Friday, October 13, 2023

Falling for Autumn

One of the first people I asked to read Plantagenet Princess Tudor Queen before it was published pointed out some of my Americanisms that needed to go. The one I remember most vividly was referring to autumn as fall. Upon thinking about it, I agreed that autumn does sound so much nicer, and I've tried to get into the habit of referring to this beautiful, chilly season by the term favored on the other side of the pond.

In October 2019, I was in Ottawa, Illinois, doing research for the book that would become Luminous. I hadn't decided on a title yet, but I was completely drawn into Catherine Donohue's story and felt so honored to walk the streets she had walked and go to Sunday morning worship at her church. Starved Rock was and is a gorgeous place for an autumn hike, so I did, imagining Catherine doing the same all the while.

In Luminous, it is during a trip to Starved Rock that Catherine and Charlotte first encounter a little bird that they would meet several times through their tragic journey. This element of the story was taken from a newspaper article in which a descendent of Charlotte's mentioned that she would say a little bird was a visit from Catherine long after her friend had died of radium poisoning. I decided this little bird deserved its own place in the story and called it Hope.

The following October, in 2020, I was on a rather different trip. Along with my husband and youngest son, I toured the old Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City. Now called the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, this lovely old place is partly renovated shops and housing and part dilapidated ruins that get a creative mind churning. At the time though, I couldn't think of what exactly to do with this amazing setting.

A few months later, I was approached about writing a ghost story for Historical Writers Forum, and I knew just where mine would take place. Besides the breathtaking views of trees and surrounding lakes, the old asylum has tunnels that used to serve as its heating system. An Edith Wharton style ghost story started forming in my mind and eventually was published in the Hauntings anthology.

My story was titled Among the Lost, and since I had recently published Luminous, I decided to set it during the same time, 1927, and give a nod to my Ottawa ladies in a glow-in-the-dark painting owned by one of the asylum residents. I also couldn't resist having another patient who loudly and randomly quoted Dante, which gave me the title. If you've already read Hauntings, you know what is discovered within the tunnels of the asylum, if you have not, my story is currently free here.

Living in Michigan, I have a love-hate relationship with autumn. It's absolutely gorgeous, and I love the onset of sweatshirt weather, going on hikes, and trying to take photos that capture nature's majesty. However, Michigan's seasons aren't as balanced as they should be, and that crisp wonderfulness quickly devolves into cold, wet, snowy bleakness. If we could just get more than a couple weeks of perfect pumpkin spice fall...

This October, I am working on two James A Hamilton projects, neither autumn themed I am sad to say, but one that will be available to my dear readers soon. You probably already know that I am working on a biography for Pen & Sword that is scheduled for publication January 2025, but if you've been enjoying my posts about James and would like something sooner, you're in luck! This year's Historical Writers Forum anthology contains short stories based on works of art, and I decided that mine would be the marble statue of Alexander Hamilton that was destroyed in New York's Great Fire of 1835. In this short story, James reflects on his life and ponders if he has honored his father's legacy. Masterworks is available for pre-order now for only 99c and will be available through Kindle Unlimited on November 1st.

One more little bit of news before I go. In response to requests for signed copies of my books and for those who prefer to "shop small" rather than through Amazon, I have opened up a little online bookshop. Orders here will be filled directly from my home to yours, so I can sign books and will include little bonuses like stickers and bookmarks. Please keep small businesses, and especially independent writers, in mind as you consider your Christmas shopping this year. 

Enjoy this fantastic season while it lasts, and happy reading!

All photos taken by me at Starved Rock State Park, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, and around my home in southwest Michigan. If you enjoy my photos and writing/research updates, please follow me on Instagram or Facebook.

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