Review: The Burnt Watcher

The Burnt Watcher Cover

This book was recommended to me by Nimue Brown, which kindled a lovely friendship with the author! I would say that any bias is unintended, but…

This book is absolutely in my Top 10 Reads of 2020. For a first-time, independently-published novel, it caught me up in its tale and I found myself trapped within its pages late into the night.

‘Five hundred years ago the old world burned and the Fear rose from the ashes and the Glass. Watchers knew the Fear and found the ways of fighting it, enabling the world to be built anew.’

This may be the calmest post-apocalyptic novel I’ve ever read. It starts long after the Big Catastrophic Event, and reminded me at first of Ellis Peters’ ‘Cadfael’ books: a spiritual man, injured in the course of his work and seeking peace and quiet, pulled into a mystery from a world he’d left behind.

Master Grey is a Watcher, trained to fight The Fear which destroyed the ancient cities and drove all survivors into the countryside. This is recognisably England, albeit with slightly changed names (watch out for the dangers of the M4 motorway!), with technology that is something between medieval and steampunk, born of practicality and without using any concrete whatsoever.

I love how Master Grey leads us through his world. He assumes that those hearing his tale already understand the foundations of his society, so doesn’t go out of his way to explain them – there’s little exposition here. He remembers events and people as they’re important to him, and so the reader is able to build the world he moves through it.

The Fear hasn’t been seen in many years, so the Watchers are now few in number. However, we soon learn that it has certainly not disappeared, but is working subtly in the background while humanity starts to forget. Yes, magic is present here, but in a very practical manner… and scoffed at by the ‘educated, civilized’ folk. Until they have need of it.

The author uses his own interpretation of folk magic such as ley lines and runes to create a very grounded spiritual tradition that quickly seems very natural. I’d be intrigued to see how the society of the book formed post-event, but at the same time it’s tremendous fun to figure it out myself.

There’s a few influences here, I’d guess, but all combine to make a fascinating world. From Cadfael we move to the Swiftian bureacracy of middle England, then on to ‘The Wicker Man’ (or even ‘Deliverance’), with shades of ‘Rivers of London’ and ‘Neverwhere’. I use these as hints, by the way – the book is absolutely its own creature – but if you like any of the above, you’ll likely enjoy this.

Before you know it the gentle pace has ramped up, and by the end is hurtling along as we read faster and faster to see how Master Grey will discover what’s going on, defeat the Fear, and how even more  damaged he might be as a result.

I understand that there is a sequel (or two) in the works, and they can’t come fast enough!

I love being recommended new books, and this is one Find that I’m happy to sing the praises of. Absolutely do seek it out.

The Burnt Watcher‘ is available for Kindle and in paperback via Amazon.

 

Comments (3)

Bricks

A YouTuber that I enjoy, Caddicarus, has been prefacing his lockdown videos over recent months by screaming ‘What is going on?!’ – because The World is Made of Bricks and he’s trapped at home. A (rather dark) comedy way to visualise his feelings about these crazy times.

And now, the world is slightly less Made of Bricks. We can go out! But after a visit to our nearest town a couple of weeks ago, we’re nowhere near back to Life Before just yet.

The feeling in the air was one of fear. Masks everywhere, I’m glad to say, and people doing what they could – I’ve yet to see any anger or nasty words, thank goodness. That feeling of tautness in the air, though, as if something bad (worse?) is about to happen…

The last few weeks have still been very difficult for me, health-wise. I hate talking about this really, as there’s always the voices in my head nagging away: ‘Oh, she’s off again. What NOW? You know people are probably sick to death of it by now. Why can’t you write something normal?’

These are absolutely all phrases that have been said to my face in the past, by the way. Which doesn’t help.

I’ve been wanting to write, but the words haven’t been coming. The World is Made of Bricks, and bricks aren’t very inspiring.

Then I think about this.

Years ago, there was a Handfasting where the couple used a brick as their wedding Stone, the symbolic foundation of their relationship. It was a brick that was part of the batch that had built their house.

Bricks are heavy, but they are stones crafted by us. So many people put tremendous emphasis on the importance of stones in magic, but those are usually of the sparkly crystal variety. Either way, stones have been taken from the earth that is where they’ve been formed, and brought to fulfil a purpose in our lives.

I write this in a room with exposed brick walls and floor. I can feel them beneath my feet right now. I loved this house for its natural floors, as I’d rather go barefoot given half a chance.

I’ve been feeling trapped during lockdown, and that feeling only worsened when I ventured out. I’ve heard people speaking of being ‘stuck at home’ as a time for reflection, and that’s fine, but humans are generally social creatures. We need to reach out sooner or later, if only to assure friends that we’re not actually dead or to go find food shopping.

The bricks overwhelming my mind aren’t safe places for me to hide. They’re crushing me, like a medieval torture. They’re preventing me from Doing, holding me in with the thoughts that tell me how much I should be doing, and how much I CAN’T do. This is hiding like a fairytale creature, in the dark of a cave, the opposite of what Summer should be.

The World is Made of Bricks, and turned upside down at the same time. Instead of being at my busiest, I feel as productive as a brick. I remember another reviewer describing how a story flowed as easily as a river of bricks (yes, that slowly). And yet…

People have been reaching out to me. I’ve been answering. Before I know it, conversations are being had – admittedly via internet Messenger applications, but I’m hearing how friends are doing, helping professionally or just sharing enthusiasm about a good book or knitting pattern.

This year has come crashing down, but we are slowly building it back up. The bricks might not look the same as they did before, but they are still the foundation stones to our world. No matter where we fall, the ground will be there to catch us. We can make our space what we need it to be. It just takes one brick at a time.

I’m still here. My inspiration is finding its way, peeking through holes in the wall, and I’m tremendously sorry for being so quiet. I’m doing what I can, when I can.

The world is changing and the new path isn’t clear yet. I can feel it trying to form beneath our feet. One step at a time, gently… gently…

Here’s that floor, and Fen, whose Gotcha Day it is today. Ten years ago, he came home with us as a tiny puppy. This is his room too, his safe space as much as it is mine. This is him right now, keeping an eye on me as I work. The bricks are cool on a hot August day.

We build our lives. Some parts are brighter or stronger than others, but we are still here. Some days that feels like a miracle, and I’m glad of how solid a fact it is.

Fen 7-8-20

P.S. I was also reminded as I wrote this of a song from years ago that I rather loved. It’s a Christian band, but take the meaning as you will. This is ‘Let it Be‘, by Superchick – a song about bricks.

Stay strong, my friends.

Comments (1)

Monday

I’ve never been sure what Real Druids (or Pagans, Witches or whatever) are supposed to do on a daily basis.

I’m sure you’ve seen memes involving Getafix or Gandalf. I rather like this one from Living Liminally:

druid meme2

Even that’s not been possible for most of this year, alas. Looking over my garden is kind of my limit for outdoor contact – or walking the dogs close to home. That’s something, and it’s more than many, I know.

Today I’m wondering what I should be doing, according to others. Because when I woke up, my brain decided to regale me with all of the demands made by others who clearly Know Better.

(They don’t. Some folks just love to critique based on a glimpse of the person they think they know.)

The softest target is my health. Lately this has been a real bone of contention, and apparently a problem for others as well as me.

Every time I post something about my health (read: my depression, anxiety, what have you), I feel bad. The voices gleefully squeal ‘Oh, she’s off again! What is it now? They don’t care, you know.’ Or, that biggest of guns: ‘She just wants attention.’

I don’t. I really don’t. I want to talk about how I’m feeling because every time I do, I get quiet messages telling me that being honest and up-front about it is helpful. I’m not actually whingeing; I’m striking a chord with someone stuck in their own dark hole.

A lot of what I do is invisible, thinking about it – meaning that it happens, but can’t easily be seen. Battling my illness. Working with energy, connecting with the world around, chatting to spirits or deity. Or – gasp! – writing.

Writing is sorting ideas somehow in your head, transmitting those coherently through my fingers onto this page. Broadly speaking.

But there’s also the jump to simply do the work. To get up, find the writing tool – laptop, pen and paper – and make the words happen. That can be as difficult as putting on running gear to head out of the door. Especially when feeling low, because the Brain wants to convince you that you can’t do it. You don’t need to. Nobody cares, anyway.

Shut up, f*ck off, I’m doing it.

A common piece of advice from writers is to Just Write. Neil Gaiman put it so well when he said something akin to ‘Put one word after another and keep going.’ Yep. Like running – one step, then another, repeat.

It is at once that simple and at the same time so much more difficult!

Here I am, then. Wittering on. Hoping that these words strike that note to inspire.

This Druid does indeed have Things to do today. They are Good Things. Reading through my students’ work; reading review books and preparing my ideas on them, answering messages – and seeing what happens as they day goes on! Last week, I worked on the upcoming issue of Pagan Dawn. New things come along all the time. Druid Life is interesting.

Normally at this time of year, I’d be so busy with public rituals, talks, camps and suchlike. This year is quiet, generally at home. But I’m still doing my best.

Try not to judge. It’s likely you can’t see everything about a person from just a glance or a Twitter status. Look deeper into the story if you’re interested; you might find something you like.

Let’s try to keep inspired, eh? Your story is just as valid as anyone’s. I’m telling my frustrating brain that today – now with an added topping of ‘Look, you wrote something! Not useless after all!’

Solidarity and love in these difficult times, my friends.

Comments (3)

Three Little Words

Words are not coming easily to me right now.

I have reviews to write. Articles. Email replies. I open the file and…

I know it’s not just me. Other friends have spoken of feeling ‘blocked’. I see books delayed, proofreading problems – even social media misunderstandings.

Lockdown may be sending us a little stir-crazy, and the mixed messages coming from those who profess to ‘lead’ us don’t help.

I’m writing this spontaneously, in the hope that it helps to provoke my inspiration, but also that it makes sense.

Words are the tools we use to convey how we feel, our intentions and thoughts. Some of us are more skilled than others, but if we take the time to truly listen to the voice of the writer, that sense of them can be found.

Sometimes, those ideas take more than 140 characters, or a small blurt of ‘Status Update’.

I like the idea of Twitter being the sound of sparrows yelling at each other in a hedge. Lots of noise, but you can probably determine a conversation thread if you listen hard enough. But it’s easy to be sidetracked or mis-hear.

There can be connotations you’re not aware of. A particular word may be unintentionally insulting. A phrase may be new to you, but tired and over-used to others.

A journalist friend recently said to me that the sentence ‘That’s a really good [or ‘excellent’] question’ is so often used by politicians, it virtually translates in the hearing, becoming ‘Now I’m going to talk about something entirely irrelevant.’ I used that sentence in an interview – and I sincerely meant it, because the question was good and new to me. But due to unknown overuse, the way it was received was far different from my intention.

I try to speak honestly, in my verbal words and my writing. Some readers assume I have ulterior motives, but usually I genuinely do just want people to see what’s on my mind! We hear so many soundbites and political doublespeak, it’s hard to discern what’s really meant.

Let’s take an example that we all know: ‘I love you.’ Sometimes easy to say, sometimes not. But familiar from books, movies, chit-chat or intense moments.

I’ve always found it hard to say. Because when I do, I want to mean it.

The first person who was not family that I said this to kicked me to the curb a week later. I think these words made him run, but who knows.

I’ve had alleged ‘friends’ say them to me, before doing things that no caring person would. ‘Love you, babe’ – then cattiness behind my back.

People now say them to me, and I know they mean it. But it’s hard to respond, because of the fear of what might come, based on past bad experiences.

I never want to do my dear friends a disservice, ever. Family can be more than blood, as modern folklore says.

Again, if I say it, I want to mean it – and for that meaning to be understood.

‘I love you’ means that I’ll run to help if called. I’ll provide what’s needed, from hugs to food parcels. It means you can be safe with me.

There’s levels of relationship, of course, but this is a powerful statement. I can’t say it frivolously. It hurts when those who’ve said it to me act as if it means nothing.

Words hold power. They are basic communication, but also deep magic and connection (why do you think it’s called ‘spell-ing’?). I would be so glad if we could speak our truth to each other and be heard, rather than twisting the words in midair to mean something entirely different…

I can’t guarantee that, though, can I? Because of those connotations and associations I mentioned above. The ones I don’t necessarily know about.

We can only do our best to convey meaning through these squiggles of sound, pixels or ink. We have to trust that those listening hear our intention.

And we have to act – and keep acting – to prove that our words are true. No matter if only one person is listening, or the whole world.

Our words can be powerful, or they can be meaningless.

I hope you understand.

I send you the love of a writer for those who read through to the end.

Comments (6)

Review: What Hell May Come

What Hell May Come Cover

I was kindly sent a review copy of this book by Crystal Lake Publishing.

The concept of this tale alone was intriguing to me, before I even began. What if the ‘Satanic Panic’ during the 1980s in America was real? This was the moral scare about Dungeons & Dragons being an entryway for impressionable young minds to discover Satanism, in case you didn’t know. Not the UK panic, which was concerned with video Nasties (all of which are now widely available).

My initial thoughts about the D&D scare was based on articles I read years ago from American newspapers, while researching for my BA dissertation. Worried mothers believed that their children were somehow possessed by their player-characters, or becoming drawn into the occult. For anyone who’s seen the D&D books of that time (or seen the television cartoon), this seems far-fetched, but it did happen. Blame the books that fire children’s imaginations in a way that the Real World never could…

Well, that last part is present in this book, at least. But this is no comedy poking fun at Conservative Christian parents.

If this book reminded me of any roleplaying game, it was actually White Wolf’s World of Darkness. This is the ’80s through a lense of nihilism, suspicion and kids just trying to survive in a messed-up world that makes absolutely no sense. Reaganomics translates to ‘every person for themselves’. Sexism and racism are still present, fear of The Outsider, money being the ultimate goal of life… this is darkest satire, but for those of us who remember that decade (I was one of those kids), this is an alternative universe that with just a nudge, could be our Real World.

We follow a young protagonist, Jon St Fond, and his alter-ego Crixen Runeburner, as they battle past monsters of very different types, but equal threat. Jon and his friends come from messed-up and neglectful families (each in its own unique way), and D&D brings them together for those rare times when they can be heroes instead of losers.

So far, so typical of how D&D was often portrayed. But as we delve deeper into Jon’s life, we see that there’s more to the ‘mundane’ world that he may have thought. A new roleplaying game that seems more obviously influenced by the occult, acquired by a dodgy magician in a strange part of town. His parents are acting suspiciously, apparently encouraging his sisters to dive into the worst debaucheries. And why are there cameras all over their house?

I don’t want to give too much away. This is a slow burn of a novel, and occasionally difficult to read – but the ‘money and drugs’ image of the ’80s is shown here in filthy Trainspotting-style glory. Everything has a veneer of sleaze, everyone’s corrupt or on the take. The occasional innocent is food for the wolves.

I was hypnotised as Jon’s journey took him ever deeper into the abyss that lay behind the everyday normality of life. More than a few times, I caught myself thinking ‘this can’t be happening!’ – but it was. This book throws any rules or tropes of genre out of the window, and bloodily carves its own path, dragging you along with it.

My only disappointment was that after the slow click-click-click of the rollercoaster rising to the climax of the story, the ending seemed sudden, almost rushed. Everything was concluded, but somehow faster than it deserved. I wanted Jon to get more, after all he’d been through.

But hey – life is tough. By the end, our hero(es) set off into their lives very different people from that waaay back at the beginning.

And this is a story that won’t leave my mind anytime soon, either.

Recommended, but be wary. Here there be monsters – and you may know some of them already.

‘What Hell May Come’ is out now in paperback or ebook via Amazon.

Leave a Comment

(Lack of) Routine

Years ago, when I lived in London and was a Proper Commuter, I had a routine.

I would get up, have breakfast while watching BBC News (my boss would often ask me about it), then head off to the train and bus to the office. Twickenham to Southwark.

The day would zoom past, always frenetic and full with a laundry-list of tasks, then back home again to prepare tea and try to relax before doing it all again the next day.

Things started to change when I began to look at Druidry.

Instead of bussing from Waterloo to Southwark, I’d walk along the Thames Bank. It was beautiful, from the stories painted on the underpass to the wildlife alongside the Thames. This and the train journey, when I lost myself in a book, were my havens from the madness of the working day.

Then came lunch-hours, spent wandering the streets nearby. Blackfriars Bridge, St Pauls, Paternoster Square, up to Pudding Lane once. Or, if the boss was away, a quick zoom into the West End.

I grew to appreciate the spirit of London. I don’t think I ever became A Londoner, but I appreciated the history living alongside the brand new, modern world.

Life events began to move faster – and I was caught up in them. A literal move, Up North to Derbyshire. And I find myself here, now, working from home as a Professional Pagan, unable to go out much because of an international pandemic.

That escalated quickly!

I’ve been thinking about how that constant routine, which lasted for several years, changed so quickly. My current day is much less structured, working around what needs to be done more than sticking to a clock. Dogs need playing/walking, everyone needs food, household chores and Proper Work.

The latter, with the move to mostly online, can happen from the first few minutes of waking up into just before bed (not constantly, thank goodness!). But I never know what’s going to appear.

That, and my own illness, which sometimes forces me to throw any plans to the wind and take an Enforced Rest Day. In which priority work can be done, but no more. Sometimes not even that.

I’ve had to change my routine to be fantastically flexible, in a way that would have seemed unbelievably luxurious to my old commuter self. I get things done, but juggling more than listing.

No physical spoons? Reading review books. No mental spoons? Yarn work, or gentle rest and distraction until something pops up to grab my attention and allow me to focus.

And yes, a fair bit of guilt over not being able to do The List and be working constantly as I used to.

I had an external office for a while, which helped. I now have a little office area at home – but am typing this on my laptop on the sofa. Freedom is a wonderful thing.

A good part of life now is allowing myself to go with that flow, of seeing what is possible combined with what is necessary.

I see it in the world around. What we can do, what is needed. Everything is changing dramatically, and long overdue. We have to allow ourselves that change, to try new things and see what works best.

Because that old system did not work. Well, perhaps for a while, but it was wearing me to death. I have no doubt that it’s done the same for many others, and changes are now being made as the traditional office 9-5 is no longer as essential as it was made to seem.

We’re questioning the structures that we fall into, or which are placed upon us. We are tentatively – or fiercely! – trying our own ways. Demanding to be heard, asking ‘how about this’, and considering our own well-being over that of a faceless corporation or state.

I have no idea where this is going. But I know what it’s like to listen to that flow, to be brave enough to go with it. Sometimes I mourn for my lost job, helping others. Then I remember how it helped send me into a breakdown. I would not be here now if I hadn’t walked away.

So no shame. No regret. No guilt. Each day is bringing something new, and we’re slowly coming out of the Great Pause of 2020 having had time and space to consider what’s important. Already seeing the results.

Time for change again, folks. From Commuter to Community… Let’s work together, support each other and make things better.

Comments (1)

Labels and Stories

I stare at the blank screen.

So much is going on in the world. What right do I have to ask your time to read my words? But the words want to be spoken.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved words and their power. Sounds, shapes, feel in the mind… so amazing.

And then I remember learning to Shut Up. That my opinion was stupid, laughable or just not worth hearing. People whose opinion I cared about deliberately turned away.

So I learned to stay quiet, to keep the words hidden in notebooks and boxes. To hide my tears, frustration and anger as it seemed others were allowed to speak – but not me.

Now, years later, I write for a living (sort of). I place these words with care, knowing that they might be helpful, interesting or inspiring for some, boring, difficult or annoying for others. That’s ok. I can’t control how my words are understood.

But I can control what I say. Tone, phrasing… and the ultimate point of Why I am Writing This.

Recently, the world has gone up a stage in madness. I believe it was inevitable – we really are in a Change Is Needed place right now, and such times are fuelled with passions. I understand (insofar as I can) and agree.

But our little individual lives go on. We try to help in our own ways, standing with our communities and hopefully acting honourably and with truth. Which is kind of what brings me here today.

I’ve often spoken about labels. How they’re more useful for the viewer than than labelled themselves; ‘Druid’ means something entirely different, for example, to me and then to a random stranger happening upon my work.

I’m seeing labels being used as weapons, as pigeonholes to box folk in, as titles to escape. Negative associations can be tough to remove. I see ‘protestor’, ‘looter’, ‘revolutionary’ being bandied about in the news, but each of those has an individual name – and a unique story.

Sometimes it’s easier to label someone and move on. If you’re not really interested, that’s your choice. But this casual laziness (and disrespect) means that you lose the chance to engage with something more than just a word.

It’s Pride Month right now, and I’m seeing so many different debates about relevance, meaning, identity and so forth. I’m glad people are still talking, sharing those stories and exploring their identities.

I hear them often, my rainbow friends. I see the slight nervousness as they speak sometimes, as if expecting a blow, or at least verbal abuse. The sadness, and then the joy as I continue to listen. Such a simple act, and yet so powerful – and I am honoured to be part of their tales.

Recently, though, it’s not been so much ‘they’ – as in, another person or group. I’ve been feeling more and more that it’s ‘we.’ That this is something I’m absolutely part of.

Years ago, I remember an elderly family member almost spitting at the television, they were so angry. Stephen Fry was speaking, and I wanted to listen. But to my relative… ‘Ooh, it’s that queer again, isn’t it.’

I stared. I quietly asked ‘What?’ He poured some more vitriol on The Gays and the channel was changed for the sake of peace. I felt sick.

I don’t understand that attitude. I want to know the person before I react to an amorphous group. And for this, I am myself a negative: a ‘wishy-washy liberal’. I’ve had similar bile thrown my way for standing up for friends who are somehow the wrong gender, colour, sexuality, nationality.

So many of us are standing up right now to protest this treatment. I can’t believe it still happens, but it is and we must. WE. Including me.

Difficult discussions are being had. Words have their meanings subtly changed and reclaimed. Understandings are being challenged. Normative thinking… may actually be a myth. And for those invested in it, that hurts.

I do sincerely hope that we learn from what’s happening in these times. I hope that positive change is crafted. I do my best, from my own positive of (white, educated) privilege.

I want to raise my voice. I am afraid of the brickbats that may rain down in response… but that’s actually always been something lurking beneath everything I write. ‘Who does she think she is?’ ‘Crazy woman, nutter, New Ager…’

And the worst, the laziest, most contemptible, gaslighting and negating insult: ‘She’s just doing it for the attention.’

I write and speak my truth as best I can. I try to use the labels that are given to me, as well as intentionally claiming some. I prefer Priest, because even as a child, I knew I was more than an ‘-ess’ stuck like an afterthought onto a man’s word.

I am both Priest and Priestess. Author and authoress. But I’m aspiring for the one that needs no ‘-ess’ to be strong and still female: Queen.

I will keep exploring. I will do my best to stand, to listen to all the stories regardless of teller. I will work to maintain safe space for those who need it.

And I’m taking on a new label for myself that I feel is overdue. Sod The Fear of reactions.

This Pagan, Druid, white woman is also Queer. Actively standing.

Let’s all work to make our stories good ones, moving forward.

Much love, my friends.

Comments (4)

Review: The Magpie Coffin

The Magpie Coffin Cover

I was kindly offered a review copy of this book by the publisher, but decided very quickly to buy it in order to support the author.

I rarely read Westerns. I’ve known many who do – often ex-soldiers, for some reason –  but while I enjoy the occasional Clint Eastwood movie, my experience with them is minimal.

I finished this book in two days. That’s only because I a) had other work to do and b) wanted to not consume it all in one quick gulp!

Salem Covington is an ex-soldier, having survived the American Civil War intact in body… but not in soul. We discover that he and his brother made a deal, and he has to follow through on that. His legend is notorious, and when he walks into a bar, the scar on his face means only fools challenge him (and of course, they do).

But that’s only part of the story. Salem spent a whole mess o’ time (yes, he speaks like that) learning what could be called ‘magic’ from his local Native tribe – and the tale begins when he learns that his esteemed teacher has been killed by A Right Gang of Bastards.

So because his deal means that he can’t be killed by any bullet except that from a particular gun, and as the titular Black Magpie he has to avenge his teacher’s murder, he grabs up the body (coffin and all), acquires a random sidekick, and sets off to fulfil his task.

This book has the subtitle of ‘A Splatter Western’, and yes, it’s gory in places. But I think that’s actually a misnomer. I’ve studied American history, and this book seems to nail the cynical attitudes and yet ‘interesting’ sense of honour held by folks in the (very) Wild West at that time. A war has ended that saw more people dead than any other in history, until World War One. People are doing their best just to get by. Violence is a familiar neighbour.

Salem tells the story, and while you sometimes get the urge to wince at his actions, it can’t be argued that he’s absolutely justified in what he does. He may be a Bad Man, but those he fights are so very much worse. By the end, I was cheering him on.

Given my limited knowledge of the fictional West, I admit to seeing parallels between this and the TV show Firefly. That carries an undercurrent of desperation as well, survival against the odds, and doing what has to be done, even when it seems foolish or dangerous.

The atmosphere, though – it’s akin to Silent Hill. The wilds of America are, to me, parallel in storytelling to the moors in Britain, or the forests of Europe. This place absolutely has its own character, and its own spirits.

Salem’s no hero, by his own admission. But he’s the one we’ve got – and by the conclusion, I was sad to see him ride off into the sunset. I very much want to know what he gets up to next.

The additional quirk of including Native tribal magic means you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next. Is the corpse talking to Salem, or is he imagining it? Does it matter? And if it didn’t, where did that bear come from?!

This is an excellent tale, engrossing and memorable. It deals respectfully with the spirits of the Old West, be they Blue, Grey or Red, and every character is well drawn. I was especially pleased to see some strong women arrive in the narrative, even if they weren’t always the most pleasant. Assume nothing about anyone in this book.

Absolutely recommended, and already looking forward to what this fine gentleman writes next.

‘The Black Magpie’ is published by Death’s Head Press, and is available from all the usual bookstores, in paperback and ebook.

 

Leave a Comment

My First Livestream!

So last night, I randomly decided to go live on Facebook for the Full Moon.

Why? Because I miss my friends. Because I wanted to reach out. Because I felt that I should.

I’ve done no public ritual this year, and very little private. Hopefully this would help inspire me.

I talked for just under an hour. The sky turned from the pale blue of sunset to black; the wildness of my garden filled with birdsong became full of flittering moths. People came and went, friends far and near.

Typically for a public ritual, things did not go exactly as planned. The Moon didn’t show up, for one! But the changing light showed me the movement of day into night, the gentle turning of the planet. Standing in place, yet moving. Alone, but connecting. Reaching out…

When I finished, I felt emotional. The house seemed so quiet! I absolutely do miss everyone, but I’m so grateful to the technology that we have, which allows us to connect in this way. Round a tiny single candle-flame instead of a bonfire in a field, but no less meaningful.

I’ve uploaded the stream to my YouTube channel here. Quite a few people who weren’t there live have said it was good company last night. Sometimes a voice reaching out, a face and even just fingers brushing a screen allows us to remember that we have friends in spirit as well as body.

Quite a few have asked for more – and if it helps during this crazy time, I’m absolutely glad to.

Let me know your thoughts, if any. What would you like in a livestream from me? I’m open to suggestions for topics and themes, not matter how unusual! What would you like to talk about? It’s just me talking, but everyone in the chat is involved too. I’ll hold the space if you want to come along and spend time.

Things are changing i nthe wider world, but it doesn’t hurt at all to take a moment with friends. I was so nervous, but I’m very glad that I did. That time last night was precious and will be remembered.

Much love to you all xx

Leave a Comment

When Nobody’s Right

Throughout our lives, we’re constantly trying to find our Selves. Who We Are.

There’s entire industries making money from that quest. Advice comes from every angle, how to transform your mind, body and spirit to become… what? Your ‘Truest Self?’

I’ve come to believe that this is actually the journey that is our lifetime – and even then, some folks don’t get there. That’s what Reincarnation is for 😉

However, it’s always confused me why some people seem to invest so much of their energy in telling others that they’re wrong.

Sometimes this is well-intentioned. Children are taught what is socially right or wrong, for example, and so society is maintained.

But what if those guiding hands are themselves wrong? Or at least misguided.

We learn early on that we have to trust in order to find out what’s acceptable (or not). Ideally, we also learn who to trust. Or who’s unreliable.

The real challenge comes when we grow up… and discover that our foundation was itself warped or incorrect, perhaps from best intentions but poor knowledge.

There’s so many examples here. The ‘I’m Right, You’re Wrong’ argument will continue as long as humans can communicate. From international politics to having/raising children, everyone has an opinion. Read any philosopher’s works to see more.

Different points of view are absolutely fine, by the way – that’s part of what makes the world interesting and varied. The problems arise when opinion becomes absolute Fact, regardless of evidence.

I’ve seen recently how difficult it is for some people to acknowledge that they might – just a little! – be wrong. The governments of both the UK and the US, for example, will not admit error, even when the evidence is overwhelming and they may gain some positive credibility for holding hands up and simply apologising.

Which heads us into Blame. ‘I’m Not Wrong, this person told me so…’ And thus we have (again, well-intentioned) random strangers yelling at others for being outside during lockdown, for example. One glance = one conclusion = judgement and reaction. Which may very well be wrong.

I look around right now and see so many people doing their best. Our current world situation is crazy, and seeing the truth is like looking through a multi-faceted lense – there are many perspectives (not least the multiple medias through which we get our information). So what do you do, when it seems that nobody is Right?

My illness has taught me to take a look at those Right/Wrong absolutes. What someone says to me somehow warps in midair, being interpreted by my brain in an entirely different way.

But I’m sure you know the sort of thing. What’s your immediate reaction when someone gives you a compliment? Do you presume they’re just being polite, or lying, or want something from you? Stop. How disrespectful is that to the person in question? Did they, in fact, simply mean what they said, and wanted to tell you something true for them?

If those who helped build our moral foundation were acting from a warped standpoint, we may well have become suspicious of everything we’re told. I know I’ve been gaslighted many times in the past – told that my opinion or understanding was flat-out WRONG, no two ways about it! When in fact, that person could not accept that I might be right… because then they would have to be wrong.

And back we are to absolutes again.

We are having to learn right now that it’s not that simple. Life is not, communication is not; everyone has different perspectives, knowledge bases and motivations. What we need to learn is how to listen, to discern intention behind the words.

We also need to stop ourselves from jumping to conclusions. I absolutely do this too, by the way, especially when I’m in a fragile place. The inner depression voice takes any opportunity to jump on its favourite narrative, of How Awful/Useless/Ugly/Unwanted I am.

Instead of believing that path, of slinking away to hide and suffer, is it possible right now to hide away for a little while… and challenge? Not from anger, but from experience? From your own learned knowledge, valid opinion and validation from trusted others? Of what you sincerely and deeply feel to be true for you?

We are living in a very fearful environment right now. People are reactionary, knee-jerking and lashing out with blame. That’s not helpful – we can review later, when we have more information.

In the meantime, is it possible to not just speak before thinking? To take time, ponder and then offer an opinion? To start a dialogue, not an argument?

It’s easy to believe our words and thoughts aren’t valid when we are shouted down by louder voices. That doesn’t mean we’re wrong. But we can take time to review, to see where that person is coming from, and agree or disagree. Then, is a response possible? Are they open to other views? If not, perhaps the best response is to walk away.

None of us are right – or wrong – 100% of the time. Nobody is a bad person for misjudgements or mistakes. Or rather… only if they continue to compound their errors by ignoring other possibilities.

I’m doing my best to listen to the many notes that make up the (somewhat discordant!) music of life right now. I sincerely hope that it becomes more tuneful soon. In the meantime, I try to do my best, so that my own notes inspire and add to the song, rather than take over and drag others with me.

Take the days gently, my friends. We’re still moving.

Comments (5)

Older Posts »