Peyote Fire is coming…October 25, 2014

Here's preview of the last chapter of Peyote Fire

Here’s preview of the last chapter of Peyote Fire

Can you feel it?  Peyote Fire is coming!  This has been a labor of love for four years now, but the book is about to become a real, physical thing!  The official book launch will be at the Texas Archeological Society annual meeting in San Marcos, Texas, Oct. 25, at 10:00 am.  The first 25 people at the talk will receive a free copy in either paperback or ebook format.

I’ve got a ton of work to do between now and then, but I…feel…it…coming!

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The Opposite of Hot and Dry

The mountains of British Columbia across the cold, crisp Salish Sea

The mountains of British Columbia across the cold, crisp Salish Sea

Deer Cloud came with me even though I tried to shake him off. I’ve been thinking so deeply about the protagonist in my novel the past year and a half, that even on a trip to Canada, he sometimes popped in to chat. He’d never seen such immense water, so salty, so cold. He’d never seen mountains so far away. He wondered at the creatures and the plants. Could he have survived there, with the skills he had for the desert canyonlands?

Unlike TV ninnies on fake islands, Deer Cloud would have adapted immediately, even though the environment on the Gulf Islands  just off Vancouver is the opposite of his home land in the Lower Pecos.

Purple starfish amid the rubble of mussel shells

Purple starfish amid the rubble of mussel shells

The waters are so rich, he have figured out how to catch fish right away. Maybe with a net, or just a lucky spear. Black mussels are abundant at the shoreline, so he would have dug for big ones at low tide, and probably found luscious white butter clams as well. He would poke at starfish clinging to rocks, but toss them away. Their rough exteriors rebuff even gulls.

He would build a hut from giant fern fronds to get out of the rain, or maybe take refuge in a burned-out tree. The rain is not so bad in the forest, and he could even find a bit of dry kindling there under some massive branch.  He would also find

Blackberries ripening

Blackberries ripening

blackberries in early September, and salal, which he would undoubtedly try.

He might see a whale lift a fin and tumble over, or spout through his blow hole.  He might see a seal head bob up for air, or an otter cracking shells as he floats on his back. He would gasp to see an eagle snatch a fish from the sea, and his heart would pound with joy when he saw a deer.  He would know the gods were with him, even here.

In a day or two he would find evidence of other people on the island. Petroglyphs, carved into sandstone near the sea, tell of myths and monsters, as well as brothers. The people would welcome him with song and dance, and tell him their stories round the fire. He would tug a deer skin round his shoulders to keep off the chill, and think seriously about staying.

Re-created whale petroglyph. The original on Gabriola Island is covered in moss.

Re-created whale petroglyph. The original on Gabriola Island is covered in moss.

Alas for him, as well as me, the float plane came to take me home.  Back to hot and dry.

Never Forget 9/ll

Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons

The sun which rises every day

The sun which rises every day

Some people have asked me about the novel I claim to be writing. I am happy to say that I have recently completed the first draft–over 86,000 words in about 19 months.  The book is tentatively called Peyote Fire, and is about the first peyote shaman.

The protagonist, Deer Cloud, is painting the stories of the Powerful Ones in a stone alcove high above the

Lower Pecos Canyonlands

Lower Pecos Canyonlands

river. His grandfather Panther Claw consecrated the alcove when Deer Cloud was a boy, especially for him to paint.  The two spent many years tracing designs on the ground to arrive at the best composition to honor the gods and preserve their greatness for generations to come. When Panther Claw dies, Deer Cloud’s life takes a dramatic turn.

The book is set in the Archaic Lower Pecos, or about 4000 years ago in the area of the confluence of the Pecos River and the Rio Grande, bounded on the east by the Devil’s River. The Rain Bringer clan lives in the canyons , river banks, and uplands of this territory. There are many magnificent, brilliantly painted rock shelters that tell the stories of their gods within their lands.

Rock Art from the Archaic Lower Pecos

Rock Art from the Archaic Lower Pecos

I have used archeological reports and treatises written about the people of the Archaic Lower Pecos as a factual base for the story.  I have tried to make descriptions of everyday life as accurate as possible, given what we know.  But we do not fully know the people’s understanding of their world. As a stand-in for their undoubtedly rich religious and philosophical life, I am relying upon ethnographies of the Huichol people of Mexico, whom some suspect may be distantly related.  I’ve had to strip out every  agricultural mention in the Huichol mythologies, and other modern strains, such as cultural changes brought on by contact with the Spanish, in order to seek an Archaic core.

From these core beliefs and descriptions of Huichol ceremonies, I have constructed a fictional world view that pervades the Rain Bringers’ lives.  This world view brings meaning to their lives and explains the natural phenomena that surrounded them; the same mysteries that surround us today.

I have a list of revisions two pages long which I am working through now.  When I get that done, I will start completely over to add characterization and nuance (hopefully) to the manuscript.  I hope to have it finished and ready to shop around by next June. (Which means I’d better get to work!)

I’m not sure how it will be published yet, but I know I want an ebook version.  My son Miles, the composer and computer dude,  is writing music for the electronic book.  I may also add a bit of video of the landscape, just to set the mood.  There will also be plain, unenhanced,  paper copies, whatever publishing route I choose.

Thank you for reading my blog, and I hope you will read the book when it becomes available. Stay tuned for another year to find out.

The Great Transformer, Grandfather Fire

The Great Transformer, Grandfather Fire