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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

he's a bear-shifter-- who knew!

My writing has been broken up by life-- which has a way of happening. I am trying to get back into it as the characters take on more flesh. I learn things about them that I might've felt but did not know in the beginning-- which has a way of happening. In the case of my hero for Something Waits, I did not originally know he was a bear-shifter. It came to me as I recognized the conflicts he faced coming from two ethnicities-- adding to it the family secrets which must not be spoken.

Below is a snippet of one aspect of his life that has impacted who he is in ways most of us will never experience or believe because we know what the 'real' world is... Because this is part of a raw first draft, it might be different in the book-- editing has a way of doing that.


Marsh ground his teeth. He felt the kind of anger that never led to good. “I’ll talk to you later,” he said to Jericho, leaving the room and managing to not slam the door. 

His hotel sat on the edge of the Catalinas with desert around it. Perfect for what he needed. Soon, he’d gone far enough from the buildings to strip out of his clothing and let it happen. The cells in his body transformed their energy and within moments, the process was complete—he no longer appeared as a human but had taken on the form of a large bear. He lunged forward, not needing moonlight to see his way now that he had a bear's vision and senses. The width of the trail was perfect for him to gallop up the trail—his speed increasing the higher he got. Dark as it was, he didn't expect to run into humans on the trail. If he did, he'd know enough ahead to go off trail and wait out their passing.

Taking on an animal's form had given him no comfort the first time it’d happened. He’d been ready to graduate from high school, angry at something that he no longer even recalled. That day, with no warning, he'd felt his body morph into that of an animal. He had been fortunate he’d been up on Mt. Lemmon when it happened, hiking, thinking, and trying to work out his future. Being a bear had not been part of it. In confusion and panic, he’d stayed where he was and waited for whatever had happened to go away. Finally, it had. His clothing had been torn, but he’d put on what he could and driven back down the mountain to try and understand.

Being half Navajo, Marsh had heard the stories of skinwalkers, humans who turned animals. Some of them had become bears. Skinwalkers were always evil, seeking power from unholy sources. He had not sought power—other than having allowed his anger build to an unhealthy level.

The years since found him researching other ways such transformations could happen. Except in the Navajo world, it was always an inborn quality—inherited mostly. Who in his family had been a bear-shifter? He was unwilling to ask, to trust anyone enough to reveal his own secret. He could only try and control it.

It had taken years for him to recognize he could use it. It was empowering in a strange sort of way to leave the world of humans and become one with nature, where the scents and sights were so different. Now he used it when he needed to let off energy, when he couldn’t think through what was happening in his human world.

He ran for what might’ve been hours. He had to leave time to get back before light. He wanted to be on the mountain. When he reached the first pines, he sat under them and let their energy flow into him. A rabbit approached and then hopped away when it saw him. He could have killed and eaten it, but he’d never developed a taste for raw meat—even as a bear. 

Bats flew overhead, in the distance he heard an owl. Night creatures, as was he at least for the moment. Was he also evil as his mother’s people would claim? He couldn’t ask his mother. She’d died when he was only thirteen. He knew  Grandmother Ali having spent summers helping her with her sheep, learning Navajo ways.

During the school year, he’d lived with his father’s mother in Tucson—where he’d met the love of his life. Something he had eventually run from until he no longer could run and had to return.

He hadn’t expected her to greet him with open arms. She didn’t understand what had motivated him to leave. He had been unable to tell her then or maybe ever. How could she understand what he didn't.

In 1993, we had made our third trip to Montana. In a gallery, I saw this painting, met the artist, Larry Knutson, and photographed a couple of his paintings. I'd have loved to have afforded the work, but the budget wasn't stretching that far.

When I knew I was going to have a bear-shifter in my next book, I tried to find where I had the photograph. At that point, I didn't even remember the year. I went through many albums and finally there it was. I believe it says something about this idea of shifting into another shape-- even if in a fantasy way. 

In looking online to see what he might be doing, this is the only site that had his work-- Art at the Park. There was a quote by him that I liked.
"we all have an animal spirit that we associate with in some way... It should not be kept outside of ourselves."

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Yellowstone and Nine Mile Opportunities

In July, besides the scenery and animal watching, I learned more about what happens at the Yellowstone Institute in the Lamar Valley. It's an onsite lab for Yellowstone Forever. There are classes and clinics. Participants get to stay in the primitive cabins, which would be cool.

What got me interested in what was going on at what had been the buffalo Ranch, was in July, we saw students walking behind an instructor as they observed and photographed a wolf kill and the reaction of the elk to what had happened. We thought our new telephoto would capture it. It didn't help that it was getting dark but we need an extender and some shoot through spotting scopes. I'll share what we got but you'll have to take my word for it that besides the elk and kill, there are wolves hunkered down in the sage.

Elk are not helpless and wolves have had their jaws broken in attempting taking one down. We did not hear the lecture but bet it was worthwhile as the students learned improved ways to use their cameras. 

Here are a few links I came across on what the Yellowstone Institute is about.

So that was cool, and then we came across something else out of Missoula-- Nine Mile ranger Station. 

It was created out of a ranch as a Remount Station for the forest service. The buildings, like this residence, were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933-35. They were made to look like New England homes or a Kentucky horse farm. Today, when they need restoring, all has to stay in accord with their original construction. Besides housing, there is a bunkhouse, cookhouse, museum, and the barns.

It is lovely, but more than just pretty, it sponsors annual horsemanship and packing clinics where the trainees learn to and restore mountain trails. Stock continues to be kept there except when in the mountains. It's a working ranch where 4 pack-trains of mules await their next fire call.  

When we were there, the mules were out but the parking spaces were full of those who had gone somewhere, whether a fire call, since it has an engine, or on clinics, I don't know but was amazed how many vehicles awaited someone's return. 

Nine Mile Ranger Station could have been just another historic site instead it's both that and of continuing use.

The opportunities are cool but more for the young than me-- at least me at this stage of my physical capabilities ;).

Friday, August 25, 2017

that first kiss

 On her blog, romance author, Lily Graison, has a Friday feature she calls first kiss. Kind of a fun idea as that first kiss can mean a lot for whether a relationship is going anywhere. For this Friday, it's Denali and Nick's first kiss in Enchantress' Secret. 

For a writer, determining when a couple will kiss the first time takes some thinking. It sets the tone. Who instigates it? If it comes too early or late, it might disappoint readers. I try to keep that first kiss believable as to when it'd happen. I also like it to have a setting that adds to the energy of their coming together.

Check out Lily's blog for the snippet where a natural born witch and an exSEAL finally kiss. This book (spicy) is only on Amazon for Kindle purchase or borrowing through Kindle Unlimited.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


The last time a total eclipse came across the United States, it was [1918]. It came in the middle of a turbulent time for the country. WWI (where about 53,000 Americans died in combat) would not end until November 11th. Maybe more significant for many Americans, that January was the beginning of a pandemic that would eventually take 650,000 American lives-- most between the ages of 20 and 40. That tragedy was a big deal in my family's history, as my mother and her sisters got very ill. As she was nursing them, my grandmother's beloved brother died. The stories of that go beyond the physical to the spiritual and are part of my family's mythology.

Today, we understand-- eclipses are biological events, the obscuring of light by one celestial body passing over another. Lunar ones happen regularly, but solar ones more rarely and not in the same places. In some times and cultures, these events have been regarded as having spiritual significance-- especially before science was good at predicting and understanding their cause. When you see one, you understand better how a more primitive culture might have regarded them.
Shamans have used such events to give themselves power. I would guess solar eclipses provided less opportunity since they are further apart in any one geographic area. Today when spiritual leaders tried to make (a few did) the one of August 21st into something with spiritual meaning, they had less success. We know too much.

I had another blog set for today but thought I should use the photos Ranch Boss took  Monday morning in Oregon. The actual event lasted two hours or so. We, like many others, settled ourselves (with comfortable chairs) to where we'd have full view of the sun and bought special glasses to watch-- because to study the sun is to court blindness. The climax, when the corona appeared lasted about two minutes here. To photograph it he used a tripod, telephoto lens, and a filter to protect the lens-- the sun will destroy a camera as easily as a retina.

Animals aren't alerted like we are. As it began to take out the sun, the vultures had been circling over a nearby road. As the air current changed, they soared less and used their wings more. Then they disappeared to settle onto tree branches. When the moon blocked the sun, we heard the coyotes yodel from up the valley. As the sun returned, a neighbor's rooster crowed. Our sheep and cattle had sought shelter earlier; so I can't say what they thought. The cats roamed around, were a little feisty with each other (not unusual), but then night is their time anyway. Even though we were in the center of totality here, it never got totally dark but more like dusk. The temperature dropped 10 or so degrees. 

In a way it was all biology. In another, it was, however a big deal in the US-- something we could all talk about without getting mad or upset. I admit. It surprised me when it felt special-- something I suddenly shared with more primitive cultures as well as our own. I could imagine how scary it must have seemed to a people not knowing it was coming. I could see how someone might claim they brought the sun back to gain power. For me, it was more moving than I had expected it to be when it reached totality. 

An event like that is what photography is all about. It allows someone to share with others a moment that otherwise passed and is gone. For much of the US, this was a big event. It felt good to have something we could share without judgment or someone being angry. I liked knowing that as it passed us, it was over others until it went off our continent. It was truly a shared event, at a time when so much is divisive.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Yellowstone's Denizens

Basically, when in Yellowstone National Park, we divide our time between the geyser basins and the Lamar Valley. The geysers are the predictable part... mostly. Animals in the Lamar not so much. On previous years, I've gotten good photos of grizzlies and black bears, more at a distance of the wolves (but did get to hear their howls, which seem like songs to me), and moose off and on. 

This time we saw the bears only at a great distance and likewise the wolves. We heard of others seeing them-- when we had just left a place or hadn't gotten there. Fortunately, we have memories of other trips to help.

There are photos but you have to squint to recognize their shapes without seeing them move. If we had had a bigger telephoto, we'd have done better with the wolves. We are not professionals; paying $10,000 for that kind wasn't on our shopping list. I've read that some photograph through a scope and that might be something we can try next time.

One thing that never disappoints are the bison. The first time, over twenty years ago, when I saw the Lamar, I was amazed at the sight of the big herds. There aren't words to express what it feels like to see even a bit of the sort of thing the first explorers and settlers saw. There aren't many places to see free, wild herds. Yellowstone is one of them. This time, they were more broken into smaller herds and maybe that was the doing of park service to be easier on the grass or maybe it's their time with the young calves and this works best. Some breeding was going on, which tended to take the usual lone bulls away from their haunts to join the herds.

So these are our photos from July in the park. Some were right alongside the road-- sometimes on it...

It takes some doing to see the animals in these next photos. The first is a black bear going over the hill. Watching it through binoculars was clearer. The next was at the second kill we'd see at such a distance that you had to know it was there to see the wolves around it. Later the wolves appeared circle a bison and the antelope herd. The potential prey didn't seem worried. 

I read about the alpha wolf in one of the packs having his jaw broken by either an elk or bison. He lost his position but was able to bring down an elk calf. He was unwilling to leave the carcass when another, more powerful pack came and they killed him. To live, some must die.

Second one taken with more powerful telephoto as were the following ones of the wolves, across the valley, trying to get their dinner.

To see wildlife in Yellowstone requires some patience, careful watching for movement, and luck. We saw a coyote pretty close also but couldn't get the camera up until it was over the hill. People share what they've seen and where. There is a lot of good feeling when in the wildlife areas. It's exciting to be even that close to wild things and their very real lives.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

the skies

by Rain Trueax

 Great Fountain Geyser reaching to the clouds.. or trying.

From the waters, the skies seemed logically to be next. Yellowstone is high country and that often makes for spectacular skies. This time, we were  fortunate to be there at a time when thunderheads built up several afternoons. Off and on, we'd hear the crack of thunder and some rain would fall. Awesome time in the geyser basin and the Lamar.


In the high country, the light is ever changing and presents constantly shifting opportunities to get that one photo that speaks beyond the images to the energy. 

There are many things that draw people to Yellowstone, but the light is one that shouldn't be discounted as to why it feels so magical when there. That light draws photographers, painters, writers, and millions of people to this super volcano that someday may erupt and change the whole United States for centuries to come. I hope it never happens as knowing Yellowstone is there is one of those things that brings joy to those who have been there or shared its beauty with others. It's there even when we can't be...