Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rebecca ... the troll reporter????

The following was written at the request of the Stoughton Press. I am revealed to my community.

I was about to have one of those birthdays that end in a zero, you know the ones I mean, and I’ll admit , it was freaking me out. I had seen The Stoughton Press land on my front stoop in the past. It was interesting and I read it, and like most of you recycled it when I was done. But that April day, I got curious. Who was putting this paper out? I studied the letter from the editor. What’s that? They want story ideas, the wackier the better. I knew she was talking to me. Quickly, before I chickened out, I typed an email with several story ideas, and without thinking too much, pushed send. To be honest, I expected a “thanks, but we have that covered” a few weeks later, but that wasn’t what happened. Almost immediately a got a reply, “love your ideas, we should meet”!
Uh-oh, now I had to step up and deliver. I’m not a writer, never aspired to be one, but I knew I could put a string of letters together in a slightly witty way. But I really wanted to support my budding photography hobby. I had only recently gotten back into the craft, and my professional life has provided me with some decent Photoshop skills. Suddenly it came to me. Stoughton needs a troll. I was sure it had been done in the past, and I knew about the tiny troll house along the river trail, but I wanted to photograph a troll as it crept around Stoughton. Minutes before my first meeting with the editor, I smashed together a photo of one of the many Stoughton mansions with a toy duck that perched on the roof peak. It was ridiculous. Long story short, she loved the idea, but she had a zinger for me. ‘So what’s his name?’ Uh, I don’t know. ‘Sure you do, and you’ll write an article to introduce him, right?’ Oops, I had stepped in it now. 

I left the meeting with my head swimming, but later, I recalled a message scrawled in the margin of a long ago high school paper—“beautiful, you should write for a living.” I still have that paper. I took a boring assignment and turned it into a bizarre world where tiny creatures lived in the ink that streamed from my pen as I wrote my story. Hmm, maybe I can do this. My insomnia kicked in, and I even took a vacation day. Who was he? Was he a he? What did he want? Where did he live? How did he get here? If I was going to do this, I had to know absolutely everything about the troll. Each question was quickly answered; I scribbled it all in a notebook as fast as it came. Very soon, I had what I thought was a 10,000 word short story. I started writing that weekend. Saturday went by, and then Sunday morning, I’m 15,000 words in and just getting started. My husband sat me down and said, “You’re writing a book, you know that, don’t you,” but I had promised the editor an article. I started to examine the situation. I needed to write an article for a paper; that made me a reporter, right? You know the rest of the story, well most of it.
I still had that incredible adventure rattling around in my brain. Hours, days, weeks, months flew by as I banged out a twisted troll tale—scratch that troll tail. Never one to take an already blazed path, I have reinvented the legends surrounding trolls, fairies, and dragons. All those “what if” questions have led to a book that some have compared to The Wizard of Oz, and others to Shrek, but I know what it took to create a wholly new legend:

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 hours
  • Quarter of a million words…
  • Equals one 290-page book.
You won’t believe where all those questions have led me. Blue on the Horizon introduces the founding members of Oton’s village of trolls. He even makes an appearance a young trollkin under his given name, Blomst. That’s right Oton’s true name is Blomst—Flower to you Norwegian speakers. He changed his name because he loves Stoughton and coffee and chocolate and sprinkles …  

If you are an e-book reader, download a copy at Just enter Rebecca Ferrell Porter in the search box. Blue on the Horizon is getting great reviews and several readers are already begging for the next chapter in the Legends of the Aurora series. I’m busy outlining the next book as you read this. You going to love the wacky world that lives between my ears. To paraphrase one of my favorite characters, everyone has secrets … I just wear mine on the outside now.
Blue on the Horizon, available locally—exclusively at Saving Thyme, 223 West Main Street, Stoughton.

One last thing, thanks Linda Bricco-Shalk, owner and editor of the Stoughton Press, you’ve given my inner child a golden key to a magical playground.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Troll Moons Horse

Rebecca Ferrell Porter, Troll Reporter

Sytennde Mai—it was an easy assignment or it should have been. My job: cover the Norwegian parade and the downtown area in general. Sounds safe, right? Even Oton wouldn’t be crazy enough to show up with thousands of humans around …
I got there early to soak in the atmosphere surrounding Stoughton’s premier annual event. Hundreds of chairs and blankets already lined the route. Young and old, tattooed and bookish—everyone came out for the colorful parade. I stopped to watch the juggler entertaining the crowd. A short, impish man with a wild head of hair did battle with the stiff breeze blowing out of the southwest. Eventually, he found his rhythm and got his various objects to cooperate. This young man couldn’t wait to be part of the act. Only after reviewing the photos, did I see what you may have already noticed in the background—Oton.

I moved on and did what most other people did that day; I walked in to Fosdals, and waited in the long line for a treat. A yummy, scrumptious bismark for lunch may not be the healthiest choice, but hey, it was a special day. I clutched the small, waxed paper bag to my chest and pushed my way outside.
“Where’s mine?” A familiar voice demanded. I nearly jumped out of my skin, but there he was, crouched behind the weathered, wooden chair at the entrance to the bakery. “Oton, are you nuts? It’s shoulder to shoulder humans out here,” I said when I could catch my breath. It’s funny, but I could only smell bakery, not a whiff of troll, um, aroma could be detected. “Did you take a bath?” He giggled through his pudgy fingers. “We had another diving contest last night. I won,” he beamed. “I pulled off a perfect belly flop.” He lifted his grubby tunic to reveal a blood red belly. “It only hurts when I rub it.” I shook my head and headed back inside for an Oton special. The young girl behind the counter gave me a puzzled look, but I told her some out of town friends had turned up, and I was providing a Stoughton treat. She smirked and stuffed the bag with a dozen sprinkle plastered, chocolate donuts. I paid the tab, lowered my head, and rushed outside. “Come with me,” I snapped. I didn’t have time for this.

We walked a few blocks, to a location that was devoid of other humans. I was stunned that no one we passed gave us a second look. I was prepared to see gaping expressions or maybe a gasp of horror, but we never even got a double take. Maybe they thought he was one of the many colorful costumed characters making their way to the parade staging area.
I tossed the bag to Oton and tried to eat my own pastry while he gorged. With his face plastered in chocolate and pink sprinkles he said, “Where’s the coffee?” I had reached my limit. “Look, I didn’t’ expect to see you today. What are you doing here anyway? And you’re not invisible. Aren’t you afraid to be seen?” His tongue darted across his lips, lapping up any trace of sprinkle, “you humans don’t look for what you don’t expect to see. Now, where have you been? I’ve been downtown since sunrise.” I was puzzled. Why would I expect to see a troll, in broad daylight, with half of Dane County, dozens of visitors from afar, and don’t get me started on the dogs. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? “If you want me to leave, I will,” he said plunging his hands into his pockets. “I have work to do, but if can stay out of the way—AND you are certain the others won’t see you, I guess you can hang out with me today.” He clapped his hands and did a little jig that I can only describe as a drunken chicken dance. “Let’s go,” he said, taking the lead.
I followed in his wake— me the grumpy human, and Oton the prancing troll. We found a perfect location: the corner of Division and Main, right next to a brightly painted trash can to cover the smell of river that clung to Oton. I pushed all thought of the troll to the back of my mind and started snapping photos. It was sunny, and warm: a wonderful day in May. Finally, the colorful and clever parade started rolling past.

I was wrapped up in my work and failed to notice when Oton slipped away, but being Oton, he made sure I stayed on pins and needles. Everywhere I looked … TROLL! Nobody reacted. Only this horse seemed to notice, but that was only after he mooned powerful animal.

I continued to snap photos. If that wacky troll wanted to be found, so be it. I wasn’t his keeper. At times, he totally forgot to maintain his invisibility, but still, no screams indicated he had been seen. “Can that thing get wet?” Oton suddenly said from between my feet. “No, so whatever you’re planning, drop it,” I said without taking my eye from the eyepiece. “Better run then,” he laughed. I lowered the camera, and looked over my shoulder. Angry, dark clouds boiled to the southwest. That got my attention. Just then, my finger slipped and I snapped this one last photo. Oton, get off my camera.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I knew it!

Just I suspected, Oton was there, at the Stoughton Fair. In the goat pens, and even strolling through the horse pulling event. You wait until I go to Elvsmyr again. This is getting out of hand. He's becoming too bold and reckless. At least he stayed partially invisible, but one kid who believes in trolls, and this thing will go global.
Cute goat, crazy troll
At least he increased his size when in the arena with the powerful animals.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Magic found in my backyard.

As you can see, I'm obsessed with buds this week. I didn't have to go very far to find these little beauties.

Back inside and the uploading the photos, and this little guy seemed to want to sneak a peek at what I had done.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

This time, I hunt buds

I braved the clouds of mosquitoes this morning, just for you, my loyal reader. I wanted to be one of the first down the trail. Besides, who else would be this crazy? I had only seconds at each subject because even doused in bug juice; I was descended upon and mined for blood. But all the best photos can be found at the golden hour when the birds are still awake, active, and boisterous. Their melody welcomed me into their magic world, and I immediately felt at home. The bug bites will heal and I will return … again and again.
Of course, not all buds contain flowers. I have no idea what bug decorated this grapevine leaf.

On this walk, I focused on the promise locked inside of buds, but I'll hesitate for someone who poses just so. Never mind that he was very upset with me. I didn't linger, and left him to his business.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A day at the Stoughton Fairgrounds

I was at the fair yesterday. I wasn’t interested in the rides or the games, but I took time for a quick action shot.

I went to see the animals. I was in 4-H, a great organization for rural children, and I wanted to support the work these kids do. As always, the camera was draped across my chest. I started in the poultry barn. Chickens came in wide variety. It must be a challenge to be a judge, but this little guy won my prize of Mr. Congeniality.

Next up—the cattle barn. There’s nothing quite as clean as a 4-H project dairy cow. They gleam bright white with perfectly trimmed tufts of hair. Don’t you love those big, brown liquid eyes?

I pulled myself away from the slumbering beasts and wandered into the judging barn. A troll’s paradise awaited me inside. There they were—Stoughton’s finest goats. Funny, sweet, and yes, smelly, goats are a favorite of mine. Maybe I’m spending too much time with the trolls, but if you’ve read Blue on the Horizon, you will understand the truth about trolls and goats.

My goat fetish satisfied, I found a line snaking out of another barn. I took up position, and paid my 6 dollars to see one of the most exciting events I’ve ever witnessed: an old-fashioned horse pull. Two weight classes, middleweight and heavyweight. Nearly all Belgians with two darker Percheron, huge athletes with stoic, sturdy farmers handling them. If they worked together, they made the act of pulling a dynameter 27.5 feet look easy, but if they moved as individuals, the team would struggle to haul the load.

My favorite middleweight team was owned and driven by the man holding the reins below. We were told he has had two back surgeries in the past year, but as long as he can take up this position, he will continue to drive his team. The man to the side, his son, was one of the few who could walk a team around the arena without assistance. He was huge himself, but dwarfed by the team.

I was in awe when the heavyweights entered the arena. Their massive bodies so thick and muscled, they looked like bulldogs with tiny horse heads. Of course, that was an illusion. Those heads were massive too.

Strangely, the heavyweights seemed calmer, more certain of their role in the arena. This team waited with an old man and young boy, the only means of holding back 2 ton or more of horse capable of pulling a 48,000-pound wagon. Now that's trust.

To any animal lovers our there, none of this was abusive. Everyone one of these creatures is a prized possession of their proud owner. If a team started to tire, the driver would quickly have them unhitched and withdrawn from the competition. These men knew their horses very well. It was an honor to watch them work as the draft horses were breed to be. The announcer was very informative and told the crowd that several of the horses had been raised by Amish farmers and then sold, at a high price no doubt, to an "English" farmer. It's something I'll never forget.
Above is the winning heavyweight team preparing for the competition. Look at the size of those haunches. That was not a small man. He had to be over 6 foot and well over 200 pounds. This pair seemed the calmest of all 18 teams. They have lost only one pull thus far in 2013. If I remember correctly, that is 8 wins so far. Incredible.

I’m almost positive that Oton was there, I could smell his distinct, uh, odor on the breeze, but he stayed hidden. Too many humans around, but I still have to study the photos. I’ll let you know if I find evidence of his presence in the next few days.