Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The sap is really starting to flow

It’s coming. Spring is really coming.

It surpassed 80°F for the first time in 2013 today. I didn’t have plans to visit the river this evening, but I couldn’t stop myself.

There I was, on the same path that I walked just four days ago, but it was as if I had leaped forward in time. Much of the underbrush is spiky with tiny leaves, and some of the trees are already blooming. But the biggest change was within the witch hazel.

Their vivid red stems—the only vibrant color present in colder times—have mellowed to rich burnt orange. The grass is greener, the air fresher, and the warm breeze exhilarating. Ah yes, the breeze, we are expecting a storm again tonight.

The wind is gusting to 25 miles per hour. It whips the river into chunky waves and grounds most of the songbirds, but not the swallows.

Banking left, Banking right, A flick of the tail to gain some height. These masters of the wind were a glorious sight.

Okay, so I’m not a poet, but my hike was over all too soon.  I can’t wait to see what the trolls are up to, but that is more of a weekend adventure. I’ll be making a report later this week.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stress relief

I went the river today—not Elvsmyr—just a human park along the riverbank. It was glorious. Spring has finally arrived in this part of Wisconsin. I could almost feel the earth vibrating with excitement. Every plant, every animal, and every human was thrilled to be witness to this, the first short sleeve Saturday of 2013.

However, before images of tulips and daffodils fill your head, let me clarify. This is early spring. Only the grass is green. Still, every plant is festooned with quivering buds full of promise of good things to come. Only the oak holds back. Always late to the party, it hides its life force inside tough branches, but on closer look, smooth nubs dot the twig tips. There are others who are off to an early start. The wild honeysuckle is already trumpeting spring with delicate, bright green leaves.
Not everyone made it through the bitterly cold winter, or more likely the drenching rains of March and April. A beautiful maple, 40, maybe 50 years old, lies prone, but even its branches are sprouting large teardrop shaped buds. I laid my hand on its trunk and honored it for a moment. Trees, they give so much and ask so little. I walked on, reaching out to the young sapling that will now have a chance to reach toward the sun while spreading its branches. Offering homes to birds, squirrels, and insects and shade to me a simple human.

I close my eyes and listen. The music of the birds makes me smile. In the distance, canada geese honk their displeasure at some intruder. They along with the mallards and ring-necked ducks have paired off, and will soon be raising a new generation of noisy, fluttering waterfowl.  The river has a rhythm to it. One that is a pleasure to witness at all times of the year. A swallow swoops inches of the ground drawing my eye into the distance. Rain clouds are rolling in, and it’s time to head home, but I’ll return, again and again. I have to—this is where I bring my troubles. I can feel them drain away, float downstream, and leave me refreshed. Now that’s powerful.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Troll Party Part II

The grog was flowing down their throats after the midnight meal. Now, I ate before heading out so I demurely nibbled on a delicious mushroom stew.  Only later did I start to worry that I had been poisoned. Who knows what a troll can tolerate that will kill a human. But I was feeling good, and while I did not try the grog, I don’t think they noticed.

It started with a dare. First Oton, then Blade were wading along the shore, but that was not going to be enough to prove who was brave enough to take a full-fledged dip in the recently frozen water. It is my understanding that most trolls dislike the water, but a few are accustomed to long soaks. What we would call a soothing hot tub, they would call a cauldron. These trolls appear to be suited to the cold and prefer cold water, if any at all.

Well, a few more rounds of the grog pitcher had the younger trolls amped up. Several had waded out into chest high water, but they did not look comfortable. I was really starting to relax and enjoy myself when a primal roar startled me from my boulder. It was immediately followed by a banshee howl so chilling I started to panic, and look for cover. Next thing I knew, the shadow of a troll leapt from a tree that had partially tipped over the river. Arms out, head tucked, tail erect and toes pointed— it was a perfect swan dive into the river. Only a small ripple marred the entry of the diving troll.

No one moved. I don’t think they had ever seen anything like it. Who was it? Seconds later a drenched head popped to the surface and Twig beamed back at the partiers.  “Now, that’s taking a dip,” he called out to the others.

So began a diving contest of half-drunken trolls climbing higher and higher into the branches of the once mighty oak. Several belly flops later, they had finally had enough. I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. I can’t wait to go back.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Press Release Party ... Troll Style

As soon as I got my hands on a copy of The Stoughton Press, I ran to the river. Oton had been showing up on my lawn lately waiting for a report. Thank god, he looks like a lawn troll—well, in the dark, if you’re not looking too closely. Anyway, I passed out copies to several Elvsmyrians and started to read the article. What? You thought they could read English; now who’s crazy?

They listened attentively right up until I got to the part about tusks and cyclopic eyes.

“What are you talking about? I’ve never seen a troll with tusks.” Uredd shoved his way past two younger trolls playing in the dirt.

“I was just quoting what I found online.” Now I had done it. How was I going to explain the internet to trolls? Yikes. I shouldn’t have worried; Uredd was on a roll.

“You tell those humans that we are not fearsome, never brutish, and often quite attractive, Just look at me.” He cocked his head and swished his long tail.

“Okay, but you have to realize there have been thousands of years of bad press on your kind. This is going to take some time.”

Uredd calmed down and I continued. I had them grabbing their sides and dancing little jigs. It was a lot of fun and I have a lot more to tell. So, check back later to learn how wild a troll party can get.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Are you ready, really ready to learn the truth?

One crazy idea…
Two family histories…

Six rewrites…

Nine months…
Hundreds of internet searches…

Thousands of hours… every weekend, every holiday, most weeknights, and endless sleepless nights
Quarter of a million words…

Equals one Book


Blue on the Horizon — coming May 2013

Forget everything you thought you knew about fairy tales. Book One of Legends of the Aurora will finally reveal the truth about Trolls, Dragons, and Fairies.

Accepting Pre-Orders Now.

The Clay, The Clay

It's been a cold,soggy spring this year. I've actually been worried that Elvsmyr had washed away in the floods we've been having, but I have to keep reminding myself that trolls are part of nature. They know what they're doing out there, even if as a modern human I can't relate. But news came this week that sent me out there. Smekk would want to know this. Clay Matthews: outside, linebacker has resigned with the Packers for a 5 year $66 million contract. While I can't begin to fathom that number of zeros, I am very happy he is staying.

I found them, busy as always, warm and dry at the cooking pit. It didn't take long to find Smekk. She was always at the center of young male attention.

"He's staying. The Clay will be back for 5 more seasons."

Smekk's eyes were glittering in the firelight. "Have the battles begun?"

"No, but this is the time of year when warriors choose their allegiance, and Clay has sworn to defend the Packers."

Just then, a wart-covered little fellow who I had never seen before tugged on the hem of my jeans. "Come back when the battles begin. Smekk has things to do here."

"Blade, don't be rude. Rebecca can visit whenever she wants. Besides, the festival isn't for another three moons. You can't tell me what to do."

He vibrated like a percolating coffee pot, but backed down to mighty Smekk. She obviously had him wrapped around her filthy little finger.

"Well, I thought you would like to know. I know I'm excited." With that I started back to the car. My feet were wet, the ground soft. I had relayed the message, but now had to plan a return trip to figure out what this festival was all about. Let's see 3 moons, that would be 87 nights if I was doing it right.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Oton from Stoughton: Part Two

The next few days were a blur, and just when I had convinced myself it was all an elaborate Halloween hoax, my editor walked into my office and asked if I was ready for the big day. In a panic, I glanced down at my calendar where I had scrawled in red ink: OTON – 5 a.m. I closed my laptop, told her I was heading home to get some sleep before the insanely early meeting, and bolted out the door.

Safe, in my living room, I pulled the drapes and sought council from the only source I could think of. I Googled “troll real or fake” and took a deep breath. As I expected the internet was full of references to the modern usages of the word troll: a fishing technique or those lonely souls who spend hours on the internet making outrageous comments on nearly every subject. I kept clicking; I didn’t know what else to do.

Eventually I started focusing on Wikipedia and that led me to Monstropedia.org. The throbbing in my head eased as I started reading what these self-proclaimed experts had to say. A troll is a fearsome member of a mythical anthropomorph race from Scandinavia. Their role ranges from fiendish giants – similar to the ogres of England – to a devious, dwarf-like folk of the wilderness, living underground in hills, caves or mounds. I felt better just knowing there were others out there who took this stuff seriously. I drank in the words as they formed on my screen. Maybe it wasn’t so strange after all, but nothing I read could completely explain Oton’s jumbled shape shifting or his love of used coffee grounds. Monstropedia spoke of two traditions. In Northern Norway, trolls are described as large, brutish, and ugly with tusks or cyclopic eyes, while southern Scandinavia told of human-like trolls with hidden tails. Both interesting, but neither described Oton.

I closed the laptop and my eyes. I would just have to show up on that bench the following morning and prove I had dreamed the whole thing, but just in case I started brewing coffee, pot after pot until I had used up all the beans in my cupboard. I left the filters, still clogged with grounds, on the counter to cool and I grabbed a pencil. I needed to jot down a few questions … just in case.

There I was twenty-nine sunrises later, sitting on a bench in downtown Stoughton, Wisconsin with a gallon size baggie stuffed full of used coffee grounds on my lap and a dozen donuts slathered in chocolate frosting, and triple dipped in sprinkles. It was cold and miserable— it was 5 am in November! What was I thinking? I had to be losing my mind.

It was starting to get light when I checked the time, 6:18—it was all a joke. Relieved, I relaxed, letting my head fall backward when an odor, which I can only describe as a marathoner’s sock after mile 26, walloped me in face, “Oh no, not again.”

“Hello, human” a voice like crunching potato chips said.

I heard a pop and there he was staring down into my face, not more than a few inches from the tip of my nose. Before I knew what was happening I screamed like a schoolgirl.

“Hey, it’s just me, ooh, are those coffee grounds?” He said ogling the baggie.

I nodded my head and handed him the soggy mess. My heart had returned to a normal rhythm, allowing me to sit up. Keeping tabs on Oton, I scanned the street hoping someone would be out walking. In the distance, I saw a man with his dog. They were on the other side of the street, but heading toward us. I had to keep the troll’s attention on me. I turned back to Oton and patted the seat.

“Why don’t you sit down? I have donuts with extra sprinkles.”

This time he was huge, but his nose was different. Rather than long, it was smashed into his face and covering the territory from ear to ear. He looked thin, and bendy, and his arms were freakishly short. I handed him the donuts and said, “Where have you been? It’s freezing out here.”

He looked upset, and started to shrink until he was about two feet tall. I felt bad, but at least his proportions had returned to normal. Normal, like any of this was normal. I pasted a smile on my face and said. “I have a lot of questions for you. Like where do you live? How long have you been here, and who is Leaf?”

“That’s a lot of questions before I’ve had my sprinkles,” he said hopping up beside me. I handed him the box. I had to keep him talking, and apparently, that meant stuffing him full of caffeine and sugar. Watching Oton eat requires a strong stomach, one that can withstand the plentiful releases of gas and finger licking, but at least it was quick. “Now, what did you want to know?” he said wiping his hands on his filthy trousers.

I glanced toward the dog walker and cursed under my breath. It seemed the dog was stopping to sniff every snowflake. “Okay, let’s take this one step at a time. Where do you live? I mean, do you live right here on Main Street, or someplace else?”

Through chocolate-covered lips he said, “don’t be silly. This is a human village. I live at Elvsmyr.” His back to the man and dog, he waited for the next question.

“Elvsmyr, it that near here?”

“Not far … well, not if you know the way.”

His cryptic response was drawing the reporter out of me. I wanted to press for more, but I couldn’t risk upsetting him. “So, how long have you lived at Elvsmyr?” I asked, estimating him to be a teenager.

“Well, let’s see. I was born the winter of the avalanche so that would be …. Uhm… I never was very good with the number thing.” He tapped his fingers on his legs and wiggled his bare toes. “I think its 1,871 moons—no, 1,874 moons.”

“Moons, Is that how you measure time?” I said doing a quick search of my memory. Wasn’t the moon cycle 29 days? Ugh, where is Google when I needed it?

“It’s one of the ways. There’s also heartbeats and seasons.”

Suddenly, the quiet morning was destroyed by barking. The dog walker! I lifted my head to see the previously calm animal lunging at the end of his leash. The man struggled to control the medium sized dog; he didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, but the dog sure did.

“It’s not always like that, you know. Some dogs love trolls. I’ve seen it, and it can get pretty sticky.”

“Can he see you?” I asked jutting my chin at the man.

“It depends. The elders tell us that some humans can see us, but others have lost their connection to the world that surrounds them. It’s just sad.”

“But the dog can see you?” I said except there was no need for him to respond. Even as the man pulled the dog away, its eyes were locked on Oton. This was starting to make sense. “Oton,” I said pulling out a pack of jerky to keep him focused on his bottomless belly. “Who is Leaf?”

“Nope, not that … you’re not ready for that. She wouldn’t be happy if I told you about— hey, no ask something else,” he said twisting his head back and forth on his stubby neck.

“Okay, so how many trolls live at Elvsmyr?”

He started tapping his fingers again. His face was bunched up in a pained expression, but I didn’t want to disturb him. When he was finally still he said, “a whole bunch.”

Rats. He was playing with me, again. I had to try something different. “Oton, could I visit Elvsmyr? I could bring donuts and coffee grounds for everybody.” Did those words really just come out of my mouth?

He jumped to his feet, stuck his pock-marked little face in mine, and said, “Have your eyes always been that color?”

My stomach flopped over, “you mean blue? Well … yeah.” I choked out not merely because of his close proximity.

“That could be a problem.”

I jotted a mental note about his own golden eyes that allowed only a sliver of white along the edges.

“I could … wear dark glasses if that would help.”

He hopped to the ground and said, “I’ll speak to the elders, but don’t bring the food, they don’t like it when I eat junk food.” Pop.

He did it again. Just like that, he was gone. Taking a chance he was still out there, I said, “twenty-nine sunrises?”

“Now you’re getting it,” his voice drifted through the still air. “But make it sunset next time. We’ll need all night.”

I trudged to the office. I needed to company of humans while I plotted my next move. No sooner had I opened the laptop than my editor was back at my desk. Steaming cup of coffee in hand, she said, “so, how’d it go?” I let my head fall heavily on the desk, and she said, “You’re just tired, here a strong cup of coffee will do you wonders.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever drink coffee again,” I groaned, but she wasn’t going anywhere. I sat up and blurted out the details of my morning. I promised to make my next appointment, but inside I was dreading the prospect. I spent the next few minutes doing some calculations after finding an interesting website that calculated the number of days, weeks, months, and years between two dates. I fiddled around until I found what I was looking for. If Oton was telling the truth, he was born sometime around May 13, 1864!

Now I consider myself a lucid person. I’ve never suffered from hallucinations, at least I didn't think I did, but how would I know? There was only one way to find out. The sun sets early in December. I dressed in layers and put toe warmers in my boots and hot packs in my gloves. Sighing, I left the laptop behind and headed to our bench. Main Street twinkled with holiday lights, and shoppers carrying brightly colored packages rushed to their cars. Where was he? The wind shifted and a familiar odor slipped up my nose. “Oton, is that you?”

“Over here,” he said as a woman with a toddler pranced past. I waved to the child, and waited until they found their way into their car. I had no idea what would happen if the little boy got a peek at a real, live troll. I found Oton behind the shrubbery, but to my surprise, he wasn’t alone.

“Hello, human. What is your proper name?”

“Rebecca,” I said my tongue suddenly glued to the roof of my mouth.

“This is Uredd, he’s … an elder,” Oton said studying his toes.

Uredd’s dark eyes were reflecting the holiday lights making them seem much less festive. “There are rules,” he said.

“Okay,” I looked around, making sure I had an escape route. “First, you‘ll be blindfolded. The elders don’t want you knowing the way. Second, your nose will have to be plugged; we can’t risk you back tracking the scent trail. Third, you must keep your freaky blue eyes low, and one more thing, no questions. If someone wants to speak to you, they will initiate conversation. Beyond that you are to stay silent.”

My head was spinning—back track a scent trail, as if, but before I could back out, Oton shape-shifted to my size, plugged my nose with wadded up moss, and blindfolded me. He took my hand and we started walking. It felt like miles before we finally stopped. My feet were wet and the wind was slicing through my parka. Oton removed the blindfold, and I blew the moss from my nose. I was standing somewhere near a river. The area was covered with dormant cattail and half-frozen puddles.

“We’re here,” Oton said, a lop-sided grin on his face.
I was standing next to a large stone, probably an erratic left by the ancient glaciers. A few feet away a fire burned low, smoke swirled in the shifting wind. I could hear giggling and the aroma was defiantly that of troll.

Uredd, leaning heavily on a twisted staff said, “the human Rebecca has agreed to our terms. Feel free to interact with her or keep your distance; the choice is yours.”

My knees were knocking and not just because of the cold. Eyes glittered from behind fallen trees and clumps of frozen vegetation. “Hello,” I said waving.” I’m just here to observe. I’ll be sitting right here if you want to ask me anything,” I said through chattering teeth. I was careful to keep my eyes averted, but I could hear footsteps crunching through the snow as a shadow approached my position.

“She’s not very attractive,” a female voice said, “poor thing, I hope she’s not an outcast.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat and said, “no, not an outcast, just a reporter, a curious human with honorable intentions.” I risked a glance at the shadowy figure. She was ankle high, stooped, with long, frizzy, gray hair. Moving slowly, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my sunglasses. My eyes covered, I looked closer. She was draped in drab clothing yet her feet like Oton’s were bare. However, that is not what drew my attention. A long tail with a pom-pom of hair at the tip swung lazily along the ground, etching bizarre angel wings in the soft snow. More twitters from the shadows snaked through the night, making my heart pump faster.

“Now, Sila, no need to be rude to our human friend; you are our friend, right?” A new voice rumbled from behind my back. Rounding the boulder a male strolled, his own tail arched high over his head.

I was confused. Oton certainly never displayed a tail like these two. A thousand questions ricocheted through my brain, but I trapped them before they could vibrate my vocal cords. More trolls, male and female, young and old gathered around my feet. The variety was endless. For some reason I expected them to all be pretty much the same, but that was certainly not the case.

Much more happened that night, and long before I was ready, Oton handed me the blindfold. “We have to go, the sun is coming.” I did as he asked, but not before breaking one of the rules, “can I come back another time?”

Oton glanced over his shoulder at Uredd who nodded, and off we trekked.

So that’s my report. A lot has happened in the weeks since that first night at Elvsmyr. I’ve gained their trust, and even their friendship. If you’d like to read about my adventures, like what happens when you invite a pack of trolls over to watch a football game, visit my blog at trolltails.blogspot.com. I think you’ll find my experiences—unique.

[Previous posts contain the troll football parties and other adventures.]

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Where have I been?

Hello Readers. I know, I’ve been neglecting you, but I have exciting news. Oton and the others have been filling me in on the history of Elvsmyr— the joy, the magic, and yes, the sorrow. Elvsmyr has seen it all.

I mean, you’re human… right? What’s your take on trolls? Do you think of them as dark, brooding oafs up to no good, or tiny, hard working and intelligent? Oh sure they stink, but I’ve found them to be witty, creative and kind. That’s right, I said it— kind.

I was wrong; Leaf wasn’t the one. She is fascinating to be sure, but her mother, Gaven, was the key to well, everything. Gaven hid from me for the first several trips to the river. To be fair, I don’t really blame her because she is different. She is smaller, and delicate with an intricate hairstyle full of complex knots and braids. But all of that is normal… if you’re a troll. Gaven has blue eyes, blue as a bright sunny day, but that’s nothing. Gaven is special, in many ways, but … that is for another time.

Gaven’s story is full of twists and a few dark corners. You will never forget this adventure. She really is quite, dare I say it, human.

Are you ready to learn her story? Blue on the Horizon is coming Mid-May 2013 as both an e-book and printed version on Amazon.com. I’ll post a release date once it becomes available. You are going to love this story.