Gone to Blazes!

Coming soon from Forevermore Publishing!

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Blaze tries to live up to her name after being humiliated, branded and banished by the feline shapeshifter society for simply being different. Really different. She can only shift when she comes, and then only partially, which doesn’t last.

Looking for love in all the wrong places, she ends up inadvertently scent-matched to another misfit shifter. A dog, of all things. Fighting like cats and dogs takes on a whole new meaning for Blaze and Jack as they struggle to accept their spiritual, and physical, bonds.

Are they going to set an example for the shifter prides and packs, or will they simply end up chasing each other’s tails?

Excerpt

Blaze had needs. Like a cat atop a laptop computer, she had needs. And gods help the man who didn’t make her purr tonight. She figured a bar frequented by attorneys might be as good a place as any to get herself a decent one-night stand. Bast knows, that biker bar I chose last time was not the best decision.

She liked a good debate. A good fight. The chance for a decent quid-pro-quo before a roll in the sack. That, lawyers could offer. If she just wanted to be tossed over a bar and nailed from behind, she’d hit the biker bar again. If it has been rebuilt. She giggled. She’d left her mark that night, all right. Who knew a broken bottle of brandy would torch up so quickly? At least it’d gotten the biker dude off her back. Literally. Mama hadn’t named her Blaze for nothing.

How long ago was that? Two years. Two long years.

Blaze had always liked legal-types. They could be so feral when confronted. Practicing law had proven a bore, however. Another six years in university and she was an attorney with a degree in veterinary medicine. Dr. Blaze, Esquire. Now she could both counsel and cure. Since most of her customers bordered on very animal to not quite human, university degrees had little value to them—but advising them how to avoid the judicial system while stitching up wounds seemed a decent enough service to her kind.

She swallowed a guffaw. My kind? There are none of my kind. I’m physician to the dregs of were-society and sometimes the elite who get their freak on and don’t make it home by dawn.

She sat at the bar and self-medicated for a while. To go on this kind of hunt, she needed the booze. Courage in a bottle. If she didn’t pickle her brain a bit, she’d go home to her vibrator and awaken with arms aching to hold someone less fury than her cat. Then go another two years before casting discretion to the wind to go on the prowl.

A little booze, just the right amount of inebriation, could aid her acquisition of the evening too. At least he could say he wasn’t seeing straight due to the booze later on. Human men were so fragile and prone to hysteria after the fact. Or the act, as the case may be.

The ambiance of the place had a greedy, needy quality about it. Money had a stink. Desperation gave off fumes. Her sharp eyes saw the swirling odors circling around the room like the strokes of a Van Gogh. The servers were automatons, and the barkeep their man behind the curtain.

Body heat fueled by desire and drink warmed the air. Though she was sure only she’d noticed the subtle rise in temperature as the drinks were poured and downed and a well-heeled lawyer called for another round.

Older men—not unattractive, though obviously lonely with dark baggies under their eyes and white rings of missing wedding bands—palmed the rears of the younger cocktail waitresses. A few of them let it happen, leaning in to give a peek down the blouse to the handsy customer. That extra twenty in the tip written in on the charge card slip would be appreciated and remembered. Blaze had done her share of customer service jobs in college. Big tippers were rewarded. A little butt. A little boob. A little less water in the booze. Disgusting games the mortals played.

Three whiskeys in and she finally felt ready to pounce. She lifted an ice cube to her lips and drew the last drops of Jameson into her mouth. Problem was, aged spirits heightened her human senses, but dulled her less-than-human ones. She could fly a jet blind folded through heavy enemy fire after a fifth of bourbon, but couldn’t smell a trap if it bit her on the ass. Cat-like reflexes and instincts out the window. That was why she didn’t drink too often. Her guard went down. Caution and memory of how many lives she’d already used up were so much litter in the box. Human lovers were her extreme sport. Time to sit on the fence and yowl.

She caught the scent of something dangerous in the room. Her sharp cat’s eyes scanned for a threat. She smiled and relaxed as the nose of a tiny Chihuahua peeked out of a large handbag. The pet’s owner patted her baby, and the little beast went back into hiding. Any dog was a threat, but not Mama’s baby in a handbag. At least not now. She shivered at the thought. The goddess-queen of her clan, Sekhmet, snacked on little dogs. It wasn’t pretty.

Her keen senses picked up another aroma, and she spotted her prey. She turned atop her barstool to make sure he had a good look at her legs as he entered. They exchanged glances and a nod as he passed by with his entourage—older gentlemen who obviously meant to keep him within reach. He must be their latest project. The firm’s protégé extraordinaire. The wunderkind. I remember those days. Poor bastard.

Blaze watched him without shame. And to her delight, he watched her right back.

He looked just sexy enough to rock her world, but had a homey aura about him that screamedfamily man. She could detect his fragrance above the crowd. It propelled her forbidden fantasy of casseroles and white picket fences. A yard with a swing set for the halflings. A sandbox used for play, not elimination. Something she wanted, but was afraid she’d never obtain. Her birth defect prevented her from bringing a child into the world, much less a litter.

The gods of her kind didn’t bless misfits with marriage and offspring. Not without first having her onus abated in the eyes of the goddess-queen, Sekhmet, sacred earthly incarnation of the ancient goddess and twice as fearsome. Not going to happen. A scar on her lower back, stabbed and burned. Some pain never goes away. Sekhmet had seen to that.

She nursed her whiskey contemplatively.

Mean Girls and Net Anonymity

January, 2007,  I had a few very bad days after posting a shortcoming on an online forum.  I had “lapsed” and did some emotional eating after a thing with my kid (a big thing).  I posted about my lapse from the program without .  And was crucified.   The Lord of the Flies had nothing on the group that then tormented and ridiculed me thereafter.  I sent this email to a friend:

I’m on Weight Watchers.  I posted a day ago that due to a minor crisis with my daughter, I’d “fallen off the wagon.”  I inadvertently posted my web addy with my sig.  I was corrected on that and didn’t do it again.  In the meantime, 200+ members of the General Board on the WW website, visited my website.  A handful of them started bad mouthing me something awful.  I mean AWFUL.  That I write porno, that I’m not a “real author.”  And more!  I can’t tell you how awful these bitches are! I have never ever ran into a group of strangers who act like Lord of the Flies online before.

I thereby learned how people behave differently on the internet.  There’s no recourse for their behavior.  They can say and do harmful things, tear down others and laugh their little dismal lives away.

I had no idea that trolls existed until that time.

Since 2007 I’ve been pretty lucky with internet contacts.  I’ve met (online and email contact only–but daily and I thought, sincere) one person that cast me aside like so much trash after offering me the world, had to block a few people on Facebook for being just plain mean, and recently I had a run in with a FB friend that turned to the dark side and ended up with the agony of delete.

I am a bleeding heart Buddhist and am really influenced by my beliefs when dealing with others online.  I see suffering in the trolls.  Then I block them.

Today at the day job I was confronted with a racist parent proclaiming his hatred of Islam and the Middle East, overall.  This is a parent that I have bent over backwards to assist.  And he hates the people who bred me and blames an entire religion and portion of the earth for his problems.  “Those people” almost killed me.  Well, this person has only done considerate acts for him.  As I dug my nails into my hand I remained polite (as I am a public servant, gods help me), daughter of a Middle Eastern father and though not Islamic, I know several Muslims at my work and was enraged that he would slam such lovely people.  I’m so glad none of them were standing behind him at my window.

In addition to this bit o’cray, Facebook again exploded with drama and name-calling over racism.  Horrible stuff said.  Facebook vomit is what I call that stuff.

It dawned on me that one of my prayers of late has been to bridge the gaps in the pagan and Buddhist communities.  I presume that the protective functions of the universe are bringing these events into my life so that I can continue to change whatever it is in me that must change for there to be OVERALL change in society.

I remain undaunted, though a bit shell-shock, and will continue to help those who are suffering.

…to be continued

God(s)

IMG_0080As a 31 year practitioner of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, I have heard it said over and over again that “there are no gods in Buddhism” while at the same time reading scripture which discusses the Buddhist deities. The SGI Library Online refers to heavenly gods and benevolent deities thusly: “Buddhist gods, protective gods, tutelary gods, guardian deities, etc. The gods that protect the correct Buddhist teaching and its practitioners. Gods who function to protect the people and their land and bring good fortune to both. Heavenly gods and benevolent deities is a generic term for the Buddhist pantheon that includes Brahma, Shakra, the four heavenly kings, the Sun Goddess, the gods of the sun and moon, and other deities. Many of these gods and deities were traditionally revered in India, China, and Japan. They became part of Buddhist thought as Buddhism flourished in those areas. Rather than primary objects of belief or devotion, Buddhism tends to view them as functioning to support and protect the Buddha, the Law, or Buddhist teachings, and practitioners.”   I have always accepted that the Buddhist gods, or “shoten zenjin” could be anything, anyone, anywhere.  They are activated by our practice of Buddhism.

Because Nichiren was born in medieval Japan, and his education was monastic-based, and because Japan was not a country heavily influenced by “northern thoughts,” he referred to the shoten zenjin using the classical names from China and India.  It makes sense to me that my shoten zenjin, thereby, would be those protective functions of which I am aware and have studied.

That is not to say I pray for a god to bestow blessings upon me.  In the book “True Devotion to Mary” it is said that Mary offers believer’s prayers to God on a silver platter.   Sweet.  Seems a bit indirect to me.  The God of Abraham is the one true God to many.  I consider Him a shoten zenjin–and one that would be more active in my life if I practiced an Abrahamic faith.  I do not.  I’m Buddhist.  Buddhists don’t have gods.  Strangely, I do.  I have deep relationships with the Norse gods.  Odin, Loki, Freyja, et al.  Since I was ten years old I knew that “sometimes we choose our gods and sometimes they choose us.”  The Norse gods are my personal protective functions of the universe.  I can hear them, and have on occasion, seen them.  It doesn’t seem odd to me in light that anything can act as a shoten zenjin in terms of Buddhist faith.  A stoplight.  An untied shoe.  Missing keys.  All acts set in motion to achieve the various levels of protection we need from day to day.  Why not Odin?  Is he a myth?  Well, there are certainly myths in which he plays a part.  But Hindu mythology is “active” and those gods are revered to this day.  Odin is a universal spirit and god (I like to think of him as a “Q” only without the television special fx), no less effective or special than those mentioned by Nichiren.

Someone might scream “devil worship!” here.  Not being Abrahamic, I don’t see that as an issue.  Odin encourages me–and quite aggressively, to chant.  Loki, too.  They expect me to live up to my vow to practice Nam myoho renge kyo, and kick my ass when I slack off.  Let me tell you, getting Odin’s astral boot in my rear end when in trance of dream is not pleasant.  He wants me to be strong, and reminds me that my strength derives from my practice of Buddhism.  Thereby, Odin is a “good friend in faith” because he both encourages and challenges me to chant, recite the sutra and teach others to do the same to the best of my ability.  How can a spirit who encourages me thusly be “devilish?”  He can’t be.  It is my own lazy nature and karmic trends that are the devils in my life.   My daimoku (chanting/prayer) and ichinen (determination) are my weapons against apathy, and my abilities as a spirit worker and channel or even a “seithkona” are my cloak of invincibility.  Hail Odin and pass me my prayer book and beads…  ****to be continued

Consumed is out now!

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Ben Storms knows fire. A hotshot, he’s not afraid to fight fire with fire and walk into the belly of a blaze to put it out. Only one thing has ever frightened him—how he feels about Hadyn O’Hara, a fellow firefighter. The largest wildland fire in decades brings them together for a hot time. Too bad Fire is a jealous bitch and doesn’t want to share Ben. Hadyn breathes in the spirit of Fire after an injury and sets Ben’s heart ablaze—with dire consequences to them both. 

Mission Accepted

Meditation today.  Oy.  Dancing with my muse down the proverbial garden path.  The brief appearance of my Patroness, Freyja.  I asked what my Work is–now that I’ve accomplished the mission, run the gauntlet, got the t-shirt.

You must devote your time and effort to the contribution campaign right now.  For the next 30 days, don’t contact Me if that helps.

I panicked.  Don’t dance with my Muse?  What?  Was I being summarily dismissed?

No.  I’m not.  Muse just desires me to focus on chanting and helping others chant right now.  For the next month.  He calmed me and said if I need Him, to g’head and call.  I’m a writer–how can I live without my Muse?

He held out His hand and a beam of amber light shot from His open palm to mine.  He said that “this month” was impetus for me to develop a “gold standard.”

Sometimes, it is so hard to chant.  It is at once, the greatest joy and the most painful act.  Having been chanting for 30 years, I am well aware of the benefits and “Human Revolution” which can and will occur in my life if I increase the amount of chanting I do and help others do the same.  Do I want to see the “gold standard” of my life and the lives of others revealed?  Or do I wanna get whiny about knowing what’s right for my life and just not wanting to do the Work?

I think I’ll chant about that :)

Hail Loki, god of change, challenge and my Muse of writing delights.

Signs and Wonders

I do “possessory work.”  I allow spirits, under strict terms, to “ride” me.  Said spirit then speaks through me.  It’s called “horsing” in both Caribbean and Northern Traditions.  Every now and then, the spirit I work with wears spurs.  That happened when I was in Florida the first week of April.  I was ridden hard and put away wet, so-to-speak.  I didn’t “ground” properly, we were too busy for thorough aftercare and I became ill.  I couldn’t hold food or water down and my blood sugars went crazy.  I asked the spirit to back down and stay away for the remainder of the trip.  I recovered.

Then, everything around me started breaking.  At the day job, several key bits of programming went teats-up.  Email, the PA system, the bells.  And at home, our “homestone.”  We had it made to thank our household gods and land wights for our new home last September.  Crack!

Then the dreams of being lost and having empty cups (no fortune) began.  I later found a lost child at the grocery store (that is a blog post in itself).

The proverbial clue-by-four hit me upside the head and I heard the spirit speak.  He said that I had banished him and that he felt unwelcome and lost without me.  I had not taken the time to “invite” him back into my daily life.  I chanted about that fact this morning and made the verbal invitation.  I will make an offering tonight on our land to seal the “welcome home” deal.

There are steps that very, very seriously need to be followed when one works with the old gods and spirits.  One of these steps is proper grounding and aftercare.  Another is listening to and noticing the signs and wonders around you after such an ordeal to see what else needs doing.

Yellow ribbons deployed, sir.  Welcome home and hail Loki.

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Thinky Thoughts on the Power of Words

A recent conversation gave me pause.  I had to consider the issue.  Ponder it.  Topic?  The power of words.  I am a Nichiren Buddhist (SGI-USA).  I am also a Northern Tradition pagan.  I’m pretty sure that the “shoten zenjin” or protective functions of the universe in Buddhism, especially in my case, are the old gods.  They still get ’round, yanno?  So, let me toss out a Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and Hail Odin for watching my back.  For thirty+ years I have chanted and recited portions of the Lotus Sutra in my Buddhist practice the way I was taught to recite them.  And it ain’t in English, peeps.

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo flows much sweeter off the tongue than “Invocation of the mystic law of cause and effect through voice.”  Makes sense to chant it as Nichiren did.  But Gongyo…which means “assiduous practice” although melodic and sonorous, is a different animal.  I tell folks we all learn it one word at a time.  Gongyo is recited twice daily in a phonetic manner based upon the classic language Nichiren spoke.  No matter where we are in the world, if we sit down to recite the sutra with another SGI Buddhist, Gongyo will sound the same way due to its phonetic translations into a myriad of different languages.  Nichiren recited the sutra in the classical Chinese (or Japanese) language and to unify with him and the millions of his followers around the globe, it goes without saying that we should recite it the same way he did.  Not in English.  Not in Tamil.  Not in Greek or Navajo.  Even if we don’t understand it.  True that.

Words have power.  Many words have SERIOUS power, and we are able to wield that power even if we don’t understand the true implications of the utterance.  Gongyo is one of those kind of things.

Gongyo can be read in English.  The entire Lotus Sutra has been translated (more than once).  I’ve read it.  I’ve recited it aloud in English. It does not wield the same power as when we recite it in the language Nichiren taught it in, but whatever.  It’s what I wanted to do and 25 years later, I can say I did it and did not suffer ill-effects for doing so.

As a child I used to create spells and incantations based upon phrases from my favorite books.  Even as a ten year old, I recognized that words have power.  One I recall clearly is “AVERT!” from “A Wizard of Earthsea.”  I believed in Erreth-Akbe, a wizard-warrior from the series.  I wore his sigil.  I danced the long dance.  I wanted to fuse with the magic talked about in the series.

I now understand the difference between using *good* fiction as a communication/divination tool, mundane words, powerful words and invocation of the mystic law.  I do fuse with the magic every time I chant.  It is my galdr (sacred/magical words), my focus and the basis of my life force.

I choose to practice Buddhism the way Nichiren taught.  Because that’s what I’m told to do?  Hardly.  I’ve proved the power of words to myself.  I chant and recite Gongyo and honor my personal shoten zenjin, because I must.  All of it is a part of me as much as much as the fat roll around my middle or heavily coated-with-mascara eye lashes.

Words have power.  Wield them carefully, precisely.  Magically.  Joyfully.

 

Songs of the Flesh and other ruminations

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It’s been about a year since I “blogged.” I was under instructions from the powers that be to “write.” Not blog. During the last year, I’ve had things I wanted to blog about, but withheld my opinions in order to be a more focused writer. Meh. Today, I blog. I’d like to talk about my book, “Songs of the Flesh,” written under the pen name Elspeth MacLean. This is my first pseudo-steampunk fighter chick novel. There’s at least one more percolating. My daughter inspired the main character, Reggie Halfdan. Songs of the Flesh isn’t all sex, all the time. Reggie becomes imbued with the spirits of fallen heroes while fighting her way through a labyrinth. Her companion is a Dog Boy named Hundi–a wolf shapeshifter. It is a bloody, tense, sexy (yes, there is sex in it) tale.

mystical, exotic, erotic romance.