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Fat Bottomed Bears - A Research Trip to Alaska for My Novel

One of the great joys of my life is being inspired by this amazing world we live in.

I think getting out--seeing new things, trying new things, meeting new characters--is integral to my ability to write scenes that are vivid and interesting. In my novels, I share some of what I see and smell, taste and do.

In order to write Rescue Instinct, I traveled to St. Kitts. There, I scented the morning seaweed and reveled in the clouds of tiny white butterflies that hovered over the field flowers. I also went to St. Croix where I interacted with the wild monkeys that were so shy and the captured monkeys that had been trained to sit on tourists' shoulders for pictures in their preemie diapers with their sad expressions. I snorkeled in the clear waters where the destructive lionfish fanned their beautiful fins.

I'm now in the research phase for Hero's Instinct.

At the end of September, I went to Juneau to help me better understand my character Ash, the hero in Hero's Instinct. It was eye-opening. It was a sensory smorgasbord.

There are two ways to get to Juneau, by water or air. I took a boat, floating alongside pods of sperm whales who delighted me with the water sprayed up from their blowholes and the magic of their dives with a flash of a tail. Each time I saw a tail, I interpreted it as a gift from a friend, meaningful and dear.

I got to cross off a bucket list item: See a fat-bottomed bear catch a salmon and feed it to her cub.

The cub happened to be sleeping on the rail on the boardwalk I was hiking.

Mama (as it turned out) was under the boardwalk keeping a close eye.

We practiced good manners and made sure we made enough noise talking to let the mom know where we were, and that we weren't going close to her baby.

We had a backup plan, too. Not bear spray, but road flares. We were visiting their home, so I was very glad it wasn't necessary to use them.

Come evening, I saw the mama bear wade into the stream and snatch out a fish.

She took it to the shore where she gave it to her cub. They were both thick-furred with plenty of fat.

They'll need it; it's about time for their hibernation.

Alaska is different than I had imagined. I enjoyed hearing first nations' voices, the tales of people who had always lived in Alaska and had never crossed into Canada or other U.S. states, and I talked to people who did seasonal/tourist work. Each person brought their perspective to the vastness and beauty, but also the isolation and inconvenience. It was a great trip. I learned so much.

I was on the Pacific Ocean a day after Typhoon Merbok roared its destruction over Alaska. I had just left the East Coast where Fiona went from a tropical storm to a destructive hurricane extending up into Canada. I arrived home to see Hurricane Ian's devastation.

Before I left for the Northwest, I participated in a FEMA training session on how to create and maintain pet shelters. Our trainers were out of Florida. I know the rescuers were hard at it down in Tampa, protecting the animals. The pets were kept safe while their people were in shelters or fleeing to places that wouldn't/couldn't accommodate their beloved pet boa constrictor, cat, dog, or cow.

The book I was developing, Rescue Instinct, was with the editor during all of this. In Rescue Instinct, my characters faced life-threatening/life-altering weather. In Rescue Instinct, the female main character, Tara Alvarez, said that if a lot of people do a little, that little becomes a lot. I've watched the helpers out helping. It eases a lot of lives.

I want to thank everyone for acts small and large that help those in the storms' paths. My gratitude overflows.

~ Fiona

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