Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Inspiration: Upper Peninsula Bars

Inspiration For The Mermaid Bar : Chute's Bar in Calumet, Michigan

I thought it would be fun to write several posts about how profoundly the Upper Peninsula, its beauty, establishments, and people inspired the novel Running Away To UP.

Whereas there are numerous fictional places I created for the novel and dropped into real settings, there are also real settings I used and those that inspired fictional ones.


There are always dark, mysterious, and seedy bars populated with colorful and sometimes mystical characters in any good sea yarn and so it is also true of Running Away To UP.

Oh, the fun I had, sliding into bars all over the UP for the purposes of my research.
(Truth note: I rarely go into bars alone or without my husband. But this was a research trip and I couldn't just wait for my husband, who was only able to join me on the other side of the Upper Peninsula for the last few days of my trip, before I ventured into a few of these mysterious places.) Some were on my map. Others were ones I discovered along the way. There were also more than I can name that I had to drive by quite a few times, their parking lots filled with Harleys, before I was able to muster up the courage to actually stop and go inside, check them out, and talk to the patrons and bartenders inside.

There should be a book about the bars and the history of bars in the Upper Peninsula. (My husband, a micro-brewery aficionado, is enthusiastic about taking on that project himself.) There is a ton of history––and color!––to be found in these establishments along with that which can fuel the imagination of a novelist.

One such inspiring watering hole along my way, was the historical landmark and local wonder known as Shute's 1890 Bar, in downtown Calumet on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Shute's, (a Croatian name, pronounced: shoot-eze), is a turn of the century, boom-town saloon that boasts an original Brunswick stained glass canopy hood (think Tiffany) over its bar that is worth a draft or two just to take in. The bar is a favorite gathering place in Calumet and host to bands, comedy nights (where the locals tell jokes they heard––what a blast!––like sitting around the kitchen table), and Karaoke. Everyone knows everyone. Locals are proud of this place and will greet you at the front door. It's a woolly backwoods and gentle crowd that meets there. And, yes, there are a few old salts at the bar who never lift their eyes, but you know they are listening and hear everything.

I spent a lot of nights there during my week at Calumet and it was the inspiration for The Mermaid Bar (that boasts its own Mermaid Tiffany Hood) in Running Away To UP.

Here are a couple of more pictures I found on the internet (*at urbanspoon michigan / urbanspoon.com) of the bar:

And, well, suffice to say, Shute's got me started on a fine adventure all in itself.

BTW, Calumet locals, if anyone UP there at Shute's would like one of my mermaid prints for the bar wall, send me a holler. It would be the least I could do to say Thank You for all the hospitality!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In Search of Mermaids

Evidence of Mermaids is at first elusive, but then it starts to show up.
Some people do not want to talk. Rubbish, they say. But, Aha! you must tell yourself and listen closer to these. Perhaps they have a mermaid in hiding somewhere and think it best to try to throw you off the track.

And then there are the people who are convinced there are none. Well, the mermaids put out traps and those who would be better off not knowing (and who would leave the mermaids better off for their not knowing too), they get to not know and not care. The perfume rises slightly from the fog. It is indiscernible to them. And it renders them immune. All the fearfulness of knowing what they don’t want to know is taken away. It is kept in nuts in the forest. But it can come back to them if they go out foraging too deeply in the forest where the nut trees are hidden in the brush and the thick woods. Be careful what you eat.

Ah, but now we come to the ones who want to know. They suspect the magic is out there and can feel the presence of it. They are the true believers, even if they haven't yet made contact. And they are on the trail.
They are, at first, hard to find, and then easily, they appear. You have to look for them, be on the look-out for them.
It is kind of like looking for a certain kind of car you want to buy, like a Volvo (favorite car of mermaids and other elementals, fairies, and such). Then, amazingly, everywhere you look, there are Volvos merrily driving all around you. These are your peeps, oh ye seekers of mermaid and merfolk. They are on the same path.

And the ones who know… Well they are trappers too, so beware. For once you cross into magic, there is no a going back. It will have you for the rest of your life and you will always hear the bells of the angels thereafter. It will flow around you and you will have light and ways of traveling. It is a place of wonders, this world. But be ready to find what you are looking for. It may hear of you and find you first!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fresh Water Mermaids! Oh My!

And so it begins again, my next big trip UP in search of more wild mermaid background and lore.

The Upper Peninsula is rich and mythic and has inspired, for me, a perfect setting for my novel, Running Away To UP, which takes place there. On this trip, I will compete the second of two in-depth research trips to this beautiful wilderness country at the edge of the North Coast.

I will be going to to Munising, Marquette, and the Keweenaw Peninsula the first two weeks of this trip where I will be exploring the Lake Superior coastline in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

On the 1st of September, I will meet my husband in St. Ignace for the annual Labor Day walk across the Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Bridge, a five mile span across the Mackinac Straits that is only open to foot traffic this one day a year. (Expect 70,000+ people!) Afterward we will be going outback to complete my research trip. We will drive north to Paradise and the top of Whitefish Point and on to the Two Hearted River to fish for trout and hike about Crisp Point Light.

With me, I am bringing a few of the first of the new Mermaid Prints and scouting magical places to leave them or bring them for next summer! Although they are not necessarily part of the novel, they have sprung from it and are starting to have an energy that not only connects to the writing, but that has a life of its own.

These are going to be for sale as a pre-launch and (hopefully!) launch of the novel (and also to help fund my research trips for the novel) and tentatively will be scheduled for wide release next summer!

*For more information about the Mermaid Prints, please e-mail me at Cometcatch@aol.com.


May magic travel with you too!