Friday, March 22, 2013
Kettle Falls Hotel, Voyageur National Park
Place and settings are very important to me in my novels. Before I even begin to write, I simply must find a unique place that fits my story, characters and plot. Before I began WATERS OF THE DANCING SKY, I did an extensive Internet search to find a wilderness setting with a huge lake, lots of islands, and a colorful local history that included an American Indian component.
I stumbled upon the Kettle Falls Hotel nestled in the woods on Rainy Lake in Voyageur's National Park along the Minnesota/Ontario international border. I fell in love with the place before I even made my first visit! This historic hotel was constructed in 1913 by timber cruiser Ed Rose and allegedly financed by Madame Nellie Bly.
In 1918, Robert Williams bought the hotel for $1,000 and four barrels of whiskey! It was operated by the Williams family for a number of generations until it was purchased and renovated by the National Park Service in 1987. I was fortunate enough to locate an historical boat tour guide by the name of Mike Williams who happened to be Robert's grandson! Mike told me many fascinating stories about Kettle Falls and Rainy Lake as we boated around the area. He made local history come alive for me and became a valuable resource as well as a good friend. Thank you, Mike!!
Arriving at Kettle Falls is like stepping into another world, back into the days when voyageurs paddled and portaged through the region with their canoes loaded with furs; when local natives speared huge sturgeon at the foot of the roaring falls that separates the United States from Canada; when lumberjacks,gold prospectors, commercial fishermen and ladies of the night frequented the old hotel.
Today, Kettle Falls is a tourist destination for families and fishermen. It's a hidden jewel in the midst of the forest surrounded by the lake. A place to enjoy the serenity, peace and beauty. To restore one's soul. It is a place that I simply must return to at least once every summer. The hospitality and food is also excellent!
Stay tuned for more information on places and faces embedded in the novels I write...and as always, please stay in touch and let me know what you think.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Photo by Anna Martineau Merrit, Misty Pine Photography
She's 94 years young and lives on a rustic farm in the northwoods of Wisconsin. Still driving her trusty car to and from her many club meetings - including the St. Croix Writers of Solon Springs - Kay Karras usually sports a pink baseball cap over her short gray hair. While she walks a little slower these days, time has not been able to diminish the twinkle in her eyes, her mischievious chuckle, or her ability to recite by heart the humurous lyrics she's written over the years. She has a way of keeping us all in stitches.
The product of a one-room country school, this amazing woman somehow developed an extraordinary gift for writing poetry that stirs the heart and soul. She is the official Poet Laureate of Solon Springs, Wisconsin and was recently honored at a reading sposored by Rural Arts Voice North.
Some of Kay's poems have been assembled in a book entitled " BITS OF BIRCH." I'd like to share one with you today in her honor:
GHOST WRITERS IN THE SKY by Kay Karras
Across the river flowage
on the rippling waves they came;
Reflections in the blue sky -
I do not know their names.
The lapping waters brought them
to my feet upon the shore
in sands of time their message wrote
of years gone by and more.
They signed their names in eddies -
in tracks upon the sand,
I followed in their foot prints
along the moonlit strand.
I read the stories written
in Sanskrit by the snails
of prehistoric ventures
besides the deep worn trails.
The hieroglyphics chiseled
in walls of weathered stone
spoke softly of the long ago
in ancient undertone.
I came upon a river
running backward into time
To my memory it brought
an old familiar rhyme.
The voices sounded, oh so clear,
I cannot tell you why.
They hovered all around me -
ghost writers in the sky.
Here's to Kay, an inspiration to our St. Croix Writers, writers and readers everywhere!
Please stay tuned and stay in touch.
Monday, March 4, 2013
MALLARD ISLAND, RAINY LAKE, MINNESOTA
"Let us be silent that we may hear the whispers of the gods." Ralph Waldo Emerson
I consider myself to be a place writer of destination novels. Place is very important to me...in fact, if often becomes a character in itself. Before I write a novel, I must find a special place to set that novel...a place that speaks to my heart, a perfect place for my characters to live.
Once I find that place, I spend time there absorbing its essence. Visiting with and learning from the locals. Researching the history and culture of the area. Exploring and taking pictures. I need to experience and to feel what my characters' lives are like in this location.
It's very rewarding to me when my readers also fall in love with these places, when they decide to take a trip to see the places where my novels are set.
So...I've decided to do a series of posts about some of the intriguing places I write about.
Today I'm thinking of Rainy Lake along the Minnesota/Ontario international border. This is where my novel, WATERS OF THE DANCING SKY, is set. It's a huge wilderness lake filled with islands. One of these special islands is Mallard Island, owned and operated by the Ernest Oberholtzer Foundation.
I've had the opportunity to spend many hours on The Mallard - sitting on the rock in this picture. Taking sunrise photos. Thinking and plotting my next novel. This is a place to reflect, to dream, to renew oneself. To connect with the spirit of the lake and of the Native Americans who once paddled their birchbark canoes through these waters. To hike along the path picking blueberries and marveling at the wild flowers and lichens sprouting through crevices in this rocky island.
At night the loons call out as moonlight dances across rippling waters. Sometimes the storms roll in across the narrows. The wind howls and rattles the old windowpanes as the rustic old houses seem to sway in the night. Spirits of the past slip into my dreams - infusing ideas that will surface in my future novels.
I spend time rocking in Ober's favorite chair on the wrap-around deck overlooking the great lake. Thinking about his life on this island so many years ago. Immersing myself in his old books,photographs, and documentation of his canoe trips into the heart of the wilderness. If it hadn't been for Ernest Oberholtzer and his environmentalist friends, there would be no Mallard Island, no Voyageurs National Park.
For more information about this man and his island, check out http://www.eober.org.
And stay tuned for more highlights on Rainy Lake and other exciting places in my novels.