July 2020 Progress

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Creative Commons/Wellcome Images. A grotto containing a magic circle, books and mythical creatures. Etching by J. Vezzani after G. Rocchetti.

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 updated my lists of Elven (ala Tolkien) names and words; plus revised the list of 29 genders of the Elf world; and sorted and organized several 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.

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Mourning Ahalanui Warm Pond

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Yesterday, July 12, 2018, Tutu Pele covered the Ahalanui Warm Pond and park with lava, along with the neighboring Kua O Ka La Hawaiian language charter school. “Green Lake,” Kapoho Bay, the Wai’opae tide pools, and hundreds of homes have already been covered since early May. Ahalanui, warmed by volcanic steam, was a much loved place in Puna. Here’s a scene from the book that takes place at Ahalanui — based on a real incident.

Excerpt from Chapter 27

When I woke early next morning I felt the urge to swim. I took off by myself, fifteen miles an hour along a very narrow road that would eventually take me to the Ahalanui warm pond, a large brackish pool heated by volcanic steam. The road was deserted so I drove as slowly as I wanted. At times I drove under canopies of centenarian mangoes and the invasive albizia, while hala trees corkscrewed up through tangles of ferns. Large leafy vines and hanging tendrils were sometimes long enough to smack my windshield. I had Aryeh Frankfurter’s Harp Songs of the Midnight Sun on the CD player, and the music gave me the feeling of traveling through a faery land. At times the thick green landscape would open to an occasional glimpse of ocean breakers or sun-baked fields of the most recent lava flow. I was in no mood for conversation so I passed the hitchhiking couple (he in dreads and shorts, she in a light blue dress and a backpack). I felt a little guilty but I also knew what I needed. I needed to wash myself free of everything that had “stuck” from the last several days. And for that, I needed to be by myself.

Once in the pond, I swam past clusters of talking people. I wanted to escape their voices so I swam to the back edge of the pond where a narrow channel admits the waves. I clung to my favorite underwater rock and went limp, swaying like kelp in the current. I had no thoughts, just let my body move with the current. Sometimes I looked at the bottom of the pool as the water cleared, noticing the bleached coral fragments and rounded lava pebbles. But then a bearded man with a blotchy sunburn swam past me, positioned himself directly in the channel and began (for some unaccountable reason) to lift large rocks from the bottom of the pond and fling them aside. Each flung rock made a loud splash and a clunk as it knocked against the other rocks. I tried to maintain the feeling of serenity that I’d brought to the pond but it was impossible. Though he didn’t seem exactly angry, I experienced his actions as hostile and disturbing. I swam to another part of the pond but couldn’t recapture my serenity.

Away from “my” rock, I floated on my back for a few minutes more, looking at the clouds and palm fronds above. Then I decided I’d had enough. I like to be there early and when people start bringing styrofoam “noodles” and sunscreen (or start chucking rocks), it’s time to go.

Driving home, I felt some of my earlier peace. Again the road was untravelled, except for a single bicyclist. I could fall under the spell of greenery and birdsong. I remembered the professor’s words, “a green and pleasant land” and wondered if anywhere else could be as green and pleasant as this road? It was so beautiful and remote, no longer “mine.” I realized I was saying good-bye.

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Kapoho Tidepools, Robert Linsdell from St. Andrews, Canada, 29 October 2014, 11:33. Creative Commons.

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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 August 31, 2020: My understanding of my characters has deepened 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. There are many roles for BIPOC actors as well.

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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This trilogy is 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 [Narrator] – Intersex, pansexual. 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!

Fantasy casting – I’ve always imagined 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.

• Tomma Bedlam [Narrator] – Gender fluid/non-binary, pansexual. Prounouns are ze and zir. 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.

Fantasy casting – Lately I’ve been realizing that Disasterina (Dragula, Dr. Sado), created and performed by Treiops Treyfid, has the emotional range, physicality, and over-the-top 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!

• Oyster Olson [Narrator] – trans man, asexual, pan-romantic. Multi-instrumental musician with a particular fondness for blues harp.

Fantasy casting – Imagining Will Krisanda who played Max in the Brothers series, but slightly gothy and 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.

• Aarrf Perry – Gender queer (they/them) “human puppy” who is head of Hermitville security and disaster prep. Aarrf is “a stray” looking for a master/mistress as the book opens.

Fantasy casting – This character requires 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 gay man, photographer and personal trainer. Always looks buffed and well-groomed (in contrast to some of Hermitville’s other residents). He was a long-time resident of San Francisco prior to moving to Hermitville. He’s also Sidley Croom’s ex.

Fantasy casting – This is a role for a Black man. I originally imagined Chiwetel Ejiofor, because he can pretty much do anything as an actor and I love him. However, there are several actors who could do wonderful things with Joe’s character. There’s no reason a trans man couldn’t be cast as Joe.

• Glysandra Shakti Om – Cisgender woman, hetero, hippy neo-tantra instructor. Glysandra can be clueless but also overly sincere and earnest. A bit of a tantric femme fatale.

Fantasy casting – I originally imagined Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders), as she is so sexually compelling. But there is no reason a trans woman or drag performer couldn’t be cast in this role.  Victoria Elizabeth Black would be amazing.

• Maximus Gordon – Cisgender man, hetero, polyamorous, kinky, musician and singer. He is tall, strong, has gravitas. Maximus is a former folk singer. His ex-wife and current girlfriend both live in Hermitville. They all get along, sometimes as a sexual triad.

Fantasy casting – This is a role for a Black man. I’ve imagined Maximus as someone like Morgan Freeman or Idris Elba.

• Sybil Perry – Cisgender woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. Maximus’ former wife and folksinging partner.

Fantasy casting – I’ve imagined Annie Golden or someone like her who could give off a vaguely hippy vibe. Doesn’t have to be a cisgender actor but would be great if the person could sing.

• Minnie Richmond – Cisgender OR trans woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. She is Maximus’ current GF. She and Maximus are a bit kinky.

Fantasy casting – This is a role for a Black or Asian woman or other woman of color. Doesn’t have to be a cisgender actor but would be great if the person could sing.

• Jennifer Juniper – Cisgender woman, hetero, musician and singer.

Fantasy casting – Another role for a woman of color. Doesn’t have to be a cisgender actor but would be great if the person could sing.

• Frank Talk – Intersex man, heteroflexible, musician. “Hipster” or gamer persona.

Fantasy casting – This role should be given to an intersex actor, preferably someone with musical skills. No particular ethnicity.

• Rozaline Rae – Cisgender OR trans woman, bisexual, musician/singer. Scottish heritage (plays bagpipes).

Fantasy casting – Imagining someone with a rock n roll 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 with lots of moxie and traces of her entitled upbringing. Seductive, charismatic. Probably a redhead. She and her brother are rich white people.

Fantasy casting – Someone like Helen Mirren would be perfect. But who plays the younger Ginger in flashbacks?

• Sidley Croom – Cisgender man, bisexual, Ginger’s younger brother. Sidley has a somewhat stocky or large build, red hair, and a beard.

Fantasy casting – Anyone who could be cast as an older Viking.

Elves of “The Realm” (Books 1 & 2)

Note: The Elves (Eldar) have 29 genders in their world, depending on their “element” at birth and timing of developmental “shifts” over the course of their lives. The Elves are all pansexual. Elf names are given in Tolkien’s Elf language, Quenya.

• Professor Osbert Almond (Laurina Eälótë – Golden Sea Flower) – Professor Almond is a Human Studies expert. He has a very complicated love life. A bit overly formal and stiff. Works closely with Fantur Nen and Artanáro Alma. Mentor (and more) to Oyster Olson.

Fantasy casting – I’ve imagined Tom Hiddleston (but more gloss and gleam than Marvel Loki) and Alexander Vlahos (Versailles). Almond is supposed to be stunning. Long dark hair is required.

• Parsifal Berry Blue (Lúnë Pië – Blue Berry) – Breadcrumb’s father. Like his daughter, he is obsessed with human clowns. He’s a big goof who forgets to tone down his overwhelming glamour. Mentor (and more) to Tomma Bedlam.

Fantasy casting – The character is 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 (Elemmírë Ohtar – Star-jewel Warrior) – Breadcrumb’s mother. Gothy, strong personality, physical (martial arts), a “straight man” foil for her husband, Parsifal. Mentor to Maximus and monitors Sidley.

Fantasy casting – At various times, I’ve imagined Eva Green (Penny Dreadful),  Jamie Clayton (Sense8), and Ave Rose in this role.

• Breadcrumb (Titta Massánië – Little Breadgiver) [Book narrator] – A “manic-pixie-dream Elf” who is in love with human clowns. Dresses like one. Ditzy cute personality, martial arts skills. The “commander” in the first book. Mentor to Rozaline Rae.

Fantasy casting – Character based on Angela Mae, a clown and bellydancer who used to perform with Gooferman. I have imagined her as well as Maxi Glamour (Dragula) in this role.

• Gingevus Sitwell (Lindë Sorno – Sky Singing Eagle) – Brother to Septimus. A somewhat outdoorsy role. Mentor (and more) to Glysandra.

Fantasy casting: Imagining Richard O’Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show).

• Hamfast (Nectë Morco – Honey Bear) – An unusually skilled shapeshifter, even for Elves. Mentor to Frank Talk.

Fantasy casting – I’ve imagined Brian Michael Smith (Queen Sugar).

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

• Nar (Artanáro Alma – Noble Fire Flower): Human studies expert, specialist in Asian magic traditions. Works closely with Professor Almond and Fantur Nen. Lives with “Nen” back in The Realm. Mentor to both Joe and Maxine.

Fantasy casting – Since I’m totally under the influence of The Untamed right now, I imagine Xiao Zhan (who played Wei WuXian), especially for his range, martial arts skills, and experience performing magic acts on screen.

• Nen (Fantur Nen – Cloud Lord River): Human studies expert, specialist in Asian magic traditions. Works closely with Professor Almond and Artanáro Alma. Lives with “Nar” back in The Realm. Mentor to Babe Bump.

Fantasy casting – Again, from The Untamed, Wang Yibo (who played Lan Zhan), also for his range, martial arts skills, and experience performing magic acts on screen.

• Septimus Sitwell (Irmo Arwë – Long for Treasure) – Septimus is a specialist in materializing just about anything, human or Elven. Mentor (and Master) to Aarrf.

Fantasy casting: I’ve imagined both Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange, Sherlock) and Hale Appleman (The Magicians). This role has some campy aspects and either actor could pull this off.

• Who’s There (Yéva Sanomë – Who Will Be There) – Another unusually talented shape shifter. Also enjoys documentary filmmaking. Martial arts. Mentor to Jennifer and Sybil. 

Fantasy casting: Imagining Vander Von Odd, designer and drag performer (Dragula).

P.S. I’d also put Vander and Maxi Glamour in charge of designing Elf costumes. 

Supernatural Beings (Books 1 and 2)

• Vesta the Salamander – This is a voice part.

• Nienna, Elven Goddess – A great role for one of Dragula’s stars.

Lucky LaFey & Family (Book 2)

• Lucky LaFey (Norse God Loki Laufeyjarson) – Yes, this is the Norse god wandering around Midgard as a handsome drifter, in search of his missing child. Long red hair, lanky.

Fantasy casting: Imagine Cillian Murphy in this role. Or if Hale Appleman (The Magicians) or Alexander Vlahos (Versailles) don’t end up as Professor Almond, either one could be a great  Lucky LaFey as well.

• Váli, Lucky & Sigyn’s Son – Teenager. Small role.

• Angrboda, Lucky’s Jotun wife – Powerful. Imagining Frankie Doom, (Dragula).

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

• Gyda, Lucky’s Witch DaughterMJ Rodriguez (Pose).

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

• Magnhild, Witch DaughterDahli, (Dragula).

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

• Thyra, Witch Daughter – The “punk rock” one. James Majesty, (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 trans women and/or drag performers. Not yet cast.

• Sophie “Socks” Lokisdottir – A transient human trans girl adopted by Lucky. Role for a trans actor. Not yet cast.

Bad Guys (Book 1)

• Anna Phylaxia – Cisgender woman, hetero, pretend “domme,” CEO of Anna’s Wicked Wares.

Fantasy casting – Bitqtch Puddin’ (Dragula, Dr. Sado) in this role. She can be super bossy.

• Stanford Lawsome – cisgender, part-human, bisexual, Anna’s assistant. Half human.

Fantasy casting: Reeve Carney (Penny Dreadful) with bleached hair and a spray tan.

• The Lawyer® – gender neutral (ze, zir), Elsewherian supernatural foe, devotee of Mal-i-bu Barbee.

Fantasy casting: 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.

Fantasy casting: Small role but Landon Cider could do it…

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!

Fantasy casting – Landon Cider could do it! Whoever it is, has to be immensely sleazy.

• 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 (they, them). Camera. Imagining Hudson Krakowski (Brothers).

• Eddie Sedgwick – Nonbinary trans male (they, them). Camera. Imagining Em Grosland (New Amsterdam).

• 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 Kamapua’a– cisgender woman, mother of two including kapu (sacred) child. Cast a Hawaiian activist.

• Uncle Iolana Kamapua’a – cisgender man, kupuna (cherished elder), age 70ish. Cast a Hawaiian activist.

• Keiki`okalani Kamapua’a, Namaka’s year old baby (gender not specified).

• Kia`i`okamauna Kamapua’a, Namaka’s ten year old son.

This “casting” is a productive exercise for a white writer to step out of a tendency to “cast white” or “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 or opportunity for roles than they deserve. This is also a bit of “magical thinking.”

So mote it be.

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“Dire Deeds” Story Set in The Restored Hawaiian Kingdom

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.

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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 five Kanaka Maoli families who have direct ties to that land and she 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.”

This means that when Ginger writes her will (and this is important to the plot), she assumes she can transfer ownership of this remaining twenty-acre plot to whomever she chooses, in the first case, to her brother Sidley.

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 very well be given back to its original owners, who are most likely Kanaka Maoli.

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 – Humble Bluesman Turns Wizard

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!

A_TransGender-Symbol_Plain1

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.

If I were to cast Oyster’s part in a movie version of the book, I know exactly which trans male actor would get the part. He’s a little younger than Oyster (who is in his mid-40s), but could definitely carry the role. He’s got the right look and “vibe.” Just add a few gray hairs…

*Red-Immmediate Care, Yellow – Delayed Care. Green – Minimal Care. When I lived in Pahoa, HI, I took the CERT training. I had also taken it in Albany, CA.

“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 book, Ginger Croom, a winery heiress from California, buys forty acres in Puna, and establishes the Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective. She gives ten acres to a couple of local 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 book to find out.

The book is a fantasy. It is 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