Last night as I was walking, the working title of my forming fourth novel in the series changed in a flash of inspiration. And with the steps leading home, came the resolution of the main conflict in the story.
I may actually have something worth writing now.
Detail: The Beloved Woman of the Cherokee – Nanyehi by Sharon Irla
This large and colorful brochure was issued by the city’s Commercial Club some time after 1919, the date of several of its testimonials to the curative powers of the spring waters.
The quality of the color printing, staple binding and die-cut shape — giving this brochure the appearance of a water glass at a fancy restaurant — is absolutely superb. It’s 6″ wide and 8-1/4″ tall, so it was printed on paper stock larger than 8-1/2″x11″ in order to get that perfect die-cut finished shape. Not an inexpensive printing job, then or now!
Several hotels and other buildings are pictured. Those still standing/operating include the 1905 Basin Park Hotel, the Allred (now the New Orleans Hotel), Palace Hotel and Bath House (now a hotel and spa), and the 1886 Crescent Hotel. The Crescent is featured twice because part of the year it operated as a girls finishing school, and part of the year as a hotel. The pictured electric plant and ice house still stands, though mostly as a ruin. A frame building attached to it serves as the commissary for the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway‘s luncheon and dinner trains. Mattock’s Garage was demolished decades ago on the site of what is now the downtown trolleybus depot.
(Scans from original brochures by me. Click for larger image in a new window.)
But let’s get more specific. What about the waters of Eureka Springs, back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. What claims were made about the curative powers of the spring waters of Eureka?
I don’t know that anyone, any library or any museum has the personal case histories of the many doctors who practiced in my little resort town back then, but there was plenty of advertising filled with the testimonials of people who claimed to have been cured (or others close to them).
This is one of the oldest brochures I’m aware of, 3-1/4″x5-3/4″, published by the city Commercial Club (a forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce) sometime after 1909, and it is typical of the broad range of tributes that were published in those days.
If these had been sworn to in court, they would have been admissible evidence.
(Scans from original brochures by me. Click for larger image in a new window.)
The Ozarka Company and the new Basin Park Hotel, both managed by William W. Duncan, printed this very early 6.25″x14″ fold-out health travel and tourism brochure. The spring water company began operating under him in 1905 and the hotel opened the same year. Duncan purchased the water company from John S. Tibbs, renaming the water product “Ozarka.” He was also major shareholder in the hotel. Guessing from the appearance of the automobiles (and horse carriage) in the hotel illustration, this was published not too long after 1906, after the creation of the iconic “Ozarka Girl” used in advertising, and the introduction of both carbonated Ozarka water and Ozarka brand ginger ale.
Did the spring waters of Eureka bring about the miraculous cures claimed by visitors and residents of the late 1800s and early 1900s? Certainly the characters in the People of the Water Cycle would say so. But besides the scientific analysis of the United States Geological Survey of its mineral content, was there evidence?
I’ll look into that in a future post!
(Scans of original brochure by me. Click to see larger images in a new window.)
Today I wrote new copy for the synopsis of the series for its Amazon page, emphasizing the mystery aspect of the books:
A quaint Victorian village in the Ozarks. A history of haints and hauntings. And a secret of seven tribes, hundreds of years older than the town: spring waters that heal wounds and diseases — and may also prolong life.
This is the world of 1886, in which astronauts Jennifer Cloud and Stan Lowell are stranded when their Apollo capsule is catapulted through a ring-like object orbiting Earth and they must attempt to land without their vanished commander, “Mac” McClanahan. It’s a world they know but don’t know at all, before their time; and they must do the one thing that they have not been trained to do: nothing. Nothing that would change the 87 years until their launch in 1973.
Except plumb the town’s secrets and mysteries — where the waters came from; what benefits they offer; what limitations they have. As well as trying to find a shortcut back to their own time.
Their research continues for decades; something that their son Nate discovers after they too have gone missing, like their fellow astronaut Mac. Guided by the Cherokee sage George who helped his parents, Nate and his friends Kris and Breanna seek the truth about them, more secrets of the Waters of the Stars, and the colossal burden of responsibility that it places upon their shoulders.
And when they encounter not only Mac, but a couple who are identical to Nate’s parents but don’t recognize him at all, the mysteries only deepen.
One of the sources of information for my novels is the award-winning 1993 documentary filmed by Claude Wiatrowski called “All Aboard for Eureka!” I’ve owned both the commercially-sold VHS and DVD copies of the film, and a couple of years ago, he uploaded it to YouTube for everyone to enjoy free of charge.
It’s a fine overview of Eureka Springs history, as well as the various incarnations of The North Arkansas Line, and I hope you enjoy it as well.
If you’ve read “The People of the Waters” trilogy, you know that one character, Nate, has his own encounter with spirits in the Crescent Hotel — a well-known haunt of ghosts for decades.
This episode of “Haunting History” (2015) has a great interview with Keith Slade, manager of ghost tours at the hotel, and an investigation without all the artificial ghost-show hoo-ha (beyond the obligatory spooky music). There’s a wealth of historical information in the interview, which is what I really enjoy in the ghost and historical tours in town!
The horribly-performed, off-key flutophone parody of “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic” has been stuck in my head all day, and if I have to suffer with that knowledge, I refuse to suffer alone.
In spite of that mind-numbing handicap, I enjoyed a walk downtown in the 79-degree sunshine and a delicious Mud Street Cafe veggie burger (plus a huge warm chocolate-chip cookie for dessert).
And there in my old place at the bar, I wrote several paragraphs of outline for a fourth book in the “People of the Water” Cycle. The narrator I settled on surprised the heck out of me, as did the source of the major conflict in the developing story. There are still a lot of holes in the plot, as I’m sure there probably were for people who read the original trilogy!
The story-in-progress may turn out to be a false start or a terrible mistake due to that awful earworm-of-a-song, but for the moment it feels very right, taking up five years after the third book left off, in the year 2020.
In the meantime, book sales have been slow-to-fair, although literally thousands have downloaded at least the first book free on the Kindle membership program at Amazon. And if they read the fine print during the first 90 day publication, they got all three books free.
Seriously, somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 downloads.
I needed to design a mission patch for the uniform of my character Stan Lowell for the fourth slide (see previous post) in my Facebook ad slideshow, so I scanned the art I created when I was about 14-15 years old for my series of “Skylark” stories and photoshopped a patch with some other clip-art.
It’s a little bit NASA, a little bit “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” logo and very 1970s as a result. As readers know, the character “Mac” McClanahan designed it on a napkin before handing it over to NASA graphic artists to turn into a mission patch.
Now, a quick note on accuracy: Most of the 1970s Apollo mission astronauts wore burnt orange flightsuits, one of three military colors available at the time (the others were khaki green and dark blue). I just liked the blue ones better, the choice of Space Shuttle astronauts later in the decade.
I chose the same basic blue for the background of the patch, since the mission was classified. As you can see, the wavy letters spelling out “Skylark” roughly form the shape of a bird and vaguely imitate the orange “swoosh” in the NASA logo.