and Myra at 13.
Myra’s memoir, Myra today, and Myra at 13.

I knew I liked Myra Lewis Williams 27 years ago when we went to lunch together for the first time. We were in a Mexican restaurant enjoying our meal when a cockroach crawled up the wall at her shoulder. Without breaking her stride Myra took off her shoe, smashed it, put her shoe back on, and went back to eating her enchilada.

I knew then that she was my kind of girl. We’ve been friends ever since.

We met when my husband started work for her husband’s real estate agency. She’d been doing a lot of public speaking and because I did, too, in my job as a seminar leader, we figured we’d have a lot in common. We do.

A year later Myra introduced me to Marka Palmer, who she’d met not long before at a conference. She liked Marka a lot, describing her as an all-Southern girl. Again, as soon as we met, it was apparent that the three of us would become best friends. Fast-forward many, many years and us “three amigos” are still so close that we tease that we have to remain friends forever because we all know too much about each other.

As a writer, for years I’d been saying to Myra, “You have to write another memoir! Women need to hear this story!” She’d tell Marka and me stories that made us laugh are butts off, cry like babies, and sit in sheer amazement. I knew her story of survival at the hands of an abusive husband, who she married at age 13, would be an inspiration to any woman who has ever endured abuse.

So last year when the time finally seemed right and she asked if I’d assist her in writing her memoir I was both thrilled and scared. After all, I’ve done a lot of writing and knew this was bound at times to be a grueling task. I didn’t want anything to mar our friendship.

Well, we survived and her book is amazing! The Spark that Survived is a testament to a woman’s ability to make it through life’s worst events. As Myra says, “It’s a book about how to survive life’s worst tragedies and your own dumbass decisions.”

I hope you’ll read this story and share it with others. Somewhere in your life is a woman who could benefit from this story. Maybe even you.



Dog Days of Summer

Happy_19_585975_20100501083158[1]In appreciation for the dog days of summer and our little furry friends who remind us to relax and savor them, my guest blogger is my sister, Karene Hughes. This is part of her chapter from our anthology of stories by 30 women, What We Talk About When We’re Over 60. Karene reminds us of the simple and yet most important pleasures our dogs offer us. Enjoy. ~ Linda

By Karene Hughes

I’ve never thought of myself as a patient person.  I did, after all, inherit that embarrassing family temper.  Remember the dad in the movie Christmas Story, down in the basement having the “conversation” with the furnace?  Yup, that was my dad.  My mom used to have her own conversations with the sewing machine and I was well into adulthood before I knew sewing didn’t involve #$%X@# words.  My sister once told me of the time she was putting up curtains in her bedroom, conversing with them as well, when her husband came into the room, calmly looked at her and asked “Do you need a pill or something?”  And me?  Well, I’m the one who has a little conversation of my own with the MicroSoft gods who have pre-determined that I can’t possibly know what I really want so they auto correct for me.  Don’t even get me started on cable and all those remotes.

So, imagine my amazement in learning that I do indeed have a very patient side.   All it took to discover it was 14 pounds of spunk and tenacity named Chelsie.

Although I grew up with a variety of dogs in our family, I had never adopted one as an adult.  Living alone it’s quite a commitment, always having to adjust your schedule around them.  So when my sister-in-law Val suggested I adopt her sister’s 11 year old Westie Chelsie, I hemmed and hawed.  Val and my brother Tom had two dogs of their own, which I often dog sat for, and they knew I loved dogs.   Val’s sister had remarried, had several children and had started a day care in her home, so Chelsie, being an older dog, was having trouble adjusting to all those children and their commotion.  I knew Chelsie from our family get-togethers and yes, I finally adopted her, but only on a trial basis.  I wasn’t at all sure how this would go.  Well of course, I absolutely fell in love with her in no time at all.  Loving and loyal, she was such a curious and happy dog that she was a delight.  I went from worrying about adopting her to worrying about the family wanting her back or her wanting to be with them and not me.  As it turned out, she was always very happy to visit them, but right by my side when I headed for home.  It was a perfect match for all of us.

If you know anything about terriers, you know they come with a surplus of personality.  While they may be stubborn, that stubbornness can also represent a tenacity that I came to deeply respect and admire.  Little dogs don’t see themselves as little.  They’re ready to take on the world.   Chelsie was such a character, she always made me laugh and I never grew tired of watching her watch the world.  She was very territorial.  In fact, she would leap off the couch and bark at any animal that appeared on TV.  I was amazed she could even recognize them, but she could.  Even a horse in the background would warrant a bark.  It was actually quite fascinating.  One day, though, I was sure she had it wrong.  A commercial came on with a man fishing from a boat.  Chelsie planted herself in front of the screen, stomping her feet and barking ferociously.  I laughed and told her “Sorry, Chelsie.  There are no animals in this one!”  Just then, the fisherman’s cell phone rang.  He answered it and heard “meow meow meow” and the screen changed to a cat on a cell phone calling him.  OK, either Chelsie was way too smart or had been watching way too much TV!

Chelsie and I spent almost two years together and she became an important part of my life.  I never tired of her adventures and grew to love simply watching her confident, adventuresome self while in the yard or on our walks.  Often I watched her in awe.  How on earth could so much attitude, affection, and just pure life be encompassed in that little 14 pound body.

When Chelsie neared 13, she developed kidney disease.  Hospitalized for several days, I was so in fear of her dying.  Once home, on meds and a new diet, she required subcutaneous saline injections several times a week to keep her hydrated, a necessity due to her disease.  During this time, as I knew her health was declining, she became slower and slower on our walks and in our activities.  While I always appreciated a good steady walk, I now slowed down, letting her set the pace.  The truth was, I grew to admire and respect her tenacity and attitude.  Here she was, having come so close to death and now in declining health, and yet she was still curious about the world around her and anxious to get out there and be a part of things.  As she became slower, stopping more often to sniff (her way of resting), I came to appreciate this slower pace myself.  I noticed this interesting tree with wildly twisting branches that I’d never really noticed before.  I’d stand and watch birds building a nest or see the first little crocuses making their way up through the snow.  All things we’d simply marched by before.   I came to appreciate this gift Chelsie was giving me.

Chelsie started to lose her interest in eating.  Each meal, I sat on the floor next to her, putting morsels of food in my palm, offering them to her and encouraging her to eat.  Meal time now had to be planned for and could span a half hour.  Instead of just letting her run about the yard on her own, I’d stay close, keeping an eye on her in case she needed me.  My whole world slowed down along with hers and more and more, I found this to be a blessing of its own.   I enjoyed simple moments in a way I hadn’t in quite some time.  I quit rushing so and became more patient with life itself.

When I realized Chelsea was failing and there was no more the vet or I could do, I took the day off work and spent it with her.  It was a beautiful, sunny day in June.  I got a blanket and we laid in the sun.  I stroked her, sang to her, napped with her and even sketched a picture of her.  When my brother and sister-in-law got home from work, we all went together to the vet’s. It’s hard to explain, but I know that Chelsea knew and that she really was ready.  The vet put her to sleep with us all stroking and talking to her.  She went very, very peacefully.

I learned a lot from Chelsie.  I had worried so about it being too much of a commitment (OK, a bother) to have a dog on my own, yet quickly found that the companionship, joy and unconditional love she offered was so much more fulfilling that I ever imagined.  It truly amazed me to discover that patient side of me, as well.  I’ve thought about that a lot since.  Part of it is that our dogs are truly so vulnerable and dependent on us.  How could I be impatient with that?  They have no hidden agendas, no ulterior motives. That’s the great thing about dogs.  They live in the moment with absolute honestly. Somehow, that makes whatever they require from you so much easier to give.  I learned a lot from Chelsie.

Oh yes, I eventually got a new dog, another rescue mutt. I knew I needed another little four legged friend to come along and teach me what I don’t even know I have yet to learn.

Revelations from a TV Slut

el-cine-en-la-tv-1It happened so quickly. There was no forethought; no plan. Before I knew it, I’d fallen into the depths of television depravity, indiscriminately taking in whatever show happened to appear at the end of my clicker. I became a dissolute, slovenly woman: a TV slut. There I sat for three days, watching hour after hour of numbing information float before my eyes.

It all started with my eyes, actually. After minor eye surgery and being ordered to “rest,” with no reading or computer work possible, and no exertion, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. (Never mind audio books or Rosetta Stone.) So I sat and stared at the tube across the room.

I now know how to lasso an alligator, should the occasion ever arise. I know today’s top value on every shopping channel. (I can’t wait to get the gold cream that’s going to make my aging skin young again.) I was devastated when Annie let her viper mother Judith talk her out of her favorite wedding gown on Say Yes to the Dress. I have been informed of every alleged affair of any man or woman who has ever lived in the White House. I have been convinced that aliens live amongst us. I fell in love with Adam on Bonanza all over again. And I cried when Long Island Medium Theresa delivered a message to a young woman from her departed fiance to go on with her life.

There were lots of snacks and popcorn involved. I’m sure if I’d had some bon-bons, whatever they are, I’d have eaten those, too.

Of course, there were also hours of TCM old movies, which I adore, and lots of Fixer Uppers on HGTV. I watched repeats of my favorite shows, like Outlander and Vikings.

Not all TV is bad. In fact, some is excellent. I loved some of the new shows I discovered. But the key is in being discerning, which I was not, and using that boob tube wisely. We want to be selective rather than slutty; we want to use the medium as an instrument for improving our lives. We want to do that for ourselves and certainly for our children.

I didn’t exactly grow up watching TV. When I was a kid we played outdoors. I thought it was the law or something, but children certainly were not allowed to sit around inside the house. Nor did we want to. There were so many adventures outside! There was the old depot and train tracks across the street, the abandoned house at the end of the road, bike trails through the woods, and Doc Rea’s veterinary barn half a block away. It was always fun to pop in there to see if he had a horse or goat that needed petting. We could walk the two blocks to town where the creek paralleled main street. Springtime was good for wading and letting tadpoles tickle our ankles.

Ah, that is indeed a long-gone era. When I was seven we got our first television set and, as far as I knew, it belonged to my Dad. We kids weren’t allowed to touch it. There weren’t enough seats in the living room anyway, so mom and dad each had their chair, which we did not deign to sit in, and the rest of us sprawled around on the floor, watching what our parents watched. Bonanza. The Loretta Young Show. Gillette Friday Night Fights. Being selective in our watching came without question, which left us lots of time to do other things. The rules relaxed as we got older, but habitual watching didn’t stick with any of us.

So that’s why I was surprised recently when I so quickly fell into mindless watching. What kind of television watcher are you? Selective? Or slutty? I had to work my way out. You can, too. Oh yes, it’s tempting to just stay there on that couch, glaring. It’s so much easier than… life. But, hey, in the end what do you want your tombstone to say? She knew how to sit and stare at a tube. Maybe you’d like something more meaningful than that. I know I would.

Comments are welcome.

#TelevisionWatching #BoobTube #Outlander #Vikings #Bonanza #TVSlut

Writers and Wrongers

typewriterLong ago I heard that title – a woman was describing herself as a wannabe writer who was really a wronger – and I loved it. After periodically seeing that phrase and mulling it over for many years, I’ve come to the conclusion that most writers are probably wrongers, too. I know I am. That’s what makes good stories.

I’ve done a lot wrong in my life. An early college career that had no meaning to me. Giving up on my own hopes and dreams in order to please others. Occasionally falling into the despair of depression. An unhealthy second marriage that resulted in devastation. Being next to homeless except for the generosity of my sister. Assuming someone somewhere would take care of things and it wouldn’t have to be me.

Wow. That’s all great stuff for writing. Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” That’s what we as writers do. Rather than hiding our most embarrassing, dumb, and inexplicable life decisions, we open ourselves up and let them spill out all over the place. In the process, we figure out what was going on in our minds and what we can do to learn from it. We do this by putting bits of ourselves into each character we write. And by writing characters who are the people we aspire to be.

The reader, of course, never has to know. For example, a villainess in one of my stories, the bitch no one can stand, took a letter that had come in the mail for her friend and steamed it open to see if it was from a guy she herself had a crush on. When it turned out to be from the friend’s dad, she carefully glued it shut and put it back in her friend’s stack of mail. Now I’m not confessing that I ever did such a wretched thing; I’m just sayin’ I got the idea somewhere.

Writers get ideas everywhere. Every time something goes wrong in my life I catch myself saying, “Oh! That would be a good story.” Good stories, after all, are about overcoming life’s obstacles. They are about prevailing. They are about finding an inner strength you never knew was there. They are about discovery!

Although I couldn’t write about it until years later, some of my erratic behavior after the death of my first husband at age thirty-three is revealed in my novel Homecoming Queen. My thankfully short-lived, wacky second marriage can be found in soon-to-be-published Home Body. A trip my sister and I took when we were in our early twenties, where we camped from Michigan to California and back because we wanted to see the Pacific Ocean, is hilarious in Tough Rocks. Although we’d call home and lie through our teeth, telling our parents that everything was “fine,” in truth we ran into a hail storm that demolished the hood of our car; a flash flood that holed us up in Boulder, Nevada, for three days with nothing to do but watch the free movie of how the Hoover Dam was made; a dust devil that destroyed our tent; and melted tires when we drove through the Mohave Desert at noon on the hottest day in July. It’s that kind of adventure that makes for good writing, if you just let it roll rather than refusing to admit you were ever that stupid.

Writer Sylvia Plath said, “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

So if you’re a writer or want to be a writer, go ahead and have the guts to spill out your life stories. Take your wrongs and let them write.

Examples and comments are welcome.

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