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
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 
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.