Welcome to my new website, just in time to publish The Seed Bearer’s Bride, the second book in the Thrones of Genesis series! It’s now live on Amazon in both e-book and print formats. E-book FREE August 27-29, 2021

The year 2019 was a tremendous challenge after the deaths of both my husband and youngest son. But here I am, doing stuff and happy with my new book. Here’s the introduction to this romp through the pre-Flood world in the primeval time of Adam and Eve:

We humans are hard-wired for mystery and transcendence. We crave a higher reality, one that’s hard to project against the mundane details of our material world. And one of the best sources for that kind of transcendent mystery is the Bible. A great example is Genesis 6:1-4, about an intriguing event that forms the premise for the story in The Seed Bearer’s Bride:

“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose… There were giants in the earth in those days…when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

Looking at the text in the English translation, it’s natural to assume the “sons of God” refers to human men. Who else would be marrying those good-looking daughters of men and having kids with them? But the Hebrew meaning of the term, bene haelohim ( בני האלוהים), refers to a being directly created by God, in this case angels (see Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7 and Luke 20:36). In traditional Jewish and Christian theology, with the exception of Adam (the first human man), human beings are not directly created by God, but are Adam’s DNA progeny. We have navels to prove it.

On the other hand, “daughters of men,” benoth adam ( בנות של גברים), translates to daughters of Adam, which became the giant Nephilim. Nephilim הנפילים) means fallen ones or mighty ones. Humans mating with humans doesn’t produce giants, but supernatural beings mating with humans might. And voilà, a great foundation for a fantasy novel.

It’s a challenge to our sense of the incredulous to think of angels interacting sexually with humans. In Christian theology, the role of angels is to praise and serve God in various ways, not procreate. Angels are called the “bodiless powers,” and bodies are needed for mating as we know it. Yet if we accept that the Bible is full of concepts and events we adhere to without fully understanding (such as the concept of the Trinity or the resurrection of the dead), then procreation between humans and angels, though forbidden, might be possible.

Angels are all over the Bible and are described as men (Joshua 5: 13-15; Mark 16:1-5; Genesis 18 and many others). These celestial ones apparently have the ability to take on some version of material bodies in order to interact with people. In Genesis 32, the patriarch Jacob wrestled all night with an angel, who injured Jacob’s hip socket. In Genesis 19:16, an angel took Lot by the hand and in Genesis 18:8, three “men” whom Abraham recognized as God ate food Abraham and Sarai prepared and allowed their feet to be washed.

The First Book of Enoch is a non-canonical work that was revered by Jews and then Christians for several centuries before and after Christ. Part of the work is a narrative of two hundred Watchers (a classification of angels, meaning wakeful one, and mentioned in Daniel 4:13), who “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation” (Jude 1:6) in order to cohabit with women. They produced enormous, hybrid offspring that dominated the earth. The narrative of The First Book of Enoch coincides with the Genesis 6 account.

We also have the clear endorsement of the early Church Fathers on this subject. Irenaeus, Ambrose, Clement of Rome, and Justin Martyr, among others, concurred on this phenomenon of the antediluvian world expressed in Genesis 6:1. Tertullian referred to the Nephilim giants as a “demon-brood” whose “great business is the ruin of mankind.” Irenaeus wrote this in his Discourse in the Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching: “And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons, who for their exceeding greatness were called giants.”

The renowned first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also wrote of the Nephilim in his Antiquities of the Jews.
But what would be the motivation for this massive cosmic disobedience, this enmeshing between angelic beings and flesh-and-blood bodies? Sexual attraction is obvious from the text, but more sinister is the possibility that in their fallen state, these celestial beings wanted to disrupt the human gene pool in order to prevent the coming of the savior figure promised to Eve in Genesis 3:15, whom I call “Anointed One” in The Seed Bearer’s Bride. In Hebrew, the meaning of the word Messiah is “anointed one.”

For those who want even more fodder for speculation, compare the Greek word oiketerion (“habitation”) in Jude 6 with the same word translated as “house” in 2 Corinthians 5:1. Both times the word indicates a change or transfer in bodily form, in the first case for angels and the second for human beings during the resurrection of their bodies at Christ’s Second Coming.

It’s not like the idea of giants is anything new. The lore of ancient cultures is full of these intriguing characters. Think of the Titans of ancient Greek mythology; the cannibalistic race of the cyclops found in Homer’s Odyssey; Gog, Magog, and the giants of the island of Albion (ancient England and Wales), who were said to be “ill favored” and possessed by evil spirits. For what it’s worth, enormous effigies of Gog and Magog are still wheeled through the streets of London every November in the Lord Mayor’s Show. Giants are alive and well in the legends and art of ancient Sumer, Crete, India, Africa, Scandinavia, ancient America, and everywhere in between. Myths aren’t created in a vacuum. Their roots usually have a foundation in reality.

As to the angels in my book, some of their identities and functions will be familiar, such as guardian angels. Other castes and hierarchies that I discovered in my research were new to me, like the “harps” and “glories,” which can be found in On the Heavenly Hierarchy by Dionysius the Areopagite, a fifth century philosopher and Athenian bishop. Besides my use of The First Book of Enoch and other pseudepigraphal sources, and allowing for some poetic license, I’ve tried to communicate my basic presuppositions about the nature, function, and history of angels, taken from the Bible and established Christian tradition. One interesting Christian belief found in 1 Peter 1:12 is that there are mysteries about Christ “into which angels long to look.” They aren’t omniscient; like us, they are always learning.

Along with angels and giants, the constellations also play a role in The Seed Bearer’s Bride. Let me stress that what I learned in my research regarding the most ancient beliefs about the role of stars has nothing to do with modern astrology as we know it. For an excellent introduction to these very old, non-occultic beliefs about the constellations, I recommend The Witness of the Stars by E.W. Bullinger. I’ve used the Hebrew names from Bullinger’s book for the constellations I animate in my story. In several chapters I personify some of the more familiar constellations as a way to raise the story’s stakes and advance my characters’ beliefs about the savior, Anointed One. The ancient Egyptian Denderah Zodiac, as well as Hebrew, Assyrian, and other old beliefs about the prophetic purpose of the stars are remarkably similar to each other. They are a book without words written in the sky, and the focus is a messianic figure.

The Bible offers other insights into the purpose of those tiny lights in the sky. Genesis 1:14 states that they are “for signs and for seasons.” Revelation 12:1-4 gives a fascinating description of a “great sign [that] appeared in heaven, a woman “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” possibly a reference to the Virgin Mary or the alignment of the stars and planets at the time of Christ’s birth, which produced the famous light of extraordinary brilliance that brought the Zoroastrian magi of Persia to the Christ child in Bethlehem. The ancient Hebrew name for that constellation is Bethuleh, which means “a virgin.”

Whatever you believe, buckle up for some entertaining fiction set in the antediluvian world and teeming with characters who love, hate, dream, scheme, and vacillate between doubt and faith as they try to figure out life, just like the rest of us.

I hope you’ll soon be enjoying The Seed Bearer’s Bride!

After my mother died on a cold January morning, I stayed in the hospice room for the next eight hours with my hand over her womb, contemplating my own impending death. No, I’d had no bad news test results, no aches or agonies. But in middle age, I was looking more and more like my mother. With a little imagination, that could be my body on the bed, empty of soul and out of time. In those hours of fresh grief, I sat with my oldest friend, Julie, and felt the last vestiges of my innocence about my own mortality fall away. For the first time, I knew with a pale, grim certainty that one day I would die.

Julie and I finally went out into the winter dusk for a bowl of soup, and there I poured out my misery. It wasn’t just my mom’s passing that engulfed me in mourning; it was that I saw myself for what I really was, a fearful woman who allowed that fear to rule my choices in lots of areas, and at the head of them all was the gnaw of my inadequacy when it came to my writing and the terror of trying to get published. To anyone who ever wondered what the most boring question in the universe is, it is this: What if I’m not good enough?

Well then, and what if I am? I’d been fooling around for a year with a short, humorous manuscript about my experiences discovering the Orthodox Church. Now that manuscript, and my lack of attention to it, began to haunt me. I wasn’t finishing the book because …. because what? Because I’m scared, lazy, easily distracted, and live under the delusion that tomorrow is as good as today, that’s what. I knew that unless I got serious fast and wrote as hard as I could for the rest of my life, I would never be my truest self. I would be committing psychological suicide. Everything changed then. Serial rejection by publishers every day and month and year for the rest of my life seemed suddenly less torturous than the bleakness of never trying. I decided I would write my first book and have some portion of it on an editor’s desk before Thanksgiving.

 It’s a blessing that the stakes were high, and that death was looming. Out of desperation to stay alive, my motivation grew to the proverbial fever pitch. The lean, mean muscle of disciplined writing made those months exhilarating. I even met my self-imposed goal, literally running through the season’s first snowstorm because the roads were bad in order to get my manila envelope in the mail, full of precious chapters. It was very dramatic, very writer-ly.

The following year, Regina Orthodox Press published my book, Great Lent Unplugged (alas, that little experimental gem just went out of print). It was the rush of my life, right up there with other highly memorable rushes, all of which seem to have taken place when I as a teenager, like my first kiss and reaching the top of Mt. Rainier alive. Despite the book’s flaws, I still feel exhilaration when I pick up my copy to read favorite passages once again and look at the cover with my name on it. Note to everyone: one’s name on the cover of a book is a drug.

Of regret, British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes said this: “The only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart…”

Don’t die; invest enough heart.

“Cain flying before Jehovah’s Curse,”  Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormonc. 1880, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

 

I’m happy to announce a republishing of Gold in Havilah: A Novel of Cain’s Wife through Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. The challenge of editing to Westbow’s specifications was a great learning experience; I’m glad I made the effort and am satisfied with the results. Click on any of the Buy buttons here on my site and the little publisher’s helper out there in cyberspace will patch you through to Amazon or Westbow. The prices are the same both places.

Meanwhile, I’m smitten, dizzy-in-love with the plot and characters in my second book in this series of ancient fiction stories centered around the early chapters of Genesis. The working title is, for the moment, Zyla: A Seer’s Tale. I’ll do a couple of things in this book, the first being to introduce an amazing new female lead, Zyla, one of the wives of the infamous Lamech, sixth from Cain and the first bigamist mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 4:19). Zyla is a cerebral, willful woman with a prophetic gift who must learn to use her gifting wisely. Being a book character, that’s going to be harder for her than it should, because that is how book characters are. Just like in the movies, these guys always, always go into the dark, creepy house while you pull at your hair and scream, “DON’T GO IN!”

I’ll also satisfy the curiosity of some of my readers who have been asking, “So what happened to Cain?” They’re right, for after all, I did leave Cain’s miserable self pretty stranded at the end of Gold, without a resolution to his story. Readers’ interest in Cain’s outcome made me realize I hadn’t yet exhausted my treatment of this annoying villain, the world’s first murderer. I promise I’ll sate people’s appetite for more about Cain, and his measly seven generations of progeny as well.

So get ready for Cain on steroids, with his scabs and scars and bad attitude and all the rest, just as you enjoyed him in Gold. And get ready to like Zyla, even if she does have to learn everything the hard way, which shouldn’t sound too unfamiliar to most of us.

 

“Cain smiled then, at no one in particular. There was something like cruelty in it. Cruel, yet beautiful.”            

Cruel yet beautiful, that first murderer on the earth. Cain’s brutish fratricide and bitter defiance toward a God who only wanted restoration ring out like a cacophony of madness against the backdrop of the silent antediluvian world. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain spews when God asks him where Abel is, the younger brother Cain has just murdered. Without an impoverished cultural climate or bad parenting to blame, Cain simply envied Abel, then killed him. And because the short narrative found in Genesis 4 is so powerful, Cain has become one of the ultimate villains of our collective consciousness. His story in some form permeates the literature of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions. Artists across the centuries have immortalized real and imagined scenes from Cain’s life, and numerous films and books play off the subject of Cain’s fratricide, even an award-winning 1992 documentary, Brother’s Keeper, about an elderly, illiterate Texas man falsely accused of murdering his brother. The issue of murder within family systems reaches deep within us all. Few things strike us as more horrific.

Yet Cain’s story is a cautionary tale. Though Adam’s first son took his string of sins to extreme ends, In Gold in Havilah, my lead character, Akliah, states, “Killing takes many forms.” And after a long and eventful life she reflects that, “We all murder our brother, if not with flint or stone then through slander and the jealous broodings that fester in every heart.” Anyone who has searched her own soul knows that chillingly negative thoughts toward others are, sadly, sometimes part of our human experience.

It makes me wonder: If more of us took to heart that we each have the power of “cruel yet beautiful” and the capacity to either enhance or disrupt the peace around us, the more of that elusive Peace on Earth there might be. What do you think?

 

 

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They say you should write the book you always wanted to read. That’s where the inspiration to write Gold In Havilah came from, for those early chapters of Genesis are a life-long fascination of mine. There’s nothing like that mysterious narrative about a paradise called Eden and the human beings who once lived both within it, and later, maybe just outside its gates. Apparently I’m not the only one, though some people’s interest takes what appears to be more subtle forms. Everything from song lyrics to the legend of Atlantis to our craving for tropical vacation getaways enjoyed in the semi-nude suggest we know at an intuitive level that the earth was once a pristine bliss bath where there were no words for things like clothes and work and sickness. In her hit song “Woodstock,” songwriter Joni Mitchell expressed what many of us already ache in the knowing of: We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. We all strive by some means—holy or profane—to get back to that garden. We want to be golden again.

Though my Gold in Havilah protagonist, Akliah, is a speculative character, her name, as well as her sister Luluwa’s, are mentioned in several extra-biblical texts as being among Eve’s children besides the two we know about: Cain and Abel. I’ve chosen to tell Akliah’s story in the straightforward way the author/s of Genesis tell theirs, working from the assumption that the people and mysterious events in the Bible’s first stories happened in real time and space, not serving as evasive metaphors for something else. If we accept that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are historical figures—and most historians do, not to mention traditional Jews, Christians and Muslims— then why do we balk at the Adam and Eve tale just because it seems so otherworldly? That’s part of the point: things have definitely changed around here since God created it in a pristine state. We don’t have to understand something for it to be helpful, or true. And the first three chapters of Genesis offer about as good an explanation as any as to why things are the way they are on earth.

Thank you for reading Gold in Havilah. Zyla: A Seer’s Tale, the next book in this series, should make its appearance around the end of 2017. Its lead character is Zyla, one of the wives of Lamech, mentioned in Genesis 4:19. It’s these biblical women with little or no story behind their names that attract me.

02212014_kevin_spacey_house_of_cards_netflixIt has always seemed strange to me . . . the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egoism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second. – John Steinbeck

What epitomizes the essence of Steinbeck’s ruminations better than the highly successful Netflix TV show House of Cards, a statement on the ruthless spirit of Washington politics (real or somewhat imagined) that even a sophisticated reviewer for the New York Times admits “may be the most joyless show on television.” Nevertheless, I hear it everywhere: emotional downer shows that cash in on human evil are “actually quite literary,” and this type of “finally, something intelligent on television” programming spells the Salvation of Western Civilization.

While admitting the show is joyless, the Times reviewer still considers this drama series “exhilarating and binge-worthy.” She’s right; looking voyeuristically into other people’s soul sickness is a rush, and addictive because we unconsciously recognize it in ourselves. The spirit behind the Machiavellian Frank Underwood and his grim, shifty-eyed ilk appeals to the Black Plague germs lurking in us all, our love of darkness rather than light (John 3:19). Steinbeck needn’t have been surprised by this human tendency. Read more

 

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When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light. ~ St. Luke 11:34

In accurately rendered Orthodox icons of the Mystical Supper of Christ, both eyes of each of the human subjects present are viewable to the observer. Except one, for Judas the traitor is painted in full profile, a single eye exposed. This is a common iconographic technique, to depict evil persons or the demonic obliquely, sometimes smaller and darker, their faces usually obscured. The use of this artistic form serves as powerful theology in the Church to symbolize spiritual and psychic absence — the half self — the body language version of the inner choice to succumb to spiritual disintegration.

Weak and double-minded though the eleven still were on that fateful night the Lord broke bread in their midst, the hearts of these men were ultimately captivated by Christ, a state never rendered more beautifully than in the ardent bending of St. John’s ear toward the locus of the divine pulse. Judas alone moves outside the symmetry of the circle, his one-eyed view and compulsive, grasping movements signaling a departure from the others’ resolve, to bring themselves calmly and fully to the table, as it were, waiting on Christ. Read More…

This is an excerpt of the article originally published by Relief Journal, a Christian online publication. Click the link below for full article.

Beauty will save the world. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In the Orthodox Church, from Easter to the Ascension, an ethereal hymn is sung while the faithful partake of Eucharist. The brief lyrics implore all who will, to receive the Body of Christ, drink of the Fountain of Immortality. Assuming this transformation of bread and wine into God-flesh and fluid to be mystically true, one can only wonder why an earthquake doesn’t rupture the flooring or angels crack the rafters wide as we small and salvaged ones string forward like ducks to water to ingest Life itself. I’m reduced to a whisper as I sing, as the beauty, the “high art” of this hymn enmeshed with Eucharist, incrementally saves me.

My composer friend Don Newby explains that technically, the musical setting of this hymn feels the way it does on the human psyche partly because its composer has introduced suspensions—non-chord tones—into the line of music at strategic places to create tension, which is then each time given over to release. To the emotions and unconscious mind, these suspensions and subsequent releases feel familiar, mirroring human experience with its constant tensions and releases, dejection and joy, wretchedness and nobility. The music reflects life’s troubled splendor. Read More…

water in a dry land

Photo credit: George Steinmetz The Desert Hides a Well

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

~Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Immersion into the strange, stark beauty of one of the world’s great deserts can lead to unexpected insights. While on pilgrimage to a monastery in the great saguaro desert of Arizona I took a walk the length of two Sabbath days’ journeys outside the monastery gates. It was mid-afternoon, the sun at its zenith of intensity as it dropped westward in the brassy sky. Read more