Monday, May 25, 2015

Millionaires' Row

Crusoe Island cottage, Lake Muskoka - copyright Melanie Wills
Nope, that’s not our cottage! But it is the sort of place my characters would have owned. This century summer home dominates an island in the “Millionaires’ Row” area of Lake Muskoka, around Beaumaris.  For more photos and info, see this post on my Age of Elegance blog.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cottage-Opening Weekend

The May Victoria Day holiday – in celebration of the Queen’s birthday – is also the traditional inaugural weekend of summer, at least for those with lakeside dwellings known as “cottages” in our part of Canada. They can range from rustic cabins with no running water or electricity to sprawling mansions with all the mod-cons. Since many of these are seasonal, there is the yearly ritual of “opening” the cottage.

Early morning on Balsam Lake - copyright Melanie Wills
With views like this, we don’t spend much time indoors at my family’s island cottage.

My Muskoka Novels are set in that legendary land of lakes, beginning in the Age of Elegance.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Troops Called it "Wipers"

Ypres, Belgium - copyright Melanie Wills
Last week’s post about John McCrae mentioned Ypres, which was a critical salient in the battles between the Allies and Germany during the Great War. It was also where Canadian troops had their baptism of fire in the spring of 1915, and where they later distinguished themselves again at nearby Passchendaele in 1917.

Wartime Ypres, the same vantage point. The Cloth Hall is on the left, the church on the right.
The medieval city of Ypres was virtually reduced to rubble, but has been rebuilt to resemble its former glory, as can be seen in the top photo. It’s a magnificent, friendly city – especially to Canadians – and well worth a visit.

See this blog about the daily commemorative ceremony at the Menin Gate.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Lusitania Tragedy - 100 Years Ago

The Track of the Lusitania, by William Lionel Wyllie
100 years ago on May 7, 1915, some of my characters were aboard the luxurious, ill-fated Lusitania when she was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland. Also on board was the daughter of mercantile millionaire Timothy Eaton, Josephine Burnside, who was sucked into a smokestack when the ship sank, but was blown out again.  Miraculously, she survived, but her 20-year-old daughter didn’t. You can be sure that one of my characters has a similar experience.

The Lusitania is a riveting tragedy, as much for the conspiracy theories that still surround it as by the harrowing tales of the 761 people who managed to survive.  1200 didn’t, and 900 of those were never found.

For more info, see an older post of mine.

Monday, May 4, 2015

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae Memorial Garden, Guelph, Ontario - copyright Gabriele Wills
100 years ago, on May 3, 1915, Lt. Col. John McCrae penned the famous, moving poem “In Flanders Fields” in response to the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer, during one of the battles at Ypres.  McCrae’s childhood home in Guelph, Ontario is now a museum, where cascades of poppies bloom every spring.

A poppy at the McCrae House Museum, Guelph - copyright Melanie Wills

Some of my characters interact with John McCrae in Elusive Dawn, and attend his funeral. Find out more in this blog: Doctor, Soldier, Poet.