Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Monday, May 13, 2013

My MG novel The Wide Awake Loons released !

In time for summer vacation reading, The Wide Awake Loons was published April 16 by Silver Knight Publishing.   Set in Northern Minnesota, this middle grade novel unites the stories of lake kids and a loon family.  It is available at, Barnes and Noble, and at the Silver Knight Publishing site.   Here is the back cover copy:

Ten-year-old Ginny and her mother are opening up the cabin where her family stays during the summer. On an otherwise quiet day, Ginny hears a male loon, Yudel, sparring with a younger bird over territory.

Canoeing with her friend, Wes, Ginny discovers a loon nest on an island. They quickly find themselves protecting the defenseless eggs against predators. On a later visit, Ginny finds Yudel drifting in the water, a fishing line trailing from his beak. Ginny’s attachment to the loons brings her to find inner strength.

During the summer, the loons raise three loonlings. Now faced with many dangers, Yudel and his mate, Owala, will put their courage to the test. Follow the journey of Ginny and the loons as their stories unite . . . 

Since childhood, I've watched for loons summers, wondering at their two lives – their floating like ducks on the water's surface and their deep diving, what makes them so elusive.  My mother's family had a lake cabin and we also stayed at resorts.  During college, I worked at two resorts during summers.   It was a normal summer when I heard loons.  A boyfriend could imitate loon calls so well that loons answered.

One sultry city summer, I began planning my loon book.  I lived one block from a branch YMCA where I swam and took saunas.  My vacation time north stayed with me. Researching loons, I found it uncanny how their nesting was like the atomic family when both parents work fulltime.   

The Wide Awake Loons is the only book I planned in my head before writing it down.  From the start it had another element that paralleled the normal world.  The behaviors of birds are so mysterious that the book became one of both researched scenarios and of speculation.  Loons are amongst the oldest birds because waterfowl appeared earlier than many aerial birds.  Loons are thought to be related to penguins.

Yet loons have disappeared from many Minnesota lakes as people populated them.  The year I wrote The Wide Awake Loons, the roads near the lake I'd known since childhood had become named instead of being backwoods dirt roads, found only with directions.

The Wide Awake Loons is published three months before The Swan Bonnet.  They are very different books yet the loon book urged me to write another bird endangerment story.  I hadn't had so much experience with the swan or its setting.   But that book took off too.  My brother was then doing law work in Alaska and, with some ideas about moving there, I began reading about the south coast region.  Coming across the near-extinction of swans in North America, I was again ready to research, this time in the historical context.   There must have been heroes and villains.  

The Wide Awake Loons doesn’t have a clear-cut villain outside of the animal predatory system.  Loons have become scarce without hunting or any intentional action against them.  If they didn't call, they might not be noticed at a lake.  Perhaps it is because of the remote and solitary ways of loons that I imagined communication between them and other animals.  Anthropomorphism.  I could hardly believe that such birds, and other animals too, didn’t have a communication system.  

As I wrote the loon book, I considered that animals might use telepathy.  The loon language was to suggest their communication and, of course, it was also for entertainment.  As a child, I was a great fan of anthropomorphic animal novels.

The Swan Bonnet, due out from GMTA Publishing July 16, was too tragic a plot for me to attempt anthropomorphism.  The books are not a series.  Yet they are both based on facts about migrating waterfowl and the settings where they nest.