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The first question I often get asked about my erotic romance novel, Beltane, is, “What in the world is Beltane, anyway?”

According to The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Practical Magic (Hermes House, 2008), Beltane is “the name of the festival of light and life.” The name “comes from a Celtic word meaning ‘bright fire.’ It heralds the first day of summer and was traditionally marked by the lighting of bonfires to symbolize the strength of the rising sun.

“May Day festivals and fairs, maypole dancing and other fertility rites are some of the customs associated with this sabbat…Beltane is also associated with fertility magic.”

Ancient people of the British Isles celebrate Beltane in two of my favorite novels: Marian Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and Anne Rice’s Lasher. In my novel, I’ve tried to imagine how modern people in the United States might take part in the ritual of Beltane. What might it be like to leave your everyday life, turn off your cell phone, unplug from the Internet, and take part in an ancient fertility rite? My characters, twins Allie and Zen, get to find out.

Allie—short for Allegra—was the first character to pop into my imagination. I’ve always been fascinated with ancient Egypt, and my favorite Egyptian goddess is lion-headed Sekhmet, who represents the hot, destructive power of the sun. I imagined a deeply spiritual young woman who, underneath her business attire, has Sekhmet tattooed over her heart. In fact, her body is a canvas dedicated to various world goddesses of the sun and fire: Irish Brigid on one arm, Hawaiian Pele on the other, and Japanese Amaterasu covering her back. In her everyday life, she wears blouses and blazers that cover her remarkable artwork, but then she has this other, semi-secret mystical life where her tattoos can come out. Tattooing is something I would never do to myself in life, so it was fun to imagine this tattooed Pagan woman. Maybe she resembles what one of my ancient Irish ancestors would have looked like.

Beltane began life as a short story, published at the website The Erotic Woman in May 2007. When I finished writing the story, I realized I knew much more about Zen, Allie, and their mates than I could possibly fit into the short story. Thus, Beltane the novel was born. It was published by Eternal Press in October 2008.

Since then, I’ve written the second book in the series, tentatively titled Midsummer Night. I’m editing it now. I call the series “Pagan Spirits.” In the novel, Pagan Spirits is the name of Zen and Allie’s mom’s brewery business. Beltane is a May holiday, and Midsummer Night (also called Lammas, or Lugnasad) is a June holiday. Eventually, I plan to write one novel for each month of the year, each with a Pagan (though not necessarily Celtic/British Isles Pagan) theme.

My characters are multi-ethnic, and it’s been fascinating to be able to incorporate bits of world mythology and folklore into my novel series. Allie and Zen’s foster mom, Kameko, is Japanese-American, while Orlando’s mom is Slovenian and his dad is Italian. He has a best friend, Vlad, who’s a Russian immigrant. Then there’s Ramesh, who’s Indian-American. Some of the Pagan Slavic customs Orlando’s Slovenian ancestors would have practiced come into Beltane, and Midsummer Night has a lot to do with Hindu mythology.

The multi-cultural theme also lets me explore my inner food critic. I get to write about the Beltane feast, very Old World with its main course of venison. I get to write about the vegetarian Middle Eastern food Allie loves, and the shorbet ads (lentil soup) Paul Phillip makes for her. Italian appetizers, Indian carrot fudge, sub sandwiches, and caramel popcorn each get their own scenes, too.

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite for Beltane, dig in to http://www.eternalpress.ca/beltane.html. (end)