Category Archives: Writing

So Long, Patheos

So for those not already aware, there’s been quite the upset over at Patheos, where Paths Through the Forests, the blog I share with Rua Lupa, has been hosted the past few years. (She’s the one who created all the graphics for the blog, including the nifty banner above.) You can read about it in detail here, but the short version is BeliefNet bought Patheos last year, the new ownership is decidedly more fundamentalist Christian, and there are a lot of issues with the new contracts they want bloggers to sign. Add in that Patheos has been less than transparent in some of its response to critical posts, and I’ve just been getting increasingly leery of the whole situation.

Add me to the list of folks bowing out of Patheos entirely. Part of it is the recent controversies and my growing unease with the contract and Patheos’ response to our concerns. Part of it is also that I have a lot of time commitments right now, and I was never really able to give Paths Through the Forests the time and attention it really deserved. At this point I need to redirect my time and energy here at my personal blog, among other projects clamoring for my attention. I’ve already backed up my content, and sent an email to requesting that my material be permanently deleted.

I have enjoyed sharing blogspace with Rua Lupa the past few years, first at No Unsacred Place over at the Pagan Newswire Collective, and then at Paths Through the Forests. Thank you to Patheos Pagan editor Jason Mankey for trying to wrangle a big herd of cats, and thank you to all my fellow bloggers. I hope each of you can find a workable solution, whatever it may be.

In the meantime, I’m still going to be writing here on A Sense of Natural Wonder (check out my post on Multi-Layered Stone Totems from this morning, if you haven’t already!) And as my plate is always full to overflowing, you can expect continued creativity from me, from the Tarot of Bones and other hide and bone artwork, to Still Death, and more!

Make Me Write a Book For You!

Hey, folks! So I want to do some long-form writing, AND I’d love to see my Patreon hit that $1000 goal! At $1000 in fully funded pledges I’ll write and self-publish a booklet on some topic of nature spirituality. Patrons giving $25 or more that month get a free hardcopy of the booklet, and all other Patrons get a free ebook. You don’t have to stay my Patron til the booklet is finished (since it may take me up to half a year to complete); as long as you’re an active Patron whose contribution goes through on the month when we hit the goal, you’re on the list for when it’s ready to go. (And yes, it’ll be for general purchase once it’s published, too.)

To that end, I’m adding a sweetener for the deal: Patrons get to vote on the topic I write on, and those topics are:

Writing Pagan Books: My first book came out in 2006, and I’ve been writing steadily ever since! I’ll share my experiences going from a newbie writer to an author contracted with multiple publishers and an agency. And I’ll provide advice for launching–and growing–your own efforts in writing nonfiction for a pagan audience.

Urban Nature Paganism: After fifteen years of living in cities, I’ve gotten pretty good at connecting with non-human nature in human-dominated spaces. And I want to help others make those connections, not just as the remnants of wilderness, but as vibrant ecosystems that have adapted and thrived in spite of us. More than just a collection of spells and charms, this will be a more complete look at weaving your spiritual path into an urban ecosystem, whether you live near a park, feed birds on your balcony, or have a window to watch the weather from.

Evolutionary Ancestor Spirits: There’s a lot of information on working with the totems and other spirits of modern species, but what about extinct species of animal, plant, fungus and more? I’ll discuss what makes these totems and spirits unique compared to their modern counterparts, how to invite them into your path (or hear their call!), and why it’s more important than ever to reach into the past as we work toward a better future.

If you’ve been thinking about becoming my Patron, now’s a great time to do so! And if you know anyone who may be interested, please pass this post and my Patreon,, on to them. Thank you 🙂

…I Think I Just Leveled Up.

So for months I’ve been alluding to a Big Secret that I’ve been keeping. Now, I hate keeping secrets, at least the sort that I know I can eventually reveal. I’m impatient and it takes me oodles of willpower to not just blab the news everywhere until the time is right. But right now? I get to tell one of those secrets.

I would like to officially announce that Jaida Temperly of New Leaf Literary has formally offered to be my agent, and I have not only accepted but signed the contract to boot! Yes, the agency website still has her listed as “literary assistant”, but she recently became a full-fledged literary agent for New Leaf after three years of building up a ton of experience there. I think we’re going to be a great team. We’ve had some really productive conversations via email and phone, even when I was asking eleventy billion questions, and I feel confident that she’s going to be bringing both expertise and enthusiasm to her representation of my work.

Of course, that brings us to another Big Secret: I can’t yet tell you what we’re working on together, other than it is not the Tarot of Bones, which is still my baby to self-publish. I know, I know–you want to know what’s going on behind the scenes, I want to tell you! But it’s another one of those things that needs to wait til the timing is right.

Still, I am absolutely thrilled about this opportunity. I’ve worked pretty hard over the years to get my writing out there, first at Immanion Press, and then at Llewellyn, and with some self-publishing side quests along the way. Now in addition to my current publishing partnerships there’s the potential for even more great possible avenues for my work, and let me tell you–I have ideas. And now I have someone who can help me get even more of those ideas out into the world.

…did I mention I’m kind of psyched about this whole thing?

Surprise! I Have a New Book on Scrying With Skulls!

Okay, so I was a sneaky, sneaky author. I know my official next book is Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up: Connect With Totems In Your Ecosystem, which is due out from Llewellyn in January 2016. However, I’m also still working hard on The Tarot of Bones deck and book, and since I intend to self-publish the book using CreateSpace as a platform, I wanted to give it a test run with a smaller project.

So I wrote a 32-page booklet on a topic I haven’t really talked much about but which has been near and dear to me for a few years now, and you can now order both paperback and ebook copies of Skull Scrying: Animal Skulls in Divinatory Trance directly from me at this link. Animal skulls are much more than passive decorations on an altar; they are potential allies in the ancient divinatory art of scrying. Through skull scrying you can draw forth answers to your questions and gain more insight into situations in your life with the help of the spirit within the bone. This booklet is by no means an exhaustive text on the art of scrying, but is an introduction to a particularly nature-centered version thereof. Suitable for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. The table of contents gives you an idea of what you can look forward to:

A Brief Introduction
Chapter 1: What is Skull Scrying?
Chapter 2: Choosing a Skull for Scrying
Chapter 3: Skull Scrying and Interpreting Results
Afterword: Recommended Suppliers

Please note that I will be receiving my first paperback copies of Skull Scrying on or around November 24; all paperback orders made before then will be fulfilled from that order.

Some Thoughts on Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up

Last night I finished looking over the proofs for my next book, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, which will be coming out in January 2016. One of the things that struck me was how much of the book is spent simply showing readers how to connect with the land they live with. Most books on totemism and nature spirits give a bit of context, and then leap into the “how to find your guide” exercises. It’s not until the very last bit of the second chapter that we even start trying to contact totems. Even after that point, many of the exercises are intimately linked to the physical land, getting people outside and in direct contact where possible (though the material is still accessible to those who may be housebound).

Here in the U.S., most people are critically detached from the rest of nature, at least in their perception. This book is meant to help them reconnect, not just for self-help, but because we live in such an acutely anthropocentric world that we rarely consider the effects of our actions on the other beings in the world (to include other human beings). The problem seems immense: few of us give any thought to our environmental impact, either in part or in whole. When we are unwillingly confronted with it, it’s often in the most catastrophic manners–global climate change, mass deforestation, entire species disappearing overnight. We’ve learned to simply shut off the part that cares about nature any further than maybe sorting the recycling every week.

We’re afraid to care, because caring hurts. It’s hard to find hope in a world where the environmental news is largely bad. As far as I’m concerned, though, where there’s life, there’s hope. And I want to help people find that hope as a motivator to making the world–not just themselves–healthier and better. But because we’re used to seeing “THE ENVIRONMENT” as one big global problem, I reintroduce people to their local land–their bioregion–first in small steps, and then greater ones.

Some of that may be old hat to my nature pagan compatriots. After all, we’ve been hiking and wildcrafting and paying attention to the rest of nature for years. But this book isn’t only meant for the proverbial choir. There are plenty of people interested in non-indigenous totemism who wouldn’t describe themselves as “pagan”. Some of them are looking for self-improvement; others have some inkling that a being is trying to contact them, but they aren’t sure how to proceed. Still others want to feel connected to the greater world around them, but are too used to heavily structured spiritual paths that allow little room for personal experience.

That personal experience is absolutely crucial to my writing and the exercises I offer readers. If we’re going to reconnect with the rest of nature, we have to make it relevant to our own lives. Most of us in this country are used to being preached at, something the dominant religion is good at. But we quickly learn to tune it out, the same way we often tune out the messages about how horrible we are in our environmental practices.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about human psychology, it’s that most of us don’t do well when we’re being yelled at. There really is something to that whole “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar” adage. Environmental scare headlines try to terrify people into reconnecting enough to take responsibility, but that approach can be counterproductive. By making reconnection a positive, constructive and appealing concept, I hope to get people interested not just in their own personal spirituality, but how that spirituality is set in a greater world context.

From the beginning, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up talks about the importance of totemism in relation to entire ecosystems, not just “me, me, me, what can I get out of having a totem?” Most of the books I’ve read on the topic are mostly about how the reader can connect with individual totems; there’s very little about the context all that happens in. And that goes right back into the anthropocentrism I’m trying to counteract,.

I’ve had the occasional reviewer complain that the material in my books isn’t “hardcore” enough because I rely primarily on guided meditations and accessible excursions into open areas, that I’m not telling people how to take hallucinogenic plants and soar off into the spirit world, or spend twenty days fasting in the wilderness. Well, of course not! That’s not the kind of thing that I think can be appropriately–or safely–conveyed through a book. Most people simply aren’t cut out for that much hardship and risk, and I don’t think they should be denied this sort of spirituality simply because their bodies or minds may not be able to handle ordeals, or because they lack the money to travel to remote locations in South America for entheogenic training.

As an author (and by extension a teacher) it’s my job to meet people where they’re at and help them explore someplace new. I am a product of my culture, and so is my writing. I am not part of a culture that lives close to the land and its harsh realities; mine is conveniently cushioned through technology and the idea that we are superior animals to the rest of the world. We don’t have a culture-wide system for intense rites of passage or life-changing altered states of consciousness. And I don’t have the qualifications to single-handedly create such a system, beyond what help with personal rites I can give as a Masters-level mental health counselor.

So are my practices gentler than traditional indigenous practices worldwide? Absolutely. That’s what most people in my culture can reasonably handle at this point. Trying to force them into something more intense would go over about as well as Captain Howdy’s rantings about “being awakened” in Strangeland. Sure, sudden and seemingly catastrophic experiences can cause a person to reach higher levels of inner strength and ability–but they can also cause severe physical and psychological trauma, or even kill. And, again, since we don’t have a culture in which everyone goes through an intense rite of passage at a certain age (such as adulthood), we can’t expect everyone to accept such a thing immediately.

Maybe that’s not what we need, anyway. Plenty of people engage in outdoor, nature-loving activities like backpacking, kayaking and rock climbing without the foremost notion being that they’re going into some intensely scary and dangerous place that could kill them in a moment. Most experienced outdoors people are fully aware of the risks and take necessary precautions, but their primary intent is connecting in a positive way with the rest of nature.

I think it’s okay for our nature spirituality to be the same way. I don’t think we always have to work things up as “BEWARE NATURE WILL KILL YOU AND YOU HAVE TO DO THINGS THAT COULD POSSIBLY KILL YOU IN ORDER TO FIND GUIDANCE”. I’ve spent almost twenty years gradually rediscovering my childhood love of the outdoors and its denizens, as well as developing a deeper appreciation for it. I’ve had plenty of transformative experiences without fasts or hallucinogens, and they’ve served to both improve myself as a person AND make me feel even more connected to and responsible for the rest of nature.

Does that mean there’s no place for ordeals? No; they have their place for the people who respond well to them. But they shouldn’t be held up as the one and only way to do nature spirit work. Again: meet people where they’re at, whether that’s on the couch or on the trail. You’ll reach more people, and create change on a broader scale as more people participate in the ways they’re able. And isn’t that change ultimately what we’re after, those of us who want to save the world?

Like this post? Please consider pre-ordering a copy of Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up: Connect With Totems In Your Ecosystem!

Why Self-Employment Is Like the World’s Longest Job Interview

One of the biggest challenges my fellow creatives have to face is self-promotion. A lot of people who excel at creating art, music, writing, performance and so forth, who can express themselves beautifully through their chosen media, freeze up like the proverbial deer when it comes to promoting what they do. Sometimes it’s an acute case of introversion, something I had to work hard to overcome. And it’s no secret that there’s a high correlation between creativity and low self-esteem and/or excessive self-criticism. Plus when it comes down to it, most of us would rather be making cool stuff than telling people about it; we like to show, not tell.

However, if your art is going to end up being anything more than a hobby–and it’s okay if it stays that way–you have to be good at getting the word out and talking up your creations. Or, to put it in more blatant terms: you have to be able to sell yourself. (Cue dramatic scary music.) This, of course, bothers a lot of people. We’re taught not to brag, and that anyone who stands out will end up getting knocked off their pedestal soon enough. And, sadly, many of us have had people in our lives telling us that we were worthless, or that our art wouldn’t go anywhere. Years of that can really do a number on your confidence.

Even among creatives, there’s this narrative that if you promote yourself and your work you’re narcissistic, selfish and only in it for the money. I tend to think that’s rather a sour grapes sort of attitude, but it’s also symptomatic of that ongoing tendency toward self-devaluation, in this case projected outwardly onto more active promoters.

But you know who else has to be self-centered and all about the money? Job candidates. Nobody complains about them talking about themselves, or negotiating a higher pay rate. Hell, those things are encouraged and praised! They’re signs of a real go-getter that you should totally hire for your company! It’s just another way in which self-employed people, especially creatives, are held to unfair standards in this society.

What if you thought of yourself as being a job candidate every time you promoted a new show you were doing, or a new piece of artwork, or story or book or article? You’re putting your best foot forward, fancy outfit and all. Okay, maybe in some cases the outfit is actually a book cover, but you get the idea: first impressions are important. And you have a limited amount of time in which to engage your potential employer, convince them of your skills and qualifications, and keep your fingers crossed that you get hired. “Being hired” may mean selling a concert ticket or a book or a print, but it still comes down to someone considering what you have to offer of sufficient value for them to compensate you for it.

Really, the main difference is in scale and timing. In a day job, you interview with one or more people at a single company, and if they accept, then you either sign on for a contracted time, or you stick around until either they get sick of you or you get sick of them. Either way, a successful interview means you get to stop interviewing for a while. With self-employment, every day has interviews, and that will always be a permanent part of my work. My day is full of them–with potential art customers, potential publishing allies, potential event venues, potential reviewers, even potential artistic patrons. On the bright side, I can get a lot of these interviews done in one fell swoop. My blog post earlier today about preorders being available for my newest book reached lots of blog subscribers, and will continue to catch the attention of people who come across my blog. The only further communication necessary is if someone either contacts me with specific questions, or make my day and buys the book.

And you know what? Interviews are just a normal part of my job–and yours, too. It doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist, even if you *gasp* enjoy the promotional end of things. Nor does it make you a money-grubbing sell-out; as detailed here, it’s totally okay to want to have a roof over your head so your art supplies and computer don’t get wet in the rain.

If you still have misgivings about that whole promotion thing, that’s okay. But you can at least lay to rest the worries that putting yourself out there somehow makes you less moral than someone with a day job.

Preorders Open For My Next Book, “Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up”!

Nature Spirituality From Ground Up-600

Preorders for my next book are officially open! Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up: Connect With Totems In Your Ecosystem is due for release from Llewellyn Worldwide this January. If you’ve enjoyed my previous writings on (nonindigenous) bioregional totemism, you’ll love this book. It’s entirely dedicated to working with not just animals, but plants, fungi, minerals and more, all toward getting to know the land you live in better and rejoin the community of nature.

You can find out more about this book and preorder an autographed copy directly from me, to be shipped when I receive my first shipment of books in January, right here on my website. And here’s more information on all my current books!

If you like this, please reblog/share–we authors appreciate when folks spread the word about our writing! And thank you 🙂

News! Patreon and Paths Through the Forests

Just a reminder–today’s the last day you can sign up for the book-of-the-month package on my Patreon and get a free copy of my next book Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up when it comes out in January!

Also, those with keen eyes may notice I added a few more Patron rewards to the roster. Sign up today (July 31) and you can get your first monthly package of goodies sent to you next week–head over to to join!


I’ve been really busy with art lately so I haven’t been doing as much writing, but I did publish a post over at Paths Through the Forests earlier this week that’s getting a LOT of attention! You can read it at Our Deadly Lack of Nature Literacy.

A Couple of Important Patreon Changes/Perks!

This is your last chance to get a copy of my next book,Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, for free!

Over at my Patreon account, the Book of the Month Patron package at $25 ($35 for international folks) is going to change next month! it is currently six months until my next book, Nature Spirituality from the Ground Up, comes out. Currently, Patrons at that level receive one of my books a month until, after seven months they have all of the books pictured. They will also receive a free copy of Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up when it comes out in January 2016.

Starting on August 1, 2015, the package will change. Patrons who remain at that level for eight months will get one of my current books, to include Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, per month. And at the end of eight months, I will be adding their name to a special preorder list; people on that list will end up getting a free copy of my next book (NOT including the Tarot of Bones deck and book), even if they are no longer my Patron when it comes out. For sake of transparency, I do not currently have another book contracted, but I have one manuscript I’m shopping around and a proposal I’m about to write, so I’m not about to retire as an author. And hey–whatever it’ll be and whenever it shows up, it’ll be absolutely free!

So sign up as my Patron in the Book of the Month package ($25 U.S., $35 international) by July 31, 2015, and get in on the free copy of Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up while you can!



Have you always wanted one of my wolf headdresses but weren’t able to pay for it all at once? I’m now offering a unique payment plan via my Patreon account! Give $100/month for an entire year, and not only will you get a custom-made wolf headdress at the end of that year, but for your first month you’ll get a trio of fox tails. Plus you’ll have access to my Patron-only feed with exclusive content and sneak peeks, my monthly Totem Profiles, and other goodies. And for those for whom $100 is a bit much, I also still have my $30/month red fox headdress program that works the same way.

Interested? You can become my Patron for as little as $1/month right here!

The Price is Right: On Haggling, Piracy and the Value of Art

Last week, a couple of things of note popped up on my social media radar. One was this excellent article by Miranda Campbell, Culture Isn’t Free, talking about how expecting artists and creatives to work for “exposure” leaves the creation of culture largely in the hands of those who hold the money. The other was yet another “paganism on a budget” Tumblr post collecting links to sites where you can download free, pirated pagan ebooks, still under copyright rather than public domain. That post had over 2,000 likes/reblogs, if I recall correctly, and likely has more now.

The first one I read and appreciated, then shared on Facebook. The second I forwarded to the publishers whose books were listed so they could file DMCA takedown notices with site hosts. The difference? Ms. Campbell had an agreement with Jacobin as to how her writing would be distributed and how she would be compensated (if at all; I’m not privy to their arrangements). Such websites want links to their content to go viral, and I thought it was worth sharing. But with the website that was linked on the Tumblr post, there was a violation of the terms that the authors of the books had originally agreed to. Part of the publisher’s job is to maintain the terms of the contract, to include fighting privacy; they have more resources, on average, than a single author does.

The publisher-author relationship isn’t perfect. Ten percent royalties is still only a couple of bucks per book, and most authors don’t make a living on their writing. But the author still has the choice to negotiate a contract, and then sign or not sign it. It’s their decision to make their work available through a particular, if often imperfect, avenue that will at least get them some compensation for their effort. And in an economy where creatives are increasingly asked (or told) to work free of charge, some compensation (protected by contract) is better than none.

And to be fair, the publisher does a lot of work. When I sign a contract with a publisher for one of my books, I’m getting free editing, proofreading, layout and distribution, along with a certain amount of promotion. With my artwork, on the other hand, I’m carrying almost all of the burden, from materials acquisition and design creation to actually making the art to selling it in person and online. Either way, each sale of a book or piece of artwork funds far more than just the item itself.

Fang and Fur mediumSo we have to put a price on that time, effort and investment of resources. One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen artists (especially newer ones) face is how to price their art. A price is not merely a number. It’s a statement of value. What is this item worth, not only for its content, but the human resources that were poured into it from start to finish? What costs were incurred in its gestation and birth? And, more importantly, what is the value of the human life that was invested in it, time that needs to be measured in dollars rather than breaths? It’s a difficult thing to determine, and even after almost twenty years I still struggle with pricing my work. (My publishers make the job easier by setting the price on my books themselves, gods bless them.)

Eventually a price is determined, and placed out for the public to view. That price says “This is the amount of money that I will accept for this product of my work.” It’s the same as a contractor saying “I want this much per hour to fix your sink” or a pizza place stating “Here’s how much a large cheese deep dish pie will cost you”.  It is an invitation to an economic contract that is signed when the money is passed over. A simple agreement, sure–you give me that thing, I give you this thing, we consider it a fair trade, we go on with our lives.

There are always people who try to weasel their way out of that agreement. Some of them steal outright. I’ve lost track of how much of my artwork has been shoplifted from my booth at events I’ve vended at over the years. Only once has anything been brought back, by a tearful preteen girl flanked by her angry mother. The rest is spirited away by malcontents and children who don’t seem to understand the damage they do by their actions. But books get stolen, too, and far more often in the digital age. Every person who downloads a pirated .pdf of a copyrighted book is a thief*. It’s not the same as a secondhand paperback bought new and then sold used later on; that’s a single copy that was fairly compensated for, and it will never multiply into more copies (at least not without the help of Xerox or a scanner.) But a .pdf multiplies by its very nature, and within seconds. Whereas a paperback can pass from person to person in a circle of friends, and perhaps circulate among a dozen people in a month if they’re all fast readers, a .pdf can go to thousands of people in a day, and they get to keep their copies no matter who else they pass the book on to. Either way–art or books–the creator is the person who loses out in piracy.

But that’s not the only way the “I offer you this in exchange for this” agreement can be damaged. Allow me to present to you: the haggler. This is that person at events (or via email) who, dissatisfied with the numbers on the price tag, and weaned on Wal-Mart’s “Low Price Guarantee”, decides that they should have the privilege of paying less for a creation than its creator has valued it at. And so they approach said creator and, holding up a piece of art like a yard sale discard, ask “Will you take five bucks for this?”

To be honest, I consider it somewhat offensive when someone asks if I’ll accept a lower price on something I’ve created. I know it’s likely not meant as an insult; the person asking just wants to save a little money. Who doesn’t want that? In an economy where big box stores lure people in with ever-bigger sales and price slashes supported by government subsidies and slave labor, consumers have been trained to get bargains and they never think of who actually pays the costs for their savings**. It smarts more personally, though, when they try to do it to an individual artist. It’s not just that they’ve asked the creator to take less money; it’s that they treat the creation like it has no personality, no love poured into it. It’s just a thing to them.

Haggling, shoplifting, piracy–all these are symptomatic of a bigger cultural problem: the devaluation of art. I have yet to meet an artist who hasn’t at one point or another heard some variation on the following:

“It’s just art, you have fun making art, so it’s not actually work.”

“Will you make me this thing for free, or the cost of materials?”

“It’s exposure–it’ll get you more customers, really!”

“Oh, my aunt/kid/friend made something like that!”

“I bet I could make that!”

“It’s easier to be an artist than a scientist/real estate agent/hotel manager so you shouldn’t expect to get paid like one.”

adaptable4Sure, lots of people make art as a hobby, and even for those of us who do it for a living it can still be fun. But as I wrote last year, Art is Work. If what you do for a living is fun, then you’re doing something right. But that doesn’t take away the amount of effort you put into it. And only you can truly know the value of that work, and decide whether the compensation you’re getting is worth it or not.

When someone shoplifts your art, or pirates your book, or tries to haggle you down from your prices, they are saying that they don’t think your work has as much value as you say it does. And in that moment they are insulting you and your work. Any compliments they have given “Oh, I love this piece, it’s so pretty” is tainted by their unspoken follow-up “….but I don’t think it’s worth all that much.” It’s up to you as to how you want to deal with them, but don’t for an instant think that your work isn’t worth what you value it at, no matter the words of thieves and hagglers.

We are artists and writers and creatives. Our work and our time have value, and we deserve to be compensated for our effort, and to be able to decide how our work will be distributed and offered to the public. Nothing less is acceptable.

* For those pagans on a budget who try to justify their piracy by saying “But I’m poor/young/etc. and can’t afford to buy these books”, most authors have blogs wherein they share their writing for free to anyone who will read. Many also write for websites, again for free. Some will even happily answer your questions via email. With all that free writing available, you have no excuse to steal their books. Save the books for when you can at least get secondhand copies, and honor the value they put on their work.
** It would take an entirely separate post to get into the problems of not putting the full value on mass-marketed items like made-in-China clothing, or a farmer’s crop of wheat. We may give art more aesthetic value than these things, but the human effort behind them is no less important or deserving of value. And those low, low prices ignore the human rights abuses and environmental destruction that result from the manufacturing process.