Rocky Mountain wolves about to lose Endangered Species Protection. Join the Big Howl Campaign to save them!

Once again, the Rocky Mountain wolves are in danger of being taken off the endangered species list–in spite of the fact that many scientists do not consider their recovery complete, and in spite of the fact that overly aggressive wolf-killing programs will immediately be implemented upon the delisting.  As you may remember, in March of 2008, the federal government removed Endangered Species Act protection from the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population.  A coalition of nonprofit organizations filed a lawsuit to halt the delisting and was successful–for awhile. Now wolves are about to be delisted again–unless we can stop it from happening.  According to Defenders of Wildlife, under the delisting rule, as much as two-thirds of the current Northern Rockies wolf population can be killed.  

The National Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife are once again leading the charge to protect the wolves, and NRDC is launching the Big Howl campaign, seeking one million people to write messages to let Interior Secretary Ken Salazar know how we feel about protecting our wolves, and Defenders has an online letter for you to send to the Obama administration.  Defenders and NRDC can, of course, also use your financial support.

Here’s an excerpt from NRDC’s email to members:

“In just a few weeks, the mass killing of wolves could begin in Idaho and Montana — and not even newborn wolf pups and their nursing mothers will be spared.

Sarah Palin one of wolves’ worst enemies

Ok, I realize I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but in case you didn’t already know it, Sarah Palin, McCain’s VP pick, is a big defender of the aerial hunting of wolves. That’s when people fly around in airplanes picking off as many wolves as they can. In order to encourage more wolf kills, she’s offered a $150 bounty for every left foreleg of a wolf brought in by wolf shooters in certain areas. (I won’t call them hunters—hunters have a code of ethics that seems to be completely lacking in these drive bys).
Palin is not only threat to wolves, but also a threat to the environment as a whole. Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, says that Palin:
“has repeatedly put special interests first when it comes to the environment. In her scant two years as governor, she has lobbied aggressively to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, pushed for more drilling off of Alaska’s coasts, and put special interests above science. Ms. Palin has made it clear through her actions that she is unwilling to do even as much as the Bush administration to address the impacts of global warming. Her most recent effort has been to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the polar bear from the endangered species list, putting Big Oil before sound science. As unbelievable as this may sound, this actually puts her to the right of the Bush administration.”
‘nuff said. You all know what another four years of Cheney-esque environmental policy will do to our world. But pass it along to anyone who might not.

Taming the Beast

So the two hundred or so storylines, themes, plot drivers and ideas are now more or less tamed into three major storylines. Very pleased about that because three major threads are ideal for me. Fewer than that, and I feel like the story is too flat. More than that, the story gets muddled. When you have three story threads, it makes it easier to weave everything together. So the book now looks like this:
Which is great because this morning it looked like this:
So definitely an improvement. I had three of my writing buddies over today for an impromptu write-in, and we all got a lot done. I forsook my computer and sat on the living room floor, moving little pieces of index cards around and scribbling on different sized sheets of paper. I have to remind myself that sometimes working with pen and paper is better for me than a keyboard and mouse. Sometimes computers are just too small, and my brain needs the expanse of a living room rug.
The wolves are getting a bit impatient with all this structure and are going to start chewing on my toes if I don’t let them run free soon. So a couple more days of plot-wrangling, and then I get to go back to actually writing.

Book Two taking over my apartment

I’m getting so many lovely emails from people asking when Book Two will be coming along, so I thought I’d share a bit about where it is now. This first picture is where book two was yesterday.
That’s all of the themes, major plot points, character drivers, conflicts, and random ideas that have come from the work I’ve done so far. When I work on a book, I’ll write for awhile, then deconstruct what I’ve written, then reconstruct it. In the photo above, the themes, plot points, etc, are spread randomly across the two tables, and there are some on a trunk and on my futon as well.
This second photo is where the book is tonight.
It’s all the themes, etc, reconstructed and pasted on the French doors that lead to my storage closet. I find it immensely satisfying to stand and look at them and see the ideas pulsing and mixing and morphing and starting to come together. As chaotic as it seems (ok, as chaotic as it is), I can actually start to see the threads connecting all the random thoughts from my head. I really do see them as threads—multicolored, luminescent threads appearing and disappearing as they weave together wolf conflicts and mythology and raven pranks and evolutionary theory and longfangs. Now I’ll a need is a magic wand so I can tap it against all these words and turn them into a book.
So that’s what’s up now. Isn’t it a pretty book?

Rocky Mountain wolves given a reprieve

On July 18th, a judge in Missoula, Montana granted a preliminary injunction placing gray wolves in the Northern Rockies region back under federal protection until a court case challenging the removal of wolves from the federal list of endangered species is decided. This is in answer to a lawsuit filed by Earth Justice on behalf of a coalition of nonprofit groups challenging the decision by US Fish and Wildlife to take these wolves off the endangered species list. This is an incredible victory for the wolves, whose recovery was threatened by plans by the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to cull up to 80% of the wolves in the regions. The fight’s not over yet, as this is only a temporary reprieve, but it’s wonderful news for the continued recovery of wolves.
Here are some links to articles about this decision (thanks to Alec for help with the links!):
Defenders of Wildlife’s press release
and an article from The Missoulan

Wolf-dog hybrids

So I’ve read a couple of places now that I dislike or disapprove of wolf-dog owners and breeders, which is not the case at all, so lemme set the record straight. I have nothing against RESPONSIBLE owners of wolf-dog hybrids. It is my understanding from talking to people who have and work with hybrids that, when properly raised and trained and treated with the respect that a partly wild animal deserves, they can be excellent companions and windows to the wild. I’ve met several lovely hybrids and look forward to meeting more.
That being said, owning a wolf-dog hybrid is not the same as owning a dog, and people who do not know what they are getting into end up either abandoning the hybrid, or not training it appropriately so that the hybrid can become dangerous. Either way the hybrid most likely ends up chained in a yard all day, or dead. So pretending that hybrids are just big cool-looking dogs, and that responsible ownership is not vital, does the hybrids no favors. And that is what I so strongly disapprove of.
Wolf-dog hybrids can sometimes be very docile (like my buddy Dante in my author photo, who is an Arctic wolf/some-kind-of-dog hybrid, and is quite motivated by treats) or sometimes can be more wild. Sometimes they have the hunting behavior of wolves without the fear of humans that wolves have, and sometimes this can be a dangerous combination if the hybrid is not properly handled. The thing is that you don’t know how the wolf DNA and dog DNA are going to combine (it doesn’t matter how much the hybrid does or doesn’t look like a wolf), so you don’t know what kind of hybrid you are going to get. So a person who breeds or acquires a hybrid must be prepared for intensive, ongoing training and constant monitoring and involvement. Otherwise you run the risk of hybrid that has the potential to be a danger to people. So you can’t just leave the hybrid in the yard and hope for the best. I do get angry when I hear of people who breed hybrids in substandard conditions, without training them properly and without monitoring what kind of homes they go to, or of owners who abandon or abuse their hybrids. On my ten-day book tour I heard three stories of hybrids who were put down because people couldn’t care for them or because the hybrid was not handled properly and bit someone. Owning a dog is a huge responsibility. Owning a hybrid is that times ten.
So that’s my stand. Responsible, intelligent wolf-dog ownership: fine. Irresponsible, boneheaded breeding and ownership of hybrids that result in harm to said animal, or harm to a person: bad.


When I found out that I was going to be reading my first novel at Cody’s, it was quite literally a dream come true. Many times as I toiled away, hoping I could finish and then sell my first book, I often daydreamed about it. Even after getting a book deal and seeing the book in print, the Cody’s reading was something special. So Friday morning as I flew in from Seattle at the end of the first leg of my book tour, I could hardly contain my excitement as I thought about that night’s reading at Cody’s. As I unlocked my front door and hauled my bag into my apartment, I got the call. I would not be doing a reading at Cody’s that night, because Cody’s had closed its doors.
For good. Just like that. After 52 years and countless lives changed.
I began spending a lot of time in Cody’s in 1984. When I was supposed to be studying, or when the stress and trials of my freshman year at Berkeley got to be too much, I would escape from my dorm and race down Telegraph Avenue into one of the best refuges there ever was. Cody’s was a book lover’s dream. Shelves and shelves of books on every topic imaginable. I still remember what it felt like to walk into that store. A deep lungful of air after not breathing for too long. Outside, the worries and pressures of my life. Inside, the world of stories and ideas and thoughts of the future. They were used to students with thin wallets in that store, and no one ever seemed to mind that I would wander around for an hour and come out with one paperback–or with nothing other than ideas and joy. I learned to value books and bookstores at places like Cody’s, so that in later years when I did have money to spend, independent bookstores were the first places I went. I’m a writer today at least in part because of independent bookstores like Cody’s, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
I waited outside Cody’s a few minutes before my reading was scheduled to make sure to intercept any of my friends who might not have received my frantic email about the cancellation. I watched as people came by, and tried to open the door. They tried once, twice, three times. Then saw the sign on the door saying only that Cody’s was closed. Then they tried the door again. Then cupped their hands around their eyes to peer in the window, trying to see if anyone was there. No one believed the sign. It couldn’t be true. Not just like that. Not Cody’s. It was so incredible that people didn’t trust the evidence. There must be some mistake, they all seemed to be thinking.
I thought of all sorts of things to say here. That we need to support the independent bookstores we have left. That we need to spend our money at Book Passage, and Kepler’s and Stacey’s and Rakestraw, at Powell’s and Tattered Cover, and at Village Books. That we need to fight the complacency and cynicism that lead us to say, “of course independent bookstores are closing, it’s the way the market is going.” But we all know that already. So I guess I’m just saying that I’m sad Cody’s is gone. And yet. The day after Cody’s closed I bought a hardcover at Black Oak. And since have done the same at Book Passage, Stacey’s and at Kepler’s. I have to admit it’s not because of any highly moral decision to shop locally and support independent bookstores for the sake of changing the book industry. I did it because I don’t want them to go away. Because when I walk into one of those bookstores I have the same feeling I had when I was eighteen. The same deep breath of air, the same shrugging off of stress and weariness. The same joy. And because I don’t want that to end.

Nature red in tooth and claw

Day two at the International Wolf Center was pretty phenomenal. Got to see the pups eating their first deer clavicle, and the adult wolves eating an entire deer. Pretty cool if you’re into that kind of thing. Then a nice hike in the lovely Ely area. Bitten by some pretty nasty flies, which apparently don’t suck your blood like mosquitoes and other respectable insects, but actually take a chunk out of you. Seemed somehow fitting to be watching the wolves have their meal, and then becoming someone else’s meal myself. I just ate pizza that night.

Bad Blogger

Oh dear, I seem to be one of those authors who neglects her blog. Probably because I would’ve lost my “I’m so cool and blasé about publishing a book” persona if I’d been blogging over the past couple of weeks. For the only word to describe the way I’ve been feeling lately is giddy. After so much work and so much waiting, it’s pretty unreal to have the book out and to see it in bookstores and to sign copies. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was telling friends, “You know I have this idea for a book about wolves. . .” and now there it is with its gorgeous cover on the shelves of real bookstores.
Since I’ve been so remiss about blogging, much has happened since my last post. I’ll relate in reverse order, starting from this evening as I am sitting watching the sun set over Miner’s Lake in Ely, Minnesota. It’s 9:30 and not dark yet. Miner’s lake apparently really was an old mine that was filled in and is, according to a Minnesotan friend, the only lake in the area you can’t actually swim in. I don’t think I’ll get the chance to do any lake swimming this trip and so must come back. I’m near the Boundary Waters, which are supposed to have wonderful kayaking.
Today was day one of the Alpha Wolf weekend at the International Wolf Center in Ely. Got to see the wolf pups, who are now 47 days old. We watched them greet the adult wolves through a fence and then they pretty much passed out on a blue and white blanket. I have pictures, but forgot to bring the connector that lets me upload onto my computer, so I will add adorable pup pictures when I get back home. They’re all ears and feet, and this week they’ll get to eat their first deer clavicle. Also got to see the adult wolves, Grizzer, Malik, Maya and Shadow, from behind a fence and also from the wolf center’s wonderful viewing room—if you are ever in the neighborhood of Ely, you must stop and visit. And got terrific lectures from Dave Mech and Jim Hammill about the wolf delisting and what it means for wolves. It’s a pretty complex issue, and I was glad to have a chance to hear a bit about it from the people on the front lines. The whole time they were talking the wolves would come up behind them at the observation window and stare at us, which was a bit distracting. But quite amusing.
On the way from St. Paul to Ely I stopped off to visit OJ and Linda and their wolves, who used to visit schools as part of an educational program. The wolves are now in their golden years and are retired, and share a large and lovely yard with several donkeys and many goats (they’re separated by a fence). Pictures of all of them to come, too. OJ gave me a big handful of wolf fur as a souvenir.
Yesterday I had the chance to sign copies of books in stores around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and to talk to booksellers. Official Author Duty and very fun. And had my first reading at the Borders in Woodbury, at which I discovered I’m just as much of a ham as I was when I used to be an actor. I’ve read aloud to myself, but reading to other people gives me a chance to show off, which is never a bad thing.
More on the rest of the wolf weekend to come, but I really love Minnesota. Of course I’m here when it’s not snowing. . .
BEA was a blast, though a bit of a blur. Signed many books and got to meet lots of book lovers. But it definitely wore me out. My friend Allison appeared with a latte right as I was about to fall asleep on my feet and saved me. I’d been to the conference before when I was an editor, so it was interesting to see it from the author’s viewpoint.
The Page 69 Test
Before I started on my travels, I participated in the Page 69 test (I haven’t figured out how to link without sending you completely away from my webpage. Working on it.) It’s pretty nifty. You look at page 69 of your book and write about how it does or does not reflect the story in its entirety. The idea behind it is that you can turn to page 69 of a book and get a sense of if it’s a book you would like. Of course I immediately went to my bookshelf and started pulling down books and reading page 69.
And last but far from least, El Anden, the wonderful Spanish publisher just put up a really cool website. I can’t quite read it all (ok, I can read about 10 percent of it) but really nice looking site.
More to come soon (in theory).

A Promise to the Iberian Wolf

I recently heard from El Anden, the publisher for the Spanish language edition of The Wolf Chronicles (Book One is entitled “El Pacto de los Lobos”) that they are organizing a campaign around the series to help save the Iberian wolf, an endangered subspecies of the gray wolf. Like many populations of wolves, the Iberian wolf was seen for many years as a pest, and bounties were offered for its extermination. I’m still reading up on the Iberian wolf, but I’m really excited about this opportunity. Once I find out more, I’ll be posting information on how people can help this effort.
Meanwhile, back in the US, the Rocky Mountain gray wolf population is still at risk. At least 39 of the Northern Rockies’ 1,500 gray wolves have been killed since they lost federal protection on March 28th. Common sense wildlife management has gone out the window as the anti-wolf forces are doing everything they can to reverse the progress wolves have made in the last thirteen years.
A coalition of nonprofit organizations has filed a lawsuit to return the wolves to the endangered species list and to stop the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming from killing off huge numbers of the wolves in those states. The Montana government tried to delay the lawsuit so that they could get started killin’ more wolves, but a federal judge put the kibosh on that saying that he was unwilling to risk more deaths.
As goes the wolf, so goes the world. I’ll be keeping close watch on these conservation efforts and posting what I know.