Lovely Reviews for The Dire Deeds!

Gentle readers, I have a healthy international readership on this blog. This is why I am crossposting this image and asking you to please take a look at these lovely review excerpts for my urban fantasy novel, The Dire Deeds, the first in The Guild of Ornamental Hermits series. I hope these reviews encourage you to seek out my book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Available on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle eBook.

These books are LGBTQIA++ saturated, yet the characters (and the plot) can be loved and enjoyed by anyone who likes humor, paranormal romance, preposterous plot twists, and plucky humans learning magic from plucky Elves.

Excerpts from three Amazon reviews of my book.

The second and third books are with the copy editors and publisher now. The fourth is in progress. The Dire Deeds is not just a first novel with aspirations for a series. I have already written so much more!

Enjoy!!!

☽☆☾

“Oh no, love, you’re not alone!” – Remembering John

Both boys are in my clothes. John on the right.

The quote in the title is from David Bowie’s Rock and Roll Suicide, and those were the days of Bowie at the peak of his most androgynous glam. These were the days and nights of glitter, of dancing in clubs, of struggling to make ends meet in dreary day jobs and yet, still being fabulous. But the Bowie song that gets me the most, that most reminds me of John and who we were together in those days, was Heroes.

Today is yet another anniversary of his decomposed body’s discovery in a canyon in San Diego. I’ve had decades of these anniversaries now. So many of them. John died a suicide and broke my heart.

I’ve written in past years about John, here and here. Today I wrote this in Facebook:

John, you died in 1976 in that San Diego canyon, sometime between August 15th when you left my house without a word or a note (I’d just left for work) and September 1st, when the coroner knocked on my door and told me they’d found a badly decomposed body that they thought I could identify. That body fit your description. It was wearing jeans, a shirt with small Carmen Miranda cartoon women on it, and a heavy gold ring. It turns out that someone in your beauty college saw that heavy gold ring, which the police showed on T.V. news, asking the public for any info that could lead to your identity. That someone knew you well enough to send the coroner to me.


This wasn’t the first time you attempted suicide (pills, ground glass, drano…), but it was the time you finally succeeded.


And it turned out that some feckless, idiot acquaintance of ours who should have known better, sold you 100 barbiturates. You chose your moment, your day to die, and took them and a water bottle down into the ravine in the Hillcrest neighborhood where we lived. Eventually the police responded to neighbors’ reports of a bad smell coming from that ravine…


Missing Persons wouldn’t listen to me when I reported your disappearance, your history of suicide attempts. Your shrink simply shrugged. Mentally ill, queer youth on SSI were a dime a dozen and so what if one of them went missing? I hated these authorities, but the coroner at least spoke to me like a human being.


So today is the day I mark and dread every year–September 1st. It’s a date flanked by my children’s birthdays. For many years, that was a mercy, but that’s no longer true. Now it’s just the stark reality of a life that I have lived without you.


I hope you are resting in peace or incarnated among parents who would actually care for you as a child this time around. You were so uncared for in this life that you left, outright abused, kicked out into the street at age 13, again at 15, doing what kids on the street do to survive… Not all the attention and love you received from paramours and tricks would ever, ever make you whole. Still, I wish we could have stayed friends all these years, and shared our stories and arch observations over cups of tea and during walks among roses. I miss and love you and always will.

John Albert Suter Brennan.

☽☆☾

It’s Lokabrenna, and My Paperback is Born.

Today, August 12, 2022, is an astronomical milestone in my latitude: it marks the helical rising of the star, Sirius, also known as Lokabrenna (Loki’s Torch). “Helical” means the star rises just a moment before the sun. I can’t see this event from where I live, in a valley, surrounded by houses and trees, but I can celebrate this ancient stellar event even so. I am particularly fond of this time of year as it is linked to my beloved patron and muse, Loki Laufeyjarson, who had/has a significant impact on the third and fourth books in The Guild of Ornamental Hermits series.

The Author with zir Muse.

Because August 12th is Lokabrenna, I chose the date for my online book release party for The Dire Deeds (of The Guild of Ornamental Hermits), a queer-saturated, urban fantasy novel published as an ebook on August 1st. But joy of joys, I woke up to a text from my publisher that the paperback edition is also available, as of this morning!

You can buy, read, enjoy, and review either paperback or ebook at this Amazon link. Thank you so much! (And hail Loki!)

The Guild of Ornamental Hermits series. Books 2-3 are in the publishing pipeline. Book 4 is in progress.

☽☆☾

Comments on an Oracle’s Revelation: Loki’s Three Messages

Just a few days ago, well-known pagan author and practioner, John Beckett, posted in his Patheos blog about a “Seiðr oracular ritual at this year’s Mystic South.” Beckett witnessed a quite compelling incident involving the Norse deity Loki. In answer to an attendee’s question for Loki, “he [Loki] didn’t just whisper words to the Seeress in Helheim for her to relay. He took full control of the Seeress.”

Beckett wrote this blog post, called Three Messages from Loki to the World, as a “journalist.” He notes that he did not receive the revelations himself but observed what happened during the ritual and what was said and then later compared notes with the seeress. In essence, the three messages are (and I’m paraphrasing already existing paraphrasing from Beckett’s blog):

  1. Seek and cultivate joy.
  2. Build masks and create safety zones, as Loki apparently conveyed the sense that being a full-on, “out” pagan isn’t quite safe right now and we need to take care of ourselves and others.
  3. And recognize that we are a destructive portion of a cycle, in the part that Beckett calls “Tower Time” and others call Ragnarök.

Loki’s three messages, as written and interpreted in Beckett’s post, are already sending ripples throughout many pagan and heathen circles. I have some thoughts.

Joy

According to Beckett’s blog post, Loki signaled his possession of the seeress by “laughing and dancing.” This is Loki at his most accessible. This is the “persona” he shows most often to those of us who encounter him and/or work with him. He’s a scamp, a trickster who trips the light fantastic and makes all things fantasical in turn. Sometimes he is even a delightfully shameless and irresistable seducer. But Loki is also a being who has suffered horribly himself. He knows firsthand how people near (and maybe even dear) to you can turn against you and inflict the most dire cruelties without even a “by your leave” or a chance at what we moderns call “relationship repair.”

Loki, bound to a rock with one son’s entrails and fearing that the other boy has fled in wolf shape to some unknown wilderness, endured poison dripping from a fanged serpent (except when dear Sigyn catches the poison in a bowl). He must have been hard put to scrape up any vestiges of joy during that time. And yet, my UPG is that he did. I imagine him composing Norse equivalents of rude limericks about the Aesir, exchanging tender memories with Sigyn, and perhaps even finding ways to turn his pain into pleasure. He was–he is–a potent, powerful, and clever being who possesses a knowledge of magic. He would not have let himself succumb wholly to despair.

“To nourish the desire to live, to make it burn: only this counted.” This is a phrase from Jacque Luseyran’s phenomenal essay, “Poetry in Buchenwald,” in Against the Pollution of the I. And if you have never read this essay, you should. Luseyran (1924-1971) was known as “the blind hero of the French resistance” and he did survive his time in Buchenwald, unlike many of the men he wrote about. These were men who warmed themselves with poetry in the bleakest, most dangerous circumstances, experiencing their voicing of it as “an act, an incantation, a kiss of peace, a medicine” even as they were dying–slowly of starvation or suddenly through Nazi violence.

Loki knows, better than we do, that small morsels of joy can be kindled in times of duress. They can make us burn for life and survival. And when times are good, we must revel in delight and let every glad feeling take hold in our bodies. We must dance. We must laugh. We can sing and declaim poetry. We can never have too much joy.

Mask

This advice to “mask up” is troubling. I have no problem at all with donning a mask for disease prevention or to avoid toxic chemical fumes, but it’s too late for me to go back into a “broom closet” and pretend to be something other than pagan, witchy, and Lokean. There’s this blog, for one thing, and my fantasy novels for another. Plus, I’ve got “other” marked on my Oregon driver’s license. Several years ago I decided to stop pretending to be other than I am (through omission rather than comission) and it’s this freedom that provides my life with meaning and joy. (Remember joy?)

And yes, I recognize that we (still) have “witch privilege” in this country. Other parts of the world are not so tolerant. People are killed for less than what I do on a semi-regular basis.

However, I had a shock yesterday. Someone that I once thought of as a colleague, and at one point even as a fledgling friend (until I realized he was a twump fan), sent me the most disturbing email. The gist was that “woke was wacked,” there is too much gender variety and any discussion of it “sexualizes” children, and that all this was a “Luciferian” plot. In other words, he was doing his best to justify a moral panic (and even a Satanic panic) about certain kinds of queer people and had even written an article about this, as a sexologist, in LinkedIn. I know people who are both queer and embarked on a Luciferian path and I could easily imagine this man (yes, of course he’s a cis-het white dude) boosting his own career trajectory at their expense, inciting others to violence against them.

And with Norse Loki still considered “the Norse Satan” in some circles (thanks in part to Snorri Sturleson), well then… I can begin to understand Loki’s second message quite easily.

Life After Turmoil

In many parts of the U.S., “turmoil” can seem (to a lucky few) like it’s something that happens somewhere else, to other people in other neighborhoods or countries, and that somehow sheltered existences (which are most often white and moneyed) will continue as they always have. Loki says otherwise and we can see this easily in so many ways.

This is perhaps the vaguest part of Loki’s message. Yeah, a lot sucks right now. What are we going to do about it? Perhaps the first two parts of his message provide clues? Joy and safe places. Mutual aid? If we can learn to provide these things, not just for ourselves but for others too, perhaps we will still have something worthwhile even if we find ourselves one day standing in the ruins of “civilization as we know it.”

Beckett interprets this as “life goes on.” After a catastrophe, it does, at least for some. The important thing is (and will be) the inner qualities and values of those post-catastrophe lives and the social changes that result. Will we have regenerated our planet’s soil? Dismantled racism, colonialism, sexism, all forms of queer phobia, ageism, ableism, and more? Will we each have the generous heart and robust will to accomplish even a small part of what needs to be done in our communities to bring a more just and equitable world into being?

Once Loki is freed from his fetters, this is one way I imagine him. I like this picture because I know that this stern figure (frowning so much yet wearing so little) could easily transform in the next nano-second into a gleaming Lord of the Dance, who invites us all to join in, even if our dance is on rubble and dust.

The North Wind, an illustration by Kay Nielsen. But it’s so Loki!

Writing is a Reason to Live

And it’s a luxury to be able to do so. This is a blog post about writing, and cancer, and life, written by a person with that luxury. Others are not so fortunate.

Along the Kona and Ka’u coast.

In the summer of 2017, a palm reader in Pahoa said to me, “Oh, I see you’ve had cancer.” We had hardly spoken ten words, I didn’t know her or anyone who knew her and she didn’t know me. She was staring at my hand, not my face. And she was right. I had been diagnosed with melanoma in 2009. No one in my family seemed to care very much about that or understand how scary that was for me. I went through that scare with no emotional support whatsoever. But why do I think that cancer happened?

In 2004 I had hiked for a week on Hawai’i Island. It was a huaka’i (spiritual journey) along the paths of na poe kahiko (people of old), led by cultural practitioners. We did ceremony on the summit of Mauna Kea and the next day we began our journey with a hike through part of Pohakuloa live-fire military area. (Don’t stray from the trail to shishi–live ordnance is a real danger!) Then we hiked across the saddle of the island, a place where the lava was so old and worn that it’s smooth and flat as bathroom tiles. We visited the sacred Ahu A ʻUmi Heiau and then crossed part of the Judd Trail. That night we camped in what was once known as Pine Trees Camp on Hualalai. We’d hiked about seventeen miles that day.

During that first day in the center of the island, among the three mountains of Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Hualalai, a surprising thing happened to me–one of those truly inexplicable things–and others saw it happen too. I knew then that this journey was indeed a spiritual one, and it was going to be one of the most significant episodes of my life.

The rest of the week we hiked down along the Kona and Ka’u coastline, often using the old stepping stone trail made of rounded rocks carried by na poe kahiko, placed on top of the rugged ‘a‘ā and pahoehoe lava. We had many, many adventures that week. Some were actually frightening. Other results of that hike had a devastating, lasting impact on my personal life. I made some choices I now regret.

But back to cancer. I wore wire-framed sunglasses during that week-long hike. I wore sunscreen and prevented overall sunburn, but the Kona Coast sun was so hot that the frames heated enough to burn my cheekbones. No one ever told me wire-framed sunglasses could be a hazard on the Kona coast! I believe that the melanoma that showed up several years later was directly related to that burn, as it was on that exact spot. Fortunately, the dermatologist caught it early and while I now have twice-annual mole checks, and routinely have cryosurgery for keratosis spots, melanoma hasn’t come back. So, yes, the palm reader/psychic was completely correct. I’d had cancer.

Then she told me that I’d have another “cancer scare” in a few years, but to not worry. It would be only a scare. Yesterday, a medical procedure found that colon cancer was not part of my picture after all. So, a resounding “huzzah” for that. The scare was only a scare.

That palm reader had a lot of other things to say. For example, she saw I would be moving soon. True ‘dat! I was about to put my Pahoa house on the market. I’d been living there since January 2016 and it had been a mistake to move there. I was more than ready to get back to my (adult) kids and the friends I’d left behind in California. The palm reader had other odd, disconnected, and strangely precise facts and predictions for me, all of which were or have been true so far. She seemed genuinely talented in psychic arts. However, she did not comment on my writing.

By that time, I was at least nine months into the first of my Guild of Ornamental Hermits books, set in Hawai’i. I was deeply into my characters, who they were, what they did. They were becoming like family to me. And the setting of the book, Pahoa in the Puna District of Hawai’i Island, was like a farewell postcard to a place I’d truly loved, but also a place where I didn’t belong.

Writing this blog and my books (now there are four of them!) has been one of the primary reasons I’ve been able to endure a divorce; four household moves since 2016; a bad break-up with another significant other in Hawai’i; some horrible family turmoil (some still ongoing); the utter loneliness and isolation of the pandemic, living in a rural county with little to offer; a coming out that wasn’t entirely supported by certain members of my family (including a queer family member); worsening health; and the prospect of upcoming surgeries. If it weren’t for my cats and my kids, a few dear friends, and my books, I might not have made it to 2022. However, I was able to escape Lake County last August (thanks to the help of some wonderful friends) and living in a new home and community now has also helped immeasurably.

In fact, all would have been quite rosy this year except for (1) the cancer scare, (2) my upcoming surgery for a chronic condition, and (3) an estrangement that sits smack dab in the middle of my life like a bottomless pit. It is an estrangement of the cruelest kind, effected in a viciously callous and cowardly manner. Daily, and sometimes hourly, I have to navigate around it so as to not fall in. I’m at the point where I’m either going to have to build a bridge from one end of that yawning chasm to the other end, or put it all on display and start charging admission to The Pit as a gothy relic of despair.

There’s a huge sinkhole I visited once, part of a funky resort property in the Puna district, a place riddled by lava tubes and underground caverns. A part of the forest suddenly caved in, becoming an abyss with crumbling, unstable edges. In my book, I have just such a pit appearing suddenly in Hermitville. I wrote about the sinkhole, never imagining I’d acquire an (emotional) one of my own. In some ways, the books have been as prescient as the palm reader!

Even so, writing has been my respite from turmoil. My characters have been my medicine as well as the community I wish I had. They’ve also been my amusement and sometimes even my teachers. If I’d had a cancer diagnosis yesterday, I was prepared to barrel on through the last part of the fourth book no matter what. I still intend to do so, but now I’ll be doing it with a lighter lease on life, at least for now.

Aside from doing something about that horrid pit, there’s nothing I want more than to deliver my characters, as a literary midwife, and present them and their stories to the world. And I want to live with some joy now, alive to pluck the ripening figs and plums from my trees, in this summer’s harvest. And to live to write, even more than I am writing now.

That’s me with some of my characters, rendered via HeroForge.

☽☆☾

The Guild of Ornamental Hermits Books – Preorder 1st Now

I am pleased to share the covers for my forthcoming queer urban fantasy series, The Guild of Ornamental Hermits novels. Please go to the series website for information about the books, characters, sample audio chapters, and more! The first book in the series, The Dire Deeds, will be published as an eBook first on August 1, 2022. You can pre-order it now. Paperback and hardback editions will follow, as will the second book. The series is available through Amazon, FuturesPastEditions.com, and other fine purveyors of fantasy, as of Aug. 1st!

Meanwhile, you can also join The Guild of Ornamental Hermits fan and patron community through my Patreon. You’ll get some wonderful benefits and exclusive content!

Pre-order the eBook on Amazon now. Publication date Aug. 1, 2022.

These are whimsical, queer-saturated tales of “mid-life magic,” featuring a group of arty misfits known as the “Hermits of Hermitville,” Elves of The Realm, Norse Loki, and foes who are human, Wethrini, and Elsewherian, and many other characters besides.

The first two books, The Dire Deeds and The Witching Work, are set in the lush, volcanic, Puna District of Hawai’i Island. The third is set in Lake County, CA. The fourth takes place near Eugene, OR, as well as in 17th and 18th century England. Enjoy this video introduction!

I can’t wait to launch these books and have people fall in love with my characters, just like I have.

The author (me, in black) with a few of my characters.

☽☆☾

Loki Love Endures

It’s been quite awhile since I actually blogged about my “most trusted one,” Loki Laufeyjarson. That’s because there hasn’t been much to say and that in itself is something to note. I’m not alone in this. In certain online communities where Lokeans gather, people are wondering where Loki went. The oft-repeated story is “He was all over me and now he’s not around any longer. What happened?” I think it’s just Life Happening, his and ours.

For example, I’ve spent the last several months adjusting to yet another set of huge, complex changes, and I’ve also been dealing with a gradual worsening of a chronic condition, soon to be fixed (I hope) with surgery. So I’ve been tired, sick, exhausted, often quite sad, a bit fearful, and busy. Consequently I’ve let things go with regard to my formerly daily practices and I have (at times) even forgotten to place the daily cup of cinnamon tea on his altar. In fact, there have been a few times when I’ve put the hot water and honey in the cup, and placed it on the altar, but forgotten the tea bag. A year ago this would have been unthinkable.

I know that it’s foolish to neglect regular spiritual practices and devotions in the very times when I need connection with my spirit allies the most. And yet that’s what’s happened. I can’t change it. I can only do better, starting now.

But I also feel that ebbs and flows of attention are a natural part of the process. Fallow times and growing times are a part of the cycles I observe in myself and in all that’s around me. So I don’t feel insecure about my relationship with Loki, just temporarily not that connected. But it’s really up to me to nurture that connection, or not. Free will and all that. I feel that Loki is understanding to some extent. And he is probably as hooked on “new relationship energy” as any human polyamorist. If I’m not active in my devotions and cultivations, he (she, they, ze) is happy to go where there’s more action. And I’m okay with this as I know that whenever I ramp up the energy, he will be there.

And he’s not entirely absent. One thing that will sound absurd is that Loki plays with the pair of battery operated candles on his altar. He turns them on and off. I am not kidding. In fact, a previous battery operated candle stayed on for almost a full year, on just one battery that was only supposed to last ten hours. Again, not kidding. So every day he will turn the candles on. He used to do this in the morning. Lately he does it at night and I see them when I come up the stairs to go to bed. I’ve been feeling it’s a hint that I could (should?) renew my evening meditation practice with Loki.

Instead, I’ve just let myself vegetate. I crawl under the covers with a heating pad held against my belly and binge-watch stuff until I fall asleep. This is more than simply lying fallow. It smells of composting! And I guess it’s what I’ve needed until now.

The two of us, together as HeroForge figures.

In another way, though, I’ve been very much engaged with Loki these last few months. This is with regard to his role in my life as a muse, particuarly as a muse for my Guild of Ornamental Hermits fantasy novels. (See “Meet Lucky LaFey.”) The first book is coming out any day now (I’ve been saying this for quite some time, but it IS true) and I’ve done a major make-over of my book website, using images of HeroForge figures that I created, based on each character. Loki had unexpectedly steamrolled his way into my third book in the series and he is now deeply entrenched as a “handsome drifter” named Lucky LaFey (human guise). I cannot wait for people to meet him!

This is another form of devotional work for me, honestly. And Loki is a consummate muse. He is quite happy to live in stories that we humans tell and in images we create. The more the better, actually. And those of us who are fortunate enough to engage with him (her/they/zir) in this way never seem to tire of it!

I’ve enjoyed making HeroForge figures based on my book characters, but making images of Loki/Lucky is particularly amusing. Many members of his large family have also entered my books. In my third book I have it that Loki birthed seventeen witch daughters (“troll women”) as a result of eating the burnt woman’s heart (see Stanza 43). I’ve named them all and made HeroForge figures of them. Angrboda and Sigyn have “cameos” in the third book as well. However, of his children with Angrboda and Sigyn, only his missing son, Váli, has an actual role in the third book. Even so, I created figures for Jormungandr, Hel, and Fenrir, and Narfi. (No Sleipnir, though, as I can’t make eight-legged horses in HeroForge.)

A side note: As Zeus birthed Dionysus from his thigh, and Athena from his head, so I see Loki’s witch daughters emerging from various parts of his body in a similar fashion. Though as he’s a shape and gender-shifter, I suppose he could also have taken on a cis-female form for birthing them. (As for Sleipnir, I guess I assume Loki gave birth while still in mare shape.)

After writing this, now I see that I haven’t been as disengaged as I’d imagined at the start of this blog post. I’ve just been engaged in a different way, making images which are a new form of devotion, and preparing to launch yet another saga that will eventually feature Loki center-stage.

So, as always and forever, Hail Loki!

L to R: Angrboda, Loki (with cupcake and drinking horn), Sigyn, and Yours Truly, depicted via HeroForge.
Loki as Lucky LaFey, Rock God! Depicted via HeroForge.
Loki’s HeroForge figure is in the far back, at right. He’s standing on a rocky outcrop. The other characters are only a few of the large cast of characters in The Guild of Ornamental Hermits books.

Make a Tiny Stealth Altar

An altar backdrop created with Inkarnate.com.

There are some contemporary pagans who, for one reason or another, cannot set up an altar in the place where they live. Perhaps they have family members or roommates who would object to having a place for even modest pagan rituals and observances. But satisfying “altars” can be made out of scrapbooking albums, kitchen matchboxes, and other small containers that hold miniature items, tiny figures, small significant objects, and replicas of offerings.

I’ve recently discovered the joys of HeroForge.com and Inkarnate.com. HeroForge allows you to design and buy custom miniatures for gaming and collecting. You can buy them in plain grey plastic and paint them yourselves or spend a lot more money to have them painted for you. (FYI: you are not allowed to re-sell these figures or use them for commercial purposes.) For altar backdrops, Inkarnate.com is a website for designing maps and fantasy scenes. These are just two of the many resources on the internet.

Combine your designs with paper, glue, scissors, and perhaps some cash to buy a miniature from HeroForge, and you have the makings of a tiny space for communing with your chosen spiritual helpers and allies. Print out the scenes, and even images of the figures you design, glue them to cereal box cardboard and then cut them out — in other words, make pagan paperdolls to use as altar pieces!

I used to do this when my oldest kid wanted every toy in the pernicious catalogs that used to arrive at the house when he was little, and since we didn’t have that kind of budget, I’d make paperdolls out of the catalog pictures and he could play with them. It worked while he was still a toddler. (Later, not so much.)

Since Loki is my most trusted one, I’ll share a few of the HeroForge images I’ve made in the last week. It’s hard to not want them all, in 3D form, but the images can still make nifty paperdolls.

Make your own versions of figures and altar backdrops, and have fun!

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