Now that the Keeper of Fire is available to purchase and my press releases have gone out to hundreds of news sites, it’s probably time to delve a little deeper into the metaphor.
My father, for one, expressed some embarrassment and concerns about the books’ origins. He has a lot of defense mechanism-driven denial, and there is some guilt in there as well, followed up by sudden agreement. My candidness will make more than one person uncomfortable, I’m sure.
Some people will probably call it a marketing scheme; others will accuse me of wallowing in victimhood. What they fail to register, however, is that this book is more about the triumph of the character leaving an abusive home behind than it is about the actual abuse.
The press release can be viewed here: (You'll have to copy and paste): https://www.prlog.org/12699649-young-girl-escapes-abuser-in-metaphor.html
It’s also worth mentioning that I wrote this book a long time ago – half my life ago. The themes and reasons behind the books’ existence are only getting attention now because it’s finally getting published. Believe me, I have five other manuscripts that are not only more recent works, but are more relevant to me as well. This is not a therapeutic practice, nor am I ‘haunted’ by memories of what happened so long ago. I’m too damn busy living my life to worry about abusive people I left behind in my childhood. I processed that a long time ago. It’s not something I throw energy into, beyond empathy for contemporary children who also suffer under negligent or abusive parents.
I don’t brood on it. On the same token, I’m not going to act like it never happened, either. That is certainly how others prefer me to act. It did happen. I speak nothing less than the truth, and there is value in this truth inasmuch as The Keeper of Fire can be used as a valuable tool to offer hope to children stuck in rough home lives, and open a dialogue on some very serious topics under the cushion of the metaphor.
In The Keeper of Fire, Deiji is a sixteen-year-old young woman who is valued in her village for only the toil she contributes to her family’s poor farm, and her beauty. (Did I see myself recalled as “beautiful” growing up? No. It’s a metaphor, remember? It is simply to emphasize how shallowly others placed value in her). She is also sold off into an arranged marriage, which is again there to show social expectations and gender roles and how they rule the character’s life. (Major themes in my Judeo-Christian household growing up as the only female).
Deiji is valued only inasmuch as others can use her.
In the first chapter Deiji is depressed at the bleak future ahead of her, sold at the whims of others like livestock. She sits by her pond, brooding, longing for a way out of this impossible situation, when she catches a glimpse of treasure down in the water. She jumps in and swims down for it, then something grabs her and pulls her through an underwater tunnel into a cave. A Necromancer approaches her here with an offer to change her fate, and she goes on to learn her way around her world. The world is fun, and tough; sad and exciting. There are good things and bad things; amazing adventures and crippling disasters. Deiji learns how to deal with them all.
What most people don’t know is where this scene came from. When I was fourteen I was given twice-weekly visitations to see my biological mother, for the first time in my life! I had to complete a certain number of chores at home for this privilege, and she was not allowed to pick me up. (I had to walk to and from). I was okay with that – it meant I got to see my mom and younger brother!
My step mother started imposing weird rules about the chore requirements. It got to the point where she was requiring an exorbitant amount of work – work I could never finish in a single day – and I started missing visits with my mother because of it. There was a strange resentment/power play going on, and that summer it got even weirder.
My step mother would wake me up just before she left for work. I was in my pajamas, no bra or underwear. I wasn’t allowed to grab my glasses (I was blind without them), put shoes on, use the toilet, or brush my teeth or hair. She would have me slurp down a small bowl of cereal, then lock me out of the house while she went to work. I was supposed to be turning up all the hardpack soil in the backyard with a pick-axe. If I was lucky, my father would let me back inside if he happened to come home for his lunch break. Most days he did not, giving me nine hour days in the dirt, five or six days a week. (We had church on Sundays, of course).
I did my best with the yard, quickly driven to hunger and too faint to do the work. I drank water from the hose and tried to reassure my concerned neighbors who could see me from their deck and constantly threatened to call CPS. Eventually I stopped doing the work, and my step mother never said anything. It ended up being more about keeping me barefoot and stuck behind our fences than the actual chores I was to perform. It was about control.
After over a month of this I felt deeply depressed. I was set up to fail. And it was a kind of emotional blackmail. It wasn’t just this one thing; it was years and years of incidents piled on incidents – her destroying my favorite toy at age five for no reason than her own cruelty. Getting beat with a broom for not sweeping “correctly.” An incident with the water heater setting when doing dishes, and her thrusting my hands under boiling water until they blistered because I complained the water was too hot. (And getting punished later for my father defending me!) My dad asks me to this day why I never came to him for help and I honestly assumed at the time that he knew – and endorsed – her commands to me. I still don’t know how much he did or didn’t know about what was going on. But at ten years of living in daily dread and anxiety, I was done.
So I came up with a plan to drown myself. I even wrote a short story about it. I was going to load my pockets full of rocks, get on an inflatable raft, paddle my way out to the ocean and jump off. But I couldn’t find a raft. Then I saw the bucket with tools in it, and the little warning logo with the child leaning into the bucket headfirst. So I filled the bucket with water, stuck my head in and tried to inhale. I couldn’t do it right; all it did was sting my nose.
So I revised the short story. Maybe Deiji does drown herself, as her aunt later claims in the book. Maybe the Necromancer’s proposal to save her from her social fate, and all the magical adventures that follow are part of her heaven. Or maybe she didn’t, and she really did escape her home and go on to live an amazing life. All I know is that the crossroads of that particular moment are glaringly important.
My greatest hope is that children can learn from this example, and choose the right path. The Keeper of Fire is about the restoration of hope in the future – embracing the unknown and the hope that whatever is ahead is going to be absolutely fantastic. That is the message of this book.
“It was a moment she would never forget, as they sank into the blackness, a moment between doors to a future of despair, or a future unknown. It was all a moment of mystery.” – The Keeper of Fire, page 32