The Walls Can Talk

Do you ever get that weird feeling that the universe is trying to tell you something? That fate is giving you a gentle nudge in a specific direction for reasons you don’t understand?

If so, have I got a story for you!

If not, well, it’s entirely possible that I am the only person who has ever felt this way, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been delusional about things.

Let me give a little background information to set this up.

I grew up in a suburb of Kalamazoo, Michigan, but my father’s four sisters owned a cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan in the little touristy town of South Haven. I spent every summer of my childhood at that cottage and eventually ended up living in an even smaller town somewhere in between Kalamazoo and South Haven.

South Haven has always been important to me, as has the Big Lake. Lake Michigan. Mishigami, the Ojibwa word for “large lake.”

Despite my love of water, however, I was never really allowed to go out on the big lake in any boats. My aunts and Dad had some very strict rules about boating since their own brothers were killed in a tragic boating accident in 1954. Totally understandable, but understanding it didn’t do anything to stop my curiosity about boats, especially when it came to the subject of Great Lakes shipwrecks.

Stay with me here. I’ll get to my point eventually.

I first learned about the Eastland disaster when I was in college. Not only did it have connections with my little town of South Haven, it was a fascinating, horrifying tragedy that should be more famous. Everyone should know about it, but very few people actually do.

The Eastland was a steamship designed specifically to accommodate South Haven’s shallow harbor, and was launched in 1903. Its owners originally chose to name it the City of South Haven, but that name was taken by another ship launched a few months earlier.  Thus, it was renamed  the Eastland and began its nautical life shrouded in superstition because sailors believe it is bad luck to rename a ship.

After a long run of bad luck and near-misses as it changed ownership over the years, the Eastland became a passenger ship with a reputation for being unstable and prone to listing. On July 24, 1915, it lived up to its reputation by rolling over on its side while still tied to the dock in Chicago with over 2500 passengers on board.

844 of those passengers died. That’s the most lives lost in any single vessel disaster on any of the Great Lakes.  70% of the victims were aged twenty-five or younger. Twenty-two entire families were completely wiped out.

And yet …. very few people have ever heard of the Eastland. I wanted to understand why.

I’ve studied and researched the Eastland off and on over the years. Someday, I kept telling myself, I’m going to write a historical fiction set around the story of the tragedy.  But, as anyone who’s read my blog probably knows by now, I’m pretty easily distracted. For a lot of years, I didn’t write anything at all, much less any kind of fiction about the Eastland.

A few years ago, the museum in South Haven had an Eastland exhibit. I went to see it, of course. I listened to a lecture about it as well.

Cool. Totally fascinating. I got excited about it again.

Oooh, look, something shiny!

I worked front desk at a hotel in South Haven for few years. One busy summer night, I saw a couple of men lugging cameras and video equipment as they checked in with the other desk clerk. When I asked her about it later, she told me they were in town to do some interviews for a documentary they were making about “some big boat that tipped over a Chicago a long time ago.”

Holy crap.

I may or may not have broken a few rules about guest confidentiality that evening, but I ended up having a very nice chat with Chuck Coppola, who was in town to interview author Michael McCarthy about his book Ashes Under Water: The SS Eastland and the Shipwreck That Shook America. 

Mr. Coppola, by the way, is a very kind man who shared his knowledge and encouraged me to write my historical fiction. He even told me I could use his name as a reference if I ever wanted to contact Mr. McCarthy for more information. For the record, I haven’t done so yet. That’s just too scary at this point.

More shiny things happened. I wrote other books. Researched the Eastland some more but never quite figured out what story I wanted to tell about it. Moved a few times, settled into my old house, started a renovation.

Okay, this is where it gets weird.

I’ve gone through five contractors and learned a lot of strange things about my house. Found an old bamboo pole, some broken china, a dipstick, and a mummified bat inside the walls when the old lath and plaster came down. Yesterday, though, my contractor found a real treasure.

Tucked neatly inside the walls of my future office was a folded brochure for the City of South Haven and Petoskey for the summer of 1917. Two years after the Eastland disaster.

1917 was the last year the City of South Haven would sail as a passenger ship on the Great Lakes.  In April of 1918, it was purchased by the U.S. Navy.

That’s a pretty narrow window, right? The shipwreck I’ve studied so diligently over the years happened in 1915, and the flyer for its competition from 1917 somehow ended up inside the plaster walls of the house I am renovating in 2020.

What are the odds?

As I carefully looked through the old pages, the pictures and descriptions attacked my brain. That’s the only way I can describe it. By the time I went to bed last night, I knew my characters and their stories. I’ve got it. It’s in there.

I don’t want to jinx it by saying any more about it just yet. I don’t want to mess with fate, or the universe, or my 54 year-old brain that tends to forget things. I just want to write it down before I see anything shiny.

And yeah, have I got a story for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Loves of the Lionheart

I don’t often have guest bloggers here at A Goode One, but today I am honored to share a post by author Margaret Brazear, whose specialty is historical fiction. 

Margaret is not only a wonderful writer, but also an outspoken and determined supporter of her fellow authors. Her books are always a pleasure to read. I am truly honored to have her stop by here to talk about her newest book, The Loves of the Lionheart.

Take it away, Margaret! 

 

lion

History’s Forgotten Princesses

This is a novel I have wanted to write for some time, since I became interested in the Queen of Richard the Lionheart. She was the only Queen of England who never set foot in the country and I found her a fascinating subject. However, as I got involved in the research for Queen Berengaria, in relation to Richard, I thought his first serious love interest, Princess Alys of France, deserved a mention.

Alys turned out to be a very interesting character, a sympathetic character, although very little is known about her. In fact, very little is known about either of these princesses, and I hope I have done them justice. I have studied many chronicles of the time, a lot of which contradict each other, but none of them really describe the thoughts and feelings of these two young women, especially Alys, who I feel was exploited and much maligned.

Anyway, this has been a new venture for me, to write about real people instead of fictional ones, to know where the story has to go because it is history, it has happened. I do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

It is available from today in both kindle and paperback versions. The kindle version will be on special offer for this week only.

As always, thank you all for your continuing support.

 

AJ speaking up again here: If you read my blog and are interested in contributing a guest post, please contact me at authorajgoode@gmail.com. I’d love to hear your ideas!

Happy Summer!

 

You know how sometimes you just feel the need to go back and re-read a book that you’ve read many times before?

That’s where I’ve been lately. I don’t know why, but I recently had to sit down and read Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly and all its sequels. They are sweet, easy-to-read stories that I discovered during my first pregnancy when I became obsessed with tales of the American Frontier.

I also watched the movies “based on” the first three books in the series and laughed my ass off over some of the worst book-to-movie adaptations in the history of book-to-movie adaptations. Really, Hallmark? Did any of you folks actually read any of the books?

At any rate, re-reading Janette Oke’s books has sent me off on a reading spree of romantic fiction set during that era. I’ve discovered authors like Shanna Hatfield and Annie Boone. I’ve become addicted to the  Cutter’s  Creek and Pendleton Petticoats series.

Now, I don’t know about any of you, but when I discover some new favorites, I tend to go a bit overboard. Housework suffers. I stay up too late at night reading. I get lost in the fictional world I am reading about.

And because I’m a writer, something else happens.

I get inspired.

So .  . . I am writing my first historical fiction. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but have been afraid to try because I worry that I’m not smart enough to get the historical details right. But if I’ve learned anything in the past few years, I’ve learned that the only way to conquer fear is to face it head-on and tell it to go to hell.

It’s going to be a squeaky-clean romance, without any descriptive sex. Hey, I want to write something my mother-in-law can read without leading to any uncomfortable conversations between us!

Never fear, I’m still finishing up my Beach Haven series, and I plan on continuing to make folks smile with the sequel to Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal. I’m just taking a little detour. So please be patient with me and understand if things stay quiet here for the next few months. I promise, I’m still going strong. I’ve got books to read, books to write, bonfires to attend, and a great big lake to swim in.

What about all of you? What are you reading this summer?

Happy summer, all!