Monday, March 25, 2019

How to Grow A Guru

"Goji is the leader, but he doesn’t call himself that. He is kind of a guru, though, and everyone looks up to him." --Clover Blue, age 10

A spiritual teacher, especially one who imparts initiation.

My dad was my first guru, an evangelical minister who led congregations with his engaging personality, and who inspired the idea for This I Know. My second guru was Gabrielle Roth, although I never met her. I did, however, watch her videos, dancing along wildly until I forgot where the floor left off and my feet began. I loved the Five Rhythms as Roth called them, a series of musical selections that beckoned one to move blissfully through varied rhythmic dances. I was so drawn to the spiritual and physical practice I ended up facilitating my own Ecstatic Dance gatherings for a several years.

Gabrielle Roth certainly had innumerable followers but she'd likely never call herself a guru. Her goal was to convince others to turn inward using movement as a vehicle for meditation, self-exploration, and, ultimately, personal freedom. Likewise, in creating Goji, the founder of Saffron Freedom Community in CLOVER BLUE, I wanted to explore the idea of unintentional gurus, people who hope help others free themselves from outward attachment, only to become the object of  blind devotion. And therein lies the challenge of the human ego. As many celebrities will admit, it's difficult not to lose oneself in the thrill of adoration. History teaches us that worship comes with potential abuse of power.

Goji started out as a regular guy. His parents expected him to follow in his father's lawyerly footsteps. A combination of a young man's reactionary personality and a
burgeoning cultural revolution gave birth to a generation of seekers. Goji was swept up by a desire for more meaning in his life. He traveled to Asia, where he studied Sufism, Buddhism, Taoism and other various teachings. He eventually returned to the states and became intent on creating a spiritual commune free of societal norms. Saffron Freedom Community was born in 1967, an off-the-grid commune in Northern California filled with other disillusioned young people seeking to escape the rat race.

When the commune became over-crowded with people who abused drugs, didn't carry an equal work load, and weren't respectful to nature, Goji created a manifesto of sorts that included a set of guidelines. The Book, as members call it, included a commitment to  daily yoga and meditation, equal work load,  vegetarianism, sacred sexuality, and rejection of Western medicine, among others. Most of the members fled, leaving a close-knit group devotees that become family. 

All of the above happens years before the book opens in 1974, when Clover Blue is  ten years old. By this time a slow but steady shift has occurred. Despite his proclaimed rejection of tribal hierarchy, Goji has risen to the position of leader of the SFC family. As he comes of age, young Clover Blue begins to more closely measure his beloved teacher's actions. Will Goji choose to cultivate the tenets of his supposed enlightenment or exploit the devotion of others to assuage his own unmet needs?

Two months to go before CLOVER BLUE releases, but the publisher is offering 25 copies ahead of publication on Goodreads! Giveaway ends 04.04.19. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Finding Harmony: Every Protagonist Needs a Best Friend

Your heart and my heart are very good friends. --Rumi

We've all had that one friend. She's more daring than you. She laughs loudly at her own jokes and doesn't hesitate to make you the butt of some of them. She's a little bit wild or maybe a lot wild and she often makes you uncomfortable but you secretly admire her temerity. Above all she's that fiercely loyal friend that champions your successes and mourns your losses. She would probably go to jail for you, if not lay down her life.

Today we'd call that person our BFF but Clover Blue simply calls her Harmony, the one person who understands him better than anyone else at Saffron Freedom Community. Harmony was just  five, the same age as Blue, when she and her mother, Gaia moved to SFC in the fall of 1969. Here's how he describes their arrival in my forthcoming novel, CLOVER BLUE.

I remember Harmony running out from behind her mother’s legs to give me a hug. Unlike me, she was used to being around strangers. She grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s go play!” so I took her to see our new chickens. She wasn’t the least bit afraid. She cornered one of the hens, picked it up, and kissed it. “I love you!” she said, and squeezed the squawking bird before letting it go and chasing after the next one. From that day on I’ve spent as much time as possible trying to absorb her courage, her bright fire. 

I loved writing this character, the charming foil to my earnest protagonist's more staid and careful personality. She's an artist who carries her sketchpad everywhere. She pushes Blue, often to the brink of embarrassment, possibly terror, as she romps wildly through the pages of Blue's life. Although all "Youngers" in the commune are considered siblings and the rivalry between Blue and Harmony is apparent, they forge a friendship that goes beyond family, a bond so closely interwoven that each feels lost without the other. When Harmony runs off in a fit a anger, it's Blue who always knows where to find her.

When nobody’s paying attention, I slip behind the outhouse and over the hill and race toward the woods. Just inside the cover of trees, I hook a quick right along the edge to our secret deer path. I follow it to a wooden bridge that Harmony and I made from a fallen log, and cross the creek. I stop when I get to the hollowed-out trunk. It used to be big enough for us both to curl up inside together and tell stories. I drop to my knees and poke my head inside. Sure enough, there she is, looking as mean and stubborn as that rooster we had for a while before it got eaten by a bobcat.

Blue knows that Harmony's roughshod rebelliousness and unpredictable temper is an attempt to hide the pain she feels after Gaia abandons her. Harmony is just eight years old when her mother leaves for a Grateful Dead concert and doesn't return. Blue understands all too well what it's like not knowing where one's mother is, as he's never been told who his biological parents are. With the urging of his fearless best friend, Harmony, he's finally able to risk everything in his quest for truth.

What about you? Do you have a fiercely loyal friend like Harmony who is the fire to your water, the woo-hoo to your uh-oh? Give them a shout out here, or on my Facebook author page where I've linked this post. I'll be drawing a name for two decks of CLOVER BLUE playing cards, one each for you and your friend.


I'm blogging about the characters leading up to the release of CLOVER BLUE, now available for pre-order online or better yet, pre-order from your local bookstoreBe sure to follow my blog by clicking on the link in the upper right column to be notified of new content and future giveaways!