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A Visitor in the Night

What inspired my book, Christmas in Carling?

In December 2019, my daughter and I traveled to our favorite Resort and Spa for a special Mother/Daughter weekend with friends.

Located two hours north of Toronto, The Rosseau has been our best-kept secret. It is a hidden gem in an area of cottage country called Muskoka. Set amidst many scenic lakes and rivers coated by a unique rocky landscape and dense forests, the region boasts a reputation for high-end real estate, the most beautiful water views, unparalleled sunsets, and epic summer social gatherings. But this bustling tourist mecca eventually transforms into a frozen icy haven. That is when we love to visit. The hotel is a little quieter. For me, it is a peaceful place to write.

That day, while driving up the winding laneway that leads into the luxurious hotel perched high upon the hillside overlooking Lake Rosseau, the snow lazily fell as we pulled under the covered entrance. Decorated for Christmas, it looked so festive and welcoming. All we needed was the snow. Within hours, the storm worsened, and we got our wish - fifteen centimeters worth.

Settling in to enjoy the activities we planned for the little girls, the other mothers and I spoke with the friendly staff and got caught up on life. After the painting, jewelry making, and swimming outside in the snowstorm, our daughters snuggled up in pajamas to watch a movie in our suite. Hours later, after surviving the hectic day, everyone went their separate ways around eleven. When my daughter fell asleep in her room, it was too quiet in mine. All I could hear were the ice pellets hitting the window and the wind gusts whistling past in irregular intervals, creating a white noise that helped me eventually drift off.

Two hours later, my eyes popped open. Staring at the ceiling, I was wide awake. Now, for me (I am sure other women can attest), two o'clock until four is what I call the witching hour.  Some people say it comes with age. Others say it is from having an overactive brain, which most authors have. Regardless, it has been both a blessing and a curse since the words flow freely in the early morning hours. Remembering I was supposed to be on a mini-vacation, I tried not to think of work and mindlessly watched YouTube and checked social media for updates, hoping it would help me fall asleep. That is when I saw it.

There, in the middle of the night, headlights were cutting through the darkness. Someone was arriving at the hotel, and the weather was horrific - a mixture of ice and snow, whiteouts, and dangerous driving conditions. Curious, I slipped out of bed and walked over to the window as a black Cadillac Escalade SUV pulled up under the covered entrance. My room on the right-hand side of our suite gave me a bird's eye view of the main doors. Pulling the sheers aside slightly, I watched a man get out of the vehicle and stretch his arms above his head. I assumed he'd been driving for a while and was certain he'd had a stressful trip. Wearing a dark wool overcoat with the collar standing on end, dark denim jeans, and a red baseball hat, he looked stylish in his plaid scarf and Red Wing boots. Taking account of his surroundings, not seeing a soul anywhere, he happened to look up. Tall, at least six-foot-three, and ruggedly unshaven - he was so handsome. Opening the rear door, he swung a brown leather duffle onto his shoulder before raising the tailgate to get his suitcase from the back. Closing everything up, he walked inside the hotel and out of sight.

In an instant, a million questions scrolled through my mind. Who was he? Where did he come from? Why was he traveling so late at night - in a snowstorm? Was he meeting someone? Perhaps on a business trip? Or, was he, like us, searching for a quiet place to rest his head and soak up some relaxation? How did he know about this frozen icy haven? My brain would not turn off.

Whenever I go anywhere, I always take a blank notebook because you just never know when something will inspire you to write. Leaving my bedroom, I grabbed the book and a pen from my bag before stretching out my legs across the sofa.  

That night, based on that experience, I wrote over eighteen chapters and sadly ran out of paper. Unable to continue, I went back to bed and plunged into the creation of this character in my mind. Being a Boston Red Sox fan at heart, knowing they had just won the World Series weeks prior, I thought the mystery guest resembled first baseman Steve Pearce. This is how the character Ty Reynolds came to be.

Over the next several hours, I typed my thoughts on my phone and created the plot for the book. Needless to say, I did not get any sleep. But it didn't matter because the story was well on its way, and the excitement of it fueled my soul.

That morning, over breakfast, I shared with my friends the makings of what happened. Captivated, hanging on my every word, they were in awe. We kept watching for this mystery guest to appear. Unfortunately, there was no sign of him anywhere. The consensus between the ladies was that the guy was probably tired from his trip last night and needed to sleep. Throughout that day, we kept our eyes peeled for the stranger wandering the halls and continued debating why he was there.

When we finished dinner that evening, I stopped at the front desk, asked for a stack of blank paper, and explained that I was an author who got inspired. They willingly obliged without question and happily wished me good luck.

Throughout the two days, we did not see that man once, which heightened his mysteriousness even more. To this day, I often wonder who he was and why he was visiting the Rosseau. I guess we will never know. Perhaps his purpose was to grant me the spark to write Christmas in Carling - a heartwarming holiday romance that blends a tale of two seasons - Christmas and Baseball. The story is bursting with traditions, selfless acts of kindness, and winter adventures only found around The Rosseau. It follows two characters who bond over why they hide from the world over the holidays.

During my recent visit to The Rosseau, where I finalized my manuscript for "Christmas In Carling," I often found myself in the Lakes Lounge, captivated by its view of the lobby and surrounding corridors. The place exuded inspiration, with a staff so warm and welcoming they felt like family. Their openness in sharing bits and pieces of their lives shaped the characters in my book. These individuals portrayed in the story truly exist, and you can ask for them by name when you visit.

December at The Rosseau holds a unique charm that's hard to convey unless experienced firsthand. Every corner is adorned with Christmas trees, while the scent of burning logs from the grand fireplace in the Lake Lounge fills the air. Outdoors, the caldron fire is surrounded by Muskoka chairs where one can savor s'mores, hot chocolate, and apple cider. Walking or snowshoeing through the wooded trails, encountering deer and playful rabbits amidst the snow, transforms it into a magical place.

Readers have often asked about the inspiration behind Julia and Sydney. It's a memory that I usually hesitate to revisit. In my involvement with amateur athletics and as a hockey mom, I once heard a heartbreaking story that deeply affected me. Caught in bad weather, a loving father and his hockey-playing son met a tragic end. I prefer not to disclose further details; they are encapsulated within the book. The loss of a loved one leaves an unfathomable void, especially during the holidays. This story is dedicated to those experiencing such grief, seeking hope amid darkness. Grief never ends; it only morphs over time. I recall that mother and daughter who bravely faced their loss and transformed them into the characters of Julia and Sydney. I hope they've found the strength to move forward despite what happened. This book celebrates life's fleeting moments and urges us never to take them for granted, for life's fragility reminds us of its preciousness.

I hope you enjoy Christmas In Carling.

Lots of Love to you. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

E.A. Stark



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