Over 40,000 Words Since Nov. 1

The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits is humming along, thanks to National Novel Writing Month. There’s nothing like the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month to get the creative juices flowing!

But I’m fortunate to have an exceptional muse for this second book, the Norse god Loki, who appears front and center as Lucky LaFey, a “sweet-talking drifter” with a fondness for donuts. But he but soon reveals his true identity to the merry band of newly transplanted “Hermits of Hermitville” and their magical mentors, the Elves of The Realm (saucily referred to as “Elven Overlords” when out of earshot).

Babe Bump, Oyster Olson, and Tomma Bedlam are still at the center of the second book, narrating most of the chapters. Oyster gets suprising news about his birth parents, Tomma settles into a polyamory triad, and Babe begins to master her talents as a medium. At the same time, they and the rest of the Hermits struggle with their exile from Hawai’i and their new life in Lake County, CA.

And even before the Elves can get their mortal charges up to speed on magical skills, a new villain, the Big Dipper, arrives on the scene. He’s big, he’s bad, and he looks exactly like Malibu Ken. He has his very own cult and is opening a resort in the hills surrounding the lake.

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The Big Dipper has an uncanny resemblance to this innocuous childhood toy.

It’s hard to write without giving spoilers, so I’ll just say I am having as much fun writing this second book as I did writing the first. My characters continue to surprise me and I love them all. Even, in a horrible way, the villains.

I have four queries out to literary agents and if they turn me down, I’ll send out another batch of letters. I believe in these characters and I believe in these books.

Thanks for reading!

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Lucky LaFey: Character Sketch

Lucky LaFey is a new main character who appears in the second volume of The Guild of Ornamental Hermits series, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. The second book takes place in Lake County, CA.


Lucky LaFey is a drifter. He wears his mileage lightly though he’s travelled the roughest of roads. However his vocabulary is excellent and his manners are often soft and deferential enough to mark him as having come from “a good home.” He can say “ma’am” and “sir” without a trace of hipster irony. He’s insatiably curious. You’re as likely to find him in a small town library as you are in a big city pool hall.

Tall enough, slender but muscled, green eyes, an age that’s hard to pin down… Lucky’s been known to dye his long red hair jet black. He’s the handsome devil who breezes through town, dances in clubs, picks up odd jobs and odder people. He may break a heart or two when he leaves (but he’s never broken a family).

“What did you see in him?” (Besides that voice, those eyes, the hair, those oddly scarred lips?)

“I don’t know exactly, but I felt like he ‘got me’, ya know? He really got me!”

And she/he/they/ze will remember him for the rest of their lives.

Lucky’s a natural actor. He’s toured with regional theater companies, garnering rave reviews of his almost “chameleon-like” ability to really become the character. And yet, acting was never his passion–just another way to meet people and pass the time. He’s picked up sleight of hand tricks with coins and cards and has a rapid-fire “patter” that’s both hilarious and beguiling. But that’s just a way to win a beer or whiskey on a bet.

Because he’s handsome and his hands are clean, some have mistaken him for a hustler or a gigolo, and tried to play him that way. Yet money never changes hands when it comes to Lucky and sex. Oh, but that’s not to say there’s not a transaction involved! It might be “that ring you’re wearing,” or “my friends and I could use another round” or even, for those “lucky few,” “tattoo my name on your ass so next time I see you, I’ll know you really love me.”

And then he’s off in the night, laughing. (Someone told me once there’s a secret Reddit group for people who’ve gotten those tattoos.)

His own tattoos are faded: a snake biting its own tail on his left bicep, a wolf on his right,  and over his heart, a small skull with half the face of a girl. If you could lift Lucky’s hair from the back of his neck, you’d find a tiny broken heart, but few people have ever been allowed that liberty. Lucky might let you get close, but not that close.

Sometimes you might find Lucky among the “Burners” or hopping trains with young nomads like “Sock Monkey” and “Crash.” He’s learned that people are friendlier when he sits on curbs with a kitten (he loves his animals and always finds them good homes). To hear him tell it, Lucky’s been “a ski bum, a surfer, a demolition derby racer, and a line cook at some top New York restaurants.” He claims to have been married (twice) but never talks about his wives or kids. He plays the guitar and sometimes you might find him sitting in with other musicians in some scruffy bar, or strumming it pensively, alone under a tree in a park.

Don’t offer him a cigarette when you sit down to listen. He gave it up years ago, after that trip to Tibet.

To hear him tell it, Lucky’s been everywhere and done everything. He’ll talk of having one memorable night with Janis or that time in Paris when he posed in drag for Brassai. And then he’ll look you in the eye and laugh, daring you to challenge him (“You couldn’t have! You’re not that old!”). The funny thing is, you almost believe him! He makes you want to believe…

So perhaps it was inevitable that the lanky sweet-talking drifter known as Lucky LaFey would find his way to our new Hermitville Magic and Arts Collective. I found him one morning, comfortably asleep in the hammock that hangs on our wide front porch, with only a backpack and a paperback book for company. I stared at him. He was improbable. His bright red hair caught sunbeam light and threw it back like prism sparkles. And then he yawned, opened his emerald green eyes and grinned at me. It was a look from someone much bigger than a human soul. My heart pounded and all I could think was, “Here comes trouble…”

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And Breadcrumb Makes Three…Elf Character Spotlight.

Breadcrumb (also known as “The Wee One” or “T.W.O.” for short) is an Elf smitten with human clowning and clown fashion. Physically I see her very much as an Angela Mae type. Angela Mae being an immensely talented bellydancer and clown who has performed with the band, Gooferman. Angela Mae is definitely a major muse for this character!

In this book, some Elves are quite taken with human subcultures, as immortality can get a little stale without interdimensional novelty. They go in for human fads, artifacts, and “spill-over phrases” (cliches and memes). Breadcrumb is certainly one of these Elves, with a ruby-rouged nose, striped tights, and a light tunic of spider silk.

Her father, Parsifal, is another. Puddles, the Sad Clown with the Golden Voice, is the primary muse for the character of Parsifal. You can get a sense of Parsifal in action in the excerpt, Elven Glamour Run Amok.

Breadcrumb’s mother, however, is the formidable, no-nonsense Maud o’ Bedlam, an experienced interdimensional operative. (I see Eva Green as the ideal Maud!)

Breadcrumb may be a classic Manic-Pixie (Elf) Girl, capable of shimmies, pouts, and nonsequiturs, but when the forces of evil descend on Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective, Maud and Parsifal have good reason to be proud of their daughter as she transforms into “Head Elf in Charge.”

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Dire Deeds – “The Movie”

My book is about people who are old and/or gender variant and/or not white and who have varied sexual orientations (LGBTQIA etc.) and diverse relationships, having the kinds of magical adventures that in mainstream fantasy fiction and films are mostly reserved for white, cisgender, heteronormative children and teenagers.

So it is not surprising that as I was writing, I also thought cinematically! Who are the characters and what is the kind of magic adventure movie that I’d like to see? This means a lot of “behind the scenes” fantasizing as well as writing. This often took the form of creating and revising character bios and by “casting” the characters as if this book were going to be a movie. This kind of fantasizing helped me to develop my characters by looking for real-life actors who somehow “fit” or embodied my conceptions of the book’s characters and also let me play around a little with character “chemistry” ideas. As the book developed, some of the cast would sometimes change. A new actor would sometimes replace a previous selection.

During this fantasizing, one strict rule of mine was that a trans actor would have to be “cast” in a trans role. A Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian) actor would be cast in a Kanaka role. An intersex actor would be cast in an intersex role, and so on. Of course, an actor of any gender, ethnicity, or age can play an Elf–and so they do. (No one is going to look very much like a Tolkien Elf in my fantasy movie–besides, my Elves are all wild for mortal subcultures and artifacts.)

What follows next is FANTASY CASTING – like a fan game, okay? It’s strictly for fun (unless the Wachowski Sisters give me a ring). Got that?

So, pretending that The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits is now headed for the big screen, there are at least eleven good roles for trans/GV actors, including major characters (either as trans/GV roles or playing cis roles); two major roles for intersex actors; and fourteen good and major roles for people of color (these overlap with many of the above roles). The characters below are human and Elf. The Elsewherians (they are “corporate”) and Fomorians (they’re like witch burning inquisitors) are mainly ensembles of bad guys (not listed as individual characters). I’ve also neglected to think of a couple of the deities that show up in magic rituals as “characters,” but I suppose I should.

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The “Hermits” (*main book narrators)

*Babe Bump – intersex woman, pansexual. Imagining singer and actor, Eden Atwood, (with darker hair). She’d be terrific. And this song is a perfect way for her to express her feelings for her new sweetheart! Eden has been “the face” of Babe almost since the first chapter.

*Tomma Bedlam – a trans woman who has claimed a gender fluid/non-binary identity by the time we meet zir, pansexual. Imagining Jamie Clayton (Sense8). How I love her! But would she want to play someone who is gender fluid and non-binary? In any case, Jamie has been “the face” of Tomma since the first draft of the first chapter!

*Oyster Olson – trans man, asexual, pan-romantic. Imagining Will Krisanda with a little grey hair (Brothers). For me, he’s been “the face” of Oyster Olson for the last year and a half as I’ve been writing. (But he’d have to learn to play blues harp or fake it!).

Aarrf Perry – a gender queer (they/them) “human puppy” who is also head of Hermitville security. This character requires a certain kind of versatility and has a pretty intense character growth. Imagining Tilda Swinton (identifies as non-binary gender).

Joe Hillstrom – cisgender man, gay, photographer and personal trainer: Imagining Chiwetel Ejiofor, because he can pretty much do anything as an actor and I love him.

Glysandra Shakti Om – cisgender woman, hetero, tantra instructor. Imagining Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders). Or could be a cis role played by a trans woman (who?).

Maximus Gordon – cisgender man, hetero, polyamorous, musician and singer. Massive is supposed to be 6’7″ and built like a football player, and so though I imagine the face of Morgan Freeman (with grey hair and beard), I actually don’t know how tall he is, or if he can sing!

Sybil Perry – cisgender woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. Imagining Loretta Divine.

Minnie Richmond – cisgender woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. Imagining Annie Golden. I’ve also thought of flipping the roles here so Annie would play Sybil and Loretta would play Maxine.

Jennifer Juniper – cisgender woman, hetero, musician and singer. Imagining Rhiannon Giddens.

Frank Talk – intersex man (sexual preference unknown), musician. Imagining intersex activist and professional pirate, Mx. Annunaki Ray Marquez.

Rozaline Rae – cisgender woman, bisexual, musician/singer. Imagining Poison Ivy (of The Cramps), if she’d be so kind…

Ginger Croom – cisgender woman, hetero, age 70ish, winery heiress, Hermitville founder. Dies at beginning of the book. Gotta be a “big” personality in flashbacks. Not “cast,” but Charlotte Rampling in a cameo is a persistent fantasy. Could also be a cis role played by a trans woman (who?). Who would be the young Ginger?

Sidley Croom – cisgender man, bisexual, Ginger’s younger brother. Imagining David Strathairn.

Bad Guys & Irritants

Anna Phylaxia – cisgender woman, hetero, pretend “domme,” CEO of Anna’s Wicked Wares. Imagining Pooya Mohseni (trans woman actor) as fantastic in this cis female role.

Stanford Lawsome – cisgender man, bisexual, Anna’s assistant. Imagining Reeve Carney (Penny Dreadful) with bleached hair and a spray tan.

The Lawyer® – gender neutral (ze, zir), Elsewherian, preference unknown. Imagining Jamie Casbon (Brothers) with a very corporate wardrobe.

Sri Nimrod – cisgender man, hetero. Self-righteous yoga guy with man bun. Small role. Haven’t cast him yet, but that Portlandia comedian could do this role well.

Film Crew

Miranda Jackson – cisgender female, lesbian, documentary filmmaker. Imagining Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black).

Shank Stoma – Trans or gender queer person, sexual preference unknown. Camera. Imagining Hudson Krakowski (Brothers).

Eddie Sedgwick – Nonbinary trans male (they, their). Camera. Em Grosland. (Trans actor. Em would also make a good Elf–see below.)

Toledo Jackson – Cisgender male, hetero. Miranda’s goat-selling, former tweaker brother. Hippie dude. Imagining someone similar to Russell Brand, but even more unraveled.

Jason – Cisgender male, hetero. Obnoxious to women. Kicked out of the crew. Small role. Imagining a white, frat guy type. Not cast.

Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) Neighbors

Namaka – cisgender woman, mother of two including kapu (sacred) child. I imagine someone like singer/activist Hāwane Rios or singer/activist Laulani Teale.

Uncle Iolana – cisgender man, kupuna (cherished elder), age 70. I imagine someone like singer Liko Martin.

A baby (gender not specified) and a boy of ten. Not cast.

Elves

Note: The Elves have 29 genders in their world and many of the Elf genders have developmental “shifts” to other states over the course of their lives.

Septimus Sitwell – Filly Lord gender, pansexual. Imagining Benedict Cumberbatch. Because I can… And because Septimus has some great lines.

The Wee One (aka T.W.O. and Breadcrumb) – Filly Lassie gender, pansexual. Character based on Angela Mae, a clown and bellydancer (used to perform with Gooferman). Would love to cast Angela Mae in this role. She’s super-talented.

Professor Osbert Almond – Lord of Ice gender, pansexual. Imagining Tom Hiddleston with long hair (but more gloss and gleam than Loki) — mostly because he is an amazing actor and could bring a lot of depth to the professor, who has a complex backstory.

Parsifal Berry Blue – Murlord gender, pansexual, T.W.O.’s dad. Character based on the real-life Puddles, the Sad Clown with the Golden Voice. Would love to cast Puddles (Mike Geier) in this role.

Maud o’ Bedlam – Lady Flame gender, pansexual, T.W.O.’s  mom. Imagining Eva Green (Penny Dreadful).

Indigo – Simple Female gender, lesbian. Imagining Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black).

George Potts – Lady Pheonix gender, pansexual, married to Archie Smegley. Imagining Jake Zyrus (trans man actor/singer).

Archie Smegley – Murlord gender, pansexual, married to George Potts. Imagining Scott Turner Schofield (trans man actor) .

Gingevus Sitwell – Filly Lord gender, pansexual, brother to Septimus. Imagining Bill Nighy (with longish hair).

Tom Crumpet – Simple Triad gender, pansexual. Imagining Emmett Jack Lundberg (trans man actor).

Sally ‘Round the Roses – Imagining Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (trans woman, lead in Tangerine), who would be lovely in this role.

Jack o’ My Lad – Simple Male gender, pansexual. Imagining Thomas Brodie-Sangster (cis man actor) or Em Grosland (trans actor).

Sulferous Pete – Simple Dyad gender, pansexual. Imagining Kingston Farady (trans man actor, Black is Blue).

Who’s There – Murlette gender, pansexual. Imagining Bae Doona (Sense8). (Korean name. Family name is Bae.)

Hamfast – Simple Dyad gender, pansexual, shapeshifter. Imagining Richard O’Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show).

Hamfast shapeshifting as Goddess Mal-i-bu Bar-bee – Imagining Stormy Daniels in a cameo appearance.

Shane – Laddie Gora gender, pansexual, Fomorian expert. Imagining Alexander Vlahos (long hair, goth).

This “casting” is actually a productive exercise for a (cis, white) writer to step out of a tendency to “cast white” and “cast cis” and really broaden the character possibilities beyond a token character or two, tossed in as a sop to “diversity.” It is also a way to search out and appreciate the work of talented people who in some cases have less recognition than they deserve. And it’s also a bit of “magical thinking.”

So mote it be.

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Oyster Olson – Humble Bluesman Turns Wizard

Oyster Olson is a resident of the fictitious Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective near Pahoa, Hawai’i Island. He is one of twelve “hermits” (musicians, artists, and oddballs) invited to live at the intentional community by the founder, winery heiress Ginger Croom. At the beginning of the book, Oyster has been a resident at the farm for about six years. And he’s probably the most introverted member of the community at that point.

Oyster didn’t start out in my mind as a main character in my work of fantasy fiction, but he, along with Tomma Bedlam and Babe Bump, have grown to become the three main human protagonists. Babe does most of the first person narration, but Oyster and Tomma also narrate chapters, and the friendship between the three is one of my major pleasures in writing this story.

At the start of the book, Oyster is shy, reserved, and somewhat unfocused–unless he’s playing music! In the second chapter, during the farm’s monthly “Community Emergency Response Training” (CERT) drill, Oyster has trouble remembering the meaning of the triage colors* (red, yellow, green) as Tomma, participating as a mock “disaster victim,” is carried to the medical tarp on a repurposed surfboard. Babe notices his distraction, but also takes note of his “swoony” brown eyes.

Oyster is a talented multi-instrumentalist. He plays blues harp (harmonica), synthesizer, keyboards, and even harpsichord, with The Incredible Unstrung Band (the farm band). While skilled on keyboards, his real joy is playing the blues on his harp. At one point in the book he’s delighted to find that Babe recognizes a Charlie Musselwhite tune that he’s playing (Sorcerer’s Dream). Babe, a neo-burlesque artiste, tells Oyster that she’s been a fan of Musselwhite since her teens, and that blues and burlesque go together like “poke and poi.”

Oyster is a transgender man. He’s been keeping this private at Hermitville for personal reasons, but eventually confides in Babe, who is very out as an intersex rights activist. (Tomma, a gender variant person with ze/zir pronouns, figured out Oyster’s secret on zir own, but discreetly never mentioned it.) One wonders why Oyster didn’t confide in Babe and Tomma before, but as I said earlier, the guy is shy!

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Oyster’s growth in the book is a result of his growing friendship and intimacy with Babe and Tomma, along with his training in magical arts, and through the magical, multi-dimensional challenges and dangers they all face together.

If I were to cast Oyster’s part in a movie version of the book, I know exactly which trans male actor would get the part. He’s a little younger than Oyster (who is in his mid-40s), but could definitely carry the role. He’s got the right look and “vibe.” Just add a few gray hairs…

*Red-Immmediate Care, Yellow – Delayed Care. Green – Minimal Care. When I lived in Pahoa, HI, I took the CERT training. I had also taken it in Albany, CA.

Guild Origins: Twelve Founding Families

12 Families & Hermits

This chart gives a rough genealogy of the twelve families who, in collaboration with Elves masquerading as “ornamental hermits,” founded The Guild of Ornamental Hermits during the later part of the witch persecutions in England.  The esoteric purpose of the guild was to provide instruction and further collaborative magic between Elves of The Realm and human beings. The practical purpose of the guild was to identify and rescue people who were at risk of witch persecution. The activities of the original members, both Elf and human, will be the topic of a future book. In this first work of fantasy fiction, The Dire Deeds of the Ornamental Hermits, Ginger Croom, California winery heiress and founder of Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective on Hawai’i Island, has gathered together descendents of these first families, (aka “hermits of Hermitville”) and in the book, these descendents must come to terms with a magical heritage that had been unknown to them.

Information about the twelve families and the guild is found in The Book of Moons, a mysterious volume which Oyster Olson inherits from Ginger Croom. (The name, Book of Moons, is taken from the anonymously authored, seventeenth century poem, Tom ‘o Bedlam.)

The Elves who are currently involved with the “hermits of Hermitville” are the same as those involved with the twelve founding families. (Elves are more or less immortal.) The chart below details the ritual work done by each Elf in England and their more modern jobs titles in the 21st century (Other Function column). The chart also shows which Elves end up mentoring which “hermits” of Hermitville. Please note that Gingevus Sitwell does become the mentor of Glysandra, but this does not show up on this chart. Also, Professor Almond ends up switching to mentoring Oyster, further along in the book. But for now, you can get a sense of the personnel!

If you’re confused, not to worry. All will become clear in the book!

Hermit Functions.jpg

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Intersex Characters in Hermitville

Babe Bump, the book’s primary narrator, and Frank Talk, one of Hermitville’s fine musicans, live in bodies that have intersex variations. However, Babe and Frank each deal with a different set of circumstances, as the intersex variation of each character is different.

Babe was born with partial androgen insensitivity. Fortunately for Babe, her parents resisted medical and social pressure to force genital surgery on her. She self-identified as female at an early age and so did not want androgen therapy at puberty. If you want a simple label, you can think of her as a woman with XY chromosomes. Babe is generally “out” as an intersex person as she is an activist for intersex and trans rights (as well as a well-known neo-burlesque performer).

Frank keeps his condition relatively private, but confided in Babe during the first few months of their residency at Hermitville. Frank has 47 XXY chromosomes, which is known as Klinefelter Syndrome. Most of the other Hermits don’t know, mostly because Frank doesn’t think it is any of their business. He is a performer and he focuses primarily on his music.

Though I am not intersex myself, I included intersex characters in this book, as well as other gender variant and sexually diverse characters, for several reasons – including my background as a sexologist and commitment to sexual and gender rights, my being the mother of a trans non-binary person, and just a general sense of fairness. In the interest of greater visibility, more such characters need to be included in a majority of written and filmed materials. However, characters with such variations do not necessarily need writers to be hyper-focused on the variations, either. This could just be a part of who they are, not the totality of their identities or the totality of how we view or understand them.

So, even though this is fantasy fiction (I’m not an Elf either, but I’m writing about them), I am hoping to do my part to help heighten visibility and awareness for a number of different types of people who are marginalized, including many people in the LGBTQIA etc. categories. The struggles that Intersex people face are almost beyond imagining (including forced surgical mutilation), and yet are very little known to the general public.

I encourage readers to check out these links:

United Nations Intersex Factsheet

Organization Intersex International USA and the Intersex Campaign for Equality

Mx. Annunaki Ray is an intersex activist with many incredible links and blog posts. Check out the page on links for intersex allies, including this printable PDF from OII.

Below is the symbol for Intersex Awareness Day (Oct. 26) and Intersex Day of Solidarity.

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Finally, if a movie is ever made from this book (Hear that, Wachowskis? I’d want YOU to direct! That’s my dream!), I would want intersex actors to play the intersex characters, trans actors to play trans characters, and so on – so all these folks could get more work!