On to you, Kathryn.
The Writing of THE ICE BRIDGE
Eight years ago my husband, Russell, and I were celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and decided to return to quaint Mackinac Island in Michigan. We’d been there a few years before, but just for a quick afternoon stopover on our way home from visiting family in Wisconsin. We’d loved the Island for the few hours we’d been on it and promised ourselves we’d go there again someday. So when we began to plan for our anniversary vacation we traveled back for a longer stay of six days. I’d made reservations months ahead at the Iroquois Hotel on the water’s edge of Lake Huron and when the time came, after packing up everything we’d need, we jumped in the car and took off.
The Island doesn’t allow cars, only bicycles, horses and snowmobiles (in the winter) so we left our vehicle in a Mackinaw City parking lot on the mainland and boarded the ferry that would take us across the water to the Island, our luggage and two bicycles in tow. It was much cheaper to bring our own bikes instead of rent them there.
It was late August and the Island was beautiful. Crowded with colorful, fragrant flowers, clomping horses, whizzing bicycles and, of course, lots of tourists. Fudgies as they were called because they came, purchased and devoured so much of the little town’s fudge.
The Iroquois Hotel was lovely with its bright pastel colors and friendly service; a fancy in-house restaurant and our room with its wall of windows facing the lake. A lake that to me was as large as an ocean…because it went on forever.
Our six days there were heaven. We rode our bikes, peddling around the horses, carriages, and equine taxis, around the eight-mile in circumference island and enjoyed the sights. The friendly people. The breathtaking views of water, boats and woods. The fudge. We sped along West Bluff Road to the ritzy Grand Hotel (made famous in the 1980 romantic time travel movie Somewhere in Time with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve), ate the scrumptious and lavish tourists’ brunch there and afterwards, so full we could barely ride our bicycles, we gawked at the magnificent Victorian mansions with their elaborate gardens lining Lake Shore Drive.
We visited Fort Mackinac and listened amusedly to people talk about the ghost soldier some had reported seeing when twilight began to fall. My husband, a photography buff, even slipped out of our hotel room in the middle of one foggy night to get artsy pictures with our new digital camera of the fort, hoping to catch the ghost. He captured no ghost, but plenty of stunning photographs.
One night we even sat, spellbound, as a Lake Huron thunderstorm pounded wildly at our wall of windows. It was as if we were gazing at a tumultuous ocean.
Then one day someone, in a cubbyhole of a local hamburger joint over our lunch, said something about the ice bridge, as the islanders called it. During the dead of winter, when the straits froze over, it was a narrow path that stretched about four miles across the ice that separated Mackinac Island from the St. Ignace mainland. The locals would drive in old Christmas trees along the path to show the way, to show it was now safe. To them the ice bridge meant freedom to come and go for up to two months a year without paying ferryboat or airplane fees. To me it sparked an idea for my next book…what if someone crossed the ice bridge one wintry night and fell through the ice? And disappeared…maybe even died?
I started asking questions of the locals: Had someone ever fallen through the ice and perished? Turns out over the years, that yes, some people actually had. Fallen in. When the ice wasn’t firm enough. Or when they’d gone off the solid marked path. Or in a snowstorm. Some on snowmobiles. Some were saved, dragged out, and some had not been. Hmmm.
That’s all it took for the book to begin forming in my head. The rest of the trip I looked at the Island with different eyes. A writer’s eyes. Writer’s ears. I filed away the memories and the home-grown stories recounted to me. Though most of my earlier books were romantic horror, I’d written a couple of straight contemporary murder mysteries, Scraps of Paper and All Things Slip Away, a few years before and Avalon Books had published them. I’d quite enjoyed writing them.
So I thought I’d write another one with Mackinac Island and its real and fictional ghost tales as the background. I’d show the beauty of the island, changing of the seasons, what it was like in summer, fall and winter (tons of snow and ice), and describe the historical landmarks. I’d spotlight the quirky close-knit inhabitants and have the protagonist gather their imaginary spirit stories to put into the ghost book she was writing. I’d make the Island nearly a main character itself with its enigmas, water, snow, ice and fog.
The novel would be about a woman, Charlotte, jilted in love, coming back to heal and visit her poignant childhood playground, and her lonely Aunt Bess. She’d meet an Island cop, Matt, and together they’d not only fall in love but would embark on a great dangerous adventure together. There’d be a spunky old lady, Hannah, living next door and the four would be great friends. Until the old lady disappears on a winter’s night while crossing the ice bridge and the mystery would begin. Had Hannah been murdered by someone….how exactly…by whom…and why? The remainder of the book would be the unraveling of that mystery as the central characters try to keep from being killed themselves by the devious murderer behind Hannah’s death. I’d embed the Island’s so-called ghost tales throughout the book to spice up the story even more. So it’d be a romantic ghostly murder mystery. Ah, ha. I couldn’t wait to begin.
When my husband and I returned home, refreshed and happy, I started it right away, with the memories of lovely Mackinac still fresh in my mind. Gosh, how I’d loved that Island. A tiny piece of old-fashioned paradise. The book came easily to me. And so The Ice Bridge was born. Now with a stunning new cover by Dawne Dominique and edited by my publisher, Kim Richards Gilchrist, it’s out in the world for everyone to read and, I hope, enjoy.
Written this day of November 7, 2011 by the author Kathryn Meyer Griffith
Charlotte returns to her Aunt Bess and Mackinac Island, a quaint retreat that welcomes summer tourists and allows no cars (just horses and bicycles) to renew herself and write about the island’s ghosts. She’s come to help Bess with her heartache,
an ended love with Shaun, and to renew a friendship with neighbor Hannah.
In winter Mackinac closes down and everyone looks forward to the ice bridge that freezes across the Straits of Mackinac.
Until Hannah disappears into the icy waters crossing it.
Everyone says it’s an accident. But Charlotte and her admirer cop friend, Mac, don’t think so. Something isn’t right. Hannah was too smart to go off the safe path.
So it’s murder…but why…how…by whom?
In the end, it’s Mac – and perhaps Hannah’s ghost?– that saves Charlotte and Bess’s lives when the killer decides they’re too close to the truth and tries to kill them, too.
By the time they crossed the ice bridge Charlotte had to struggle with the wind to stay on her machine. She was sick they hadn’t found Hannah, and she was frightened, tired and freezing. Her body had lost all sensation. She thought she had fingers in her gloves, but she wasn’t sure.
The ice bridge was eerier returning than when they’d come, if that was possible. An early night had descended, though the snow illuminated their surroundings enough so they could see. It almost made their headlights unnecessary. The ice was lit up as if there were lights glowing beneath it. Strange noises, sounding like distant moans and cries for help, rushed by her head.
She remembered what Hannah had said about the ice bridge ghosts. In her state of mind, she could imagine misty shapes flitting around the ice behind and around them, trying to tell them something. Did they know where Hannah was? If she looked quick enough she thought she saw them with their hollow ghost eyes in their transparent ghost bodies. It seemed they were closing in on her and Mac.
Hannah believed the ice bridge ghosts appeared when someone was about to die—or had died.
She panicked as her snowmobile sped over the ice, the wind behind shoving her along, faster and faster, as if it was trying to escape something. She was practically on top of Mac as a wave of vertigo hit her. She slowed down before she rammed him.
Her machine went into a skid and barely avoided hitting one of the evergreens. She took a couple of deep breaths to push the dizziness away. Out of the corner of her eyes, she thought she saw something standing on the ice to her right, lost in the particles of drifting snow. It looked like a shadow of a woman with her arms outstretched. Then it was gone. Yet for the split heartbeat it was there, it had scared the heck out of her. It had looked like Hannah. Impossible.
Charlotte wanted to get back to her aunt’s house where it was warm and safe—where there were no spectral shapes to taunt her. She’d never been out in a pre-blizzard before. She was beginning to understand what Mac had meant when he’d said that a whiteout could be disorienting. She wondered if it could also make a person see things that weren’t there.
She kept her attention on Mac’s silhouette when she wasn’t looking for a lost snowmobile and its rider. She didn’t want to see anything else. About three-fourths of the way to the other side, with land and trees in front of them, her eye caught unevenness in the snow a little ways off the secure path. Something in the air behind her, or was it in her head, whispered to stop. Look.
After honking the horn and blinking her lights three times, she swerved closer, but not too close, to the rough patch. She cut the engine and dug out a flashlight from the saddlebag to examine the irregularities. In the glow, she saw there were spikes in the blanket of snow covering the ice.
Had something gone through the ice there?
She was on her knees, with her face in her hands, when Mac joined her with another flashlight. He gently brought her to her feet and guided her to her snowmobile. He walked back to the rough patch. He examined it, getting as near as he dared. He directed his flashlight at the mound. Charlotte could tell by the way his shoulders slumped that he’d found something he hadn’t wanted to find.
He returned to her. The wind had died down to a whisper after the roar.
“Something’s gone through the ice in days past. It’s been broken and refrozen.”
“Hannah?” she breathed.
“Could be. It’s too early to know. Sometimes something goes through and crawls out, wet, scared and cold—but alive. It happens. Maybe a deer or a bear. There are bears on the mainland; did you know that? Every once in a while they wander onto the ice. Anyway, the unevenness doesn’t necessarily mean something is down there...doesn’t mean it’s Hannah, either.”
Mac put his arm around Charlotte’s shoulders. “Let’s go before the storm gets any worse and we get lost, too. When it passes I’ll get men out here to see if there’s anything down there. Come on.”He drove beside her to shore, both of them staying so tight to the evergreens they clipped a few. She wanted to reach the woods, the solid ground of the island. She wanted to get off the ice bridge and leave what she feared she’d seen on the ice—the ghosts—behind them.
About the author
Kathryn Meyer Griffith has been writing for nearly forty years and has published 14 novels and 7 short stories since 1984 with Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press in the horror, romantic paranormal, suspense and murder mystery genres. Learn more about her at www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith or www.authorsden.com/kathrynmeyergriffith or www.bebo.com/kathrynmeyerG and http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1019954486
Her published novels & short stories:
Evil Stalks the Night (Leisure 1984; Damnation Books 2012)
The Heart of the Rose (Leisure 1985; Eternal Press Author’s Revised Edition 2010)
Blood Forge (Leisure 1989; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition out Februry 2012)
Vampire Blood (Zebra 1991; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition out July 2011)
The Last Vampire (Zebra 1992; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition 2010)
Witches (Zebra 1993; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition 2011)
The Nameless One (short story 1993 Zebra Anthology Dark Seductions;
Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition 2011)
The Calling (Zebra 1994; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition out October 2011)
Scraps of Paper (Avalon Books Murder Mystery 2003)
All Things Slip Away (Avalon Books Murder Mystery 2006)
Egyptian Heart (The Wild Rose Press, 2007; Author’s Revised Edition 2011)
Winter's Journey (The Wild Rose Press 2008; Author’s Revised Edition 2011)
The Ice Bridge (The Wild Rose Press 2008; Author’s Revised Edition 2011)
Don't Look Back, Agnes short story (2008; ghostly short story Eternal Press Jan. 2012)
In This House (ghostly short story 2008; Eternal Press January 2012)
BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons (Damnation Books June 2010)
The Woman in Crimson (Damnation Books 2010)The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal Novels: Volume 1 2011 (I wrote the foreword)