Monthly Archives: December 2013

An Interview with Shauna Aura Knight — Celebrating Pagan Fiction series

For this installment of Celebrate Pagan Fiction we’re talking with Shauna Aura Knight, whose story Werewolves in the Kitchen is part of Wild Shifters, an anthology released by Jupiter Gardens Press. Shauna has written both fiction and non-fiction, and while she admits to not having spent as much time on her fiction as she’d like to have (ah, what I wouldn’t give for enough hours in the day for all of the things that need doing!), I am certainly glad she’s found the time for it! Thanks, again, for joining us here, Shauna!

bioshauna2

What is your pagan tradition/path?

I practice an ecstatic path. I sometimes use the term “shamanic” for the work that I do; the word shaman is problematic because it’s often misused. I use the word shaman in the anthropological sense to refer to my job. In this definition, what I mean is, the shaman, witch, or druid of the tribe was the one who was facilitating rituals, offering spiritual and clergy services. While I have a background in the Reclaiming tradition and I’ve done work with Diana’s Grove, I have worked to go deeper with some of the ecstatic trance techniques that tribal shamans are certainly fluent in—singing, dancing, drumming. In my case, I’m typically serving an urban, non-tribal community.

The types of rituals I facilitate are deep, transformative rituals that are participatory and cathartic. Ecstatic rituals that use intensive trance techniques to help each of us explore our own shadows, as well as work through what holds us back and get at what inspires us, help us to reach for the best in ourselves.

I’m not sure that’s a tradition but it’s the work that I do.

How does your particular paganism or spiritual path influence your writing?

I would say that the more I’ve learned about ecstatic trance techniques and the particular magic and math of sound, the more that has made its way into my writing. Beyond that, I very much believe in the power of our own hero’s journey, our grail quest, the pilgrimage and labyrinthine walk of our lives as we face challenges…I believe in the power of that journey to transform us. I believe that the darkest night can lead us to the very best in ourselves. I believe that each and every one of us can be a hero. That each of us has a deep divine within if we could just tap it, connect to it.

Heck, even some of my villains become heroes after walking that long, difficult road and making their mistakes and then learning from them. I believe that each of us can be the hero, that each of us can change the world, that we can transform to become more than we are.

My spiritual path is all about myth and the power of story. Ancient myths still have a hold over us, and our own stories and myths have power too. Many of my stories—like the rituals I facilitate—contain that moment of transformation, of deep revelation.

And some of my characters are deeply spiritual people, whatever their faith happens to be. Whenever they are in a moment of mystic, divine communion, there’s always a ghost of my own experiences with in that. Those moments have shaken me to my core, and they transform my characters as well. No one is ever quite the same after getting a glimpse of the divine, I think, even if it’s just a feather-tip touch.

Was it a conscious decision on your part to write about Pagan topics or was it a natural outgrowth of ‘writing what you know’?

Write what you know is always a factor. Or perhaps even, write what inspires you. I have Word documents full of hundreds of pages of epic fantasy and urban fantasy and I’ve created an entire religion for that world that is absolutely informed by my own spiritual path. I cannot wait to finish some of those stories! But they are big stories, and they seem to need a little more time to gel. Right now, most of my characters are Pagan or are at least, spiritual but not religious, in my romance and urban fantasy stories.

For the paranormal romance and urban fantasy stories, I admit it’s easiest to work with Pagan characters because when they end up with strange magical powers or dealing with vampires, Faeries, shapeshifters, archangels, and deities, they have at least some idea what’s going on instead of being totally freaked out.

WildShifters_200

In my story A Winter Knight’s Vigil, I actually was striving for something else—I wanted to write about what I’d call “realistically Pagan” characters. They’re modern Pagans out at a retreat in the woods. They engage in ecstatic ritual work, but there’s no visitations from gods or magical powers other than the cathartic work of their own magic, their own transformation, their own self-reflection. I wanted to offer what actual Pagans are doing out there on a spiritual retreat.

Do you view your fiction as religious fiction, in that it has either a didactic or an inspirational purpose?

I wouldn’t really call it religious fiction. Some of the stories do have a didactic or inspirational purpose, though, it’s always secondary to the characters and their story. All of my current and forthcoming stories have Pagan characters. A Winter Knight’s Vigil features a Pagan coven. I had two several intentions with the story. One is I wanted to show the experience of ecstatic ritual work in a realistic way that readers of any faith would be able to follow. And, if people actually get some experiential shadow work out of reading the story, that’s cool, but it’s not what it was primarily written for.

Another intention I wanted to explore that idea of small group dynamics, and how hard it is to get a small group together and work together without power struggles, gossip, and drama tearing the group apart. What happens when two people start dating within a close-knit community? What happens to a coven?

A final intention is that I wanted to explore some of the romance novel tropes around sex. I won’t spoil the story, but most romance novels—despite being written by women—feature sex where the heroine is able to just easily have an orgasm from whatever the hero is doing to her. And it’s not realistic. So I wanted to offer some really hot, erotic scenes that aren’t necessarily following those tropes. There’s lots of ways to have an orgasm, and the dominant culture puts a value on orgasm from intercourse, which causes shame for a lot of women who can’t do that. I plan to explore that further in future romance stories.

Werewolves in the Kitchen features Pagans living at a spiritual retreat center, though I never specifically go into anything overtly Pagan in that story since the story didn’t really call for it. I’d describe Ellie as an agnostic Pagan, with Jake and Kyle being more animistic.

I do have a couple of longer works that I’m finishing up. One deals with a woman, Angel, who is devoted to Aphrodite and she uses Middle-Eastern frame drumming and other trance techniques to deepen her connection to Aphrodite. Another deals with three brothers under a Faerie curse, and each of them finds their soul mate only to find they must complete several difficult tasks for the Faerie Queen. As it turns out, the three brothers are a Scorpio, a Sagittarius, and a Capricorn, and their One True Love is in many ways their opposite, across the astrological wheel from them; a Taurus, a Gemini, and a Cancer. Part of the magic of the story and woven into the tasks they must overcome is each brother coming to terms with his own flaws, connected to the appropriate astrological sign. I don’t think anyone’s going to become a master astrologer from those three stories, but they might get some interesting insights.

There is an abundance of pagan-friendly stories on the market these days, especially with the gaining popularity and ease of independent publishing. Do you find there is a difference between material written by pagans about pagan or pagan-friendly stories and material written by non-pagans about pagans or pagan-friendly stories?

I do think there is a difference. I’ve read a number of stories—and for that matter, watched a lot of TV shows—that use the words Witch, Wiccan, Druid, Shaman…and these stories very often focus on someone who somehow mysteriously has magical powers, vs. someone who chose a particular spiritual path. Sometimes they’re written by someone who doesn’t understand Paganism, sometimes they are written by Pagans, and what it ultimately does is reinforce two different definitions of those words. Like Witch—does it mean, someone who chose a particular spiritual path, or does it mean someone who is whatever religion but just happens to have a mysterious magical power and the ability to cast hexes or spells. Those are two very different things, but the definitions get conflated, and both Pagans and non-Pagans do it. I think Pagans sometimes write magical powers the way they wish it happened; I know I’m certainly in that camp on occasion with some of my fiction.

Pagan fiction, on the other hand, tends to offer overly-described complicated rituals that perhaps have meaning for people initiated into that particular tradition. Or, tends to have a lot of hand waving or long diatribes about how “Witches aren’t bad, we’re just XYZ,” or go in depth about the burning times or other discrimination. I think these writers have their hearts in the right place, but there are skillful ways to write these things. Some authors do it better than others.

I think that the show Charmed articulates my frustration; they use the word Wiccan, but they are referring to three girls with magical powers, vs. a religion, and so they really misuse the word.

That being said, I think that the mysterious, the magical, and the fantastic will always have an allure and an appeal to fiction writers. My hope is that, over time, more writers will find a resource and ask questions so that they can use more accurate terms. I think that we—Pagans—have to live with the ambiguity of the words Witch, Druid, etc. meaning different things. In our own fiction, we can at least be clear whether we’re referring to someone’s spiritual path, or that they are a witch because they have magical powers. Those are two different things.

Where do you hope to see the future of pagan fiction go?

I hope to see Pagan fiction get better and more professional. A lot of the Pagan fiction that I’ve read needs better editing, stronger stories, stronger writing. Then again, that’s true of a lot of indie-published fiction. Though the advent of digital publishing and self publishing means that Pagans at last have a chance to get fiction published, but self publishing often means that writers put out work that isn’t as high quality as it could be. I’d like to see more Pagan writers striving for excellence.

I’d also like to see Pagan characters that are less…I don’t know how to put it. I dislike the word fluffy, but sometimes that’s what I see cropping up in Pagan fiction. There’s a stereotypical Pagan character I see in Pagan fiction who has long internal monologues or proceeds to lecture people in the story about Paganism and what it is or isn’t. Again, there are smoother ways to communicate that Pagans aren’t our stereotypes.

Who are your favorite pagan fiction authors and/or what are the titles of some of your favorite pagan fiction works?

You know, I don’t really have much of a list. I haven’t had the luxury of much fiction the past years for various reasons.

I used to love reading Mercedes Lackey, and it turns out that she’s Pagan, though I didn’t know that when I read her fiction. My favorite work of hers is her Vanyel trilogy, which is a fantasy series, but I liked her Urban Fantasy featuring the Pagan character Diana Tregarde. I also like the early Anita Blake stories by Laurell K. Hamilton, who came out as Pagan.

I’ve been looking forward to getting exposed to more Pagan fiction authors out there, so I’m really glad to see these spotlights on your blog so I can keep an eye out for Pagan authors I might want to check out.

Lastly, tell us where we can find more about your and your available work?

http://www.shaunaauraknight.com is my main web site and you can find links and excerpts to all my books, fiction and nonfiction, there.

I have a Facebook page and blog geared toward my fiction writing, https://shaunaknightauthorartist.wordpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/ShaunaKnightAuthorArtist

If you’re interested in my Pagan leadership and community building writing and work, here’s my Facebook and blog for those:
https://shaunaaura.wordpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/ShaunaAuraKnightRitualist

So, there was this interview . . . .

Have I mentioned that December is a difficult month for me? Because . . . December is a hard month for me. I’m more than happy to toot my own horn. I just . . . forgot.

I was interviewed for Eternal Haunted Summer‘s Winter 2013 issue. So, you know. Go check me out! (And thank you, EHS, for the opportunity, and also (and more importantly) for being such a great, great collection of material.

Speaking of Erzabet Bishop . . . .(a review)

I was torn.

It’s December. December is a time when my ability to do much more than sleep and work goes out the window. I read fiction exclusively during December, if I read at all, because the brain power cannot handle much more than that. Tell me all the story, please don’t make me have to work at any of it. That sort of thing.

I long ago set aside any and all genre-specific snobbery. I will read anything. Anything at all, because I want the story. I want to be touched. I want to be moved. I want to connect — to the human condition, to other people, to fictional people, to great big experiences, to the small experiences, to different people at different times. I want to experience situations I might never otherwise experience, and I want to go places I’ll never likely get to in life. I will read any genre. I will read any age group. I will still read picture books. (Especially when they involve the work of either Charles De Lint or Charles Vess. Just saying).

So, I unabashedly read romance, and I unabashedly read erotica. I have preferences, of course. Just like anyone else, there are types of stories I prefer over others, and in the interest of full disclosure I’ll admit that erotica is not high on my go-to list. I enjoy explicit sex scene as much as the next person; it’s generally the story-to-sex content ratio that I dislike within the erotica genre.

However, Erzabet Bishop’s Erotic Pagan series came highly recommended. And, really, didn’t I want to be supporting pagan fiction, and pagan fiction writers, with not only my mouth but also my money? And, truly, could I not skip a few sodas and buy some reading material instead? Maybe a short story format would level the ratio to a more Jolene-approved balance.

BELTANE FIRES by Erzabet Bishop
So, I purchased Beltane Fires, the first of the Erotic Pagan series, and if there was ever a story to get me hooked into this series, this was it. Take one pagan woman, add Beltane, a bonfire, and a not-exactly-human deity into the mix, and I’m pretty satisfied before the sex even begins. These are my favorite stories to read, and to write: humanity brushing up against The Other. Magic and wonder alive and raw in our midst.

I, er. Tried. Really. To space out the rest of them. They’re short, you see. And there’s only three of them thus far. And I have all these other books out from the library still, and this other book i’m supposed to be reading for a review in a few months, and work is busy, and other things to be doing, and it’s Yule still, and . . .

But I bought the other two, during the week. A reward, you see. For having to deal with retail during the week before Christmas. Samhain Shadows and then Yuletide Temptation. Given how much I thoroughly adored the first of these, I was surprised that thus far, Samhain Shadows has been my favorite.

Bishops writing is fantastic. She reaches right in and touches you were it hurts. Her characters are fresh and alive, her dialogue flows naturally — or stumbles naturally, depending on the exchange. I’m so glad to have discovered her writing, and I hope that you will be, too!

Books books books books!

November came and went, and NaNoWriMo happened. By the end of the month I realized that I was tired, and I was only going to become more tired, and so maybe I wanted to give myself a break for December. Why not? I started November with having written 80k words for the year, and the additional 45k brought me over 100k. That’s not too shabby considering that I work a non-writing day job 40 hours a week. I’m still a bit bowled over that I’ve written that much in a year’s time — I didn’t mean to. I certainly don’t yet have any finished work on the two — er, three — books I’ve made progress on this year. I’ve mentioned already that participating in NaNoWriMo has given me the gift of understand that I can reasonably write not one but multiple books in one year’s time, that 1700 words a day, most days, is something that I can do without sacrificing anything other than sleep.

But then it was December, and December brought exhaustion. There’s a number of factors. The first, and most obvious, is that I work retail. Dealing with people can be exhausting; dealing with consuming monsters who have no empathy at all is worse. It’s not all that bad, really, all the time, but I do stagger home most days without much power left in my head for words. The second factor is, this December marks the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s death and burial, and I decided going into December that I was going to have all the patience and compassion I could muster for myself. I was not going to hold myself accountable for accomplishing anything other than doing what I needed to do to be okay. Mostly, that’s involved sleeping, knitting, and not a small amount of wine.

So, I’ve been reading. And I’m apparently in a “begin all the books!” phase of reading. Right now I’m currently reading Kresley Coles’ An Immortal After Dark series — I’m only one book in, but thoroughly enjoying it thus far. I’ve started Lynsay Sands’ vampire series, and liked it enough to give it a few books before I decide to put it down (the writing isn’t bad at all, it’s just more light hearted than I like my stories. Give me angst!!) I discovered, as you know, Erzabet Bishop’s Erotic Pagan series, and will be continuing that once the bills for January are caught up. I’ve got the Last Argument of Kings waiting for me to start it. I’ve got a book I need to read over the winter to write a review up for by March, and so far it’s fascinating. I’m itching to get my hand on copies of some books I know we have out in our shed, and I long to go spend hours at the bookstore and/or libraries, only to come home with a stack.

I must be in a nesting mood. A pile of new yarn wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Today I returned to Born of Flame. I didn’t write a ton, just 1700 humble little words. But I adore that I’m only 16 days into my “I’m only going to rest and nourish myself, damn it!” vow, and I’m ready to write again. Itching, even. I cannot wait to get this series written. Maybe we’ll find a publisher for it. Maybe we’ll indie release it. (Honestly, the biggest reason I have to not want to indie release it is the formatting!) I don’t know. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, it’s time to get back on schedule.

I love being a writer.

 

Erzabet Bishop – Celebrating Pagan Fiction series

For this installment of Celebrating Pagan Fiction, we’re showcasing the work of Erzabet Bishop, whose work I would not have discovered if not for Rebecca Buchanan, so hurrah for both of them!

Erzabet flame pic

I’ll be posting a review of Beltaine Fires later on, but suffice it to say that I’ll be seeking out more of her material. For now, let me link you to her newest release in that series, and get on to the interview!

Yuletide temptation cover

Thank you, Erzabet, for taking the time to answer these questions for us.

~*~*~

What is your pagan tradition/path?

I am very much a solitary tending toward the Sacred Feminine.

How does your particular paganism or spiritual path influence your writing?

I love to bring out the brilliant colors of the Pagan path and the Wheel of the Year into my writing. The elements of the Sacred Feminine touch every aspect of our lives and I like to explore that. Crafts, baking, hearth and home just for starters…

Was it a conscious decision on your part to write about pagan topics or was it a natural outgrowth of ‘writing what you know’?

It was a natural topic for me and actually the first story, Beltane Fires was rejected from an anthology. I took a chance and sent it in to NNP. They loved the idea and a series was born. I have always written about witches with little additions of Pagan elements. Most of the works are still in progress and are YA in nature dealing with kids struggling with identity issues in a world that doesn’t always understand the need for diversity and acceptance.

Do you view your fiction as religious fiction, in that it has either a didactic or an inspirational purpose?

I could see how for some it could be. For me it is a celebration of life, love and happiness in a place I would love to live in. The little community has a host of characters that are interwoven, like a family. There is warmth that I don’t often feel in real life, primarily because too often I have to keep my love of the Sacred Feminine hidden. In Yuletide Temptation I touch a little on discrimination based on religion, but I didn’t want to bog the story down with it too much. It is a bit inspiration and calls the reader to the light of Yule and the celebration of friends, family and fellowship of those around you.

There is an abundance of pagan-friendly stories on the market these days, especially with the gaining popularity and ease of independent publishing. Do you find there is a difference between material written by pagans about pagan or pagan-friendly stories and material written by non-pagans about pagans or pagan-friendly stories?

Yes. A lot of people write Gods and Goddesses like they are superhero characters. That is fine, but you can really tell. In more Pagan stories, you get a depth to what you are reading-an understanding if you will. I think when you write about something you love, it shines through. Pagan friendly stories take the elements of Pagan tradition and weave them in to show the beauty. Non-Pagan often demonize or make it something other than what it is-superhero Gods and spandex wearing Goddesses. Again, that is fine, but it is not what I am striving to bring across in my writing.

Where do you hope to see the future of pagan fiction go?

I hope that Pagan readers will reach out and connect with Pagan authors and support their work. Publishers will only continue to buy what sells and authors need to eat too. Lol. That goes for self publishing as well. While this is a labor of love on many fronts, there is still a need to cover the cost of publishing at the very least.

In my own work, I am hoping to finish my young adult books and get them out there. I also plan to continue writing the Erotic Pagan Series. It is a joy to write and I am longing to explore the next story. I also have a couple of longer Pagan centric works that are in the process with Ylva. Sigil Fire is an urban fantasy lesbian tale set to come out this spring. I am in the editing process with it now and the sequel is already in the planning stages. There are two other stories I am noodling on that will hopefully be finished this year and find a home.

Who are your favorite pagan fiction authors and/or what are the titles of some of your favorite pagan fiction works?

Tara Chevrestt/Sonia Hightower is one of my favorite authors. She writes for Pagan Writer Press and has also done some erotica that is very wonderfully done. (Check out her Mating Instinct here!)

Kiki Howell also has several Pagan friendly books through my publisher Naughty Nights Press.

A book that I read ages ago was Sherwood Forest by Lisa Croll. I have never forgotten it. It takes the Robin Hood myth and brings it to the Sacred Feminine.

Seasons of the Witch is a book by Patricia Monaghan and if you are lucky enough to find the one with the CD, you can hear some amazing poetry and song all dedicated to the Goddess. It makes my heart swell every time I hear it.

Nano Vaslan does a wonderful selection of Pagan erotica.

Because I also review music, I want to mention some musicians and bands that have made a difference in my life:
Inkubus Succubus
Libana
Tina Malia
Paula Brisker
Suzanne Sterling
Wendy Rule
Loreena McKennitt
Lisa Thiel
Laura Powers
Hungry Lucy
Delerium
Dionysia
Elaine Silver
Gaia Consort
Faith and Disease
Faith and the Muse
Judith May
Hecate’s Wheel
Sunshine Blind

Lastly, tell us where we can find more about your and your available work?

Erzabet Bishop has been crafting stories since she could pound keys on her parent’s old typewriter. She has only just learned that it is a whole lot more fun writing naughty books. She is a contributing author to the Silk Words website, A Christmas To Remember (upcoming), Sweat, When the Clock Strikes Thirteen, Unbound Box, Milk & Cookies & Handcuffs, Holidays in Hell, Corset Magazine: Sex Around the World Issue and Man vs. Machine: The Sex Toy Issue, Smut by the Sea Volume 2, Hell Whore Volume 2, Can’t Get Enough (upcoming, Cleis), Slave Girls (upcoming, Cleis) Anything She Wants, Dirty Little Numbers, Kink-E magazine, Coming Together: Girl on Girl, Shifters and Coming Together: Hungry for Love among others. She is the author of Lipstick (upcoming), Sigil Fire (coming from Ylva in 2014), The Erotic Pagans Series: Beltane Fires, Samhain Shadows and Yuletide Temptation. She lives in Texas with her husband, furry children and can often be found lurking in local bookstores. She loves to bake, make naughty crochet projects and watch monster movies.

Follow her reviews and posts on Twitter @erzabetbishop.

Links:
ARE: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-yuletidetemptation-1364526-149.html
Ylva Author Page: http://www.ylva-publishing.com/ylva-verlag-e.kfr.–erzabet-bishop.html
Naughty Nights Author Page: http://naughtynightspress.com/nnpstore2/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=28
Unbound Box Dessert Comes First Flash Fiction: https://unboundbox.com/magazine/blog/posts/dessert-comes-first
Liz McMullen episode: http://www.thelizmcmullenshow.com/lbs_episode18/
BDSM Friendbook: http://www.bdsmfriendbook.com/profile-5760/
About Me: http://about.me/erzabet.bishop/#
Facebook “like” page: https://www.facebook.com/erzabetbishopauthor
Author WordPress blog: http://erzabetbishop.wordpress.com/
Amazon author page: http:// amazon.com/author/erzabetbishop/
Fetlife: https://fetlife.com/users/1709729
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6590718.Erzabet_Bishop
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erzabet.bishop
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/erzabetbishop/
Blog: http://erzabetsenchantments.blogspot.com/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=210218566&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Author Database: http://authorsdb.com/authors-directory/2690-erzabet-bishop
Authors to Watch: http://www.profiles.authorstowatch.com/2013/05/erzabet-bishop.html

The Perfect Book

Been talking books lately with new people. Felt like it was a good time to rerun this blog post. Aaah, books.

The Saturated Page

The Perfect Book

In my review of Darkborn I mentioned that the book was one of my perfect reads. This has me thinking about the other books on my perfect reads list. What put them on the list? What makes them perfect? None of the books on my list are touted as Great Works of Literature. They’re not classic texts. Most of them are not even widely known outside of genre fiction. They have some things in common, but the most cohesive category they can fall under together would be ‘speculative fiction’ and that’s about as useful as a description as ‘pagan’ can be – that is, it’s not. Musing on this last night, I realized that the books on my perfect books list all fill me with wonder and remind me why it is I want to write stories. I read them at a time when I was perfectly…

View original post 1,120 more words