Icebergs, My Fingers, and Other Cold Things

Gather ’round, my internet friends and strangers, and let me tell you a harrowing tale of woodland survival and my recent near-death experience. It didn’t start out harrowing. Oh, no. It started out an adventure full of hope and promise.

I should probably start at the beginning.

A week ago, my husband went fishing with a friend. Unbeknownst to me, said friend brought alcohol, so when husband came home, he was quite the happy boy. I mean, really, REALLY silly. Jokingly, I said, “Have you been drinking?”

“Maaaaaaybe” came the response.

I stared him down. “How many?”

“A feeeeew. Hey. There’s a lot of stress in my life right now.* Sometimes I just need to loosen up, right? Nothing wrong with that.”

*There is a lot of stress. But this is not the way to deal with it.

After I stopped fuming, and after he sobered up, I said, “You know what? You’re right. I need to loosen up, too. I’m going away for a couple of nights.”

So I found a heated cabin in the woods about a half-hour from home, coerced my college roommate into joining me, and booked us for the following week.

Fast-forward to the following week. (That’d be now.)

Monday morning finds me preparing the car, loading the camp gear, the sleeping bags and pillows, and prepping for two days of eating junk food I don’t have to prepare beyond boiling water.

“Is there a fire ring?” the husband asks. “Do you need to get wood?”

I tilt my head and give him a look. “Yes, but why would I need wood? I mean, the cabin is heated. That’s kind of why I looked for a building *with* heat. I’m not putting work into a fire.”

“Oh, okay. Good, good. Did you take the extra batteries for the flashlight?”

“No, it’s two nights. It should be fine. Besides, I have my phone with me if absolutely need to use the flashlight on the phone.”

“Oh, right. Okay. Do you have the address?”

“Yes, dear. I pulled it off the website.”

There’s so much to unpack in this conversation, and almost all of it comes back to bite me in the ass.

I say my goodbyes, set myself up behind the wheel, get some good tunes playing, and follow the GPS…to find I’ve got the complete wrong address. The GPS sent me to Park Avenue in a town a half hour away from the Park Road I was supposed to be on. Okaaaaaay. Reroute. Spend an hour and a half driving instead of a half-hour. Sure. Alright.

Get to the park. Find out the signage in the park is really, REALLY bad. It takes me ten minutes of driving around the park to figure out where the cabins are. It turns out there’s no check-in in December. They just stick the key in the lock for you and leave your paperwork inside.

Anyway, at least, I arrived, right?

So that’s a plus.

Well, yeah. Except that my roommate *also* can’t find the place when she’s on her way an hour later in the dark. So I drop a pin in my location on my phone’s GPS and send it to her.

Without further ado, she arrives with her dog, Charlie, who is also very, very excited (and a little confused, to be honest). We get set up and prepare a camp meal of mountain chili on our gas-powered camp stove, plug in her electric fireplace for ambiance (and extra warmth!), and get to catching up.

Ah. Kid-free. Responsibility-free. So much relaxation.

Until my insides decided to hate on the chili. Okay, yeah. No worries. I’ll just head to the bathhouse. The one drawback of our heated cabin is that there’s no plumbing. But hey, there’s a bathhouse I saw in daylight that’s almost right behind us, so it should be fine, right?

Only, where is that bathhouse? Dear God, it’s dark and windy and rainy and…where is the bathhouse? WHY ISN’T IT LIT?

“Okay, it’s okay,” I tell myself. “Just head to the right, where you saw it. Follow the road.”

Even though my roommate told me to head left. Huh. She must have gone to a different bathhouse during the daylight, but I’ll just go where I know the closest one is.

But.

There is no bathhouse. Or if there is (and I’m not entirely convinced I didn’t just see an apparition of one earlier in the day), it’s certainly nowhere in my sight. In fact, nothing is in sight. It’s dark. And rainy. And so, so windy.

So, it’s time to text my roommate.

Oh. The RVs. Okay, yeah. I definitely saw those earlier. And they were definitely to the *left.*

Good news, friends! I made it to the bathhouse 1. without being murdered (it was sketchy there for a while), 2. without getting hopelessly lost, 3. without a tree limb falling on me (and they WERE falling…)

So, anyway, I’m not even sure I have to go anymore, but whatever, I’m here, so I might as well sit, right?

And then.

This.

This is, in fact, one of my worst childhood nightmares. I’m in the bathroom. On the toilet. In the dark. In a campground, no less. I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before the tree branch breaks the glass and reaches in to strangle me while my pants are around my ankles. Or maybe the dark is when the dreaded toilet-snake comes to bite me. I don’t even live in warm enough areas for reptiles to be in the plumbing, but some childhood fears cannot be dispelled.

But since I’m already in the bathroom, and I’m still not sure how that chili is digesting in there, I figure I might as well stay for a few minutes…which leads to my roommate texting to check up on me after ten minutes pass without a word from me.

Oh, great. There’s an earwig crawling all around the floor. And that’s what I can see. How big is the spider I’m now sure is dangling over my head in the darkness somewhere? <whimper>

Friends. The camp host LIED. The power did NOT come on at 10:30. We sat in a dark cabin and read on our phones by flashlight until we went to bed.

Oh, but the flashlight. I lend my flashlight to roommate so she can go to her car to get *her* flashlight.

Anyway, we freeze through the night. At least the sleeping bags are warm…but my nose turns to ice, and I wake frequently. The bed is super squeaky and both of my shoulders hurt thanks to issues I have with them from time to time.

And at 5 a.m., for the *third* time in one night, I have to walk to the bathhouse in the dark. (I didn’t even have digestive issues. Just had to pee really, really badly… Whatever. Being a middle-aged woman who’s had two kids is fun.)

It’s 34 degrees outside, which is, ironically, the same temperature as *inside.* At least it’s calm and there’s no more wind and rain, right? AND, bonus, a tree never came through the cabin roof like I expected all night long, so yay!

At 7 a.m., just when I’m falling asleep again, the power flickers on and off about a dozen times for a half hour, waking me with promises of warmth. Sweet, sweet, very false, filthy, lying promises. Because the power did NOT come back on when it turned off fully at 8 a.m. again.

By 9 a.m., hunger forces me to crawl from beneath the warmth of my sleeping bag, so I dress in as many layers as is humanly possible, I crank up the camp stove for hot tea, and devour a muffin while I’m waiting.

The tea?

My friends, the tea cooled in less than five minutes. (I drank most of it before that time, but those last few sips were *definitely* iced tea.)

When roommate comes back from her trip to the bathhouse, we learn that the power isn’t coming back until the evening.

There is. no way. we will enjoy staying here. Not in these temps.

So we pack up, and I may or may not be singing The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” as I load my car. Back home we go, a full day early, and after a frosty, sleepless night. Proving, once again, that moms don’t get breaks. But yes, I will be asking for a refund.

Is it the campground’s fault? No

But did we have an enjoyable experience? Also, no.

After all of this, I’m forced to wonder… If I’d followed husband’s suggestions and gotten firewood, had an extra battery for the flashlight, and double checked my directions, would it have changed the outcome?

A selfie before leaving Cottage #1, aka Elsa’s Summer Cottage.

Oh. And by the way. I wasn’t wrong! There WAS a closer bathhouse. It just wasn’t open. (Someone please tell me WHY they would choose to keep open the bathhouse by the RVs that already have bathrooms and running water, but not the bathhouse that’s near the cabins which do NOT have bathrooms or running water?

Black circle: where we stayed, Blue circle: closest bathhouse, Red circle: open bathhouse

A Hundred Breaths

It’s time to celebrate another lovely author’s book release! Please join me in congratulating author Jean M. Grant on the release of A Hundred Breaths, a historical 13th century romance featuring Scots, Vikings, and the paranormal. The book is a prequel to her debut historical romance A Hundred Kisses. So since we’re celebrating another fabulous historical romance, I thought now would be a great time to get some answers on Jean’s creative process and how she came up with the concept for her Hundred series books. (She anticipates the release of book 3 in 2020!)

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LRS: Congratulations on the release of A Hundred Breaths! What made you decide to write a prequel to A Hundred Kisses and not a sequel?

JMG: When I wrote A Hundred Kisses it was set to be a standalone book. In fact, I had been writing stories set in 12th century Scotland for over a decade. After three practice novels, and much learning of the craft and business, I decided to leap forward to the 13th century and sprinkle in paranormal/mystical elements. Therein I found the magic! From that exploration arose Deirdre and Alasdair’s story in A Hundred Kisses: a ruthless baron, a dark past, a curse, deep secrets, and the mystical power of the Ancients. Not bad for a first book! (A little plug for Rosalind Ashford who narrated the audio book — her voice swept me away.)

I felt compelled to dig deeper into the mystical Silver Veil because Deirdre’s mother, Gwyn, also had a story to tell. And it so happened to be a pivotal time period for the [end of the] Norse (Viking) reign. The stars aligned and what came forth was a story about a merciful Healer, a scarred man hellbent on vengeance, and several unrelenting Nordmen. 

What next? I’m writing the final book in the trilogy (hint: it’s about Deirdre and Alasdair’s child). Each story in my hundred series explores the powers of the Ancients: Healing (water), Feeling (fire), Seeing (Wind), and the grounding force of Earth. Each book is steeped in Scottish-Norse-English history. I’m looking forward to wrapping up my medieval Scotland adventure and excited to see where the next inkling takes me!

LRS: This sounds awesome! (And since I’m one of your beta readers and critique partners, I know just how awesome it really is…) Tell me more about this Silver Veil.

JMG: The Silver Veil is my primary paranormal element in the series. Loosely based on ancient Scottish culture and lore books, I delved into the world of The Silver Folk, or Ancients. I created a culture that could have very well existed, that utilized natural powers accessed across a veil between this world and the next. Healers harnessed their ability by their conduit of water. Feelers heightened their aura-sensing and emotion-feeling through fire. Seers experienced visions whispered on the wind. All three gifts found root in Mother Earth.

The Ancients of the isles are written as having been present in the isles for centuries. They pray at the circles of stones, but who or what built them is still a mystery. Heavily influenced by the Norse raiders, over time they have assigned Norse god names to their powers of Water, Fire, Wind, and Earth. Who has these abilities? Some, but not all. How strong are their powers? It depends on the person. The abilities are inherited, but who, what, and how intense the power is up to the gods.

In all three of the books of the soon-to-be trilogy, there is a clash and blend of cultures and religion: Christianity in the Scots (along with a hefty dose of superstition), the gods of the Norse culture, and lastly, the spirituality of the Ancients.

With any special ability, there are those who wish to do harm, though all the Ancients I’ve written (so far) use their gifts for good. However, there are drawbacks to these abilities —curses and “side effects.” You’ll need to read on in each of the books to see how our protagonists overcome these deficits and harness the inner power within them…


And of course, what kind of blog post would this be without a teaser? Here’s a bit of interaction between the hero and heroine…see if you don’t get swept away.

EXCERPT FROM A HUNDRED BREATHS

“I’m your wife, and still I am guarded?”

Simon shrugged though she couldn’t see. He’d given up on excuses. “What must I do to prove I won’t flee? I signed your marriage contract. I said my vows.” Her voice broke on those words. 

Was she crying? He laid the tray of food on her table and approached. He didn’t touch her, as much as he wanted to link his arm within hers as they’d done during their walks. He reached inside his ganache and withdrew her small, simple dagger. Unadorned with jewels or carvings, it possessed a bone hilt and a blade worn from use. Likely from tree limbs, flowers, and household use. His smith had sharpened it and cleaned the hilt. 

“Here,” he said, placing it in her lap. Gildy had retrieved the sheath from Gwyn’s laundered gown. 

Gwyn stared at it, her fingertips dancing butterfly wings hovering over the hilt. After a moment, she drew her hand around it and pulled it from its leather sheath. She rose and whirled on him, the dagger pointed out before her, barely pressing into his chest. 

He didn’t retreat as he met her fiery, misty gaze. 

She made no move to remove the dagger’s tip.

“A smidge to the center, Gwyn, and you’ll be square over my blackened heart.” He held her glower. The heat blazed in her entrancing blue eyes like the devil. He fought a smile.


Ready to order your own copy of A Hundred Breaths? You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Wild Rose Press, iTunes, Kobo, or Google Play.

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Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.