Change in the Air

There is a reason Katherine Elder, Meg, Gale and the other inhabitants of The Changeful Map and The Unchanging Island do not travel in the heart of winter. This February, walking along frozen Betsie Bay, I have been thinking about them and about the dark months Kathe and Meg spent in Bethany’s snug cottage talking, reading, and preparing to go out into the world again – in Spring.

Early Spring, influenced as it is by both the cold North wind and the sun, brings frigid nights and danger in the mountains, but it is easier to keep characters alive and moving forward through their story when they are not preoccupied by frostbitten fingers and toes and when each day brings a trace more light and a slightly softer breeze.

Here in Michigan, we are getting there. The Frozen 5K footrace, was held last weekend, and traced the Betsie Bay shoreline, and with temperatures approaching the 50’s, we runners enjoyed the feeling of pavement under our shoes instead of yak trax. This reprieve from winter won’t last, but the days of enforced hibernation are bound to come to an end soon. Maple sugaring will begin, and the buds begin to swell. It is inevitable.

In book three of the trilogy, some of the characters have chosen to linger on the sunny, if disturbing, island of Niue instead of launching themselves, as they must, towards the sharp and frozen mountains of the north, a place where winter keeps its hold all year round. It is best that they don’t know what lies ahead or they might never leave. And they have to. Soon.

Book Two, The Unchanging Island

My second book in the Healing Winds Trilogy, The Unchanging Island, will be released tomorrow, October 1. It will be available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats, with other distributors to follow. Book one, The Changeful Map, is available for Kindle, there are some used copies on Amazon, and we have copies too. For those who live in our little town, both books will soon be available at The Bookstore, on Main Street in Frankfort, and at Benzie Shores District Library. As usual, my everlasting thanks go to Doug, who has been willing to master the complicated processes that transform a manuscript into a book.

If you have read The Changeful Map, you know the characters live in a world without engines. They walk. That is what they like to do, and they are good at it. Yes, Gerard has been known to live in a horse-drawn wagon, and Meg and Gale will be travelling swiftly, if not easily, over Claymon territory in the third book, but they are exceptions. Unlike me, when these people are at home they do not run to the store when they are missing an ingredient for a recipe. There aren't any stores. They use what they have and would be content to stay where they are unless they have to rescue some refugees or escape from Peter Greystone.

I wish I could say I live like that, but I am as vulnerable to distractions as anyone else living on Planet Earth in 2016. Maybe that is why, when I have an opportunity to travel, I often choose to recreate the world of my imagination. Call it research, if you want, but this is my favorite kind of vacation.

Doug and I just came home from a hike along the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park, from Front Royal, Virginia, to Rockfish Gap. It took us eight days to walk those 105 miles, plus side trips to fill our water bottles at springs, to gaze over endless mountain views, and to visit the famous Shenandoah waysides, where we feasted on blackberry milkshakes. Tough, huh?

Actually, it really was a challenge. The temperature for the first four days was in the upper eighties, with high humidity, so we climbed our mountains through a steam bath. The blackflies, encouraged by their favorite weather, buzzed in our ears, and I stepped on a yellow-jacket nest. The mice played in the shelters all night and, thanks to a dry August, many of the springs had become shallow pools of fetid water.

On the other hand, as usual, backpacking makes us feel invincible. We enjoyed powering through physical challenges while focusing on all the beauty along the way. We saw ten bears and one big bobcat. We met a few south bound through hikers and found out our long days of about 15 miles were actually 'nero's' (near zeros). The SoBos have regularly been covering almost 20 miles every day for months, since Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

Now, as I write, working on the third book, I have more sympathy for Katherine Elder, who is on another long journey without any of the luxuries I carried in my backpack -- an air mattress, a reliable stove, a bag of chocolate and cashews. She is in another spot of trouble now, without a clear way forward. It is time to trade the physical challenge of backpacking for the mental one of plotting.



Almost There

The second book in the Healing Winds Trilogy now has a title, The Unchanging Island. Emily Cook made a beautiful painting, including a portrait of an important new character, and Doug turned it into a striking cover. Seeing the cover makes it feel like a real book even though I have not yet held a copy in my hands.

Book One, The Changeful Map, is already available as an e-book for Kindle, and we have a supply of print copies. The Unchanging Island is nearly ready for printing, and after that Doug, the amazing and undaunted tech guy, will turn it into an e-book too. The release date for Book Two is October 1.

Meanwhile, I have started to write the third installment, and as usual, the story is moving in unexpected directions. This is one of the most fascinated aspects of writing to me. I can sit down at the computer expecting characters to follow certain paths, but over the last seven hundred pages they have become real people who can make their own decisions, and they sometimes turn out to be wiser than I am.   

Soon there will be three books telling one complicated story. The next task, which is much murkier, is to let people know the books are available. If there is someone out there who has already read The Changeful Map, I would enjoy hearing from you, and if you are so inclined, you could leave a review on Amazon. Postcards announcing the release of The Unchanging Island are ready to be mailed in August.

There is a lot of noise out there -- and a lot of books are being written and released. These are mine, and we are determined to give them a push out into the world as best we can.

The Last Sunday in March

If ever a month was made for writing, it must be March. It is also a month for reading, for knitting and weaving, and for baking -- in fact for any beloved indoor activity. Now that the light and the red-winged black birds are returning, and the outside world beckons, the trick will be to keep writing, and not just on rainy days.

Over the past month, I finished re-reading The Changeful Map and cleaned it up considerably. Doug has been formatting it so that it can be published as an e-book very soon.

The second book in the series is finished and ready to be copied so that readers can offer suggestions. The working title is The Stream of Time. My daughter, Emily, is working on the cover. I can't wait to see it. I love the image she created for The Changeful Map, but she is all grown up now, and her art has grown and changed with her. I am sure the cover will reflect that.

I have begun to plan the third book in this series, in which I will have to untangle a snarl of story lines. It is my own fault. When I was telling Doug about all the different directions in which the characters are heading, he asked, "But what happens to Bethany and Gerard?" There will be five separate, but intersecting, plot lines -- at least.

Finally, after joining a writer's group at the Art Center here in Frankfort, I found myself in need of some short, self-explanatory, fiction to share for readers who aren't necessarily fantasy readers. I decided to write short stories that can stand alone, but which also embellish or explain pieces of the Healing Winds story so far. If I like them, they will also appear in this space.

Happy Spring.