“In 'The Greener Forest' anything is possible. Silver maples sing in angel-song. Spriggans skulk about cypress knees and wreak havoc at an amusement park. The Applehead Lady's true identity is revealed by moonlight filtering through the branches of an ancient tree. A scarecrow finds true love in an ash grove. And a wayward beech tree root sends a woman into the arms of a kindhearted giant. These stories and more lead the reader into the depths of 'The Greener Forest' where Faerie and the everyday world collide. There is dark and light, evil and good, and uncertain dusky gray lurking between the pages of this book. Discover that all is not what it seems at first glance and wondrous things still happen in 'The Greener Forest.'”(cover blurb)

From the cover blurb, you might not think that 'The Greener Forest' will warm your heart, but you'd be wrong. Perhaps it's because this collection of fantasy tales is Young Adult friendly, but each story has the happiest ending possible considering the circumstances the main character finds him or herself in.

Whether it's a scarecrow, a giant, a hunter looking for a healer, a dragon, a half-elf wife married to a human, or a mermaid called by the sea when she swims away from shore and her family to save a drowning boy, love plays a role in bringing two very different people together. And as the holiday spirit surrounds us, who couldn't use a little love in their life?

Here's an excerpt from "The Greener Forest:"

The beekeeper stood in the woods, watched the maple boughs sway and listened to the angels singing in the trees. Though he hadn’t known who was doing the singing as a child, Porter had always heard angels. When he was young, he’d liked to scramble up tree trunks, sit among the branches, and listen to the lullabies murmured by the tree-voices.

He glanced across his yard at the red and white sign nailed above the side entrance to his next-door neighbor’s house: Victor’s Cuttery. The sign had been painted by Victor’s wife, Bea, twenty years ago. It needed re-touching, but Victor didn’t want to cover up anything that Bea had created. Porter couldn’t blame him. Bea was a rare find.

He walked over to his beeyard. The hives were raised two and a half feet above the ground, sheltered by apple trees, and protected by a rock wall that surrounded the orchard. His mother and father had sold honey, fruit, vegetables, flowers, and Porter’s woodcarvings at a roadside stand and several local markets. He’d helped his parents when they were alive and continued the apiary, orchard, and woodcarving business after their deaths.

As Porter closed the iron gate to the orchard behind him, he noticed a bee alight on a rhododendron bloom. He knew the bee was color-faithful, and watched her buzz from purple flower to purple flower, her furry body dusted with pollen.

He wanted to delay the visit to Victor’s Cuttery, wanted to postpone the delivery of the carved angel to his best friend, but knew the decision was not his to make. He’d tried in the past to deny the angels, but their constant singing had grown louder and louder till his ears rung and his head throbbed. Angels were not to be denied.

He reminded himself that he had made visits like this to friends before. It was never easy, but he would survive the parting. Perhaps the hardest carvings to deliver had been to his parents. First, his father. Then, his mother.

Before delivering the carved angel to Victor, Porter stopped by the family graveyard near the south side of the tool shed. He traced his parents’ names, Leiper and Anna, with his forefinger in the granite monument. His father’s death had been forecast by a swarm of wild bees clinging to a dead elm below the orchard. But Porter had known weeks earlier when a piece of hickory had told him to carve Leiper’s angel.

His mother’s angel had called to him less than a year later from a beautiful piece of cherrywood. Mother hadn’t been herself since his father’s passing, so when he’d finally given her the angel, he’d felt relief.

Porter knelt and then bowed his head. He was immediately surrounded by bees—bees dancing on blossoms, bees tasting the sticky sweetness of his sweat, bees carved into the marble tombstones. Little messengers, they carried his thoughts to the wildflowers where they traveled down the stems, through the roots, into the earth, and comforted the bones of the dead. One landed on his hand and as he gazed into its many-faceted eyes he wondered what sort of blessing it was bestowing.

He shuffled to his back porch, picked up a carefully wrapped bundle from the top step, and slipped it into his jacket’s pocket. He rubbed his face with both hands, pressing his callused fingertips against his forehead. The angels’ voices were becoming louder. Soon, they would roar in his head like a rushing wind. He couldn’t procrastinate any longer.

On his way to Victor’s shop, Porter plucked several Japanese beetles off the tea roses in his side yard, dropped the bugs into a canning jar that he kept by the garden for just that purpose, and sighed. He couldn’t bring himself to kill the pests. Tonight, when the fireflies were lifting up from the cornfields, he’d free the insects down by the woods. He patted the arm of a cement garden angel, and sadly walked across the lawn to visit his best friend…

Wishing each of you a heart-warming holiday season filled with family, friends, and love.

Vonnie Winslow Crist

Find "The Greener Forest" at:  http://tinyurl.com/Greener-Forest-VW-Crist-Amazon

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