Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Glorious Day for Football

The shorter days and chilly nights had conspired to drop a warm tapestry of garnet, green, and gold over Stoughton. Autumn came quickly this year and it was zooming past at an alarming rate. It was time to work on my next assignment. My editor had given me a good one this time, an article sure to put me back on a professional path: High School Football. When that assignment had landed on my desk, I had breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a story featuring people had come my way. It had to be perfect so I waited for one of those days of crisp air and spectacular light. As the sun began to ignite the trees with the light that only comes near sundown, I headed to the practice field. With my camera slung across my body and my crinkly, new notebook in my hip pocket, I strolled past the cheer squad as they built a rock solid pyramid. Those young women are fearless, but I had my assignment so I climbed the hill to the tennis courts and found a good vantage point. The team had broken into two squads: one doing a bone crushing tackle drill while the other worked on the snap count.

The wind was wiping my hair across my face so I reached into my pocket for something to tie it back. When I looked up, a tiny dirt devil of leaves and dust raced across the field. Odd, I thought. It wasn’t that windy. I began to get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Then it happened. A mop a bushy, gray hair zipped across the scrimmage line and made a mad dash at the ball. Oton was on the field. I swear I nearly swallowed my tongue in an attempt to stifle the scream rising from my gut, but I was afraid to move for fear of alerting the coaching staff or worse, the players.

Except no one seemed to notice the crazy troll, a mere eleven inches tall, zipping between cleated feet and darting away from falling bodies. I was about to witness my tiny, stinky, annoying friend’s death. I couldn’t let it happen so I did the only thing I could think to do. I ripped pages from my notebook and tossed them to the wind. They sailed onto the field of play and skittered across the grass, one coming to rest again the leg of the coach. I took a deep breath and followed them onto the field just as the center snapped the ball again. “Excuse me,” I mumbled as I peeled the paper from the coach’s shin. “If I lose this, my editor will kill me.” He growled at me, but I kept going, right up to the line of scrimmage where Oton stood beaming, awaiting the next play. I rushed between two burly players with my eyes blazing and locked on the oblivious troll. Little did I know that the coaches had called for the exact same play and they were already downing the ball—in the same place. I lunged at the blank sheet of paper drifting between the feet of young man, and scooped Oton up just as he noticed me. I couldn’t believe they didn’t see him, or at least smell him, but then again, the players had been working hard, and lockers rooms have a well-deserved reputation for a certain sort of funk.

With Oton squirming in my arms and his stench seeping into my new sweater, I hurried to my car where the little deviant and I could have a private conversation. “Oton, what were you doing in the middle of a football game? Don’t you realize they can’t see you? You could have been killed.” He snorted. “That wasn’t football. Football comes out of the bright, shiny box in your garage.” I allowed my head to fall back against the headrest. This was my reward for introducing football to a village of trolls. “Okay, if that wasn’t football, what was it?” After all, Oton had a unique view of the world. “That was Hurl.” He was triumphant, and I had just stumbled upon some weird troll tradition. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s Hurl?” He sneezed, coating the dashboard with snot, and rubbing the rest on his filthy trousers. “Hurl is a test of bravery. First, you find a rock, the bumpier the better. Then you wrap it in a skin … if you have one.” I was starting to see where he was going. “So you make a ball out of rock and leather­—“ “It’s not a ball, it’s a rock. We call it Bob.” I was being to regret saving him from the player’s cleats. “Why do you call it Bob?” He smirked up at me. “Bob: Battered Or Bruised.” He was laughing hysterically, but I wasn’t amused. “Okay. So you wrap a rock in leather and call it … Bob.” My head fell against the steering wheel with a thud as he began to treat the seat like a trampoline. “Then, and here’s the good part, we take turns hurling it at each other.” I raised my hand. “Let me guess. The last one standing wins.” He tipped his tiny head to the side. “Have you played Hurl before?” I felt like crying. “Just a lucky guess,” I moaned. “Oton, what were you doing out there on the practice field?” He wouldn’t look at me, a bad sign.

I wasn’t innocent in this. Two years ago, I had left Elvsmyr saying I had to get home for the football game. My beloved Packers were playing the Vikings. Little did I know where that remark would lead, I had seen the glint in Oton’s eye as soon as I had said Viking. That led to the infamous troll football party in my garage. It was quite a day, but in the end, the trolls, the entire village of them, had become devoted football fans. Never mind that they couldn’t tell the teams apart. They were all Vikings to the trolls, a point that still stings my Packer Pride, but I never expected Oton would sneak onto the high school practice field. “You didn’t answer my question. What were you doing out there?” He plopped down on the seat and groaned. “We’re outta rocks.” I rubbed the back of my neck as the headache began to take hold. “I find that hard to believe. I’ve been to your village, many times. There are plenty of rocks.” He looked deflated “Hurl hurts.” It was my turn to snort. “l’m sure it does.” It was starting to come into focus. “You’re here to steal a football.” He refused to look at me. A few heartbeats later, he asked, “can we go get sprinkles now?” 

I turned the car on and backed out of the stall. “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll buy you a whole bag of sprinkle donuts if you promise to leave the footballs alone.” I doubt he heard anything I said after sprinkle, but at least he had been distracted from his mission, for now. But Coach, if footballs start to disappear, I’m pretty sure I know where they are. There’s just one thing. You don’t want them back. Troll stench tends to stick to things.

Originally appeared in the Stoughton Press, November 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

City of Eagles

 Today, I return to my travel photos. I have been distracted by other things, primarily the writing of the final book in the Legends of the Aurora trilogy, but that's no excuse to leave you hanging.

Libby, Montana: a small town of 2,600 in the northwestern corner of Montana seems like an unlikely travel destination, but I was itching to get there. Known as the city of eagles, they certainly live up to their name. It was a bright, cloudless day when we arrived in Libby. A river town, it stretches along the Kootenai (Koot-na as we were told it was pronounced)river. Above, dark shadows soared in search of a meal. Now, being a writer, I'm prone to a vivid imagination, and because I was working on the final edit of Cairn: A Dragon Memoir, those huge shadows read dragon to me.

But I knew better.At least until we drove downtown to purchase a few supplies. Something about the giant, dangling feather alarmed me. 

Still, we needed supplies to we slipped into the parking lot of the local grocery store where I discovered this guy. Seems I can't get away from the Vikings.  
It was all a little weird, but I stayed with the dogs will my husband went inside. Wandering around the parking lot, I stumbled on this bit of tackle. It must have been 14 feet tall. It seems the people of Libby like things big, really big. 

Come back to learn why I was really excited to be in Libby, and maybe what inspires the residents to think big.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Teenagers Never Change

I was digging through my notes this morning. I gather bits and pieces from any number of sources. Most of it will never see the light of day, but there's always something to spin me off in a fruitful direction. A wonderful source comes from the newspaper. Those quaint little sections of historical articles. I have to wonder how many people read these especially when it's reporting on a town you aren't living in, but I find endless nuggets here. 

This one came from my local paper, The Courier Hub. I haven't used it, don't think I will, but I got me to thinking this morning. 

Teenagers never change. Generation after generation we think we are the brightest, the funniest, the most clever humans who have ever walked the planet. I certainly did, but I never once got bored enough to go stealing chickens. And certainly not in a buggy. 

AMENDMENT: While considering my replies to the comments below, I realized I had in fact used this article to spur an event in the Legends of the Aurora trilogy. Astute readers will recognize Uredd's passion for goats milk in this crime story. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Chill in the Air

Image from Instructables.com
It's All Hallows Eve in Wisconsin. Right now, hundreds of goblins like me are rushing home to dress as our alter ego. That's really what Halloween is about in this part of the world. Who ... or What are you?

But there's an unavoidable reality tonight. Fairies, Pirates, Witches, and Superheros will be cloaked in thick winter coats as they brave the frigid winds racing across the area. It's not fair, but it is common in Wisconsin. Maybe next year, I'll be a werewolf. A thick layer of fur should ward off the chill, or at the very least, I'll be able to swath myself in thermal undies. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

In honor of the season

Mythology, Legend, Lore, Fable, Fairy Tale, they all spark an image in your brain, but they are hard to define. In honor of the season, be it Samhain, Harvest Festival, or All Hallows Eve, I've reduced the price of Cairn: A Dragon Memoir to 99 cents (USD). 

It's time to jump into the Legends of the Aurora trilogy. Each book is a complete story so don't hesitate to take advantage of this bedrock price.  

Imagine, for less than a cup of coffee, I promise you two distinct species of dragon, clever trolls, an annoying puffin, a defenseless baby deer, and a hauntingly beautiful Goddess you will never forget. But hurry. As soon as the last leaf hits the ground, this price will disappear.

Amazon/Goodread reviewer "Believer" says:
"Cairn A Dragon Memoir" is an exciting adventure that begins when Troika the legendary dragon with a twisted tail returns home to the lair with the trolkin Leaf. What he doesn't expect is two grisly murders and a dual of wills with the Topaz clan that will leave him in the untenable position of competing for Guardianship of Aurora an Elemental after the death of his grandfather.

The threads of the plot not only follow Troika's integration back into the Sapphire clan, his rise to Rex and his search for the killer of his father Hawk and Falcon, but also Leaf's journey of self-discovery as she becomes a mother to a young fawn and searches for a way to the Heart where she hopes Aurora will disclose her destiny. When the stories converge and you think you know who the killer is Rebecca Farrell Porter skilfully adds a further twist to the plot. With vivid description she brings to life a fantasy world with its troll legends, and dragon culture. In a society that's cold, tradition-oriented and layered in intrigue Troika faces lies, deceit, murder and greed. Like the shifting of the wind alliances change until the only one he can depend on is his friend Leaf.

I loved the spark of humour that Leaf and her motley gang of misfits like the puffin Bay add to the storyline. Even the romance brewing between Troika and the Anemone, a Topaz dragon lightens the dark mood ignited by greed and death. Magic seems to fuel a world where Leaf carries a bloodstone for invisibility and a loom weaves tapestries from Aurora's hair.

The characters are unforgettable and realistic especially Troika the "Promised One" of prophesy who finds his integration back into his dragon family filled with pitfalls and loneliness. Content in Elvsmyr with Leaf's family Gaven and Uredd, he suddenly finds himself struggling to contain his anger and insecurity. The Trolkin Leaf is a loyal friend who's fearless, stubborn and highly perceptive. Aurora's the Elemental who seems like an enigma, aloof and unknowable. Add to these captivating personalities the indomitable puffin Bay, the gentle fawn Fern, Troika's diplomatic, but iron-willed mother Wren and the volatile Sparrow. But it is the destructive behaviours of the cunning and bitter Pearl and the aggressive, tough but narrow-minded Quill that help build the intensity and suspense of a murder mystery as events unfold and tempers rise in the clans' bid for Guardianship.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the last leave broke free and fell to the ground in last night's windstorm. Nature is demanding and I must obey, but don't let a few extra pennies stop you from reading this beautiful look at the world through the eyes of a misfit dragon. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Cover for Blue on the Horizon

I have exciting news as I begin writing book three in the Legends of the Aurora trilogy. The new cover art is complete and I'm ready to relaunch my quirky legend, Blue on the Horizon

I like my original cover, and many of you have told me you did too, but the honesty of child pushed me to seek professional help ... from a digital artist. 

(What were you thinking?)

Last year, I entered Blue on the Horizon in the Wishing Shelf Book Award, and it was these words from a young judge that pushed me to make a change:

This [the cover] was by far the weakest part of the book. The young readers felt it was professional-looking and the lettering was simple to read, but they felt it did not represent the genre or the plot. One reader put, ‘The cover looks OK but I thought it was a travel book or, even worse, a romance. But it has nothing to do with trolls.’

I began to study book covers in my genre. The reader was right. My cover didn't look anything like the other book covers in magical fantasy. 

Branding is important to me, so I worked with the same artist who designed Cairn: A Dragon Memoir. She's wonderful and incredibly talented. Thank you Vanesa Garkova. I'll be contacting you again, but first I have a massive amount of work to do. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ten Signs it's time to start writing my next novel:

10. I awoke to a heavy frost, the first sign of the coming cold. 

9. Driving home yesterday, I noticed the birds were starting to form huge flocks, preparing to travel south for the winter.

8. A few nights ago, I had a dream and Lucy Lawless* told me to me, "stop stalling".

7. My football teams are struggling. Well the Green Bay Packers are doing okay, but only because their whole division is struggling.

6. My deadline for The Stoughton Press is looming.

5. I'm seeing quirks of my characters in the people in my everyday life.

4. I've filled my notebook with character profiles, settings, rules of magic, plot structure, and I've even scribbled key chapters.

3. My brain can no longer hold all the little details I have planned.

2. I can already see the book cover in my head.

And the number one sign it's time to start writing again ...

1. My protagonist is so real to me, I feel like calling her to ask her to dinner.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Giant Hair Bows

I wasn't planning to continue with my family photo album, but I seem to have stuck a chord. Today, By their attire, it's easy to see we have moved forward a generation, but notice the giant hair bow. 

I can't imagine a big floppy thing like that on the back of my head. It must be starched, and not lightly. And check out those dresses. I seem to remember I had a low-waisted dress very much like this back in the late twentieth century. 

Fashions rarely disappear, tights became leggings, thin belts are back in style, but I'm not going to plaster a giant hair bow to the back of my head. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Big Hair

I've been busy editing old family photos for a hush, hush project. As I study these old photos for imperfections, my mind wanders. Some make me cringe at the thought that I share genes with these people, others are beautiful, but this one I had to share. 

I don't really know who they are, (sorry Mom, genealogy is your thing, not mine) but it appears that big hair was all the rage at this time. I have long hair, always have, but I almost never wear it up, not even at my wedding. Mom tells the story of her grandmother who had hair so long she could sit on it, and she always wore it up in a bun. Maybe hanging on to my long hair for, well forever, did come down through the blood. 

But let's relate this photo back to the now. Can you imagine how long it took to get that look? And all without "product". 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Sexy Feast

Most visitors to Glacier National Park dream of spying grizzly bears, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, maybe even wolf or mountain lion, but for those of us who focus on the macro, bagging the big one is easier.

I'm not saying that I didn't arrive with the same wish list as others, but as the days slipped away and still no large mammals appeared, I took pleasure in other creatures.

This little anica checkerspot stayed with me a long time. It flitted around while I snapped photos of the surrounding flowers with my young and eager dog clipped to my belt while my husband and our older dog sought sight lines to the snow covered peaks. 

Then the checkerspot was joined by this larger butterfly. 
I'm afraid that I  can't identify this one, but he was just as eager to hold still for my lens. What were they seeking? Sweet nectar from my photography subjects. The flowers compete for the insects, each sweeter than the other, and dripping with golden pollen. 
 Who says nature isn't sexy?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tiny Features

 It's time to share some macro photography. If I were to be told I could take only one kind of photo for the rest of my life, I would choose macro. I've always been good at it. Even as a child, I won accolades for my macro photography in 4-H. I still have the kelly green Special Merit ribbon deep inside the hope chest just to my left as I blog today. If you look to the right, you will see my most popular post is August Flowers. It became an instant hit. I'm still surprised by that because those are simply flowers growing in Viking Park in my little Wisconsin town. Well, it's time to see if some alpine flowers from Glacier National Park can topple those tiny gems.

 I'm not an expert, and I can't really identify any of these specimens, but a few I can be fairly confident of their names. To the left: Mountain Bluebell. 
They were everywhere, sitting in little spotlights of sun. Larger than those I'm used to seeing in Wisconsin, they were impressive.
But there were more than pops of purple dotting the forest floor.

 I believe the red flower here is called Snow Flower. They were everywhere.
  More than flowers snagged my attention. These little red jewels were destined to grow into fruit to feed hungry birds and bears. 

And the next generation of tree sprouted from their elders.
Even the thistles are beautiful in the mountains. Above is the aptly named Showy Thistle.

They could be weeds, they could be rare species, I recorded them all. 

Here's one I do know. The Western Trillium. I love trillium and we have our own variety in Wisconsin forests. They herald spring, and the season of celebration to follow. Marks are everywhere, if you look for them.

In Cairn: A Dragon Memoir, marks play a pivotal role in the life of the dragons. 
From his prone position, Troika studied the Scribe’s inscription. It was large and far more elaborate than the others he had seen. A hand with crisply etched fingers, their claws unsheathed, spanned the expanse of the dragoness’ throat. Inside, an eye stared out at the viewer. The effect was clear. Kes saw all even when others thought she was otherwise occupied. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bringing Beauty to My Writing

Life is full of lessons, but being stubborn, I don't always accept them the first time I'm thumped on the head.

My writing is filled with lush sights, sounds and textures found in the natural world. I don't write dark fantasy. My stories are what I have termed Cozy Fantasy, but my covers fail to accurately reflect the magical world found inside. I didn't learn with Blue on the Horizon, at least not until now. Last year, I entered a book contest in Europe. I reckoned the trolls are European, so it was a natural fit. School children read my book, and they served as my judges. Blue holds a powerful message, and I softened it with humor and an amazing adventure, but children can be brutally honest. I was terrified. 

I learned in May that I had not made it into the final round, but only recently did I learn why. 

The Cover Is An Utter Failure. 

The children really seemed to love the book, but they thought the cover looked like either a travel book, or worse, a romance novel. (a direct quote from the feedback) They wanted to see a troll on the cover, and they are right. 

Fast forward a few weeks, and I'm busy preparing to write book three, but I can't help but worry about Cairn: A Dragon Memoir. You see, I knew that cover was not good enough, but the comments from those children in Europe was just the thump I needed. 

Today, I am proud to reveal the true cover of Cairn: A Dragon Memoir. This cover conveys the spirit of the story, the beauty of the setting, and the emotions of Troika, the dragon with the twisted tail. The dragon you see here, is how I see him. I worked with Vanesa Garkova of Bulgaria to design this amazing cover. Soon, I hope to begin working with Vanesa on the true cover of Blue on the Horizon

Thank you children of the Wishing Shelf Book Awards. You have taught this stubborn writer a valuable lesson. 

If you are interested in reading what the children thought about the story, follow this link to their review. The children bored right to the heart of the story, and found it fun. 

What a relief. 

And if you had already purchased an ebook copy of Cairn, just go to manage my kindle on Amazon and request the update. If you already have a paperback, thank you, and know that your copy could be very valuable one day. Very few printed copies of Cairn: A Dragon Memoir with the original cover exist, and you have one of them. 

(Note: it may take a few days for the cover to change for printed versions, but the ebook with the new cover is available now.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway

Image found on Pintrest. 
Thanks everyone for making my Goodreads giveaway of Cairn: A Dragon Memoir a success. If you are one of the five lucky winners, watch for a package to arrive any day. Your signed copy was mailed today.

If you didn't win, please consider purchasing a copy. This book will take you places you never dreamed existed.

I hope you enjoy this unique look at dragons, and please remember to review. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm Ready

photo from morguefile.com
I went to Elvsmyr today. Wait, before you label me crazy, I'll clarify. 

I went to the place that feels like Elvsmyr to me. Many of the elements are there. The arc of ancient oaks, the lush wetlands, and the tapestry of a flowering prairie that hides the ground dwelling creatures from my view. 


Don't ask me, I won't tell you where it is. It's my private dreamscape, the source of much of my storytelling abilities. 

I'm ready to begin writing again. The characters are speaking, the settings are coming into focus, and I have the nine major story points in place. The channeling has begun. 

But I'm not ready to close the door on my summer adventures. The dragons and trolls will wait for me while I continue to scribble in my notebook in search of ever more tightening spirals of magical intrigue. It's just such a wonderful feeling, I thought should share it with you. 

Trail of Cedars

Just off the Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park, a fantastic hiking opportunity awaits you. The Trail of Cedars is quick, flat, and worth every heartbeat of your time. Follow me down the boardwalk on a journey into a damp, green world. 

Much of Glacier is arid, more brown than green, but this little crevice in the mountains was different. Western cedar is a rarity this far east, but pockets still thrive, and this is one of them. 

Forests reveal themselves in layers. Standing trees reach for the sun while younger trees await their turn. Lower still are the ferns, lush and green and nestled among the mosses that coat the rocky soil. 

 I love forests like this. And the roar of Avalanche falls pulled me deeper into the experience.

I wasn't alone in this place, but the the sounds of the humans melted away while the rush of a swift, jade river transported me to an earlier time.another world.

Excerpt from Cairn: A Dragon Memoir
The twisted, burbling stream threaded through the lush forest, pooling here and tumbling over stones there. The air was scented with the richness of the earth, and the trees were alive with sleeping birds and singing frogs. As they approached a plum tree, Leaf’s belly rumbled, again. The peach had set things in motion inside her atrophied digestive tract. As she walked beneath the heavy limbs, a plum dropped to the ground, bounced once, and spun in half circle. 

I always find the words in the woods.

Look at that tree. It might have been alive when Lewis and Clark turned south just east of Glacier to find a way through the Rocky mountains. Think of everything this tree has seen. Although rooted in place, people have been passing by for hundreds of years. Native Americans, Buffalo hunters, white settlers, trappers, nineteenth century women in elegant high collared dresses, twentieth century flower children in colorful bell bottom blue jeans, tree-huggers, bored teenagers, bawling babies, elderly couples holding hands, and finally me. My head spins. 

Finally I find it: Avalanche Falls. Deep within a narrow crack in the stone, and gushing over toppled car-size boulders. I didn't want to leave, but when I turned, I saw this. 
The mountain called me back to the car and my little ragtag family. We had more adventures waiting for us.

I Was Here

Image from Lublyou.com 
When I was a child, I traveled extensively with my family. At the time, I thought this was normal. But I was insulated. I wish I had known the opportunity my parents gave freely to me and my brothers. 

Thanks Mom and Dad. 

Anyway, somewhere in my mother's photo albums are shots of us smiling awkwardly in front of dozens of signs: State Entry Signs, National Park Signs, it was an endless ritual. I know they exist, although they are most likely on slides: an ancient form of documenting the world. 

Glacier National Park is isolated. Don't expect to find a large cosmopolitan city at the gates of this natural beauty, but there are stores available to resupply the basics. Being on the west side, our commissary was West Glacier, a conglomeration of stores at the western entrance to the park. Just beyond this little island of commerce was a bridge across a gorgeous, jade river and a few yards beyond, The Sign

The rangers are clever. The park has a long, for lack of a better term, parking lot in front of the sign. Each time we passed this sign, a cars had gathered and their excited passengers were lined up for their photo op, but you won't be seeing our photo. I had enough of that in the past. 

Call me jaded. 

Friday, August 22, 2014


It was time to turn back and head back down that rough road to our Impressive campsite. Tasha was with me, attached to a carabiner, when she suddenly jerked on the lead. To my right, I heard the underbrush rattle and the huffing of a large animal. 

But, this was no bear. This was a mule deer and he was not Impressed with Tasha's tempermental display. Neither was I so I calmed the hyper dog and started snapping photos. 

Living in Wisconsin, I have some experience with coming upon deer in the wild, but this was a different species. Mule deer don't live in my part of the world, and this one may have been overly accustomed to people. This deer was maybe 30 yards away, and although he turned and ran a few steps in the opposite direction, he turned and charged. He stopped about 20 yards away and stomped the ground and snorted repeatedly. I don't know how long this went on, but the deer never retreated.

Eventually, we had to walk away. 
Score one for the deer.
 I return to Cairn: A Dragon Memoir and this time Troika recounts his revulsion at being forced to hunt deer. 

Note: this passage is intense. Not all dragons are as compassionate as Troika.
Quill pulled back his leathery wings, and plunged downward at certain-death speed because a herd of deer had breached the forest at the wrong time. At the last heartbeat, Quill’s tail jutted upward, acting as a brake as he ripped into the torso of the largest buck. It was insanity to hurl face first into the earth, but the Bone Master, the three Topaz dragons, and finally, Troika followed with his tail whipping wildly. The deer had panicked, but they had not yet bolted. Four more were easily snatched up in deadly claws while Troika tried the braking maneuver and failed. He escaped a quick death by spreading his flight feathers so wide they felt like they would rip from his wings, but he had hit his target. Troika could feel the old doe in his grasp struggle, than grow still. He was sickened, but he continued to play the role of fierce dragon. As they circled back, a fawn stood trembling at the edge of the forest. Her mother was already on her way to the dragon feast. 

Fact: there a several ways to distinguish a mule deer from a white tail deer. My favorite is the tails. Mule deer have a large patch of black fur at the base of their tail, and white tail do not. Most people easily recognize that white flag of a tail tipped up as the white tail bounds away, and many more identify the mule deer's large ears.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Be Not Afraid

My husband will disagree with me, but I am the more adventurous, by far. Glacier National Park is known around the world for many things, and the Going to the Sun Road is near the top of that list. It's something you must add to your bucket list, and we will get there on this blog adventure, but today, I've decided to bring you along as we travel the back roads of Glacier.

There are very few roads in the park, but with the dogs, we were banned from the trails. So we jumped in the mighty mini van and headed north. When the pavement gave way to washboard dirt, my husband gave me a sideways glance. "Oh, did I forget to tell you this road isn't paved?" I said as innocently as I could. He rolled his eyes, but he kept driving. 

We spent the day wondering the back roads. Few vehicles were out there, but meeting an oncoming fellow traveler was always a thrill. Occasional tiny pullouts are your only hope to avoid a collision, and we had to back up into one more than once. I was exhilarated. 

I had a goal: a remote campground deep in the northern tier of Glacier. I knew there was a lake, and I had read the views were spectacular, and we were not disappointed.

What is more fun then skipping stones? And the stones littering Glacier are made for skipping. Flat and smooth, tiny bits of mountain lay everywhere. 

And speaking of special stones, today's excerpt returns to Cairn: A Dragon Memoir and Leaf's struggle to accept her fate.
She knew she should move past her trollkin seasons and grow up, but until her true fate materialized, she remained rooted in place and chained to a false fate. She had discovered the secret locked inside the amber, except Leaf knew it had been an accidental discovery. From her earliest memories, she had played with stones. She would rub them against each other or anything handy. She called them her worry stones, but she never hung on to them for long. Only one rule applied: never bring a worry stone home because it carried all of her uncomfortable emotions. As the stone wore down, her feeling drifted away on the wind, and it had worked.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Before I begin to show you photos from our time in Glacier National Park, I feel that I must share a story of rebirth. As look at my photos of the western side of Glacier, indeed just a few hundred yards behind our Impressive campsite, a massive burn scar has transformed the view. 

Fire is natural process, and officials prescribe burns nearly every year in the park, but in 2003,after five years of drought, a wildfire tore through 136,000 acres. I'm sure it was traumatic, and I remember being sad when I heard about this, but now, eleven years later, Glacier National Park is undergoing a rebirth. 

Notice the vivid green grasses and the healthy young trees at the base of their elders, and don't feel sad when you look at those standing, barren tree trunks. Snags are vital for many creatures. This valley was vibrant and alive. 
Most of the trees in these shots are Lodgepole pine. You can always recognize lodgepoles by their arrow straight trunks. This species is adapted to fire. 

Fact: Nearly all lodgepole cones require temperatures of 120 degrees F to germinate, and since that is a rare temperature in their range, they require fire to reproduce. 

Speaking of tree germination, watch as Leaf witnesses the birth of a magical, new tree in Cairn: A Dragon Memoir.

Leaf stopped staring, shook her head, and tossed the peach pit to the ground where it rolled into divot in the forest floor. A heartbeat later, she watched in amazement as the pit split apart to reveal the life inside. Already a tender root was snaking toward the rich earth. 

Among the grasses, thousands of wildflowers captured my attention. (Come back for a special post on the wildflowers of Glacier) But until then, come back tomorrow to venture deeper into nature.