And Breadcrumb Makes Three…Elf Character Spotlight.

Breadcrumb (also known as “The Wee One” or “T.W.O.” for short) is an Elf smitten with human clowning and clown fashion. Physically I see her very much as an Angela Mae type. Angela Mae being an immensely talented bellydancer and clown who has performed with the band, Gooferman. Angela Mae is definitely a major muse for this character!

In this book, some Elves are quite taken with human subcultures, as immortality can get a little stale without interdimensional novelty. They go in for human fads, artifacts, and “spill-over phrases” (cliches and memes). Breadcrumb is certainly one of these Elves, with a ruby-rouged nose, striped tights, and a light tunic of spider silk.

Her father, Parsifal, is another. Puddles, the Sad Clown with the Golden Voice, is the primary muse for the character of Parsifal. You can get a sense of Parsifal in action in the excerpt, Elven Glamour Run Amok.

Breadcrumb’s mother, however, is the formidable, no-nonsense Maud o’ Bedlam, an experienced interdimensional operative. (I see Eva Green as the ideal Maud!)

Breadcrumb may be a classic Manic-Pixie (Elf) Girl, capable of shimmies, pouts, and nonsequiturs, but when the forces of evil descend on Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective, Maud and Parsifal have good reason to be proud of their daughter as she transforms into “Head Elf in Charge.”

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Disaster Prep in “Hermitville,” Puna District

The opening scene of The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits is a light-hearted disaster prep drill performed by some of the “hermits” of my fictitious Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective, an intentional community located in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island. The scene mentions a triage method to assess injuries, used by CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) during a disaster.

CERT members are ordinary people who want to assist their neighbors and communities during times when the resources of governmental first responders are likely to be overwhelmed. And so they take a practical course in first aid, using a fire extinquisher, and just generally understanding something about what to do when all hell breaks loose. The national CERT program is managed by FEMA, and is now also affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security (this last link is a little weird for me, I’ll admit). Many communities have CERT training throughout the year. FEMA also has online materials that can be helpful.

Why did I choose to start a fantasy novel with something as prosaic as a disaster prep drill? There are a lot of reasons. For one thing, I’ve taken the CERT course myself, twice. And for another, I knew when I moved that life in rural Hawai’i could be rough. My “hermits” are “transplants” to the island as I once was, and are determined to be able to help themselves, each other, and their neighbors during a disaster. This willingness to help–in my opinion–is an expression of aloha.

When I lived in the Hawaiian Shores subdivision in Pahoa, a town in the Puna district (2016-2017), I took the CERT training in Kea’au, along with other community-minded folks. I still have my inch-thick training manual, though I did have to return my badge when I moved. I’d done the same training a few years earlier, in Albany CA, and we were mostly focused on earthquake prep. But in the Hawaiian Islands, the likely disaster menu includes earthquakes as well as tropical storms and hurricanes such as Iselle (slammed Puna in 2014), floods (Kauai has been recently devastated), and yes, flowing lava and eruptions, like the flow that threatened Puna (also in 2014) and the “curtain of fire” lava eruptions happening right now (May 3 & 4) in the Leilani Estates subdivision, causing mandatory evacuations. (Leilani is not far from where I used to live).

From a writer’s standpoint, using a CERT drill to open the book enabled me to introduce some of the characters in relation to each other, to show their interactions and focus. But I also wanted people who don’t live in Hawai’i to understand something that’s not often addressed in the blithe (and incorrect) assumption of “paradise,” to understand what it takes to actually live there, especially in the rural areas.

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Over 1,500 people have evacuated from Leilani Estates already, and no one knows how long the eruptions and flow will last, or how much land will be affected, the resources and resilience of Puna residents are going to be taxed once again. The lives of thousands of residents, not just the evacuees, are going to be affected for maybe months, possibly even years. If the flow is extensive, housing will be a problem–Puna already has too many vacation homes and not enough affordable housing for its residents. Fresh water will be a problem, as a majority of people in Puna rely on catchment tanks. If the loss of housing is widespread, this also means loss of catchment water. Lava is already covering part of Mohala Street in Leilani. If it covers or crosses more streets, and even the main highway in and out of the area (as it almost did in 2014), transportation and the delivery of food and medical services will be impeded. Electric power will be affected, not to mention the internet… Schooling will be disrupted–there’s a Hawaiian language charter school that might be endangered if the flow continues east. Elderly people, the kupuna, will be particularly hardpressed, as will any families who are living paycheck to paycheck, or no paycheck to no paycheck. There’s an almost endless list of difficulties ahead. How will people manage?

And that’s just people! Animals (including pets and livestock) are also profoundly affected. Many dogs and cats made homeless in 2014’s disasters have contributed to the burgeoning feral population, which in turn affects wildlife…

Could CERT volunteers help in a situation like this? To some extent, yes. Using chainsaws to cut through fallen trees, giving help an elderly neighbor, operating HAM radio, handling triage at shelters… I’m not sure of the specific opportunities, but trained, willing people will always do some good in situations like these.

And so including a CERT training at the start of my book injects a truly necessary realism before I introduce the fantastical elements of the story. Because you’ve been good enough to read this far, here are the opening paragraphs of the book (and don’t miss the CERT info below them):


 

Chapter One

Babe: You Know the Drill in Hermitville

“One… two… no, no, support zir head and neck, please! … three! Lift!”

Even with six of us, it wasn’t easy transferring Tomma’s limp, lanky body from the floor to the makeshift stretcher (a repurposed surfboard with straps), let alone lifting the stretcher and carrying zir to the designated medical treatment tarp.

“I forget, is ze green or what?” Oyster still wasn’t quite clear on the concept of triage, but after all, he’d only been with us six years. Give him time.

“C.E.R.T. for dummies,” Aarrf muttered and Oyster looked hurt. Aarrf took our monthly community emergency response training drills very seriously and had little patience with anyone who wasn’t as geeky about it as they were.

Joe took pity on Oyster. “No, green is for ‘walking wounded,’” he said. “Red, ze’s red. Immediate. Got that?” Oyster nodded.

 


Find Your Nearest CERT Training

Here are two excerpts from the Ready.gov website. I hope this blog encourages you to get some training yourself, no matter where you live. One day you and your community might be glad you did.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, which allows them to focus on more complex tasks. Through CERT, the capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters is built and enhanced…

…FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team Program trains volunteers to prepare for the types of disasters that their community may face. Through hands-on practice and realistic exercises, CERT members:

  • Learn how to safely respond to manmade and natural hazards
  • Help organize basic disaster response
  • Promote preparedness by hosting and participating in community events
  • To learn how you can register for CERT or find a program near you, please contact your local emergency manager or FEMA at FEMA-Prepare@fema.dhs.gov

 

Movie Casting Fantasies

What follows next is FANTASY CASTING for the Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits AND for the Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits–like a fan game, okay? It’s strictly for fun (unless the Wachowskis give me a ring). Got that?


Update 2020: My understanding of my characters has deepened and mutated since I wrote the first version of this blog post. This is partly because some of my characters have gone through changes, and also because The Witching Work adds a whole new cast of characters. I’ve also become aware of a whole lot of new and amazingly talented actors and performers since I first started these books in the fall of 2016. Many of these performers are LGBTQIA+, transgender, intersex, otherwise gender diverse, and/or perform drag. This revised fantasy casting list includes an increased number of such folx, particularly among the Elves and in the second book, Lucky LaFey’s witch daughters.

As a writer, it really helps to have “a face” to give to my characters. Actors and performers are easily “recruited” in this imaginative exercise. And so, enjoy the list below. I can’t promise it won’t change!

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These two books are about a group of human misfits (the Hermits) and their collisions with magic and a variety of supernatural beings, while having crazy dangerous adventures. It’s a “coming of age” story for characters who are already “old”–a tale of mid-life magic.

The Hermits of “Hermitville” (Book 1) and “Neoville” (Book 2)

*Babe Bump – intersex woman, pansexual. Imagining singer and actor, Eden Atwood, (with darker hair). She’d be terrific. And this song is a perfect way for her to express her feelings for her new sweetheart! Eden has been “the face” of Babe almost since the first chapter.

Babe often functions as the quiet, emotional center of The Hermits, but no one should underestimate her. She’s a sexy burlesque performer and an intersex activist, as bold in her way as Tomma is in zir’s. And she goes through some wild changes! [*Narrator]

*Tomma Bedlam – a gender fluid/non-binary person. Prounouns are ze and zir, and ze is pansexual. Tomma is a BIG personality–complex, creative, provocative, funny as hell, sexy, confrontational, flippant, intelligent, and courageous. Ze is also extremely tender-hearted. Tomma is Babe’s best friend.

I orginally had another person chosen for this fantasy casting, but lately I’ve been realizing that Dragula’s Disasterina (and the person behind her) has a lot of the emotional range, physicality, and humor that I associate with Tomma. Though I don’t see Tomma with quite the non-stop boisterous campiness of Disasterina, Tomma comes close in several scenes. I find myself wondering if the thoughtfulness (as well as the punk-drag energy) behind the creation of Disasterina would allow this performer to deliver the Tomma I imagine. It’s an interesting speculation! [*Narrator]

*Oyster Olson – trans man, asexual, pan-romantic. Imagining Will Krisanda who played Max in the Brothers series, but with a little grey hair added. For me, he’s been “the face” of Oyster Olson all along and I remain devoted to this fantasy casting choice. Will Krisanda has the kind of range that Oyster needs, as Oyster’s life takes many unexpected turns. (But he’d have to learn to play blues harp or fake it!). [* Narrator]

Aarrf Perry – a gender queer (they/them) “human puppy” who is also head of Hermitville security. This character requires a certain kind of versatility and has a pretty intense character growth. I now imagine Dina Nina Martinez in the roll, as she’s funny as hell and I think she could carry Aarrf’s character arc.

Joe Hillstrom – cisgender man, gay, photographer and personal trainer. I originally imagined Chiwetel Ejiofor, because he can pretty much do anything as an actor and I love him. However, there are several actors out there who could do wonderful things with Joe’s character.

Glysandra Shakti Om – cisgender woman, hetero, neo-tantra instructor. I originally imagined Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders), as she is so sexually compelling. But there are others who do could the role too. There is potential for campy humor in this role, as Glysandra can be clueless but also overly sincere. If I was going to cast a drag performer, I’d go for Louisiana Purchase. I think she could do a lot with a hippy tantrika character!

Maximus Gordon – cisgender man, hetero, polyamorous, musician and singer. I imagine casting an actor like Morgan Freeman or Idris Elba, but as Maximus is somewhat kinky, it has to be someone comfortable with that kind of role. Maximus is a former folk singer and his ex-wife and current girlfriend both live in Hermitville. They all get along.

Sybil Perry – cisgender woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. Imagining Annie Golden as Maximus’ former wife and folksinging partner.

Minnie Richmond – cisgender OR trans woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. She is Maximus’ current GF. She and Maximus are somewhat kinky, so it has to be someone comfortable with that kind of role. I’d like this role to be given to a woman of color.

Jennifer Juniper – cisgender woman, hetero, musician and singer. Imagining Rhiannon Giddens or Valerie Junes, except they’re both so good and there might not be enough for a musican of that caliber to do. Perhaps this is a role for someone who is an actor first, musican second?

Frank Talk – intersex man, heteroflexible, musician. I’ve thought of Mx. Annunaki Ray Marquez, an intersex activist and former professional pirate actor. However, Frank goes through some tough times in the second book (spoiler alert) and so the trauma might be tough on an actor.

Rozaline Rae – cisgender OR trans woman, bisexual, musician/singer. Imagining someone with a persona similar to Poison Ivy (of The Cramps).

Ginger Croom – cisgender woman, hetero, age 70ish, winery heiress, Hermitville founder. Dies at beginning of the book. A “big” personality even so. I keep thinking Susan Sarandon (b. 1946), both for looks and for her activism (very much like Ginger’s). And who play the younger Ginger in flashbacks?

Sidley Croom – cisgender man, bisexual, Ginger’s younger brother. Sidley has red hair and a beard. Would look something like Jeff Bridges (b. 1949).

Elves of “The Realm” (Books 1 & 2)

Note: The Elves have 29 genders in their world, depending on their “element” at birth and timing of developmental “shifts” over the course of their lives.

Septimus Sitwell – Elf gender TBA. pansexual. Imagining Benedict Cumberbatch. Because this is a fantasy after all… And because Septimus has some great lines.

*Breadcrumb – Elf gender TBA, pansexual. Character based on Angela Mae, a clown and bellydancer who used to perform with Gooferman. I can imagine Jamie Clayton (Sense8 transgender actress) in this role. [*Book narrator.]

Professor Osbert Almond – Elf gender TBA, pansexual. Imagining Tom Hiddleston with long hair (but more gloss and gleam than Marvel Loki) — mostly because he is an amazing actor and could bring a lot of depth to the professor, who has a complex backstory. Or perhaps Alexander Vlahos (Versailles), with long, dark hair.

Parsifal Berry Blue – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, T.W.O.’s dad. Character based on the real-life Puddles, the Sad Clown with the Golden Voice. Would love to cast Puddles (Mike Geier) in this role.

Maud o’ Bedlam – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, Breadcrumb’s  mom. Imagining Eva Green (Penny Dreadful).

George Potts – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, married to Archie Smegley. Imagining Jake Zyrus (trans man actor/singer).

Archie Smegley – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, married to George Potts. Imagining Scott Turner Schofield (trans man actor) OR could be Evah Destruction, drag perfomer .

Gingevus Sitwell – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, brother to Septimus. Imagining Bill Nighy (with longish hair) OR could be Landon Cider, drag performer.

Who’s There – Elf gender TBA, pansexual. Imagining Biqtch Puddin’, drag performer (Dragula).

Hamfast – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, shapeshifter. Imagining Richard O’Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show).

Hamfast shapeshifting as Goddess Mal-i-bu Bar-bee – Imagining Candis Cayne in a cameo appearance as “the Cosmic Soccer Mom.”

Supernatural Beings (Books 1 and 2)

Vesta the Salamander – this is a voice part.

Nienna, Elven Goddess – Dual role for Victoria Elizabeth Black (see Gyda below).

Lucky LaFey & Family (Book 2)

Lucky LaFey (Norse God Loki Laufeyjarson) – Imagining Hale Appleman (The Magicians), but with red hair.

Váli, Lucky & Sigyn’s Son – (changed into a wolf by Odin). Not yet cast.

Angrboda, Lucky’s Jotun wife – Powerful. Imagining Maxi Glamour, drag performer (Dragula).

Sigyn, Lucky’s Aesir wife – Imagining Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Tangerine). Brief action role.

Gyda, Lucky’s Witch DaughterVictoria Elizabeth Black, drag performer (Dragula). And see Nienna, above. She could do both.

Runa, Witch DaughterIndya Moore, transgender actress (Pose). I can also see her as Breadcrumb though.

Magnhild, Witch DaughterDahli, drag performer (Dragula).

Ylva, Witch DaughterAngelica Ross, transgender actress (Pose).

Thyra, Witch Daughter – the “punk rock” one. James Majesty, drag performer (Dragula).

The rest of Lucky’s Witch Daughters, not yet cast. Eerika, Alva, Oili, Ase, Unn, Sigrid, Gunvor, Nanna, Ingrid, Eira, Asta, Sylvi — all could be played by transgender actresses and/or drag performers.

Sophie “Socks” Lokisdottir – a transient human trans girl adopted by Lucky. Not yet cast.

Bad Guys (Book 1)

Anna Phylaxia – cisgender woman, hetero, pretend “domme,” CEO of Anna’s Wicked Wares. Imagining Vander Von Odd as fantastic in this cis female role, as well as the person behind the scenes who designs quite a lot of The Realm scenery and Elf costumes.

Stanford Lawsome – cisgender, part-human, bisexual, Anna’s assistant. Half human. Imagining Reeve Carney (Penny Dreadful) with bleached hair and a spray tan.

The Lawyer® – gender neutral (ze, zir), Elsewherian supernatural foe, preference unknown. Imagining Jamie Casbon (Brothers) with a very corporate wardrobe.

Sri Niri Nimrod – cisgender man, hetero. Self-righteous yoga guy with man bun, leader of a Hippie Doomsday Cult. Small role. Haven’t cast him yet.

Bad Guys (Book 2)

Samuel Dipps aka “The Big Dipper” or “The Dip” – Wethrini supernatural foe. He looks like an orange, spray tanned “Malibu Ken” doll. This is a nasty villain! Haven’t imagined a fantasy actor yet. [Also, “The Dip” has minions, not yet specified.]

Anna Phylaxia – Returns as a friend of Samuel Dipp. See Bad Guys (Book 1).

Film Crew (Book 1)

Miranda Jackson – cisgender female, lesbian, documentary filmmaker. Have imagined someone like Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black).

Shank Stoma – Trans or gender queer person, sexual preference unknown. Camera. Imagining Hudson Krakowski (Brothers).

Eddie Sedgwick – Nonbinary trans male (they, their). Camera. Imagining Em Grosland (New Ambsterdam).

Toledo Jackson – Cisgender male, hetero. Miranda’s goat-selling, former tweaker brother. Hippie dude. Imagining someone similar to Russell Brand, but even more unraveled.

Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) Neighbors (Book 1)

Namaka – cisgender woman, mother of two including kapu (sacred) child. I imagine someone like singer/activist Hāwane Rios or singer/activist Laulani Teale.

Uncle Iolana – cisgender man, kupuna (cherished elder), age 70ish. I imagine someone like singer Liko Martin.

The kapu baby, Keikiokalani (gender not specified), and a boy of ten. Not cast.

This “casting” is actually a productive exercise for a (cis, white) writer to step out of a tendency to “cast white” and “cast cis” and to broaden the character possibilities beyond a token character or two, tossed in as a sop to “diversity.” It is also a way to search out and appreciate the work of talented people who in some cases have less recognition than they deserve. And it’s also a bit of “magical thinking.”

So mote it be.

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