Highlands of Maine in Winter

Just an hour north of Bangor is a beautiful lake and mountain region, with secluded villages and towns along the way that seem to have defied time. They have kept their unique heritage while the cities have moved on. Greenville is slightly northwest of Bangor, while Millinocket and Baxter State Park are northeast, but the mountains connect within the valleys, if not by road, then by rivers, lakes, streams and forest trails. The cluster of mountains is sometimes referred to as The Highlands of Maine, especially by other romantics like myself.

My husband and I took an afternoon drive yesterday up through Greenville and into Kokadjo. We have never taken this route by car, only by snowmobile. We learned that our car’s GPS system didn’t recognize Kokadjo as a town—that’s how isolated it is. To snowmobilers it is a central hub for gas, and it is right in the center of all those beautiful forests and mountains. Winter thaw has begun. Snowmobilers are expecting just one more weekend before mud season is upon us.

I love this area of Maine, so much so that I set my first book here. While I have made up my own fictitious village, the environment is very real and just as isolated as I have portrayed in my series. Whilst this can be relaxing, it could also be quite scary and lonely. Having a house out in the middle of nowhere would frighten some people, especially because of the lack of neighbors and other people. In the event of any house break-ins, people would be very secluded and almost a prime target. It wouldn’t be surprising if the few residents of this area all had an alarm system fitted to their houses in order to make themselves feel safer. There are definitely pros and cons to living in an isolated area like this.

Wolves could easily hide for centuries in one of these villages in the valley of mountains, where modern devices can’t even locate. Mine have! Many of the people living in this area have to decide between things like whether or not to opt for the survival axe or hatchet? This tool can be used for gathering wood and even for defending against some of the not so friendly creatures dwelling in the forest and mountains.

I have learned on my travels that most people outside of Maine are familiar with our coastal towns, which are also stunning, but go inland and you will find Baxter State Park, the forest area around Katahdin, which is mandated not to allow any unnatural construction. There’s an occasional outhouse, and a few outer buildings, but for the most part it has remained untouched by modern development; it is also the end of the Appalachian Trail. Henry Thoreau wrote quite a few poetic verses on the Katahdin region. I love this one, perhaps even more so because the forest is still wild, and the moose still thrive…

The moose will perhaps one day become extinct; but how naturally then, when it exists only as a fossil relic, and unseen as that, may the poet or sculptor invent a fabulous animal with similar branching and leafy horns, – a sort of fucus or lichen in bone, – to be the inhabitant of such a forest as this!

~Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods

The environment of Katahdin is perfect for many wild creatures. There are rumors that gray wolves have been sighted but for now they are just rumors—our own local urban legend. Wolves are in the woods of our Canadian neighbors to the north, it is not a stretch of logic that they would migrate south if the environment supports their habitat. Wolves, I suspect, don’t recognize state or country lines on human maps, only forests and food. Perhaps one day that legend will be revealed as truth. I have not seen them in my woodland adventures, but I have seen many a deer and moose. I’ve seen a few deer trail cameras and feeders around the woodland areas so I’m not surprised to have seen so many deer! A friend of mine is into trophy hunting and told me to check out Feedthatgame.com to learn more about deer before I came on this trip. I learnt about some of the different types of deer and I could even tell my husband which type we were looking at. I also wouldn’t have known what the feeders were if I didn’t do some research so I’m really glad that I did some!

I don’t have any book news I can share just yet, other than I have seen the first draft of my cover and it is ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! I have printed it out and taped copies all over my house—and can’t wait to share it with you!

Until then, I have posted a few pictures below that I took yesterday on our drive, and you can see why this area inspired more than one author over the years.

Jan

Kakadjo Sign

Kokadjo Town Sign

Kokadjo Cottages

Cottages on the bank of a stream. (Kokadjo, Maine)

Greenville Maine

Moosehead Lake in Winter (Greenville, Maine)

Sangerville Bridge

Covered bridge (Sangerville, Maine)

Tree Farm

Tree Farm

Maine Highlands

Highlands of Maine in Winter (Greenville, Maine)


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Snowmobiling Around the Mountain

My husband and I haven’t had much time to go snowmobiling this winter—Mother Nature has been a bit temperamental lately so we’ve kept the Snowmobile covers on them and are waiting for the weather to improve. Four days ago it was twenty below in Bangor, the kind of cold that hurts when you breathe—and yesterday it was in the fifties, with wind gusts that felt like a tropical storm. My backyard is completely bare of snow, but they are already predicting more soon.

We did get one ride in a month ago. I’m not comfortable riding over lakes and rivers with somewhat heavy machinery, and that’s not including myself in that weight estimate by the way, but my husband convinced me to try this sport about two years ago. My family is from this area; I have heard countless times, “You can drive a truck on that ice.” And people do, I’m not kidding, but I’ve also seen trucks that have sunken under the ice. I’m sure the truck drivers in question would have had some interesting conversations with their insurers or law firms regarding their truck accident and what happened… Anyway, we’re hardly brave enough to take our snowmobiles over the ice, nevermind a truck!

Aside from insurance, we may need to take some extra precautions, given that even trucks get stuck in the ice. This is one of the main reasons why, the next time I go snowmobiling, I’d like to have an eManual Online with me. It may provide some reassurance that if our vehicle gets stuck somewhere, we may be able to repair it. The reason is if our vehicle becomes stuck in this cold area, I may lose my cool, which I do not want to happen (because of being trapped in the middle of nowhere).

Anyway, there are so many trails around Katahdin that don’t require sledding over ice, and I’m so glad my husband wore me down, and will admit I’ve become a bit addicted now. My favorite route is to go from Millinocket to Kokadjo, then either up to Greenville or over to Northeast Carry. The trails are like untouched highways in the middle of the forest, with panoramic views of snow-capped mountains. It is so incredibly beautiful, and I’m hoping we can get a few more rides in before spring, weather permitting. If none of you have tried it, I would really recommend it. It’s so thrilling and exciting. However, it is cold. People will definitely need to find some winter clothing before they think about coming out on a snowmobile. There is some winter clothing available at Kohl’s online. They have some waterproof jackets too. They would be ideal for snowmobiling. Perhaps people could look here on the Raise website to see if there are any offers and coupons available for Kohl’s. That would help people to save money. I’m sure you will all love snowmobiling, I am always inspired to write afterward, having been emersed in the surroundings of my story.

Here are a few photos taken from our last trip…

Katahdin in Winter

This photo was taken in Baxter State Park on Katahdin.

Jan on snowmobile

Me

Stream on Katahdin

Stream on Katahdin

Entrance rock to Baxter State Park

Entrance rock to Baxter State Park

There’s a hovering cloud covering the mountain peak that refused to budge in this last picture. I will post another photo of this view on a clear day in the future, because it is beautiful. This is the road up to Baxter State Park’s entrance gate. In the winter months it becomes a snowmobile trail. I’m going to date myself here, but I can remember when that rock was covered in graffiti.

Best wishes,
Jan

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Cover Reveal: Celtic Moon

I am beyond excited to share with you the cover of Celtic Moon, my debut novel and the first book in my urban fantasy series. It will be available September 24, 2013!

CELTIC MOON cover

Before I share what I love most about my cover, I must send out a giant THANK YOU to the entire art team at Berkley/Penguin for creating such a beautiful representation of my story. I couldn’t be more pleased!

Without question, the woman is stunning, but even better, she’s wearing normal clothing. How cool is that? This works for my heroine because she is a practical woman and a mother of a teenager. For survival reasons, she wouldn’t wear anything that might attract attention. Sophie has quiet strength, forced by circumstances to become the person she needed to be to protect her son. I think they did an amazing job illustrating the general feel of her personality.

Also, the setting of my story takes place in an isolated town in Maine, in an environment conducive to wolves. The background is so accurate it’s surreal, as if I could just dive into the cover and find myself in our Maine woods, only with a beautiful wolf waiting to greet me. (The wolf happens to be the father of Sophie’s son. He is also an immortal shape-shifting Celtic warrior and just as lovely in his human form.)

Overall, I think the cover is wonderful and it represents the atmosphere of my story well.

Now, I can’t wait to see what they come up with for book two!  I have a river castle in that one, a tattooed hero, and a heroine who carries a sword.  It could be interesting!

Until later,
Jan

Description on back cover of Celtic Moon:

Like father, like son…

Sophie Thibodeau has been on the run from the father of her son for more than fifteen years. Now her son, Joshua, is changing, and her greatest fears are about to be realized. He’s going to end up being just like his father—a man who can change into a wolf.

Dylan Black has been hunting for Sophie since the night she ran from him—an obsession he cannot afford in the midst of an impending war. Dylan controls Rhuddin Village, an isolated town in Maine where he lives with an ancient Celtic tribe. One of the few of his clan who can still shift into a wolf, he must protect his people from the Guardians, vicious warriors who seek to destroy them.

When Sophie and Dylan come together for the sake of their son, their reunion reignites the fierce passion they once shared. For the first time in years, Dylan’s lost family is within his grasp. But will he lose them all over again? Are Joshua and Sophie strong enough to fight alongside Dylan in battle? Nothing less than the fate of his tribe depends on it…

Excerpt from Celtic Moon:

“I’m going for a run,” Dylan said, taking off toward the woods.  His people had wronged Sophie.  He was convinced of that now.  And still she had come home to him, of her own free will—for their son.

His wolf clawed at his spine for release. Its fury, its need—its desire for the woman who’d had the courage to return for their child was no longer controllable.

The wolf wanted out.

Having her near and within reach was akin to pain.

Perhaps it was a good thing Sophie hadn’t invited him to stay, Dylan thought as he entered the forest, ripping off clothes as he walked. For if she had, he wasn’t sure if he could have controlled his hunger.

It had been too long.

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