Summers end….

The thing about having a little blog is it must be fed. When the summer comes out here, and the skies brighten and the rain stops, the trails and forest beckon. There are trails to revisit, or visit the first time, or areas off trail asking for attention, distant lakes to discover and reach, remote forest roads leading nowhere beyond which lies….? Of course, when you reach a certain age, and I fear – no, I am certain – I have reached it, you need to prepare for such excursions. Train. Walk miles, find nearby trails and hills to conquer, load a pack and climb stairs, or just walk, and walk, and walk. In the perfect world someone who wanders the woods would walk two or three hours every single day, all year, and then they would be ready for anything at nearly any age, even a greatly advanced age. I met such a man this year and he is a mountain goat, nearly as old as I am, going everywhere, on and off trail, as he has all his life. I envy him but could not keep up with him. Maybe after a year of training, and absence of injuries…

But you can write your blog in the evenings, some would say. This is true. But, to me, a blog is a strange sort of beast. On the one hand it offers a place to store tales, and ideas, and pictures, maybe even a few words about books written or envisioned, and as such, seems, to me anyway, a perfect place to store such things, whether anyone else cares to see them or not. On the other hand, in today’s monetize everything, build a mailing list, increase traffic to promote sales fever, the blog becomes a beast, a thing to be fed, its appetite endless and huge. When fun stories rise, or events beckon, the blog is fun, a place to record things, but when the money and traffic and out-there self promotion animal springs to life the blog becomes a monster, something loathed and avoided.

Maybe, too, this is all a function of two years of covid reaction and then the start of a European land war with the attendant media hype, lies, and hysteria filling all the airwaves and screens.

Then the forest beckons, the high and lonely places, difficult to reach, painful to achieve, but then, on the way and when arrived, silent but for the sounds of the wind, streams, insects, and animals. These are places that are still, InReach Mini2 aside, out of wifi range, phone range, web range.

Thank God.

There is a story I have been playing with now for two years, ever since I finished Totem as a matter of fact, maybe even another series, set in the future, so you can call it science fiction if you like. Whatever time I have spent with a pen and paper, or a keyboard and a screen, has been jotting notes and doing research on matters related to things future, plus the difficult task of trying to imagine a near future that might be realistic, which in these days of plagues and crisis and rage is hard to do.

All of which to say, this feeble little blog has gone dormant for half a year, now. But it is not dead, mainly because I find this a nice way to store stuff that I enjoy.

Some early Totem reviews

“I believe that this book is a fitting conclusion to a remarkable set of novels. I enjoyed them so much, I plan to order up each in paperback to have them sit on my bookshelf. As far as I’m concerned, the Strong Heart trilogy is the best Netflix series yet to be filmed. Seriously. As I read each of these books, all I could think of was watching the story come to life on TV. I hope that these novels get into the hands of a reputable producer and are adapted for the screen.

“What I liked most were the wonderful characters, each unique, each with their own strengths and weakness, each with their own speech patterns that help to establish their individuality. I also appreciate Mr. Sheldon”s commitment to the land and the environment, a theme that runs through the entire series, one that causes the reader to take pause and consider what is happening to the planet because of climate change…

“The weaving of the mystical with speculative history is fascinating; the visions help move the story and successfully set the stage for the exciting conclusion. My only regret is that the series has come to an end because I would certainly have liked to spend more time with these exceptional characters.” OnLineBookClub for Readers reviewer, Feb 12, 2022

“I’m only at the third chapter of the book and I already love it, I have read the previous two books of the series and cannot wait to see how this one turns out. Judging by this forum and its reviews, it is going to be excellent as well.” OnLineBookClub for Readers reviewer, Feb 8, 2022

“I loved the journey this book took me through. It wasn’t just the North Pacific, but it was a journey through a culture that surpassed time and place. It’ was a learning journey that can be applied today to anyone who loves the past and wants to connect past and future with one another. That writing style is what keeps readers coming back for more. The ability to not only tell a tale but make readers live within it is a blessing. GREAT series!” OnLineBookClub for Readers reviewer, Feb 3, 2022

Book Reviews


Kirkus Reviews: “In this gripping conclusion to Sheldon’s Strong Heart series, uncanny events occur after a mining operation is planned in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.
In Strong Heart (2017), surly teen Sarah Cooley arrived on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula with a steadfast loathing of the “boonies” but gained a near-mystical connection with the wilderness. In this final book in the trilogy, Sarah, who’s now 14, is intent on returning to the peninsula at the very moment that Buckhorn Industries are about to begin extracting erbium, a trace mineral which the company claims can detoxify coal emissions. The mining operation will affect the lives of everyone on the peninsula, including William Williams, a Haida merchant sailor, who took center stage in Adrift (2018), the second book of the series, and his daughter Myra, a tribal archaeologist. The narrative also follows Victoria Oldsea, an environmental project manager at Buckhorn, and Carl Larsen, who, accompanied by his niece Laurie, is investigating the appearance of grisly elk kills in the vicinity. Sarah and her friends are intent on boycotting the mining operation, but when Victoria spots what appears to be a black saber-toothed tiger, it becomes clear that other, strange events are afoot. A terrible windstorm brings additional chaos, and as those on the peninsula begin to experience unnerving visions, the veil among reality, history, and the spirit world seems to grow gossamer thin. The series accelerates toward an exhilarating conclusion as Sarah strives to protect the beguiling landscape.
Readers who are familiar with Sheldon’s writing will already know that descriptions of backwoods hiking often form the backbone of his Strong Heart narratives. In this latest offering, he again succeeds in evoking a clear sense of walking in nature: “The trail was easy. We were on an old road, rising steadily, following the river. We crossed a bridge high over a creek, the water boiling from the snowmelt.” The complexity of the novel springs from the author’s deft handling of a broad range of psychologically distinct characters and the skillful synthesis of key thematic elements, such as environmentalism, spirituality, and elements of Indigenous history. The latter’s intersection inspires stirringly poetic passages that add welcome texture to Sheldon’s minimalist prose, which otherwise remains direct and unadorned in style: “The meadows were a rich red from the summer’s dying, flowers burning their spirit. We walked through fields of blood, passing groups of trees, ledges of rock, pockets of snow.” Newcomers to the series may struggle to get a fix on the various characters at first, but this book can still be effectively read as a stand-alone work. Those who have been impatiently awaiting a denouement to the series will enjoy the gratifyingly intricate route that the author follows as he employs new and familiar characters. Overall, Sheldon has written an undeniable page-turner that’s full of intrigue and peril, as well as an emotive love letter to the natural wonder of the Pacific Northwest and its people.
An engaging and thoughtfully conceived finale to an impressive series.”

Author Katherine D. Graham: “In a masterful work combining historical fiction with a touch of fantasy/mythology, Sheldon’s newest epic novel Totem beautifully marries the best aspects of time travel and reincarnation tropes with modern-day real-life stakes.
Sarah is a troubled teenager whom grief has plagued, and is set up to continue that unlucky lot into the newest (third) volume of Sheldon’s Strong Heart series. Having not read the prior two volumes, I can happily say that no prior knowledge of the series was needed for me to be drawn into and captivated by this book.
I should also point out, in fairness, that while the 500+ page count is daunting at first glance, Sheldon has written Totem in “books” within the book itself (similarly to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books, where multiple “volumes” are housed within one cover). This read is a fast, page-turning read that doesn’t let you go even with the historical and political backstory woven in, so the 500+ pages goes by fairly quickly
Partially due to its length, and partiall due to tragedy, there is a heavy turnover of characters in Totem. As this is a spoiler-free review I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that loved ones are not guaranteed fulfilled lives or happily-ever-afters in all cases in this book (though some are happier than others).
The twists and thrills of surviving in the wild are some of the most exhilarating moments of this read, and the chapters where we experience life in the past are truly magical and captivating in a way usually reserved more for epic fantasy than for historical fiction. It is truly as though we are there with the characters throughout their journeys…
I highly recommend this series to anyone interested in reading a respectful historical fiction that handles First Peoples’ legends and traditions with pride and care, while keeping the stories relevant to the struggles of modern day society (history repeats itself, but can we do better). A superb job to Sheldon!”

Strong Heart:   An ornery 13 year old girl appears at Tom Olsen’s door and announces she is his granddaughter. Tom and his friends take her with them on a camping trip because she has nowhere else to go. She hates it. They hate her. She sees something. They don’t believe her. Then she disappears…..

…a beautiful and heart-warming story…

…fabulously plotted…

 …this book gripped me and would not let go…

 …this is a must read for everybody…

…the perfect blend of the deep-rooted legends and harsh realities of life…”

 …I would recommend this book to anyone…

 …it’s as if you are immersed in the story….

 …one of the most incredible fiction novel I have ever read…

 …if you are an adventure lover, this will make a wonderful read…

 …this is a must read book…

 …makes me wish I had listened to stories my great-grandfather and grandparents told a little more closely…

…if you are into folklore, dreams and magic, this book is a definite must read…

 …a fictional story of learning about one’s past heritage and how that knowledge can assist us in our lives today…

 …themes…so universal that I believe they will speak to any reader of any age…

 …if you are looking for a story with suspense then this is the book for you…

 …this unique story is a book of fiction, or is it? It is similar to science fiction or fantasy, the difference being that this story just might have actually happened. Is it the author’s  vivid imagination, or is it based on actual data?… Mr. Sheldon’s ability to describe scenes makes one think he vividly sees them in his mind and then is able to translate those pictures into words. I was able to visualize what was happening to Sarah, where she went, what happened to her on the way, in a way I have not experienced before. The beauty of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest comes to life on the pages…

 …absorbing…alternates constantly between the past and the present and before long you lose yourself in a beautiful world with beautiful people whose experiences you joyfully share. You go through pain, anger and even helplessness with the characters…..

 …the simplicity of the writing makes it for an easy read, and the charts and landmarks noted in the first few pages gives the story an authentic feel and helps you as the reader to understand the layout and journey that was taken. It is not only a voyage and adventure, but also a building of character and the display of our most basic and ferocious instincts; survival and procreation. We all want to live the best lives we can and leave something behind for the generations to follow by which they can commemorate us and remember us by. Be it in drawings, skills or just legends and stories told around a warm campfire…”

 …more than a wilderness adventure, the book is good in bringing out the value of traditional knowledge in a world where scientific facts sometimes overshadow reality itself…

Adrift

Strong Heart took readers deep into the storied wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. In Adrift, Sheldon, a veteran of the sea himself, carries the story into a beautiful, brutal frontier of ice, wind, slicing cold, roiling waves, and ancient, mystic faith.  

“Thank you for writing such a wonderful story. Makes a person think about how we all came to be here and our first peoples. Anything is possible with his our earth seasons change. I loved the flow of his it read, the history. Loved this book. I would say it’s an amazing, awesome read and anyone would enjoy it. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like. I will enjoy reading this again. A new favorite to add to my collection. Sheldon is a great writer. Keep them coming and I will keep reading. Your added to my favorite Authors. Thank you for a wonderful book.”

“Life is a grand story…this slice of grit and love is amazing! Adrift is about life challenges. Family, friends, tribes, and businesses clash with all their forces as people face fire, snow, ragging waters, loss, and picking up the pieces of all that life can deal. It holds out a hand to those searching for grit to hold on and hope beyond what we can logically see. It reminds us all our stories are precious, and they best told roundabouts with friends. Adrift invites all to great adventure!”