A map of Fort Carillon back in the day.
Sorry to be MIA for so long! Work at the paper continues to be extra busy and probably will be through the Nov. 4 election (which can’t be over soon enough to suit me). On top of that, I’m behind on Naked Edge and stressed about that. I’m just not sure how I could have managed to write more on the book, while doing as much writing and reporting as I’ve been doing lately — not to mention the chaos of the DNC.
I am slowly adjusting to Benjy being so far away. It still feels very much like the center has gone out of my life and that all the crazy busy-ness swirling around me is part of someone else’s life (or maybe that last part is just wishful thinking). He and I communicate every day either by text message or by phone or both, so it’s not like he’s dropped out of my life. Thank goodness!
I mailed him a couple of care packages already, including one that contained a batch of our favorite chipless chocolate chip cookies, which he and his roomie devoured. He’s getting settled into a schedule, but I think he’s a bit homesick. The good thing is that our next visit is next month.
On Oct. 15, my mom and I are flying out of DIA to Ithaca, where we will let Benjy give us a tour of his new world before driving north to… Fort Edward and Rogers Island!
“Why is she so excited about this, and what is place?” you may be asking yourself.
Fort Edward is the real name of Fort Elizabeth, the setting for the MacKinnon’s Rangers trilogy. When I wrote the series, I took Fort Edward and renamed it Fort Elizabeth. (Wow, how creative.) Rogers Island, just off the banks of the Hudson beside the fort, I renamed Ranger Island (likewise stunningly creative).
Fort Edward was where a bunch of British Regulars stayed during the French and Indian War, and Rogers Island was home base for Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers, whose deeds and daring I have stolen and given to Iain, Morgan, Connor, Joseph and the men.
As you might imagine, I’ve spent a lot of hours looking at historical maps of the fort and Rogers Island, trying to describe them in the story. I’ve also spent many, many, many hours researching Robert Rogers and Colonial American Rangers. But living here in the Wild West, I’ve never had a chance to visit the place.
Well, now’s my chance.
We’re going to spend a day in Fort Edward — now a small town, not a fort — during which we will visit Rogers Island. Although the site, currently being excavated by archaeologists under the direction of David Starbuck, will be closed by the time we arrive, Eileen, the manager of Rogers Island Visitors Center, is going to give us a private tour.
Here’s another cool thing: Eileen is a romance reader — and she loves historicals. I sent her a copy of Surrender last month, which she has read. Here’s what she said about it:
“I thoroughly enjoyed your writing style and can’t say that I’ve ever been so immersed in a book. In my job I spend my time looking backwards to the past where your novel took place, but Surrender took me right into the time when this area was a hot bed of danger. You captured quite well the fort and the surrounding area and I could see Rogers in Iain. Maybe Rogers wasn’t counterfeiting after all and like Iain he was blackmailed into service by an agent for the king – hum, interesting thought.
“I must say that I only saw ‘Edward’ when you wrote ‘Elizabeth’ – the mind is a funny thing… This year was the 250th anniversary of Abercromby’s (or, yes, Mrs. Nanny Crombie’s) defeat at Ticonderoga, and this area has been entrenched in telling that story this year, but then to read of it in your book in the ‘you are there’ perspective made it more real. Good job!!”
I was thrilled to hear she enjoyed it and will be sending her an ARC of Untamed when I get them, which will be about a month or six weeks from now.
Eileen will be showing us around Rogers Island, and I hope, too, to meet David Starbuck, the archaeologist. He has unearthed all manner of artifacts on the island, including burials. My college degree and graduate school work was in archaeology, so it will be a real thrill for me to get down on the ground and look at the what’s left of the world I’ve been writing about — historical artifacts of a time that lives in my mind.
Yes, I’m going to bawl like a baby. I already warned Eileen.
The next day, we’re driving up along Lake George (OMG!) to Ticonderoga. Yes, Ticonde-frickin-roga! I just spoke with the curator of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum, who is going to give us a tour behind the scenes, pointing out things that we wouldn’t otherwise get to see — like the remaining bits of the original Fort Carillon, where Morgan is held captive and meets Amalie.
Fort frickin’ Carillon, people! Do you get me?
I’m also going to visit the Falls — a location about a mile from the fort where the crux scene of Untamed takes place.
I don’t think I warned Mr. Fox, the curator, that I’m going to bawl…
Our last day there, we’re taking a boat trip up Lake George. As I type these words, I get half teary-eyed and at the same time want to scream and jump around. I’m taking a freaking boat trip up Lake freaking George, okay? Much of the shoreline, particularly on the steep, east side is unchanged since the time of the Rangers.
Remember Iain and Annie’s journey down Lake George?
Annie was so tired. Someone was trying to wake her. But her entire body ached, and she needed so desperately to sleep. She let herself sink deeper into darkness and dreams.
And it was a good dream. A man was kissing her, his lips full and hot against hers. He kissed her gently at first, brushing his lips over hers as if to tease her. Then he took her mouth with his, and pulled her against him.
Her lips tingled, and she found herself kissing him back, wanting more, reaching for him.
“Oh, Annie, I knew you would taste sweet.”
It was the Highlander. Major MacKinnon. Iain. He was kissing her, and she wanted him to keep kissing her. ’Twas after all only a dream.
His mouth closed over hers again, and his tongue traced the line of her lips, parted them and thrust—.
Annie’s eyes flew open, and she might have screamed had her tongue not been entwined with his. She meant to push him away, to slap him soundly, but her arms were already wrapped around his neck, her fingers clutched in his hair.
’Twas he who ended the kiss.
He clamped a hand over her mouth, held a finger to his lips. Even in the darkness she could see the intensity of his gaze.
She heard the gentle lapping of water, felt a rocking beneath her, and remembered.
The boat. The lake. The attack.
Her heart, already racing, lurched in her breast.
He leaned close, whispered in her ear. “’Tis almost dawn. We must go ashore and hide the boat. We are goin’ in blind, wi’ no idea who might be encamped there. Be silent. Do exactly as I tell you, aye?”
Yes, that Lake George. Sadly, there will be no Iain MacKinnon to kiss me awake. But I doubt I’ll be sleeping anyway.
We're also going to visit some historical sites along the way, including Rogers' Rock and whatever there is to see of Fort Billy-Hank. That's what Ben and I, who love this period of history and are obsessively familiar with it, call Fort William-Henry. Standing there with Ben will be especially amazing because it means so much to both of us. To any of you who've watched Last of the Mohicans, that's the fort featured in the story, the one the French take from the British and then destroy.
Then on Sunday, my mom and I will fly back to Colorado, saying goodbye to Benjy again — but only for a month. He comes home again during Thanksgiving vacation, during which time he will have his 19th birthday.
I have gotten permission both from Fort Edward/Rogers Island and Fort Ticonderoga to take pictures and film while there, so you can expect copious photos, as well as video filmed by my filmmaker son. I also intend to buy some prizes to give away in contests on this blog. So some of you — who knows who? — will have something from these special places, too.