I drove about 28 miles or so up the Elliot Hwy today – the southern part of the road that’s locally known as the Haul Road that supplies the Prudhoe Bay oilfields.
There were so many places where I would come around a turn and would be confronted by a golden hill that made me say “Wow” to myself. The pictures can’t really capture the experience of simply *everything* that isn’t a spruce tree being this bright vivid gold.
I like how you can see the rippling of the frost heaves in the road in this one. Behold the interior Alaska driving experience!
In non-highway experiences, the woodland trails around our 11-acre property have a fall magic all their own.
My somewhat minimalist fall table setting display … fake leaves and real gourds.
In book news, Keeley #7 will be out on Sept. 26, and Vicki Vandermoon #2 follows closely on Oct. 11. As always, it’s a busy fall, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sleuth & Psychic (Keeley #7) is up for preorder in September. It’s currently about half written; at present, I’m wandering in the traditional midbook swamp of despair.
I have some other exciting news which will be announced in more detail later this month. I’m launching a new pen name for cozy mysteries, so I’ll have lots more news about that in June and July, as well as some free things to give away!
What others are up to
There’s a big multi-author fantasy and sci-fi sale this week at Bear Mountain Books –click here to see the books! Lots of variety, from space opera and epic fantasy to cozy and paranormal.
There is also discussion and individual book spotlights at the main Bear Mountain Books blog page, so you can read the books and talk about them there. (I’m not in the promo, but there’s a spotlight on the Keeley series on the homepage.)
I leave you with a few pictures of homestead spring.
This is probably going to turn out to be another year when I think about doing something slightly more appealing with the backyard and then fall comes before I actually get around to managing any of my plans …
It continues to be one of the loveliest winters I’ve seen since I’ve lived here, snow bowing down the trees in lacy graceful waves, occasionally refreshed by a new snowfall. I took a couple of pictures when I walked up to get the mail in late January after one such light snowfall, enough to freshen up the world with a new layer of white.
A little earlier in the month, I also took a few pictures of the “blue hour,” the long midwinter dusk.
And we had a cute tiny visitor:
…. attempting to gnaw its way into the outside compost bin. (It’s a vole.) The bin moved to the garage and the vole lost its free lunch.
Books continue on! In January, I got the rough draft done of Shamus & Shifter (it’s going to need a hard rewrite, though) and wrote half a paranormal romance novel for the PNR pen name.
Settling into January, working on Keeley #6, Shamus & Shifter – currently at 43K of about 55K. It’s up for preorder at the end of March. I’m planning to have the book finished, edited, and out to beta by the end of the month.
A flock of grosbeaks has been hanging around lately. They’re really the only bright-colored birds we have here in the winter – males are red, females yellow. It’s nice to look out and see those little splashes of color. I have a chickadee feeder, but the larger birds can’t get into it (essentially as a squirrel-defense measure). I’m thinking about getting a larger tray-style one to encourage the grosbeaks to keep coming back.
Our days are incredibly short here – daylight by 10 or 11, dark by 3 or 4 – but with the solstice behind us, they’re getting longer. Spring still feels very far away. This is the time of year when I daydream about gardens and traveling to warm, sunny places.
December is upon us and the shortest days of the year are here. Three weeks until we turn the corner at the solstice.
I took some pictures of the first day of the year’s last month on my walk today.
It’s really been a hell of a year. I’ve had a lot of health issues in the back half of the year, of the “multiple ER visits” variety, leading up to abdominal surgery (a hysterectomy) in mid-November that will, I hope, fix the problem and also a number of other problems that have been dogging me at a lower level for years, dragging down my energy and causing me to lose multiple days a month to illness. I’m about two weeks out from surgery now, recovering at a reasonable pace and keeping myself fit with light walking. Like today’s walk up to the highway and back.
It snowed last night, so everything is fresh and white.
I do, in general, genuinely enjoy December despite the cold and the short days. I love the Christmas season, I love lights and gifts and Advent calendars (am I even slightly religious? no. Do I have one this year? OBVIOUSLY) and all the books/movies/TV episodes that are seasonal this month only.
So yeah – a lot of this is just finding the pleasures where I can, but there are a lot of them. Not the least being my wonderful husband, who is rarely mentioned here, but has been doing a lot of heavy lifting (sometimes literally!) through all of this. It has very much been A Year, but we’ll be starting the new one in a month, and I’m looking forward to getting back to the books.
I drove up the Elliot Highway this evening at sunset to Whitefish Campground (about mile 6 or 7) just to get out for a while. As I started back, I saw this small lake or slough with mist rising off it, so thick and white that it looked like it was smoking. Very beautiful and weird!
I parked on the shoulder of the highway and walked down to the shoreline to take some pictures, and was cheerfully doing this when I looked up and situational awareness kicked in and I realized there was a moose watching me from really not all that far away.
Quietly I walked backwards up to the car and continued to watch her for a while, and eventually spotted what I guess was her calf deeper in the swamp. No pictures of that one; it was too mist-cloaked to see very well, but I could definitely tell that it was another moose, especially when she turned and sloshed toward it, making those little grunting noises they sometimes do.
It was completely magical, one of those joyous moments that reminds me why I love living here.
It’s been extremely hazy lately with wildfire smoke, but I’m still trying to get out and enjoy the flowers. June and July are peak wildflower season – the wild roses of June are over, but the fireweed of July is just kicking off.
More flowers around the yard …
I haven’t obtained pictures of any of them, but we’ve had beavers, moose, and a variety of birds around to enjoy. I think a pair of robins are nesting near here – we haven’t seen any babies or the nest, but they’ve been around a lot, and we found a broken robin eggshell on the road. A hawk is most likely nesting nearby as well; we’ve seen it in the yard several times. There is a beaver dam within walking distance that we enjoy visiting to watch it grow.
It’s not all idyllic wilderness fun, as the gravel pit on the property between us and the highway is now actively being worked again, so there’s a lot of noise and dust, and the new work has wiped out most of the trees that had grown up over the old gravel bed. (It was being actively worked when we moved here in 2004, then went dormant around 2006 or so, so we’ve had a lot of time to get used to just being able to walk around out there.) But we knew it would happen sooner or later, and the new owners – actually neighbors of ours – have been great to deal with and very considerate about keeping the noise and dust down as much as possible. And they’ve also fixed the road, which is not state-maintained and had been falling into disrepair.
We also did some exploring back in June of old mining roads around our area. Here’s a no outlet sign on a road we just drove through from the other end …
We also got some nice views from the top of the hills, on a rare not-very-smoky day.
Winter: still wintening for all it’s worth. It’s actually snowing today. I was just out putting more seed in the chickadee feeder. Gray jay (a.k.a. camprobber) on the suet block this morning. One of my plans for this summer, now that we no longer have an outside cat and I’m getting into feeding the birds as a hobby, is to redo my backyard for more pretty little bird nooks and feeders and flowers. That’s probably going to be my main garden push this summer … at least if summer ever gets here, which seems unlikely at the rate we’re going. We still have three feet of snow.
Moose: still moosing.
They spent a few days hanging around in the general yard/driveway area, including bedding down for a while next to the plow truck.
Yesterday they browsed slowly down the creek and we spent some time watching the lady moose try to break off a willow that was at least 15 feet tall to eat the pussy willows at its top. Eventually they drifted on and seem to be gone today.
I worked on Keeley #5 edits all this past week and will be finishing revisions this upcoming week (I hope). Kismet, the webcomic, remains on hold for now, as there have been various additional delays with family emergencies and travel and such, but I’m posting some extras to the Patreon to help make up for it, and plan to get back to regular updates in May – after I get back from the first traveling-for-fun vacation I will have taken since 2019. (Planes! Hotels! What even!)
Looking forward to spring, and all the good things that go with it …
The lovely pink light above is the sunshine on the hill opposite our house. You can see the shadow of the opposite hill where the color transitions to white. This is as close as the sun gets to us right now … but now the shadow will begin creeping down the hill as the sun rises a little earlier and gets a little higher each day, until we’ll start getting sunlight on our house around Feb. 7-8 or so.
The world ushered in the Solstice with a snowstorm over the weekend. I wandered out yesterday and took some pictures of the snow-covered world.
They’re forecasting another storm system to move in soon and dump more snow, so Orion plowed last night.
I walked up to the highway to get the mail today and found moose tracks all over the freshly plowed driveway. There’s been a moose hanging around for the last couple of weeks—we haven’t actually seen it, but it browses around the driveway most nights, based on the tracks—but I think these may have been two different sets. There were the usual single-adult-moose tracks near the house, but the tracks of an adult and a calf up near the road.
At least it’s a bit warmer that it was. It was -30F a week ago, but the last few days have been much milder. There are still a lot of long cold days ahead of us, but we hung on until the darkest night, so now the sun will start coming back.
On a less wintry note, I leave you with another of last night’s pictures—of the tiny horse herd that lives on my studio windowsill.
Wild Island Horses by Liz Harman – Contemporary beach romance. (Update: this book is not currently available for sale. Please stay tuned for a future re-release.)
Meanwhile, it’s the height of summer in Alaska, with brilliant sunshine, 85F heat, and a glorious abundance of plant and animal life.
Watching the beavers at the nearby creek build their dam has been one of our most enjoyable activities this summer. We learned that beavers make noises to each other, and got to watch some juvenile beavers grow up! We do have some worries that at least some of them may have fallen victim to predators or trapping, especially since we hadn’t seen any around for a couple of weeks, but there were two out working on the dam today, so maybe they’ve just been working on dam-building upstream or something.
Other summer animal-life highlights include what I can only describe as woodpecker pecking school – with a flock of newly fledged woodpeckers practicing their pecking on the log walls of our house, including pecking so hard they kept falling off – and various other wildlife including porcupines and the first gopher I’ve ever seen here.
We’ve also enjoyed the summer’s lush wildflowers. We’re almost out of the height of wildflower season now; it’s mostly just fireweed at this point, but it’s one of my favorites.
We’re starting to get into the winding down of summer now. In a month it’ll be autumn already.