Amoral Grassmen


Illustration by Matt Wall, Awakening Magic








The Grassman first appeared in a short story I wrote that became the beginning of Guided by Magic:

I never told anyone that I saw the Grassman steal our baby. I was four years old, minding my newborn baby sister, Toola. Mam had set Toola in a basket in the sun.

            “Keep the baby quiet, Sada,” Mam said. “Don’t let her holler.”

She went into the cottage to gather the washing.

            The day was fine, bright and sunny, and I closed my eyes while I leaned on the porch rail. It was a rare moment that I wasn’t doing some chore or other, like picking burrs out of my brothers’ socks, or carding wool for Mam to spin.

A shadow fell across my eyelids. I opened one eye just a slit and saw a small green man carrying a bundle. He was hurrying along the neighbor’s wall. Jumping down, he tiptoed up to Toola’s basket. He set down his burden, and peered at Toola asleep in her blankets. Then he leaned over and pinched her cheek between a long green finger and thumb.

            “That’s my sister,” I said.  

            “Oooh, yes, that’s so! And a fine wee worka girly she is, too. We Grassmen be making a trade today–a girly for a girly,” said the green man. He bent down with his arms outstretched.                                                    –Chapter 1, Guided by Magic


As the Karakesh Chronicles expanded, the Grassmen gained depth as characters.  They were the middlemen between the dwarves and others in the kingdom.  In Guided by Magic, Miela’s stalker, Mick Curmin, hires a Grassman to find her.  A Grassman has no conscience.  He would, as I wrote in one of the books, murder his own mother for gold.

When the Grassman Vetch kidnaps Prince Emric (Awakening Magic), he has no regard for his victim’s misery.  Vetch first pulls a sack over the prince, then callously slings Emric across the back of a horse.  Hardly able to breathe, Emric passes out.

Grassmen are horse-lovers, but they prefer to steal a horse rather than pay for it.  In Tangled in Magic, Malcolm loses his good pony to a Grassman after his mad escape from the half-warlock, Santer.

Grassmen, of course, are all green.  They have green skin and wear green clothes.  Rami, the changeling from Guided by Magic (Chapter 1, above) is half Grassperson.  Her skin is pale green, and her hair almost white.  The Grass People reject half-breeds and exchange them for human offspring.  They sell these children to the dwarves to work as slaves in the mines.

The Grass People live in Liriope, a town of grass buildings shaped like stooks (sheaves of grass or grain stacked on end).


In the evening, the grass houses glimmer with faerie lights, since candles or fires would be a foolish, dangerous source of light or warmth.

The Grassmen in the Karakesh Chronicles seem to have an odd appeal.  Readers mention them more often than other fantasy characters.  Here’s one reader who made himself a Grassman hat for Halloween!


The three Karakesh Chronicles (Tangled in Magic, Guided by Magic, Awakening Magic) are available on Amazon

or at

Tuesdays at Barnes and Noble

Photo on 10-29-18 at 12.54 PM #2

Tuesday  mornings are mine.  For three and a half hours, I can do whatever I choose.  This past month or so, I’ve chosen to bring my laptop to Barnes and Noble.  With a medium chai latte at hand, I write uninterrupted.  Here I get space of mind.  No obligations to fulfill, no one I know at my table, nothing to attend to except my own rambling thoughts.  It’s glorious.

I’m an introvert.  It’s only recently that I’ve understood what that means for me.  I need solitude.  Being alone is how I recharge.  Extroverts get energy from being among people and in stimulating places.  Not me.  Crowds and noise stress me out.  If I can’t get time alone, I get crabby.  Worse, I don’t know what I’m feeling, or thinking, or even who I am.

introvert 3

I remember when my first husband and I returned from our wedding in New York.  We had a small ceremony at my aunt’s and uncle’s house in Mount Kisco.  It was a great deal of excitement for me to manage, especially since I’d met my husband’s parents for the first time.  Lots of moving around, lots of noisy Spanish relatives, lots of hoopla.

Back in our quiet rented house in Santa Barbara, I took a deep breath.  But wait! We had visitors–friends of my husband’s from Iowa.  My husband planned for us to take them out to dinner.  I refused to go.  I had reached my limit and was feeling the ominous beginnings of a head cold.  That’s how many introverts’ bodies work: if we can’t get the down time we need, we’ll get sick in order to get it.

My husband was furious.  He could not understand.  “What’s your problem?”   I didn’t have the self-knowledge to explain, but I stayed firm.  Looking back, I’m amazed that I didn’t cave in and go out to dinner with them.  I recall curling up under the down comforter on our bed, sighing with relief into the silence.


Now that I’m quite a bit older, I find it easier to accept and care for my introverted self.  I set the alarm for 5:30 or 6:00 a.m.  My husband sleeps on while I meditate, or do some rounds of EFT (tapping).  Or do yoga.  Or work on my writing.

That precious time has so many possibilities that I always run out of minutes before I do everything I want.  I love the quiet of my time in the early morning.  With an hour or so of solitude, I am a much friendlier person when we start the day.



Whales and Elephants: Katy Payne

Yesterday I listened–twice–to the podcast On Being while Krista Tippett interviewed acoustic biologist Katy Payne.

katy payne

I first heard about Katy Payne years ago when she and her husband were studying whales off the coast of Argentina.  I believe the article I read was in a National Geographic magazine.  I remember particularly the photos of rugged coast, the huge waves, and the researchers out on the rough sea in their tiny boats. The Paynes’ children were with them.  I speculated on what it would be like to grow up in such a place.

payne and whale

Roger Payne and friend.

Katy Payne is the scientist who figured out that the humpback whales were singing songs.  With amazing listening, precise recording and documentation, she realized that not only were the whales singing complex songs, but that the songs changed each year.  She and her research team produced the recording Songs of the Humpback Whales.

In later years, Payne spent some time observing elephants in a zoo.  She became aware of the vibration produced by low or “infrasound,” and discovered that the elephants were communicating.  She went to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Namibia to study the elephant herds.  What she learned about elephants’ social and emotional lives makes for fascinating listening.

It pains the heart to hear how the culling of the herds causes such harm to the elephants who survive.  Payne exposes the threats to the elephants’ existence.  She is an eloquent speaker, and an admirable woman scientist.

silent thunder.png

This book is on my reading list.


Hands or Head?



I’m always making that choice when I have a few minutes’ time.  Do I want to plug in the sewing machine and do a little more on the quilt in progress?  Or shall I dive back into my writing world?

Sometimes the writing is more appealing, or more pressing.  Sometimes the choice is based on my desire to finish a project and move on.

Choosing hands:


The quilt above is an example of the latter choice.  My husband and I worked together on the top of the quilt.  Then it sat around until made time to finish it.  It’s not my best work.  The inner panel depicts Boys’ Day in Japan.  I don’t know anyone with a baby boy right now, so the quilt is tucked away in my craft closet.


Some quilts that I’ve pieced, such as this one above, are too big for me to top quilt on my machine.  I sent this one to a friend’s friend, who has a massive, long arm machine like the one below.

long arm quilter

These machines can cost as much as $20,000.  They are computerized and, as far as I understand, use templates and laser technology to regulate stitching and accurately make a pattern.

Putting a quilt “sandwich” together at home can be a long and tricky task.  It’s important to line up the front and back correctly, with the batting in between, and enough extra fabric on the edges so everything can be cut back evenly.

Quilters use many different methods to put together a quilt sandwich.  Some spray the pieces with adhesive.  Some baste the parts together.  I use curved safety pins to hold everything steady.  The long arm machine has clamps to hold the sandwich.

Here’s the “sea glass” quilt I made stretched out on a long arm machine.


I’m almost finished stitching on the binding.  Most of my quilts are given away to friends, but I’m keeping this one for the guest bed, where I can enjoy the colors myself.

What I’m Reading

The Poet X

The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo

Harper Teen, 2018.

Caught between her parents’ traditional culture and values, and the present-day realities of a teen living in Harlem, Xiomara pours herself into her writing.  Mami tries to corral Xiomara inside religion.  Xiomara longs to perform her poems in an upcoming poetry slam.  Add in Xiomara’s involvement with a boy in school, and she faces an overwhelming situation.

With encouragement from her English teacher, support from friends, and her own inner strength, Xiomara finds her way to realizing her artistic dreams.

The Poet X won the 2019 Michael L. Prinz award.

It is a beautifully written story, all in verse, with language that sometimes takes flight.  Some phrases that caught me and touched my soul:

Just because your father’s present

doesn’t mean he isn’t absent.


She gives me that look again,

when someone who doesn’t know you is sizing you up

like you’re a broken clock and they’re trying to translate the ticks.


I hold on.  Link my fingers with his for just a moment.

And walk to the train feeling truly thankful

that this city has so many people to hide me.


I sit wondering how writing can bring

such strange strangers into the same room.


If I were nothing but dust

would anyone chase the wind

trying to piece me back together?


Read this book.  It is lyrical, deep, and prize-worthy.



light landscape sky sunset

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.I

When I was young, Halloween always gave me the creeps.  Of course, you say.  It’s supposed to!

But no, I dreaded the day.  The only Halloween I remember was spent with my cousin Patty, her friend Judy, and my sister.  We decided (probably with some adult input) to be the three witches from Macbeth.  My sister helped us make our costumes.  Each of us had a yarn wig of a different color: yellow, red, and black. I don’t remember which color I had.  We trolled the neighborhood in Van Nuys, reciting, “Boil, boil, toil and trouble!  Give us candy on the double!”

That may have been my last Halloween appearance until I was married and living in Iowa.  My husband and I decided to throw a Halloween party.  I made our costumes.  He wore a giant papier mache chicken head.  I was a princess mouse.  For his costume, one friend stapled hundreds of fall leaves to a plastic rain cape.  That night, when he crouched on the ground, he was totally camouflaged, and terrified us when he jumped up.

photo of field full of pumpkins

Photo by James Wheeler on

The next Halloween night I recall was the height of beauty and magic.  My godchildren’s Waldorf school created an Enchanted Walk through the woods in Wallkill.  The children made their costumes (with help) and participated in mysterious scenes in clearings in the woods: a fairy on a swing, a dwarf pounding on an anvil, haunting music coming from afar.  It was lovely, and such a pleasant change from violence, blood, and danger.

woman posing like fairy

Photo by Tú Nguyễn on


For some reason, Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) has always appealed to me much more than Halloween.  The costumes are often creepy, but the whole atmosphere and motivation is totally different.  Making food for deceased relatives, decorating the graveyard with marigolds and candles, and eating special foods is so much richer than collecting candy and TP-ing your neighbors’ trees.

photo of woman wearing traditional dress

Photo by Genaro Servín on

Halloween is coming around again.  Will my granddaughters love it more than I ever did?


meditator 2

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have this kind of serenity during meditation?  After forty-three years of practice, I’m not there yet.  However, the small moments of peace I do achieve, when the mind silences, keep me meditating regularly.

I was initiated into Transcendental Meditation in 1976.  Mantra meditation is what I still do, though the mantra changed when I met my guru in 1989.  There are many approaches to meditation.  Sometimes I attach the mantra to regulated breathing when I’m very unsettled.

For a lot of people, meditation can feel like this:

angry meditator

I’ve been there, too.  One thing I’ve learned, though, is to let the anger and the self-criticism go. The mind is a very busy monkey. Just come back to the mantra.

My most frequent personal distractions are fidgeting, planning, and writing my books in my head.  I get some great story ideas, but that’s not meditation.

A friend and long-time meditator told me that his guru said that meditation can be difficult in our present times, called the Kali Yuga in Hindu tradition.  The guru said to turn to chanting instead.  Chanting is another way to calm and focus the mind.  It can be less stressful than trying to meditate when one is agitated.  Chanting engages the whole body and all the senses, with ears, breath, voice, posture, vibration.

One of my favorite singers of kirtan (Hindu chants) is Krishna Das.  I like the warmth and ease of his voice.

There are lots of recording of chants available on YouTube.  Some other singers I enjoy are Deva Premal, Snatam Kaur Khalsa, and Ty Berhoe.