Hi, there!

I'd like to introduce myself and my book series to you.

That’s me, Jutta Ploessner, the author and publisher. I’m sitting here at the Arrow Lake, where the story begins.

What story, you want to know?

Well, let me tell you about it. Why don’t you sit down next to me in the grass? Or up on that rock? Or on the bench over there … oh, it’s not in the picture. Anyway, just find yourself a spot.

Allright, it is the story about a German immigrant family who find a new home in southern British Columbia and experience all kinds of adventures. It is a family series of several volumes, from age 12 and over.

Where I’m sitting is the rest area and campground of Eagle Creek, a small community at the Arrow Lake. Sometimes tourists or foreigners like the Hartmann’s occasionally end up in our remote little village and park their motor homes here or set up their tents, but mainly it is the hangout for the kids of Eagle Creek. In reality, this village is called Edgewood and it is only half as big as the town of Eagle Creek in the book series. The people and the story are mostly fiction, but everything could have happened just as it did …

Let’s start with the introduction of the main characters. The actual heroine of the series is fifteen year old Andrea, but the story is about the whole family. There are the parents, Renate and Richard Hartmann who decided to immigrate with their four children from the German town of Schwabach to the West Kootenays in British Columbia. Ten year old Nicole, the baby of the family, is the only one who was never really thrilled by the idea. Often, she gets homesick for her home country, her friends and her grandparents. She‘s a little scaredy-cat and is afraid of bears, thunderstorms and the coyotes who howl eeriely at night. Eighteen year old Michael, the oldest is a hard worker when it comes to renovating the new homestead and clearing the land. Even Holger, Andreas twin brother- who after a terrible car accident is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair – helps as much as he can on the new farm.

Here in Eagle Creek the Hartmann‘s are building their new future. Richard, a geologist will work for a mining company in the area, Renate, a nurse is thinking of getting a part time job at the Red Cross Outpost in Eagle Creek.

In May 1992 the family came to Eagle Creek because Papa Richard took the wrong turn. Since they fell in love with the place they decided to stay and bought an old farmhouse on 20 acres of land by the Arrow Lake.

The story begins two months later as they are renovating the farmhouse. In fall the kids will go to school in Eagle Creek. Until then they will wonder at many new things, deal with dangerous situations, make new friends and meet strange people, experience all kinds of adventures and – scariest of all – fight the forest fires in the area that spread fast in the dry heat and threaten their new farm.

Click here for an introduction of the main characters

Here are the chapter titles

So far, only the German version is available but I'm working on the English translation and I hope to be able to publish it this year.

 

This is the cover of the first volume
(please click to enlarge)

ISBN # 3-89811-914-9
192 pages, illustrations
                                         Cover: Betty L. Fahlman
EUR 13,80

 

And here you can read the beginning of the first book.

1
Fire on the mountain

   Andrea let her hammer drop. „Guys, if you don’t want me to pass out and fall from the roof then I need I break!“ she exclaimed, wiping the sweat from her forehead. „This terrible heat is going to kill me!“ She swung her legs over the edge of the roof of the chicken house and climbed down the ladder.
   The ‘guys’ were her two brothers, Michael and Holger. While their parents and Nicole, their little sister, had gone to the Okanagan Valley for shopping, Michael and Andrea had offered to repair the roof of the chicken house. It had several holes where it was raining through. The chickens didn’t like it. They didn’t want to get wet. When it was raining, they were gathered in a dry corner clucking glumly. Mama claimed that only happy chickens laid many nice, big eggs so you had to keep them in good spirits.
   "Where are you going?” Michael called from the roof. Holger, Andrea’s twin brother, was confined to a wheel chair and could only watch when the others did work like this.
   "Down to the dock,” Andrea answered. “You can stand this crazy heat when you´re in the water.” With this, she started walking down the pathway to the lake shore.
   "Don’t let the bears eat you for lunch!” Michael called after her.
   “And watch out that you don’t get a heat stroke!” Holger added. Despite their laughter Andrea knew that her brothers weren’t making fun of her but honestly worried about her. But that was nonsense.
   “Nonsense!” she called back, not turning around.
   With her towel in one hand and a water-bottle in the other she swiftly walked down the path. No, she wasn’t afraid of bears. Or at least not very much. She had gotten all the information she could about what to do if you unexpectedly ran into a bear and she trusted herself to do the right thing when being confronted with one.
   'Respect the wild animals, then they respect you', the Game Warden had told her. 'If you all of a sudden see yourself face to face with a bear, retreat respectfully, without running, without yelling. That’s important. If you run away screaming the bear might get excited and aggravated and comes right after you. That he’ll get you is for sure. Nobody can outrun a bear. Even the fattest and clumsiest bear runs faster than the fastest human. And what the bear´s gonna do with you once he gets you is for sure, too. He’s gonna make hamburger outta you, young lady! Hamburger!'
   With a slight shudder Andrea remembered the Game Warden’s words. Cautiously, she looked around in all directions. The view of the field, gently sloping towards the lake, was all clear. Andrea sighed with relief as she couldn’t see any suspicious black lumps. No bear in sight! It wasn’t very likely anyway that she´d bump into one, so close to the house, with all the noise Michael was making hammering on the roof. But you never know. Better be careful.
   That she´d suffer a heat stroke was more likely, with the hot temperatures they were having for several weeks now. Almost every day they had over forty degrees and there were no weather changes in sight. Was it going to be like this all summer long? Phew, boy, then they better get prepared!
   Good thing that I’m wearing my sandals, Andrea thought to herself. My feet would get burned on the hot sand along the path!
   The heat was shimmering over the meadows and fields, the air was filled with the smell of wild herbs and burned wood. Distinctly, you could see and smell the smoke of the numerous forest fires in the area - most of them ignited by lightning during rainless thunderstorms. Especially scary was the one down south that was coming closer and closer every day, moving with frightening speed. How long before the fires reached the farms, the pastures, the barns and houses?
   Bravely, Andrea tried to suppress the fear that was engulfing her heart. She had always been a courageous girl. Even here, in the Canadian wilderness, she would not run away from danger but fight against it with all her might!
   Meanwhile, she had reached the lakeshore where their property bordered with the Arrow Lake. There was an idyllic little bay with an old weathered dock that served as diving board and boat launch. A little further along the shore, an old canoe was laying in the grass, upside down. It looked as if it had laid there for eternities and was as weathered as the dock. The paint was long gone and the letters at the front were undecipherable. Could be that it once spelled ‘McLeod’s’. That was the name of the people from who the Hartmann´s had bought their new farm.
   Too bad there were no paddles left. Andrea found it very tempting to put the canoe in the water and paddle down the lake for a little while. But her parents had emphatically forbidden such endeavors anyways, because of strong winds and equally strong currents that could suddenly arise in the middle of the lake. The Arrow Lake was by no means suitable for small boats like row boats and canoes. That was the reason there were mostly motor boats or house boats seen on the water. For rowing and canoeing, the smaller, remote lakes were a lot more suitable. There were many of these in the area.
   Andrea sat down on the dock, drank a big sip of water from her bottle and let her sun-tanned legs dangle in the water. Thoughtfully, she looked out over the lake. Right now, the big willow tree to the right was still providing enough shade but soon the sun would come around the corner and it would be too hot to sit here any longer.
   Then, the coolest place would be the forest. Besides farmland the Hartmann´s new property also included some acres of beautiful cedar forest. Beyond it´s boundaries there was a large forested area that belonged to the Canadian government, or actually, the Crown of England. That´s why it was called Crown land. For the most part, this area was dense wilderness, with rugged cliffs and caves where coyotes and cougars lived and probably many bears hibernated during winter. Andrea found this forest a little eery and she didn´t like wandering around there all by herself. One time she almost suffered a heart attack when she mistook one of the huge black tree stumps there – remains of a huge forest fire back in the Twenties – for a bear. Stiff with fear, she had been standing there, desperately trying to remember what she had learned about encounters with bears and other dangerous animals. For a moment, she couldn´t remember a thing. Then she had mustered all her courage and started to retreat, slowly, step by step, without letting the ´bear´ out of her sight. When it kept sitting there without moving the tiniest bit, not even when, with loud screeching, a crow landed on it´s ´head´, Andrea got suspicious and decided to have a closer look. Boy, had she been relieved when the supposed ´bear´ turned out to be a harmless tree stump!
   The same thing happened to her before when she and her family had gone on a little tour with their motor home to explore the area. Andrea had to laugh as she remembered the little scene. There was another one of those burned black tree stumps, in a clearing full of pink fire weed. Excitedly, she had asked her Dad to stop and back up a few meters so she could take a picture. When he did so Andrea rolled down the window, grabbed her camera and took pictures like crazy until her parents and siblings had burst into laughter. Only then she realized what object she had been aiming at.
   Andrea´s thoughts returned to the present. Frowning, she sniffed the air. Did she imagine things, or had the smell of burned wood grown stronger?
   For the umpteenth time she wiped the sweat from her forehead. Even over the lake, where normally a light breeze was blowing, the heat was laying there like a thick, heavy blanket under which you could hardly breathe. Never in her life would Andrea have thought that it could be so terribly hot in Canada. Didn´t they say that it was rather cold there, with short summers and a lot of snow in winter? Well, definitely not here in southern British Columbia! What the winter would be like she didn´t know yet but this summer was certainly something else. They could have immigrated to Australia as they had been talking about but they had decided on Canada because Mama couldn´t stand the hot climate. And now this!
   Otherwise, they couldn´t complain at all. No, just the opposite! They had come to Eagle Creek and the Arrow Lake only two months ago but it already felt like home. How familiar everything had become to her within that short time! Andrea already loved the piece of land that was theirs now, as much as if she had spent all the fifteen years of her life there.
   Especially, the beach was Andrea´s favorite spot. Here, she could sit on the dock for hours, lost in dreams – except there was so much work to do every day. Of course, her parents expected her to help with building the new farm but Andrea loved it and put all her energy into it. After all she had been the one who had urged the most that they turn their ideas about immigrating into reality and it hadn´t taken long at all until they got their immigration visa. Within eight months everything had been arranged. Their application, interview at the Canadian Embassy in Bonn, the permission to immigrate, the sale of their house in Schwabach as well as most of their belongings, the packing and shipping of the most important personal things they wanted to take with them. Then the tearful farewell from their Grandparents, other relatives and friends, and finally the flight to Vancouver where they bought a motor home as the first roof over their heads. With their new wheels they´ve been travelling all across British Columbia looking for nice farms that were for sale, frequenting real estate agencies as well as getting information about job opportunities for Papa, until they finally ended up at Arrow Lake and the remote Eagle Creek valley. They all liked this area best so they bought a twenty hectar lakeshore property, and with that their immigration dreams came true.
   Andrea was tempted to pinch her arm again but then laughed at herself. How often had she already done that! No, it wasn´t a dream from which she would wake up any minute and find herself back home in Schwabach again. It was real that they were in Canada, in Eagle Creek at the Arrow Lake, on their new farm! From now on, their home was here.
   With great ambition the Hartmann´s were renovating the old farmhouse, setting up a new garden and building sheds and stables for the farm animals they eventually wanted to get. The chickens had came with the house, as well as Mickey, the fat and feisty tomcat. Now they were thinking of getting a dog or two, and of course, horses. Mama insisted on getting a goat for the milk, but the rest of the family wasn´t very thrilled about that idea. Goat´s milk, yuk! Whether it was healthy or not.
   From dawn till dusk, the Hartmann´s worked on their new farm and at night flopped onto their beds, exhausted. But it was a lot of fun to do all this with their own hands. Even Holger, Andreas twin brother, who after a terrible accident three years ago was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, tried to help as much as he could. Only her little sister Nicole was lazy and took a wide berth around everything that smelled like work.
   Down here at the dock you couldn´t see the farmhouse. Only distant hammering could be heard. For a moment Andrea felt bad because she left all the work to Michael. But at the same time she thought that she really deserved a little break. After all, she´d been up since six o´clock and picked weeds in the garden while her siblings and Papa were still sleeping. Only Mom had been up already, sitting on the verandah and studying English grammar over a cup of coffee.
   Andrea sighed and wiped her forehead again. If only it wasn´t so incredibly hot!
   The air wasn´t moving, the surface of the lake was as smooth as a mirror. Then, out of the corner of her eye, Andrea noticed some movement.
   She watched an osprey circle over the lake, then dive into the water and retrieve a fish. The movements of the osprey were somewhat lazy as if this heat was too much for him, too. Still, he had caught the fish. But even the fish was floundering only a little bit. Maybe it was too hot for him, too. Who would have much energy in this heat, anyway?
   I´m gonna go in for a swim now, Andrea thought to herself. She got up and pulled off the paint-stained t-shirt that she was wearing over her yellow bikini. Doing so, she noticed that she also had paint all over her hair. She plucked some of the dried crusts from her brown curls. Ouch, that smarted!
   She took a little run and jumped into the water. That felt great! Although the normally cool Arrow Lake had turned into a lukewarm puddle in this heat, it still offered refreshment.
   Lazily, Andrea swam around the dock over to the willow tree and then to the rocky point that obscured the view of the small beach from the north. To the south, you could see for kilometres without houses, roads or cars disturbing the view. Besides the black and menacing smoke that billowed and lingered over the lake, only water, forested hills and the snow-capped, three thousand metre high mountains in the distance could be seen.
   Andrea swam on her back and shut her eyes against the sun. Except for the threatening forest fires it really was a beautiful spot they had chosen to be their new home. But it also was a very remote area, especially to someone who came from a densely populated country like Germany.
   The drone of an airplane engine made Andrea look up again. Here it came again, the water bomber! It dipped into the lake and then veered off with it´s load in the direction of the smoke clouds. It came in regular intervals as Andrea and her family had been watching for days now. Good thing the large Arrow Lake stretched between the forest fires and their farm! Unfortunately, the lake was more long than wide, about two hundred kilometres long, but not even two kilometres wide in the Eagle Creek Valley. Andrea wished it would have been the other way.
   But there were other forest fires in the area, too. The huge fire down south was the biggest threat for the people of Eagle Creek and it´s vicinity. Would they be able to get it under control before it reached the farms?
   Once again, Andrea felt this dark fear rise inside her. What if nobody could stop the fires?
   No, it simply couldn´t happen that they lose their new farm already, after the short time they´ve been here! They had given up everything they had in Germany to build a new life here in British Columbia. That couldn´t just fall victim to the forest fires.
   Don´t worry, they´ll get it under control, Andrea tried to reassure herself. They got a grip on the Fosthall fire, the Goat Mountain fire and the Caribou Creek fire, and whatever other forest fires they had named in the last few months.
   The smoke and the smell of burned wood grew more intense now. With apprehension, Andrea looked at the black clouds of smoke that crawled over the ridge of the foothills. What if the fire spread out across the entire side of the mountain? Then they would suffocate from smoke, even with the lake in between. Yesterday in the news, they were talking about evacuating the village of Eagle Creek and the surrounding farms. But then what? Should they simple abandon their new farm?
   No, not on your life! That was absolutely out of any question. Andrea raised her chin in determination. She would never run away from the fires. She would fight, and so would her parents and everybody else.
   Andrea thought of her Mom and Dad and Nicole who had gone to Vernon  to get some groceries and other things they needed. When they came back there would be more work to do. The most important thing for Mom to get was several boxes of fruit for canning, and to make jam.
   Is Nicole getting something new again? Andrea wondered with a sudden grudge. O course! She always got what she wanted, or at least most of the time. Andrea thought that her little sister got spoiled too much and had to do so little for it. When she was Nicole´s age she had to help a lot at home and she didn´t get a present every time!
   The smoke that was drifting towards her was so strong now that Andrea had to cough. She felt ashamend about her thoughts. As if there was nothing more to worry about than whether Nicole got new things in Vernon or not!
   She started worrying about her parents and her little sister. The Okanagan Valley was quite some distance away. For over a hundred kilometres the winding road lead over the remote Monashee pass before you reached another small village on the other side of the mountain range. Didn´t they report a few forest fires from there, too?
   Another noise caught Andrea´s attention. It was the chugging of a boat engine. Curiously, she craned her neck. Who could that be? Fishermen from the area?
   No, not in the middle of the day, not in this heat, she told herself. She had learned that the fish wouldn´t bite when it was so hot. They´d rather hide in the cool depths of the water, between the rocks or among the roots of the old tree stumps at the bottom of the lake. Some stumps you could see faintly in the water were it was more shallow, and also the foundations and other remnants of the houses that once stood there. Because the Arrow Lake was a huge dammed up lake and Eagle Creek a town that had been relocated after the flooding, many people moved away and with the money they got from the hydroelectric corporation, settled somewhere else. That´s why the Eagle Creek Valley was a lot less populated now-a-days than twenty years ago.
   Maybe the motor boat belonged to strangers who got lost in Eagle Creek,  Andrea assumed as the noise came closer. Her girlfriend Tracy had told her that last summer some German tourists ended up in Eagle Creek with their motor home because they got lost somewhere on the Monashee highway. Just the same thing had happened to them a few months ago. They only landed in Eagle Creek because Papa somehow took a wrong turn. Otherwise, they might be living on a farm in Nakusp or Nelson, or somewhere else in the Kootenays. Or maybe in the Okanagan Valley.
   The chugging was very close now. Andrea got out of the water and sat on the dock, curious about what would happen next.

                                         

          

If you'd like to read more about the author or the illustrator of the book series or if you are interested in getting your literary project translated into German, please click on the following links:

The Author                                The Illustrator

My
Translation
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Of course, I'm curious what you think of my story so far, so I'm looking forward to your comments, either by e-mail or in my guestbook. So, come back again since from now on, there will always be something new.

 

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