The Incredible Unstrung Band

The Incredible Unstrung Band, Deep Pahoa Jungle Concert. L to R: Roz, Sybil, Jennifer, Maximus, Maxine, Oyster, & Frank. Depicted via HeroForge.com.

Hermitville has its own community band, The Incredible Unstrung Band. The band usually consists of eight multi-instrumentalists, though sometimes additional musicians or dancers perform with them. The band’s playlist is eclectic, consisting of both original songs and covers from a variety of musical genres: blues, neo-vaudeville, classic rock, 1960’s pop, punk, psychedelia, world music, and more. The songs covered may be less well-known, such as Circus Contraption’s Wicked Fascinations and Susheela Raman’s Love Trap (both played during the Teatro Occulto performance at Hermitville, Pahoa), or they may be slightly silly, such as The Monkee’s Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow (re-interpreted as an early polyamory angst song), with Tomma Bedlam as a new lead singer for the band during their first Eugene, Oregon gig.

Tomma,as ze was time-snatched from zir gig in Eugene, OR and transported back to the Bump manor’s library in 17th century England, in The Perilous Past of The Guild of Ornamental Hermits (4th book). Depicted via HeroForge.com.
The band rehearsing in Lake County, CA, before Tomma joined the band in Oregon.
The Incredible Unstrung Band rehearsing with Tomma and without Frank, who has moved back to Hawai’i.

Rune Illustrations by Paul F.S. Bauer

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.)


Paul Runes 2 copy
Top to bottom, Nauthiz, Wunjo, and Laguz. Copyright Paul F.S. Bauer, 2017. All rights reserved. Please do not share these images without permission or credit. Thank you.

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.


Paul Runes 1 copy
Top to bottom: Reversed Berkana, Thurisaz, and Gebo. Copyright Paul F.S. Bauer, 2017. All rights reserved. Please do not share these images without permission or credit. Thank you.

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.

Attempting to find attribution for this graphic. Please be patient.

July 2020 Progress

A_grotto_containing_a_magic_circle,_books_and_mythical_creat_Wellcome_V0025853
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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From “A” to Ze

 

This is a coming out post. 

Even as a child I never liked my first name, preferring often to simply use the letter “A.” I used to think it was because “Amy” seemed too wimpy and I also resented being named after a character in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (yes, my parents did that). I began to feel better about the name just last year, after I discovered that Amy is also the name of a gender-fluid Goetic demon. (I mean, you can never call a demon “wimpy,” can you?)

Little_Women-Demon-_frontispiece-1

As a little kid, I was never an Amy in my imagination. I was Captain Nemo (20 Leagues Under the Sea), or Dr. Doolittle, or Sir Lancelot. I was also, often, a “Pirate Queen.” You see a pattern starting to emerge, right?

In my teens and early twenties, I went along with “being a girl” because I didn’t know there was an option. But I felt uncomfortable, never quite right. I’m artistic, intellectual–never athletic–so “tomboy” wouldn’t fit. I wanted love, so I became “a girlfriend” for a series of boyfriends, later “a wife” and “a mother.” I was and am other things too, but the stakes for success or failure in the gender roles were always the highest, the most precarious. As uncomfortable as I was in them–though I tried my best–I didn’t want to be “a man” or “a boyfriend” or “a husband” either. The concepts of gender neutrality, gender plurality, and gender non-binary, didn’t show up on my radar until I was in the middle of menopause. Yes, there was the old idea of “androgyny” in the 1960’s, and I was often attracted to androgynous people, but that didn’t seem like something I’d be able to do myself.

Anyway, there’s a long story behind all this and I’m not up to telling all of it now. It’s just that I only recently realized that the gift of being unpartnered for the last three years has given me the opportunity to discover an essential core truth. The truth is this: I have seldom felt like “a woman” (pregnancy and lactation the closest thing to experiencing that), though I’ve had to live as one. But I don’t feel like anything super nameable either.

I feel like…a creature…forced to wear an ill-fitting garment that hides zir true beauty. (And is the “garment” only made of ill-fitting concepts or is “the ill fit” more physical? Too soon to tell.) And so today I’ve claimed the pronouns of ze/zir, at last. I may not be able to do much about the ill-fitting garment, especially since the physical aspects are aging, but I can at least claim the right pronouns for myself.

On a literary note: Some readers of earlier chapters of The Dire Deeds have suggested to me that Babe Bump is my alter-ego. But though I’ve given Babe a number of characteristics and background details of my own, she’s not my alter-ego. My alter ego is Tomma Bedlam, if anyone is. Or perhaps ze is my teacher. 

That is all.

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Why I’m Spelling MagicQ with a Q

And why I’ve created a new social media group as a place for queer, trans, non-binary and pretty much everyone else who is “othered” and tormented by the soul-sucking, climate-changing, greed-slurping dementors of the world we live in today…

dementor

Since 2016, when I started writing The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, I knew that my characters would create a safe, vibrant place for people to learn and enjoy a new kind of magic–something that today I am calling MagicQ. In my second book (close to completion), my characters–including trans guy Oyster Olson, intersex woman Babe Bump, and non-binary Tomma Bedlam–are actively engaged in creating a new Hermitville Center for Arts and Magic as a place of refuge, inclusion, and empowerment for LGBTQIA+ people, and anyone facing violence and discrimination as a result of personal bigotry and systemic injustice.

Two days ago I learned about J.K. Rowling’s most recent transphobic statement on Twitter, in support of a woman who holds hateful beliefs about trans and otherwise gender diverse people, and who believes it is fine to discriminate against them. While I never thought of Rowling as someone who had great politics (I mean, she poured money into preventing Scottish independence, for gods sake…), I was startled and dismayed by her most recent public statement. I hadn’t been following Rowling’s transphobe trajectory but others have, as early as 2018 or before.

My kids (now adults) grew up on the Potter books–along with other, better works of childhood fiction. One of my kids is trans–and I will never forget how dismayed he was when he found out he was not going to Hogwartz when he turned eleven. However, he’s since claimed his place in the worlds of magic and witchery, and has even created a church for LGBTQIA+ people. To work for social change and justice is a magical, transformational act. This is the real thing, not make-believe.

Inspired by both my own kid’s action and the mission of my own characters, I’ve created The Guild of Ornamental Hermits group on Facebook, as a home for magicQ and its practitioners and allies. Since I am also a practicing witch, as well as a writer/blogger and sexologist dedicated to gender equality, as well as a mother–I can do no less and I also pledge to do more!

So, I say to J.K. (who also writes under a male name–go figure!!!) that in my world of magic and literature, she has now become “she who must not be named.” If she ever repudiates her current stance, and educates herself, and humbly serves as a fitting ally to LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized people, perhaps I’ll reconsider giving her a place on my bookshelf again. But til then I’m boycotting. I won’t be giving her books to any more young people.

#IStandWithTrans and I always have.

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QQ Excerpt: More Lucky LaFey

Excerpt from The Queerest Quest of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits:

To hear Lucky tell it, he’d spent a chunk of time hobnobbing with the poshest Sonoma county growers (grapes, not cannabis) and had known Ginger’s parents as well as Ginger. He’d lived on this property as a sort of unofficial caretaker, off and on, ever since their death.

“Why haven’t we seen you before now?” Tomma asked.

“Been away,” Lucky said tersely, through a mouthful of cinnamon-spiced dough.

“Do the Elves know about you?” Roz wanted to know.

“Well of course. I’m rather well-known,” Lucky admitted. He was now wearing a miniature donut on the ring finger of each hand, admiring the look of them.

Oyster rolled his eyes impatiently. Getting the story out of Lucky seemed to be a series of two to seven-word phrases punctuated by sounds of chewing. “She means, do the Elves know about you living here?”

“Ah…” Lucky tried (unsuccessfully) to look disarming and innocent. “…No.”

Tomma, who’d been staring at Lucky with blatant fascination, then blurted out, “We’ve got the exact same hair color!” Ze then looked embarrassed. We all laughed but it was true.

“Yes, we do.” Lucky admitted. “Also the same taste in nail polish.” He pointed at Tomma’s toenails.

“You, me, and every drag queen within a hundred mile radius,” Tomma replied flippantly. Then ze looked at me, “You know, this guy may be shady, but I think I kind of like him.”

“What’s not to like?” Lucky looked hurt—genuinely hurt. It surprised me.

Massive Max spoke for the first time. He’d been hanging back, leaning against the refrigerator, watching Lucky closely. “Dude, you show up out of nowhere on the first day that the Elves are gone, and tell us this story about living here, and, well, it can sound pretty fishy. Understand?”

“Okay,” Lucky said, “you know that little trailer in the garage? Have you cleaned it out yet?”

“Not yet,” Massive admitted. “It’s locked and we just haven’t gotten around to breaking in. And it looks like a mess in there.”

“Here’s the key,” Lucky said, pulling out a Thor novelty keychain with two keys. He tossed it to Massive. “If you go there now and open the cupboard over the kitchen sink, you’ll find a red mug decorated with a picture of a fox, a box of old breath mints, and the title to the trailer in my name.”

Massive was about to check it out when Oyster stopped him and then addressed Lucky, “You just materialized a bunch of donuts. What’s to say you haven’t just materialized those objects into the trailer?”

Lucky sighed. “How hard it is to be believed! Haven’t you learned any truth-telling spells yet? You could try one of those. I’d gladly submit.”

[End of Excerpt]

“The Witching Work” Has Begun!

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

Best_Buffalmacco,_trionfo_della_morte,_eremiti_02 copyIn 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. Now in NaNoWriMo 2018, I have officially begun work on the second book in this proposed fantasy trilogy–The Witching Work 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.

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QQ Excerpt: Lucky LaFey: Character Sketch

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…”

Lucky LaFey, aka Norse Loki, as rendered in HeroForge.com.

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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.