Collecting Memories

Lately I’ve been reviewing old journals written at various times in my life. I’m quilting together a new novel and finding amazing little pieces that are just what I need to tickle my memory. What a treasure trove. And to think I was considering just tossing them.

There’s the one from my first writing group. That phrase calls up a critique group, but this one was a journal writing group. We were fledgling poets, fiction writers, and academics meeting in a yellow house in Seattle. We each picked a prompt, wrote about it during the week, then read to each other. I have a hyper-active critic, so I made a rule during this period in my life that I couldn’t cross things out. Because, really, my drafts looked like a redacted CIA document more than anything. That one thing helped my writing more than anything. Words flowed. Some good, some indifferent, some downright terrible. But words flowed. I learned how to just keep going.

In this journal I found the first draft of my first published short story, a list of what was in all the drawers in my childhood house (which people loved for some unknown reason), and a tribute to Beatle John Lennon who’d just been shot. I’d studied with the same meditation teacher as the Beatles, and the piece took me there and to that first record Maharishi made (yes, vinyl) that talked about Transcendental Meditation. I listened to it very seriously at 16.

Journals, DiariesAnother journal was from Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal Program which I attended twice. Progoff divides up lives into several categories—daily pages, dialogues with the self, dreams to name a few. This process helped me dig into myself in interesting ways. It honed my writing as I dug.

Then there were notes and writing exercises from two summers at Women’s Voices in Santa Cruz where I studied with the likes of Valerie Miner, Gloria Anzaldúa, Judy Grahn, Andre Lorde, even Adrienne Rich. A poem I wrote there was published in Rich’s journal Sinister Wisdom. I love that title. Did I realize I was in heaven, that this glorious time would pass? No, I thought this was how life would always be.

Do you still keep a journal or has it gone by the wayside as deadlines loom?

My First AudioBook

Now you can listen to The Star Family. The Star Family thumb

A secret spiritual group
A recurring dream
A 400-year-old ritual that must be
completed before it is too late

Narrated by David Halliburton. He does great accents, good emphasis and fun sound effects. I loved it.

Audible, Amazon, iTunes

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.
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.