I am not Melissa. I’m her husband, Falcon. I was so happy when Melissa told me that she wanted to write sled dogs into a series, and I freely offered up my experiences as a junior musher to her story.
Remember being a child and running as far and fast as you could and feeling that sense of pure exhilaration?
I’m jealous of sled dogs because that’s what they get to do. They love what they do so much that in order to keep the sled in place before the race, you sometimes have to use two snow hooks and a tether. Even then, it’s not always enough.
There are steel pipes planted in concrete at the starting lines of most trails, and the pipes are bent from how excited the dogs are to start running. And when they start running, everything just melts away. It’s you, the dogs, and the beautiful Alaskan landscape stretched out before you.
My wife's Alaskan Hearts series is fictional, but several of the scenes are very real. I spent some time helping a friend after school as a handler. I met the dozens of dogs the musher (who was also a pathologist by day) had. The team I got to work with was mostly named after the seven dwarves, and they were all white. The first time I crested the hill to look at the kennels, I saw a field of ghost dogs bouncing around, eager to go for a run.
And when I first went out with them, it wasn’t on a sled. No, they were pulling an ATV in neutral. That’s how I knew that everything I thought I knew about mushing was wrong, or at least way off. Mushing required a lot of physical energy from the musher as well as the dogs. On more than one occasion, I shed several layers of clothes after overdoing it running alongside the dogs as they ran uphill or started to tire. On other occasions, I was chilled through to my core, the wind biting through every layer of clothing.
But the one thing that sticks out in my mind: the feeling of being a part of God’s Creation. Everywhere I looked was natural beauty as far as the eye could see, the sounds of the dogs as they joyously ran to their hearts’ content. And somewhere out there was the heartbeat of the world, set in motion all those eons ago.
Try reading The Brightest Light. I think you'll like it. I know I do.
The Brightest Light
This quiet librarian is about to become the main character of her own real-life adventure story…
Anchorage librarian Scarlett Cole has always preferred to live out her adventures within the pages of her favorite books. That all changes when she befriends junior musher Lauren, who presents her with the opportunity of a lifetime—stop reading about the Iditarod and actually get out there to race!
With her career now on the line and only one chance to establish herself amongst the dog-sledding community, Scarlett knows she’ll need to work hard and with no regrets. Unfortunately, another new racer quickly sets his sights on her, vowing to triumph at any cost… even if his techniques aren’t quite above board.
When Scarlett and her new rival receive a flurry of media attention, they discover that succeeding in the race could mean losing big in life. Just how much is Scarlett willing to risk to make her lifelong dream come true?
Join Scarlett, Lauren, and their courageous team of sled dogs in this unforgettable tale of dreams, destiny, and finding where you belong from a New York Times bestselling author.
Scarlett watched until Lauren’s sled became nothing more than a pinpoint on the horizon. Her best friend had found a new life living amongst the world Scarlett longed to join for herself.
Ever since she had accepted the job as an Anchorage librarian and moved from her tiny hometown in Texas all the way north, the Iditarod had been one of Scarlett’s foremost passions—along with books, of course. And now she was here, best friends with one of the top racers to watch… but watching from the sidelines.
To her, the snow glimmered with magic, the winds hinted at adventure, and helping the dogs fulfill their purpose gave her one of her own. The main problem, of course, was that dog sledding was not a sport that could be taken up casually. Her friend, Lauren, had left everything about her old life behind when she chose to become a handler for the infamous Shane Ramsey, who had since transformed into her doting husband and committed race coach.
But none of that exactly helped to bring Scarlett clarity.
Could she really starve one passion to feed another? Ultimately, racing for herself would mean quitting her job as a librarian, possibly to never return. Books were just too special for her to willingly cast aside.
She still fondly remembered herself as a five-year-old girl hanging on the arm of her papa’s recliner as he taught her how to sound out the words splashed across the front page of the local Sentinel. She’d learned so much more than how to read—she’d learned the power of stories, the power of words.
Writing these words herself had never been on the table. She preferred to live out her adventures, either vicariously or in reality, which was what had also drawn her to the great race as she’d begun to learn about her new home state.
Now that she was also best friends with an actual musher, Scarlett’s longing intensified. She’d always been happy to live between the pages, but now she craved the open air, the rushing winds, the slick drive across the snow.
Lauren was so happy, and Scarlett knew she could be, too. But she also didn’t know how to bring this dream into actuality. Perhaps she would figure it out one day, or perhaps she would forever be stuck between two worlds, not knowing to which she truly belonged.
Her phone buzzed in her coat pocket, and she bit the thumb of her glove to pry it off her hand so she could press the teeny, tiny button to answer.
“Scarlett, you’re going to have to go without me,” her friend, Liz, announced without preamble.
“Without you? But we go together every year!” she argued, referring to the Miners and Trappers Ball that celebrated the start of the annual race.
“I know, I know. I’m so sorry.” At least Liz did sound genuinely apologetic about the last-minute change of plans. “I would be there if I could, but something has come up.”
This wasn’t like her usually reliable friend, and that worried her. “Is everything okay?” Scarlett asked, fearing the worst.
“Yeah, it will be fine. I’ll tell you more when I know more. I wouldn’t cancel if it weren’t important. You know that.”
“I do, and don’t worry about me. I can hang out with Shane and Rosie.”
“Oh, pfffhew. Good. Okay. I’ll talk to you later. Have a great time at the ball, Cinderella!”
Scarlett laughed as they hung up. She and Liz Benjamin had made fast friends almost immediately after Scarlett arrived in town. Her father, Ben Benjamin, served as one of the race officials and always had the best access to insider events, like the Miners and Trappers Ball. Liz had never much cared for racing, having grown up with it as a constant, but she was happy to help indulge Scarlett’s interests.
That’s what good friends did, after all. And as a good friend, Scarlett needed to feel happy for Lauren rather than envy her success.
With one last glance toward the horizon where she had last seen Lauren and the other racers charge forth toward Nome, she buried the piece of her heart that belonged to this sport and headed home to find a good book to cozy up with for the night.
Tomorrow was the ball, and she wouldn’t miss it for the world.