The Green Man Series | Volume 1
It wasn’t just the surreal great, green, angel figure of the Green Man appearing to her, Sylvia Ash had a lot more excitement to infiltrate her quiet life when she inherited her grandmother’s house at the head of the Chesapeake Bay. She certainly didn’t expect to start falling in love with the handsome scientist, Owen Anderson.
Mayhem follows when Sylvia finds the murdered body of a colleague. Even worse, Owen is indicted for the murder and she cannot decide whether or not to trust him or her instincts. With the Green Man as a guide, Sylvia’s talent for seeing auras awakens. With the Green Man’s guidance, Sylvia helps resolve the murder and an ecological mystery.
Paperback, October 2014, ISBN: 978-1497544925
The Greening: An Excerpt
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die.
Death choked Sylvia. She childishly ran out the back door slamming it with a satisfying bang. She ran down the steps, away from the crying and weeping people. They were mourners for Gran.
It had taken her almost an hour to make her way across the living room and out to the kitchen where escape lay. Old family friends gave clinging hugs and too many strangers cursorily stopped to hug her and clutch at her, telling her what a wonderful person Gran had been.
She breezed past the kitchen table which was laden with food that her mother called funeral baked meats, brought by well-meaning friends of Gran and neighbors. The sight of the food made her nauseous. She thought the custom barbaric. How could she and her mother ever eat all that food – especially the casseroles that had begun to glaze over with a plastic-like sheen?
She ran. Sylvia ran down to the shoreline and stopped to take deep, steadying breaths of the spring air and she stared blindly at the horizon.
It was one of those perfect days of May that is clear and bright where the puffy clouds hung perfectly still, as if they were suspended on fine transparent strings in the bowl of blue sky. At first she couldn’t feel any breeze. Yet the trees chattered above her with a zephyr that made them active and pushed a lone sailboat, its sails pregnant with wind moved lazily up the bay. The air smelled sweet and green, and she breathed it in with the scent of the water.
Sylvia was angry with herself. At the last visit she should have realized how serious things were with her grandmother’s health. She berated herself that she should have seen how the cancer had robbed the sparkle in her grandmother’s eyes and filled them with pain. They had all gotten used to Gran’s wispy new hair that was growing in with small white curls. The chemotherapy had taken away the long, snow-white tresses that her grandmother had braided and pinned up elegantly each day. But still, Sylvia had been confident the remission was continuing. How could she have been so obtuse? Gran’s attitude through her illness had been one that the cancer was a “bump in the road.” She knew Gran had not been afraid of death. She was at peace and told Sylvia so, but somehow Sylvia had not equated Gran’s discussion to an impending death. Sylvia gave leave to the anger and walked around the yard, giving the leaves around the yard short, bitter kicks and clenching and unclenching her fists. She knew in her heart that her grandmother had wanted her to finish her final semester in college. She had told Sylvia she was just fine a few weeks ago when Sylvia was getting prepared for finals and graduation. She walked slowly through the yard, continually kicking a leaf or two away until she reached a small stand of trees where her grandmother had long ago planted spring bulbs. The damp, matted leaves covered the ground like a blanket and the yellow green spiky leaves of long gone daffodils lay prostrate on the ground. No one had bothered to clean up the old leaves or tie up the daffodils’ greens the way Gran used to so that they looked like little dolls standing in a row. Sylvia scuffled through them and breathed in their rich scent of decay as well as the scent of the newly warmed spring earth.
Gran had been chipper in her phone conversation to Sylvia even two weeks ago. She told Sylvia not to worry about her and how she hoped Sylvia could spend a few days with her after the big event. Gran said she was trying to get strong enough to manage the ride to the college. Sylvia now knew that her mother, and Gran, had purposely not told her how ill Gran was, or the fact that Gran was in hospice care the last few weeks. Unbeknownst to Sylvia, Gran and her mother made the decision for Gran to stay at home in her last weeks of life rather than going to a hospice facility. She kept telling herself it was good that Gran wasn’t in great pain and went quietly in her sleep. Yet, Sylvia still felt guilty and resented not being able to say good-bye. She felt cheated and empty without this closure. One of Gran’s last wishes was to see Sylvia graduate from college, but she never had the chance. Sylvia forced herself to go through the ceremony for Gran more than herself because of Gran’s wish that the funeral be delayed, if needed, so that Sylvia could participate in the graduation.
She continued to scuffle along through the grass and leaves still wet with dew, uncovering the ripe smell of damp earth and grass. Her shoes went from damp to the chilling feeling of wet on her stockinged toes. She didn’t care. She kicked sharply at a bit of particularly matted leaves when her foot hit something solid. She looked down at the pile of leaves and persistently kicked away at them to uncover an oddly shaped bit of wood. It was something that wind, water or insects had created and it almost looked like a mask with holes for eyes and a mouth.
Suddenly the zephyr kicked up the leaves as well, and Sylvia saw something like a great, green angel arise in the spot where the mask had lain. Sylvia stood frozen to the spot watching as a face of living wood took shape from the mask-like object and rose over six feet with leaves flowing over limbs. Her mouth dropped open as the being spoke.
“Sylvia,” a rich baritone came from the creature’s lips. “Do not be afraid. You are part of the pattern.”
Her mouth hung slightly open. Sylvia didn’t know whether or not she should be afraid. Deep down, as surreal as this experience was, she was not afraid. But the figure faded as quickly as it had come. She stood again wondering, was she imagining things due to the stress from Gran’s death?
Gran had always firmly believed in fairies and angels, and had communicated her beliefs to Sylvia away from her mother. It was their secret that Gran talked to the plants in the garden as if each had an accompanying fairy. Sylvia was charmed as a child and her Gran had made it a fun activity to leave out cakes and milk for the fairies at various times of the year. A childhood friend once teased her that Gran was a witch. Sylvia had been surprised and hurt by the comment. Gran was just ‘Gran’ to her and very special.
Sylvia stooped, flicking a long, chestnut braid over her back and picked up the wooden mask, turning it over and examining it curiously. The great, green, angel being she saw was different from the ethereal fairies she believed in as a child. Feeling slightly foolish she put it up to her face and looked out at the water through two of the larger holes. It seemed like an ancient Greek mask to her as she held it close to her face. The air shimmered as though looking at the horizon on a hot summer day. Her face tingled a little where it had touched her face and she rubbed at her cheek absentmindedly.
Sylvia was used to Gran always picking up the odd shell, driftwood, and stones or beach glass and sharing them with her. As a child, she and her grandmother would make up stories about each found treasure. Many of the picked up treasures found their way back to windowsills and coffee tables in her grandmother’s home where they could admire their stark beauty. She used to argue that if Georgia O’Keefe, the famous painter, could pick up and adore natural treasures, then why couldn’t she? Sylvia remembered the stout way Gran would defend her treasures to her mother. Sylvia’s mother hated those little bits of things and would immediately discard any that made their way into Sylvia’s room. Sylvia had become clever at hiding her bits of treasure. Gran would have loved this piece of wood. She tucked the wooden piece inside her suit jacket, hoping it wouldn’t make a mark on her dress, as she planned to put it somewhere special. She thought it might help her get through the next few weeks.
“Syl—vi—a,” her mother’s anxious voice made its way across the yard.
Guiltily, she tugged the jacket tighter around the wooden mask as if her mother knew it was there. She turned towards her grandmother’s house with a sigh. Her mother was on the deck waving to her.
“Come back, please,” her mother called to her.
Sylvia raised a hand in acknowledgement and trudged toward the house. She stepped into the kitchen and was confronted by her mother.
“Oh, Sylvia,” her mother admonished, “Just look at you! Your shoes! They’re soaked!”
Sylvia glanced down at her dress shoes now soaked with the remaining dew. She sighed audibly and made an effort not to roll her eyes. Her mother constantly treated her as a child of seven or eight years’ old. To keep peace she obediently took off her shoes and set them near a register where heat pumped gently on this cool spring day. Sylvia warmed her damp, chilled toes, standing stolidly and refusing to let her mother see that she was chilled as well.
“They’ll be fine, Mary,” a serene voice said to her mother. Sylvia turned to see her grandmother’s friend, Marian patting her mother on the arm. Marian came over to Sylvia. “But, Mary, I wanted to ask you what you wanted to do with some of the leftover food in the dining room. Could you take a look-see and let me know what you want to keep and what you want to throw away? There are still a few mourners enjoying the spread. Perhaps if they see us start to clean up they’ll give you a chance to catch your breath.”
“Just make sure your shoes are completely dry before you polish them,” Marian advised Sylvia coming over to her and patting her arm and whispering conspiratorially, “And then there won’t be any stain if they’re really wet,” she said, “you can stuff them with newspaper to retain the shape.”
She had not had a chance to really get to know Marian with the confusion and grief of the past few months, but Marian was one of those people that Sylvia liked immediately. Sylvia smiled at her gratefully for distracting her mother. Sylvia vaguely remembered meeting Marian a couple of times during her childhood, but Marian had moved away. Sylvia thought she went to live in England for several years. Her voice still carried a slight trace of a British accent along with a few idioms that made Sylvia smile. Marian had moved back to the area in the past few months while Sylvia was finishing her degree. Marian had been helpful to Mom as Gran battled her cancer. Sylvia liked Marian’s kind green eyes and soft white curls.
Marian had followed her mother into the living room and Sylvia tucked the piece of wood on top of canned goods high up in the pantry and returned to warm her toes on the register.
After her toes felt sufficiently warm, Sylvia padded into the living room. Pasting on a smile Sylvia and her mother thanked the last few remaining mourners. When they returned to the kitchen they found Marian was wrapping up the remaining food and putting it away. Sylvia looked at it with distaste and picked up paper plates and plastic silverware. She placed them in the trash while her mother gathered coffee cups and loaded the dishwasher. They were silent as they cleaned up, none of them trusting the high pitched emotions that would surely leak out if they spoke. Finally, when everything was back in order, Marian gave them a quick hug. She told them to call her if they needed anything and that she would be in touch. Sylvia leaned her head heavily against the frame of the screen door and watched Marian pull out of the driveway in her ancient Volvo wagon. When she closed the door and turned around, her mother had disappeared. She glanced in the living room, dining room and study. Not finding her mother she started to go upstairs but stopped and listened at the stairs when she heard a sound. Sylvia could hear the sound of sobbing coming from an upstairs bedroom. Sylvia felt herself well up with tears, but she couldn’t cry. Not yet. She only felt very, very weary. Sylvia tiptoed slowly up the stairs and went into her grandmother’s bedroom. When she sat on the bed she shivered involuntarily. All the medications and any signs of Gran’s illness had been whisked away in the last week. The room seemed hollow without Gran’s presence, but it still held her favorite scent of Devonshire violets. Sylvia breathed in the scent. She shivered still more from shock than cold. Grabbing the quilt from the bottom of the bed she wrapped it around herself and rocked back and forth slowly on the bed, looking at the room. She loved this bedroom with its crisp white walls and curtains and accents of soft, bright blue. Growing up she had found any excuse that she could to come into Gran’s bedroom and snuggle in bed with her. Gran had never turned her away. Sylvia remembered the comfort of snuggling up to her grandmother’s large, warm body and the reassuring arm around her if she was frightened by a nightmare or a strange sound in the dark. She would whisper into Sylvia’s hair how much she loved her and what a special girl she was. Unable to keep her eyes open any longer, Sylvia curled up on the bed and slept.
It was dark outside when she woke up. Sylvia was disoriented at first; she didn’t know where she was. The soft lapping sound of the waves against the shore blew in the window with the cool night breeze softly rustling the curtains reminding her she was at Gran’s instead of her apartment at the college. The house was dark and quiet. It was much darker here at the bay than the college campus and it startled Sylvia. She lay quietly for a moment, getting used to the dark and the sounds around her. Shivering from the cool spring night air, Sylvia closed the window as quietly as she could before she took a sweater from Gran’s closet and put it on and hugged herself. She tiptoed out of Gran’s bedroom and peeked in the room across the hallway. Her mother was sound asleep. Sylvia tenderly pulled a blanket up and over her Mom who sighed, but continued sleeping.
Sylvia’s stomach growled loudly so she tiptoed out of the room of her sleeping mother as quickly as possible. She realized she hadn’t eaten much the whole day and she padded quietly down the stairs and turned on the light.
The bright kitchen light immediately clicked on and Sylvia squinted hard, it momentarily blinding her with its bright fluorescent glare. She walked to the refrigerator and stared at the bevy of plastic wrapped items crowding the shelves. Sylvia pulled open a corner of plastic wrap on a cold meat tray and helped herself to a small handful of meat slices and cheese.
With snack in hand, she walked through the dark living room and out the French doors to the deck. There was no moon, and the stars glittered in their blanket of velvety blue black and the water peacefully lapped at the shoreline. Somewhere in the distance an owl hooted and from far away, she heard the sounds of people far down the beach or on their boat. She couldn’t tell which. Down here near the water, there were no streetlights. It was pitch black. A cool little breeze came off the water and she wrapped the sweater around her more tightly. She wondered if a rain storm might blow up. The air smelled damp and different from the usual clean watery scent of the bay.
Sylvia sat, feeling very small and vulnerable in the darkness. She was a little spooked from the inky blackness of the night. Sylvia stood up like a silent ghost and went inside. Walking inside to get warm again she remembered the mask-like object she had found earlier that day. At first Sylvia wondered where she had left it. She glanced around the kitchen and looked in the living room, and finally entered the study where she and Gran had deposited many of their natural treasures over the years.
Finally, Sylvia remembered she had hidden it on the top pantry shelf. She walked silently out to the kitchen and took it down from the shelf above the soup and vegetables, holding it gingerly and returned to the study. Something was different on the wood. A small perfect leaf had sprouted from the wood jauntily decorating the forehead of the mask. Sylvia stared at it in amazement turning it over and over, wondering if a stray seed had lodged in a crack somewhere. Baffled as to how the leaf had grown, Sylvia realized she was too tired to figure out the mystery. She put the mask on a shelf in the den vowing to examine it more in the morning with a clearer, less sleepy head.
It was the smell of coffee drifting upstairs the next morning that woke her. Turning abruptly in the unfamiliar bed, she nearly fell out. Her bearings were lost and it took a minute until she figured out once again where she was. The brilliant light of the morning bathed the room in a clear, bright light. Sylvia looked away from the boxes in the corner and went quietly downstairs to find her mother sitting at the kitchen table running her finger absentmindedly around the rim of the coffee mug, staring into space.
“Morning, Mom,” she said gently, dropping a kiss on her mother’s head.
Her Mom raised up her head. “Good morning,” she answered.
Sylvia heated milk in the microwave and added coffee and sat down. The house seemed cold and empty this morning. Gran had been an early riser and usually was up and about for a couple of hours when Sylvia or her mother visited. She was always cheerful, usually humming and many times baking muffins or something yummy early in the morning. She had told Sylvia many, many times that morning equated joy to her. She couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t want to get up early and greet the day, much to the annoyance of her husband and daughter for years and years. She told Sylvia that it took her a long time to figure out that she needed to fill the solitude with joy of her own making and did so with walking and gardening and baking until everyone else roused. Sylvia had joined her on several early morning jaunts, sniffing the fresh air enthusiastically when they stepped out the door to greet the world. But, memory was memory and those days seemed long ago.
Sylvia sat down with her mother at the small drop leaf table, smoothed the placemat with one hand and traced around it with the edge of her finger mimicking her mother’s pattern of tracing the edge of her coffee mug while sipping her coffee.
After a few moments, Sylvia broached breakfast. “Do you want something to eat?” she asked her Mom.
Her mother glanced at her and shook her head. “No,” she said quietly. “I’m not really hungry.”
There was something about her mother’s tone that caused Sylvia to cock her head and stare at her. Her mother ignored the stare, got up to get more coffee and sat back down again and looked rather grim, Sylvia thought.
“I’m not sure where to start,” her mother said faintly, staring at her coffee cup.
“What do you mean?” Sylvia asked puzzled.
“This may be a surprise to you,” and she paused, “but Gran left this property to you,” her mother informed her. Her mother glanced up and looked into Sylvia’s eyes.
“What?” Sylvia asked incredulously as she was now suddenly very much awake.
Her mother nodded, “You heard me,” she said, the grim expression set firmly on her face now.
“But,” Sylvia interjected and then stopped. She didn’t know what to say. Her eyes swam confusedly with unshed tears and with a medley of emotions at what her mother told her.
“You know Gran,” her mother began, “and her New Age sort of thinking. She felt that you needed some time to find your path, or gift or something. That’s what Gran said,” her mother told her with a slight bitter edge to her voice. “Sylvia, she knew you didn’t have any career plans…” her mother broke off, halting the sarcasm that had oozed into her tone.
Sylvia’s choice of a Liberal Arts degree had prepared her for little and had always been a point of argument between them, but Gran had always been supportive that she would find her ‘gift’ as she often told Sylvia. Gran had argued with her mother that the Liberal Arts degree gave Sylvia a background in several things and that really, in the end, it didn’t matter. She knew her mother expected her to go into banking as she had after her father died, but Sylvia couldn’t stomach the thought of being with all of those suits. She had never known her grandfather. He had died before she was born. Her father had followed suit with his Type A personality and had a heart attack when she was nine.
It was after her father died, that her mother started working her way up the banking ladder and found that she loved it. Sylvia had absolutely no interest in banking or finance. The thought of the business track in high school and college made Sylvia’s blood curdle. Instead, Sylvia had been shipped to Gran’s house for holidays and summers. She felt she had grown up more here than in the pristine suburban home she and her mother shared outside of Philadelphia. Now she wondered if it had been a point of jealousy between them. Her mother looked as though she was counting to one hundred before continuing and gaining control over her emotions. It was a strategy she often used.
“I thought I would help you clean things up and get some of Gran’s things packed for charity,” her mother said changing the subject, “and then I can return in a few days to get things straightened out with the lawyers.”
They sat again in silence, allowing Sylvia to let the news sink in.
Finally her mother said, “You could sell it, you know. You could invest the money and you would be set for retirement.” She paused for a moment and said uncomfortably, “I had always thought to rent it out,” she told Sylvia, “you know, for an extra income property.”
Sylvia tried to control the emotions on her face this time as she knew this was a typical reaction and thought of her mother – the almighty dollar winning out. She was surprised, too, by the slight touch of bitterness that had risen in her mother’s voice. But, Sylvia couldn’t bear the thought of selling Gran’s home.
Her voice squeaked a little as she answered, “I love it here, I couldn’t sell this place, I…I” she stammered and stopped not able to continue for the lump in her throat.
Her mother sighed heavily and stared down at her coffee cup still running a finger around and around the rim. Apparently she was at a loss for words or did not want to start an argument with Sylvia.
Sylvia stood up and took her coffee out onto the deck. She couldn’t think. The morning light was pearly and the bay a powdery deep blue. Its rippling water exuded calm and she stared for a long time. This house had always been a haven of peace for her. Gran insisted on it, often proclaiming the quiet neighborhood a ‘paradise.’ From upstairs she heard a door slam shut and the sound startled a great blue heron that had stood silently watching for its own breakfast. It took off with a complaining “Kaa-aack” in its rusty, scraping tone. Sylvia giggled involuntarily and relaxed a little and breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t want her mother to come out to lecture her. Her own house! This house. It was one of her favorite places in the world. A spot of excitement grew in her. Looking out at the bay, she silently thanked Gran for her wonderful gift.
It is a great read! Can’t wait to read the Leafing!
Sharon Brubaker must have a great aura.
She has written a fun mystery/love story with a great sense of place and awareness of environmental issues. I will be slowing down to watch for Greenman!
This is an excellent author. A very intense book.
There is so much action, sadness, love, fantasy, so many emotions while you are reading this wonderful book. Someone had been murdered, I can’t wait for you to get the whole story. I highly recommend this book. You will not be disappointed, I promise.
Ms. Brubaker has taken a classic mythological theme and updated it for modern readers. This book was rather like an American Agatha Christie with the addition of the Green Man.
The Greening who-done-it had me guessing from chapter to chapter.
I liked the characters and how my opinion of them changed over the course of the book. Sharon Brubaker’s description of the chemical company’s impact on the environment was chilling. The second book, The Leafing, came today. I can’t wait to get started!
Fast paced and hard to put down. Can’t wait to read the next one.
Congratulations to the author for an exciting first novel.
The Green Man comes alive in this complex mystery and romance tapping our conscience about the environment. It is well written page turner leaving us anxiously awaiting the coming sequel.
Can not wait for the next book in the series.
The story line was very good and kept you wanting to read. The mystery was very interesting and was as good as any known author.
Can't wait for the rest of the series!
The spirit of the forest, in the form of the Green Man, and an independent contemporary young woman are an intriguing combination in this new mystery. The author’s skilled descriptions make the reader feel part of the action and the settings are richly detailed.
I could not put this book down
This mystery involves a young women who is starting life after college. She starts her first job, deals with death, meets a guy, and deals with the folklore of the Green Man. Eveytime I thought I knew what was going to happen the story took a different turn.
This story takes you away to a place that is quaint yet full of mystery and romance.
The pacing of the story makes it difficult to put down and leaves you anxious for a sequel. I love a mystery that has a surprising twist at the end and this one does the job. If you like mystery romance novels I highly recommend this author!
Mary Beth F
A sweet, exciting, enjoyable story about a young woman finding her place in life with the unlikely help of The Green Man. Just the right amount of romance, mystery and excitement. I can’t wait to for the sequel to come out.
This book was an enjoyable book to read.
Full of fantasy, romance, and mystery. Very easy to read, the story unfolded seamlessly. Likeable characters, which left me wanting to know where their lives went after the book ended. Kudos to Brubaker for a great first novel. Keep them coming.
I'd love to meet the Green Man.
I enjoyed this book very much. It has all the elements of a good book – romance, murder, and intrigue. I can’t wait for the sequel. Ms. Brubaker’s writing does a good job of painting pictures in my mind.
This was a very unique book full of magic and love.
LOVED IT! I loved how historical facts collided with fantasy.
The imagery in the Greening is outstanding.
This mystery makes you laugh,probe, and ask the question. Is it man vs woman vs mother nature or it the reverse? The novel left me anxiously awaiting more from the author. I HOPE ANOTHER BOOK IS IN THE PROCESS.
Mary Lou T
I loved Sharon's book!!!!
I live near the bay and Lancaster, Pa and from her wonderful descriptions, can imagine the places and feel myself going to the place of my imagination that match her descriptions! Can’t wait for the next one. Learned alot about folklore!! Fascinating!
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did you get the idea for your books?
The Green Man idea has been with me for many years – actually, since I’ve been a freshman in High School. In my early adult years, I learned the Green Man was an archetype and I began researching about him. I always knew there would be a story about him.
What’s your writing background?
I’ve written all my life. I remember writing stories about my favorite Troll doll, Anne and her family in second grade. I took creative writing in high school and wrote hundreds of poems and prose pieces. Later, I wrote and published curriculum for several publishers. I have files full of children’s books and a young adult book that have not been published…yet.
The Green Man Series is my first venture into adult fiction.
I have more stories in my head than lifetimes to live.
Why should someone want to read your books in particular?
The Green Man series are heartwarming, cozy books you can read on the beach, by a pool, or curled up in your favorite spot with a hot or cold beverage. The books have mystery, murder, romance and just enough fantasy to create a sense of wonder. The Green Man figure offers us hope.
Where can a person find your book?
How can I share your books with others?
If you’re a fan of the Green Man Series and want to share it with others, please consider purchasing copies of the books as gifts for friends or family. If you’re part of a local book club and you want to share any the novels with your group, then please fill out the “For Book Clubs” contact form. If you’re a business owner and you would like to Sharon to appear to do book signings, book talks, or a meet and greet with the author, please fill out the “For Book Signings” contact form.