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Oct. 21st, 2014

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Excerpt from Spirit Touched!

If you're thinking about signing up for my story subscription for December's installment, here's a free sneak peek at what's in store! (Heck, even if you aren't, here's a free sneak peek anyway!)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I crested the hill while the sun was still three finger-lengths above the horizon and stopped cold. Fear curdled in my stomach and burned in my throat. It wasn't that the forest had grown in the half-season since I'd last passed this way. Forests often behaved in ways one couldn't anticipate, advancing over this valley, retreating from that mountainside, devouring villages and villagers alike, or ringing the town with living, growing walls to keep the humans safe from the creatures that roamed the night. There was no predicting what the trees might do, not even the Summoners. To try was to tempt madness. The forest was closer to Midpoint Crest, the spot where I stood locked in dread, by roughly a morning's hike, and the nearest village was three days back the way I'd come. No one had mentioned it in at the inn, and so no one was overly concerned, but then why would they be? This close to our stronghold, the forest was more likely to be friendly than not. This close to our stronghold, the humans were more likely to be friendly than not, come to that. No, the forest itself did not worry me.

Neither did the moon-wisps roosting in the tall grasses along the side of the road. Their ghostly forms looked like heatwaves that sometimes kicked up on the broad roads during the height of summer to the naked eye, but the day around me was chill enough that knowing them for what they were was no trouble. Nor was I was not dependent upon only my eyes to see them. They drowsed in the fading sunlight, their eyes closed, their red-tipped claws curled around their torsos. I counted less than a dozen on either side, eighteen or twenty all told. This was a new tribe, young and small. It could make them dangerous; young tribes were more likely to attack something that they had no hope of taking down, and while twenty had no hopes of causing me mortal harm, even alone as I was, it would take time I didn't have to subdue them. I'd rather avoid it, if I could, and I had enough sunlight left to put distance between myself and the moon-wisps before they roused to their hunt.

What gave me pause – what rooted my feet to the road, kicked the bottom out of my stomach, and set the acid burning up my throat – was the blood-sickle brambles growing on either side of the road half a league from where I stood. The tell-tale glint of silver as the sunlight hit their leaves chilled my blood. The faint tinking of those leaves as they sought around them for food caused sweat to break out along my skin. For an instant I was fresh on my first solo journey, untried and nervous, with only my shadow, my eaglyn, and my power to protect me. I had years of experience under my feet since my first run in with the blood-sickle. I had confidence and practical knowledge and, more to the point, a larger network of allies at my disposal. I was close enough to safety that help would reach me before they cut my last breath from my body.

But, I had neither my shadow nor my eaglyn to send to fetch the help. There was less than three fingers left of sunlight. My other allies rarely ventured this close to the Summoner stronghold. None of the patrons at the inn mentioned anything about the blood-sickle being this close to a human settlement. Worse than that, I'd been traveling three days on this road without seeing any other travelers. This was the biggest, safest route running from Hell's Gate to Riverbend Haven. This close to winter heavy traffic would be surprising, but no traffic at all was just as bad. Two days ago I'd sent Mecklin airborne to see if he could catch wind of any news. Yesterday I'd sent my shadow on to see what she could find out. That neither of them spotted the blood-sickle meant it hadn't been there as recently as yesterday.

Which meant it was swarming.

Which meant there was not even close to enough daylight left for me to reach safety.

I stood atop the hill and gazed down upon my doom. Uphill and upwind from the blood-sickle, I knew that it was already aware of my presence. For all I knew its runners were already burrowing through the earth, racing to reach me, to seize my feet and hold me still until the long shadows of night freed the rest of the plant to come and devour me. It would follow, even if I ran all the way back to Riverbend Haven. It would head there next, if I didn't destroy it all now – root and runner, seed and leaf, stem, flower, and fruit.

Blood-sickle was tenacious and deadly but, unlike most of the nightmares that ruled the dark, it was simple. It was fast and it devoured everything in its path. It knew no discernment. Flesh and bone and blood was on its menu, as well as wood and sap and flower. It devoured wherever it went, and the land it left behind huge swaths of barren, cursed land. Nothing could grow, and anything dwelling upon the land for long would sicken and die. Even the beasts of darkness. Because of this, blood-sickle was destroyed where it was found, and in this, like in so many other areas, the nightmares ruled. We still didn't know how they destroyed the blood-sickle so thoroughly. We used sunlight, lent to us by the Five, celestial fire captured and distilled and injected into the very soul of the plant. Most of the time this worked. Most of the time. But it was always costly, and it always left me vulnerable for days, and I'd never, in all the times I'd done this, managed it alone.

Could I destroy it? On my own, with little sunlight left, and tribe of moon-wisps waiting in the wings to take a bite out of me? Could I eradicate the carnivorous plant from the world before it sliced my life away and took my soul into its gut? Or was this going to be the time and place I died? Was this to be the end of Caleyna Summoner? Lost on the ancient road between Hell's Gate and Riverbend Haven, picked apart by a plant that's plagued humankind and nightmares alike since the world's end?

I eyed the angle of the sun, sinking ever closer to the horizon as I stood and debated. There was nothing to be done for it. I was here. I was alone. If I did nothing, I was sure to die. Time was against me.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

If you want to know more about what happens to Caleyna, be sure to sign up by Dec. 1st! See my story subscription page for more details!

Oct. 20th, 2014

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Spirit Touched excerpt!

If you're thinking about signing up for my story subscription for December's installment, here's a free sneak peek at what's in store! (Heck, even if you aren't, here's a free sneak peek anyway!)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I crested the hill while the sun was still three finger-lengths above the horizon and stopped cold. Fear curdled in my stomach and burned in my throat. It wasn't that the forest had grown in the half-season since I'd last passed this way. Forests often behaved in ways one couldn't anticipate, advancing over this valley, retreating from that mountainside, devouring villages and villagers alike, or ringing the town with living, growing walls to keep the humans safe from the creatures that roamed the night. There was no predicting what the trees might do, not even the Summoners. To try was to tempt madness. The forest was closer to Midpoint Crest, the spot where I stood locked in dread, by roughly a morning's hike, and the nearest village was three days back the way I'd come. No one had mentioned it in at the inn, and so no one was overly concerned, but then why would they be? This close to our stronghold, the forest was more likely to be friendly than not. This close to our stronghold, the humans were more likely to be friendly than not, come to that. No, the forest itself did not worry me.

Neither did the moon-wisps roosting in the tall grasses along the side of the road. Their ghostly forms looked like heatwaves that sometimes kicked up on the broad roads during the height of summer to the naked eye, but the day around me was chill enough that knowing them for what they were was no trouble. Nor was I was not dependent upon only my eyes to see them. They drowsed in the fading sunlight, their eyes closed, their red-tipped claws curled around their torsos. I counted less than a dozen on either side, eighteen or twenty all told. This was a new tribe, young and small. It could make them dangerous; young tribes were more likely to attack something that they had no hope of taking down, and while twenty had no hopes of causing me mortal harm, even alone as I was, it would take time I didn't have to subdue them. I'd rather avoid it, if I could, and I had enough sunlight left to put distance between myself and the moon-wisps before they roused to their hunt.

What gave me pause – what rooted my feet to the road, kicked the bottom out of my stomach, and set the acid burning up my throat – was the blood-sickle brambles growing on either side of the road half a league from where I stood. The tell-tale glint of silver as the sunlight hit their leaves chilled my blood. The faint tinking of those leaves as they sought around them for food caused sweat to break out along my skin. For an instant I was fresh on my first solo journey, untried and nervous, with only my shadow, my eaglyn, and my power to protect me. I had years of experience under my feet since my first run in with the blood-sickle. I had confidence and practical knowledge and, more to the point, a larger network of allies at my disposal. I was close enough to safety that help would reach me before they cut my last breath from my body.

But, I had neither my shadow nor my eaglyn to send to fetch the help. There was less than three fingers left of sunlight. My other allies rarely ventured this close to the Summoner stronghold. None of the patrons at the inn mentioned anything about the blood-sickle being this close to a human settlement. Worse than that, I'd been traveling three days on this road without seeing any other travelers. This was the biggest, safest route running from Hell's Gate to Riverbend Haven. This close to winter heavy traffic would be surprising, but no traffic at all was just as bad. Two days ago I'd sent Mecklin airborne to see if he could catch wind of any news. Yesterday I'd sent my shadow on to see what she could find out. That neither of them spotted the blood-sickle meant it hadn't been there as recently as yesterday.

Which meant it was swarming.

Which meant there was not even close to enough daylight left for me to reach safety.

I stood atop the hill and gazed down upon my doom. Uphill and upwind from the blood-sickle, I knew that it was already aware of my presence. For all I knew its runners were already burrowing through the earth, racing to reach me, to seize my feet and hold me still until the long shadows of night freed the rest of the plant to come and devour me. It would follow, even if I ran all the way back to Riverbend Haven. It would head there next, if I didn't destroy it all now – root and runner, seed and leaf, stem, flower, and fruit.

Blood-sickle was tenacious and deadly but, unlike most of the nightmares that ruled the dark, it was simple. It was fast and it devoured everything in its path. It knew no discernment. Flesh and bone and blood was on its menu, as well as wood and sap and flower. It devoured wherever it went, and the land it left behind huge swaths of barren, cursed land. Nothing could grow, and anything dwelling upon the land for long would sicken and die. Even the beasts of darkness. Because of this, blood-sickle was destroyed where it was found, and in this, like in so many other areas, the nightmares ruled. We still didn't know how they destroyed the blood-sickle so thoroughly. We used sunlight, lent to us by the Five, celestial fire captured and distilled and injected into the very soul of the plant. Most of the time this worked. Most of the time. But it was always costly, and it always left me vulnerable for days, and I'd never, in all the times I'd done this, managed it alone.

Could I destroy it? On my own, with little sunlight left, and tribe of moon-wisps waiting in the wings to take a bite out of me? Could I eradicate the carnivorous plant from the world before it sliced my life away and took my soul into its gut? Or was this going to be the time and place I died? Was this to be the end of Caleyna Summoner? Lost on the ancient road between Hell's Gate and Riverbend Haven, picked apart by a plant that's plagued humankind and nightmares alike since the world's end?

I eyed the angle of the sun, sinking ever closer to the horizon as I stood and debated. There was nothing to be done for it. I was here. I was alone. If I did nothing, I was sure to die. Time was against me.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

If you want to know more about what happens to Caleyna, be sure to sign up by Dec. 1st! See my story subscription page for more details!

Oct. 13th, 2014

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A Problem with a Human-centric view of the spirit worlds

Angel joins the Wild Hunt

To enter into the writing of this essay with the pretense that this is anything other than a rebuttal would be dishonest, so let me be as transparent on that front as I can be. This (and a forthcoming essay) is, indeed, a rebuttal inspired by Erin Lale's Humans, Please Stop Misusing the Rainbow Bridge, published in
Eternal Haunted Summer's Autumn 2014
issue. I will not pretend that I did not find her essay thought-provoking or inspiring; clearly I have, and I'll give credit where it is due. It is not my intention to belittle or antagonize anyone's experiences with the gods or the conclusions that they've drawn from discussions, meditations, omens, signs, or any other such interactions with the gods. (These things are incredibly personal, can be deeply meaningful and fulfilling; it's not my place nor my desire to belittle these interactions) I am intending to share with my readers why, in my own beliefs, religious practice, relationship with my gods and spirits, the idea that we humans, in holding a certain belief or tradition regarding th the bodies of our beloved animal dead, could cause harm to the bridge that connects Midgard with Asgard, is at best appalling and, at worst, abhorrent.

To begin with, we must first consider: what is Bifrost?

Then spoke Gangleri: 'What way is there to heaven and earth?'

Then High replied, laughing: 'That is not an intelligent question. Has no one ever told you that the gods built a bridge to heaven from earth called Bifrost? You must have seen it, maybe it was what you called a rainbow . . . . strong as it is, it will yet break when Muspell's lads go and ride it . . . '

Then spoke Gangleri: 'It does not seem to me that the gods built the bridge in good faith if it liable to break, considering that they can do as they please.'

Then spoke High: 'The gods are not deserving of blame for this work. Bifrost is a good bridge but there is nothing in this world that will be secure when Muspell's sons attack.'
(1)

The above is the first reference to Bifrost from Gylfaginning in Snorri's Edda; there are more, almost all of which are in Gylfaginning. Other references in 'the Lore' to Bifrost mention instead, either bilfrost (2) or call it simply Asbrú (3). Whichever name we call it by, it is the bridge that connects Asgard to the upper reaches of Midgard, where it is guarded by Heimdall, until the Ragnarok arrives with the destructive sons of Muspell, whence the bridge shall fall. Going on 'the Lore' (which I acknowledge as nothing more than UPG with the weight of tradition behind it), Bifrost (or Bilfrost, or Asbrú) is not to be confused with Gjallarbrú, the bridge on which the dead travel to the otherworlds. Bifrost, as we read about in the Lore, is a thoroughfare of the gods – not of mortal kind.

Now – I'm going to leave aside the broader problems I have with using Snorri as a primary source without keeping in mind that he was writing post-conversion, and that he was a gothi (and not a heathen one). Neither will I touch upon how authentic to our pre-Christian ancestors I believe the concept of the Ragnarok it comes down to us is (I don't); I haven't the time to dig up my notes on these particular subjects, and I'm not all that interested in convincing people of my view on these. I'm not even really interested in quibbling over the actual name of the bridge, though I very well may in the next essay to come. What I want to address here is: the problem of, as I see it, the inherent hubris when we decide that just because we humans are human-centric in our understanding of the worlds that the worlds are, in fact, centered around us.</i>

Many people, in many faiths over the span of many millennia, have viewed human form as the pinnacle of animal existence. While dominion over the earth is a belief that is built in to Christianity, Christians far from the first to have such an idea (and the idea itself need not necessarily lead to abuse and destruction; there are many Christians who espouse the idea of sacred stewardship. Frankly, I wish there were more people like them.) So, this is hardly a new idea, and really, we'd be hard pressed to blame them. Most people see things from their point of view; why wouldn't that be true as as a collective, as well? But, one of the perks of being as sentient as we allegedly are is, we can choose to move beyond such a limited scope of thinking. Or, at the least, we can choose to be aware that we are coming at things from a certain bias. It makes good, natural sense for humans to be human-centric – to think like a human, to experience the gods like a human, to make sense of the world around us in a way that a human can. I am in no way saying that this is wrong, or even small-minded. I think it's natural, and I think that it can be useful.

I don't believe it is the only lens through with to view the worlds, and frankly, whenever I see a pagan (someone I rightly or wrongly assume would have a worldview closer to my own) speaking as though it is the default lens through which to view the worlds, I'm always caught a bit off-guard. I'm reminded that, oh, right, there are even those among 'my kind' that don't see things the way I do.

Caveats I need to include before we go further: I am extremely tribal in my understanding of how familial and societal groups work. I also do not see humans as having any inherent worth that is better or worse than other animal groups. We are adaptable, we are long-lived, we reproduce quickly, and the biggest natural predator we have to worry about is our fellow humans. I do not believe our success in covering this planet is because the gods have blessed us above all other creatures. I believe our so-called success is due to the four points mentioned above. Do the gods bless us? Yes. Do they love us, or support us, or have any number of beneficial feelings toward us, and do they gain something from forging relationships with us? I'm devoted to Poseidon and Odin, what do you think I believe? When I speak of my immediate tribe, I speak of: one fellow human, four presently incarnate felines, one presently incarnate canine, a variety of disincarnate felines and canines who come and go depending on the time of year and their inclination, two Gods, our house wight, and a smattering of other never-incarnate spirits. That is my immediate family, my hearth-tribe, my kindred. You need to understand – when we're playing the “who would you save in a burning fire, this random child or other type of adult person, or your dog,” game, I mean it when I tell you, my dog is coming out of that building before your brother whom I've never met. I am tribal. If the question is between a human I don't know and another animal I don't know, there's some wiggle room, but if it's between my family and not-my-family, it is my family first, and I don't understand the mindset of anyone who tells you differently. For me, species does not even enter into the equation. (Any longer. Once upon a time, it would have, and the humans would have had automatic points against them, just for being human. Poseidon has gotten me to the point I'm at now, which helps me be kinder and more compassionate.) Family. Not Family. This particular view has gotten me labeled 'cold' and 'weird' in the past – and worse – and truth be told, I understand that this view is not the norm.

What I don't understand is why humans think that their view is the norm, is the default set up of the universe, if the worlds are made up of more than just mankind. If the gods are real beings, if the land spirits and the water wights are real beings, if the various spirits that make up the various worlds – and in heathenry we have a very populated, very varied cosmology – why are the worlds built according to our specs? I don't mean to suggest a “if you believe the gods are really real, how can you believe/think ______?” challenge here. This isn't a “you don't believe the way I do and thus you are obviously wrong” accusation. This is me expressing bafflement without value-judgment. I literally do not understand, if these are all real and all not human, then how does this human centered ordering of the worlds and how they work make sense? This is me saying Why are our actions the ones that have the most weight? Why is it what we believe that effect the whole of everything, regardless of what other beings may be experiencing? Why, by all that is holy, would a prayer that is written to help people grieve for their beloved pets – in a world that by and large ignores death even as it's happening and has a pathetically unhealthy approach to the grieving process for our fellow humans, never mind the family cat – have anything at all to do with the structural integrity of a cosmic bridge that was built to sustain the heavy foot traffic of the gods?

For those who are not familiar with the Rainbow Bridge (not to be confused with Bifrost) : Just this side of heaven is a place called the Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water, and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing: they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind . . . It goes on in that vein (you can read it in full here) and the end sentiment is that, when their special person crosses over, they are reunited.

The conflation of Bifrost with the Rainbow Bridge bothers me, for a number of reasons, and I'll get into some of them a bit more a forthcoming essay (because yes, it bothers me that much – not in that I'm angry or mad, but rather in that the idea is unsettling and disturbing, and one I want to explore further, to better understand why it's so unsettling and disturbing). I could use this space to point out that, if only the animals with “special connections” are waiting on that rainbow bridge, and that they are only waiting until their special connection dies to then move on with them, then the idea of Bifrost being littered with the dead bodies of cats and dogs does not mesh with the idea behind this other, different Rainbow Bridge. I could talk a bit about how, if visualization matters, then the fact that the vast majority (if not all) of the people visualizing their beloved pets waiting for them upon a rainbow have no idea and no intent in visualizing Bifrost, it does not follow that Bifrost is at such a risk. It's very likely that I will talk about that more in a forthcoming post regarding the shit-tastic way our culture deals with death, dying, and grieving, and why I don't believe Bifrost can be threatened by this other, different Rainbow Bridge, but fixating on these two pieces of writing and using them to refute each other really isn't my aim here.

What is my aim here? My aim here is, in the end, to challenge our assumptions. The assumption I'm focusing on right now is the assumption that the afterlife of our animal companions is in any way, shape, or form, decided upon by us. I hold that all animals have spirits. It has been my experience, with the animals I've shared my life with, with animals I've held while they've died, with animals I've interacted with after they've crossed over (in some cases an animal I've shared all stages with; in other cases animals I've shared one or two stages with) animals are individuals. They are people. They are love and fear and pain and mortality embodied, and then disembodied, and they experience a wide range of emotions and ways of reacting to these situations. In my experience, they are not better or worse at any of these things than we are. In my experience, humans do not hold a monopoly on spiritual existence, and my belief that this or that companion of mine may do this or that thing after they've left their bodies behind does not mean it will happen. So, the idea that millions of people imagining their cats or dogs residing on this rainbow bridge while waiting for their humans to come join them and continue on their way to the otherworlds does not necessarily make it true. I might try telling Angel – the first dog I shared my life with, whose death was horrible and traumatic and exactly the way he wanted it to be (the stubborn ass), who has remained in my life and in my family since he left his body – that he's gotta go wait for me at some other location until it's time to for me to fetch him again, but he's not going to listen any better than he did while he was alive (which was only when he wanted to. I still maintain he was half cat.) The rainbow bridge is not something I personally relate to, but then, in my understanding of things, my beloved companions have a 'go directly to Bestla's lap' pass, so they don't need to mill about waiting for me.

Now, anyone can point to these experiences and say, “But, Jo, that may be nothing more than a story you tell yourself to make sense of what you've experienced, to give your emotions and your grief some structure that you can live with,” and I'll be the first to agree with you. Yup. It could be. Yes, obviously, I believe that my experiences with my beloved non-human dead being welcomed by the other not-incarnate members of my immediate family is real. We as pagans with (I hope!) a healthy respect and approach to death and dying, with an understanding that the otherworlds and their inhabitants are real, have the benefit denied to those who do not exist in a world where communication between the realms is encouraged or believed to be possible. It is one thing to say, 'my experiences are framed in a way through which I can best understand them.'. It's something else entirely to say, 'The ordering of the spirit world is dependent upon my beliefs! My animals go where I decide they go, and they have no will of their own!'

I don't believe for one minute that anyone is thinking things out to that much detail, that people are necessarily consciously deciding that is how the spirit world works. But I don't know how else to interpret the idea that, because millions of people hold in their head an idea that gives them comfort in their grieving process, that Bifrost (which may not even be “Bifrost”) is becoming structurally unsound. That the weight of billions of 'bodies' of dead cats and dogs are as troubling to this great divine marvel as the destructive force of Muspell's sons, who may or may not come. . . .

I find myself considering, all over again, what other people mean when they talk about spirits, and the spirit world, of these very non-human things being real . . . but being real, apparently, in a very human-centered way. Because I don't know if it means to them what it means to me. I don't think my experiences are really all that unusual, and yet . . . this comes up, and I'm taken aback. I understand that we are going to be human-centered in our understanding, by and large – what I don't understand is why the assumption is that all of creation is set up that way.

edited to add: so much for credit where it's due. Sorry Lykeia! Angel Joins the Wild Hunt was a commissioned painting, painted by the immensely talented artist Lykeia. If you haven't checked out her work yet, please do so! You can see samples on FaceBook at Lykeia Botanica

Notes:
1 14, Gylfaginning, Snorri Sturluson
2 44, Grimnismal; 15 Fafnismal, Poetic Edda, Larrington
3 15, Gylfaginning, Sturluson

Oct. 10th, 2014

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[FiberyGoodnessFriday!] I have a SOCK!

My first sock! My first sock!

This week, I finished my first ever sock.

Okay, sure, it still needs to be woven in. And yes, I haven't blocked it yet. (I'm doubtful I'm going to block it, come to that. There's no open work involved and they're socks). Never mind that. What's important is: it's a SOCK. That I made. From yarn! Which is just glorified thread! Which is just glorified string!

I've been knitting on and off since around 2009, but I really started getting into it in 2011. My travel knitting of choice has been washcloths rather than socks, because they are square. And flat. And square. I've done scarves and I've done mittens and I've done fingerless gloves. I've started a blanket (that sits, waiting to be finished, because it was for my grandmother, and then she died, and I'm only just now getting to a place where I can think about finishing it and just keeping it for me.) (Which is sad, because it's beautifully soft organic cotton yarn, blues and greens, and delicious to the touch.)

I've a friend who has participated in Blue Moon Fiberarts Rockin' Sock Club for a number of years, and in 2012 I decided that was the year I would Conquer Socks! Because there was no way in hell I could afford their club price, she set along a skein of sock yarn, a pattern, the needles I would need, and a carry-case, in a super thoughtful and sweet Yule gift. And, I tried. I did. I cast on, and I got to knitting! I made it to the heel the first time, set the project down, and when I came back to it months later, completely forgot where I'd left off, and had to start over again.

The second time I made it further, but not yet out of the heel flap, when I decided I wanted to alter the pattern. Didn't matter that I hadn't ever finished a sock and had no working knowledge of the steps, techniques, etc. Oh, no. I was going to use a different way to decrease than what the pattern called for . . .

So then I had to rip out and start over again. I bought a sock loom and thought: I'll do them this way! Except, I really dislike the sock loom. Part of knitting, for me, is its portability. Still, I made some progress with that, then slipped a stitch. I unwound the yarn from the loom, put the yarn away, and vowed I'd never attempt socks again.

Months later when I came back to the project, I decided the sock yarn was too thin; maybe I'd try worsted weight instead. I like chunky socks, and it would at least make it easier to see the stitches. I was terrified of this whole "pick up stitches" concept looming in my future. Also, the yarn was pretty dark; maybe I'd get a lighter color going forward. First I picked up some bamboo yarn -- way, *way* too slippery, omg, for the first time doing a sock (take four?). Then I decided, cotton! Some nice, worsted weight cotton for a chunky summer sock! And I made it far with that one! The furthest! I made it through all my heel decreases, and then stopped, terrified of those stitches waiting for me to come along and pick them up.

And then all knitting stopped. I've been working a lot on my writing this year, and so I haven't been making time for knitting at all . . . until June, when I decided enough was enough. I missed the needles in my hands, I was tired of not having done socks. Furthermore, I didn't want to do sock yarn weight socks -- I *did* want chunky, worsted weight socks, because I wanted the sense of having gotten them done fairly quickly. But neither did I want anything other than wool for this sock, darn it. Just wool. No nylon, no anything else. Wool. Pretty, heritage breed wool, hand dyed if not hand-spun. So, when Black Sheep rolled around, I purchased two hanks of yarn in two different colors, came home, found a new pattern (to start fresh, and to maybe find something a bit more simple), cast on, and began again.

I made it almost to the end of the short cuff before setting it down for a few months. No biggy: after the cuff came about two or three inches of stockinette. Easy-peasey to pick up again. And when I did? I kept going.

Having managed to make two pairs of mittens over the winter, picking up stitches was less terrifying. I realized that much of knitting -- especially when you're not dealing with colorwork (or: hooray for variegated yarn!) -- is about making it work more or less the way it's supposed to work. There isn't an exact science to picking up stitches. You want to aim for making there be smaller spaces between yarn, rather than larger, but so long as you end up with the amount of stitches on your needles that you need, you're good to go. Having to pick up six or ten stitches for thumb gussets prepared me for having to pick up twenty stitches for foot gussets. Woohoo!

It's a beautiful sock in that the color (triple berry pie!) is gorgeous, and in that I made it out of string, and in that it's wool and warm and for Beth (more on that in my forthcoming pattern review post) and I learned the kitchener stitch. It's simple, and the kitchener stitch is rough (watch the videos before you attempt your first along with them. I discovered halfway through one that it wasn't going to work, and I'd already committed six of my twenty stitches to it) and it's a bit lumpy in places . . . I had to rip out once and get back onto the needles, and I knit wild without stitch markers or row counting, so that was intense! I'm still not sure I managed to get all the needles back on the same active row or not, but in the end it didn't matter much.

And now, Beth has socks! Or, a sock. One warm foot . . . .

Jul. 17th, 2014

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Story Subscription is Live!

I'm realizing I neglected to post about this here last month! (So much social media, so little memory capacity!)

There was an amazing amount of positive feedback with regards to the story subscription idea, so I've gone ahead and started it. I am so excited about this, and more to the point, the stories that have been waiting in queue to have their day in the sun are excited about this. The noise pollution inside my head is quite loud. (I joke.)(Mostly.) There are so many that I've kept putting off and putting off, until I had "time to write them," and now I have a very valid, not-just-for-me excuse to take that time and make them happen! Hooray!

A brief rundown: this is a pay what you want, $5 minimum offer, for which you will receive (in either .EPUB, .MOBI, or text) a story or story installment of at least 4,000 words. (This is roughly 8 pages). These are original, previously unpublished stories that you get to see first. The first four installments are part of a novella, primarily because I adore this novella but also because this is a new approach for me and I wanted to give myself some breathing room while I wrote more stories and had dental work done. Which is the entire reason I started this in the first place -- a surprise dental bill that I do not have the means to pay otherwise. You can read all about it, as well as learn about the other offers available, here.

What's important to know right now is even though the first four installments are part of one story, it is not too late to get involved!

I email you the installment on the first of the month, but if you're just hearing about this or if you're just deciding you want in, you can still sign up! Simply comment as you pay that you are purchasing the first installment, or send along $10 to receive both the first and the second installment. Please don't forget to mention which format you prefer!

Remember, you can also pay in advance for a number of installments. Some people have opted to pay for four or six months in advance, and you can, too!

Please tell me what you're paying for. Because this is a pay what you want offer, some people are opting to pay more for single installments. If you don't specify what you're buying, I'm going to assume that you're opting to pay a bit more for the single installment.

I am blown away by the positive response this project has received. To everyone who has already opted in, thank you so very much. To everyone interested, check out some of my fiction available over at Eternal Haunted Summer and see if my style is to your taste!

May. 20th, 2014

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Any takers in a monthly short story subscription deal?

I'm cross posting this from other places, just in case there are people reading along here that don't read along elsewhere. Also, holy changes to LJ, batman!

So, I have a proposal, and I need input from you!

Yesterday I got a new, surprise dental estimate for work that really needs to get done, and I'm staggered. This new bill is going to give us roughly $37 of wiggle room left, on a monthy basis, for the next year and a half. This is scaring the bejezus out of me.

I'm thinking I'm going to offer a monthly short story to people who sign up/and or pay on a monthly basis. I'm putting out feelers for this, because I have no idea what shape that should take. However much work I have to do towards formatting takes away from actual writing time, so -- Nook and Kindle formatted files sent to email? (in which case I would beg forgiveness for the first however many installments as I learn my way around the process) Create a newsletter type thing and put the work on there? Do I include cover art (more time on not writing, and it would be basic art at best)?

If you were going to receive an at least 4,000 word story or series installment from me on a monthly basis, would you be willing to pay $5? $10? Would you want it formatted for your e-reader? Would not having a cover be acceptable? Would people even be interested (as in, interested in the next month?). I can't think of any other way to ask for payments other than via paypal, so I'm thinking it would be a "pay by X date, receive story by Y date" sort of deal. I'm tempted to say $10, so that even if there's only three or four people interested, it's going to go a long way toward that new fangled bill, but $5 seems more reasonable. Heh, before today I would have said yes to $5 myself, but $10 would be a more 'let's see on a monthly basis.'

Thoughts? Suggestions? Takers?
Tags:

Mar. 24th, 2014

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Female talk to follow, read at your own peril!

So, it's coming on a year since I had The Gout diagnosis, and my doctor made noise about weight loss and/or better/more regular exercise. I worked on that for a little bit, but then I sort of said screw it, and I'll admit that since November, I've had a high wine and candy happy diet. *hangs head* Oddly enough, heart burn? Yeah, that's become a thing. Weird, right?

After three years of not commuting by foot a mile both two and from work, and after a good two or three months of a pan of home made brownies twice or thrice weekly, and two to four boxes of wine a week, is anyone surprised that my feet are starting to look like fat people feet?

Look, I've gone up and down, and then up and up and up the scale. I've never been a yo-yo dieter. I've done weight watchers, and I'm your typical it worked and then I gain it back and more poster child. Somehow I made it out of my adolescence with really not caring that I was "overweight." Quotes because, oh, I so was NOT. But I believed I was, and I didn't care . . . because I was already inherently unloveable, so what was one more thing? It never *mattered*.

While I worked hard to get my sense of self worth under control, I was pretty content with my size, because I could walk and i had endurance and I could run around with the dogs, and it wasn't an issue. I bounced back from injuries, I was rarely sick, it was good. I'm definitely in the Healthy at Every Size camp.

But.

There's this gout thing. And my back injury from October, and this lingering tightness/pain in my leg from that, and now my feet look like sausages. I'm having swelling in my feet more often than not. I've started walking part of the way home from work (1.5 miles) after going back and forth in my head for a year about how I need to walk half way or not at all because I'm wasting my bus pass if I don't? (Don't try to follow that logic, it'll only hurt you).

I've been doing yoga in the morning for the past week. I'm somewhat seriously considering working running into my exercise, albeit slowly. (This will likely pass after the first attempt, if I know myself). Once upon a time I had to walk to and from work every day. Committing to a quarter of the distance now shouldn't be a big deal. I could just pretend that I have to, on the days when I'm doing it. And really, that afternoon bus makes walking preferable.

I haven't had my period since January. Skipped it in October but I figured that was because of the stress of the back injury. This, with the combination of having a hard time breathing around certain areas of the city, and random pressure in my chest yesterday that was followed up by much burping, has me deciding that I, obviously, was having a heart attack. (Yes. All of those are clearly signs of a heart attack. ESPECIALLY skipped periods.)

I am insane.

Which is reason enough to go see the doctor.

If only mine didn't cost $80 a visit. Because, the dog with definite heart disease comes first.

Sep. 22nd, 2013

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Published!

My new short story Sanctuary Farm is now out, along with the whole, awesomes Autumnal Issue of Eternal Haunted Summer. Once again, Rebecca has done a fabulous job at getting material out there for us, and to us, and you really out to hop over and take advantage of her hard work and generosity.

She also wrote a review for The Fairy Queen of Spencer's Butte and Other Tales, which has me squirming in my seat and blushing quite a bit. A helpful review, too -- because the critiques address the fact that I need to not let things (like formatting tables of content for example) scare me into not doing them, and also reminds me that just because things are obvious to me, they may not be obvious to others. I'll admit that I formatted the eBook before I actually read many eBooks, so eformat aesthetics were not something I had much experience with. (FQoSBaOT is going to be getting a revision in the future to fix those things, just not until I'm into an editoral phase. Right now, it's all about Born of Flame, you understand).

I also want to push C.S. MacCath's The Ruin of Beltany Ring, which is also reviewed in this issue. Read the review, but more importantly, go and buy a copy of the book. You won't be disappointed.

May. 29th, 2013

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Call For Submissions for Odin Prayer Book, cross posting from Beth's blog ;)

As some of you are no doubt aware, over the past few years I have made several false starts at turning out a non-fiction Odin devotional and/or guidebook for working with Him. To be honest, this project has begun to seem increasingly untenable to me. I have never found the idea of simply editing a devotional anthology to Him appealing; I wanted all, or at least the bulk of the text, to be written by me. The problem with that, though, is that my own relationship with Him and understanding of Him has evolved into something so personal and idiosyncratic that it may not be useful to produce a book-length treatment of it; my blog writings may well be enough. And maybe I will collect some of my online essays into book form at some point in the future, as others have done.

But in the meantime, a couple of weeks ago while poking around online I noticed a call for submissions for a Hekatean prayer book, and I thought to myself, why not do a prayer and ritual book for Odin instead of a traditional “devotional anthology”? To my knowledge, this would be the first book of its kind for Him, and I think it could prove a useful resource to many, many people, from seekers to newbies to us old-timers. I will not be including articles, personal essays, stories, or “normal” literary/devotional poetry, only prayers, rituals, chants, invocations, and artwork. The goal is to create a resource book for devotional use, while leaving out the more controversial assortment of opinions and anecdotes that would normally appear in a devotional anthology collection. This does not mean that the the prayers in it cannot come from an idiosyncratic and possibly controversial viewpoint or framework, but they must be actual prayers, not thinly veiled ideology, and I am going to be very selective about what I include. I fully expect to be writing a good deal of the content myself, but would very much also like to include contributions from others.

And so, I am opening up submissions for Prayers to the Allfather (tentative working title), with a current deadline of June 30th, 2014 (though this may change, depending on how many submissions I get by then and how many of them I accept. Ideally, I would like to have the book out by Martinmas (November 11th) 2014. I will be publishing it via CreateSpace under the Wild Hunt Press imprint, with a Kindle version available as well. I cannot offer royalties or free printed copies of the book, however each person whose work appears in it will receive a free pdf (electronic) copy.

Please help me to spread the word about this by circulating the below Call for Submissions widely!

Call for Submissions: Prayers to the Allfather

I am currently accepting submissions for Prayers to the Allfather, a collection of prayers, rituals, chants, invocations and artwork for Odin. This book is not going to be a traditional devotional anthology and I do not want to receive any articles, personal essays, or literary devotional poetry. This will be strictly a book of liturgy for Him which I hope can serve as a resource for His devotees (meaning, everyone who loves and reveres Him) regardless of their specific belief system or approach to Him. Please see below for more details of the type of content desired.

Prayers, blessings, chants, songs, mantras, and invocations: These may be of any length and style but must be your own original work and must be addressed to/directed towards Odin/Woden/Wodan (or any of His heiti, i.e. alternate Names). Although these types of pieces can certainly be poetic and even be framed in poetic form, I don’t want poetry that has a mostly ideological purpose (ie, putting forth your own personal view of Odin in some way without the piece being an actual prayer), or poetry that serves a primarily literary purpose. This is a very fine and debatable line, and I suppose the deciding factors will have to be a) what He says about it, and b) how I feel about the piece and whether it seems to fit my overall vision for the book.

Rituals: I don’t want spells, but rituals that serve a devotional purpose: dedications, blessings, meditations, festivals created for or focused on Him, energy work, etc. There is no length restriction here. Personal rituals you have done for Him would be perfect for this; please email me or just send the piece for me to look at if you’re not sure whether it would fit!

Artwork: I would like to include Odin artwork throughout the book, including on the cover, for meditation purposes and general drooling over His awesomeness, including: paintings, photo manipulations, shrines, statues and other artwork created for Him, etc. Depictions of concepts and symbols associated with Him (ravens, wolves, valknuts, snakes, bears, etc.) are also acceptable.

Please email your submissions to: wodandis@gmail.com and make sure to put “Prayers to the Allfather” in the subject line.

Once again, the deadline is June 30th, 2014, and I will be the final judge of all submissions. You must also be willing to sign an agreement to have your work included, which I will email to you upon acceptance.

Please help spread the word about this by reblogging, retweeting, etc.!

Sep. 7th, 2012

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Brain is off . . .

we lost a kitty yesterday. More on that later. For now, go read my guest blog post over at Patty Henderson's blog!

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