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Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!
The Annual Spring Training Trip Is Off to an Auspicious Beginning!

OK, let’s talk some spring training baseball!

So, in January I order my tickets getting almost exactly the seats that I want. Since I always go to the Saint Pat’s Day game, this year I splurge and order a kelly green Phillies cap from the official Phillies team store. I made my reservations at one of my favorite hotels very close to the stadium. All was right in the world.

The day (today) dawned with a torrential downpour in Valodsta. The weather app said 90% chance of rain in Clearwater – but I’ve got my green baseball cap that I can only wear to ONE game — today! Surely the skies will clear by the time I drive the four hours to Clearwater …

I say my homefront goodbyes, fill the Soul up with gas, drop Moxie off at the kennel, and hit the drive-through for a large Mickey D’s coffee. It’s 8:20 AM, the game starts at 1:05 PM and I’m trying to generate reverse rain dances in my head!

OMG, but did it rain — ALL THE WAY!

So, I finally make it to the thin strip of highway called the causeway that takes me across the bay to Clearwater. All around me – empty beaches, empty outdoor restaurants, no joggers, no bikers – just very slow drivers giving me plenty of time to think about what to do this afternoon, because there will obviously be NO baseball!

Leaving the causeway and entering the eastern edge of Clearwater, I decide to go ahead to Bright House Field thinking, beyond hope, that the Phillies may have lost their minds and still intend to play the game.

At times like this, my thoughts turn to lots of wishful positives: my seat is under the overhang and the rain probably won’t get to me; the players get paid a lot of money and what’s a little water to them; and most of all – I really want an authentic Philly Cheese Steak for lunch!

As I approach the field on Old Coachman Road, I see several things that fill my heart with joy. There are people in green Phillies garb walking, in the rain, towards the stadium. Speaking of the stadium, I look from afar and, lo and behold, the stadium lights are blazing – my hope soars! The policeman (in heavy rain gear) directs me into the parking lot where I shell out my ten dollars and receive my non-refundable parking ticket with instructions to display it on my dashboard. They would never make me pay ten dollars to park if the game wasn’t on! All is right in the world!

Did I mention that it was still raining?

I’m directed by several rain-gear clad parking attendants to a soggy spot that, by my careful calculations, was the farthest one from the stadium.

But the lights were on, the fans were here, I had my ticket, AND I had my brand new green cap! I snatched my hooded jacket from the back seat, put on my cap, covered it as much as possible and opened the door ready to fight the rain all the way to the field.

At that moment, the best omen of all appeared. As I turned to begin my watery trek, there stood the free shuttle ready to transport me (dryly) right to the entrance gate. Now I knew we were going to see some baseball. There might be a rain delay, but I was willing to wait until the cows came home! Afterall, I had a new green cap!

I wasn’t even concerned when, upon alighting from the shuttle, there seemed to be a line of people walking AWAY from the gate. I transferred my ticket from my jeans pocket to my jacket pocket, trying to keep it as dry as possible, ready to have it scanned and then make my way to my seat.

Then the ticket guy broke my heart! The game had just been cancelled! But, ,,, but, … I, … I just drove four hours in the rain to get here, AND I bought a green cap! He just nodded and pointed to the line forming at the ticket windows where we could process a ticket exchange or refund.

I waited patiently in line and found out that my ticket would be good for another game this spring (not possible for me) or a game next spring. Once next year’s schedule was out, I could mail my ticket to them with my choice of games and they would send me a replacement ticket. Oh well, …

I decided that I would not wait for the shuttle to take me back, but allow the rain to drown my sorrow and walk all the soggy way back to the Soul! The selfie that accompanies this saga captures a moment from that walk of disappointment!image

(I meant this expression to reflect my extreme disappointment.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Miley Cyrus impersonation!  Sorry …)

Needless to say, when I got to the car, I was soaked. So was my CAP! The good news is that I’m sure it will dry out by next spring!

So, I checked in to the hotel, turned on the TV to watch a spring training game from the exceedingly dry Cactus League in Arizona, and sat listening to the rain pelt the window.

Tomorrow is supposed to be my beach day. The weather forecast says 73 degrees with intervals of clouds and sunshine. We’ll see …

Then Wednesday, I’ll drive over to Dunedin, FL to watch the Phillies take on the Toronto Blue Jays – if it doesn’t rain!

Keep your fingers crossed for me. -Jim

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Sunday, July 15,2012


Greetings everyone!

I’m enjoying the last day of my 63 year-long life journey today! Tomorrow, I become the epidome of the famous Beatles’ song. I’m spending the day in the poolside office with my brother-in-law, Dainis. It’s not quite as hot as it has been lately, only low 90s.

As you may have seen through the mid-week news flash, the Mozart book is now at the printers. I’m excited to get some copies. As I said before, this is mostly a university reference book. I don’t recommend it for your summer beach reading, however, check out libraries in your area. There are some interesting and even humorous passages. Of particular note are the excerpts from Mozart’s letters to his family which give an authentic behind-the-scenes look at this fascinating period in music history.

Now that Balulalow is in print, the current choral publication scene is set. I have manuscripts ready for The Truth from Above and When Christ Was Born of Mary Free, as well as the Missa Brevis based on the chant Dominator Deus. A word on the Mass – the Gloria is extremely difficult to perform. I went a little overboard and created a very complex rhythmic landscape that is a real challenge. It’s incongruous because the rest of the Mass is really pretty easy. These issues are preventing me from submitting it for publication right now. When I start school on August 1, I will upload Watchman Tell Us of the Night as a second gratis piece. PDFs are available from me directly.

Twin Killing …

Nick has been rebuffed by Detective Laster and told to stay out of the investigation.  Will he? Of course not! After talking to the Phillies’ clubhouse guy, Buzzy Ostrem, Nick begins to seek the answer to the question, “What if the beer vendor was not the actual target?” Meanwhile, the Clearwater cops are investigating the murder of the beer man and the bad guys are trying to figure what to do next since their first attempt was a failure.

I’ve got about 16,000 words in now.  I should be able to knock out 1,000 per day for a while now. There’s not much snippet material available this week, but here’s a bit:

     Once again Laster led Nick up a few rows to question him. “So, Pennsylvania State Police. Don’t they call you guys ‘Smokies’? Do you lay in wait on the turnpike and pull over speeders? What is your current assignment Flemons?”

     “I’m assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation working out of Harrisburg, but you’re right, I paid my dues as a ‘Smokie,’ and then discovered I had an interest in detective work and applied for an assignment with the BCI. I had already been promoted to sergeant and was heading a station, so, after advanced training, I was moved into the Bureau.”

     “What made you decide to come to Clearwater for your vacation?”

     “Back in ’92, I had a spring tryout here with the Phillies. It was going really well until I blew up my ankle sliding into third. End of baseball, beginning of law enforcement.”

     “And now you’re reliving the good old days?”

     “There’s more to it than that. A while back, my partner was murdered by two rival organizations. The investigation seemed to point to the fact that she was dirty and somehow got on their wrong side. It was tough for me because I didn’t want to believe the facts and I had lost a close friend. My relationships on the job started to deteriorate and the Captain suggested a leave to let some time pass. So, here I am, on vacation, and right back in the middle of a nice, relaxing murder.”

     “Whoa, Flemons, you’re not in the middle of anything. You’re a witness. That’s all.”  She took her notebook from her purse. Nick realized that, in absence of her sergeant, she would be taking down the pertinent information herself. The interview was about to begin.

     “Tell me what happened,” Laster began.

     “The Jays went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first. The Phil’s had runners at the corners with Pence up when it happened.”

     “I’m not sure the play by play figures into the case here. Tell me what happened at the moment of the shot.”

     “This beer guy, Pilarski, was a real show. Non-stop chatter, all the while pushing the suds. He put his crate down in the aisle just to my left. Someone over my right shoulder called for a beer and he knelt down to pour. At the moment he stood up, there was a boom and his head exploded. He went down on his crate on his back and rolled over, landing at row three. It was over in a split second. The matter from the exit wound sprayed in a funnel pattern all over the closest fans sitting in the first three rows. Their screams alerted everyone in the area and the stampede was on.”

     “At that point, what did you do?”

     “I tried to do a quick exam of the vic to ascertain his condition, but there was panic all around. People were trying to get past me up the aisle. I got on all fours over the body until everyone had passed. When I had a chance to do a more thorough look, it was clear to me that the vic was dead.”

Well, looking to the heavens, I think it might actually rain very soon! The poolside office doesn’t do well in the rain, so I think I’ll head inside. For messages during the week, please follow me on Twitter  @kleaspop. I hope everyone has a terrific week and I’ll see you online!  -JAS

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

N E W S     F L A S H!
While I was vacationing in NJ/NY, I received word from my editors at Mellen Press that the “Mozart Book” is going to the printers THIS WEEK!

The Choruses in Mozart’s Opere Serie
and the Genre and Historical Role
of the Opera Chorus 
By James Shrader, Ph. D.
The Edwin Mellen Press, 2012

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Happy Post-Independence Day!I’m blogging today from Dorothy’s condo in New Jersey. We’ve been here since July 5 and have had a wonderful time visiting with Dorothy and her boyfriend Scott. They are both involved in the Caramoor International Music Festival in Katonah, NY. Dorothy is Production Manager and Scott is a Young Artist.

Last night we went to the first US production of Rossini’s fourth opera,Ciro in Babilonia, conducted by Festival Opera Director, Will Crutchfield with the Orchestra of St. Luke. It was truly a landmark production and I am so happy we were there. We saw Scott onstage, but Dorothy was scurrying everywhere taking care of her various responsibilities. We attended several lectures and chamber performances and had a delicious picnic dinner just prior to the show.

The opera featured legendary contralto Eva Podles in the title role. It was directed by Italian stage director Davidde Livermore. It is a shared production with the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, Italy and will be performed there later in the summer.

Martha Stewart’s estate is adjacent to the Festival grounds and I think she was having an Independence Day celebration during the opera, replete with fireworks. I’m not sure it did anything to enhance the opera! (It was over by intermission, thank God!)

To the left is a photo of Director Livermore (L) and Maestro Crutchfield (R) in an afternoon lecture about the importance of this project to the Rossini canon.

It was really interesting to delve back into the world of opera seria, having spent so much time there while writing my book. Did I mention that it was 103?!!!

Nothing new to report on the publishing fronts. The Mozart book is circling the landing field. The choral compositions are complete for the season. Love Came Down at Christmas is ready to perform. I’m thinking of adding an older, somewhat jazzy arrangement of Watchman Tell Us of the Night as part of my free online offerings. It’s scored for Two Part Choir (w/m), keyboard, and oboe solo. It’s a companion with my first freebee, Adam Lay Ybounden. Let me know if you are interested.

Twin Killing …

At this point in the story, a new character arrives at the scene of the murder. And I do mean character! It’s the medical examiner, Dr. Jackson Kallen. Here’s the snippet of the week …

Laster took one last look at the corpse down in the aisle.
“Oh shit!” She yelled.
“How did I get so lucky to pull that idiot? I gotta get down there. Set up the interviews.” Laster rushed out grabbing Hulet on the way.
Newly appointed District Six Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Jackson Kallen was making his way down the aisle towards the corpse. To say Kallen was eccentric was an understatement. Today, he was a vision in khaki cargo shorts, a green tank top, dark sunglasses, a wide-brimmed straw hat, leather flip flops, and a large, overhanging, walrus mustache. He had just turned thirty and had been appointed by the Governor to the head the District Six Medical Examiner’s Office. He was appointed because all he ever wanted to do with his medical degree was become a medical examiner. He was obsessed with the job. It didn’t hurt that his father was a personal friend of the governor, but Kallen, even at his young age, had amassed an outstanding reputation for his efficiency, thoroughness, and expertise. He was just a little weird.
He reached the body of Rick Pilarski and knelt down for his examination. It had obviously been a head shot and the rest of the body seemed unaffected. Laster and Hulet came running down the steps to the scene.
“Hello Dr. Kallen,” said Laster, “what have you found?”
“He’s dead,” was Kallen’s droll reply. “I’d say TOD was about thirty-five minutes ago.”
Laster decided to engage him. “What astounding observations.”
“Here’s another one for you–cause of death: gun shot to the head. Did you find any brass up there?” he said, pointing to the upper level.

I‘ll be back in the poolside office on Tuesday morning trying for 1,000 words in between dips. Stay cool, be happy, read a thriller, and I’ll see you online! -JAS

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Sunday, July 2,2012

Happy July everyone! It was a bittersweet week as I finished my run at being a university administrator after nine years at NWOSU and six here at VSU. But, the sweet part is that I’m back on the nine-month faculty which means a real SUMMER VACATION! As we say in Cleveland, “Wahoo!” Also, longer Christmas break, complete Spring break, and (this may be the best part) fewer reports, meetings, and much less paper work! Reading between the lines, you might understand more the advent of Nick Flemons into my life. More about him a bit down the page …

Choral news:Balulalow is now ready and has been assigned a number by Colla Voce. It’s going for $1.70. It’s a Capella and requires good tenor and soprano soloists. Let me know if you decide to do it. I’d love recordings of it as well.

Mozart news: I selected a few possibilities for cover art and sent them off to Mellen. I think this might actually be the final step. As I mentioned, I’m going to CMS in San Diego in November and I’d be thrilled to see it there!

Now, on to Twin Killings!

Well, as we move into act two, “the plot thickens …” as we say in the writing game (hee hee). The assassination of Phillies center fielder, Shane Hovis was very unsuccessful, particularly for Rick Pilarski, a beer vendor at Bright House Field, who took the bullet instead. The victim happened to be standing right next to Nick Flemons at the fatal moment, making Nick a primary witness. On the scene storms Detective Charlotte Laster who is all business and takes an immediate dislike to Nick’s attempts to help in the investigation.

Here’s a snippet …

The players, umpires, coaches, bat boys, Hooter Girls, and anyone else on the field had run for the nearest cover, most heading for the dugouts with a wary eye on the stands. The bewildered outfielders headed for the bullpen door in left center field. Several police officers on the field raced toward section 110 ready to offer assistance. The clogged aisles prevented security and emergency personnel from getting to the victim. During all this action, Nick had knelt next to the fallen vendor to check his status. It was immediately apparent that the man was dead. A police officer who had been stationed on the field managed to force his way through the crowd, climb over the infield wall, and make his way to Nick and the body. The officer knelt down and examined the body. He looked at Nick.
“My name is Nick Flemons. I’m a sergeant with the Pennsylvania State Police currently on vacation, although it doesn’t feel like it.”
“Dave Johnson, Clearwater PD. One shot?”
“Yep, from above and behind us. I’d say the second level somewhere.”
“Took a lot of balls to do this here.”
“Ya think?!”
“Poor bastard never knew what hit him.”
“That’s the good part.”

As I write this from the poolside office (see previous post), it’s 101! I can write about two paragraphs until the water reaches up and throws me into the pool! Here’s a shot of the writing spot …


OK, left to right: sunglasses (duh!), straw hat for my slight bald spot, iPad (the writing machine), notebook (for notes), mosquito coil, and a large coke (with rum!).

The pool is directly behind me and is now calling my name.

One last item, I’m getting a puppy!!! I decided on a Mini Goldendoodle. He/she will be joining the family sometime between November and January. If you have any experience with doodles, please let me know.

That’s all for now. Take care, have a good week, and I’ll see you online! -JAS

Note to bloggers: WordPress sucks on allowing us to change font size on the fly. Try Blogspot or Weebly. -JAS

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Monday, June 25,2012

Happy Monday!

Creativity took a bit of a vacation this week! The enthusiasm that crowded out the muse was the purchase of a new 2012 Bright Red Kia Soul!  I can now unabashedly tell everyone that I have a new Soul!

Several folks have told me that it’s my mid-life crisis vehicle, to which I reply, “No, it’s my old-age crisis vehicle!” Anyway, yesterday afternoon, while my resident realtor was doing an open house, I just got in the Soul and drove!  I had no idea where I was or where I was going.  I did finally manage to find my way back home, but it was so much fun!

Well, last week wasn’t lost entirely.  I managed to get Nick Flemons to the baseball game and the first murder took place. It’s a red herring, but don’t tell anyone.  I’m now struggling a bit about what would happen when there is a murder in the middle of fifteen thousand people watching a baseball game. I can describe the pandemonium, but I wonder what the procedure would be?  I think this will take much serious contemplation to get it just right.  So far, I have a little over 11,000 words of the first draft with lots of editing to come. If anyone would like to volunteer to be a test reader, let me know.

Here’s your snippet of the week …

     Over on South Missouri Road there was a place called Valentino’s Grill and Social Club. It was a great meeting place because it featured semi-circular booths with partitions between each other. Once ensconced in one of these, there was a feeling of seclusion and privacy. Seated in such a booth were Bennie Cozzi and Louie Gerlack, each with an ice-cold lager. This meeting was the result of the phone call Lester Bonacci had directed Cozzi to make to Louie. Louie Gerlack was the designated sniper of the Bonacci crew and a veteran hit man. The agenda of the meeting was to plan the details of the assassination of Phillies center fielder, Shane Hovis.

     Cozzi began, “The fix is in Louie. We’ve secured private suite number 212. It’s got the best angle for a shot at a player in the on-deck circle.”

     “How do I get a rifle in there?”

     “All taken care of. This is very clever. Nate grabbed the little girl of one of the security guards, She’s fine and at his cousin’s house, blindfolded in the bedroom, scared shitless! Anyway, to get his kid back, the security guard will put the rifle inside Suite 212, open the front window, and give us a copy of his pass key. You go in with a general admission ticket, walk around a little and eventually end up in the Suite. You put on some latex gloves and wait for Hovis to come to the on-deck circle. Pow! All hell breaks loose.  You put the gloves back in your pocket and blend into the stampede. Leave the rifle in the Suite – no prints – who cares!”


On the musical front, I have confirmed with Dr. Paul Neal, DCA here at Valdosta State that I will provide Love Came Down at Christmas (text by Christina Rosetti) for the 2012 Christmas Candlight Concerts in the Rotunda of West Hall. We’ll get a good recording and I’ll ship it off to the editorial board at Colla Voce in hope of publication. The nice thing is that I’ve already written the piece and so I’ll dust it off a bit and it will be ready to go.  It’s a little more upbeat than some of my holiday pieces with maybe a little hint of King’s Singers style.  I’ll keep you informed as to the path to publication.  Meanwhile, if you are in a choir that is looking for some holiday music, please consider my titles.  I also have an Adam Lay Ybounden that I would be happy to share gratis. It’s for SATB with piano and soprano solo. I like it! I wrote it for a smaller choir when I was DOM at First Presby in Alva, OK.

No news about the Mozart book, yet, but I think that’s probably good news.

That’s about all for this week, friends.  Tropical storm Debbie is dumping buckets of rain on us (and my new car!). In my feeble attempt at marketing and promotion, I’ve added several old friends to my various sites. I hope you don’t mind.  I hope you have a great week and I’ll see you online!  -JAS

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father’s Day to all Dads!

I’m so proud of my two kids!  This summer, Dorothy is returning for another season as an administrative assistant at the famous Caramoor Festival in New York, then taking a job as administrator at the Cornerstone School for the Arts in New Jersey.  Alek is singing Tamino right now in San Francisco, then off to Glyndebourne, England for the summer, then making his Met debut in the fall. He’ll be in the worldwide videocast of “The Tempest” on November 10. I’m a proud papa!

So, on my creative side–not too much new happening. The Mozart manuscript as well as an electronic copy has arrived at Mellen Press. Nothing new to report on the choral publishing scene.  It’s looking more and more like “Love Came Down at Christmas” will be the new holiday work for this season.

As for “Twin Killing,” I’m over 8K words now. I’m teaching an online Rock & Roll class for another two weeks, so I’m trying to steal writing time when I can. Anyway, Nick Flemons had an “incident” when he stopped for lunch in Brunswick, GA. It involved an unruly biker guy and it got pretty serious:

“I’m so sorry,” replied the waitress as she grabbed a wad of napkins and tried to soak as much as she could from the table.

“I don’t give a shit if you’re sorry or not, you ruined my food!”

By now the manager had arrived with a towel. The problem was that the manager also looked like he was as young as the waitress and was obviously intimidated by the biker.

The manager said, “Sir, I’m really sorry. Let us get this cleaned up and we’ll move you to another table and replace you meal.”

“You’re damn right you’ll replace my meal.”

He had approached the manager who was helping with the clean-up and now stood facing the entrance with his back to Nick. Nick, now on alert, was interested to see how the manager would handle this situation. It would be up to the biker to determine if it would escalate into something more.

With his right hand, the biker grabbed the shirt of the manager at the neck and said, “You’re also going to fire that bitch right here and right now.”

The frightened manager replied in a shaky voice, “Sir, that’s not necessary. I’ll serve you anything you like, as much as you want, no charge.”

“What I’d like is to see her fired now!”

Over his right shoulder, Nick saw that the dad of the family was moving forward to offer some assistance. Nick motioned him to stay back and then, after weighing all the options, decided to get involved.

He moved behind the biker and pulled the man’s left arm up and behind his back, bending his wrist forward in a power grip that surprised and hurt the biker causing him to release the manager. The biker tried to circle around to his left to face his attacker, but Nick, anticipating this move, circled with him and guided him through the opening in the railing and out the entrance.  …

(It gets a little ugly after that. This segment is “R” rated with quite a bit of “biker speak!”)

After that incident, Nick does actually make it to Clearwater and Chapter Two is just a page turn away.  So far I have about thirty pages of the first draft.  I made an interesting, rookie novelist discovery this week. I wrote all about Nick arriving at the hotel, getting settled in his room and walking through the pool area seeing bikini-clad women relaxing and swimming, etc.  Then, in a dream (I’m not making this up!) it came to me that he arrived at the hotel at 11:30 pm!!!  No sun, no chicks–major re-write. Actually, I can salvage most of it for the next morning as he leaves for the game. Anyway, I felt pretty foolish for losing track of time.

Things will get exciting in Chapter Two when the actual murder at the ball game takes place. That’s all I can say right now, but the complete cast of characters is in the wings waiting to come onstage!

I’m now posting links to facebook and twitter.  I’ve set up a site on  Tell your friends and mine to check it all out – particularly following on Twitter where I’m known as @kleaspop (you figure it out!).  OK, time to get back to the weekend office, a pic of which is below.  Cheers to all, and I’ll see you online!  -JAS

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June 27, 2012 · 2:40 am

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Welcome to this new blog where I will try to keep everyone up to date on what’s happening in my creative life.

The first Nick Flemons novel is about 4,000 words into the first draft and coming slowly but surely. I’m off in July, so I hope to dedicate a daily time to move forward more quickly. I’m in the habit of re-reading and editing as I go, but I’m sure once the first draft is finished, there will be several rewrites before the upload.  I’ll give you some glimpses of Nick Flemons in subsequent posts.

Three operas are completed, one has been performed several times, and two new ones are in progress.  The second of these is a three-act opus with a larger orchestra and more characters, so it probably doesn’t qualify as a “really short” opera.

I got the Colla Voce contract last week for Balulalow, the new Christmas choral setting.  Valdosta’s Sine Nomine Singers will be singing Trust in Me on their tour to Poland this summer. Finally, I’ve been asked to write a piece for the VSU Rotunda Concerts again next year.

The Mozart book is in the throes of editorial issues with the folks at Mellen. I’m still trying to make the corrections that they want to see.  I’m hoping for a fall printing.

I’ll try to give you some insider looks at my work as this blog unfolds. Cheers for now! -JAS

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June 27, 2012 · 2:28 am

Hello world!

Welcome to! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!

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