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.