Knocking on Heaven’s Door has just been released by Yucca Press/Skyhorse Publishing. In the 23rd century, humans now live in utopia, hunting and gathering in tribal bands, reunited with old (cloned) friends like the mammoth, connected by solar-powered laptops, and buoyed by the belief in a panpsychic universe in which consciousness pervades matter. A 150 years after the supervirus that killed most of humanity, our return to a Paleoterrific lifestyle seems to be our last, greatest achievement. But in this new Garden of Eden, one man and one woman—as well as a smarter-than-average dire-wolf–are faced with a decision that could literally transform the planet. Again. Will we repeat the cycle of curiosity and hubris? Or is our destiny even stranger than that?
Teresa of the New World is a fabulist novel for Young Adults, set in the deep magic of the American Southwest in the sixteenth century. I have worked on this book for most of my life. Seemingly, this is about the fictional daughter of the real-life Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca and a Capoque mother, about a father’s love and a father’s betrayal, about plague and apocalypse and were-jaguars and a deep connection with the trickster earth. But, really, I think it is about me.
“River is the Path that Connects Us,” artwork by Zoe Wolfe
Council of Beings
Twelve-year-old Levi Vasquez lives with his mother and younger sister in a trailer on Sacaton Mesa, the brooding Mogollon Range to the north, more mountains and hills east, south, and west–a rippling expanse of land unfolding under the bright blue New Mexican sky. Levi knows this view like he knows how to breathe or ride a bicycle. Sometimes even, the mountains seem to be “watching” him, aware of the mornings he goes to school hungry or worries about his mom being sick. So when a powerful underground personality called the Dreamer comes down from the Mogollons to swell the earth under his feet, Levi is not completely surprised. When a band of long-tailed, long-nosed coati tell him he must attend the next Council of Beings, he suspects he doesn’t have a choice. The Council will be held on the winter solstice, and humans are past due to act as its host–as they have hosted such Councils before at places like Stonehenge, Easter Island, and the Hopewell Mounds. “Prepare the way,” the coati leader says, “bring a gift.”
But how does a sixth-grader begin such a task? How can he match the grandeur of these monuments from the past? Bound to fail, Levi gamely and sometimes glumly does his best, using the school computer for research, finding unexpected allies in an adolescent raven and a sympathetic teacher at school. As the solstice draws near, Levi’s gift to the Council takes on a surprising and satisfying shape, a gift inspired by the stuff of his life— his mother’s new boyfriend, the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Levi starts to feel pretty good about his “art project.” Perhaps he won’t fail after all.
Not everyone, however, wants humans to succeed at the Council of Beings. When Levi climbs nearby Bear Mountain as part of his preparations, he is threatened by the ghosts of grizzlies now extinct in the Southwest and the Paleolithic giant short-faced bear. Suddenly he must defend himself from adults in his rural valley who have allied with these forces. The Council of Beings is about the power of connection, a renewed contract with the earth, and these humans want that power for themselves. Suddenly Levi and his friends are in danger, and he must draw on resources he didn’t know he had.