Sunday, June 29, 2008

Four Angels Review for The Sweet Flag

"Jeanne Barrack has done a great job of writing a story from the first person point of view while still managing to give us a broader understanding of other characters motives. While Brandon’s viewpoint is all we are really privy to, Ms. Barrack conveys Ron’s feelings and emotions through the guise of his story telling...Ron is gruff and a bit abrupt but as he tells the story of Matthew and Aaron his true character shines through. The story flowed well and transitioned between the past and present smoothly and highlighted the developing connection between Ron and Brandon..."reviewed by Hayley
Thanks so much!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ken Summers, Paranormal Investigator

First a huge welcome. When I wrote about Brandon Keats, a gay paranormal investigator, I hadn't found Ken's Blog, Spooked! and his Queer Paranormal Road Trips. I have a slew of questions for him so we'll dive right in.

Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes, but I can understand that skepticism is a necessity in this inexact science. I have experienced things I cannot explain, which have brought me to the conclusion that something must exist beyond our known natural world. Of course, this doesn't mean I believe every ghost story I hear. There are plenty of fictional tales circulating out there. Some people have said that I “walk the fine line between believer and skeptic” very carefully.
How long have you been investigating ghosts?
I started researching my first true ghost story at the age of 13 in my spare time. When I received my driver's license at 16, I began to visit places rumored to be haunted. I have been investigating and/or researching ghosts since 1995, so for about 13 years now.

How do you find ghosts and haunted places?
Quite simple: I observe everything. Ghosts are literally everywhere: in every culture and every corner of the world. Books and websites are a fount of useful information, and almost everyone you meet could be holding an interesting personal account. Any place can be a prime candidate for a haunting, even if there is no activity or known legend. Never limit yourself. An interesting or unknown specter could be sitting right under your nose, waiting for someone to notice him or her.

When you're working on a solo investigation, what sort of equipment do you usually take? And can you explain their use for us?
Unlike many investigators, I travel light. A camcorder, tape recorder, camera, notebook, and flashlight are usually enough. I go to some remote places where electricity isn’t available and the terrain can be treacherous if you’re bogged down by too many gadgets. I find EMF meters, often used to detect ghosts, to be unreliable so I avoid them. I try to document video, photographic, and audio evidence with every-day devices. Nothing special. And the notebook… well, let’s face it: no one has a perfect memory.

When and why did you decide to combine your experience as a gay man and a paranormal investigator?
Often, it’s difficult to separate being gay from life. It becomes an issue for many people. I’ve never felt ashamed of being who I am, and I’ve been honest with people who have asked me about my personal life. Being a paranormal investigator doesn’t turn off the other aspects of myself. Still, I spent many years feeling like I was the only gay ghost hunter. But over time, I’ve found others who thought the same thing. So, why not blend the two? Often, ghosts are feared or isolated because they are different. Isn’t it the same case with gay men and lesbians in our society?

Can you tell us a little about P.R.O.U.D.?
(Paranormal Researchers Out and United in Diversity)
I contemplated forming a gay paranormal organization a decade ago, but didn’t really know anyone else like myself. It wasn’t until talking with my friend Buck that he brought up the idea to me again. We didn’t do anything with it until one day I decided to just create a networking site and see what happened with it. It’s relatively new, so I’m waiting to see what will happen to it. At least it might be something interesting for those wondering if they’re all alone out there.

What are your future plans regarding gay paranormal investigations?
Ideally, I’d like to change gears from Ohio ghosts to gay ghosts and investigate these cases permanently. I am seeking a publisher for a book regarding gay ghosts and haunted places, and I’m feeling rather optimistic about a few possibilities. Who knows where else it could lead? I’m open to anything. A documentary. A television series. I’m not in it for the fame… I’m just deeply intrigued.

Anything else you'd like to share with us today?
Well, I am always on the hunt for tales of GLBT ghosts and haunted places that happen to be GLBT owned or operated. Anyone who wishes to can always drop me an email, even if they have questions. People might be surprised that I’ve found quite a few locations already, and I know there must be more. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt passionate about something like this. Oh… and if anyone knows ANYTHING about a supposedly haunted gay bar in Geneva, Switzerland, I’m all ears!

Ken, thanks so much for visiting The Sweet Flag.
Please feel free to post if you have any questions or comments for Ken.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Sweet Flag and MAGICK!

The sweet flag has been associated with homoerotic love, but it also is associated with magick!When I created the alukah potion, I took many of the attributes of the calamus plant from folk and homeopathic medecine.And then I added the special ingredients to produce a concoction that was part aphrodisiac - something hinted at throughout the story - and something otherworldly.
Here is some trivia relating to its use in magick.
BTW, for those of you who know Brigid from The Shimmering Flame, my Urban Fantasy with Liquid Silver Books, the goddess Brigid is also associated with the calamus root! Go figure!

Sweet cane, a synonym for calamus, is named as an ingredient in the Biblical anointing oil as well as in oil of Abramelin, which appears to be based on the Biblical oil. Although calamus has a firm place in so-called white magick, it is named after a young man who was in love with another fellow who drowned; he mourned for so long at the bank of the stream where his love was lost that the gods felt mercy on him and turned him into a reed. Inspired partly by that myth and partly by the very phallic shape of this plant's flowers, Walt Whitman wrote a series of poems about male/male love called the Calamus series... So this plant is also an excellent candidate for lavender magick as well as white.

Calamus loves watery places, and for that reason many have allied this plant with the Moon. But there is nothing Moon-like about this magick herb. The medicinal root is said to be stimulating and warming, not sedative and cooling. Since the root does grow in water, this plant must have a mighty fire to stimulate and warm under such conditions. It also has a yellow flower and certainly has a masculine form. For all of these reasons, it belongs to the Sun.

True, it is not a sunflower, but maybe we need to allow the planetary influences a little more depth.
The fresh root is especially fragrant, but it has to be dried to be infused in oil. Try infusing the fresh root in wine, spirits of cane (rum), or plain alcohol to capture its slightly different scent. The fresh root smells a little more citrusy; the dried root is spicier and warmer. The leaves are also fragrant, although less so, and can be woven into shapes for ritual use.

Altogether, this plant is a fine addition to the pagan garden. This plant is also known as sweet root, sweet rush, sweet cane, sweet flag, gladdon, sweet myrtle, myrtle grass, myrtle sedge, and cinnamon sedge.

So there you have it, the many reasons why my story just had to be titled
The Sweet Flag.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Sweet Flag - the Whitman connection

The Sweet Flag - The Whitman connection

It is generally believed that Walt Whitman was a gay man. In his Calamus Cluster of poems, the subject manner is decidedly homoerotic, as in "We two boys together clinging, One the other never leaving..." [I'd] encourage you to read [them] for yourself and decide. Most gay men who read it easily identify with its seeingly timeless themes relevant to our feelings today.
The Calamus herb (also known as the "Sweet Flag" with official name "Acorus Calamus") has been considered a homoerotic symbol since ancient times...It derives it's name from a figure in Greek mythology, Kalamos, who turned into a reed out of grief for his young male lover Karpos who drowned. The Calamus herb also frequents pond and stream areas where closeted gay men of the nineteenth met clandestinely.

The Poems
When I read the Calamus Cluster in Leaves of Grass I was immediately struck by the overt homoerotic feelings throughout the individual poems. There are truly too many to post here, but here are the titles to some of the poems that spring forth as expressing Whitman's concealed nature. One phrase I loved to share since it fits my story, The Sweet Flag so perfectly.

A link to the poems is at the bottom of this post.

These I Singing in Spring
Check this beautiful reference to the calamus root.

(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me, and returns again

never to separate from me,

And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of comrades, this

calamus-root shall,

Interchange it youths with each other! let none render it back!)

Some of the poems:

Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
Not Heaving from My Ribb'd Breast Only
In Paths Untrodden

Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances

Go and read!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Sweet Flag

The sweet flag

When I was researching the history of gays during the Civil War period, the first info that popped up was Walt Whitman. I knew that there were questions about his sexual activity, but I hadn't delved too deeply into it. As I was perusing one particular site, (unfortunately not available at this time!), I came across the reference to his calamus poems and that was the aha moment!

I had my title, The Sweet Flag, also known as the calamus root and the main ingredient for the alukah potion that is the linch pin of the story.

Presented for your trivia collection: Drugs

The Middle Ages

Castles and manor houses often smelled damp and musty. To counteract this, herbs and rushes were strewn across the floors. Lavender and thyme; meadowsweet and marjoram; germander and hyssop were all popular and if the house owner was wealthy enough - the stems and leaves of the Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus) which grew only in the Fenlands of Norfolk and Cambridge and the low-lying countries of Europe.

Before the advent of alcohol based toilet waters in the 14th century, our clean and well-mannered Medieval man or woman could have finished their ablutions with a dusting of powder on the face and/or the body. These were made from rice powder, ground orris root or ground calamus root and mixed with various ground spices and herbs including cloves, dried rose petals and lavender

It grows in swamps, marshes, and very moist places. It is a herbaceous perennial growing from spreading, fleshy rhizomes. The long, sword-like, deep green pointed leaves grow up from the rhizomes. Calamus has ever been a favorite popular remedy. Its principal use seems to have been that of a tonic and blood purifier, for which purpose bits of the dried rhizomes are masticated and the saliva swallowed. It undoubtedly is a tonic...Chewing the rhizomes is also said to clear the voice.
Calamus is, or has been, used in flavoring beer and gin. Country people add it to whisky, wine, and brandy to make a tonic bitters for the weak and dyspeptic. It is said that the Turks employ it as a preventive against contagious diseases.
It is considered as a stimulating, aromatic, and bitter tonic.

When I concocted the alukah potion, I took information from what I learned about the medicinal qualities and that was the base for the brew.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why a new Blog - this one's for the guys!

Because I've started in a new direction with my writing. Now that I've written my first m/m romance, I wanted to create a special place for my new obsession.
So, from this point on, news, interviews, reviews, trivia, excerpts referring to gay romances in any genre or genres and news relating to this interest will be posted here.
I hope that this Blog will be an interactive one.
I'm looking forward to sharing!