Christmas With Elk

Merry Christmas, everyone. I had such a good response to my last post with elk pictures, I decided to share the treat I relished on this foggy Christmas Eve Day morning, when my elk friends returned. They came back to the pond and then moseyed up, almost to my front deck. These photos are all taken out my front windows–with a special focus on the big dad. He looked around, as you can see, but didn’t seem too concerned, finally hopped over the fence and enjoyed a moment beneath the spreading oaks. Wishing you all the best in this holiday season and the coming new year!! 🙂

Now, without more comment, the elk:

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878.elk.dad
880.elk.feeding

881.elk.looks.up

882.elk.looks.back

888.elk.over.fence

890.elk.under.tree

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Visitors and Procrastination

I woke up today ready to start the rough draft of Book Five in the Golden Isles Series, having completed the comprehensive outline at about 10 pm Sunday night and taken a day off to do the mundane so I could charge ahead without too much interruption. Now, I can dilly dally as well as anyone when it comes to starting a project of that magnitude, Procrastination being the flip side of my old friend Perseverance. Nothing harder in writing a book than that first blank page. So, there’s no end of things you can think of that need doing. Cleaning the office. Checking a few scenes from the last book and getting caught up in the story. An extra scrub on the kitchen counters.

But nothing serves Procrastination like unexpected visitors. Like these.

828.elk visitNow, I’m not Robin Loznak when it comes to taking a photo, and my camera won’t do what his will, but I hope you’ll forgive the less-than-crystal-clear shots when you consider my excitement. The above photo is taken through glass, my kitchen window, no less. They’re right outside my fence. That’s a bull on the left. You can just make out the antlers. The cow caught sight of me even through the window, and they don’t stay long if you spook them.

So when these wandered on I kept behind glass awhile, just for the joy of seeing them. And doing my best to record what I saw.

837.elk pondThe photo above is still through glass. And I might add in my defense, the fog was drifting. They’re enjoying the pond and the green grass nearby.

843.elk kickThe center cow above is getting a kick out of it. See her right back leg kicking up the water? They romped around in the pond for a while, but the real action shots are too fuzzy to make out. The antics were fun to watch. Elk seem to have a sense of play, even the old ones. Once last year I saw three big bulls in this pond. I wasn’t sure if they were fighting or playing. But they would dip in the water, shake their antlers hard, and then rush each other. Great entertainment!

848.elk upperAfter enjoying the show and procrastinating for a considerable length of time I finally dared venture outside, knowing that even if I scared them away I had gotten my money’s worth. I took the above shot from just outside my front door. And I was reminded of another wild critter I saw last summer. I had just glanced up the road from inside when a golden-brown critter waltzed down that road above the turn where tall grass blocked my view of all but its back. My first thought was deer, commonplace visitors. But it occurred to me that the animal seemed low to the ground. Was the grass that tall? It meandered around the turn and I saw its legs. Short legs. It turned and went off the road so I could see its tail. Long tail. Oh my! A cougar, about 100 yards outside my front door. I had been planning a walk up that road. I changed my mind and didn’t go just then.

But I don’t worry about elk–usually. There was a time I wondered if I was being challenged, but that’s a story for another day. These didn’t challenge, and they didn’t run. I went back inside and watched until they strolled on.

I did get started on the book. Nine pages, about 2,700 words. Not a shabby start. Not the best either. But with such great visitors, how can you not procrastinate a little?

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Website Updated

With new books on the way, the time had come for a website update. And since I was visiting my webmaster, my daughter Christiane, that worked out well. First, we had to change the release date for The Shifting Winds from April to March, since it’s coming out a month earlier than planned. And we had to show it’s availability for pre-orders. With that done, we added an Excerpt so you can read a few paragraphs of the story. Then there were new books to talk about. Today we added a description.stonehenge 3_00001

The above photo I took some years ago shows Britain’s famous Stonehenge, which figures in the newest writing project, Book Five of the Golden Isles Series. The book is called Webs of Stone. You’ll find a description on the newly revised Books page. Up until now I’ve shown only five books for the series because I wasn’t sure if I had ideas enough for a book for this 16-year period in Ireland between the end of Book One and the beginning of the final book. That gap parallels events in the Mediterranean at that time, events shown in Book Four, but what was going on in Ireland then?

My muse was slow to visit, but when I took a Thanksgiving trip to Kansas City to visit Christiane and my granddaughter Calliope, inspiration struck. My muse talked to me. It happens in odd ways sometimes. I was searching for a hideout for my outlaw character somewhere north of Stonehenge (which I call the Great Stone Circle of Wessex in the book). And I wanted mountains. Where would I find mountains in England? Would I have to go as far as the Scottish Highlands? That’s a long way from Wessex when you’re walking or riding a pony. And I’d been in the Scottish Highlands. When you’re used to the Cascades and Rockies they seem like rolling hills. Maybe Wales? I’d seen some real mountains there. I clicked the “terrain” figure on Google maps and found the Lakes District in northern England. Then with a click on “street view” I found myself in rugged, craggy, stone-strewn mountains with steep dropoffs down to lovely lakes. Perfect! I could see myself there, my characters. And the story took off in my mind.

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The photo above shows another stone circle in near silhouette. This is the circle I chose for the home circle of the Golden Eagle Clan, the central clan for both Book One and Book Five. It’s the Bohonagh Circle near Rosscarbery in Ireland. For me it’s the Golden Eagle Circle. I was lucky enough to spend several days traipsing around these pillars and the vicinity back in 2004 when I traveled to Ireland with my good friend Tilly Engholm. She was my next-door neighbor in Portland then, an avid traveler, and we had a great time on this trip–although as I wandered from circle to circle, she began to weary of stones. Once she sighed and asked, “We’re going to go see more rocks, aren’t we, Janet?” And I had to admit we were. I do love the stone circles and the power I feel in them. Fortunately, Tilly was agreeable.

I wrote Book One, Whisper of Wings, that year. Since then, I’ve spent most of my time focused on Crete, where Books Two through Four are centered. It’s lovely to be experiencing Ireland again–and England, with a few scenes on the coast of Brittany and in what is now Portugal.

I’m excited that a new story is taking off and look forward to immersing myself in it. If you don’t hear from me as often in the next few weeks, that’s where I’ll be–Ireland and the High Lakes and the plains of Wessex and those other places–from roughly 1406 B.C. to 1390 B.C., exploring the mysterious circles and other rocks scattered over the British Isles and Western Europe like interlaced webs of stone.

Check out the revisions on my website. Cheers!

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