Posted tagged ‘Michigan’

U.P. Authors Participate in First Annual Authors & Artists Day in Caspian, Michigan

July 14, 2014

July 10, 2014—Members of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association will be appearing at the Iron County Historical Museum’s Authors and Artists Day Event in Caspian on Saturday, July 19th. The historical museum’s first ever Authors and Artists Day Event will feature a wide variety of locally written books and other artisan crafts for sale, and artwork highlighting the LeBlanc & Giovanelli Galleries.


UP Authors, Deborah Frontiera (left), Gretchen Preston (right) and Karin Neumann, illustrator of the Valley Cats book series (center) at the Outback Art Fair, summer 2012.

U.P. native Tyler Tichelaar of Marquette will have available his many local history books including The Marquette Trilogy and My Marquette as well as his new historical fantasy novel, Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One.

Children’s author, Gretchen Preston, of Harvey, will showcase her Valley Cats series of beautifully illustrated local chapter books and their accompanying artwork. She will also have audio CDs to purchase of her first book.

Donna Winters, of Garden, and author of the Great Lakes Romances series, will autograph copies of her historical romances set in various locations around the U.P. and Lower Michigan. Donna will also be available to autograph her non-fiction titles: Adventures With Vinnie, the story of the U.P. shelter dog who taught her to expect the unexpected, and Picturing Fayette, a photo book of stunning views taken at the Fayette Historic Town site on the Garden Peninsula.

Bessemer’s Allen Wright will be on hand to sign copies of his new book, titled The Book, which explores the writing of the Old Testament, offering commentary, as well as pondering the reasons why the Bible was really written.

The Copper Country is represented by Deborah K. Frontiera. Deborah will bring a variety of books including: a children’s picture book set on Isle Royale; historical fiction for middle grade readers (and up) set in the Copper Country; a collection of historical photos by J. W. Nara; and a little “outside the box” young adult fantasy trilogy.

Join these U.P. authors in Caspian, Michigan at the Iron County Historical Museum from 1-4 p.m. Central time on July 19th. They will be happy to autograph and personalize purchased books for you. A portion of their proceeds will be donated back to the Iron County Historical Museum for its programming and other expenses.

Come find the next book on your summer reading list, the perfect holiday gift for a loved one, or your new favorite book! Rain or shine, you will find the authors and their books inside the museum waiting for you!

For more information about Authors and Artists Day, contact the Iron County Historical Museum at or (906) 265-2617. For more information about the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association, visit

July 15 2012 B

UP Authors Gretchen Preston (left), Donna Winters (center), and Tyler Tichelaar (right)

Lyla and Bel’s 4th of July

July 1, 2014

For this Independence Day holiday, I thought I would post one of the scenes from my novel The Best Place in which the main character Lyla Hopewell and her eccentric best friend, Bel, celebrate the holiday.


So on the Fourth of July, Bel comes over for breakfast, and I have to admit she tries really hard. I tell her when she gets there that I’m making scrambled eggs, but she says, “No, that ain’t festive enough for the Fourth of July.” Then she sticks in a video of this silly musical called 1776 that has that bad film look like most of those movies made in the ’60s and ’70s. And it seems like it’s all about Thomas Jefferson’s sex life from what little bit of it I actually pay attention to—and she tells me just to sit there and have my coffee and enjoy myself while she makes pancakes. So I says, “Okay,” to make her happy, and I drink two cups of coffee and pretend to watch half the movie, and I’m just about ready to keel over from hunger when she finally tells me she’s done.

So I drag myself out of the chair and go over to the table and I think, “What the hell did she bake a cake for?” Only, it’s not a cake. It’s a stack of pancakes, and she’s covered the top one in strawberry and blueberry jam and whipping cream so it looks all red, white, and blue, and then she’s got a little American flag on a toothpick attached to it. “I wanted to put in a sparkler,” she says, “but I was afraid it would set off the fire alarm, and I didn’t think we’d use a whole box of them—they don’t sell them separately,” she says.

The Best Place - the story of two women who grew up in Marquette's Holy Family Orphanage and their lifelong friendship.

The Best Place – the story of two women who grew up in Marquette’s Holy Family Orphanage and their lifelong friendship.

“It’s pretty, Bel,” I says, “but I don’t like whipping cream, you know.”

“That’s okay. I’ll eat the top one—oh, I forgot the candle I bought to replace the sparkler.”

And then she grabs two giant birthday candles off the cupboard of the numbers “7” and “6.” They’re the same ones she used for my birthday cake last year.

“What’s that for?” I asks.

“It’s America’s birthday today,” she says. “It’s the Spirit of ’76. Don’t you remember that from history class?”

I remember birthday cakes have candles to represent a person’s age, not the year they were born, but I s’pose she couldn’t do the math to figure it out—two hundred and…and…twenty-nine it would be—2005 minus 1776.

“Let’s eat,” I says, but first I have to use the bathroom from drinking all that coffee while I waited.

I go in the bathroom and sit down, and can’t help laughing to myself about the pancakes covered in jam with “76” sticking out of them. That’d be one to take a picture of if my Kodak disc camera hadn’t broken. I haven’t bought a new one—those new digital things are just too expensive as far as I’m concerned. And I don’t have a computer to read them on.

Well, we have a nice breakfast. I eat far more pancakes than I normally would, but Bel says we need to eat extra to keep up our strength for walking to the parade. It’s on Washington Street, just two blocks from Snowberry, but whatever.

After breakfast, I wash up the dishes while she watches the rest of 1776. For the rest of the day, I’ll hear her humming that song about Jefferson playing the violin.

“We can watch Yankee Doodle Dandy tonight, Lyla,” she says.

“Great,” I think, but I just says, “Okay.” Maybe I’ll be lucky and fall asleep by then.

“While we wait for the fireworks,” she says.

I’d forgotten about the fireworks, but I can see them great where they shoot them off over the old ore dock right from my window. It’s one of the few advantages of living high up in a skyscraper—well, at least the closest thing to a skyscraper that Marquette’s got.

When it’s time for the parade, we put on suntan lotion at Bel’s insistence, and we get out our old lady straw hats, and then we take the elevator down to the lobby. We go out into the parking lot to Bel’s car where she’s got a couple fold-up lawn chairs in her trunk. Then we start up the hill to Washington Street, a bit before the crowd, so we can get a spot in the shade, usually in front of the buildings on the south side of the street between Fourth and Fifth.

We find a good shady spot, right next to a little tree and where we can see up Washington Street where the parade will come down. There aren’t any kids nearby to run in the street and grab candy and get on my nerves, so that’s a good sign, though it’s a good half hour before the parade will start down by Shopko, and probably another half hour after that before it’ll get to where we are downtown.

At least we’re in the shade so I don’t have to listen to Bel complaining about the heat, though it’s turning out to be a hot summer, which I can do without. No true Yooper likes hot weather—anything over seventy degrees and I start sweating, and when you spend your life walking back and forth to work and working on your feet all day, it doesn’t take much to get you sweating. I’m sweating just from the walk up the hill to here.

I guess a lot of other people must not like hot weather either considering all the guys walking around with their shirts off and the girls in their skimpy shorts and those tank top things that show off their cleavage—well, I’d like to think it was because they don’t like to sweat, but I know better. Bunch of tramps is what we would have called these girls in my day. And the guys, they look like babies mostly, they’re so young. I admit some of them might be good-looking, but they spoil their looks with all those God-awful tattoos. I can see maybe having one on your arm, but not on your back, chest, and especially on your neck. Just makes me want to puke. And then there are the young teenage boys riding around on their bikes, trying to attract the “chicks,” but mostly just making asses out of themselves—only the tramps they’ll attract are too stupid to know they’re asses. “Male sluts—that’s what they are,” I mutter to myself as a trio of them go by, trying to do wheelies for whatever girls might be in the crowd.

“What?” Bel asks.

“Oh, nothing. I just don’t understand the younger generation,” I says.

“Oh, Lyla, how could you? You never were young yourself.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asks.

“Here, have your Diet Coke before it gets too warm,” she says, pulling two drinks out of her gigantic purse.

I take the pop and crack the cap just enough to let the fizz out so it doesn’t explode. I’m not going to ask her again what she means by my never having been young. I was young until I was about ten, but I was never the age of those teenage boys on their bicycles. I never had the freedom to be young like that. I was milking cows at the orphanage and then taking care of two old ladies, and then taking care of a store, an old man, and a woman with a baby and a drunken husband all my teen years. By the time I turned eighteen, I was on my own again, and had my own apartment, but I was busy working constantly so I’d have enough to pay the rent. I had plenty of guys around my age who would try to hit on me when I walked around town, but I just ignored them, and I never went to the bars or anything—I saw what marriage did to people—my father abandoned my mother, or at least that’s what we all thought, and I’m sure her heartbreak over that contributed to her death, and then Bel married an alcoholic who beat her, not to mention she lost her child. Why would I want to go through that pain? And then there were the rich ladies I cleaned house for, always fussing over their rich husbands who brought home the bacon, and most of them were scared of their husbands too. What the hell did I want with that kind of a life?

Finally, we see the cop cars starting to come down the street—a sign that the parade is about to start.


Find out what happens next in The Best Place, available at

An Interview about my new novel “The Best Place”

October 17, 2013

In case you missed it, I’m reposting the interview I had about my new novel The Best Place with Susan Violante of Reader Views:

Interview with Tyler R. Tichelaar for “The Best Place”

Today, Susan Violante of Reader Views is pleased to interview Tyler R. Tichelaar, who is here to talk about his new novel “The Best Place.”

tylerTyler R. Tichelaar, seventh generation Marquette resident, has a Ph.D. in Literature from Western Michigan University, and Bachelor and Master’s Degrees from Northern Michigan University. Tyler is President of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association. He is the owner of Superior Book Promotions, a professional editing service. Tyler lives in Marquette, Michigan where the roar of Lake Superior, mountains of snow, and sandstone architecture inspire his writing. To date, he has written seven novels set in the Marquette area, including “The Marquette Trilogy,” and the non-fiction history book “My Marquette.” He is also the author of two volumes of literary criticism—“The Gothic Wanderer” and “King Arthur’s Children”—and an upcoming series about King Arthur and his descendants.

Susan: Welcome, Tyler. Wow, seven novels now and they’re all set in Marquette, Michigan. How do you find so much material in one town and how is this novel different from the others?

Tyler: Thanks, Susan. I’m surprised too, but when you consider Marquette was founded in 1849 and how many people have lived there over the course of all those years and my novels span different parts of the city’s history, there’s no end of possibilities for novels, and often, a minor character in a novel catches my attention, making me want to explore that character more and make him or her the main character in another book. That’s the case with “The Best Place.” The character Lyla, who previously had brief appearances in my novels “The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Two” and “Narrow Lives” deserved her own novel.

Susan: So what about Lyla made you decide she deserved her own book?

Tyler: I didn’t decide it really. She insisted I tell her story. I set out to write a very different book that would have been more about the characters of Alan, Sybil, and Diana, but they all got pushed to the sidelines. Somehow, Lyla decided the next book would be about her even though her story didn’t have much to do with theirs at first, but she kept barging in, demanding I tell her story, until there wasn’t room for much of the other characters’ stories any longer. It took a long time to sort it out, trying to decide whether to write in third person or have multiple narrators, but I finally gave in and let Lyla tell the whole story because her story really is fascinating, beginning with her childhood and how she ends up growing up in Marquette’s Holy Family Orphanage.

Susan: And what was it like for her growing up in the orphanage?

Tyler: Well, it was a lot rougher than it was for Little Orphan Annie. Unlike Annie, no Daddy Warbucks comes to rescue Lyla from the orphanage. Oddly, I didn’t reference that comic strip in the book, but I’m sure Lyla would have just laughed at it. Lyla is pretty bitter as the result of her orphanage experience. Her father left the family when she was five years old. He was a Finnish American who decided to leave the U.S. during the Great Depression to go to Karelia, a Finnish province under Communist Russia’s control. It’s not a well-known part of history today, but many Finnish Americans left the United States to live in Karelia during the Great Depression, believing America had failed them and that Communism was better. Most of those people realized their mistake only when it was too late. Most families also migrated together, but Lyla’s father goes ahead of his family, planning to send for them later, only they never hear from him again for reasons they don’t know but can imagine are not pleasant. Then when Lyla is ten, her mother dies. Her only sister, Jessie, gets adopted by her piano teacher, Miss Bergmann, but for reasons Lyla never understands, Miss Bergmann doesn’t adopt Lyla. And even though Lyla was raised as a Finnish Lutheran, she’s placed in the Catholic orphanage and ultimately grows up to be Catholic, with mixed feelings about her religion as a result.

Susan: That’s really fascinating about Finnish Americans going to Russia, and you said that’s all historical, but what about the orphanage itself? What kind of historical detail did you need to include there?

TheBestPlaceTyler: I read a lot of newspaper articles and did research online about the Holy Family Orphanage in Marquette. There are still people alive who were raised in it. It opened its doors in 1915 and closed them in the 1960s. Today it’s an abandoned building and the city keeps threatening to tear it down. It’s also rumored to be haunted. Only a small part of the novel takes place at the orphanage, but I did enough research to get an idea of what it looked like inside, how it was laid out, what the daily regimen of the orphans would have been around 1938-1942, the years Lyla lived there, even to their helping to raise farm animals. Since Lyla goes there at age ten and the orphans all had to leave at age fourteen, the scenes there are limited, but the effects of being raised there and feeling unwanted haunt Lyla all her life. At fourteen, the orphans were sent out to work, so Lyla’s work career begins then when she goes to be housekeeper to two elderly ladies.

Susan: What do you think the orphanage means to the people of Marquette today?

Tyler: I think it was a very sad place for everyone. Various interviews I’ve read or people I’ve talked to vary in their reports of what life was like there. I’ve even read separate interviews by the same person that come off as positive and negative. It’s clear that the community supported the orphanage and the local businesses and community did a lot to help the orphans have nice Christmases, but that’s still not the same as being raised by loving parents. Also, in those days families often could not afford to support all their children so even if you had parents, you might end up there until the family could afford to feed you and take you back—Marquette also had a poor house, but this was more a poor house for children. As a result, some children grew up there from infancy, while others might only be there for a short time. The building itself—it’s on the front cover of the novel—is a large institutional, cold looking building. We all know how tough Catholic nuns supposedly were, but I think the important thing is not to make generalizations. Lyla is very unhappy at the orphanage. She has a negative attitude about most things, however, so it’s important to remember her opinion of the orphanage is solely her opinion. Lyla’s best friend, Bel, grew up with her at the orphanage, but she mostly has happy memories of living there. People simply have different perspectives, and it’s the same here today—many want the building saved, turned into an art school or condominium or something useful, while others think it’s an eyesore that should be torn down. Myself, I think the loss of any old building is sad, especially a place like the Holy Family Orphanage that served thousands of children. It deserves a happy ending. I should note, though, that it is not “the best place” of the book’s title. You’ll have to read the book to find out where “the best place” is.

Susan: So the book is then Lyla’s entire life story since you mention she becomes a housekeeper?

Tyler: Yes, it tells her story throughout her life, ending in the summer of 2005 when she’s seventy-seven and several events in her life come together, making her think back on her life and reassess her story and come to new realizations about it.

Susan: Why did you end the story in the year 2005 rather than some other year?

Tyler: I mentioned that Lyla’s father is Finnish, but you’ll notice her last name is Hopewell. Once her husband supposedly abandoned her, Lyla’s mother was ashamed that she had been married to a Communist, so she changed their name back to her maiden name. So Lyla grows up not knowing anything about her Finnish heritage. But every year Finn Fest is held somewhere in the United States, and in 2005 it was held in Marquette, so I decided it would be appropriate and fun for Lyla to attend the 2005 Finn Fest—a celebration of all things Finnish—as a way to get in touch with her past.

Susan: 2005 is pretty recent, so does that make the book a departure from your usual historical fiction?

Tyler: No, because Lyla keeps thinking back on her past, which includes living in the orphanage during the Great Depression, her life during World War II, etc. And even setting a novel in 2005 is writing historical fiction. I knew in 2005 that Finn Fest would be a great event to include in a novel so I kept all the articles and brochures from it at the time. Not being Finnish myself, I didn’t actually attend Finn Fest (now I wish I had), but the research I did was enough to create a believable scene around it in the novel. And this book was in my head from at least 2006, but it didn’t all get sorted out so that Lyla took over until a couple of years ago. Even so, I had to keep checking details, and trying to remember what Marquette was like in 2005. Since I was writing historical fiction, I decided to focus also on how Marquette has changed since then so I chose restaurants and other businesses that no longer are around to capture what Marquette was like in 2005—to create a kind of summer 2005 time capsule for Marquette in the novel’s pages. One of my favorite places I mentioned was The Pancake House, which was a short-lived restaurant in Marquette, but it was open all night and offered free cab rides there. My character, Sybil, who briefly appeared in my novel “Spirit of the North” ends up being a cab driver and taking Lyla and Bel out for pancakes at night.

Susan: You mentioned Lyla appeared in previous books and also Sybil. Why do you like to keep reintroducing your characters, and for those who’ve read your other books, are there any other characters in “The Best Place” that they may like meeting again?

Tyler: First, let me say that with the exception of the three books that make up The Marquette Trilogy, which should be read in order, all my novels can be read individually and in any order. People who haven’t read my previous novels won’t miss out on anything if they read “The Best Place” first, but if you’ve read my other novels, you’ll find many people reappearing, some of whom are well-known characters, others who barely appeared in more than one scene. For example, in this novel Mr. Newman is an elderly man. In my first novel, “Iron Pioneers,” he is part of the boating party when Madeleine Henning supposedly drowns in 1876. His name is Matthew in that book, and I didn’t give him a last name, but over the years, he’s developed in my mind until he appears in this novel with a last name. In fact, I’m toying with writing an entire novel about him down the road.

More familiar characters in this novel include the Whitman family who appeared in my trilogy, including Bill Whitman who turns out to be Lyla’s ex-boyfriend and his sister Eleanor, now ninety-three and still trying to get Bill and Lyla back together nineteen years after they broke up.

What turned out to be the most fun for me is to reintroduce John and Wendy who appear at the end of the trilogy. John is a character who is largely based on me in that novel, but in this novel, set six years after the trilogy ended, we can see him as a husband and father, something I’ve never been—I’m too married to writing and my books are my children—but I’ve had a lot of fun imagining what it would be like to be a husband and father through how I’ve depicted John. So in a way, those who read The Marquette Trilogy can see “The Best Place” as a bit of a follow-up to that series. Others who reappear are Bill’s son Alan, John’s college roommate Frank, and Scofield Blackmore, who appeared in my novel “Narrow Lives.”

Susan: The book is also very funny. Would you share with us a funny passage from it?

Tyler: I’d love to. One of my favorite passages is the first time Lyla and her best friend Bel go to eat at The Pancake House the first time in the novel. Here’s a bit of their conversation:

The Pancake House is our favorite restaurant and everyone there knows our names. It’s about the only place in Marquette to get breakfast other than Tommy’s since the Big Boy burnt down. I guess they’re going to rebuild the Big Boy, but they’re sure taking their sweet time about it.

After we place our order—pancakes for her, she always gets pancakes, while I usually get eggs and sausage—she says, “So, what are you doing tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” I says. “Why?”

I hate the “So, what are you doing tomorrow?” question. It’s so unfair. I know it means that she wants something and isn’t just asking because she’s interested in what I’ll be doing. When she pulls that, I don’t know whether to tell her what I’m doing, or to admit I’m not doing nothing, or to come up with some fake things I’m doing just so I don’t have to do whatever it is she’s holding back on telling me she wants me to do, but I can’t tell her I’m doing such important things that I can’t cancel them without being caught in a lie if I do want to do what she wants me to do. I should probably just tell her to quit asking me that unfair question, but if I tried to explain to her what’s wrong with it, she wouldn’t get it anyways. Like I said, she’s got a bit of a screw loose sometimes.

“I was hoping,” she says, “that maybe you’d go to my doctor’s appointment with me.”

“Yeah, I can do that,” I says. See, why couldn’t she have saved the “What are you doing tomorrow question?” and just asked me if I’d go with her to her doctor’s appointment? I mean, I’ve gone to doctor’s appointments with her lots of times and never complained about it, so what’s the big deal?

“It’s at eight in the morning,” she says. “I hope that’s not too early. We can go out for breakfast after. It’ll only be an hour at most.”

“Eight a.m.?” I groan. There’s another morning where I won’t get my coffee. Not that I can’t get up to have coffee a little early. It’s just, I don’t feel right if I don’t have a bowel movement in the morning, and I can’t seem to have one unless I have two cups of coffee first, and I know my body isn’t going to be up to doing that before eight o’clock no matter how many cups of coffee I have.

She doesn’t reply to my moan. I guess she’s distracted thinking about her doctor’s appointment. I don’t ask her why she’s going. I’ll find out soon enough tomorrow when we get there. I focus on drinking my coffee. Then it hits me.

“Bel, you told me on Saturday that you had to go to the doctor on Wednesday.”

“I do,” she says.

“But tomorrow is Tuesday.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yeah it is. It’s Memorial Day today.”

“Yeah, it’s Tuesday and tomorrow is Wednesday,” she says.

“Bel, Memorial Day is always on a Monday.”

“Oh, I forgot,” she says, looking kind of pale like she’s embarrassed. She’s done a lot of stupid things in her life but I never saw her look embarrassed like that before.

“So is your appointment Wednesday or Tuesday?”

“It’s Wednesday. I told you that before.”

If I hadn’t just had another cup of coffee, I’d be seeing red now. She’s so looney she’s starting to confuse me.


Susan: Lyla’s best friend Bel is a recovering alcoholic and there are references to the Twelve Steps and other recovery groups in the book. Is she inspired by anyone you know?

Tyler: No, Bel is completely fictional. It’s hard to remember how she evolved as a character. I will say that there’s a revelation about her character toward the end of the book that surprised me a great deal. I didn’t know that was going to happen. But Bel first appeared in a minor scene in “Narrow Lives” where she’s sitting in a bar with Lyla and kind of drunk. That led to my depicting her as an alcoholic. I also saw the film “The Lois Wilson Story” when it was on TV’s Hallmark Hall of Fame a few years ago, about the wife of the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. That made me interested in creating a woman’s group in the novel, sort of a support group. I don’t depict any AA meetings in the novel, though Bel says she goes to them, but by creating more of a general women’s support group, I was able to have her drag Lyla along, which results in some interesting turns of events in the novel. I also did research on and already knew a lot about Twelve Step programs from having edited so many self-help books, so I drew that into the story, although I did not model the women’s group in the novel after any specific program.

Susan: That brings me to wanting to bring up who you dedicated the book to, someone very special I understand?

Tyler: Yes, Susan, our former boss and colleague, Irene Watson, who founded Reader Views. A lot of what I know about codependency, dysfunction, etc. I learned from working with Irene. I had the privilege of editing her books “The Sitting Swing” and “Rewriting Life Scripts” and learning a lot about recovery from her. Irene was always blogging about self-help and recovery issues. She also was very supportive of self-published authors, having founded Reader Views as a book review service that grew into a publicity service because she couldn’t get reviews for her own book. Sadly, Irene lost her battle with cancer on November 3, 2012. But her positive energy and desire to help people be well and freed from the dysfunctional cycles they were caught in made me decide to dedicate the book to her. I’m sure she would have understood Lyla and cheered her on during her journey.

Susan: Why should readers care about Lyla’s story if they’re not senior citizens like her, or Finnish, or have never been an orphan?

Tyler: Like I said, I’m not Finnish, I’m not female, and I’m not seventy-seven years old, but I think some of Lyla is in all of us. The book is told in first person so we’re constantly in her thoughts, and she thinks things that I think many of us would like to say, and in a sarcastic manner that I personally think can be quite hilarious—and my readers so far have agreed with me—but I think most importantly, her desire just to be loved, her self-esteem issues, her desire for meaningful relationships, and her attempts to connect with her roots and make amends to those she’s hurt or been hurt by all are issues and parts of life we can all relate to. I think we all want to feel important, valued, and connected to others. It’s kind of like what Lyla comes to realize when she’s at Finn Fest: “Finally, when the ceremonies are all done, the crowd claps and cheers, and I get that same feeling I had the day before, that we’re all connected, we’re all one big happy Finnish family, even though some of us may be Catholic rather than Lutheran, or have English or French Canadian or German or Norwegian or Swedish blood mixed up in us.” In other words, we’re all human, and “The Best Place” is a very human story.

Susan: Well said, Tyler. Before we go will you tell us about your website and what additional information we can find there about “The Best Place” and your other novels?

Tyler: Sure. My website is and it’s full of information about my novels and Marquette’s history, including a timeline of Marquette history, some fun quizzes to help you determine which of my characters you’re most like, a page of my character’s family trees, and upcoming events I’ll be at. You’ll also find links there to other Upper Michigan authors’ websites, as well as to my other websites and Stay tuned for my King Arthur book series coming soon, and thank you again, Susan, for the opportunity to talk about my new book.

Susan: You definitely have a very active website, Tyler. Thank you again for the interview. I wish you all the best with “The Best Place.”


Celebrating the Model A with Henry Ford

June 15, 2012

Next week, the Model A Ford Club of America will be celebrating the Model A in Upper Michigan. For the entire list of events, visit the club’s website at

One of the club’s members, Guy Forstrom, published a fascinating book last year about Henry Ford, the inventor of the Model A, and one of his famous camping trips to the Upper Peninsula along with Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and their wives. Below is the review I wrote for the book which was published in the Marquette Monthly in January 2012 and is reprinted here with permission:

Camping in Cloverland with Henry Ford by Guy Forstrom

Camping in Cloverland with Henry Ford

By Guy Forstrom

In 1923, Henry Ford made a historic tour of Upper Michigan, accompanied by Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, their three wives, servants, and the crew of Ford’s luxurious yacht, the Sialia. Among the places the party visited were Iron Mountain, Michigamme, L’Anse, and Pequaming. They traveled by automobile and yacht.

Guy Forstrom, a resident of Iron Mountain, one of the places Ford visited in 1923, has written several articles for national car club magazines on Henry Ford. To compile Camping in Cloverland with Henry Ford, Forstrom spent considerable time researching the Ford camping trip and tracking down nearly every mention of it in the Upper Peninsula papers, all of which he reproduces here along with about forty images of Ford, Edison, and Firestone’s famous visit. The story is beautifully presented with the text laid out to look like the original newspaper stories while the photographs fill 8.5 x 11 pages, bringing the people and places to life for the reader.

The celebrity of Henry Ford in 1923 was at an all time high and readers will be fascinated by all the buzz the visit generated in the press. Ford was repeatedly asked that summer whether he would run for President of the United States, and at one point, he even hailed a hero for putting out a fire in Michigamme. He was followed about whether he was visiting one of his business interests or just relaxing.

Mrs. Ford also received her fair share of attention from the press when she visited Michigamme; a group of girls and women from neighboring camp Cha Ton Ka—among the many seeking autographs of the famous people—were scolded by Mrs. Ford for dressing in overalls and rolled down stockings; the women of Michigamme thanked Mrs. Ford for her attitude and assured her those women were outsiders to the village.

During the visit, Thomas Edison came down with a slight cold, but soon, the press was exaggerating his illness. Inquiries by phone came to the U.P. from New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and other cities for information about Mr. Edison’s health. Across the state and as far away as Detroit, rumors spread that Edison had died, but truthfully, he had quickly recovered from his cold.

Beyond being an interesting study in early celebrities and their depiction in the press, Camping in Cloverland is a true camping treat because Henry Ford knew how to camp in style. Although he and his companions had plenty of publicity photos taken of them camping in tents, much of the camping trip was spent in buildings, and frequently, on Ford’s fabulous yacht, the Sialia (with its crew of thirty); an interior photo of this luxurious boat is included in the book.

Anyone who is fascinated by Henry Ford or his companions, who wants to learn about early U.P. industries—particularly the automobile and sawmill industries—or who simply wonders what it would have been like to be famous in 1923 will enjoy reading Camping in Cloverland and viewing its historic photographs. In addition, each copy of the book comes with a free photo of Ford, Edison, and Firestone, with Ford and Firestone sporting cowboy hats, cigarettes and pistols.

Next to actually camping with Henry Ford, reading this book is the next best thing.

For more information about the book and Guy Forstrom, visit


Hampson Gregory – “The Man who Made Marquette Beautiful”

May 2, 2012

The following post is taken from my book My Marquette:

The Hampson Gregory Home

The Hampson Gregory Home

This home (at 301 N. Fourth St. in Marquette) belonged to Hampson Gregory, a local architect and builder whom The Mining Journal said was the man more than any other who was responsible for building Marquette. Gregory was born in Devonshire, England in 1834. He and his family migrated to Canada and then arrived in Marquette in 1867. He frequently worked with sandstone, and many of his buildings reflect the style of English architecture common in his native Devonshire and neighboring Cornwall, England.

Among the buildings Gregory built were:

The Adams Home 200 E. Ridge

The Rankin Home 219 E. Ridge

The Merritt Home at 410 E. Ridge

The Call Home 450 E. Ridge

The Pickands Home 455 E. Ridge

The Hornbogen Home 212 E. Arch

The Read Home 425 E. Arch

The Powell Home 224 E. Michigan

The Ely Home at 135 W. Bluff

St. Mary’s Hospital (the original building, no longer there)

St. Peter’s Cathedral, prior to the 1935 fire

The first high school on Ridge Street, burnt in 1889

The Harlow Block on Washington Street

The Gregory Block on Washington Street (no longer there)

The Pickands Home - one of Hampson Gregory's masterpieces

The Pickands Home – one of Hampson Gregory’s masterpieces

Iron Bay Foundry on the corner of Lake and Washington, later to be the LS&I office

The First Methodist Church – (the foundation only)

The People’s State Bank in Munising, Michigan

One of his finest homes, the Merritt home, introduced Gregory to the Merritt family, and later his daughter, Clara would marry C.H. Merritt. The First Methodist Church has a memorial stained glass window to the Gregory family’s memory. Hampson Gregory died in 1922 and is buried in Park Cemetery. Today, nearly a century after his death, Gregory’s true memorial is the many homes and public buildings he built and which still stand today. The Mining Journal was correct—he remains one of the men most responsible for building Marquette.

Find out more about Hampson Gregory’s legacy in Marquette in My Marquette.

Appreciating My French Canadian Ancestors

February 17, 2011

I recently visited the exhibit about Canadians in the Upper Peninsula at the Beaumier Heritage Center in the Cohodas Building at Northern Michigan University. It’s well worth a visit to come to a better understanding of our Canadian neighbors, and it is clear many of us have roots in Canada, either reaching far back, or just an ancestor who travelled through Canada before coming to Europe. I have numerous ancestors on both sides of my family who came through Canada, including Irish, Scottish, Swiss, and French Canadian ancestors, and even some who were from New England, moved to Nova Scotia, then later came to Michigan.

Here is the section from My Marquette about my father’s side of the family, which includes my French Canadian ancestry and how that influenced the creation of some characters in The Marquette Trilogy:

The Bertrand and Tichelaar Family Branches

            One other family is mentioned in Iron Pioneers, the French-Canadian Varin family. The influence of French-Canadians in Upper Michigan could not be overlooked, and while my father’s family is not from Marquette, they are French-Canadian long-term residents of Upper Michigan. In Iron Pioneers, the first fictional character to appear is Pierre Varin, a voyageur traveling with Father Marquette. He is later the ancestor of Jean Varin, husband of Suzanne Varin, who comes to Marquette in the 1850s.

My paternal grandmother was Harriet Bertrand, and her French-Canadian ancestors had been in Montreal since the 1600s and in Menominee, Michigan since the 1880s. In fact, the name Varin is among my ancestral surnames, but a few generations earlier than my grandmother. While my mother’s family has the long history with Marquette, my father’s family has a far longer history in the Great Lakes region. My most notable paternal ancestor was the famous explorer and Governor of the Wisconsin Territories, Nicolas Perrot. Consequently, I created an early voyageur character in Pierre Varin, and then reintroduced the Varin family to Marquette. I chose to have Jean Varin die in the Civil War so Suzanne could marry Lucius Brookfield, as my ancestor Basil Bishop had remarried a younger woman after his wife’s death, although Basil’s second wife was in her early sixties at the time, not a young twenty-something. Suzanne’s family moves away from Marquette to Wisconsin, but over time her descendants move back to Michigan, and one descendant, Marie Varin, marries a Dutch immigrant named Vandelaare. My Grandpa Tichelaar was a Dutch immigrant, and so consequently, I connected a fictional version of my father’s family into The Marquette Trilogy when Tom Vandelaare, son of Marie Varin and her Dutch husband, marries Ellen Whitman, daughter of Henry and Beth Whitman.


Needless to say, French Canadians had a huge influence on the building of America. Nicholas Perrot, my most noteworthy French Canadian ancestor had countless descendants, and if you are one of his relatives, you may be interested in the society for his descendants:

French Canadians descendants have spread across the world. Another fascinating example is my ancestor Jean Guyon (1592-1663), one of the first settlers in Quebec. Not only is Jean Guyon my ancestor, but he is also the ancestor to Hilary Clinton, Alanis Morrisette, Celine Dion, Angelina Jolie, and Camilla Parker-Bowles the Duchess of Cornwall. Here is one story about their relationships:

Our Canadian neighbors have given us much to be grateful for in the building of the United States. In future posts, I’ll mention some of my other Canadian roots.

Paul Bunyan and the Black Rocks

December 13, 2010

The Queen City, The Marquette Trilogy: Book Two

The winter storm we’ve been having the last few days reminds me of another storm just before the holidays that I had one of my characters, the logger Karl Bergmann, tell in the second book of my Marquette Trilogy, The Queen City, so I am posting it here for those of you who enjoy tall tales about Paul Bunyan.

For those interested in more Paul Bunyan stories, I will publish another in my novel Spirit of the North, which will be published in 2011 or early 2012. In the meantime, while many books have been published of Paul Bunyan stories, the two best I have found, that firmly plant him in Upper Michigan are Marquette author James Cloyd Bowman’s The Adventures of Paul Bunyan and Stan Newton’s Paul Bunyan of the Great Lakes. (We find out Paul was born in Marquette of all places, and despite Minnesota and Maine and even Saginaw, Michigan’s claims he is their native son.)


            “This happened many years ago,” Karl began, “when I first started out as a lumberjack and Ben and I had just become partners. Let me tell you, my pal Ben was about the best logger I ever saw. He had arms thick and strong as jackpines. You’d almost think he was a jackpine himself, he was so tall and sturdy. He could hack down more trees in a day than you would have time to count.”

            “Yes, he could,” Frank said. “I remember him.”

            “He wasn’t as strong as you though, was he, Uncle Karl?” asked Jeremy. Despite the good-natured ribbing of his uncle, Jeremy did not idolize any man as much as Uncle Karl, not even his own father.

            “Well, to be honest with you,” Karl said, “Ben’s the only man who ever laid me flat on my back. For years we wondered who was stronger, until one day we decided to arm wrestle; we strained for a good hour until Ben slammed my arm down, clear right through the table, knocking me clean on the ground. I never would have crossed him after that, not that I ever had reason to because he was the best tempered man I ever knew.”

            “But what about Paul Bunyan?” asked Michael.

            “Well, as I was saying, my friend Ben and I were the most successful loggers in the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan save for Paul Bunyan. Sometimes we thought Paul would put us clean out of business, but when he realized what good folks Ben and I was, we all became friends, and he would give us hints on how to cut down trees all the faster.

            “Anyway, one year about Christmas time, Ben and I were coming up here to Marquette to visit. We were riding through the woods in our sleigh on the road from L’anse when who did we happen upon but Paul Bunyan and his Big Blue Ox, Babe. They were just walking along the road although the snow was already piled up in drifts. They thought nothing about a little snow. Paul Bunyan could step over the snowbanks as you and I would step over an ant mound. Paul said he was walking to Marquette all the way from Ontonagon, a walk he could usually do in two hours because his legs were so long and his strides so big. Well, Ben and I offered him a ride, only he said he’d never fit in the sleigh, he was so big, and we didn’t want to risk him breaking it, so we continued along the road and he walked beside us in his snowshoes, but even with our horses going at a swift trot, we could barely keep up with him.

            “Then, a fierce blizzard sprang up, and before we knew it, we were lost in that blustery storm. Even Paul Bunyan could not walk in that nasty weather. We couldn’t see an inch ahead of us, and pretty soon we didn’t know where the horses were pulling the sleigh, but we figured we were off the trail. Not all the forest trees could protect us from those chilling gusts. The wind was so loud we could barely yell over it, and when Paul claimed he could hear Lake Superior’s waves pounding, we got scared that we might walk plumb into the lake. Not wanting to risk the danger, we decided to stop for the night.

            “We found a sturdy clump of trees all sprung up together to break the wind for us. Then Paul took his ax, and in half a minute, he had half a dozen trees chopped down and split into boards to make a lean-to. If we’d had a few nails, we could have had ourselves a real comfortable little cabin.

            “So we went inside our little shelter, and tried to stay warm throughout the storm. Wasn’t too hard because Paul had on two flannel shirts, so he loaned one to me and Ben to use as a blanket–he was so big his shirts could have made a tent with room left over for a pair of curtains. We weren’t worried about no wild animals bothering us out in the wild ’cause Babe slept right there in the shelter with us, and that ox has a fierce temper when it’s angry. Even without Babe, we wouldn’t have had to worry because Paul snores just like a bear growls, only a might bit louder. But we’d had such a hard long ride from the Keweenaw in all that blinding snow that we napped right well that night, even with Paul and Babe snoring. I only remember waking up once that night, and then I peeked outside and saw nothing but sheer white. Since the storm was still raging, I cuddled back under Paul’s giant shirt and went back to sleep. The next time I woke was a full day later, and again I saw the snow still pouring down, and again I went back to sleep. And the next day, the snow was still raging, only that time I could hear the wind blowing fierce, so I didn’t even bother to look outside but just rolled over and kept my eyes closed.”

            “How’d you know how many days had passed?” asked Michael.

            “Shh,” Jeremy shushed his brother. “Don’t interrupt.”

            “Well, I lost track of how many days we were actually there. But when I finally did wake up and stayed awake, a crack of light was peering into our shelter, and the snow had piled up, foot after foot all around us. We were lucky the storm stopped when it did, or we might all have been buried under the snow and not been found until spring. Why half the trees were bent over to the ground from the weight of the snow, and the drifts were so thick and wet, it was impossible to walk through them.

            “‘It’ll be May before all this snow melts and we can travel again,’ Ben said.

            “‘Not even our sleigh could make it through this mess,’ I agreed.

            “But Paul just looked about him, thinking and thinking and not saying a word.

            “‘I’m starving,’ I said, and that’s how I knew we had been there for several days. I was so hungry I could have eaten an ox.

            “‘But we can’t stay here,’ said Ben. ‘We’ll starve to death if we do ’cause there’s nothing here to eat but snow.’

            “‘Not even a deer,’ I replied.

            “‘And if there was a deer,’ Ben said, ‘we ain’t got a gun to shoot it with.’

            “But Paul was still silent. He just thought and thought, and we stared at him until we thought maybe the cold had frozen him in place. Then we noticed a little tear starting down his cheek, and in a second, it turned into a footlong icicle.

            “‘He’s crying from fear of starvation,’ Ben whispered to me.

            “Neither of us could believe it. Paul Bunyan was the biggest, strongest, bravest, most courageous fellow anyone could ever meet, but here he was crying ’cause he feared starving.

            “‘It’s all right, Paul,’ I told him. ‘We’ll get by somehow.’

            “‘We can always eat the horses if we have to,’ said Ben.

            “But Paul just kept crying and letting those tears turn into icicles. He was such a big man he must have had a tremendous size heart, and a tender one too I guess. Maybe he pitied others who were weaker than him. I don’t know. He never would have killed a deer though, even though up here is big hunting country. We figured maybe he was crying now over having to slaughter our poor horses.

            “‘We gotta eat, Paul,’ Ben told him.

            “‘I know,’ Paul sighed.

            “‘Those horses are our only chance of surviving the winter,’ I said.

            “‘No, we won’t eat the horses,’ he said, wiping the icicles from his eyes. ‘We’ll eat Babe instead.’

            “‘BABE!!!’ Ben and I exclaimed together. Babe was Paul’s best friend. We could never consent to eating him. Paul’s heart would wither away and break if we were to do such a thing.

            “‘Not Babe,’ we told him. ‘We’d rather starve, Paul.’

            “But Paul was looking deep into Babe’s big blue eyes now, and Babe seemed to understand what he was thinking. Babe rolled his eyes sadly at Paul. Paul scratched his ears and rubbed Babe’s nose. I doubt I’ll ever again see such love between a man and his beast as there was between Paul and that Big Blue Ox.

            “‘Paul,’ Ben and I said, ‘you just can’t do it.’

            “‘It’s all right,’ he said, after blowing his nose. ‘I know a trick an Indian medicine man taught me. I saved this medicine man once from a grizzly bear, and in exchange, he enchanted Babe. See, Babe can be eaten once, and so long as we only eat the meat and don’t break the bones, then there won’t be no trouble. After we’re done eating, I can just say a spell and cast some snow over the bones and Babe will come back alive like new.’

            “‘But Paul,’ said I. ‘What if it don’t work? What if the medicine man lied to you?’

            “‘He wouldn’t have done that,’ Paul said. ‘He was grateful for my saving his life.’

            “‘But what if–’ Ben tried to protest, but Paul hushed us both, saying nothing else was to be done, and it would all go well. Babe didn’t look so sure, but he loved Paul so well, he gladly laid down his life for his friend.

            “‘Now I’ll do the deed,’ Paul said, ‘but you and Ben are going to have to cut down some trees and make a clearing where we can roast the meat.’

            “Ben and I willingly left the shelter. We cut down a few trees that were not in the path of the wind so they did not shelter us. Then we dug down with our bare hands about twenty or maybe it was thirty feet–the snow was that deep–until we came to real rocky ground to build a fire on. If we had not found rock, any fire we started would have melted all the snow beneath it and started a flood. Meanwhile, Paul said goodbye to Babe, and then he lifted his ax and did the deed. When he called us back inside the tent, Babe looked as if he were just sleeping peacefully. Our hearts were aching with trouble and worry, and the only thing that kept us from crying was not wanting to make Paul cry, but we helped Paul cut up that Big Blue Ox and roast the meat over the fire. We were careful all through the process to save and pile the bones where they would not be lost. Now you might think this would be hard, especially with something as small as a toe bone, but Babe’s toes were the size of a man’s leg, so you see, not much chance existed of us losing any bone because it was too small.

            “Now it takes a mighty long time to cook anything in the middle of winter, especially when it’s forty degrees below zero, and it takes even longer to cook a Big Blue Ox. We kept the extra meat stored up in the snowbanks, and we rationed it out over weeks and weeks as one horrible storm after another pounded around us. We started to think the snow had continued clear through summer and we were into the next winter. Then just as we were about to run out of meat, the snow finally started to melt. Soon the grass started to poke up through the ground, and then Paul said it was time we find our way back to civilization. I think Paul started to worry that if he didn’t bring Babe back to life pretty soon, there would be no bringing Babe back. During all that winter, we had tried to be good company to Paul, playing poker with him, and telling our lumberjack stories, but Paul sure had a fondness for that Ox, and we could see he was missing Babe sorely.

            “So Ben and I, we gathered up all Babe’s bones and hooked them back together. We had us quite a puzzle at times since we didn’t always know which bone went where, none of us being doctors of any sort, but Paul insisted we wouldn’t stop trying until we knew for certain every single piece was in the right place because he didn’t want no limping ox.

            “When we finally had all the pieces together, Paul sprinkled the snow over the bones and began to chant in the Ojibwa language. Suddenly a North wind sprung up, and then came a blinding flurry of snow. At first I thought it was another blizzard, and since we’d eaten all of Babe, I figured we would starve for sure this time. But then the snow stopped, and sun broke forth, and there stood Babe, big and blue as ever, and Paul threw his arms around Babe’s neck.

            “Even Ben and I shed a couple tears, and I ain’t ashamed to mention it.

            “‘Now, let’s find our way back to civilization,’ I said.

            “‘Look at that,’ Ben then exclaimed. ‘There’s water over there.’ And as we watched, we saw the snow melt down to ice, and then the ice break up and fall into Lake Superior. All that winter, we had been camped just a few feet from the lakeshore. We all felt lucky we hadn’t walked right into the lake when the first storm hit.

            “‘And look here,’ I said, pointing to the ground.

            “Where we had cooked ox meat all winter, the rocks had turned completely black.

            “So that’s how the Black Rocks came to be at Presque Isle, and they’ll always stand as a monument to an animal who loved a man enough to give his life for him.”