Archive for Blood Mountain

A Dog Leads With Its Nose

Maggie, my daughter, has an eye for photos. Especially when it comes to our sweet Echo.

This remarkable perspective, his glorious snout, brought to mind the dog Sitka in my recent wilderness adventure novel, Blood Mountain

To write about that character, a mutt lost in the mountains with two human siblings, Grace and Carter, I did some research. Though I’ve owned many dogs and have observed them closely over the years, I didn’t feel ready to write about them. I knew that I didn’t want to humanize Sitka, do a Disney treatment; instead, I wanted to honor the sheer dogginess of the creature. And when it comes to dogs, I learned, it all begins with the nose.

What follows are two brief excerpts from the book that hone close to Sitka’s own glorious snout. 

from Chapter 23 . . .

After a time, the dog moves away, climbs down off the rock face, down into the sun-stippled understory beneath the great shade-cooled umbrella of leaves. A hunger gnaws at Sitka’s belly like a twisting, tightening coil of wire. Imagine if everything a human sees — every color, shape, and texture — arrived with a specific odor. The red of that flower’s petals, the deep-rutted bark of a poplar, the light brown of a wren’s chest, the dropped acorns, the pale underside of a leaf, the shimmering sky itself: every pixel that an eye apprehends, for a dog those details come with singular odor, as different as green from red, blue from yellow. When Sitka sniffs, it is the same as Grace opening her eyes. Sitka inhales and her tail sweeps and she knows a man has passed near here some time ago, moving in an easterly direction. A mosaic of smells, each one a discovery. The creatures of this world announce themselves to her nose: I am. The dog goes to the slow-trickling stream. Movement among the ferns. Sitka stealthily moves to investigate, prodded by the ache in her belly. Plunges her nose deep into the living green world, inhales the data points, sniffs out the whiskered, stout rodent. Pounces with front paws outstretched, and again — there! success! — bites down, gulps, gone.

A huntress!

Sweet vole!

And even in that instant, the dog attends to one who lies restless in half sleep; a soft moan, she wakes. Meal in belly — hair and tail and skull — Sitka will be at Grace’s side by the time she opens her eyes. 

And from Chapter 34 . . . 

The dog smells everything, recent past and the acute present, for a mile in all directions, depending on air currents. The data overload is immense. Mind-boggling to process. But one odor comes clearest. Though Sitka has no direct experience of “mountain lion,” that named thing, something in her DNA recognizes the lurking danger, the predator prowling in the dark, unseen and unheard.

But not unsmelled.

Therefore: known.

An old enemy.

Sitka vacuums in the odors, sifts through the information. The creatures with names she cannot know: squirrel, vole, owl, mole, mouse, rabbit, hawk, raccoon. Another faint whiff troubles the dog: man. A desperate man has recently moved through this area, the aroma of stealth and haste.

And another thing: the trees themselves, hosts to so much life. Tree limbs and tree fingers, tree thoughts and tree intentions. The interconnected roots, thirsty and entangled, talking in their ancient tongues, passing along what they know to each other. This is the wild place, the space of time-before, and now the dog forgets recents pleasures of soft cushions and screen doors, fresh water bowls and proffered treats, long drives with the windows down.

Dog recalls wolf.

The time-before.

The snaggletooth. The vicious bite and muzzle shake. The primal memory of ripped flesh and the warm taste of red blood. The fresh kill.

“What do you smell?” Grace asks.

How does the dog answer?

Sitka sits alert, rumbles low, hackles raised, muscles taut. Danger, her body replies.

She senses danger. 

BLOOD MOUNTAIN: Selected as One of 10 Books to Georgia’s “Tome It List” for 2020-21 Middle Schoolers

This is an honor. I just got word that Blood Mountain was featured on the “Tome It List” for the 2020-21 school year. They only pick ten books for middle school, so that’s awfully lucky.

Here’s the list, and below that, some impressive information about the fast-growing “Tome” organization. 




Junior Tome It List 2020-2021 (Middle School)

  1. Blood Mountain, James Preller
  2. Each Tiny Spark, Pablo Cartaya
  3. Fire & Heist, Sarah Beth Durst
  4. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, Jonathan Auxier
  5. The Door to the Lost, Jaleigh Johnson
  6. The Memory Keeper, Jennifer Camiccia
  7. The Revenge of Magic, James Riley
  8. The Season of Styx Malone, Kekla Magoon
  9. The Storm Runner, JC Cervantes
  10. Words on Fire, Jennifer Nielsen


Tome Student Literacy Society is a grassroots student club envisioned in 2012 by two sisters — Jennifer Parker and Rebecca Hamby — both Media Specialists in Georgia, at the time. As sponsors of their school book clubs they saw a need for an active student community promoting literacy that went beyond informal book discussions. Thus, on a trip to an educational technology conference in 2012 the idea for Tome was born. Very soon after Tome’s birth, Shelby Day, another Georgia Media Specialist and Ashley Walden, a classroom teacher, joined the founding leadership team and the four have worked diligently to make Tome an excellent resource for students and teachers across the state.

In April of 2014 Tome hosted its 1st Annual Conference with approximately 90 students and advisers present. It was a very successful capstone on Tome’s first year of operation.  Tome held its 2nd Conference in May 2015 and almost doubled the attendance from the first year.

In 2016, the official Tome Society annual conference was re-born under the moniker, TomeCon. TomeCon 2016 was held on the Gainesville campus of The University of North Georgia and had over 400 people in attendance. Author Jaleigh Johnson was the keynote speaker. ​TomeCon 2017 hosted over 750 people, and guest authors Dianne Salerni and Jackson Pearce provided Keynote Addresses. 2018 was a year of explosive growth for Tome Society and over 1,400 people attended TomeCon 2018 with over 60 authors and speakers from across the country leading teacher sessions throughout the day. The conference grew again in 2019, with over 2,200 students, teachers, and parents attending TomeCon 2019.

Tome Society currently has over 200 registered chapters across the state of Georgia and is growing exponentially each year. These chapters include public, private, and home schools, as well as public libraries. We are excited to see the number of Tome chapters and people attending TomeCon growing exponentially each year!

BLOOD MOUNTAIN Selected to Maine Student Book Award Reading List

I’m happy to see Blood Mountain listed in the Maine Student Book Award Reading List for grades 4-8.

Lists such as this bring together recommended titles, published in 2019, for students to read and evaluate. Ultimately, the readers vote to select a winner. The reality is that every book on the list gets a tremendous boost; very simply, it helps readers find them, and for a book, that’s only everything. 

Thank you, Maine Library Association and the Maine Association of School Libraries. I’m honored and grateful. Let the reading begin! 

And note: I am available and eager for school visits!


Allen, Kate. The Line Tender.

Andrews, Ryan. This Was Our Pact.

Athaide, Tina. Orange for the Sunsets.

Bacon, Lee. The Last Human.

Barnett, Mac and Jacoby, Sarah. The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown.

Beccia, Carlyn. Monstrous.

Bragg, Georgia. Caught!: Nabbing History’s Most Wanted.

Brown, India Hill. The Forgotten Girl.

Bunker, Lisa. Zenobia July.

Craft, Jerry. New Kid.

de Fombelle, Timothee. Captain Rosalie.

Dee, Barbara. Maybe He Just Likes You.

Gemeinhart, Dan. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise.

Gibbs, Stuart. Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation.

Heidicker, Christian McKay. Scary Stories for Young Foxes.

Horwitz, Sarah Jean. The Dark Lord Clementine.

Illustratus. Ghost: Thirteen Haunting Tales to Tell.

Johnson, Terry Lynn. Dog Driven.

Kukkonen, Janne. Lily the Thief.

McAnulty, Stacy. The World Ends in April.

McMahon, Serah-Marie and David, Allison Matthews. Killer Style.

Munda, Rosaria. Fireborne.

Nagai, Mariko. Under the Broken Sky.

Nobel, Julia. The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane.

O’Donnell, Tom. Homerooms & Hallpasses.

Pancholy, Maulick. The Best at It.

Petro-Roy, Jen. Good Enough.

Philbrick, Rodman. Wildfire.

Poliquin, Rachel. Beastly Puzzles.

Preller, James. Blood Mountain.

Roberts, Barbara Carroll. Nikki on the Line.

Rodkey, Geoff. We’re Not From Here.

Ritter, William. Oddmire: The Changeling.

Sloan, Holly Goldberg & Wolitzer, Meg. To Night Owl From Dogfish.

Sorosiak, Carlie. I, Cosmo.

Sumner, Jamie. Roll With It.

Venkatraman, Padma. The Bridge Home.

Warga, Jasmine. Other Words for Home.

White, Kiersten. The Guinevere Deception.

Williams, Alicia D. Genesis Begins Again.

How Does a Book Survive?

I was pleased to spy my newest book, Blood Mountain, displayed with multiple copies in my local Bethlehem Public Library in Delmar, NY. I’m grateful they’ve embraced their role of supporting local writers. It’s so important for our survival.

Artists in our society struggle to earn a living and it’s getting harder than ever. People make assumptions about fame and wealth, but for the overwhelming majority of us, we’re barely clinging to our careers. 

The hardest part is the silence. Books take years and they come out and . . . the world just shrugs its shoulders. How can you make a difference? Little things. Request a book at your library. Order a copy from your local independent bookstore. Gift a copy to a favorite classroom teacher. We know they don’t have the financial resources to fill their rooms with as many books as they’d like. If you enjoyed the book, yes, please write a quick review on Amazon or GoodReads. Spread the word, suggest it to a friend. It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg and simply your words makes such a difference.

Thank you, kind staff at the Bethlehem Public Library; thanks to everyone who has given this book, which I am so proud of, a chance to survive.



Random Author Photo: “Pointing at Book” File

And here we go . . .