Beyond Death’s Door

Chloe’s off to the lighthouse!

Pottawatomie Lighthouse, Rock Island State Park, WI

Well, she will be at some point, anyway.  It’s always been my plan to get Chloe Ellefson, curator and protagonist in my adult mystery series, out and about. Yes, she’ll stay rooted at Old World Wisconsin. What fun, though, to have her travel to different places!  It will let me showcase some of my favorite historic sites.

For the past three years, my husband Scott and I have been lucky enough to serve as volunteer live-in docents at Pottawatomie Lighthouse, on Rock Island, in Lake Michigan.

Ready for guests.

Pottawatomie is the oldest light station in Wisconsin.  The original 1836 stone cottage and tower were replaced in 1858 by a magnificent lighthouse. Rock Island is a state park. A support group, Friends of Rock Island State Park, worked with the DNR to fund and manage the structure’s restoration.  FORI also coordinates the docent program.

It takes two ferries to reach Rock Island, which is off the tip of Door County—the first from the mainland to Washington Island, and a second from Washington to Rock. It’s well worth the trip.

Swans in Jackson Harbor, Washington Island; taken from the second ferry.

The restoration is magnificent, the setting is spectacular, and I love sharing lighthouse stories with visitors. Scott and I give tours from 10-4 each day. After that, things get pretty quiet.

After hours.

History, beautiful scenery, and long evenings…lets just say that for someone with an over-active imagination, like me, it didn’t take long for plot ideas to start swirling in my brain.

A month or so ago I submitted a proposal to my adult series publisher, Midnight Ink, suggesting that the third book in the series be set on Rock Island. I hadn’t heard anything by the time Scott and I left for our week-long stay. Just before getting on the first ferry—and going out of cell phone range—I checked email. A message from my agent was in my Inbox. Midnight Ink had given the lighthouse book a green light.

The book’s working title is Beyond Death’s Door. Death’s Door is the passage separating mainland Door County from Washington Island. As the name suggests, it’s treacherous.  While the ferry made it’s crossing that morning, I sent thank-you emails to my agent and editor from the middle of Death’s Door. It seemed appropriate.

So at some future date, in book 3, Chloe will be off to Rock Island. She’ll stay at the lighthouse, with no phone, in the off-season when few if any people are on the island. And while of course she’ll encounter murder and mayhem, I suspect she’ll love being there as much as I do.

Fresnel lens and view from the lantern room.

Update:  Book 3, now titled The Lightkeeper’s Legacy, will be out in autumn, 2012.

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3 Responses to “Beyond Death’s Door”

  1. Meg Justus Says:

    Ooh. Lucky you and lucky Chloe. Lighthouses are one of my many passions.

  2. Kathleen Ernst Says:

    Meg, I couldn’t agree more!

  3. Arletta Dawdy Says:

    Your agent and editor are very smart for you have hit on “a natural!”

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