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!!!

☽☆☾

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.

☽☆☾

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.

Wicked Fascinations

Living as I do in a chemically avoidant “bubble” (meaning I stay home most of the time), I confess to some envy of those who move freely amongst the populace without gasping for air or succumbing to unpleasantly dizzy brainfogs, making a swift retreat and bedrest a necessity. However, the people I envy the most are not those who casually sashay through the detergent aisle of the supermarket (though it would be nice, as cat food is always across the aisle from the really awful smelly stuff), but those who are right out there making outrageous stuff happen–art, music, revolutions, burlesque, whatever!–without getting sick.

Life is not passing me by–I get stuff done. I write. I teach. I create. I sometimes help people from afar. Sometimes I see friends or my kids. And I am in life-long service to cats… But I confess to an occasional vicarious fascination with people who puncture the norms in the outside world. I like to watch them do it (yay for the internet) and I cheer them on, also from afar or in the comments section of a YouTube video. My all too active imagination performs a sort of recombinant conceptualization of a world that doesn’t exactly exist, but that I would like to join. My favorites are all there. I won’t name them here but their music, performances, art, and words remind me there is more to living than the interior of my house.

Sometimes I conjure, then cut and paste their attributes into characters in my books. For example, my “Ornamental Hermits” and their magic companions are partial composites of the outrageous “friends” I’d like to have over for tea and magic rituals. Since there’s no way to socialize in the real world, I set these characters in motion against real estate developers and supernatural bad guys. Sometimes these characters fall in love with each other, which is often a surprise! And on the real world stage, similar things are happening. We (the arty, the weird, the transgressive) stand opposed to the truly monstrous and cruel, but we haven’t yet morphed into a global fellowship, combining our powerful energies and visions into an unstoppable force for renewal and joy, for sex and life, for art and transformation. Perhaps we never will.

I can only sense the pulsations, observe from the sidelines, and stir my witchy “thought potions.” My “wicked fascinations” are ingredients added to the creative cauldron. I stir winks and shimmies, a puffy clown suit button, swear words and sass, tears of anguish, shouts of triumph, a blackened eye, the sweetheart who died, and a pair of sequined pasties, into my brew and serve it up hot–or cold–as the writing demands.

And then I exhale over the simmering stew and invite my spirit companions to do the same, charging the mixture, bringing it to life. Thought forms emerge, pledged to carry my vision into the places I cannot visit in the flesh. They go forth in books not yet read.

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Loki and “The Witching Work”

I completed my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo and the first draft of The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits on Friday. This book is the second in my fantasy series. It’s a whimsical, queer-saturated book in the “urban fantasy” genre.

Today, I begin the second draft revision.

Lucky LaFey (the Norse god Loki in mortal disguise) is a leading character. You’ll meet him in the middle of his search for Vali (his long lost son who was turned into a wolf by the Aesir and made to kill his brother Nali).

1.TheWitchingWorkCoverIn addition to my plucky cast of human “Hermits” and outlier Elves who comprise the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, you’ll also meet Lucky’s seventeen witch daughters (called “troll women” in the lore–Loki gave birth after eating a sacrificed burnt woman’s heart); his part mortal/part elf/part Jotun son (with two biological dads–just ask me how!); a giant multi-dimension hopping salamander named Vesta who digs human architecture in a big way; the “Big Dipper”–a sinister Lake County CA guru; and Sigyn and Angrboda both make cameo appearances. Plus, the first book’s star villain, Anna Phylaxia, known as the “Martha Stewart of Kink” due to her line of BDSM-themed luxury housewares and linens, makes a comeback appearance. In the shadows, the lurking menace of U.S. government surveillance…

Thrill as Lucky (in his female-ish form of Lucia LaFey) battles the Big Dipper at a celebrity banquet by parodying his/her own Lokasenna. Sob as Lucky and his daughters uncover the nefarious doings of “the Dip.” And ponder as the human Hermits try to get a grip on what exactly their “witching work” is meant to be!

[Cross-posted to the Guild of Ornamental Hermits website.]

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Dragula, How Do I Love Thee?

They don’t know it, but the Boulet Brothers and three seasons of Dragula have joined my private and exclusive cluster of “writer’s muses” for my fantasy novel in progress, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. (Here’s the Season 1 premiere of Dragula, on YouTube. Season 2 and 3 are on Netflix.) The goal of Dragula is to create “the Next Drag SuperMonster.” Their guiding principles are “drag, filth, horror, glamour” (and “punk” in the first season).

BouletBrosDragula
Boulet Brothers Dragula owns the rights to this image. Used in blog commentary about the show.

My goal is to complete the first draft of my second novel in the Ornamental Hermits fantasy series. My guilding principles are “magic, punk, art, glamour.” (I’m not so down with “filth” as I’ve changed far too many diapers in my time, and currently empty seven cat boxes twice a day… so there’s that.)

Right now, I’m in  the middle of my annual participation in November’s  NaNoWriMo. Since November 2nd, I’ve written 30,000 words out of a 50,000 word target. This is a writer’s competition–a challenge to pit my tendency to over-edit in first drafts against raw inspiration and creativity.

Over-editing in first drafts is the result of fear. It’s an unwillingness to commit to the entire plot, to put characters in jeopardy, to give all or lose all in love and hate and war, to race toward the exciting climax of the book. Much like the contestents in Dragula, I deeply believe in my writing, just as the contestents deeply believe in their drag. They create personas, constellations of characters, facets of being, visions, a “world” in which their drag selves are at play–suffering yet triumphant, always rising from the ashes. Damage breeds creation. Yet so often those hidden fears can mute or dim our full commitment, our performance of our art. Dragula challenges its people in just about every way imaginable. The Boulet Brothers’ constant admonishment is “do better, commit fully, show us who you are.” If you don’t, you “die” on the show.

Writing–world and character building–is my salvation, just as drag is theirs. Many of the Dragula contestents could feel right at home in the artsy, queer haven that is my imaginary “Hermitville Farm and Arts (and Magic) Collective”–and if not Hermitville, they’d enjoy “The Realm,” a place where there are at least twenty-nine genders among the Elves, and almost every Elf is capable of shapeshifting and summoning irresistable powers of glamour.

I am writing to create a home and a community for myself, even if that home is not manifest in the physical world and my book friends are all invisible. Drag performers participate in an already created, yet constantly mutating demi-culture of art, but acceptance is not necessarily ready-made. Still, I envy them.

The Boulet Brothers are not in the business of coaching writers, yet I am keeping them before me as inspiration. I imagine them telling me to not be lazy or play it safe, to expand the limits of my imagination, and to bring this into my writing (otherwise, Elimination Challenge!). And I love their witchiness (’cause, you know, I’m witchy and my books are all about the discovery of magic), and I love their mischief (’cause, you know, my divine S.O. is a Trickster), and I love their sex and gender fuckery (’cause, you know, I’m a sexologist–but there are compelling personal and creative reasons besides).

So in a moment I will leave this blog post and open up my first draft, and plunge into my daily word count challenge (about 2,100 words or so). I will light an imaginary candle (though I could light a real one–I have plenty) and summon my muses both inner and outer. And the magic of world and character building will contine. It’s my deepest joy.

Thank you, Boulet Brothers, for shining your dark so that others may begin to sparkle in chthonic depths, clawing their way into the limelight as fully realized creatures of art.

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Loki The Muse

Loki has always been a “muse extraordinaire!” People love to write and sing tales of the exploits of Loki Laufeyjarson, the Northern trickster. From fan fiction to published novels, modern writers are no exception. I didn’t plan on making my second  Guild of Ornamental Hermits  fantasy novel all about Loki,” but he stepped into the plot during last year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’ve been working on the book since then, and now, in the 2019 NaNoWriMo contest (goal: complete 50,000 words in one month), I am certain I’ll complete the first draft of the novel before December. (The book already weighs in at about 68,000 words.)

Best_small_ Buffalmacco,_trionfo_della_morte,_eremiti_02 copy

I’ll try to provide a short glimpse of the book without too many spoilers. In the first book, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, my plucky gang of intentional community oddballs, known as “the Hermits of Hermitville,” were living happily on twenty acres of jungle and agricultural land in Pahoa, Hawai’i (the “Big Island”). But tragedy struck, Elves showed up, and chaos prevailed. The book is “a tale of mid-life magic” and if you’re over the age of fifty, you perhaps can appreciate the challenge of learning magic(k) in the midst of a (mid-life) crisis.

This second book, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, finds the Hermits fleeing to another location, here in California. And Loki, in his guise of “Lucky LaFey, a drifter,” bursts into the book from the very start. And my writing life will never be the same.

The Witching Work has a lot to do with Loki as a parent. He’s the mother of witches (in my book there are seventeen), a co-father to one of my book’s characters (that’s a bit of a spoiler), and also the heartbroken parent of Váli, the son who was transformed into a wolf by the Aesir, and who then killed his little brother, Nari. Nari’s entrails were used to bind Loki to a rock, while he writhed under serpent venom whenever Sigyn had to empty the bowl she held above him (to catch the dripping poison).

Faroe_stamp_498_Djurhuus_poems_-_Loki_Laufey's_Son

[Note: in some versions of this tale, Váli is named Narfi. I thought it would less confusing to use the name Váli.]

Loki’s seventeen witch daughters also appear in the book. They call him “Mapa” as he gave birth to them. Loki’s ever-complicated love life is also on display.

Loki the actual “Norse god” can be very interactive with those who pay him any attention. Since he is my “most trusted one” in my polytheist pantheon, he gets quite a lot from me. He seems to be quite willing to serve as a muse as well as my beloved deity and teacher (especially when the book is “all about him”). I enjoy his shameless delight in his own stories.

The beauty of this is that Loki, a shapeshifter, changes shape as a literary character too. “My” Loki (written and worshipped) is very different from “your” Loki, or the Loki of any other writer or devotee. He actively invites the union of my imagination with his inspiration, and laughs happily with the results. With his help, I’ve produced over 13,000 words in five days since Nov. 2nd. And the results are amusing and gratifying.

And now–I leave you to dive back into my manuscript, which is will get much more attention this month than my blog.

Hail Loki!

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