Sunday, October 30, 2011

People Watching...

I recently returned from a 2,500 mile cross-country road trip stretching from Wisconsin to Montana and back again - with stops in Virginia City and Seeley Lake, Montana; and Walnut, Iowa. These locations have become special places for me since my next novel (tentatively titled "AMELIA 1868") will be set in these locations - and frankly,because I've fallen in love with these historic towns of the past! Unique little towns that have somehow found a way to expand upon their historic roots and move into a promising future...

While I, of course, had an agenda - and endless lists of questions that I needed to have answered, I found much more than the answers that I originally sought. While I found fascinating historical information in local libraries and through conversations with local geneologists and historians, and while I discovered perfect places for my characters to have lived and died... I also took time to simply sit back and watch people.

I watched and I listened carefully - on the street or over a cup of coffee at Aunt B's Kitchen in Walnut, Iowa; The Stage Station in Seeley Lake, Montana; or The Outlaw Cafe in Virginia City, Montana. In the process, I discovered a number of fascinating characters, some of whom will most likely end up in my novel.

Let me introduce you to several of the most unforgettable characters I met on this journey. Some are already coming to life in the first draft of my manuscript. Some have actually changed the plot line. Others are still trying to capture my attention...

First, there's Diamondback Dave (the man in this photo.) A vision spiraling forward in time from the 1860's gold mining era in Virginia City, MT, this gentleman still does gold prospecting and placer mining in Montana. Accompanied by his faithful burro, Dusty, he escapes into the mountains every chance he gets along with his pick, shovel and gold pan...the way they did it 100 or more years ago. Dave is also an actor and costumed interpreter portraying life in the Old West. Check out his website at

I'll never forget little Sarah, the whimsical, friendly ghost-child who occasionally haunts Virginia City's Outlaw Cafe and Antique Shop. She loves to play with the vintage toys - frequently turning on the musical rocking horse clock...even when staff have purposefully removed the batteries to prevent Sarah's escapades...

While catching up on email and enjoying a mocha latte at The Stage Station in the picteurespue mountain town of Seeley Lake, Montana, I met a friendly elderly gentleman, a recent widower who stopped in with a batch of chocolate chip cookies he'd just made. This was his way of conntecting with others after the death of his beloved wife. He made his way through the town, stopping at local businesses to pass out his delicious cookies and visit with his neighbors.

Moving on to Iowa, I found new friends who live in a lovely Victorian home in the antique town of Walnut. Dorine owns and operates a quilting business in the heart of the historic Walnut district. I was wrapped immediately into the comforting blanket of a community that still thrives on old-fashioned values of friendliness and neighbors helping neighbors... even during the recent flooding that has devastated so many of the local farmers.

And there was more, much more ... like the chilling discovery of a gravestone in the Walnut, Iowa Cemetery that linked clearly to one in the Virginia City, Montana cemetery. It's all about "AMELIA!"

Suddenly, all the pieces of my novel were coming together...

People watching...yes, this is the answer to many of the questions that we, as writers, struggle with. People watching... this is where you will find answers to questions that you have not yet thought about...

Please stay tuned and stay in touch.


Janet Kay


  1. What a fascinating excursion and what memorable characters! What is the storyline of your "Amelia" novel--it sounds like it's going to be a great read!

  2. Thanks, Sandy. My storyline for AMELIA 1868 is this: What if a restless spirit comes back to life seeking revenge for her murder in a previous lifetime?

    She's a bored Iowa farm girl. Commitment-phobic, she stands her fiance up at the altar and heads west. A mysterious force drives her to the old western ghost town of Virginia City, Montana. Here, she finally feels at home, but flashbacks begin to flow through her soul, leading her to the cemetery nestled in the mountains overlooking the town. When she discovers an overgrown gravestone inscribed simply, "Amelia 1868" she becomes obsessed with discovering the truth about this long-forgotten woman.

    Rose finds herself flashing back and forth between two far different realities - her current sheltered life on the farm - and that of a "hurdy gurdy girl" struggling to survive in the saloons of the Wild West.

    This strange journey becomes more complicated when a love interest matereializes and throws her off balance. This relationship becomes a bizarre dance twisting and turning between love and hate.

    Can she still accomplish her mission? Does it matter?