Category Archives: Creative

Dead Tree Woman

Dead Tree Woman has felt the blow of every axe, heard the growl of chainsaws and the awful creak of life falling into death.

Dead Tree Woman is there when the ground is barren, when the roots and leaves that made the life in the soil are gone, taken for short term profit and indifference. Long after the memory of fallen trees has been erased, she remains, feeling the loss, grieving the destruction.

She is the rage of the ravaged landscape. She is the unforgiveness, the absence of compassion for those who despoil what they most need. She is revenge against greed and the thwarting of every money-hungry plan made in some lifeless office for the sake of profits that have nothing to do with life.

She is the memory of the dead. She is the life that should have been. She is wood and flesh, life and death in one body. Year by year she grows slower, heavier, weighted with pain and fury.

One day she will find some still-soft patch of earth and plant herself there, roots sinking into soil in relief and forgetfulness. One day she will overcome the brutal bitterness and become the memory of lives lost. She will recall beauty and the way summer light passes through a leaf. She will remember the sweet taste of rain on bark and soil.

One day she will forget what it means to be Dead Tree Woman. From her remains, saplings will grow and seeds will form. Her body will send forth runners that become everything she remembers, everything that was life, returning to life.

(This is a collaboration with Dr Abbey – the art is his, and it is part of a project we’re developing together. I think it’s going to be Hopepunk.)

The main character

She doesn’t have a name yet, although I know what language base we’ll be using for naming. I think this is always a consideration when writing fantasy. Entirely made up names can be awkward to pronounce and can feel fake.  Drawing on a time, place or culture can give you feelings of coherence and resonance, which I rather like.

But, I digress. We knew we had at least one female lead on the way. We’d had conversations about her, and I thought she might be a former soldier. Abbey introduced me to her via Facebook, having posted this image of her and announcing her as the main character, and a virgin.  I noted that other people commenting on the post thought it unlikely that this was a representation of a virgin, and that convinced me that it was going to have to be.

We read sexuality into the female body. Large breasts are invariably read as sexual, regardless of the behaviour of the person whose breasts they are. There is no way of arranging fabric over large breasts that does not draw attention to them. And thus your body shape becomes your perceived sexual identity. I’ve had some first hand experience of having my body shape read as meaning promiscuity.

Sexual appetite is not about body shape. How we function romantically and sexually can have very little to do with how we look. Innocence is not a body shape. Experience is not a body shape. Being asexual is not a body shape.

This is a character who is struggling with guilt and trauma. She’s got a history to overcome and a lot to deal with around things she has done, and the reasons she did those things. She’s not looking for a relationship, and she doesn’t have the emotional space to even consider wanting to be sexual. She is also entirely used to people making assumptions about her based on how she looks, and she is very tired of that shit.

New Stories

I have three new stories out in the world at the moment…

I have a tiny flash fiction piece in the album notes of Maximum Splendid, the new Rapscallion album. I’m very taken with the music, and it’s always lovely to be part of a steampunk thing! Hard copies here –!

And you can listen to a couple of tracks over here –

Over on Patreon, I’ve started serialising a new book. That’s available to anyone who signs up as a Dustcat, Steampunk Druid or Glass Heron. It’s a speculative novel, plenty of magical Pagan elements, plenty of weirdness… Spells for the Second Sister isn’t available anywhere else at present.  You can find that over here –

The Hopeless Maine kickstarter hit its funding goal, so we’re now looking at stretch goals. The odds are very good of hitting the first one, and at $7k everyone who has supported the project gets a new story as a pdf. That means the odds are very good of getting a story for a dollar. There are lots of other interesting things you can have should you feel so moved.

Here’s a little taster…

That morning he found a large, yellowish ball of spider eggs inside the collar of his jacket. It was not an omen. Durosimi did not believe in omens.

Any occultist worth their salt knows that divination, prophecy and other variations on a theme of anticipating the future, are tricksy things. Durosimi considered it an inexact science at best.  He preferred exact science and dependable outcomes. Alchemy, necromancy, demonology; why try to see the future when you could create it through deliberate action? Most of what passed for divination was nonsense anyway.

The ball of spider eggs did not mean anything. The large, dead spider that somehow got into his breakfast did not mean anything. Only that the latest cook was as incompetent as the previous one.

Guardian Gods

European Gods and Gods from the Fertile Crescent tend to hold power over things. Or at least that’s how we frame and understand them – how much of that understanding is filtered through more recent patriarchal perspectives is hard to say. I’ve long found the feudal language around Gods uneasy – the Lords and Masters and Kings and Rulers…

Currently Dr Abbey and I are working on the idea of Guardian Gods for the fiction project we’re co-creating. I like this as a concept and as a way of thinking about deity. I like the idea of masculine deities whose role is first and foremost, protective. Not a God who owns or controls, but a God who defends and cares for something.

This is the Guardian of the North, the first of the Guardian Gods that Abbey drew. Clearly this is not ‘the north’ of Druid circles, or Wiccan Watchtowers.

The Dark Goddess

Modern Paganism identifies the Dark Goddess as an archetype, and there are many historical Goddesses who are often associated with that title.

I’m currently world building, and it is a world full of Goddesses who have titles rather than names. Of course there is a Dark Goddess.

She is the balm of darkness after the agony of too much light. She is the peace of oblivion, free to rest without scrutiny for a while. The paths to her are many, and they are strewn with bones and broken dreams. There is no pain she does not understand. There is no horror that she cannot witness. She is the comfort when all comfort is gone. She is the last, desperate breath, and the breath that comes after it.

Come to her in despair. Come to her on your knees when you can no longer stand or walk. Bring her the broken wreck of your body and the ruined tatters of your mind.

Her temples are the cairns of stones on battlefields where no one remembers any more what the fighting was supposed to be about. Her temples are the mass graves of the nameless dead. Worship her when the night is pitch dark. Honour her when there is no way forward and yet somehow, you must continue. Whisper to her the names of those you know you will never see again. In her embrace, no one is lost or insignificant.

She does not offer redemption or forgiveness. Sit with her for long enough and you might find out how to make those things for yourself.

(Art by Dr Abbey)

The Goddess of Hellfire

She has many names. Those who do not love her call her the Goddess of Hellfire for they can only see the destruction she causes.

She is the Goddess of the cleansing flame that cauterizes wounds and wipes away the unbearable past.

She is the fire into which you can make sacrifice, and in making sacrifice you may find peace, and freedom and transformation.

She is the fire raging through ruins. The fire that war starts but cannot control. She is the end of your schemes, the end of your hubris and your illusions of power.

She has no temples, you can only worship her where there are living flames.

(Art and concept by Dr Abbey – this is part of an ongoing project we’re doing together. I’m considering a setting for a work of fiction that has a lot of Goddesses in it, but I won’t be drawing on existing pantheons to do this. It’s going to be an interesting process finding out who the Goddesses are in this setting, and what their followers do, and where they meet. One of the other intentions is to challenge how bodies are read, so there will be bare breasted priestesses and naked angels who are naked because they are innocent. I feel very strongly that a person’s sexual identity should not be read from their bodies, this is something we’ve been talking about as we’re exploring with the world building.)

The Bestower

Who would you be if you woke one morning as the person you have been in dreams? If longing led to transformation, what form might you now hold?

Or are you full of nightmares? If the inside became the outside, what would we see of you? Are there demons in your heart trying to break free? Are you driven most by hunger, or by cruelty, would you become a predator, or something more vicious?

Who would you be if the inner self who frightens you most were allowed to become your whole self, you true self?

If a Goddess of transformation came to you when you were unguarded and ill prepared, what would she pluck from your soul to manifest in the world?

Would you offer up prayers to her? Would you burn incense and light candles, would you sing in her temple in the hopes of courting her favour? Would you ask that she recreate you as your most authentic self? Do you know who that would be?

Would you seek her out, or flee from her?

(This is part of a creative project I’m developing with Dr Abbey – the art is his, and he’s prompting me with ideas to develop. I’m going to blog once a week with this as I’m thinking about things, because world building is slow and this gives me a good space to develop ideas. Nothing you see here will be anything like the final work. If all goes well, I’ll start writing in earnest in the autumn.)

Water Witches

Water magic is all about healing, and emotions. You place bowls of water in the moonlight to gather enchantment, and take healing baths.

Slowly, you learn to listen to the water. You discover that the water is full of sorrow.

There is plastic in the water, and pollution of all kinds. Death flows where there should be life. There is thirst in the land and in its creatures. You stop wondering about how to use water for magic, and start asking how to do magic for water.

You become a water witch. You go to the edge of the desert to make desalination equipment out of rubbish you scavenge from the dumps. You set up camp at the edge of a poisoned lake and dedicate years of your life to fishing out the plastic, filtering out the oil, bringing the plants back. You make sand dams. You try to become a beaver. You make wetlands and plant reeds and dream about hippos.

In a land of intermittent rain, you build barriers across places where the water floods. Your back hurts all the time from bending and digging, but when the rains come you are ready, and some of your dams hold, and ponds form. The soil will not wash away this time, and some of the water will seep back into the earth rather than evaporating.

When you weep for all that has been lost and damaged, you understand that water is all about healing, and emotions.

(Art by Dr Abbey – these are concepts and sketches I’m playing with, but i think we’re going somewhere with all of this…))

The Bear Skin Hat

The first time the hat spoke, Marion simply ignored it. “I did not want to be a hat,” it said. Why would she care? Not only had the bear become a hat, it had become her hat and it looked splendid and fashionable.

“I never even got to be a real bear,” the hat mentioned, a few days later. “They grew me for the fur. I was never really properly alive.”

“Well, isn’t it better that way?” Marion said to the hat. “You didn’t really suffer, you were never an actual bear. I don’t know what you’re complaining about.”

The hat was not appeased by this. She worried that other people would hear it talking to her, but even so could not bring herself to go out without it. Such a fashionable hat. So desirable, during these most wintery weeks. Even when at home, she found herself wearing it, although often she could not remember putting it on.

One morning, she woke in bed, wearing her nightgown, and the hat. Marion was skilful when it came to not thinking about things that might be troublesome. Even so, it took her until after breakfast to put aside the disquiet of finding she had worn the hat to bed. She wore the hat to work. She wore the hat for a lunch date during which she was overwhelmed by a desire for fresh fruit. From that day onwards, it never occurred to her to remove that hat from her head, no matter what she was doing.

It might be simplest to say that the hat ate her. It would not be an accurate description of the mechanical process, but there is comfort in metaphor. There were no further lunch dates.

(Art by Dr Abbey.)

Alchemy and a collaboration

With Gold In Her Eyes

She is alchemy and knows the secret ways

That turn sorrow into forms of art.

She sees your awful, limping progress

As you lurch slowly, painfully onwards,

Brings music to transform your ugly gait

Into some sort of dance move.

She says yes, she does see the blood

Seeping from your wounds as you dance

But look how the droplets fall as petals

See how you make autumn leaves, fine fruit.

Where you knew death, there is life

When Alchemy speaks she turns doubt into truth.

The wounded, staggering last desperate effort –

At her word becomes possibility.

No dead end after all, but a shift

In the story journey.

She is Alchemy, and makes words of your art

And art of your words.

No distance greater than a thought.

The wound closes in your side

You paint the sky with roses, or tiny red birds

Or giant crimson dragonflies.

You paint the sky with promises and hope.

(Art by Dr Abbey, words by me. Our first collaboration in a long time. The writing was inspired by a combination of the picture, and a comment from Edrie Edrie about the alchemy of turning sorrow into art.)