Monthly Archives: November 2015

Skin Spirits, by Lupa; Some Thoughts

I have been reading through Skins Spirits by Lupa , and I have had some thoughts that I wanted to share on this book.

First off, if you have any interest of working with animal parts in a practical/spiritual manner, this book is HIGHLY recommended! Honestly, I can not praise this book enough. Reading through this book, I found myself saying “yes!” and nodding along at several locations, and it is a wonderful to see many of my thoughts reflected in Lupa’s well written read words. Skin Spirits was published back in 2009, and the impression I was left with after reading it was twofold; First, “where have you been all my life?!” and second; “why did it take me so long to become aware of this?!”

Yes, it would be safe to say I am a big fan of this book. But all the gushing and glowing aside, there are some very good thoughts, ideas and concepts well presented throughout this book that I really wanted to talk about here. I come at this book from my own walk in life, primarily as a hunter and an animist. In fact, I have been reading it mostly while out hunting (oh the irony!)

In the first chapter, she lays out the reasons for working with animal parts, and I wanted to briefly touch on these from my own perspective.

1) To Give the Spirits a better “Afterlife”

This reason is very important to me on so many levels. It is something I have to think about whenever I go hunting. As a hunter, I strive to make my kills as clean as possible in order to prevent suffering. Also, I am spiritually obligated to the animal after it is killed. Call it a “life debt”. I have to make sure the spirit is treated properly and with respect, and that, should the spirit desire to do so, that it makes it way into the keeping of its ancestors. Lupa just adds another layer to this, and further adds to my intellectual toolbox. It goes beyond just making sure the “core” spirit of the animal is properly cared for, but also the “partial spirit” that continues to reside in the remains. These too should be treated with respect.

In addition, I have been trying to learn more about leatherworking, and working with the remains from the animals I hunt. Lupa certainly presents plenty to think about in this regard, and I will continue to mull it over as I learn more about tanning, leather crafting, and working with animal remains.

2) To Connect with Spirits, Deities and Other Entities

Bones, feathers, skins and so forth can be used as ritual tools to connect with spirit of the animal, or as Lupa puts it, to the totem of that animal. To keep on point, this one is pretty straightforward. As Lupa presents it, skins and other animal remains retain a part of the spirit of the original anima, and this can be used as a connection to the spirit itself, or to greater beings that represent the entire species. For example, Lupa uses remains to call on the spirit she wants to work with, such as in dance or ritual.

3) To avoid waste and 4) aesthetic reasons.

As these two points are pretty straight forward, I won’t say much about them. To avoid waste in a big one, and basically comes down to the principle of recycling. It is important to me to use as much of an animal as I can, especially if it is one I killed. That is part of the obligation, but it all just makes good sense as far as conservation is concerned. Waste not, want not. The other point is aesthetics, where in we concede the point that animal remains have a certain look about them. “Tribal” “Primitive”, or “Shamanic”. My take away from Lupa’s book is that while remains can be aesthetically pleasing, we should have other reasons for working with animal remains for more than just the way they look. Afterall, we are just talking about lifeless hunks of material, but the beings that still are part of those remains. Beings that are worthy of respect, and that they should be treated as such.

The rest of the book covers things like ethical and legal concerns, more detailed information about working with skin spirits, as well as practical ways to create items from skins and other animal remains. I am glossing over these parts for several reasons; first, it would make this blog way too long for easy reading, and second and most importantly; it is not my place to recap the entirety of another author’s work. Out of respect for Lupa, and any author, if you want to read more about these things you will have to purchase the work. It is not my place to offer freely that which is not mine.

As such, I wanted to focus on a couple of other points. First, I want to talk a little about “fake” animal remains and the real thing. As Lupa points out, there are several reasons a person might not want/be able to work with the real thing. There could be ethical issues, legal issues, financial issues, as well as other reasons. The animal you want to work with may be extinct, or may not dwell on this plane of existence.

In my own case, I work with wolf spirits, and so I am not allowed to own anything that would in anyway sanction the killing of a wolf, even if it is legal. It’s a spiritual taboo, and as far as the spirits I work with are concerned, it amounts to kin killing. As such, in order to work with wolf, I do have a faux fur cloak. It originally started its life as part of a Halloween costume one year, and then turned into a ritual artifact.

However, as in my own case, I am aware of how environmentally unfriendly having such a pelt is. It takes petroleum to produce it, and it will practically never breakdown (a few thousand years or so.) As such, I never intend to replace it once it starts to fall apart, and I have resolved to use as much as I can until I can no longer do so. Basically, to reuse it as much as I can, and do my best to prevent it from ending up in a landfill. Lupa has a more recent post on fake furs, which is liked below.

The point being, that sometimes we have to turn to substitutes. I have been exploring other options such as smaller items and masks. I have a few wolf pendants, and because of Lupa’s book, I have also been exploring the idea of wolf-shed (made from the shedded fur of live wolves) artifacts. It may just be an option considering the taboos I am under.

Thanks for reading!

Sources/References

http://www.thegreenwolf.com/dear-fellow-artist-no-i-will-not-use-fake-fur-and-heres-why/

Skin Spirits, by Lupa.

Find it on her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com

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Of Ice and Darkness, a Self Review

Overall 3.5 (maybe 4) out of 5.

I wanted to sit down and discuss my most recent release for a little bit. As far as purely technical points are concerned, the new cover simply dwarfs the last one by comparison. It is beautiful, and there is little more to say on that matter. Also, I went through the actual formatting of the book a couple more times, so overall I would say the appearance and overall aesthetic of the book has notably increased.

From a narrative point of view, I think that for this book the overall narrative quality has increased as well. While “Of Shadow and Steel” began life as a bunch of smaller narratives, this book steps away from that structure quite a bit. While it still retains a little of that feel, overall the narrative is more seamless and a lot better structured. It flows together a lot better, and this, I think, makes the book that much easier to read.

In this book I continue to build on the ideas from the first book, and there is definitely threads that tie the two books together, which make perfect sense considering it is the second book in a series. If there wasn’t anything tying the two books together, I don’t think they could really be considered a series. As such, I feel a many of the ideas and themes from the first book gained a lot more depth and are generally more well rounded.

This applies to the characters as well. One of my problems with the first book is that all the characters seemed a little flat, as did many of the ideas and themes. There was just a lot left unsaid and unexplored in my opinion. While Of Ice and Darkness introduces a whole new set of characters, I personally feel they are much more human, and a lot less flat. The new set of character just feel a lot more complex, and a lot more alive to me.

It should come as no surprise that a lot of the themes in my book circle around things like animism, ecology, and the environment. There is an element of all these things in everything I write, because these are things that are of great interest to me. For any regular readers of this blog, that is probably the biggest “duh!” statement. Still, all these things creep into my books, along with thoughts about society, humanity, and where we are going as a species. Also, there are questions and explorations of technology, which will become even more central in later books. I have never really considered myself a “hard” science fiction writer, and I am sure a big part of that comes from my background in a social science. Don’t get me wrong, I love science! I think it is an amazing and wonderful way of understanding the world. At the same time, I like to write about things a little less scientific, things like beliefs and folklore, mythology and religion. I do at least attempt to keep my novels scientifically grounded, but there comes a point where you have to take liberties, or have to explore beyond the realms known by science. That’s why it’s called science fiction folks, and what kind of writer would I be if I didn’t take liberties with reality every now and again?

It is often said that practice makes perfect, and I really think Of Ice and Darkness shows that to be true. I have come a long way as a writer, and I have had more time to develop the characters as well as the central narrative and themes, and this is really reflected in Of Ice and Darkness.

In addition, I have come to understand more about my own “process” of writing. I often describe my writing style as “organic.” When I first set off to write the Elder Blood Sage, which is going to be 5 books before I am done, I didn’t really have a master plan. I didn’t plan out the narrative, hell I didn’t even have an outline. I started out with just a character name. I didn’t even have a sketch of that character. I knew nothing about them, but eventually all of this would be revealed to me. In many ways as a writer, I am also a reader, and a reporter in a way. The story unfolds its own way, and I am discovering my creation as I write it.

Well, as I keep writing the character develops, and then the plot starts to develop, and then the whole of the literary worlds start to form. A character runs into a problem, or runs into a concept. Then I have to flesh out that concept, and tie it back into the story. As I keep writing, more ideas spawn more characters, which bring in more things to write about.

The entire story starts to take shape like a giant tree, with one part branching off and growing into something greater. Some of the branches are outside the “core” of the story, so they extend beyond the scope of the narrative. Other branches grow away for a while, and suddenly reappear and are knotted back into the “core” of the story, only to branch away at a later time. Like Celtic Knotwork, a great tapestry, or some huge web, the story forms into a complexity that becomes something greater than any of its parts.

And it all started from something very small, just the “seed” of a story. A character, and the smallest hint of something greater. With 4 books currently written for the Elder Blood Saga, I can tell you that that little seed has turned into a forest. I have one last book to write, and I am really hoping I can bring the fruits of my creation back together to see where this all ends.

Or if it all ends. I cannot really say what form it will take.

If you are at all interested in Of Ice and Darkness, it is available for sale on Amazon, and can be found under the “publications” tab.

Thanks for reading!


The Triumphant (Kinda) Return!

Hello folks!

Now that I have another manuscript out of the way, I am doing my best to return to regular writing here. As I have been away for a few months, I’ll start with some updates.

I am sure you all noticed, but the re-release of my book “Of Ice and Darkness” is up for sale! You can find it under the “publications” tab of this blog. I have to say I am really excited about the new cover. My cover artist as well as the my designer are really amazing at what they do. Not only is it a vast improvement over the old cover, I just really love seeing my creations come to life in visual form!

So, the second part of the Elder Blood Saga has been re-released, and now I am working towards finalizing the third book in that series. It will be my first new release, and I am hoping to have it available before Yuletime. Also, I am aiming for next year for the publication of books number 4 and 5. That’s right, this series will be coming to an end in the year to come! (In an ideal world.)

It has been kind of a bad hunting year so far. I have not had a lot of free time, and the time I have been able to find either; the weather has been really crappy or there just really hasn’t been a lot going on in the woods. I’ve seen a few deer so far, but all does. Not that I have a real problem taking does, because meat is meat. It’s just that the ones I have seen have been really young, small and/or sickly. I have seen one doe where I could basically count her ribs, she was so small and famished. It makes me kind of concerned and a little bit worried, and I know that her odds of getting through the winter are not going to be great unless she can bulk up a little.

Honestly, I have been a little frustrated with my lack of free time this year. Some days, I wish I could just write full time, but that wouldn’t really pay the bills at this point. There are just so many projects I want to work on, and that whole day-job thing is really sucking up all my time and energy. Yeah, I make decent money, have a roof over my head and food in my belly… But at the end of the day I kind of wish I could have those things and actually be doing something that I enjoy and is meaningful to me.

Cake and eat it too.

Call me a dreamer.

I am trying to get myself back in the habit of writing blogs regularly again, and I have to admit I have been having a hard time about it. See above, where I find my time is at a premium. I have at least three bigger projects forming in my head, and there is plenty of smaller things I want to write about here. Most days, I find myself having to choose between one and the other. Do I work on a chapter from a longer work, or do I write a blog post?

I hate having to choose. I want to simultaneously create longer works, as well as maintain a decent quality blog. After all, this is my primary means of communicating with people. Yet, lately I have found when I try to juggle the two, the quality of one almost always suffers. I can write a decent and well thought out blog, and a substandard chapter, or vice versa. I do not like creating what I feel is substandard content.

I am also my worst critic.

With all that in mind, I will do my best to turn out blog posts at least every other week. I’d love to get back to my weekly posts, but I am not sure that is doable at this point. Anywho, that is enough of that! I wanted to offer a preview of some of the things I am working on!

(Possible) Upcoming works!

    • I am working on a book like a “Clan of the Cave Bear” type of work. I really loved that book, by Jean Auel. I can’t say I was as fond of the latter books, because I just didn’t love the “mother goddess” ideas that were present throughout them, nor the rampant “romance” of it all. Mammoth Hunters was good, those points aside… Either way, with my background in archaeology and my general interest in hunter gatherers, I am wanting to try my hand at something similar.
    • There is also a book about animism in the works, which is slowly taking shape. I just want to organize a lot of the thoughts I present here in a more cohesive and longer form.
    • A kind of sci-fi epic has been slowly taking shape. The inspirations include The Dark Tower Series, Mass Effect, Lord of the Rings, and a lot of others too. Just something I have been jotting notes about here and there.
    • I have two manuscripts for a contemporary fantasy I have been working on, and I might start moving the first towards publication soon. The early drafts have been well received.
    • I also have three manuscripts of a fantasy trilogy sitting around. Honestly, I don’t really like it. But I have been rewriting it, slowly.
    • There has also been thoughts about doing an anthology about shamanism in some form…. Just thoughts at this point.
    • There is a bigger project I have been hinting about, but due to numerous setback it will not take shape until next spring. Sorry!
    • And then there is all the blogs I have been thinking about. While these all might not materialize, I do have some notes/early drafts for things like; Science and Animism, Animism and Politics, Ancestors, Thoughts on Lupa’s “Skin Spirits” and “Engaging the Spirit World”, The future of humanity, environmentalism, capitalism… and on and on and on.

All in all, there is quite a bit of work going on. In truth, it is a little overwhelming.

Still, it feels good to be back!

Thanks for reading!