Here's an excerpt from a new novel I'm working on, entitled BELL BOTTOM GYPSY. I hope you'll enjoy this story from the 1970s.
In bed on the cabin’s screened-in sleeping porch, Jessie jerked awake. Jarred and half asleep, she searched the inky-black darkness with wide eyes. Nothing but black Montana night.
“HELP MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” came the spooky wail again, its mournful tones echoing off the island cliffs across the Narrows. It sounded like two children calling from somewhere out on the lake.
Jess lay there in the pitch-black dark, her eyes popping out of her head, her heart pounding. She lay on her back in her warm sleeping bag, stiff as a board with fright. She was alone in the cabin, her uncle having gone home. It was plenty isolated out here, especially in May. There was no phone, and none of the neighboring cabins she knew of were occupied this time of year. She cursed herself for not thinking to have a good flashlight handy. This was her first time staying by herself in the woods, and she had everything to learn. Maybe living out here was a bad idea. She--
“HELP MEEEEEEEEEEEeeeee!” the eerie wail sounded again, its haunting notes slowly fading into the Flathead Lake silence.
The hair on the back of Jessie’s neck stood straight up. She couldn’t move. Not even an inch! She wondered if she was hearing a ghost. It was that kind of spine-chilling, unnerving sound. What should she do? What if someone needed her to help? She felt paralyzed, but her mind was racing. The only thing she could do was drive into town, she figured, since no one was staying out here this early in the season.
Again she tried to see something in the moonless night, anything. The lake was quiet. Through the screen, she finally could make out a patch of starry night sky and the dim silhouettes of the fat old ponderosa pines that stood just outside the sleeping porch. After a few more seconds she could see the lofty tamaracks, too.
Once more the call pierced the night. “HELP MEEEEEE!”
This time it was strangely dissonant. What if she lay here doing nothing, and whoever was out there drowned? What if they were children needing her help? Sometimes boaters out here needed rescuing. She waited, listening hard and barely breathing. Maybe someone had broken a boat propeller, or couldn’t get their boat motor started. She had to get up and try to find the flashlight in the kitchen.
But she still could not get her legs to move.
Then a weird yodeling punctured the silence. It was long, rising, and crazy-sounding. Now what the heck was it? This was not children, for sure. Relieved, Jess took a deep breath. Just then another shrill yodel reverberated across the water.
She’d heard about loons yodeling like this. That must be it. It was May, probably their mating season or something. The loons were having a spring fever party on the lake.
Jess took some more deep breaths and finally relaxed enough to turn onto her side facing the trees outside the porch. A gentle breeze rustled the pine needles.
All was quiet on the lake once again.
But it took hours for Jess to fall back asleep.
It's high time I wrote another blog. It's been too long. Sorry about that.
Like the title says, you just haven't lived until... you've traveled down the amazing, precipitous, wild Going To the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana -- in a tow truck pulling your 30-year-old RV, in the dark, at about 10 miles per hour.
The earlier part of the day had gone well: a nice group of readers at a book club in West Glacier welcomed me graciously. They listened, talked, laughed, bought some books, and had me sign their books.
I'd figured, if I'm going up to West Glacier, why not go into the park and do a little camping in the RV?
We chugalug-lugged up and up and up Going To the Sun, and on the top -- Logan Pass -- I decided it was time for a potty break. When I began driving out of the parking lot up there, Dusty Rose the Gypsy Wagon stalled. Then she stalled again. And again.
Then she wouldn't start at all.
There we were, near a curb but partially blocking a main bottom area of the Logan Pass parking lot, where people drive (often way too fast) to the exit. What to do? What to do? I turned on the hazard lights, tried to stay calm, and just hung out for a while thinking a ranger would come by.
It was after 5 p.m. I guess that means the rangers have gone home. Most of them, anyway.
I flagged down a couple of helpful shuttle bus drivers, who radio'ed my situation to their dispatch people. They did the best they could. They were very nice, and helpful.
The sun was sinking and I got worried about having those hazard lights on. I was trying to be calm, but I was worried about EVERYTHING and felt like crying. I turned them off and hoped for the best. By then there were far fewer people driving around up there.
Ranger Nancy came by because she was keeping an eye on a bunch of tourists getting awfully close to the six bighorn sheep who frequent the Logan Pass parking lot area. She sat on the rock wall and radio'ed in my dilemma, relaying a request for AAA emergency road assistance. She suggested opening the hood to see what we could see, and also to signal to drivers that the rig was disabled.
The open hood attracted several men, one of whom asked me, "Do you ever check the oil?"
That was it. Mind you, I had just checked the damned oil in West Glacier, not that oil had anything to do with the break-down, and not that it was any of this creep's damned business. I was trying not be feel stressed, but I was stressed. I'm just not that good at being calm when my old RV takes a dump on top of the remote Crown of the Continent.
"Hey," I told the guy, "I'm pretty stressed out and if you're going to say rude things to me, I want you to leave."
He left in a huff. Good riddance!
Ranger Nancy sympathized with me, but had things she had to do. I thanked her, and hung out on the rock wall some more.
"You need help?" a slim young man asked.
"Uh, do I ever."
He gestured toward his four-wheel-drive SUV that had a towing winch. "I can pull you into a parking spot."
"That would be great!" I told him. "Then I can relax, more or less, and even sleep up here if I need to."
So this nice young man from Lethbridge, Alberta hooked up to the front of Dusty Rose and pulled us into a spot. Yay! What a nice guy. To thank him, I offered him a cold beer and food, if he wanted some. He thought a beer would be good, but declined the food. He joined me and my dog in the RV and enjoyed a beer and some peanuts. Soon another Logan Pass visitor came by and visited, comparing notes on overnight parking up there and hiking trails. Then Ranger Nancy came back to check on me. What a nice woman! She said there would be a park ranger coming up from the east side to talk to me. I thanked her again and offered her a cold beer now that she was off duty. She declined, but appreciated the gesture.
As we visited in the rig, the bighorn sheep ran around the parking lot in the dimming light of dusk, licking the asphalt. I guess they like antifreeze, and don't get sick from it. A handful of tourists were still up there. Some of them actually pursued the rams, trying to get better pictures (REALLY???). At one point the rams were hanging out right next to Dusty Rose, so the Alberta guy and I got close-up views. A couple of the rams tussled, butting heads. I think they were going into their rut. Feisty! (perhaps not the best time to chase them trying to get a photo?)
Having just had her dinner, my sweet black lab Peaches slept on the bed through the whole thing -- almost. Twice she lifted her head and growled ferociously.
"Impressive," I told her.
Then my Alberta friend had to head for home. Soon after that, the ranger from the east side showed up and said it would be three hours before a tow truck could get up here. OK, I said, thanks. The ranger had to get going. One of the things he had to do, apparently, was chase the bighorn sheep off the parking lot with a special horn on his car.
Meanwhile, storm clouds were gathering south of the pass as the sun set. Lightning flashed and rain filled the valley just east of the pass. The storm swooped around the high country, thunder booming off the mountains. The setting sun lit some of the western clouds from below. It was stunning. A couple of tourists could not resist running around in the hard-driving, large-dropped rain and wild lightning, trying to get pictures of everything (again, REALLY??? on top of a high mountain pass in lightning?).
In the dark I changed into more comfortable clothes and rested on the RV sofa, enjoying the smell of the mountain rain. I love that aroma! I was just about to eat a peach, get out a sleeping bag, and lounge on the bed with my book and flashlight when the tow truck zoomed in.
It was Dirk the Whitefish Tow Truck Guy to the rescue. He was all business, hooking up Dusty Rose. Peaches had to ride in the RV, because Dirk needed to make sure he could see his side-view mirrors on the challenging drive down the cliff-hugging ledges of Going To the Sun Road. He had to make sure he didn't hit the rocks, and also make sure my rig behind us didn't hit any rocks. Mind you, the tow truck with my RV was much longer than what's usually allowed on Going To the Sun.
Off we went, down down down the steep western slope. Thank goodness for light traffic up there, because most of the time we took up the whole road. We saw a porcupine along the way. Dirk even backed up to get a better view of the critter. He carefully, skillfully navigated us down from the pass. We saw a truck blocking one lane. It was stuck because the driver had hit a big rock on the edge with his back wheel, breaking a leaf spring and his rear axle.
"See?" I said to myself, "Things could be much worse."
It's true. Things could be so much worse. Dirk towed Dusty Rose 110 miles to Polson. We exchanged stories and opinions about everything from disgusting baby diapers to snobby rich people. He's a great guy. A million thanks, Dirk!
Home sweet home.
I'm wishing everyone a happy, safe Halloween by giving away the Kindle e-book of DARING PASSAGE: BOOK TWO OF THE SPIRITED AWAY SAGA on Halloween only.
If you haven't read it yet, I hope you'll take advantage of this offer. DARING PASSAGE is best enjoyed after reading my first historical novel, SPIRITED AWAY - A NOVEL OF THE STOLEN IRISH. On Halloween, you'll be able to get both e-books for a total of $2.99 -- such a deal.
This would be a great time to give the e-books as gifts, too. It's easy: go on each book's Kindle edition retail page (links are below), find the "give as a gift" button, and click on it. Voila! These Kindle e-books make great, affordable stocking stuffers. (I know, I know: it's almost the holidays again! Yikes!)
Again, have yourselves a happy, safe Halloween!
“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” – Truvy Jones, Steel Magnolias
On a calm, cloudy September evening, Ross Pendery’s family and a few family friends gathered from near and far at the beloved family house on Flathead Lake to honor him with a private memorial. We raised our glasses, toasting a life cut short too soon.
Ross burned hot and fast, like a Fourth of July sparkler. He was 26 when his heroin addiction took him from us.
We began on the porch, where Ross's mother Angie went over some details about her only child’s late July death at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula. Angie and Paul, Ross's father, made sure that Ross was an organ donor, so that their son’s death could help others if possible. Ross’s heartbroken family is also vowing to use this tragic loss to educate people about the dangers of using heroin.
It was uncanny: The same week Ross died, the local air waves were full of news about the skyrocketing rates of heroin overdoses.
Angie led us down the little path to the lakeshore point Ross loved, and we sat around the big fire ring he’d built. Atop a table a lone candle burned next to the solemn purple bag that held the box of Ross’s ashes. We took turns telling stories about Ross: the time he and Angie saw the Flathead Monster; the times he climbed the island cliffs to jump into the lake; his deep love of nature and music; his mischievous ways; and his giving soul.
We laughed through our tears, navigating straight through the grief with as much grace as we could muster. We did the best we could. What else can you do when the unthinkable happens?
Ross’s family went down to the water’s edge and took turns gently tossing his ashes into the glassy, silver Flathead waters. The pewter-colored lake and subdued sky were perfect reflections of our mood.
As the charcoal shadows deepened into a bottomless purple twilight, we slowly made our way back up to the house for a great supper and more visiting.
That living room. That lake house. We’ve seen 43 years’ worth of good times there. John Nelson and Camilla sharing philosophical outlooks; Angie and I tearing off in my VW convertible, top down in a cloud of dust as we race to the fiddlers’ contest at Riverside Park; Camilla arguing with me or Marg, or both of us; Paul on the porch, crooning his original tunes; Paul accompanying Camilla in her unique talking-blues rendition of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
The wacky characters and their energy ebb and flow around this place. At its heart, still and silent, are the lake, the trees, the sky, the rocks, the cliffs, the mountains.
Through the years we’ve seen sad times there, too. This September evening ranks as one of the saddest times of all.
But just outside, the rippling waters beckon. “Come out and play,” they whisper. “Come. Remember. Enjoy. Savor. Respect. Honor.”
A few days later, many of us who knew and loved Ross honored him with a more public Celebration of Life at Boettcher Park in Polson. We came bearing big bowls, trays, boxes, and pans of delicious food. The long pavilion table overflowed with lemonade, sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit kabobs, baked fish, casseroles, pies, brownies, and much, much more.
Kelsah described it well. It was “a celebration of all the good things Ross was before the addiction controlled his life,” she wrote on her brother’s Facebook page.
First up were bagpipes. When Dick Bratton and Sandy Farrell piped “Amazing Grace,” there was not a dry eye in the pavilion. The two pipers finished by playing as they walked away from the gathering. As the strains of bagpipe music faded into the distance, it felt like a gentle reminder about gracefully letting go.
Next up was wonderful, funky live music by the Off in the Woods band. The guys in the band knew Ross. They’d gone to school with him in Polson, and he’d played music with them. They were the perfect accompaniment for the occasion, especially when they played their soulful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Angie took a turn at the microphone, recalling that incredible day when her son was born.
Ross’s family and friends ate, drank, sang, played, listened, drummed on the tables, and caught up with each other. Small children ran through the grass, waded in the water, and romped in the playground. Folks strolled along the lakeshore, then sat or skipped rocks. Cousins, sisters, old friends, and new friends exchanged more stories.
And laughed through their tears.
It must be my favorite sound on earth: rolling thunder in the Rocky Mountain high country. Its soulful resonance echoes off the massive mountains.
Maybe it’s the feeling of being closer to the sky.
It always makes me feel more alive somehow.
On a recent evening my dog and I rested in the camper as a Bitterroot Mountain thunderstorm sent moody, powerful rumbles cascading down the slopes. Pouring rain pounded the camper van as huge, ancient Ponderosa Pines swished in the wind. Since my black lab is not afraid of thunder and lightning, she dozed through it. To me, the commanding reverberations seemed to say: “Never forget, I am in charge.”
We slept peacefully at Indian Trees campground, 5,000 feet above sea level on the shoulders of Lost Trail Pass. Montana’s Lost Trail Hot Springs is just down the road. It was a short but sweet birthday camping trip to Idaho’s Lemhi Valley. The next day, it was on to Tendoy, Idaho for a tour of the Lewis and Clark Back Country Byway and Adventure Road. Here:
I have been wanting to see the Lemhi Valley for years. The only building in Tendoy is the Tendoy Store, where 96-year-old Viola still helps customers find everything from bolts to clothes to unique postcards. She is a treasure! Give a listen to this:
…here are some great photos of Vi and her eclectic store:
Not far up the gravel byway, among the silent sagebrush, is Sharkey Hot Springs.
I spent most of the afternoon there, lounging and soaking and sunning. Aaaaah! This place is wonderful. The BLM has done a great job making Sharkey Hot Springs clean, serene, and relaxing. There are two hot soaking pools, restrooms, changing rooms, picnic tables, a large group fire ring, and a parking area. It’s named for B.F. Sharkey, an early settler of Lemhi County.
After soaking, I drove up and over Lemhi Pass. I couldn’t do the whole Byway loop, since the camper is not a high clearance four-wheel-drive. I thoroughly enjoyed the ribbon-y gravel road as it wound its way up to the pass. This area is not only part of the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail, it’s also the birthplace of Sacajawea. Up on the pass there is a gorgeous memorial to her. I loved it!
Lemhi Pass is a National Historic Landmark. Here, you can trace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and enjoy the Continental Divide Trail. This is one pass that is still remote and natural, offering travelers a chance to see what the Lewis and Clark Expedition witnessed on foot and horseback those many years ago. The backcountry pass, which marks the boundary between Idaho and Montana, features intriguing signs that help tell the story of the pass. The windswept vistas and historic information are awe-inspiring. There are picnic tables and fantastic hiking. Lemhi Pass, at 7,323 feet above sea level, is a rounded saddle in the Beaverhead Mountains of the Bitterroot Range.
Here, in 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition first saw the headwaters of the Columbia River, which flows to the Pacific Ocean, and crossed what was then the western boundary of the United States. It was a point of hopeful anticipation, as Lewis and Clark looked forward to meeting the Shoshone and trading for horses to continue their journey. But the explorers faced crushing disappointment as they realized that a navigable waterway to the Pacific would not be found among these rugged mountains that stretch westward as far as the eye can see.
Crossing Lemhi Pass today, the landscape is very much like it was 200 years ago. The native sagebrush and bunch grasses are edged with patches of douglas-fir and lodge pole pine. Looking west from Lemhi Pass, distant ranges of steep, rocky mountains look like an impenetrable barrier. It can snow any time and wicked thunderstorms are likely in the summer.
This is inspiring country, with inspiring thunderstorms.
Just to the south is Bannock Pass, part of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail.
Studying the 1877 Flight of the Nez Perce gives me goosebumps. And guess what? The famous Nez Perce Chief, Joseph, was really named Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain. What sort of man must he have been, to have earned that name?
It comes back full circle. There is plenty of inspiration to go around on Lemhi Pass.
Learn more about Chief Joseph here: http://www.biography.com/people/chief-joseph-9358227
Watch and listen to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBo80i3Md-c
(Please check out Maggie Plummer's unique historical novels under the "Home" tab or on Amazon.com ... thanks!)
I WILL write a new blog very soon about this:
What is it about the sound of rolling thunder in the mountains? Why does that resonant, commanding rumble make my heart race? Why?
On the other hand, why not?
More soon! Please stay tuned.
Here it is, my sequel's cover.
What do you think?
I hope you like it.
Feel free to comment about it.
I thought long and hard about this cover.
I wanted it to closely resemble the cover of my first historical novel, SPIRITED AWAY - A NOVEL OF THE STOLEN IRISH. But I also wanted it to show that this book is more light-hearted that the first one.
I think it accomplishes both missions.
I hope all of you are enjoying the Christmas season. Have a Merry One!
What perfect timing for a flurry of new book excitement! As the snow flies and the bells jingle, now comes DARING PASSAGE: BOOK TWO OF THE SPIRITED AWAY SAGA.
You can enter to win a paperback copy of this newly released sequel, a 70,000-word historical novel that sells for $12.95. I am giving away three print copies of the book in a Goodreads Book Giveaway that ends on January 15. After that date, I will "snail mail" three signed books to the winners.
All you need is a Goodreads.com account, which is free. Then, go to:
Good luck and Merry Christmas, all!
I thought you might enjoy a little article I just did for a hospital newsletter. I know the entire medical team is needed for success, I just feel that Dian goes above and beyond. The article:
St. Luke Hospital Mammogram Technologist Dian Hickethier may have saved my life this year.
She’s the best kind of fierce warrior against breast cancer. Dian is on the front lines. Not only is she very good at doing comfortable mammograms, she follows through with the kind of proactive support that can make the difference between life and death.
This summer, when my mammogram showed something suspicious, Dian steered me where I needed to go. Not shy about getting on the phone and making sure things are happening as they should, she saved me from falling through the cracks with early stage breast cancer.
Thank you, Dian.
I think she is St. Luke Hospital’s Employee of the Year.
I met Dian in 2013, at the annual Women 4 Wellness health fair at Salish Kootenai College. Women 4 Wellness fulfilled their mission for me. I owe them a huge thanks. At that fair, I was impressed with Dian’s information about the St. Luke mammogram program. She helped me get a cancer screening program voucher and I went to her for my 2013 mammogram. I liked her so much, for the first time I made a commitment to having annual mammograms – with her. It’s so much easier to make that commitment when the mammogram tech makes you comfortable in an empowering way.
So this year, back I went to Dian for my second annual mammogram. There it was: a shadow. She took more mammogram images. Enter Dr. Howard, who looked at all the images – including ultrasound – and wisely decided we needed to consult with a Missoula surgeon who specializes in breast cancer surgeries. I owe Dr. Howard a huge thanks, too.
The surgeon recommended that I get a biopsy of that mass. Turns out it was papillary carcinoma – an extremely rare form of breast cancer that occurs among postmenopausal women (I call it my Strange Old Lady Cancer). I had a lumpectomy and partial breast radiation at Community Medical Center in Missoula. Thanks to early detection by mammogram, I did not have to have chemotherapy and I have a very good prognosis.
I know I am one lucky woman. For years I have been a slob about getting mammograms. We have no family history, I thought, I’m never going to have breast cancer.
The moral of this story is, get your annual mammograms. Early detection is what you want. Find someone with whom you’re comfortable, someone who cares, someone with whom you can commit to an annual mammogram schedule.
Someone like Dian.
I am a retired journalist now writing and self-publishing fiction. I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, but now I live in Montana.