Bob Freeman is Nuts

So I am going through my normal procrastination ritual of reading some of the hundred or so blogs I’m subscribed to, when I run across Bob Freeman’s blog entry on how he blogs. It’s a question folks like Bob and I get from time to time that I know quite a few folks wrestle with: how do you blog?

I blog just like Bob.

Except completely different.

God bless the writers who can just sit down to a blank page, completely unintimidated, with just an idea, and just start writing, because I couldn’t do that. I need a map, some sort of guide even if it’s just a rough sketch to keep me somewhat on point (or at least make sure I reach a point). It’s not always the case, but I bet you can tell when I don’t at least sketch out my thoughts first, else they pretty much stay the same half thought out idea they began with (this blog began with “Bob is nuts”).

Does blogging take away from my real writing time? No, blogging is PART of my real writing time. I understand what the asker is aiming at. The time I spend blogging is time that I could be working on a novel or a short story or an article, and that’s quite true. But it is still writing (and one day I’m going to calculate just how many words a year I generate in blogging alone and compare that with my “actual” writing output).

I blog on a variety of topics, mostly just whatever I’m thinking about at the time and I publish them in a variety of venues (Indy.Com, Blogging in Black, Hollywood Jesus) for greater exposure and because if I can make money by my writing I most certainly will (heck, I’ve even sold ad space on some of my older blog entries). But I can’t write the way Bob does.

My blog mentors, whether they realized it or not, were/are Nick Mamatas, Brian Keene, and Lauren David (she hates it when I point out that I began blogging as a weird sort of competition with her), thus the weird mix of topics. My blog is my professional face, often the first thing prospective editors and agents look at when they visit my site. I also blog with a distant eye on one day bundling up various blog posts and packaging them as non-fiction book proposals.

But I like I tell folks, there’s no hard and fast rule to this. Half the time I envy those folks who can sit down and write because (and this is my issue) I see them as more authentically artistic. The other half of the time, I wonder if they’re the same folks who talk about their works in progress in the blogs saying things like “I had to cut out 20K of words that didn’t work”. And then I thank God for my map (he says knowing that he’s about to sit down to re-work his first novel to cut 40K out of it because, like a typical guy, he didn’t stop to ask directions when he got lost).

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Road to Mo*Con III: Interview with Bob Freeman Part I

One of the dangers of being my friend is that not only am I prone to playing cell phone lottery, but when I have questions I’m likely to call you just as randomly … and I take notes. In this case, my friends have no one to blame but themselves: Louise Bohmer and Bob Freeman were talking about their spiritual beliefs on a message board, so I had to stick my nose in it and ask Bob some follow up questions. One of the great things about having conversations with people is that you can find a lot of common ground with them. First, go read Bob defining his beliefs and then you’ll be caught up (then suppress your urge to go see Beowulf and 300 again and read my interview):

Would it be right to say that you embrace the principles represented by the pantheon rather than worship the pantheon itself?

One of the more appealing aspects of Odinism is that it is not enabling… Odinists are free to shape their lives to the extent allowed by their skill, courage, and might. There is no predestination, no fatalism, and certainly no limitations imposed by the will of any external deity. An Odinist does not need salvation. All they need is the freedom to face their destiny with courage and honor. An Odinist does not fear the Gods, or consider themselves their slaves. We do not bow or cower before them. On the contrary, we share community and fellowship with the Divine. We break bread with them and join them in drink because we are family… of shared blood. The Gods encourage us to grow and advance to higher levels because we are their offpring… We are the Children of Odin. Odinism/Asatru is often referred to as “the Folkway”. We see ourselves as being connected to all our ancestors. They are a part of us as we in turn will be a part of our descendants, but we are also linked to all our living kin – to our families and to every man and woman rooted in the tribes of Europe. They are, in a very real sense, our “greater family.” The Gods are an intregal part of that family. It is Odin who sits at the head of our table He is our All-Father, and we are his children.

Could you go over the relationship of the Asatru to your beliefs?

Asatru is reconstructionist Norse polytheism. The word itself is Old Norse meaning “Belief in the Gods”. My problem with modern Asatru stems from the fact that our numbers are small. Add to that an even smaller element of the White Power crowd who have filtered into our ranks. This vocal minority sounds even louder when you consider we are a fledgling movement.

I am constantly at odds with this, one part of me wanting to remain more or less solitary, exploring my spirituality outside the politics of the movement… While there’s another part of me that thinks I should be screaming from the rooftops, shouting down those who dishonor the names of our Gods. It’s the one thing that weighs most heavily on my soul.

Part of your religion being defined by a loud minority that embarrasses most of you? Can’t relate to that at all. I understand where you’re coming from: part of my spirituality is quite personal (the spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting for example), which appeals to my introverted nature. YetIi have to balance that against the calls for community, for learning, worship, and fellowship (which appeals to my extroverted self). Is there a “scripture” that informs your faith or do you hold to the ancient Norse stories? How do your ancestors inform you today?

Probably the most important source would be the Havamal which is an epic poem that comes to us in four parts.

1. The Gestapatrr’s main focus is that of hospitality, offering up maxims on good manners and how to treat guests.

2. The Loddfafnismal deals with morality and the code of ethics one is expected to adhere to.

3. The Runatal instructs us in the history of and use of the Runes, the sacred alphabet brought to us by Odin’s self-sacrifice.

4. The Ljodatal deals with the deeper mysteries and of magick.

The Havamal is but one part of the Eddas which is the collection of stories and myths of our gods and heroes. These include The Ring Cycle, popularized I guess by Wagner…And we mustn’t forget Beowulf. I learn from these works, but more importantly I trust in the guidance of that inner voice, which is the voice of my line of ancestors that stretches back through time, back to the beginning.

Again, the focus of one of Odin’s Children is being true to one’s orlog, which is one’s True Will (hence my Thelemic leanings). We all have a “special purpose” (cue The Jerk) … Our journey is divining that purpose and being true to our wyrd (think non-predestination fate), which we cultivate and examine as a unfathomable mystery, as it ebbs and flows like the tides, forward and back through time.

Confused yet? The concepts make more sense in one’s heart than they do when writ out… lol… It’s the great Northern Mystery Tradition

[to be continued]

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Road to Mo*Con III: Interview with Bob Freeman Part II

To catch up, go here for part I of this conversation. So we also share an appreciation for mystery. What sort of traditions and rituals do you have?

As a solitary practitioner I lean toward a more eclectic approach. I perform a personalized ritual during full and new moons, the eight holy days of the wheel, Leif Eriksson Day (which is also my son’s birthday) and my birthday. I also perform a libation and sacrifice during each of the twelve days of the Yuletide honoring Odinn and the Wild Hunt.

Additionally I honor Aleister Crowley’s birth and death, the nativity of the Scarlet Woman, and the anniversary of the three days of the writing of the Book of the Law.

What are the best ways for you to connect/commune with your ancestors?

Meditation. Trance. Ascending to the Astral Plane… Every ritual I perform, I invite my ancestors into my circle. They are always with me. Blood will have blood.

Is it too personal to ask how your faith journey is worked out practically? Like what a worship time would look like?

Generically speaking, at midnight I would purify my sacred space, conjuring a magic circle about me and whatever tools I might be working with. By will and sacred word I would cast out negative energies and invite in my ancestors and whatever gods I intend to work with that night. Then I’d go to work, either reciting poetry or weaving magick… Most often it is a relaxed atmosphere, unless I have a major undertaking planned.

I know you’ve said that you practice your religion in a solitary way, but are there occasions where those who share faith similar to yours can gather as a community?

Asatruar gather locally in Kindreds (think Covens, though they would balk at that comparison) while nationally, Kindreds are invited to The Althing, which is akin to a “gathering of the clans”. Non-solitary Thelemites can join, for example, the Ordo Templi Orientis, or Kenneth Grant’s Typhonian OTO…

Does your family hold to your religion or is it just you? How do you pass it down/along or do you?

My wife is a Christian, though she doesn’t attend Church or read the Bible. She believes what she was taught by her mother and that’s good enough for her. She thinks I’m a nutter, as my British friends say.

My son is only four so everything is still a mystery to him. He believes in everything… from Santa Claus to Giant Alien Robots. I have read to him some of the Norse myths, just as I’ve told him the Nativity story. He will get to find his own path. It is my job as a father to lead by example. His mind is his own, and if he comes to view the world as I do, then I will be thrilled, but it is his journey. All I can do is show him where the road begins…

Could you explain “the nativity of the Scarlet Woman” a bit more? It reminds me of a passage in the Book of Revelation.

The Scarlet Woman, or Babalon as she is known in Thelema, represents the liberated woman and the full expression of the sexual impulse. From Chapter I of The Book of the Law:

15. Now ye shall know that the chosen priest & apostle of infinite space is the prince-priest the Beast; and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given. They shall gather my children into their fold: they shall bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men. 16. For he is ever a sun, and she a moon. But to him is the winged secret flame, and to her the stooping starlight. —AL I:15-16

How do you (or do you see yourself doing this at all) work out your faith in your fiction?

I cut my teeth on Robert E. Howard and bought into the whole “barbarism is the natural state of man” that was such a large part of his fiction. What I try to impart in my work is a sense of wonder, coupled with, at times, a savage brutality that is often but a heartbeat away. I always try to look at the light and the dark and how they dance with one another, the beauty and the beast, if you will. I think you’ll find that, in my stories, I bring an air of “power, mystery, and the hammer of the gods” to every tale. And that is indicative of the conflict that rages inside of me, and my faith in the elder gods, the primal forces, are played out in my characters more often than not, because that’s what’s boiling inside of me, seeking release. If my writing were a stew, the ingredients would be comprised of the sword and sorcery of Robert E. Howard, the paranormal mystery of Algernon Blackwood, the gothic romance of Dan Curtis, all tied together with the historical resonance of Katherine Kurtz. But in the end, the defining ingredient, the spice, if you will, is the heart of my ancestors that is beating strong inside my chest.

Speaking of similarity, one of the rituals of Kwanzaa, the pouring of libations, is about remembering my ancestors.

I’ve always felt it important to meet over the common ground, rather than to become mired in our differences. Those differences are, more often than not, superficial at best.

That’s my guiding philosophy. That and mutual respect and you can have meaningful dialogue about religion and spirituality. I thought I’d leave you all with a peek at a book trailer for his latest project, Keepers of the Dead. What else can we be looking forward to from you?

The sequel to Shadows Over Somerset, Keepers of the Dead, will be released this coming Spring by Black Death Books. I’m very excited about the Indiana Horror Writers anthology, Dark Harvest, that we’re both a part of. It’s very strong, filled with some truly fantastic fiction. I’m honored to be a part of it. You can also read a non-fiction article on my paranormal investigations of the Eastern Woodland Carvers Building that will be in the March issue of Doorways magazine (which also features a short story by a certain “sinister minister”, if I’m not mistaken). You can also catch me in a few upcoming anthologies, including Michael Knost’s Legends of the Mountain State 2 (which again, you’re a part of). I also have some artwork gracing the covers of two of Dr. Kim Paffenroth’s works, Orpheus and the Pearl (published by Magus Press) and Dying to Live 2: Life Sentence (published by Permuted Press), as well as some art that has found its way into various private collections by some rather prestigious Occult Orders that I have become associated with.