Storm Constantine’s Sign for the Sacred

  Sign for the Sacred

Storm Constantine

3rd Edition

August 2012

ISBN: 978-1-907737-43-5

Catalogue Number: IP0034

428 Pages

£13.99; $22.99; $21.85 (Ca); $21.85 (Aus); E16.40

Cover Artist: Ruby

Interior Illustrations: Dave Horton

In a world dominated by the austere religion Ixmarity, a charismatic prophet arises – Resenence Jeopardy. Once a vibrancer of the Ixmaritian Church, a sacred dancer, Jeopardy has escaped his bonds of faith and is drawing the sons and daughters of the rich families of Gleberune to his heretical movement. The Church moves against him and his followers with increasing zeal and cruelty.

Lucien Earthlight, also a former vibrancer, is obsessed with Jeopardy and travels the land always just behind the man he is compelled to find. His life is unravelling and melting into the surreal, which intensifies when he meets a mysterious boy in the city of Gallimaufry, whose words are far older than his years.

Delilah Latterkin’s life is shattered when Trajan Sacripent, a follower of Jeopardy afflicted by a terrible curse, slaughters her entire community. Young and innocent as she is, she is bound to Sacripent against her will and together they too travel to seek the prophet.

Cleo Sinister, a poisoner’s wife, finds her life touched by the death of a child – a son of Jeopardy brought to her husband for disposal. A mysterious inner call reaches out to her too, and she is driven to seek out the father of the child. Upon the road she meets a forlorn and broken paladin, Dauntless Javelot, who becomes her reluctant protector.

Meeting many strange and mysterious people along the path, as their worlds grow ever more peculiar, these travellers are fated to converge upon one spot: the city of Gallimaufry where, as the Church militia conspire to murder him, Jeopardy will reveal himself for perhaps the last time. But nothing is as it seems and, as their acceptance of reality is challenged continually, none of the company will survive these bizarre days unscathed or unchanged.

Pruning Your Work by Storm Constantine

Most writers tend to fall into one of two categories: the under-writer and the over-writer. Let’s call these the starveling and the bloater. The starveling produces bare, stark first drafts; there might only be slashes of dialogue without any ‘stage directions’ to show what the characters are doing, or hardly any description, or scant exposition. Some starvelings I know write first drafts that read like synopses. Their subsequent drafts involve adding all the extras – the ornaments, if you like – to the basic story. But this piece isn’t about starvelings. Their problems will be discussed another time. No, this is for the bloaters among you.

Bloaters are greedy for words. Not for them the crisp-bread and Philadelphia Lite of first drafts. They often say the same thing over and over, but in slightly different ways. The trouble is, when the words are pouring out and some of those sentences are just so tasty, they seem too good to waste. Bloaters might go over the top with description. Disciplined descriptive detail makes for good story-telling, but too much of it gets in the way of the story. Readers get bored and lose interest.

Sometimes, when you’re writing, it’s easy to include dialogue and description – even whole scenes – that have little or no bearing on pushing the story forward. In later drafts, all that can go. But the problem is, when you’re so close to a piece of work, it’s often difficult to determine exactly what’s essential and what isn’t. After all, the story is a virtual living world in your imagination. You know everything about it and you want your readers to share that experience. Cutting too much might damage that vision. In a full length novel, it isn’t always necessary to junk all the sub-plots and ‘asides’. They can enrich the story rather than hamper it. The trick is to achieve a balance.

It’s important to remember that the short story and the novel are very different animals. You have to be much stricter with yourself about extraneous detail in a short story, which should be as polished and perfect as you can get it. Editing and writing are two distinct skills. But despite this, I believe that all writers can train themselves to edit their own work to some extent. So, how do you start learning the skill?

It helps to get other people to look at your work, especially if they read a lot themselves. Tell them what you want them to look for, stressing you want an honest response – you won’t bite their heads off if they come back with negative remarks. (That’s something I could write another whole article on – accepting helpful criticism gracefully!) The main things for them to search for are repeated and unnecessary information. Once your readers have come back with their opinions, take a look at the story again. On your computer, create a copy of the story, make those cuts, print the piece out, and read it once more. Does the story work better now? Has the narrative flow improved without losing any of the atmosphere you set up?

Another helpful practice is to read your story aloud – you can be sure that repetitions and tedious sections will make their presence known. If you can, read to an audience of one or more – their comments will be helpful too.

The object of the exercise is to remove all information from the story that waylays the reader unnecessarily, that does nothing to progress the plot or plump up characterisation. It’s often tempting to keep sections in, because you think they build a character up in the reader’s mind. Pages of personal history about your protagonists might be useful as a reference source for you – but how much does the reader need to know for the story to work for them? Be severe with yourself here. Don’t let your story get drowned by torrents of irrelevant personal detail.

It helps to try out different readers until you come across the one (or more) who seems to give the best advice. If you can join a writers’ workshop or creative writing class, even better. (If there isn’t one in your area, you could start one). This is because another good way to learn how to edit your own work is to edit other people’s. It’s surprising how much you can pick up from their mistakes!

Once you’ve found your unofficial editor, nine times out of ten their suggestions will bring unexpected new life to a story. I’m often amazed at how judicial cutting seems to electrify the prose, bringing everything into focus. Observing what other people regard as non-essential information helps train you to recognise it yourself.

Bloat notoriously shakes the meaning of a piece of text out of focus, such as when a writer says in twenty words what can easily be said in ten. I’m not talking about description here (although that can suffer from this fault), but simple narrative. Most commonly, the problem manifests as an army of words that colonise your sentences, thereby obscuring the meaning and creating an area of mud in which the reader loses their footing.

Here’s an example; a sentence from the original draft of a story, which once appeared in a magazine I edited. The protagonist is just taking a bite from a chicken leg. The original sentence read:

‘Her jaws moved, but as far as she was concerned it was nothing more than an inedible pulp’.

There is a grammatical problem with this sentence too, but after he reworked the story, the author’s final version read:

‘Her jaws moved with effort.’

The reworded sentence conveys all the meaning of the first – she didn’t really enjoy the meat – without all the padding. To keep more description, the sentence could also have been reworded as: ‘Her jaws moved, but the meat was an inedible pulp in her mouth.’ The wording is still more concise than in the original sentence and the meaning is clear.

A good exercise is to take a paragraph from one of your stories and chop it by half. Be harsh with yourself. This is just an exercise. Do it in three or four different ways. Cut different words. Reword sentences more concisely. But notice the effect on the whole.

An excess of unnecessary words might not be the problem. Perhaps you are one of those writers who has to say everything at least twice. You think of one metaphor to describe the moonlight, you think of another. They both make your skin tingle, so both have to go in. As they’re both so evocative and sensual, surely no-one will mind them being there? But there are hundreds of ways to describe something creatively – so why waste them all on one story? Again, learn to recognise when you’re repeating yourself, and keep the repetitions in a separate file or on paper. Use them somewhere else, on their own, where they can shine like gems.

It’s taken me over ten years of professional writing and fourteen novels to train myself to spot occasions of bloat. Even now, I don’t notice them all, especially when I’ve just finished writing a novel or story, and I’m still too close to it. It’s usually after a month or so, when the copy-edited manuscript comes back from the publishers, that the repetitions, over-long descriptions and unnecessary details, scenes and dialogue leap from the page at me. My writing now is a lot more concise than it was. But one thing I have learned over the years: I don’t expect my first, or even my second, drafts to be perfect. Criticising yourself too harshly at this early stage can lead to writer’s block. There’ll be plenty of time later to get out the polishing tools.

Writing can be a difficult process. The stories blossom in our minds, but when we sit down to commit them to screen or paper, the words often don’t come out as scintillating as we imagined them – or worse, they refuse to come out at all. We have the vision in our minds, the essential feeling, but sometimes despair of capturing that in the written word. It’s important to just write. Train yourself to think as you write rather than before you write. Editing a piece of work is the easy part, the enjoyable process of tinkering with the words. Most of us are either starvelings or bloaters. Sometimes I’m one or the other. The main thing is learning the techniques of your craft, so you can polish your stories yourself.

 

 

August Newsletter

August 2012

a recap of all the important news and book releases from Immanion Press & Megalithica Books!

News from the Blog: This Month, Dear Storm provides advice, tips and tricks in her new article titled: Making your Writing Live

Larisa Hunter explores the benefits of extended time in editing and proof reading in her article titled: The Long and Winding Road


Did you know that Immanion Press is now posting events of interest? Check it out here you never know when one of your favorite authors might be making a special apperance!

New Releases in Fiction & Non-Fiction: There are no releases for August. Please check the Coming Soon area for future titles!


Exciting News: 

  • Storm Constantine is wrapping up Para Imminence. We hope to provide the release date as soon as possible!
  • The book contest will be happening again soon! Now that all the kinks have been worked out, it should be a lot smoother! We will be posting more details closer to the date!
Coming Soon
Non Fiction:
  • Manifesting Divinity by Lisa Spiral Besnett
  • Embracing Heathenry by Larisa Hunter

Fiction: 
  • Owl Stretching by K. A. Laity
  • Para Imminence by Storm Constantine

The Inner Guide to Megaliths, Review by Northern Earth

Originally appeared in Northern Earth Issue 129, March 2012 pg30-31. To order a copy of this issue please visit Northern Earth

THE INNER GUIDE TO THE MEGALITHS

Alan Richardson

Megalithica Books, 2011. Pbk, 316pp. £12.99. 978-1-905713-53-0

When we talk about sacred experience in the past, and how such experiences were expressed, we call it folklore (or more cloyingly, religion); but today such events are often disparaged as New Age claptrap or even some kind of ‘mental episode’. There is a direct continuum between sacred experience in the past and the present, as most if not all NE readers will know, and it is into accounts of contemporary experience that Richardson ventures.

When we talk of visions, we tend to think of them as something spectacular, but they are more likely to come as brief tantalizing experiences bracketed by the mundane. Clouds don’t have to part, nor bushes to burn – just a curtain is suddenly pulled up, something other is glimpsed, and one is left to make something – or nothing – of it. This book is a collection of such experiences and reflections, shared by those, like ourselves, who regularly visit ancient sites with an open mind. Indeed, many of us will find people we know among the contributors; and we may also find their accounts tally with our own experiences. These are essentially place experiences, tied in with perception, at ancient sites that are not only locations of geography, but of psyche. Although the ancient sites chosen are in Wessex, loosely linked by the travels of a 19th-century antiquarian, the Rev. Edward Duke, one might expect a similar pattern to emerge elsewhere.

Originally published in 2001, under the title Spirits of the Stones (reviewed NE86, p31), I was surprised then that it didn’t make more impact among neo-antiquarians and fellow travellers. I have always considered it one of the most important books in the earth mysteries field, and it is good to see it back in print. It’s not always easy to read, for the best of reasons – I frequently had to stop as half-buried memories of sites and sensations surfaced, and I was imaginatively transported to other places.

Republication, however, implies an obligation to review some of the content, and the ‘Resources’ section is wincingly out of date, irritatingly so as regards NE – it would have been easy and better just to cut this section. [JB]

Bridging the Gap:Working Within the Dynamics of Pagan Groups and Society by Crystal Blanton

Review by Mike Gleason

Bridging the Gap:  Working Within the Dynamics of Pagan Groups and Society  by  Crystal Blanton

Those of us who have been in the Pagan “community” for any appreciable amount of time are well aware that the topic of this book is one which in of vital concern as  Paganism becomes more acceptable in the world outside our Circles, Groves, and Covens.  From the very beginnings of the public existence of Paganism in the  modern world  there have arisen situations which needed to be addressed, but which frequently were shuffled to the side with a “We’ll deal with that later” attitude.

The past decade or so has seen the rapid rise of both “solitary” and “eclectic” segments of the Pagan community.  This has led to even more destabilization of the overall community, since there appears to be a high level of distrust, if not outright antagonism between these segments and the more “traditional” groups which exist.

Ms Blanton approaches the subject from the point of view of an individual who works in the field of counseling, thus she brings a perspective  which is often lacking in our community.  Of course, that very perspective will make her suspect in the minds of some individuals.  There tends to be an “all or nothing” or “us versus them” attitude, which is unfortunate.  We could all benefit from a bit of distance sometimes.  She offers insight in how (and why) we react to challenges within our various communities as well as ways we can use our reactions to further positive goals.

This is a book which is heavy on psychology and psychological counseling and short on magic and Paganism, per se.  Having said that, I must hasten to add that if you ever want to be a member of a Temple, Grove, Coven, etc., you will benefit from taking the time to read and absorb the contents of this excellent book.

Ms Blanton addresses the needs of groups to relate to their individual members, as well as the need for  groups (and their membership) to relate beyond their own boundaries.  These are aspects which need to be addressed if we, as a religion and a society, are to have any hope of  being accepted.  This acceptance must come from within as well as without.

She points out that many times we are less than forthcoming with our fellow Pagans and Witches.  She  relates an incident where an individual painted their spouse as being more supportive that they actually were, reasoning that no one would meet him, and thus they would never know.  As often happens, reality  stepped in and the deception was discovered, which led to feelings that the individual could not be trusted to tell the truth, thus leading to a break down in trust and, ultimately, the demise of a friendship.

The underlying theme of this book is honesty – with ourselves and with those around us.  The attitude of not “rocking the boat” or of not “making waves” is so prevalent in our culture that we assume it is a natural part of how to get along with each other.  Yet, it ultimately leads to problems which are difficult if not impossible to heal.  In order for us to have healthy relationships we need to respect boundaries, needs, and desires – for ourselves as well as for others.  This book is an excellent introduction to ways of accomplishing that.

Every once in a while I encounter a book which I feel absolutely MUST be in a Coven library.  This is one of those books.  Not only should each member of coven leadership be expected to read this book, each member of every coven, grove, temple, etc., should find this book on their REQUIRED reading list.  In fact, if I were still working in a group situation, I would consider presenting a copy to each member, and then arranging discussion groups to deal with the contents, it is that important (and good) a book.

Do yourself a favor.  Get this book.  Read this book.  Discuss this book.

Dancing with Spirits: Festivals and Folklore of Japan by Denny Sargent

Review by Mike Gleason

Dancing with Spirits:  Festivals and Folklore of Japan  by  Denny Sargent  © 2010   

The religions of Japan are among the least understood by members of Western society.  This happens for a number of reasons, most prominently because they are so much an organic part of the culture that even many Japanese don’t give them much thought.  In fact, one often hears Japanese say that they are not religious, even as they are participating in some festival, or entering/leaving a shrine.  The religions are simply a part of daily life, and thus not considered a separate religious aspect.

Generally, religion in Japan breaks down into one of two major types – Shinto or Buddhism – but that is as simplistic as saying religion in the West is either Christian or non-Christian; true to an an extent, but failing to capture the shear breadth of the religious experience.  Each of the two groups has unique observances, yet commonalities exist.

It is, naturally, almost impossible for the visitor to the Land of the Rising Sun to fully experience either of these religions since they are coming from the outside, and do not have the same cultural references which natives have, and which form such an integral part of the observations and beliefs.  Nonetheless, Mr. Sargent spent four years living in Japan, consumed with a desire to learn as much as he could.  He went out of his way to experience what he could and share what he experienced with readers.  This is not an academic approach, but rather more like a running commentary on those experiences.

While the majority of festivals contain at least a modicum of solemnity, the Kanamara festival throws solemnity to the side.  After all, how serious and solemn can a festival be when the object of devotion is a seven-foot tall shocking pink penis?  Carried off by transgendered individuals to make the circuit of the neighborhood?  Naturally, there is a serious reason for this observance, even if no one is quite sure what it is, or when it actually made its way into the national consciousness.

There are rituals and observances which involve thousands, as well as those which are tailored for the family.  There are festivals which are observed simultaneously across the breadth of the land, and those whose dates of observation are a matter of local custom.  There are festivals and observances which are well-documented in their foundation and those which no one seems too sure about.

In addition to material on the festivals and observances, Mr. Sargent has included a section on the magical creatures, ranging from the various types of spirits, to assorted animals.  This is a relatively short section, and could deserve a book of its own, in my opinion.

He completes this volume with a section on the Goddesses of Japan which, although short, is quite informative.  I’m not sure how much appeal this little volume will have for the “average, Western Pagan”, but as a means of expanding our awareness of how others relate to the Otherworld it is almost invaluable.  Personally, I am not all that interested in Japanese religious observances, but I still found myself thoroughly enjoying this book.  Not only that, but I resented when I needed to stop reading to do other things, and there really aren’t many books that I can say that about.

Ecstatic Ritual: Practical Sex Magic by Brandy Williams

Review by Mike Gleason

Ecstatic Ritual: Practical Sex Magic  by  Brandy Williams © 2008 

This is a revision (perhaps enhancement is a better word) of a book issued in its original form twenty years ago.  During the intervening decades there have been many changes.  Some of these changes have had a major impact on the world of sex magick (the AIDS epidemic is one example) while others are less obvious (more works by female writers).  Nonetheless, they have all contributed to changes.  Ms. Williams did an excellent job the first time around, and has made only minor changes to this second edition. Unfortunately, there are numerous dropped words in the text which should have been caught during the revision process, but which slipped through.

Ms. Williams has produced a very useable “101” book on a topic which is slowly gaining acceptance within the magickal community.  For far too long the topic of sex magick (or, in my opinion, more properly, sexual magick) has been hidden away from the average magick worker, restricted to “higher initiates” and often relegated to the Left-Hand path or dark magick (don’t even get me started on that topic).  Whether or not one uses sexual magick, everyone should be familiar with the concepts and tenets.

One of the few major alterations to the text is in Chapter Seven dealing with bodily fluids.  AIDS has caused major changes in attitudes and understanding. Appendix Three deal with ethics which is a topic that is seriously under-dealt with in most books on magick. Most authors dismiss the topic with a few words or sentences.  At three pages this is a good beginning, but could still benefit from a further expansion.

My overall impression of this book is quite favorable.  It covers the subject well, while still allowing for further explorations.  Ms. Williams’ style is very readable and her work definitely stands the test of time.

For those readers who are uncomfortable with the topic of sexual magick all I can say is “Don’t buy this book.”  For those looking for all kinds of salacious suggestions, I say “Don’t buy this book.”  If, on the other hand, you want some sound ideas on the use of sexual energy in your magick, this is the book for you.

Ms. Williams does her best to be gender- and judgment-neutral in terms of the various potential partnerships, although she has a few “unacceptable” scenarios (which should be upheld by any competent, caring individual).

Although it is not an area of great interest to me, I found the book well-written and informative.