There’s Elves, and Then…There’s Elves!

Who among us does not have a complicated relationship with Elves? Who among us has not received conflicting messages about them? Are they tiny woodland sprites captured by Santa to toil 24/7 making plastic toys with corporate packaging stamped with “made in…” but we know where those destined-for-landfill toys are really from? Do we consider them as related to the Fae, or not? Are we dealing with Elves as Arthur Rackham might have drawn them? Or Elves as Tolkien wrote them? Or are we talking Western filmic Elves, haughty flaxen- or raven-haired beings dressed in Eastern robes lifted straight from The Untamed, those who have little to do with petty human doings?

Whelp, here are some more kind of Elves…

L to R, back row: Gingevus, Nar, Parsifal, Maud, Septimus, Who’s There, Professor Almond, and Hamfast. L to R, in front: Nen and Breadcrumb. With the exception of Almond, all looking pretty much as they do when visiting the Mortal Coil.

The Elves of the guild of ornamental hermits

Once upon a time (you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?), the Elves grew bored. Yes, even with all their almost immortal and miraculous powers, and with all the marvels of their Realm to enjoy, a majority of Elves found themselves yawning (“ho hum…”) during the wearisome hours of their days and nights (even during the sparkling noontime hour when all of creation was wont to rejoice and even during the deepest midnight when all of creation’s mysteries opened their eyes to blink at the infinite). Who, or what, could possibly save the Elves from this dismal, existential ennui?

Hoomans, that’s what. Yep, the most perplexing and nonsensical, not to mention deeply destructive, group of beings to ever splatter themselves on the asphalt of the cosmos. That’s right. Humans. The Elves began to watch human hi-jinx from afar, glued to their scrying mirrors, fascinated by the humans inevitable “moth to a flame” trajectories toward dooms both small and large, marvelling at that one good thing that might come of all the current chaos, only to melt away again at the next turning of Time’s Wheel. For the Elves, watching human beings was like having endless streaming channel of sit-coms and horrors, romances and the worst of reality TV.

Elven academia began to take note. Human Studies departments formed. Many Elves were dispatched to the Mortal Coil itself, to perform extensive field work into all aspects of human cultures (high and low) and behaviors (the good, the bad, and the unthinkable). (Of course they had to adjust their appearances and manage their considerable glamour in order to blend in.) Thus it was that Professor Almond (of the glistening gold silk pantaloons above), found himself (they/them pronouns also ok) first in 15th century England. And there he stayed through several centuries (with frequent sabbaticals and even a few rest cures taken back in the Realm). And thus is was that Nar and Nen, members of Almond’s department, also found themselves on the other side of the Coil, spending huge chunks of their careers in the areas that Almond’s English study subjects called “the East.”

From plagues to Pokémon, from wars to witchcraft, from clowning to cribbage, and even from nuclear fission to punk rock fashion, the Elven academics watched and cataloged it all. They wrote papers, they held the Elven equivalent of conferences, and some began to write human-themed epics and create human-themed works of art, never asking themselves if they were appropriating from other cultures. Nar and Nen went undercover into 21st century Asian entertainment industries, even undergoing the rigorous training and competitive psychologies necessary for placement in a “boy band,” never asking themselves if they were weilding magic privileges unobtainable by their fellow trainees. After all, they’d risen through the ranks of many an ancient imperial court much the same way–using magic and depending on their longevity.

Professor Almond, on the other hand, found himself emotionally invested in the fate of those humans he studied and befriended during the difficult years of English witch persecution. His concerns inspired him to create a mystery school start-up, designed to teach certain human beings a hybrid form of Elven and human magic, in the hopes that such skills and perspectives would help change this particular, terrible course of human history. Many of his friends and colleagues, including Nar and Nen, eagerly took on the task of mentoring several generations of twelve human families in magical arts. This mystery school start-up would eventually become known as The Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

All was going rather well until the Professor found himself deeply in love with one particular 21st century human and even engraved her name upon his heart (literally). And when he spilled the beans (a “spillover phrase” smelling vaguely like Pan’s flute and tasting like weasel footprints… The Elves are all synesthetes. Did I mention that?), his human beloved went and did what no human beloved should have done.

But all that is in the books, Gentle Readers and Aspiring Hermits. You will just have to read them.

Watch this new video about my Elves!

As they look in the Realm. L to R, back row: Septimus, Almond, Hamfast, Who’s There, Nen, Gingevus, Maud and Parsifal. L to R, front: Nar and Breadcrumb.

☽☆☾

“The Queerest Quest” Has Begun!

November 1st (my birthday) is also the start of each year’s National Novel Writing Month, fondly known as NaNoWriMo.

In NaNoWriMo 2016, I launched my fantasy novel, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, and continued to write all year. In NaNoWriMo 2017, I continued work on Dire Deeds and then revised and completed it this last summer. Then my publisher asked me to cut it in half, and the second half became The Witching Work.

Now in NaNoWriMo 2018, I have officially begun work on the third book in this proposed fantasy trilogy–The Queerest Quest of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

I’m off to a good start! By the end of November 3rd, I had over 8,000 words logged in to my NaNoWriMo author page.

2022 Update: Here is the cover of The Queerest Quest, publication date TBA.

☽☆☾

2022 The official book cover.

You Need a Scorecard to Keep Track…

Here is a list of some of the relationship configurations involving the characters in The Guild of Ornamental Hermits fantasy series. Check out our characters showing their pride on the LGBTQIA Gallery page. Kink and nonmonogamy are represented as well. (I’m not even including most of the Elves in this list.) There are a couple of spoilers here:
 
1) There are twelve human characters who are residents of Hermitville. Each one has an Elf mentor (most of these mentor relationships are nonsexual).
 
2) Spoiler: Babe Bump (pansexual, intersex woman) and Oyster Olson (asexual, pan-romantic trans man) become fond of each other. Tomma Bedlam (pansexual, trans, non-binary person) makes three.
 
3) Tomma is also involved with a butch lesbian (former) lover and there may be a surprise Elf/Human triad in zir future.
 
4) Divorced couple Massive Max and Sybil are kinky and still sometimes get together when their lover Maxine can make it a trio.
 
5) Joe Hillstrom and Sidley Croom are an on-again, off-again gay couple with a long, complicated past.
 
6) Hermitville’s founder, Ginger Croom, may have had a Fey lover in her youth.
 
7) Spoiler: Aarrf, a gender non-binary human puppy, finds an Elven master.
 
8) Glysandra, a tantrika, is Ginger Croom’s tantra partner, even though they claim to be “not lovers.”
 
9) Are Nar and Nen lovers, or just good colleagues?
 
10) Sidley Croom also hooks up with at least one “bad guy” and has had hopes for several other liaisons.
 
11) A few characters have human/fey parentage (backstories in the second book!).
 
12) Parsifal and Maud (Elves) are a dyad but also part of a larger group marriage.
 
13) A giant salamander that really loves buildings.
 
14) The Elves are all pansexual. Also, there are twenty-nine possible Elven genders.
 
And yet, with all this, I haven’t written one single explicit sex scene, nor do I intend to do so! It’s kind of more fun this way.

Why a Tale of “Mid-Life Magic?”

'Fairy_Islands'_from_the_book_Elves_and_Fairies_1916_by_Ida_Rentoul_OuthwaiteI grew up reading fairy tales and fantasy fiction. I always wanted to see myself as one of the characters in whatever I was reading and/or have that character’s abilities. Childhood examples include: Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (for having the coolest submarine and for being disgusted with humanity); Doctor Doolittle (for being able to talk with animals); and pretty much any fairy princess you can name (for magic adventures and caskets of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds) – except the Disney variety, thank god. I’m too old for that to have had much, if any, impact on my childhood! I loved and devoured books by Edgar Eager, E. Nesbit, Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis–and of course J.R.R. Tolkien (in my teens). By the time I was eighteen, I had most of the Andrew Lang collections of fairy tales, each volume a different color. And the only relic of my late father that I possess is a book of Japanese fairy tales he sent to me after the divorce, when I was about four years old.

My children of course went through the Harry Potter series, C.S. Lewis Narnia books, and Tolkien. My ex and I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to each kid, more than once. (Tolkien really wrote for the breath and voice. It’s astonishing when you read those books aloud.) And there were other writers and other books. For my oldest, a number of brave girl warrior type adventures, and Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Finder. For my youngest, the Redwall series (Brian Jacques) and Bartimaeus series (Jonathan Stroud).

So my life has been steeped in such tales, and now, as I am older (much older), I want the magic adventures to continue, with characters that are my age or thereabouts. One of the few stories that has come close is A.S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.

Plus, I have had my own true-life collisions with “mid-life magic” and this has been an unexpected and fascinating development. Sexology (I’m a sexologist) pales somewhat by comparison.

So, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits is a story about (mostly counter-culture) people over the age of 40, and some who are much older. The Elves, for example, last a lot longer than humans and don’t age at the same rate. And I, as the writer, am able to wave my magic word wand around and grant attributes and situations, as well as varied genders, sexual preferences, and magic “superpowers” to the characters who have come to populate the Hermitville and The (Elven) Realm of my imagination.

And in that way, the magical adventures continue!

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“Hermitville in Hawai’i” – A Subtext of Spiritual Settler/Colonialism in Occupied Lands

Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i) has struggled with many, many forms of invasion over the last few hundred years – people, invasive species, political, military, economic, spiritual, and so on. The results have not been happy or sustainable for either the islands themselves or for the original people, the Kanaka Maoli. This blog is not going to cover these issues here – there are too many, they are complicated, there are better sources – particularly from Kanaka scholars and activists (I’ll list some links at the end) – and my intention is not to try to represent. Instead, the blog entry is personal.

I’ve got an eighteen-year history of public and private support for the cause of Hawaiian Kingdom independence, as well as other issues in Hawai’i (support for preserving the sacredness of Mauna Kea and opposition to the TMT, anti-GMO, anti-military occupation, and so on). And I had an intimate, long-term relationship with a notable activist which ended last year, shortly after I moved from California to Hawai’i with the intention of at last making a life together. (This stuff happens. Sad, but it does.) I do have some other friends in the movement there – but things between us feel awkward right now. I left Hawai’i and moved back to California. (A change in location which didn’t change my status as a settler-colonist, but at least I am closer to my kids, mom, and most of my friends.) [Note: I co-created the above two websites.]

While I was living in Pahoa, in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island (Jan. 2016-Sept. 2017), dealing with my own post-divorce crazies, extreme homesickness for my kids and friends, and the “oh no! everything’s all wrong!” realizations about my new living situation, I was also the quintessential outside observer, a role that I am used to performing. What I observed were the social and conceptual “bubbles” created by transplants like me and their tenuous connection to the reality of Hawai’i and its people. There was plenty of lip-service paid to being on the island: products in the health food stores, for example, were usually branded with some kind of “tropical” or “island” names and imagery. But I don’t recall seeing very many, if any, locals and/or Hawaiians at the local ecstatic dance. (However, the Wednesday night market at Uncle Robert’s was another matter.)

So what I’m saying is, there were counter-culture hippie bubbles, retired “mainlander” bubbles, military bubbles, tantra bubbles, spirituality bubbles and other kinds of (mostly white) American bubbles. Many of the people in these communities seemed determined to only nod in passing at the deeper realities (if they recognized them at all!), and to skim over anything harsh or else complain in private. Yes, there was racism at the bottom of a lot of it, and cultural erasure, and entitlement, and more. I remember an incident at the water aerobics class I was taking (and really needed!). The teacher was telling us to step “like an Irish jig” and two Hawaiian women asked what that was, in all innocence: “We’re Hawaiian. We don’t know what that is.” The instructor ridiculed them as if everyone should obviously know what an Irish jig was. Right there, in Hawai’i, the home of the sacred dance of hula! I didn’t go back again.

(Of course there are also many ethnic communities that interwine and overlap in Hawai’i, besides what I mention above – Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Micronesian, Tongan, Samoan, etc. – but this blog is focusing on the “mainland”-type bubbles.)

I didn’t want to dive into some comfort-making bubble of invading ex-pats, but though I kept my distance from them and developed a bad case of social anxiety (exacerbated by the logistical/social difficulties of almost thirty years of multiple-chemical sensitivity), I was no better than the rest of my fellow transplants. In fact, I felt worse. With what I knew and espoused, what right did I have to come there? When it was evident that I wouldn’t be continuing my commitment to the native man who was my partner, any possible excuse for my being there evaporated. I had also been ineffective as an activist in Hawai’i (as meetings were generally NOT fragrance-free and my request for clean indoor air seemed to be interpreted as an unreasonable request for privilege). And so my dream of helping to advance these various causes as a someday naturalized citizen of the restored kingdom also came to an end, along with my love affair. (Yes, for many, many years, I was certain I would have applied for naturalization, if it had been possible. I even have a Hawaiian Kingdom driver’s license!)

So, while struggling with “adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood” (my official diagnosis) as well as some health issues and general heartbreak, I started writing The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits during the 2016 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The book was a way for me to include my observations about “bubbles” as well as my growing interest in paganism and the practice of non-denominational magic. I continued to write all year and added another 50,000 words during a 2017 NaNoWriMo “sprint.” (And I’m about finished with the first draft.)

Okay, that’s a lot of personal context there. But I offer it so that you’ll understand why this book has a serious premise at the heart of its fantasy. That premise is… some “imports” to Hawai’i should never have happened, and that includes spirituality imports. It is ironic that I deepened my exploration of the magical traditions of my DNA ancestors while living in Hawai’i, but it seemed the only pono (just or upright) thing to do. The message that came to me was that I needed to be deeply connected to my own ancestors and traditions in order to properly conduct myself as a guest of the ‘aina (land) and the local spiritual powers, even as I began to say my goodbyes.

In the first book, Ginger Croom, a winery heiress from California, has bought forty acres in Puna, and established the Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective. She later gives twenty acres to five Hawaiian families who have ties to that land (as a sort of apology, I suppose) and then hand-picks and recruits non-Hawaiian people from the West Coast and invites them to come live at the farm. She has her reasons for who she selects and why, but none of “the hermits” are aware of them at the beginning of the book. As the book progresses, it becomes clear that what she hoped to create should NOT have been established in Hawai’i without permission, or in close proximity to an active volcano. I can’t say more than that without creating spoilers – but you might be forgiven for thinking that the book contains metaphors for early missionary activity in Hawai’i. The unspoken assumptions of settler-colonialism and occupation are also referenced and/or challenged in various ways throughout the book. Anna Phylaxia and her real estate schemes for Hermitville represent just one kind of “evil force” active in Hawai’i, perhaps one of the most obvious.

What do the Hermits and Elves (yes, there are Elves) have to do to contend with all of this? Well, you’ll have to read the first two books to find out.

These books are fantasy. They are a tale of mid-life magic, among other things. It’s about a merry band of quite diverse misfits who are getting old in the wrong place, who are forced to learn magic, and who become responsible for clearing up the mess of their own misguided occupation. The book is mixed with humor, whimsy, satire, and serious ideas. Not everyone will like it. But as I write and tell this story, I am also doing what I can to meet my obligations to bring attention and awareness to certain communities and issues that are touched upon in the book. Blog posts such as this one are part of that responsibility. Hawai’i saved my life (another story) and so I owe it.

Here are links to websites pertaining to the Hawaiian Kingdom and other issues in Hawai’i. Please visit them.

First, enjoy this video of this strong and beautiful protest song, Kaulana Na Pua. Lyrics and song history.

Hawaiian Kingdom Blog

Many excellent documentaries by Na Maka o ka ‘Aina.

Noho Hewa – The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai’i. The fierce documentary by Anne Keala Kelly. Here is a review of the film, re-published in her blog.

Dr. Haunani Kay Trask, video 1982.

Dr. Haunani Kay Trask, video 1985.

McKinley Lies, with Dr. Lynette Hi’ilani Cruz, video 2011.

Journey to Justice, Part 1. With Dr. Lynette Hi’ilani Cruz and Eiko Kosasa. Part 2. 2012.

Liko Martin and Laulani Teale, “All Hawai’i Stand Together.” Another beautiful song.

Hawane Rios, Mele ma ka Mauna, “Warrior Rising.”

Pohakuloa – Now That You Know, Do You Care?

Stop Bombing Hawai’i. [I co-created this website with Linda-Faye Kroll.]

More links to come. This is only a small sample of informational links available.

Resistance