Seize the Days

The marmot, like its cousin the groundhog, is a shy retiring type, eluding autograph seekers by hiding in a burrow.
The marmot, a member of the groundhog family, is a shy retiring type, eluding autograph seekers by hiding in a burrow.

Today is Groundhog Day, a holiday which will forever be linked in my mind with Bill Murray.

Maybe I’ve watched the movie too many times. What can I say? It resonates with me.

In case there’s anyone living under a rock, or in a groundhog burrow, who hasn’t seen the film, the plot centers on a flawed character (Murray) who finds himself stuck in a time loop on Groundhog Day, doomed to repeat the same 24-hour period. He goes through the usual stages of grief, denial, anger, etc., before he realizes the silver lining of his predicament — by changing his own behavior he gradually becomes the master of the rewind cycle, and finally gets it right.

It’s a brilliant conceit. In its own weird way, the film Groundhog Day sheds light on the value of second chances. As a writer I appreciate the process of self-editing that Murray’s character undergoes. When I’m writing, characters sometimes arrive in my mind fully-formed. Other times they come with a lot of unnecessary baggage that does nothing to enrich the story. I’m learning to trust my instincts.

When I first began writing, I was reluctant to eliminate a single word from my precious prose. Now, older, and I hope, a bit wiser, I’ve come to enjoy the process of revision. In writing, as in life, less is sometimes more.

With this in mind, at the beginning of 2016 I decided to republish my 2011 urban fantasy The Goddess of Green Lake under my own imprint. This second edition offered me the chance to eliminate clutter and cut to the chase. It remains the story of a musician whose life gets complicated after he falls for a passionate environmental activist and helps her liberate an orphaned baby otter from a public aquarium. There’s also a bit of Green Man magic and a mermaid backstory which ties in with the underlying “save the oceans” theme.

But in a broader sense, the story is about finding the courage to live your own life, to work your way through the dark times without giving up on the things that matter. Nothing worthwhile comes without effort.

I feel for the groundhog. Any creature that hides from its own shadow doesn’t have much of a chance in this life. But maybe it just takes practice. A little shadow boxing can help you hone your skills before you take on more substantial foes. Carpe diem.

The View From Here

The Big Pinnacle of Pilot Mountain can be seen for miles in all directions.
The Big Pinnacle of Pilot Mountain can be seen for miles in all directions.

Yay! A fresh crispy New Year to spend on whatever mad caprice strikes our fancy! Buy something random! Go somewhere undiscovered (good luck with that). Or begin that brave new adventure, quick before Winter remembers where it left the blizzard.

Some people find inspiration climbing great heights, or diving deep into oceans. Me, I’m more of an armchair adventurer. But every now and then, lured by the promise of restorative vistas and therapeutic exercise, I venture beyond the gravitational pull of my own inertia.

Such was the case not long ago when I hiked up Pilot Mountain, near Pinnacle, North Carolina. The mountain has been a landmark for centuries. The Saura Indians, who once lived in the region, called it Jomeokee, which, I’m told, means Great Guide or Pilot. Since the name must have been given long before the days of air travel, I’m guessing Great Guide is truer to the original moniker.

Call it what you will, it’s an impressive pile of rock, and one that draws legions of intrepid climbers in these thrill-seeking times. While I prefer my thrills without rope burns and terror, I empathize with the desire to set goals for yourself.

Each New Year I look back at the list I made at the start of the previous season cycle. The list never gets shorter. Usually when I manage to check something off, two or three eager ideas push their way onto the new list and clamor for attention, even as some of the older projects complain about my neglect. It’s hard to please everyone, even when they’re all inside your own head.

Up on Pilot Mountain I enjoyed a brief respite from the nagging demands. Up there, the air is clear and cool. You can see for miles. The problems of a few fictional characters hardly seem to matter. Which is good, because I’m giving a couple of them some time out to work on their issues while I attend to other business. The Goddess of Green Lake, for example, will be off on a spirit quest for a few months. But I’m confident that when she returns she’ll be stronger, bolder, and more magical than ever.

Sometimes we all need a fresh start, even if it’s only fictional. Onward and upward.

Lift Off

Wingfor blog


When I was a child I read a lot of fairy tales. Way too many, probably. The guiding principle in most of those stories was that truth and justice will eventually triumph over evil, that love will find a way, and that lasting happiness is achievable if you work hard enough.

These are comforting ideas when you are child. Children are small to begin with, and forced to take orders from much larger beings, who are themselves compelled at times to submit to all sorts of cultural practices, many of which are a huge waste of time and emotional energy. Fortunately, the average child is resilient and resourceful, and soon enough learns either to manipulate the system or to avoid it altogether.

I chose the latter route. Fiction was my hot rod Ford out of dreary convention.

Of course even in fiction conventions thrive which perpetuate the system. However, authors at least have a choice to follow the rules or bend them.

My newly released novel “On The Wing,” Book Three of The Greening trilogy, is a bender’s tale of hopes and dreams, young and middle-aged love, vengeance and heroism. In it the characters who fought and fell and got back up again in Books One and Two band together to save the world one more time.

Eva Carter, who ran away from home as a teenager to find the father she never knew, finally learns the truth about Shiloh Carter’s “day job” when she returns to help her mother in the struggle to repair damage caused by destructive magic sown in the Greening. In the process, Eva reconnects with her emotionally wounded father, her haunted grandfather, and a winsome sprite with otherworldly Green connections.

But when Destiny comes calling, Eva and Shiloh join forces with a ragtag crew of not quite superheroes as they head into the final battle. Sooner or later one of them will have to pay the ultimate price to save the world from going up in smoke.

Happily ever after? Could happen.

The Sap Also Rises

Cupid's aim is true at Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.
Cupid’s aim is true at Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.

A few years ago I swore off romance.

Enough with the sappily ever after, pie-in-the-sky, “don’t worry baby” baloney.

I gave in to the Dark Side. And was startled to find it was standing room only. Turns out you can’t throw a brick, or even a volume of Game of Thrones, without hitting some gifted young author gleefully cranking out dystopian fiction in which none of the characters expect to live past the age of thirty.

Ah youth. Wasted on the young, etc.

When I was younger I had a lot of untested ideas about the way things should be. I had dreams about the way things could be. But I always imagined that books — the kind with paper pages that whisper when you turn them — would figure into the scheme of things. I’m no longer so sure about this. Yet neither am I convinced that the future will be programmed by and for robots, and/or zombies.

The other night I watched Network, the landmark satirical film from 1976, again. It’s kind of stunning how well it’s held up. In spite of all the technological and social progress humans have made in the last 40 years, our sheer blinding stupidity and careless cruelty remain daunting obstacles in the way of any sort of real progress as a species. It remains to be seen whether we will destroy the planet before we wipe out humanity.

The biggest difference between the fictional society of Network, with its classic talk show call to arms slogan, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” and the modern Twitter-mad world in which we live, is that now people are free to rant and vent without opening a window to shout. They simply open Windows for Cranks and let it rip without fear of consequences, without even changing out of their pajamas.

Well, perhaps this is therapeutic for some people. But it all seems a bit childish and pointless, not to mention counter-productive. Anyone who really wants to change the world must, at some point, step away from the keyboard and engage with reality. And that, of course, is a lot like work. Not my best thing.

Anyway, after careful consideration, I’m planning to return to writing romance. Not that I ever really stopped. Although I did try to be dark and edgy, my heart just wasn’t in it. I hate sad endings. In my view, reality provides more than enough of those. Millions of readers enjoy reading tragedies. Legions of readers thrive on a literary regimen of gore and terror.

But seriously, look around. Reality provides all the grim horror and senseless sorrow you could ever want. What there’s a shortage of is believable uplifting fiction about humans finding happiness together in spite of the everyday zombies and vampires intent on draining the life out of everything .

Walt Whitman once wrote: “I stand for the sunny point of view, the joyful conclusion.”

That’s my plan for 2015. More romance, more hope in the face of the great wheeling darkness that surrounds our little world. I’m going back to basics: When a man loves a woman, and she, in spite of everything, loves him back.

Sound sappy? You bet. Love with no limits, when the going gets rough, when the repartee gets crabby, when the midriff gets flabby. No matter.

Let’s face the music and dance.

After Happily Ever

The hopeful sign will fade and fall off; the journey goes on.
The hopeful sign will fade and fall off; the journey goes on.

I broke up with Romance a few years ago.

I fired off a bitter post and threw out my romance writer magazines. I put away my childish dreams, having decided it was well past time for me to grow up. After all, my children had done it. Surely it was time for me.

And for the last few years I’ve tried to dwell in the dark and grim margins where the media pack lurches from one horror story to another, groaning and scrabbling like a horde of you-know-whats. I even tried my hand at writing a darker sort of fantasy, forcing my characters to struggle with problems bigger than a rip in the heirloom wedding gown.

But to my surprise, after a while, my characters rebelled. Oh they kept jumping through the hoops I set before them. They quipped and parried with the fell forces of darkness, because, you know, what choice did they have? But gradually, without my willing it to happen, they began to sneak off together into quiet spaces and cavort with each other. And I, being the permissive author that I am, gave them freedom to “explore their feelings.” And wouldn’t you know? In the face of all the gloom and doom, those kids were falling in love whether I liked it or not.

That’s when I realized that try as I might to quit the romance genre, I can’t escape the romance in my nature.

Yet I was born a skeptic. My parents told me my first word was no. However I think this might have been a misunderstanding on their part. I wasn’t saying no to everything. I simply wanted to make my own choices. And there is no choice more exciting, more personal, and more unpredictable than the choice to give your heart to another human. Talk about adventure!

The thing that repels me about Romance with a capitol R is the narrow definition of exactly what is romance. James Thurber once wrote a droll little book titled “Is Sex Necessary?” which described the ways in which men and women differ in their approach to romance. Thurber was never more brilliant than when delineating the vast mystery that exists between the sexes. Most romance novels make good use of this fertile ground. Yet the deepest vein of romance remains untapped until after both parties have passed the checkpoint of commitment.

Early romance, fed on wine and roses and carefree hours together, is a surface thing. It can be fun. But at some point, if it’s going to last, it has to be more than just fun. When the going gets tough, romance either grows deep, or drowns. Either way, it’s a stronger story line than Happily Ever After.

Because there’s always After Happily Ever After. And that’s where I plan to make my stand as a romance writer. Yet much as I admire Shakespeare and appreciate the poetry of tragic love stories, I don’t want to read them. Or write them.

So next spring, after I wrap up my fantasy series The Greening (which has been quietly turning into more of a romance than I’d anticipated anyway) my next book is going to be about love that doesn’t need diamond rings or champagne to keep it alive. It’s going to be about the burning hot flame of passion buried under the quietest mountain.

Because what matters most happens After Happily Ever After.


New Wave: Who’ll Stop The Rain?



Untold secrets fester in the dark like starlets longing for the spotlight. Sooner or later, they burst onstage.

In the newly released volume of my eco-fantasy trilogy “The Greening, Book Two: In The Wave,” Shiloh Carter’s life falls apart when a secret she thought she had carefully stowed away erupts like a rudely awakened volcano.

For the last twelve years, since the birth of her daughter Eva, Shiloh has carefully maintained a facade of normality, pretending to be an ordinary single mom forced to travel a lot for her job. Eva has no idea what her mother does for a living. She only knows she’s not around much. But one thing Eva has believed all her short life is that her father died before she was born. Her mother told her so.

Twelve is such a dangerous age, the pivotal point when a child turns toward being an adult. They begin to question authority and experiment with all manner of things; with luck, they get through it and emerge into adulthood some years later. Not all kids are lucky.

Eva Carter has never seen a traffic jam. Born right after The Greening destroyed Earth’s oil supply, Eva hasn’t seen much of the world outside Washington, D.C.. However when Eva learns that her mother has been lying to her for years, she runs away and is soon swept up in a world where magic and mystery blur the lines between what is real and what is right.

Eva doesn’t know that her mother has spent the last twelve years fighting a lonely losing battle to stem the spread of Deep Magic on Earth. But the job gets a lot more complicated after Shiloh realizes her own daughter has magic genes in her blood.

While Shiloh struggles to find her daughter and regain her trust, Eva learns things about her own past that completely alter her ideas about the future. But when she risks everything using power she doesn’t fully understand, Eva draws the attention of Higher Powers who intervene to wash out the contagion, forcing all humanity to flee to higher ground.

“The Greening, Book Two: In The Wave” is available in paperback now from Amazon. It will be available on Kindle soon. In addition, there is a Goodreads giveaway going on now through October 28th. Enter to win a free copy of the paperback.

Kith and Kindle

A young woman begins a journey that takes her far, far from the beaten path in The Greening.
A young woman begins a journey that takes her far, far from the beaten path in The Greening.

My new book, The Greening:At The Root, is now available on Kindle.

I don’t own a Kindle myself, yet. But I’m beginning to see the light. Though no electronic gadget will ever supplant my love of genuine page-turning, there’s no denying that e-books are, if not the way of the future, at least the way of the moment.

So, for those of you who like to travel light and still pack a whole library in your carry-on, you can now find another one of my books on the endless virtual shelf.


Whose Woods These Are

Berkeley artist Deborah Harris created the block print for the covers of The Greening trilogy.

Leaves have already begun to fall in my backyard. The sunflowers are still smiling on their ten-foot-stalks, seemingly unaware of the change in the tilt of the planet, yet the leaning season has begun, when autumn exerts its downward pull on all the growing world.

There’s something strangely invigorating about the autumnal shift. Perhaps the shortening days, the cooler nights, are meant to remind us that the clock is ticking.

Mother Nature’s countdown is stately and subtle, but the message is clear. Our time on Earth is finite. Whether or not Earth itself is finite is another question, one hotly debated in environmental and scientific circles. But for those of us who take a more abstract, romantic view of life, the possibilities for Earth’s future offer a ripe area for speculation.

In my new alt-fantasy series The Greening, I imagine a slightly less dystopian vision than some. I’d like to think that future generations won’t be condemned to live in a dark dank world overrun with mutant cyber-human hybrids whose idea of a good time is drinking themselves to death in some seedy bar. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that’s your cup of tea. But as for me, I’ll take the road where the jolly innkeeper isn’t a psychopath.

The first volume of The Greening trilogy starts At The Root, where all forests begin. The tale centers on the struggles of a young woman who sets off on a quest to find her missing father and stumbles into a world of magic and mayhem. But really, at its heart, it’s about growing up and finding your way through the forest. And, like a ten-mile hike in the great Northwest, it’s more fun than it sounds.

I floated an earlier version of this story out on the web for free last fall, as an experiment. I learned some things from it. One of which was that the story I wanted to tell was too big for one volume. And that I wasn’t content with an e-book only project. This slowed the process considerably, as it led to more extensive editing and design considerations, but now, here we are, and the paperback is in stock at Amazon. An e-book version will follow in the coming months.

So, if you’re looking for something leafy, green and not too filling for your leisure reading, consider a walk in the Green Wood.

Slow Burner

Every tree contains stories waiting to be told.

On a recent episode of “The Big Bang Theory” Raj Koothrappali, the cute astrophysicist who can’t utter a word to a woman without an alcoholic drink in his system, surmounted the challenge of talking with an equally shy woman by arranging for them to meet in a library for a face-to-face texting date.

It was adorable.

But what I liked about most about the episode was how it illustrated the way bold new technologies that seem to diminish the need for human contact can also be used to create new and imaginative ways to connect.

With that in mind, I’ve finally overcome my resistance to e-publishing. As a lifelong book lover, I was slow to warm to the idea of electronic pages. However, the tree lover in me can see the virtue of virtual pages. And now that I’ve embraced the world of self-publishing, e-books simply make too much sense to ignore.

So this month I’m launching into the epub world with a will, starting with a new edition of Alice and The Green Man. This restored edition includes portions of the original book that were edited out of the first edition in a misguided attempt to qualify for “Publisher’s Choice” designation, an honor supposedly designed to open marketing doors.

This time around I’m driving, and the trip may be a little longer, but for me it’s worth it for the scenery. Call me a control freak. Or just a freak. The point is, in the last six years I’ve learned that no one else will defend my work if I don’t. So I’ve restored Alice to its original giddy green luster and sent it out there to play with the other e-books.

True, there was an e-book version out there before, if you hunted for it. Trust me, the second edition has more spring in its step.

And now it’s available on Kindle. It may take a while to catch, but I’m already feeling a warm glow.

A Coy Uncertain Season

Spring hides in the gleam of a robin's eye.

Spring makes no promises. We make them for her.

We who cling to romantic ideas believe the sun-kissed air will heal all wounds and renew all hopes.

Spring! The very word suggests a leaping up, a gamboling frolic, a free pass to let go of grim propriety and wear flowers in our hair, if we still have hair.

Yet Spring is nothing if not capricious. The first official day of the sweet season is March 21st, but that means little to Spring, who comes when she will and often leaves before we’ve grown weary of her charms.

Last year, as some may recall, Spring burst upon the D.C. area with such a flourish in late winter that by the time the National Cherry Blossom Festival began the trees had already been there, done that in early March.

This year, Spring seems to be feeling more flirtatious. A few balmy hours here, a few melting sun breaks there, then back to the cool gray noirish mood, with a brisk wind-chill chaser.

Fine. I can wait. Anticipation is so often the best part of anything. I’ve got a lot of projects in the works to keep me from watching the clock or the thermometer: a couple of ebooks on the way, including a new, restored version of my first fantasy novel, Alice and the Green Man, which includes material left out of the first edition. Also the first volume of The Greening trilogy is nearing completion.

And, here in the real world, I’ve broken ground on a new garden—perhaps the most satisfying way to enjoy the blooming celebration that is Spring’s calling card.

Spring flirts with flowers in the air.

So, go ahead, blow you old Winter winds for a few more weeks if you must. Go ahead, shake some more feeble snow on the sidewalk. I don’t believe in you anymore.

There’s a new sheriff coming to town. Her name is Spring.