Collecting Readers

Reblogged from Mysteristas:

When my first novel was published, it was before the age of social media. Not that long ago, really. I didn’t hear much from readers directly. My publisher was a middle-man. I did get forwarded a letter or two, but that took a long time. It took a while to answer, too. And I had an option of whether to engage or not.

Now I hear from readers directly and immediately.

Like, “I couldn’t put it down.”

“Do you think that ritual in the end of Beneath the Hallowed Hill would actually work?”

That one stumped me.

This appeared on my Facebook page recently: “Like The Star Family? I LOVED this book! I could not have asked for more of my interests in one novel. Religion, sexuality, green energy, big oil, sacred geometry, chemtrails, ley lines, aliens, physics, trafficking, the Koch bros, ancient technology, and don’t get me started on the MUSIC! I could hear every note and each nuance. I completely related to Jane, wise yet naive, a pillar of strength and still fragile. If I didn’t have an enormous backlog of books waiting to be read, I’d read it all over again.”

Be still my heart. Thank you, Jennifer Knotsmed.

Or “Your new novel is great. When’s the next one coming out?”

I want to say, “Can’t I just lie here in a heap for a day or two to recover before you ask me that?” What a compliment, though.

Mostly I hear about my readers’ pets, what other books they’re reading, how their day is going. I learn a bit about their world views—all courtesy of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

The divisions have been removed. Most writers are no longer those mysterious beings who sit in their rooms and spin out their web of words so mysteriously like the Lady of Shallot. We’re present, visible, warts and all.

Is this a good thing? Have we lost anything? We’ve certainly gained the joys of hearing from more readers.

Fireworks: New Kitten

My blog at Mysteristas today.

“We fooled around and fell in love.” We have a new tortoise shell calico kitten.

“She’s of feral origins,” they said.

“Oh, but she’s so cute,” I said.

“We’ve had feral cats before and tamed them,” he said.

But we forgot about the Queen at home, a 10-year-old calico who has her own wild streak. It is my theory that cats allow us the illusion that they are domesticated. They hang out with us because, frankly, humans attract mice.

We separated them at first, like the experts say. The kitten had been recently spayed. Plus, we wanted to gain her trust before trying to get the two cats to bond.

Being feral, however, the kitten escaped into the whole house and hid in a place we really couldn’t reach her. Did you know you had such places in your house? We didn’t. The big girl waited patiently with an occasional yowl. When the kitten came down, she made her move before we could blink. Instant fireworks. We thought the older cat was fat and slow. Let’s just say kittens breathe new life into everyone.

Since then, we’ve had a divided house: one cat in one part, one in another, with occasional attempts to bring them together. They stare at each other, the kitten anxious to play, the cat anxious to put an end to this intrusion once and for all.

“Have you called the behavior specialist?” the animal rescue friend asks.

“Have you consulted with an animal communicator?” my meditating friend asks.

“Squirt guns,” says the vet friend.

We’ve gotten out the old spray bottle we used to help our cat understand the rules in our house in her kitten days. No, you may not put your claws into me. No, you may not climb the curtains. A small squirt will disrupt an impending attack. If you can get there in time.
Cats are fast.

Let’s just say it’s been a month of intermittent fireworks punctuated by long periods of stalking and sulking. But peace will come, even to the most devious feline heart and maybe even to the most thorny regions of the globe. “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

No, wait. Please don’t kill the bird.

Visionary Fiction: New Views of an Old Religion

Here’s my blog over at Visionary Fiction Alliance.

I think that Dan Brown, Kathleen McGowan, and Kate Mosse all write visionary fiction. They have taken Christianity and given the world a new view of it. They’ve explored something we all thought we knew and made it mysterious, something that needs to be investigated and re-experienced, not just accepted at face value. Many were offended by the books, others curious, but these writers have breathed new life into something we thought was already settled.

I was raised in a small Protestant group, the Moravians, who started off as revolutionaries in the fifteenth century, but who by the mid-twentieth century had settled down to an ordinary, garden-variety church.
moravian stars colors
As a child I loved our Advent Star and the Candlelight Lovefeast on Christmas Eve, and the brass band that would wake the neighborhood for Easter Sunrise Service, but by the time I was in college, I was looking elsewhere for spiritual growth. I didn’t feel a lot of “juice” in the church’s teachings or services. No living experience of the divine. My childhood friend who was raised a Baptist in a church just down the street, but who now studies Druid nature spirituality, said her childhood church was as real and nurturing to her as plastic grass in an Easter basket.

I did find a living spirituality through Vedanta. I began to meditate, became a TM teacher, and taught meditation for a long time. Besides Vedanta, I’ve studied and practiced shamanism, Wicca, and Western metaphysics. All these provided me with an experiential connection to the divine (sometimes less, sometimes more) that I hadn’t experienced in my childhood religion.

Until Brown, Mosse, and McGowan reanimated Christianity for me. They pointed me to the mystical side, the Gnostics. They showed me the Divine Feminine in a tradition that had taught me to feel shame about being female. I saw my ancestral tradition in a whole new light.

Dan Brown popularized the bloodline theory in his best-selling The Da Vinci Code, creating a big stir, even moving the mammoth Catholic Church to make a comment about it. Author and tour leader Stephen Mehler (The Land of Osiris) first introduced me to the idea that Christ had been married to Mary Magdalene, that they’d had children, and had moved to the south of France where their ancestors had continued to teach. I wrote about it, too, in Under the Stone Paw, but Brown beat me to the punch. Others had done novels about it before.

That kind of thing happens more than you might imagine. It’s as if our Collective Unconscious urges several artists to tell a certain story. Perhaps the universe thinks it’s time for some things to come to light. Why did thousands of people suddenly notice this idea when they did? Maharishi Mahesh Yogi predicted in 1979 that over the next forty years, the hidden teachings of religions would come to light and mass consciousness would move back through layers of spiritual teachings until the original, pure form would be revealed. Perhaps a less grandiose version of this has occurred, but it’s not 2019 yet. We shall see.

Brown’s novel led many people to reconsider their childhood faith. They studied church history and understood how human power struggles had shaped the simple stories they’d learned in Sunday school. They understood there were several versions of Christian teachings, each with their special gifts. Some embraced a more nuanced, informed faith. Others enjoyed studying Gnostic Christianity. Many saw parallels across the mystic traditions. I loved that my own tradition was as spiritually alive as any other.

Kathleen McGowan (The Expected One, The Book of Love, and The Poet Prince) takes the bloodline theory and connects it to the Cathar movement. For McGowan the Cathar teachings are the original Christianity, brought to Europe by Mary Magdalene, labeled as heresy by the Catholic Church, and then subjected to persecution. McGowan suggests the inquisition began as an attempt to root out the Cathar teachings. She doesn’t just write fiction. McGowan includes spiritual teachings and even Gnostic prayers. She talks about how to walk a labyrinth in a meditative way. Her books cast a broad net. She sweeps through historical figures and movements, showing us new ways to consider them.

Kate Mosse (Labyrinth and Sepulchre) also writes about the Cathars, focusing less on the bloodline. She takes us into the Cathar towns. We live through the Montségur massacre. Mosse doesn’t do as much outright spiritual teaching as McGowan, but her books offer us new ways to view the past.
montsegur-2
Both McGowan and Mosse use the idea of reincarnation in their novels. Certain spiritual tasks have been left unfinished, and those whose job it is to accomplish these tasks take a body again to complete their work. McGowan uses a legend that Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced Christ’s side with a spear, was cursed with immortality after the act. McGowan allows him to find redemption and thus release, but teaches a strong lesson in forgiveness and compassion through this character.

LabyrinthSometimes they tell very different stories about it. For instance, McGowan sees the Chartres Cathedral as a monument to Cathar teachings and Mary Magdalene in particular. Not only was Mary Magdalene an important priestess in her novels, Mary the Mother is as well, and she makes a strong case that the Cathars and others had a female image of God equal to God the Father. In Mosse’s novel, Chartres has been built by a group of dark magicians dedicated to keeping the teachings of Mary Magdalene’s sect hidden. In her novel, the labyrinth is not correctly drawn, emanating a negative energy. You can decide for yourself. That’s what a living spirituality is all about.

A few years back, I discovered an esoteric, mystical tradition within my own bland Protestant church, much to my surprise, involving poet and painter William Blake even. I wrote a novel about it because I was so delighted to find my own ancestors taught equality between the genders, practiced mysticism, and even sacred sexuality. That story is The Star Family, if you’re interested.
The Star Family S
These three writers made me want to read the history of Christian and Jewish spiritual groups more deeply, to view the art work of the masters with an eye to esoteric messages (which are there in abundance), and to visit the old cathedrals to see what I think and more importantly experience. This is visionary fiction—to bring the reader’s consciousness alive and make her seek for more.

Fireworks: A Poem

From the Mysteristas Blog:

Something a little different. Today I’m offering a poem I wrote way back in 1996 about watching fireworks on a 4th of July night after leaving a long-term relationship. I hope you enjoy it.

Another 4th of July

I am sitting again
in the dark of your yard,
waiting for the fireworks
on this hot 4th of July night.
I can hear the crowds down on Ruxton
answering the firemen as they shout from their trucks,
“Are you ready?”
holding out boots and helmets for donations.

I move to a better view and brush the planter.
The smell of a bruised tomato leaf follows me.
I never thought last year
I would watch these fireworks alone,
but only the dark and the smells and the stars
press against me tonight.

The first boom,
a spray of white light,
the waterfall.
A gasp
and then a cheer
rise from down the hill in answer.
And then we’re off.
Booms that shake the windows,
vibrate my chest like the bass from certain passing cars.
Bursts of yellow, red, violet
Screaming rockets leave tails of light
Corkscrews
Long arcs fall
then bust into showers
Mandalas
of light.

And I begin to forget that I am alone
As I watch those colors explode against the dark sky,
The secret chambers of the heart
climb the heavens and explode.
Distance is closed.
We breath together,
the crowd lining the streets three blocks down
and me.
We ooh as one,
clap our hands and gasp as
another explosion shakes the night awake.
We have become united.
Our desires run down the dome of the sky.
We lie beneath the Sky God, awed
as his seeds of light explode and swim
in search of connection,
the fertilization that moves the wheel of life.

Manitou Springs
August, 1996

Power Places: The Sphinx

The Power Places series are novels set in special sites around the earth. Power places are spots on the earth that radiate a lot of energy that uplifts or energizes anyone who spends time there. One theory is the energy comes from lots of crystalline rock and running water in the ground. Some say these spots are the earth’s equivalent to acupuncture points or chakras on the human body. Myths and legends collect around these sites. Often humans will build shrines, buildings or entire complexes around them.

UndertheStonePaw-99

 

 

 

 

The first novel in the Power Places series is Under the Stone Paw, set in Egypt, a land filled with magic and myth. The title of the novel refers to the Sphinx and the legend that grew from Edgar Cayce who claimed that ancient artifacts from Atlantis had been buried under the right paw of the Sphinx. This famed Hall of Records was due to be opened by the end of the twentieth century and world history would be rewritten. Since I hadn’t heard about this happening—who knows, some secret society might have done it—I decided it was high time and proceeded to open the Hall of Records in this novel. No spoilers. I won’t tell what they found.

Here I am in front of the Sphinx on my first trip in 1999.

Me in front of Tefnut

 

 

 

Many people consider the Sphinx to be male, representing the Pharaoh Khafra, but indigenous legend claims the Sphinx is female. She represents the great mother. Her name according to the locals is Tefnut, meaning the spittle of Nut. Nut is the sky goddess. You’ve probably seen her arched with her feet in the east and her head in the west, with the blue sky and stars above her body. Nut spit on the earth (bodily fluids were considered sacred then) and the Sphinx manifested.
When my character, Anne le Clair, first approaches the Sphinx, it’s late at night. She’s just arrived in Egypt, and they stop in the village of Nazlet el Samman to buy a bottle of water. She approaches the fence of the Giza Plateau, and there in the mist she sees a dim figure, a head looming out of the sand.

“She’s smaller than I expected,” Anne says.

“She’s in a hollow left from the lake that used to surround her,” Michael says.

Then a voice comes from the darkness. “You just wait until I get a hold of you.”

And trust me, the Sphinx definitely gets a hold of Anne in Under the Stone Paw.