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I'm a children's book writer, a campground owner and a special education teacher's assistant. It makes for a very busy year with lots of writing inspiration.
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1. And The Fox Kit Research Begins

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I went to the fox den today, just thinking I’d be collecting the SD card from the trail cam.  But I didn’t get that far.  Once I saw these adorable kits outside the den entrance, I knew I had to keep my distance.

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I set up my camera and extended the lens. I itched to get closer, but resisted the urge. Two very young kits lay in the opening, curled around each other, soaking up a sunbeam.

I never *sneak* in to see them, quite the opposite in fact.  I let my hiking boots crunch and snap twigs so they know I’m coming and have the opportunity to hide.

These two didn’t scramble away though. They just peeked in my direction through sleepy lids . . .

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Stumbled around a bit on wobbly legs .  . .

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Curled up together again, and fell back asleep.

 

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I never did collect that SD card, as I would have had to take another seven giant steps in their direction.  Why disturb their nap in the sunshine?

The card can wait. I got what I needed for today.

 

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2. Mystery Of The Eagle’s Nest

 

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Well, it’s official!  Mystery of The Eagle’s Nest is off to the printers!

The release date?  August 17th!  We’ll be having another book launch here at Poland Spring Campground.  I’ll post more details as we get closer.  I couldn’t be more excited to share this story with all of you!

So what’s next?  I’ve begun research on Book 3, which will feature fox kits.  It’ll be set in late April, early May, so I’m doing my setting research now, taking notes about weather, foliage (or lack of!), what we’re doing to get the campground ready to open -

and what the fox family is doing.

I’m lucky enough to be able to do this research first hand, just like with the loons and the eagles.  Two years ago, I found a fox den on the property quite by accident.  You can read about it here.  Those little faces just melted my heart and I knew I had to put them in a story.  I have the trail cam on them now. Up until last week, I had only seen the adults coming and going and bringing furry mammals to the den.

But last Friday, after changing out the SD card from the cam, I walked a few yards away before stopping to safely tuck it into a zippered pocket.  Then I checked my phone.   I was putting it away in my back pocket when I heard a noise, like falling sand. I turned in time to see an adult fox exit the den and shake himself off.

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I froze.  How gorgeous, he was!   He sniffed the air, then turned back to the den.  A tiny reddish-brown fuzzball stumbled out.  The adult licked it across the head, then it’s back.  Gently it nudged it back toward the opening of the den.

I was so in awe, I forgot to take a picture of the moment.

But sometimes, it’s more rewarding just to watch. To soak it up into your memory.

I’ll wait a few more days before I collect the SD card from the trail cam again.

And if I’m lucky enough, I might get to see a kit as well.

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3. Signs

 

This morning, as I gathered my things to go to school, I saw a flash of orange through my office window.  I looked again, and smiled to see the fox trotting down what we call Main Street in the campground.  Heading home from a night of hunting, I guessed.  Instead of passing by, he turned toward my front yard, and stepped a paw on it, I gasped.  He seemed to change his mind, backing off the lawn and continuing past our house on the other side of the hedge, toward our campground gate.

But where the hedge ended, he again turned onto the lawn.  I grabbed my camera, which still had the big lens on it, and  flew to the living room window.

And there he was, investigating under the bird feeders.

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I really didn’t need that large lens, but I didn’t want to take the time to switch it out.

Click, went the camera. He turned my way . . .

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What amazing hearing they have!  He stayed for a minute or two, even came next to the house to sniff around under the bird feeder in the window.  Again, when I snapped a photo, he seemed to look right at me.

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Write the story, he seemed to say.

I knew what story he meant.  His story.

But I shrugged it off.

Later today in class, the students were issued three writing prompts and told to choose one. Most dove right in.

Two did not.

I coaxed.  I gave my best helpful tips.

And yes, I threatened to make them work through our read-aloud.

“Buuuuut it’s soooo hard!”  One young man moaned.  He was quite angry with me as he lives for the read-aloud.

“Yes, the first words ARE hard,” I explained.  “Write anything, anything that comes to mind.  And once you start, the rest will come more easily.”

“It’ll just be junk though!”  He closed his ipad, crossed his arms and put his chin in his chest.

“You’re right,” I agreed, deciding honesty was best.  “But you can delete what you don’t want once you get going.  The important thing is to begin.  Don’t be afraid of the blank page-”

I stopped talking mid sentence.  All the students looked at me, waiting.  Finally, I sighed, shook my head and laughed.  I confessed to the young man how I’d been holding back from writing those first words too.

Then I thanked the class for teaching me something.  I needed to follow my own advice.

I haven’t started a brand new project since 2011.  Mystery on Pine Lake was complete when I sold it, and Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest was half done.  Starting from scratch IS scary!   And I’d been losing myself in fox research instead of taking a chance and writing those junky first words.

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Well, it’s time.

Consider Book 3 officially started.

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4. What Can Clear Your Front Yard of Song Birds?

Last week, the bird seed ran low somewhere around Wednesday. It seemed that every time I went outside, I was getting scolded from chickadees, titmouse, finches, and squirrels.  “You expect us to all fit on one feeder?” they taunted.

So on Saturday, hubby and I stopped for the food and suet and even a special treat of safflower seeds.  I cleaned feeders, shoveled around them (hoping the squirrels would stop jumping up on them – it didn’t) and refilled.

“Here you go!” I called out. They were buzzing my head in seconds.

Back inside the house, I vacuumed, then did some research, peeking out the windows as I went. Suddenly, I realized there were no birds at my feeders.  There was no song.  No chirping.

But wait, clinging upside down to the thin side of the suet feeder was one, tiny nuthatch. He was stone still.  No movement.  I knew then what was going on . . .

I went window to window until I found it.

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I’ve had a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Barre Owl clear my front yard before.

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But never a Sharp-shinned Hawk!  I took a few photos through the window.  When he stayed, I snuck silently out the side door to take a few more.  Still he stayed.

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I noticed he was puffing up a bit, probably from the cold.  I went back inside to grab the tripod.  As quietly as I could, I set it up a little closer and snapped a few more photos using my remote control.

Snow began to fall.  He stayed.

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It took me awhile last night to figure out what he was.  Sharp-shinned Hawks are quite interesting!  They prefer to live in the forests.  Their long tail helps them maneuver around trees as they fly.  They chase song  birds and mice. For their meals.

So is it any wonder my front yard stayed quiet through sundown, even though the hawk left the front yard around 5pm?  I’m not sure I’d risk it for a few seeds either.

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5. Soaring Eagles

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Watching an eagle soar is a most wondrous sight.

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They do it so effortlessly . . .

They look so free . . .

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Circling above the lake soundlessly, eying the fisherman’s catch, riding the wind,

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. . . watching them fills me with awe.

When these eagles take flight, all eyes on the lake turn upward.

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Today, I watched as she came in for a landing on the nest.  When I’d first gotten to the lake, I was worried to see no adult on it, as she’d been sitting there for hours just days before.

AND I’d told everyone on this blog.  And Facebook.  And the campground blog too.  And the Campground Facebook page.

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I held my breath as she walked along the tree branch  .  . . were there eggs or weren’t there?

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She stopped to look down into the nest several times. It gave me hope.

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After poking her beak into the nest once, twice, three times, she hopped into the nest and  settled back down onto her eggs.

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Whew!  We’re nesting. I didn’t fib.

These photos were taken before the big snow, wind, ice storm Wednesday night.  My relief over knowing they were definitely nesting was replaced with worry. The eggs were on my mind for most of the last few days.  After my meeting was done today, I trudged down to the lake to find her sitting on the them, only the tip of her head showing.

I shouldn’t have doubted her.  She IS the Queen of the skies, after all.

 

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6. Owl Sighting In My Own Backyard

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Right at dusk . . . with a pink sunset fading behind him, the owl swooped into our backyard.

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Unlike the other day, when I’d caught a sleepy owl around 3pm, this one was quite active.  He almost didn’t look real, as his head swiveled from side to side looking for an early supper.

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We watched until we couldn’t see him through the darkness any more.

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Oh, how I wished he’d shown up earlier so the pictures were clearer.  Still, I was honored by his visit.

Now I can’t stop looking out my back window, hoping for signs of his return.

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7. The Eagle’s Are Expecting!

 

You might miss it, if you didn’t know what you were looking for.  At first, even I thought no one was on the nest.

But there she was, just the top of her white head showing on this glorious day  . . .

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The Eagle’s are expecting!

The lake was crazy busy today with an ice fishing derby down by the state park.  The eagle stayed put on her eggs, even though four wheelers and snowmobiles circled her island.  And in spite of the ice fishermen who had set up directly under the nest. (I’m suspecting they didn’t know she was there, considering the side of the island they were on)

Her mate, roosting in a nearby tree, was a little more restless, however.

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It IS quite early for them to be sitting on their eggs.  Do they know something we don’t?  Can we hope that it means an early spring is on the way?

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8. Our Eagle Pair

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This is the eagle’s nest from last fall.

The eagles have been busy.  And not six months busy.  This is how much the nest grew in the last TWO WEEKS!

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As I headed to the lake today, I hoped to see just one of the eagles.  Instead, at the half way point, I peeked through the trees to see two!

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I hurried to get a closer look.  Images of clear, flight photos ran through my head.  I walked on top the snow (which is quite rare nowadays, I don’t mind admitting) and I slipped a bit as I tried to get to to the lake’s edge.  Cradling the camera, I began to walk slower with one eye on the prize.

Then I hit the last fifty feet.  I crunched.  I cracked.

And the eagle’s flew away . . .

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I cannot wait to document our 2014 Eagle Adventure.  Especially with Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest being released in August . . .

Come back often for eagle updates!

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9. Cormorant’s Eyes Bigger Than Its Stomach?

Over February vacation, I flew down to join my husband and kids on Sanibel Island.  We’ve been visiting my in-laws there for twenty years now, and it’s one of my favorite places on Earth, mostly because it’s one big Wildlife Refuge.

In other words, it’s a photographer-/-nature-lovers paradise!

I shipped my camera and lenses ahead of me. I missed them for a few days in Maine, so when I arrived in Sanibel, I unpacked it lovingly. I ended up snapping so many photos in the six days I traveled the island, that I’m surprised my laptop isn’t bulging at the seams.  I’m trying really hard to cut some photos from the files, but it’s so

*insert whine here*

HAAARD!

How hard is it?,   you ask?

Well . . . okay . . . you be the judge.

One afternoon, the kids and I decided we didn’t have time to bike or drive (traffic was sooo backed up) to one of my favorite and more remote beaches, so we opted to bike to the beach three blocks away.  It also happens to be a much busier, human-type beach.  I hemmed and hawed over bringing my camera because I didn’t hold out much hope of seeing wildlife in amongst a sea of human-life.

Finally deciding I’d forever regret it if the dolphins decided to glide past, I brought it.  Sitting on my towel, I gazed out over the blue water.  Pelicans soared by every few minutes-

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as seagulls circled overhead looking for left over crackers, sandwiches; pretty much anything they could get their beaks on. Like this one who stole an apple core from the family next to me.

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Suddenly, I saw something shiny in the distance.  It twinkled.  It sparkled. Once Twice.

I walked to the water’s edge, adjusting my lens as I went until I could see -

A cormorant had caught lunch!

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Ummmm – make that a four course meal!

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What the-??  Did he really think he could swallow that?

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Whole???

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No way!

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The fish is bigger than he is!

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And down . . .

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down . . .

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down . . .

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. . .  it goes!

I still have no idea where he put that fish!!

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But he certainly has a self-satisfied smirk, doesn’t he?

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So tell me, what photo would you have cut from that series!??

Decisions, decisions!

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10. Looking UP

Early one March a few years ago, I was lake side, moaning and groaning out loud to Cookie because I hadn’t seen the eagles working on their nest or mating yet.  I was so afraid we’d lost one over the winter.   Or they’d found a better spot.  Cookie sat patiently, listening.  Eventually, I noticed she kept looking up into the trees.  I followed her gaze, only to find one of the adult eagles on a branch above my head!  He gave me a *silly-human!* look before flying off.

Ever since then, I make sure to look up during my hikes through the woods.  Otherwise I might miss gorgeous finds like this sleeping fellow:

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I froze in my tracks when I saw him, all thoughts of fox dens forgotten.

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After a few clicks of the shutter, he opened his eyes and fixed them on me. I stayed as still as I could while snapping photo after photo.  The sun dipped below the tree tops, just over his shoulder.  My fingers were freezing.

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Eventually, he had enough of my gawking, and flew off into the woods for some peace and quiet.

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I just love surprises!!

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11. Wierdest Winter Ever

Isn’t it?  The weirdest winter ever?

I mean, there’s no snow!  I’ve only been out on the snowshoes once, and truth be told, I didn’t reeeeee-ally need them.

There’s even bare ground by the lake’s edge, for goodness sake.

My Cookie and I took another walk this week.   Once at the lake we walked on the ice and followed the shoreline.

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Cookie raced ahead, then raced back whenever I stopped to listen to the quiet and look up for interesting subjects for the camera lens.  Like this little guy.

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Every time we head for the lake, I hope I’ll find my eagles sitting on a branch.  One of my students lives further down the lake.  He told me they see them quite often right now because they throw the “junk fish” they caught onto the ice.

“You should hear how their talons scrape on the ice as they walk across it for the fish,” he exclaimed.

Alas, all I saw was the empty nest.

But the Pileated Woodpecker was on the point again! I’ve seen him more in the last month than I have in all the twenty-one years I’ve been walking these woods.

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It’s not a very clear photo, but can you see his tongue?

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He kept a close watch on Cookie as she ran from tree to tree, sniffing the bare ground.

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Eventually, Cookie and I continued on our way until we were home, where she immediately curled up on the rug and took a nap.

No napping allowed for me though.  I have another round of revisions for Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest sitting on the laptop.  Every revision has less and less to work on, but with every revision the plot gets tighter and the story stronger. I love the questions my editor asks!

Time to get back to it . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12. Wintering Loons

I just love surprises . . .

Last weekend some friends took me on a little walk into Perkins Cove.   I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It was a frigid day after a major snowstorm and I’d only brought my sneakers.  I had no mittens.  No hat.

But I did have my camera.

As we slowly made our way along the shoreline walkway, we saw duck-like birds bobbing  on the water  in the distance.  I zoomed in.  “Oooooooo!” I cried.  “Winter loons!”  I snapped a boat-load of photos even though the loons were only specks through my large lens.

We continued to follow the path, enjoying each others company.  We rounded a corner to find a gorgeous after-a-snowstorm scene.

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Everything was picture perfect.

Even the pudgy seagull seemed to be posing for me . . .

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I  heard a friend gasp- then call me to the top of the footbridge that would take us over the waterway. She pointed down.

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Luckily, I have patient friends, for they hung out with me on the footbridge as I took photo after photo of the loon below us.

Reluctantly, we continued on our way, chatting, laughing until the cold worked its way through our coats. We stopped for coffee and treats, and when warmed up, headed home.

We spied a fox statue in a shop window.  Thinking of Cooper and Packrat’s series and the plotting I’d done on the fox story just that day, I joked, “All I need is to see an eagle now!”  Secretly though, I scanned the treetops.  Alas, no eagle appeared.

As we crossed the footbridge again, I caught a gorgeous photo of what I now know is a male Common Eider -

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Isn’t he striking?

A loon popped up out of the water nearby, a flash of orange caught my eye, so I trained my lens on it.

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I’m not sure what it caught . . .

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but it dunked it, rolled it and swished it before opening wide . . .

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to swallow it whole!

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Whatever it was, I hope it was good.

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It was nice to watch the loons for awhile.  In four short-ish months, they’ll arrive on Lower Range Pond and begin nesting once again. I wish Springtime would hurry up  . . .

 

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13. I’ve a Little Teapot

 

Since beginning teaching, I’ve tried hard to put writing into my daily routine.  It seems the only time it can be “daily” is if I put it after supper.  After school is camp work time.  After that is treadmill time, then supper.  Early, early mornings?  . . . yeah, that isn’t happening.

See what I mean?

So, if it needs to be scheduled in after supper, I wanted to find a soothing, very low cal treat to have with it.  Not coffee;  caffeine at night doesn’t bother me, but it’s kind of heavy.  Adult beverages would make me nod off.

When my nephew Chad chatted with me over Thanksgiving about his visits to a tea shop back in California, and he showed me the cool new cup he had for drinking loose leaf tea. I said, “Hmmmmm.”  And when Alex put a loose leaf teapot on her Christmas list . . . well,  I sat up and took notice.

After Christmas, I splurged on myself.

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I bought this cute little teapot and cups. And after lots and lots of debating and searching and reading reviews, I finally chose some sample packs of loose leaf tea.

And quite by chance, it all arrived today . . . a welcome treat on an icy, rainy, windy day.  On a day when I needed to huddle over my manuscript and fit back together the pieces of the plot puzzle I’d taken apart last week.

When my camp work was done, I unpacked it, put my loose tea leaves in the basket, poured the boiling water inside and stood back to let it steep.

It was then that my eyes fell on a couple of beautiful china tea cups which had been sitting on top of my fridge since David’s Uncle Donald had passed away a few years ago. Somehow, they’d ended up at my house after David had cleared out the remaining items in his. I believe they belonged to his sister, Peggo and perhaps even to her mother before that.

This one is so dainty. I love the deep bowl underneath.  It has no handle . . .

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and the inside is discolored from having held many, many servings.

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This is another of my favorites. . .

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mostly because of the little square chip opposite the handle which was so painstakingly glued back into place. Whoever this belonged to, they must have loved this particular cup very much to repair it.

I looked at the shiny, new, blue cups next to the teapot, then back at these two.

There was no contest.

With reverence, I chose the swan cup, although I promised the chipped cup I’d use it tomorrow night.

As I sipped my first steaming cup of creme tea, I tried to channel all the happy and sad conversations overheard by this cup, the quiet moments spent holding it,  the decisions made while swirling its tea with a spoon.

Is it coincidence that I went on to not only solve a major dilemma in my storyline, but to make all my puzzle pieces fit and then finish my revisions?

I think not.

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14. Pileated Woodpecker

One day last week, as we drove between Middle and Lower Range Pond just minutes from home, my husband pointed out the passenger side window, “There’s the eagle.”

That’s all it took.  We’d been gone for two days to a family function, had just spent four hours in the car, but I had my boots on in seconds.

It was a gray day.  The snapping coldness of the air across the ice had the fog crawling in too. Still I lugged my camera, because, well, you just never know . . .

 

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This was all I could see of my eagle. Even with my long lens.  But it was enough to know he was there.  And nearby. And hopefully thinking about nesting here again this year.

As I looked out over the frozen lake, I heard one sharp crack.  Then another.  I thought at first it was the ice moving, shifting.

After hearing it a couple more times, I walked toward the sound.

It wasn’t the ice at all.  It was this guy . . .

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Normally, Pileated Woodpeckers are very skittish.  I’ve never been able to get close enough for a good photo, and if I had, they’d move around to the other side of the tree.  This day though, it didn’t pay me any mind at all even though I crunched loudly in the icy snow with every step I took, working my way closer and closer still.

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I think perhaps she knew we had the ice storm and two snowstorms on the way.  Filling her belly with carpenter ants was more important than some wildlife stalker on the ground.

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This is a female Pileated Woodpecker, because she has the yellow stripe before her beak.  Males have a bright red stripe, like their crest.

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Look at the work she’s done to this tree!  The holes they make later become a nesting spot for other birds like Pine Martens, owls or bats.

 

 

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I watched for quite awhile, until a group of cross country skiers came down the lake.  Why they spooked her and I didn’t, I don’t know.

But I have a sneaky suspicion this Pileated Woodpecker will find it’s way into Cooper’s third adventure.

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15. Snowshoe Season Has Begun

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Over vacation, snowshoe season began.  Cookie and I blazed a trail through the campground woods and along the lake’s edge. But we weren’t the first to cut a path through the newly fallen snow.

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The fox had been through before us.  He followed our hiking trail and circled the frozen over muskrat hut a couple times.  I saw no signs that he’d caught anything though.

 

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And of course, I aimed my camera everywhere . . .

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Nuthatch

 

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Chickadee with a seed from the feeder

 

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Raven

 

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Raven slipping on icy branches

 

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Downy Woodpecker

 

 

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Blue Jay

 

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Tufted Titmouse

 

With snow in the forecast again, I’m looking forward to more snowshoeing over the coming weekend!

 

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16. Back on Track

Funny how Christmas can derail you from your routine: Eating . . . blogging . . . sleeping . . . exercising and writing too.

But  I told myself I had to get back on track right after the Wight Christmas.  And that day is today.  Not only is the campground about to start taking 2014 reservations, but I have a big job to do ~

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It’s time to begin revising Cooper and Packrat: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest.

I have Melissa’s notes.  On my desk.  All eleven pages of them.

When I showed my students the notes , they gasped and said, “You have homework over vacation?”  I was quick to explain that I like revising!  I love playing with the words and the characters to make the story just right. By the looks on their faces, I’m not sure I convinced them.

Digging in today, I was reminded of how much I love this new adventure of Cooper and Packrat!

And how I can’t wait to share it with all of you!

 

 

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17. ‘Lost Trail’ and the Survival Unit

 

Shannon and I have begun the Survival Unit with this year’s students.

She always starts with a few articles, such as Aron Ralston’s incredible story of perseverance as he faced certain death, or a story about a real life encounter with a grizzly.  Then we move onto researching the gear, tools and rules needed to survive in the wild.

When our students buy into the survival theme, we introduce the book we’ve chosen to study.

This year, it’s Lost Trail, the graphic novel by Donn Fendler and Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Ben Bishop.  We passed out the books.  Let the kids handle them.  Flip through the pages.

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Before we read a word though, Shannon showed photos of her climb up Mt. Katahdin,  and traversing  Knife’s Edge.

Then we began to read.

Immediately, our students were hooked!

A couple chapters in, we introduced researching shelter building.  What kinds are there,  when would you use them, what materials did you need to build them?

They made a plan.

Then we DID IT!

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Behind the school are trails . . .

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where our students happily built their shelters of choice.

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They’ve made so very many connections to Lost Trail!  And are especially loving Ben Bishop’s illustrations.

Wait until you see their Pamola’s . . .

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18. More Muskrat Photos

 

 

 

I braved the cold today to check on the muskrats.  Luckily, I had hand warmers, because it took about twenty minutes before I heard one moving around in and out of the bushes on the shoreline.  Finally, it scooted into some branches further off shore where I could see him.

Kind of.

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I hit the button to take several photos, when he stopped nibbling, went still and listened.

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You have to wonder, was he thinking, “Don’t tell me the stalker is back again!”

I snapped a couple more photos and he looked right at me.

 

 

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I snapped a couple more and whoosh . . .

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he was gone.

I did get a very good look at his tail though, and all doubts over whether he was a small beaver or a muskrat are gone.  The tail was rat like.

Muskrat it is!

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19. Cooper and Packrat Giveaway Update

The deadline has passed!  I will be drawing the winner tonight after supper!

I just need to find a sticky marshmallow to draw the winning name . . .

I wonder where I can find one of those?

Hmmmmmm . . .

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20. And The Winner IS ~

 

All through school, the appointment afterward and supper, I kept thinking about drawing the name for the Cooper and Packrat Giveaway.

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As promised, all the names went into the bag, along with a slightly sticky marshmallow.  I made sure the bag was full of air . . .

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and I shook it!

This was the lucky, winner!

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Neil, message me through Facebook (or e-mail me) with your address and I’ll get your copy right out to you.

Thanks to everyone for playing!

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21. What’s New?

This is the last weekend of the 2013 camping season.  Where has the time gone?  As always, there’s a mixed bag of emotions involved.  I’m sad to see close friends, my parents and my campers leave .. .

but glad to get weekends off to walk the property . . .

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Sad not to have groups of people around my campfire . . .

but glad to have family time again . . .

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Sad not to have little campers stand at the counter and talk to me about books, wildlife, and other kid-like interests . . .

but very, very glad to gain some writing time!

Cooper and Packrat’s second book has a working title now. Cooper and Packrat: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest. It makes it all the more real somehow to have settled on that.  I’m 95% done with the revisions to it, the last of these based on a talented friend’s critique. It should be in my editor’s hands by the end of the month. She’s going to send me some revision notes (Yikes!) and I’ll revise again.

And probably again.

And maybe one more quick revision.

Then I’ll start research for a new book!

Buuuuut, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

I’ve been assisting the very knowledgeable   Shannon Shanning  Maine’s 2013 Teacher of the Year) as she creates a curriculum guide for Mystery on Pine Lake.  It’s incredible!  A  chapter by chapter guide for educators, complete with the common core standards it covers.  I’m putting the finishing  touches on it now and will post it under the Teacher heading very soon.

You’ll also be glad to hear the trail camera is going out next week, too.  Last year I caught the fox family, some squirrels, a fischer and a neighbor (walking the trail). This year I hope to catch much more, as I’ve been watching for signs and I’m more aware of where things are happening on the outer reaches of the property.

With the camp closing, I’m going to have more time to post here, too.  Come back often so I can update you on where I’ll be with Cooper and Packrat and what’s happening with book two.

 

 

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22. I Did That Thing I Said I Wouldn’t

I created a Pintrest board.

Or two . . .

Okay. five!  Five Pintrest boards in all.

One board for Cooper and Packrat’s images from launches and signings and Carl’s illustrations.

The second board is for Cooper and Packrat inspiration. Photos of loons, campground life and kids hanging out at Poland Spring Campground.  I was hoping teachers would find it helpful for writing prompts and such.

There’s the board for Cooper and Packrat as it’s being used in the classroom. Here I’d like teachers to share the ways in which they’ve integrated the book into their curriculum. Mostly recently, Nancy Cooper, teacher and author, shared a Cooper and Packrat crossword puzzle.

I’ve posted some of my favorite books and movies too, of course.  I especially liked how my childhood books are now labeled as vintage.

Vintage!

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*shakes head*

These are the books who shaped my reading and writing childhood.

If you’re on Pintrest, follow me!  Let me know how you’re liking or using Cooper and Packrat.

Otherwise, I’ll just be procrastinating by searching for the newest, yummiest,  s’more recipe.

 

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23. A Huge Thank You to Ms. McPherson’s Class

 

A few weeks ago, I visited Ms. McPherson’s class in Buxton, Maine.  I gave them a presentation on descriptive writing, showed them how I research to get all the little details just right, and we played a game to illustrate why it’s so important in the stories we write and share.

The students gave *me*  amazing Thank You letters and illustrations inspired by Cooper and Packrat.

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I love the rainy day details, and the soft hoot of the loon from off page

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Why, yes!  I AM going to write more!  Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest will be out next August. A draft of it is sitting on my editors desk right now.

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Where do I write these books?  Good question!  And one I don’t think I answered while I visited.  I write anywhere and everywhere I can! Sometimes in the backyard in the summer, hotel rooms (if I’m on the road), the living room if it’s quiet, in school with my students.  But mostly, at my desk, in my house . . .

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Isn’t this adorable?  An origami loon.

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I love books too!  I have piles of them in the house and have been known to sneak up to 10 books in my suitcase when we go on vacation.

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” . . . nature, wildlife, friendship and family”.  Exactly!  That’s Cooper and Packrat in a nutshell.

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I LOVE loons!  There are photos on my bathroom wall.  Statues sit on my desk.  Carl DiRocco’s lovely art hangs on my office wall. I giant loon photo hangs behind the campground registration desk.  I have a loon bedspread AND a loon cookie jar.

I’m a little loon crazy.

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(Don’t you love how the loons are looking at the questions?)

Other outdoor books?  Have you read Hoot by Carl Hiaasen? It’s all about kids who save owls.  Or how about Touch Blue, by Cindy Lord, which is about Maine Island life and lobstering.

I HAVE seen loon chicks, and they are the most adorable things!  Sadly, our loons didn’t have babies last year, so I wasn’t able to take  photos personally, but here’s one taken by a camper friend of mine . . .

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The feelings came from deep down inside, which is why I don’t have a favorite character.  It’s kind of like asking a Mom which of her kids she loves best.  We love them all!

And yes, even Mr. Beakman, um, I mean, Mr. Bakeman.

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Thank YOU for reading and studying Mystery on Pine Lake . . .

Happy Reading!

 

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24. Gray New Gloucester’s School Visit

GNG Middle School Rocks!

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I met with Mrs. Hodge and Mrs. Carbonneau’s classes a few weeks ago.  They  are taking part in Maine Botanical Gardens’ conservation program, and  Cooper and Packrat fit in nicely with it.

I brought my descriptive language presentation, as it ties in with the reading portion of the grant.  Using passages from Cooper and Packrat along with photos from the up-close-hands-on-research which inspired them, I showed the difference between “telling” the reader something and “showing”.  We practiced ‘how to describe’, using Packrat’s Coat game. then took some boring ‘ol sentences and jazzed them up.

What an imaginative, creative class they were!

Afterward, I was presented with illustrations and notes inspired from their classroom reading.

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This past summer, our loons nested twice, but each time the eggs didn’t hatch.  I think the cold, heavy rain was to blame, and I always feel badly for the loons when this happens.   I used those feelings in my writing so you would connect with the loons too.

By the way, I’m hoping for two babies next year!

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Loon illustration gifts are always such a treat. I love the red eye detail.

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What a perfect entrance sign for Wilder Family Campground!

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I wanted that s’more scene to be perfect, so I made a vow.  Even if I had to eat two hundred and fifty two s’mores in the name of research,  so every word could be perfectly placed, and my readers would feel like they were eating those ooey-gooey marshmallow-y treats themselves,  well . . . then . . . . I’d make that sacrifice.

It was worth every bite.

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This sign made me smile!

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Such a sad loon . . . this illustration has a picture book feel to it. Very clever!

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The picture above and the two below brought me right back to any given night in July or August. The smell of the wood smoke, and the crackle of sparks.  Scary stories being told as marshmallows are twirled near the campfire’s orange yellow flames.  And when you least expect it, you hear the wail of the loon.

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I hear Mrs. Hodge’s students were quite upset with her for leaving them with Chapter 22′s cliffhanger ending last Friday.  And right before a long weekend too!  Oh, the horror!  How could she do that to you???

Keep up the great work, Mrs. Hodge and Mrs. Carbonneau’s classes!

 

 

 

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25. Muskrat

Late yesterday afternoon the sun peeked out of the clouds, just before the it dipped below the treetops.  I waffled on taking a walk with the camera.  It was getting dark.  It was chilly.  I had things I should be doing.

But I went.  Because I hadn’t taken a walk in like, forever.

And I discovered something new . . .

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I was standing still, very still, watching a pair of robins feasting on fall berries, when I heard the sound of water moving.  As if something was swimming. I tiptoed between the crunchy leaves until I had a clear view through the bushes and gasped.

I’d found muskrat’s getting their den ready for winter.  Right. Off. Shore.

I watched the pair for forty minutes or more, swimming out into the lake a few feet, then coming back to the hut to drop things on top of it.

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I wish the light had been better.

When I pushed down on the camera button, it sound like Cli . . . . . ick.

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There were two of them, Muskrat Susie and Muskrat Sam perhaps?  (Okay, that dates me just a little bit)

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You can bet I’ll be going lakeside again tomorrow. This time, I’ll go a little earlier AND bring my monopod to stabilize the camera in low light.

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I want to catch some sharp clear pictures of these two before they winter up.

And since I’m about to embark on Cooper’s third adventure, the research wouldn’t hurt either.

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