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. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Power of Words

Do you remember this post from June of 2013?

It's happened again.

Except this time I was wasn't reading, I was driving. That's the way it is for me. A single thought invades my mind, lays siege, and consumes my life until I can race back to my notebook to record it. At least that's the way most images start, but this like that word in 2013 is the key to ... everything.

Read this short post again because this time I have decided to share that word so you too can grab your copy of Cairn: A Dragon Memoir to see how it all fits together. 

 I was reading in bed last night, a book nothing like Blue, when I saw a single word, It’s a word I don’t want to share because it could give too much away, but it’s a word everyone knows. A nice word, a poetic word, not common, but it conjures beautiful images as soon as you see it—at least to me—but this time it stopped me dead  in my tracks. As soon as I saw it, I knew it meant something, something hidden to me until that very heartbeat.

I turned off the light, and my brain snapped on, but I wanted that, needed that, at the moment. Sleep could wait. Book two of the Legends of the Aurora series has been winding its way through my imagination for some time now, but that word, that perfect word has to mean ... something.

I’ve had a stunning revelation. I was close before, but now I truly know the rest of the trilogy. I’m going to have to force myself to slow down. It takes much planning for a puny human such as myself to craft a great story. 

That word, that beautiful word is Tapestry.

Maybe this time next year, I will share my new, magical word. It could happen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I have a lot of experience choosing campsites from nothing more than a list on an impersonal website, and I'm pretty good at it, but I panned a giant gem at Glacier National Park. 

After three longs days of travel, we finally pulled into the western side of the pristine Glacier National Park. Being the organized sort, I had all our reservations in a single folder, in order, and highlighted for quick review. When we reached the ranger shack at the entrance to our campground, a ginger-headed ranger said, "do you know your site number?" I chirped the number out and he paused, and said "Impressive" with a twinkle in his eye. I looked at my husband and asked, "was he impressed by my organization?" I really didn't know, but I was about to find out.

One of the largest sites I have ever seen, fabulous shade and the view. Well, you can see what had us stunned as our very private view of a glacial lake with the craggy backbone of the park in the distance is at the top of this post. Impressive.

All of these shots were taken within our site, and to prove it, here are my traveling companions, chilling by the fire. I'm not kidding all this space was ours, and frankly, as I look at this, it is not all represented. 

Later, I had a chance to speak to that same ginger-headed ranger. He confirmed that he was commenting on the site. He called it the most impressive campsite in Glacier. Who am I to argue with a ranger?

If you are interested in learning the site number, contact me directly. Maybe you can camp at Impressive, too.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Thank You

Thank you for helping to make my free blitz of Blue on the Horizon a wild success. Blue reached number 666 of 60,376 free titles yesterday. I was floored. 

If you missed the free promotion, you can still grab a copy at the bargain price of 99 cents, but hurry. I can't hold this pricing for long. 

While you are online, grab a copy of Cairn: A Dragon Memoir so you can keep reading the legend without interruption. Then, challenge yours friends to see who can unravel the clues first. I would love to hear what you think comes next because the final scene was written long ago, and I'm betting you won't see it coming. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Step Lightly

We are not the first. Always Remember: we are not the first. Humans have left their mark on virtually every inch of dry land. Sadly, we forget that, but as I traveled through the west, I was ever aware of it. 

Montana highway 2 traverses the Blackfeet Nation. I found myself envious of the incredible views the tribe enjoys, but then I would catch a glimpse of a shabby house, with a trio of broken down trucks in the yard. Life is not easy on the reservation, and we should all be angry. 

But I'm not here to dredge up the past. 

We needed groceries, and while my husband slipped inside the tiny store at St. Mary, I waited in the back of the van with the dogs. The town was lively as the rodeo grounds were active and a block away. I couldn't resist taking this shot of this young woman riding bareback through the parking lot. Dirty window and all, I snapped a photo, as I tumbled back to lazy summer days with my own horse, Cheyenne. 
I had read about the warriors the Blackfeet have placed at the four corners of their Nation, and I begged to stop even though we were both tired and the dogs just wanted out. 
Welded from random bits of the car, truck and tractor, the warriors locked their tireless eyes on mine. 

 And my camera blinked. 

Today, I return to Blue on the Horizon. Gaven, Uredd and Stump think they are alone, but they are, of course, wrong.

In a heartbeat, the peaceful setting boiled with action. In a carefully drilled manner, the trollkin ran in different directions, zigzagging the whole way, but their professor stood her ground until they were well away before she slowly led attack on yet another path. Uredd heard metal scraping on stone, followed by shuffling feet, and finally a deep, menacing moan. He was rooted in place, too weak to flee, but Uredd didn’t need fairy advice to tell him to stand his ground. It didn’t matter what creature made that noise. None of them were capable of traveling a single step further without help.

Suddenly, Uredd bore witness to a living nightmare. A massive troll, covered in rotting vegetation, lumbered from the base of the trees, and it was heading in their direction. Uredd could barely make out the small form of an honest troll trotting next to the beast, and  holding a tether connected to the neck of the beast. He blinked once, twice, but the vision refused to dissolve.
Uredd, Blue on the Horizon

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Badlands and Moving On

The badlands in the northwestern portion of the great plains are either abhorred or adored by visitors. While I fall into the first group (I can't live without trees), I can appreciate the incredible layers of color before me. The photo above was taken just off the interstate at an entrance the the badlands on the western edge of North Dakota. To get here, we had already driven for more than a day. One other thing about this location: I was dodging buffalo dung as I walked along the rim of the canyon. Things like that mess with your concentration.

How do I utilize settings like this in my writing? Read how Leaf, a troll who lives in a narrow marsh surrounded by a forest feels about the vast plain in Cairn: A Dragon Memoir.

Mor was beginning to push the sun back below the horizon. The eternal battle was a comfort to Leaf on this wide plain of both water and grass. In many ways, she was reminded of Elvsmyr, except the plants were strange, and no trees dotted the landscape. She missed her maple, but she was settling in with Clover’s help. Dozens of tasty roots and flowers were filling her pockets, but without trees, Leaf and Fern were subject to the whims of nature. They had been drenched more than once by a deluge blowing off the sea, but when the sun had come out, they had dried quickly, their discomfort forgotten. It was as if a giant, rather a whole tribe of giants, had plucked every stone, every boulder from the valley floor, and hauled them off for purposes unknown. Only the grass and water remained. They were surrounded by jagged mountains hemming in the plain, their grand shadows casting a rugged beauty on their surroundings, but it was not a place for troll, or deer. It was, however, perfect for goats, eating machines that they were, and a lonely puffin who was doomed to an unnatural existence."

Notice how Leaf is in a basin, surrounded by mountains. After more than two days of prairie and badland, we were hungry for the mountains.
For hours, we scanned the horizon, wishing the mountains to appear, but time and again, it was an illusion. Then finally, we see them as we drive west toward the rocky mountains along highway 2 in Montana.
About That STRAIGHT Road.
We had been looking at it for nearly two days. And notice the train tracks. The trains were an ever present companion.
It's amazing what a little thing like a curve in the road can do for your mental state. I had to stop. Never mind the power line, it was a curve.

FACT: Seattle, Washington is closer to Glacier National Park than to the eastern border of Montana.

One last tidbit for today: we = my husband, Winston, Tasha, and me.
Winston is on the left, and Tasha is the right. If they look a little confused, it's understandable. 1,300 miles, 24 hours of drive time over two and a half days, and not a tree in sight. But they were little troopers.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nature as Inspiration

I have something special planned for you in the coming weeks. Last month, I traveled from my home in southern Wisconsin to western Montana and then on into the panhandle of Idaho. It was two weeks of relaxation. Well earned relaxation as the previous eight months had been filled with extreme pressures, both at work and at home as I wrote my second novel, Cairn: A Dragon Memoir.

I have more than one thousand photos to edit and more than a dozen blog posts to do, but I thought this might be a time to have some fun. So in that spirit, I'll be giving you a peek behind the curtain. As I work through my backlog of photo editing, and choose my best shots to share, I'll be slipping in short excerpts from my novels. After all, I find my inspiration in nature. Maybe seeing these passages with my photos will help you see the world through my eyes. Of course, I'll also be sharing the story of my Western Adventure with you. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Great Questions from

I recently took the time to answer 5 questions on my GoodReads author page, but because I know that you don't all scrounge through the same sites as I do, I thought I would post them here are well. If you ever wondered about my writing process, or maybe you can't imagine where my wild ideas come from, take a minute to read this:

What's the best thing about being a writer?

Writing is my safety valve, my escape from reality, and my cozy corner. There is nothing to match the feeling you get when you blend the annoyances of life into the story, or sprinkle the beauty of a garden into a scene. I am in control. My characters are real, in a sense, but they do my bidding. That kind of power is addictive.

What's your advice for aspiring writers?

Study your craft. Take courses in creative writing, story structure, acting, and grammar. Next, relax. Don't force the story. Just allow it to come whether in fits and starts, or all at once. You will find the process that works for you.

And finally, learn from your mistakes. Expose your work to people who will give you honest and even brutal critiques. There are dozens of sites on the web where you can do this for free. Join one, and take a deep breath. You will get replies that help, and others that hurt. But even when it seems personal, offer thanks. Then days later, return to the comment that was too much to stomach and really allow it to sink in. You'll be surprised how often that becomes the most helpful bit of information.

So keep writing, keep dreaming, and never let an opinion destroy your confidence.

What are you currently working on?

Resting, but I just revised my first book, Blue on the Horizon. I've learned so much in the past year, and frankly, I'm a little mortified by the mistakes in Blue. The story was solid, but my skills were infantile.

How do you get inspired to write?

Simple. I go for a walk. I take a shower. I write down my dreams. I practice vivid imagining. So far, I've been lucky. I have more ideas than can possibly fit into a single trilogy, but one day it will happen, but I have a favorite hike in mind to push through the wall. I have confidence it will work, it always has before.

Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

I'm an insomniac, always have been, but those insane hours are sometimes well worth it. The key scene in Cairn: A Dragon Memoir popped into my head as I tossed and turned, aching to rest before another day at the office.

I remember being stunned, and like I often do, I rushed to my living room and grabbed my notebook. All authors have notebooks, electronic or like mine, a tattered, spiral bound version.

Sometimes, I write a few phrases, or maybe a whole scene, but this time was electric. I drew pictures, and even a little cartoon as my nerves kept firing in the voice of this new idea. I wrote an entire scene and then a character diagram so vivid, I knew that voice better than my own. I couldn't let it go.

That was the moment I knew the story. I could smell the flowers and feel the frigid north sea on my skin. All I had to do at that point was spend the days, week, and ultimately months to make it best novel I could produce.

I can't wait for it to happen, again.