Today, apparently The Dire Deeds has rocketed into an unexpected eBook sales rank by being the 13,000th top selling book in Kindle’s fantasy category. My publisher gave me the glad news this morning. This may not sound like much but according to my publisher this is super-encouraging–and somewhat unexpected, frankly–to be ranked 13,000th in this category, out of 900,000 best sellers (out of 6-7 million eBooks published at any given time).
This is quite fabulous news and most heartening, as the other day I tried to donate copies of my book to the local libraries here in Eugene and Springfield. I found out there were various protocols in place, with regard to cataloging and selection, designed perhaps to dissuade wild-eyed local authors from barging in with their books. It was discouraging to see how local authors are disadvantaged under present library systems. We crave readers, after all!
So I said a polite “no” when the Springfield librarian suggested that I donate my precious darling book child to their Friends of the Library sale. (I can give them plenty of other books from my shelves for that!)
Yes, I am plastering these covers all over my website and other social media, but oh my! I am so pleased with them! The cover design is by Frankie Pauncevolt Hill at Digital Parchement Services and the artwork is by “Bettibup33.”
Today I am sharing two illustrations I commissioned from my youngest son, Paul F.S. Bauer, for The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. There is a scene in the book where the Elves teach divination using the Elder Futhark runes, and I wanted the results illustrated. Paul added the additional design elements based on his own inspiration and I think they are perfectly appropriate for an imagined Elven adaptation.
I hope these beautiful illustrations will be published soon, along with the rest of the book! (For those who might ask, he has not illustrated all twenty-four of the Elder Futhark runes, only these six.)
This one below features a reversed Berkana, which is how it showed up in the rune casting for the chapter. These days, I don’t read reversals.
A word about the Elder Futhark Runes
Below is a chart of the Elder Futhark Runes. Though these runes are popular with contemporary Heathen and Northern Tradition pagans for divination and healing work, some of these Norse runes have also been adopted by white supremacists. In other words, it’s important to double-check sources of objects, books, artwork, memes, and jewelry that depict runes. The ADL Hate Symbols database is a good source of information. Elhaz/Algiz and Othala/Opila are two that have been co-opted by neo-nazis and white supremacists. If the Othala rune has “feet,” this is also apparently a sign that it is being used by these groups.
I am back firmly in fantasy novelist mode! This past weekend I put some character and plot development changes in place and continued the final edit on Dire Deeds. I revised the list of 29 genders of the Elf world; and sorted and organized files of character “faces” (a form of fantasy “casting” that helps my writing process). This is a series about “mid-life magic”–most of the human characters are in their forties or older and most are encountering magic for the first time.
The first book, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is set in a fictitious “Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective” in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island, during a “not too distant future” when the U.S. occupation has ended and the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom is rapidly reorganizing. Unfortunately, the Hermits of “Hermitville” realize their own occupation has had unintended mystical and spiritual consequences, causing the Elves of the Realm to return and revive the Guild.
The second, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is set in Lake County, CA. The Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, took over this plot with his search for his final missing child. But an evil Lake County cult leader teams up with a villain from the first book, to dump yet more challenges onto the newly reformed Guild (consisting of the “Hermits” and their teachers and guides, the Elves).
The third in the Series, The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, will blend a contemporary plot with the origin story of the Guild, created during the times of witch persecution in Europe.
I began writing The Dire Deeds in 2016, during my time in Pahoa. I was very lonely so I began creating characters I wish I knew and a community life I wish I had. And I was homesick for the SF Bay Area. So naturally, these books contain a majority of LBGTQIA+ and BIPOC characters–all of whom get to do magic and have adventures.
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.
Lucky LaFey is a new main character who appears in the third volume of The Guild of Ornamental Hermits series, The Queerest Quest of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. This third book takes place in Lake County, CA.
Lucky LaFey is a drifter. He wears his mileage lightly though he’s travelled the roughest of roads. However his vocabulary is excellent and his manners are often soft and deferential enough to mark him as having come from “a good home.” He can say “ma’am” and “sir” without a trace of hipster irony. He’s insatiably curious. You’re as likely to find him in a small town library as you are in a big city pool hall.
Tall enough, slender but muscled, green eyes, an age that’s hard to pin down… Lucky’s been known to dye his long red hair jet black. He’s the handsome devil who breezes through town, dances in clubs, picks up odd jobs and odder people. He may break a heart or two when he leaves (but he’s never broken a family).
“What did you see in him?” (Besides that voice, those eyes, the hair, those oddly scarred lips?)
“I don’t know exactly, but I felt like he ‘got me’, ya know? He really got me!”
And she/he/they/ze will remember him for the rest of their lives.
Lucky’s a natural actor. He’s toured with regional theater companies, garnering rave reviews of his almost “chameleon-like” ability to really become the character. And yet, acting was never his passion–just another way to meet people and pass the time. He’s picked up sleight of hand tricks with coins and cards and has a rapid-fire “patter” that’s both hilarious and beguiling. But that’s just a way to win a beer or whiskey on a bet.
Because he’s handsome and his hands are clean, some have mistaken him for a hustler or a gigolo, and tried to play him that way. Yet money never changes hands when it comes to Lucky and sex. Oh, but that’s not to say there’s not a transaction involved! It might be “that ring you’re wearing,” or “my friends and I could use another round” or even, for those “lucky few,” “tattoo my name on your ass so next time I see you, I’ll know you really love me.”
And then he’s off in the night, laughing. (Someone told me once there’s a secret Reddit group for people who’ve gotten those tattoos.)
His own tattoos are faded: a snake biting its own tail on his left bicep, a wolf on his right, and over his heart, a small skull with half the face of a girl. If you could lift Lucky’s hair from the back of his neck, you’d find a tiny broken heart, but few people have ever been allowed that liberty. Lucky might let you get close, but not that close.
Sometimes you might find Lucky among the “Burners” or hopping trains with young nomads like “Sock Monkey” and “Crash.” He’s learned that people are friendlier when he sits on curbs with a kitten (he loves his animals and always finds them good homes). To hear him tell it, Lucky’s been “a ski bum, a surfer, a demolition derby racer, and a line cook at some top New York restaurants.” He claims to have been married (twice) but never talks about his wives or kids. He plays the guitar and sometimes you might find him sitting in with other musicians in some scruffy bar, or strumming it pensively, alone under a tree in a park.
Don’t offer him a cigarette when you sit down to listen. He gave it up years ago, after that trip to Tibet.
To hear him tell it, Lucky’s been everywhere and done everything. He’ll talk of having one memorable night with Janis or that time in Paris when he posed in drag for Brassai. And then he’ll look you in the eye and laugh, daring you to challenge him (“You couldn’t have! You’re not that old!”). The funny thing is, you almost believe him! He makes you want to believe…
So perhaps it was inevitable that the lanky sweet-talking drifter known as Lucky LaFey would find his way to our new Hermitville Magic and Arts Collective. I found him one morning, comfortably asleep in the hammock that hangs on our wide front porch, with only a backpack and a paperback book for company. I stared at him. He was improbable. His bright red hair caught sunbeam light and threw it back like prism sparkles. And then he yawned, opened his emerald green eyes and grinned at me. It was a look from someone much bigger than a human soul. My heart pounded and all I could think was, “Here comes trouble…”
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.
The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits takes place in Hawai’i in a “not too distant” future. As I work my way through the second draft, it became obvious to me that I wanted that future to consist of a recently restored Hawaiian Kingdom, one that (within the context of my fantasy novel) is still in a state of initial transition, yet is firmly established as a international, political, plausible reality.
In other words, in the future described in my book, the United States and its military is in the process of removing itself as per agreements and treaties made with those who represent the new Kingdom government and its multi-ethnic subjects: Kanaka Maoli (“native Hawaiians”) and descendents of Hawaiian Nationals who were subjects of the Kingdom at the time of the theft and occupation of Queen Liliu’okalani’s government and kingdom (1893). (The Queen is pictured below.) Kingdom restoration is now a “done deal” (in the book) and everyone living in Hawai’i has to deal with it, one way or another, including the Hermits of Hermitville on Hawai’i Island.
Before I get into what this means for my work of fiction, please check out the reality. For historical background, political considerations, legal context, international status, and current affairs regarding the actual Hawaiian Kingdom, you can go to Hawaiian Kingdom Blog, particularly this entry: U.S. Commits “Acts of War” against the Hawaiian Kingdom (Jan. 17, 2018). My novel may be a fantasy, but there are good reasons for considering restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom as possible, plausible, and righteous, though it is not yet in a politically negotiated process with the U.S. (even if it should be).
Back to the book. Like everyone else who is not an actual descendent of a Kingdom citizen circa 1893, the Hermits of Hermitville have been living in Hawai’i as settler/colonists in a belligerently occupied nation (until the restoration of the Kingdom, of course). This status is at first unknown to them, as they’ve drunk the standard American “Hawai’i statehood” Kool-Aid. This is a status that Hermitville’s founder, winery heiress Ginger Croom, doesn’t understand either until she’s about ten years into her settlement on two, twenty-acre agricultural lots in the Puna District of Hawai’i Island. While she still doesn’t quite understand the land title issues, she does come to understand that a great wrong was done and she’d like to do something to give back to the community. Her way of making amends–or reparations–is to give over one of the twenty-acre lots to the Kamapua’a ‘Ohana and four other Kanaka Maoli families who have direct ties to that land. Ginger also establishes a building fund for them (in keeping with American philanthropic tradition). She keeps the remaining lot for the Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective. Like most people who purchase real estate in Hawai’i, she believes in her fee simple ownership. As a wealthy person, she also still thinks of what she’s done as a “gift.”
But Ginger and the rest of the Hermits never reckoned on the actual restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom in their lifetimes, and now the question is whether to ask to become naturalized citizens of the Kingdom–and if granted this and if permitted to stay, to renounce U.S. citizenship–or to return to the continental U.S. The Hermits, being a fairly progressive bunch, are strongly considering asking to stay, but they too don’t understand that even if they are granted citizenship, that the twenty-acre land base of Hermitville may be returned to its original stewards/owners, the Kanaka Maoli families.
I asked a couple of my Kingdom activist friends for some guidance as to what might happen in a restored Kingdom government, regarding a will created by someone who is not a descendant of a Kingdom subject (on or before 1893) but who has made provisions for transferring ownership of Hawaiian land to an heir. One friend [a former lawyer–waiting for permission to use his name] talked about the initial seizure of much of Hawaiian land by (1) the U.S.-backed, so-called “provisional government” (an act of war) and (2) the later U.S. “territorial” government (there was no treaty of annexation, by the way), and (3) the “state” of Hawai’i. He said:
“There were raids on estates, the government, etc. I would EXPECT that these deceitful and fraudulent land transactions will be examined and evaluated AND, when good reason is found, that these deeds and/or other methods of conveyances will be reversed AND the lands returned to their rightful title owners, or if none can be found, to the valid konohiki of those lands OR, if not valid, to the government.”
Note: Wikipedia defines konohiki as “a headman of a land division or ahupua’a of the Kingdom of Hawaii who administered the land ruled by an ali’i chief.” This definition is in accordance with that found in the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert (p. 166).
Lynette Cruz, Ph.D., Kupuna at Hawai’i Pacific University, commented, “Might have an issue with title transfers after 1893.” [Update: thank you, Lynette, for correcting my terminology – “subject” is the correct term, not “citizen.”]
In present day Hawai’i, complex discussions of the validity of land title after 1893, based on the Hague World Court of Arbitration’s affirmation of the continuing existence of the Hawaiian Kingdom (but not the government) as per Larsen Vs. the Hawaiian Kingdom, have featured in some cases of foreclosures and defective title.
Unknown to the Hermits, however, forces even more complex and mysterious than Hawai’i land title matters will soon force them into an even more complicated relationship to the question, “Should I stay or should I go?”
Oyster Olson is a resident of the fictitious Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective near Pahoa, Hawai’i Island. He is one of twelve “hermits” (musicians, artists, and oddballs) invited to live at the intentional community by the founder, winery heiress Ginger Croom. At the beginning of the book, Oyster has been a resident at the farm for about six years. And he’s probably the most introverted member of the community at that point.
Oyster didn’t start out in my mind as a main character in my work of fantasy fiction, but he, along with Tomma Bedlam and Babe Bump, have grown to become the three main human protagonists. Babe does most of the first person narration, but Oyster and Tomma also narrate chapters, and the friendship between the three is one of my major pleasures in writing this story.
At the start of the book, Oyster is shy, reserved, and somewhat unfocused–unless he’s playing music! In the second chapter, during the farm’s monthly “Community Emergency Response Training” (CERT) drill, Oyster has trouble remembering the meaning of the triage colors* (red, yellow, green) as Tomma, participating as a mock “disaster victim,” is carried to the medical tarp on a repurposed surfboard. Babe notices his distraction, but also takes note of his “swoony” brown eyes.
Oyster is a talented multi-instrumentalist. He plays blues harp (harmonica), synthesizer, keyboards, and even harpsichord, with The Incredible Unstrung Band (the farm band). While skilled on keyboards, his real joy is playing the blues on his harp. At one point in the book he’s delighted to find that Babe recognizes a Charlie Musselwhite tune that he’s playing (Sorcerer’s Dream). Babe, a neo-burlesque artiste, tells Oyster that she’s been a fan of Musselwhite since her teens, and that blues and burlesque go together like “poke and poi.”
Oyster is a transgender man. He’s been keeping this private at Hermitville for personal reasons, but eventually confides in Babe, who is very out as an intersex rights activist. (Tomma, a gender variant person with ze/zir pronouns, figured out Oyster’s secret on zir own, but discreetly never mentioned it.) One wonders why Oyster didn’t confide in Babe and Tomma before, but as I said earlier, the guy is shy!
Oyster’s growth in the book is a result of his growing friendship and intimacy with Babe and Tomma, along with his training in magical arts, and through the magical, multi-dimensional challenges and dangers they all face together.
I 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.