My Altar

My cousin Reva called from Maine recently to tell me she’d received the copy of INCENSED I sent her. We got to talking about “the radish” in chapter 1, and I told her about the radish made from felt I found while visiting her a couple of summers ago. I loved having it around while I worked on the book, and now it has a place on my altar. Reva wanted to see the altar, so I took some pictures to send her, then decided it would be fun to write about here.

The radish is right in the center of this picture.  For sizing and a better view, here’s the radish on the keyboard of my MacBook Pro.

I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the artist who made this. She does a lot of vegetables, also puppets. There are so many amazing craftspersons in that area – the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle. Anyway, if you’ve read INCENSED, you know why I had to have the radish. If I publish my earlier novel, THE COLIN FIRTH FILM FESTIVAL, I’ll need to get an eggplant, if there is one. Eggplant is the name of a black Lab puppy in that book.

Sitting behind the radish to the left is the “tacky dolphin candle” mentioned in the INCENSED acknowledgements. That item showed up on my doorstep unexpectedly. I later found out it was compliments of my writing group; I now can’t remember why, but maybe it was after I finished the first draft.  The best part is the price tag they added: $159.99. What a bargain. And speaking of dolphins (spoiler alert):  If you’ve read the book, do you agree that Clickety-Whee-Whatever-His-Name-Is would make a better husband than Dirk? Comments welcome below.

The third writing-related item on the altar is the mirror with the word “Author” engraved on the cover, which Wendy gave the all the group members last year. Nothing quite like an affirmation, especially in silver. Still, with that on the cover, I keep expecting to see someone else in the mirror.  Jane Smiley, maybe. She’s a hero of mine. Fabulous writer AND a lover of Thoroughbred horses.

Speaking of horses, there are five horsey items on the altar.  More pictures:

The cute fuzzy guy on the left is wearing prayer beads. Behind him is a horse fetish. To the left, next to the Lady of Guadalupe, is a postcard my friend Vicky sent me.

My son is not thrilled that I keep so many things he made when he was little, but they make me happy. The oldest item – thus made when he was the youngest – is the heart-shaped box with the beads on it above.

Do you have an altar? Send a pic!




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Jobs for Shamans

Jobs for Shamans

In writing Incensed, part of my inspiration was how much humor can be mined in the arena of personal transformation, which I actually do take (somewhat) seriously. Just to prove that you don’t have to make this stuff up, I recently received, from a person I’ll call “Norma”, the following email:

Subject: Are you a shaman?
Hey there,
I’m reaching out to you because (our website) is getting a lot of job leads for shamans, and I’m looking for another shaman who is interested in taking on more clients.

After checking out your website I think you are a great fit for (our website) and I’d love to start sending you job leads. Please fill out a few details about your skills and rates, and I’ll start forwarding you potential new clients.

If you have any questions about what (our website) can provide, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Now I think this is very interesting. Norma apparently did not even know my name (“Hey there”), and yet somehow was aware that I was, or might be a shaman. (A false assumption, as you will see below, yet intriguing.) Why would she presume so? Is Norma herself a shaman, with special shaman-recognizing powers? Could she have come across my email address in an shamanic directory somewhere, perhaps the Underworld? By “another shaman,” does she mean in addition to herself, because she has so many shaman assignments she can’t keep up with them all? Or perhaps she is more of an agent, matching shamans with those in need of one, for a percentage or a small fee.

Another fascinating point: Jobs for shamans? Really? In fact, this subject comes up in INCENSED, when Michaela returns home after having a profound inner experience (her first):

“She didn’t understand what she had gone through today at Rennie’s, but it felt significant. Rennie said her experience had elements of shamanism, which he explained as a kind of healing in native societies. Maybe she was supposed to be a shaman. Perhaps she was meant to go find a tribe somewhere that needed one, and offer her services. She wondered if they posted on Craigslist.

She didn’t know much about native tribes, but thought there were probably still some around, deep in rural Mexico, or the Amazon. But she hated being hot and sticky, and her Spanish wasn’t exactly mucho bueno. That’s if they even spoke Spanish. Some difficult, rare language, more likely, with sounds she wouldn’t be able to pronounce.

No, it would have to be American Indians. Northwest and Southwest tribes didn’t appeal to her because she felt their design elements had been overused. But there were some small, less famous tribes right here in California, judging by all the casinos. That was even better – close to civilization, in case she needed to shop for clothes or get a good meal. And if a casino tribe needed a new shaman, they could probably afford to pay her better.”

Not to toot my own horn (which, I should add, is not a magical giant Javanese snake horn, sold online for $368.72 USD, Excellent for Magickal Protection and Development, according to the website), but I did not even realize when I wrote the scene that “Jobs for shamans” was a real possibility!  Perhaps Norma is right, and I have more shamanic capabilities than I realized. Maybe I should consider her offer. I mean, if it worked out, I could write my next book and still take on a few of Norma’s “potential new clients.”

So I decided to respond:

Dear Norma,

This is the second email you’ve sent me.  I am surprised to hear there are job leads for shamans.  Is that true?  I have never said I was a shaman, but I know someone who might have those qualifications.  However it is not a job that one generally advertises for, so I’m very curious.


Unfortunately, Norma did not write back. Instead, I received a reply from “Louis,” presumably Norma replacement (or perhaps Norma herself was just out performing a ritual):

Hi Cary,

Thanks for the email, and sorry about the confusion! We spend a large portion of our day hunting around online and offline for good, trustworthy service providers. We get leads from personal websites, customer recommendations, and job boards, so we may have mixed you up with someone else.

However, we do have Shamans available on our site, and they have been providing there (sic) services when needed 🙂 You can try searching for them here: (our website)  “I’m looking for” [Shaman] + “Near me” [Location]

~ Louis, Customer Advocate

He also told me how to post my services, should I so wish.

I have to admire Louis, who is very polite, a trait perhaps more attributable to shamans than agents, although I’m sure it varies by individual. However I decided not to take Louis’s advice, and so I have not posted on their website. I just don’t feel ready. But if I should find I need a shaman, or maybe a job, it’s good to know Louis, and maybe even Norma, are available to help.

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