an ecotopian mystery 

In the three years since Keifer and Abi Michaels were evacuated from their desert home, the world has been ever-changing, and they don’t agree on the details of the past.  But when Keifer uncovers a confusing family secret, Abi is his only ally.  Now they must sneak into the Restricted Zone and navigate a maze of clues in order to unravel the truth.  The journey will transform them…and the entire western landscape.


“Pull the plug, and let’s go.”  I sit in the front seat, the steering wheel firm in my hand.
     “Keifer, will we need this?” 
     I look over my shoulder at Abi, who stands at the rear of the EV on the passenger side.  Her voice is dulled by the windows, but her face is alert, alive.  She holds a long electrical cord in her hands, like a dead snake with a large plug as a head.
     “No,” I yell back, forcing my voice through the glass.  We need to get going.  We need to be through the north checkpoint by ten.
     Abi tosses the cord aside and jumps in.
     “Are you sure we don’t need that?” she asks as she throws her podpack into the back seat.
     “The charging stations have power cords.”  I answer, then look over my shoulder again and maneuver the EV out of the garage.
     I handle the wheel with clumsy turns, but get us facing forward.  I press my right foot down on the power pedal, sending it down the drive a little too fast, and when I brake at the street, the stop comes a little too hard.
     “Well, Keifer, that was a good start,” Abi says.
     I think of Dad for a moment, how he’ll feel about me stealing the EV and driving into the Restricted Zone.  How he’ll feel about the student badges I dummied up to get Abi and me through the checkpoint.  Dad will be furious about all of it, but as I look at Abi, I realize having her come along may be my biggest mistake.  But, she’s in too deep now, and I couldn’t leave her behind. 

backstory for wildflowers
Behind every story is what writers call the backstory.  The backstory contains the first glimpses of the character, plot, and setting, and most of these bits come from the writer's own life experience and interests.  For me, backstory isn't just what has happened before the story starts, but also all the things, real and imaginary, that influence the novel's beginning, middle, and end.  Below you can find a portion of the backstories that informed each of my books.

In the weeks, months, and years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the world slowly awoke to the truth about how environmental moments reshape our ideas and the ways we live.  There were disasters before Katrina and there’ve been many since, including the recent hurricane in the Gulf Coast region.  All have taught me more and more about my own responsibilities to the environment.  Maybe being tuned into this topic is what brought on the dream that was the start of wildflowers.  I dreamt most of the scene in Chapter 23—in that warped, floaty way of dreams, of course. 

A kid (me) walked through a maze of rooms until another kid (a boy from my childhood neighborhood) appeared, leading me out into a field of, yes, wildflowers.

In the dream, I was omnipresent and knew the world had crumbled quickly and without warning.  A tone of frustration pervaded the dream until I was led to the field.  I felt this sense of relief.  A knowing…a greater consciousness.  Awake, I considered the nature of wildflowers, how they don’t have to try, they just grow.  And in the desert southwest, wildflowers bloom in the harshest of places.  It occurred to me that the flowers were just a metaphor for how kids have the ability to grow up and blossom despite all that may go wrong in their environment.  At some point in our lives, we all have a wildflower moment, where things are difficult or sad or aggravating.  The trick is to keep pushing until we break through the crusty earth and unfold our petals up toward the sun. 

the world
The stories I tell revolve around people (characters) and their environments.  The setting, for me, is just another character to flesh out.  The reason?  In my own life, the places I’ve discovered, experienced, and loved have been as important as what I learned or who I met while there.  I’ve come to understand that things would not have unfolded or been lived the same way anywhere else.  And it turns out, I was in the exact right time-space to learn something new or meet someone new…or evolve personally.

When I begin to lay out the setting, it’s not about writing nostalgia or recording history.  This is about world-building and giving my readers a glimpse of the urgent now in the character’s story.  As I write, setting isn’t just about where my character lives and what my character sees.  It’s about splaying open all that the character intakes, all that the character tastes, smells, hears, touches.  Feels.

If you’d like to know more about the world of wildflowers, you’re just a click away.

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Hear wildflowers with iTunes (note: link connects to redirection page before opening iTunes)