Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Signing and Writing

Well, I survived my first book signing. Actually, I had a good time. I saw a few people I haven't seen in years and met a few new readers. I'd like to give a shout out to those of you who purchased a copy of Blue on the Horizon, you rock! And a special thank you to Catherine Whitford, owner of the Mineral Point Collection and my host for the afternoon. If you were on the fence and would still like to purchase as either an e-book or paperback, it's available on Just $2.99 for an e-book. Hurry the price will be going back up in a few days.

Purchase on Amazon

On a separate note, I've gone back to writing. I got 4,000+ words on paper over the weekend and can't wait to get back to it. I was too tired to remember my dreams last night, but soon I will be seeing dragons and thinking like a  troll.

It's weird to be me.

I was asked by several people at the signing if I have trouble sleeping. The answer is a big, fat YES. But the best images and conversations take place as I'm trying to sleep. I keep a pen and pad in the bathroom so I can go in and shut the door. I've filled complete notebooks while sitting on the ... well, you get the picture.

It's really weird to be me.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Busy Busy Busy

I apologize for not posting in the last few days, but after the flurry of posts about my trip to the big river, I turned my attention back to my books. If any of you are a member of, be sure to sign up for a free copy of Blue on the Horizon. Hurry, the giveaway ends on October 4, 2013 when eight lucky readers will be getting a special package straight from my house to yours.

Over the last few days, I have finalized my outline for book two. Things always change as the hard work of writing starts to flow organically from my brain, but I can already tell you that book two is going to be a shocker—on page one, somebody lies dead on the floor, and not everyone believes it was due to natural causes. I could not wait to share that tidbit, but that is all you are going to get for now.
Hey, if any of you are in the southern Wisconsin area this Saturday, September 28th, I am hosting a book signing during the Midwest Cornish Festival in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. I don’t know what trolls have to do with Cornwall either, but being miners I think they may have more than a little in common with the ancient trolls of Breen. Besides, I personally have a big dollop of Cornish genes running around in me. At any rate, I hope to see you there.

Book Signing
The Mineral Point Connection
151 High St, Mineral Point, Wisconsin (Main St. to most people)
1 – 3 pm

Stop by to get your copy signed, grab an extra special bookmark, and say hello. I’d love to see you.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Southwest Wisconsin Book Festival

Today, I'm off attending a author workshop in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, no hiking this day, but I leaned a few things. Besides, Mineral Point, the Grand old Dame that she is, is looking pretty good these days.

Friday, September 13, 2013


I don’t quite know how to describe this next adventure, but I’ll try. I was hiking the riverside trail at Perrot (pronounced Pear-oh) State Park. I seemed to be alone on the easy, beautiful trail when I came upon a particularly low section. It was soft and squishy and mere inches from the edge of a backwater passage, the path just few inches wide. Not a breath of wind was blowing and the water’s surface was thickly coated with tiny, bright green beads of algae.

My mind was on the plentiful strands of poison ivy that reached out to my ankles. It was everywhere, as I reached down to pull my socks higher—no need to bring that painful, little reminder home. As I started to straighten, something moved in the ground hugging plants. I admit, I snapped upright, and scanned the ground for what I thought was a snake, but nothing slithery appeared on the path. Good, I thought, like most snakes, it was more afraid of me than I was of it. I chuckled and took another step.

Rustle, ground cover shakes then nothing … what the … I couldn’t see anything. I must have kicked a stone, I thought, even though I had not seen one.

Step. Aaahhh. Three somethings lurched from the ground, but this time I get a half-second glimpse of the culprit. Frogs, dozens of them dotted the next several yards of trail, and not your average frog. These were perfectly camouflaged. I got only glances at them as I slowly moved along. They were the same deep brown of the rich river mud, with bright green stripes—the combination blended perfectly into the close ground cover and mud. Step after step, one or more delicate frog leaped off the path into the vibrant green low ground cover. I’ve never seen so many frogs in one place. I’m still not sure what was happening. It would seem to be too late for mating. I've done some research and I think they were northern cricket frogs, but what were they doing amassing along the river. It was all too fast for a photo, and frankly, the camera would have destroyed the intimacy of the moment. However, if I'm right about the species, this is what they look like.
I can't be sure, but because they all moved so quickly and blended so perfectly, but they looked something like this.

Wikipedia says this:
"The northern cricket frog is one of North America's two smallest vertebrates, ranging from 19–38 mm (0.75–1.5 in) long.Cricket frogs prefer the edges of slow-moving, permanent bodies of water. Large groups of them can often be found together along the muddy banks of shallow streams, especially during premigratory clustering."

Apparently, they used to be common, but like many frogs there numbers have declined mysteriously in the past few decades. At this time, they can be found only in pockets in Wisconsin.
 More than a week later, I’m moved by the experience—my own personal frog stampede.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The beauty of caves

First, a disclaimer. I am not talking about spelunking. I'm way to claustrophobic for that, but I find power when visiting the entrances of caves. There's something about the silent secrets that huddle inside, deep in the shadows, just out of reach, hmmm. Maybe it's because my next book will focus on dragons, but I'm drawn to caves right now, and the high bluffs along the Mississippi river were a perfect destination.
The sandstone bluffs wear away slowly in the driftless area (which I'll discuss in a separate post), and they are now dotted with mostly small, colorful caves. Wyalusing and Perrot State Parks promised a series of caves on the various hikes, one of which you have already seen, but there were more.
Most caves seem to start like this. It's called Horseshoe falls, but wasn't running. I'm certain it gushes in the spring or during heavy rains, but it's been dry for over a month. As the water falls over the brim, it splashes back against the base and wears the cliff away. If the upper levels are more resistant, a cave begins to form.
This was at Perrot on the Nature trail. I normally avoid these overly tread trails in favor of the longer, more remote hikes, but I decided to give it a try. Boy, I'm glad I did. The sign below this cave said that as recently as the 1800's humans used caves in the area as temporary shelter. This was large enough to stand up in.
Then I found these on the same trail. Now wonder I felt like I was being watched, even though I was alone. I suppose they will eventually merge, but the pair which began as tiny chips in the sandstone are really cool.
Back at Wyalusing. I decided to take the trail to Big Sand Cave.
I fell in love with this cave. In the upper photo you can see the tiny trickle of water flowing into and then along the back side of the base.
Look at the color. How could you not love that?
Here the tiny stream exits the cave after having swooped along the back edge, always slicing deeper into the sandstone.
Notice the upper layer bleeding onto the vibrant golden orange. Looks almost like writing to me.
Magical, just Magical.
Caves are alive. It's almost like you can feel your heart beating while your standing inside. And these had layer upon layer of soft grains of sand built up on the floor, like a beach.

Barely a breeze stirred outside, but these webs floated in the swirling air current as it entered the mouth of the cave.
I left a few caves for my next visit. I didn't want to be greedy and ruin the surprise for my next trip to the Mississippi. Still I have more to share about my journey. Keep clicking back.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Packer Party, with visitors

It was bound to happen. Elvsmyr is a happening place. Trolls from all over the Midwest do trade at Venn’s trading post, well it’s called Venn’s, but Sila is in charge. At any rate, it was a Packer Sunday and I wrapped up my hiking vacation by preparing the garage for a troll party.

It’s very cloudy here today, but the trolls still need to be careful. Some are so small that a large housecat could easily dispatch them. Besides, they are terrorized by the barn cats that roam the edges of the marsh. Besides, I can’t have my neighbors knowing that my blog posts are not merely the product of a fertile imagination, could I.

During day games, the troll travel under the cover of the invisibility spell. Only Leaf and her mother, Gaven has such power so Leaf is always a part of the party. Something that makes me very happy because I have an affinity for the tiny trolless who looks nothing like the others.

It would seem that word has spread among the outlying villages. Even before the invisibility spell broke, I knew I was in for it. What was a gang of ten to twelve trolls has bloated to twenty-seven. I kid you not. Twenty-seven trolls strolled into my garage, and I didn’t know half of them. Worse, it was immediately clear that they were not all going to be Packer fans. I felt better when Leaf tugged on my shirt hem and pointed her mother out. “I couldn’t cast the spell large enough. I needed Mama’s help. You don’t mind, do you?” I smiled at her and nodded to Gaven. “Your mama is always welcome here, Leaf.” Gaven is so shy, but we became very close over the winter. Blue on the Horizon is her story. I’m still surprised that she trusted me enough to tell it.

My attention returned to the game. It was inevitable. The new trolls took to cheering for San Francisco while my friends stayed true to the green and gold. It was going to get interesting regardless of what happened on the field.

I was nervous. San Francisco has whipped us out last year in the playoffs, and I, like many Packer fans wanted revenge. No sooner had “the Clay” shown shall we say stick-to-it-a-ness by lunging after the SF quarterback, then the drama began in the garage. A troll named Drip shoved Pod, and a trolless named Snow kicked Smekk in the shin. I lunged at Smekk before she could retaliate. Nobody disses “the Clay” in Smekk’s presence. I just hoped the ruling would even things out when the on field squabble lead to offsetting penalties. Things settled down, but the fans were still split, just like any normal foot ball game.  

Halftime 21-21. It’s a new game out there. Jordy Nelson is on fire and our rookie Lacy is finding air with the strong legs. Suddenly, it’s the fourth quarter and the Pack takes the lead for the first time. The Clay is all over Kaepernick and messing with the SF QB’s mind. The new trolls have grown quiet, and I start to worry what will happen when it over, no matter who wins.

“Don’t worry Rebecca,” Gaven said. “We know how to handle this.”

I relax, but grow more and more anxious as the Packers start fold. Then Cobb gets us within range, but fails to get out of bounds. “NO,” the Elvsmyrians moan while the visitors roar with triumph. “Now, Mama,” Leaf  says. POP!

I run to the overhead door and hit open. I keep bumping into troll bodies, but shove them all outside. Suddenly, a head with long knotted hair hovers troll high off the driveway. “Stop it. If you don’t stop struggling, I’m going to pop the spell,” Gaven screams. The roar evaporates. “Okay, let’s get moving. The cooks will be starting the midnight meal and we don’t want to insult them by being late.”

Good old, Gaven, she is one smart trolless.

Treasure Cave

My Wyalusing adventure continues ...

As you drive along the towering bluffs that bracket the Mississippi river, you notice the endless variety of shapes that have worn from the sandstone. Water, wind, ice ... these natural forces sculpt the beautiful formations that we see today, and at Wyalusing the adventurous can, with a heavy dollop of bravery see a magical example.  

Treasure Cave is just off the bluff trail, itself a must do as it offers a series of stunning vistas of the river valley, but be sure to wander down the steps to treasure cave.

The steps are step and the view hidden, but if this keystone feature doesn't pull you down the irregular steps carved from the living bluff, nothing will.
Slip through the keyhole and find yourself deposited at the top of a very steep ladder-like set of steps. I told you this was not for the timid. Then after you make it down that set, a second set takes you up, into the cave.
Did I mention this was an adventure?
Those steps are hanging on the edge of the bluff, high above the valley floor. This tree which makes this trail its home will demonstrate the precarious perch that the trail takes to the cave.
You have about 18 inches around this root, beyond that, a bumpy fall to, well you don't want to think about it.
Let's look at those steps again.
I started to wonder what I had gotten myself in to. I don't really like heights. I can do them, but edges frighten me. There I was, at the base of the steps leading to treasure cave. Gulp!
But up I went. At the mouth of the cave, the ground is steep and covered in, sand. Duh. You want a good pair of boots to do this, but if you make the climb, this is what you will see.
It's deeper than it looks here, and there is a side cave as well, but I was a little nervous up there. It was Tuesday, and nobody was around. That's the way I like it, but if a hiker falls from treasure cave, does anyone hear the scream?

My heart beating, I made it back down, then up again to the keyhole, worked my way up the steep rocky steps and back to solid trail. Thrilled and winded, I'd do it again, and I recommend that if you make your way to Wyalusing, take the challenge for yourself.

One last thing. As I reached the top of the bluff, a ranger met me. I said hello, and asked if he was taking a break. "No," he said. "Just checking the cave. People get stuck down there. We have to talk them out sometimes."



Saturday, September 7, 2013


So with the lesson of the sunset in my mind, I start hiking again. This time, I focus on the world as it unfolds around me. There is no rush, no ultimate goal, just me and the quiet of the forest.
It's amazing what you can see when you take the time to look.

It's all out there. Every time you walk a path, the gifts that await your gaze are different. Go find it for yourself. Me, I have so much more to share. Keep coming back. I'll be typing at you again in the coming days.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bucket List Checkmark

We all have them. A list of things we long to do if only we had the time, the money, or the nerve. Some of mine are so surprisingly easy, it's just crazy to put them off. My home is  150 miles from the Mississippi river, but I rarely go. It's a beautiful place, and as you already know, I took charge this week and went for a whirlwind adventure. Just me my boots, camera and walking stick. I hike often. I love it. I need it. I thrive on it. But I sometimes find myself charging down the trial forgetting why I'm there. My vision tunnels and I start to see only the trail.
That's not why I'm out there. The camera helps. It forces me to look around, to really see the landscape, and slow down, but what about when I'm not hiking?
Back to my bucket list. After hiking several miles, I checked into my hotel (no camping on this trip, I'm moving too fast) and took a shower. If I timed it right, I could make one of those checkmarks happen. I grabbed a quick dinner and heading back to Wyalusing. I had scouted my location earlier in the day. The goal: to watch quietly as the sun set over the Mississippi river.
On the drive out to the park, I started to fear that the clouds rolling in from Iowa would ruin my chance, but I had to try. I reached the parking lot, unloaded my chair and camera, doused myself in bug spray, and planted myself on the bluff near the monument to last passenger pigeon in Wisconsin. It seemed appropriate somehow, to be there with the ghosts of the billions of birds shot for food or sport. I had the ridgeline to myself. It was perfect. I took a minute to get the camera set up on the tripod so I could enjoy this. The sun was still relatively high in the sky as I took this shot.
At first, I was antsy. It's the bane of my existence, and it drives my husband crazy, but I felt rushed. I grabbed up the camera to take a few more handhelds to settle my nerves.
That's better. I can relax now. Just let natural time wash over me as I give control over to the planet. I didn't read, didn't think, just drifted while occasionally snapping a shot with the remote.
It wasn't a perfect sunset, but that wasn't the point. I stayed glued to my chair, waiting for the sun to tint the clouds richer and richer colors.
These were the last photos I snapped. I quickly put the equipment away and held position. Some of the best photos can be taken in that hour after the sun dips below the horizon, but I had realized that wasn't why I was out there. I have my memories of the vivid pinks darkening into magenta and purples and finally black. I had done it.

Watch sun set over the Mississippi river


Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Need for the Wildness of a Place

As summer slows into autumn, I find my way back to the woods. I have always loved this time of year. Even as a kid, I couldn't understand why school got going just as I wanted to be out there, in the rolling hills surrounding my rural home. However, now I have control.
I've just returned from two magical days of hiking along Old Man River, also known as the Mississippi River. He drains several US states and 3 Canadian provinces. The slow muddy water of this river is unlike any other on this part of the planet. Songs are sung about him, words are written, but you will never know what it's true power unless you go yourself.
This is merely a backwater, a still open boat launching deep inside Wyalusing State Park. Already at this early point in the waters journey, mere man cannot see across.

Notice the tracks. Every few minutes a freight train snakes along the river banks full of the bounty of the central states. After a few hours they become a welcoming annoyance. Commerce has utilized this river from the beginning of human occupation.

Multiple channels, thousands of islands, billions of gallons of water. You could spend a lifetime getting to know a single mile stretch of the Mississippi, and just when you thought you had it, you have to start over. Constantly shifting waters destroy and create an ever changing milieu.
And then just when you thought the Mississippi had taken all its could fertile banks could hold, a titan of a river joins the deep murky waters. Here the Wisconsin River gives up to the master.
I snapped a photo of my passing before taking up my stick and heading into the woods.
To be continued ...