“The Witching Work” Has Begun!

November 1st (my birthday) is also the start of each year’s National Novel Writing Month, fondly known as NaNoWriMo.

Best_Buffalmacco,_trionfo_della_morte,_eremiti_02 copyIn NaNoWriMo 2016, I launched my fantasy novel, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, and continued to write all year. In NaNoWriMo 2017, I continued work on Dire Deeds and then revised and completed it this last summer. Now in NaNoWriMo 2018, I have officially begun work on the second book in this proposed fantasy trilogy–The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

I’m off to a good start! By the end of November 3rd, I had over 8,000 words logged in to my NaNoWriMo author page.

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NaNoWriMo 2018

Logo_of_National_Novel_Writing_Month

I’m gearing up for National Novel Writing Month 2018! It begins on my birthday, November 1st. I began my fantasy fiction novel, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, during NaNoWriMo 2016, wrote all year long, then continued it during NaNoWriMo 2017. Still working hard!

But this year, I am winding up another round of editing on The Dire Deeds and am getting ready to start my second volume in the series: The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. This second volume will take place in Lake County and the “wine country” of California as the Hermits of Hermitville attempt to regroup and establish a LGBTQIA etc. (pretty much everybody-friendly) school of magic.

I don’t want to tell you anything else! For me, the plot and character development flows as I write, with only a vague idea of what might happen next. I’ll be as surprised as you are when I get to my 50,000 word count at the end of November.

One thing I do know, however, a certain fabulous trickster god will make his/her/zir appearance in the book! And those Viking horns on top of the NaNoWriMo log will be so very, very appropriate!

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Announcing the Sequels

A_Fairy_Under_Starry_Skies,_by_Luis_Ricardo_Falero

This weekend (which was a particularly awful one, I must say!), I was inspired with the titles of the next two books in the Guild of Ornamental Hermits series. I always knew I’d be writing a trilogy of “mid-life magic”–and have had a general idea of theme and location–but titles were elusive.

So, the second book in the series takes place in California (and that’s all the spoiler you’re going to get). It will be called The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits and I’ll be starting it on November 1st, during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

The third book will bring a deeper look into the history of the guild, and some of it will take place in England during the witchcraft persecution of the 17th and 18th centuries. This third book will be called The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

Just thought you’d all like to know what’s up with my works of fantasy fiction.

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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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Why a Tale of “Mid-Life Magic?”

'Fairy_Islands'_from_the_book_Elves_and_Fairies_1916_by_Ida_Rentoul_OuthwaiteI grew up reading fairy tales and fantasy fiction. I always wanted to see myself as one of the characters in whatever I was reading and/or have that character’s abilities. Childhood examples include: Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (for having the coolest submarine and for being disgusted with humanity); Doctor Doolittle (for being able to talk with animals); and pretty much any fairy princess you can name (for magic adventures and caskets of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds) – except the Disney variety, thank god. I’m too old for that to have had much, if any, impact on my childhood! I loved and devoured books by Edgar Eager, E. Nesbit, Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis–and of course J.R.R. Tolkien (in my teens). By the time I was eighteen, I had most of the Andrew Lang collections of fairy tales, each volume a different color. And the only relic of my late father that I possess is a book of Japanese fairy tales he sent to me after the divorce, when I was about four years old.

My children of course went through the Harry Potter series, C.S. Lewis Narnia books, and Tolkien. My ex and I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to each kid, more than once. (Tolkien really wrote for the breath and voice. It’s astonishing when you read those books aloud.) And there were other writers and other books. For my oldest, a number of brave girl warrior type adventures, and Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Finder. For my youngest, the Redwall series (Brian Jacques) and Bartimaeus series (Jonathan Stroud).

So my life has been steeped in such tales, and now, as I am older (much older), I want the magic adventures to continue, with characters that are my age or thereabouts. One of the few stories that has come close is A.S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.

Plus, I have had my own true-life collisions with “mid-life magic” and this has been an unexpected and fascinating development. Sexology (I’m a sexologist) pales somewhat by comparison.

So, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits is a story about (mostly counter-culture) people over the age of 40, and some who are much older. The Elves, for example, last a lot longer than humans and don’t age at the same rate. And I, as the writer, am able to wave my magic word wand around and grant attributes and situations, as well as varied genders, sexual preferences, and magic “superpowers” to the characters who have come to populate the Hermitville and The (Elven) Realm of my imagination.

And in that way, the magical adventures continue!

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Tolkien’s Valar and Maiar – Deities of the Elves

For the second draft of The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, I decided to switch out almost all of the references to various deities actually worshipped by human beings (past and present) and replace them with references to J.R.R. Tolkien’s cosmic pantheon as described in his Silmarillion. Aside from Elves, I have also now replaced other references to existing magical beings and “faery cities” with words based on Tolkien’s languages.

The idea of “Elves” has been used so often, for so many kinds of beings–from Santa’s Elves to Tolkien’s, from Norse Elves to Emma Bull’s–and everything in between, that I feel okay about including them and creating my own concepts of them.

I did this (1) to avoid giving offense to people currently engaged with a variety of Celtic, Heathen, and other pagan traditions; (2) as a homage to Tolkien; and (3) to have more freedom to create a fictitious magical foundation for the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

Tolkien describes his collection of deities, known as Valar and Maiar, and their functions in great detail. I use a few of these figures. I’ve also used some of their names to create four elemental “cities” (Arda or Ardae) that correspond to elements: Ulmaria (water); Manwaria (air); Auleria (fire); and Yavannia (earth). (Tolkien had used “Arda” as a word for the place humans live, but I snagged it to refer to certain locations in the Elves’ Realm.)

The magical training given by the Elves of the Hermits of Hermitville also has a lot to do with these faery cities and elements. The three major characters of Babe Bump, Oyster Olson, and Tomma Bedlam are all linked with Murias, due to their astrological signs. These three characters each have unique magical gifts. Babe is a medium; Tomma has an affinity with magical creatures; and Oyster is definitely wizard material. As such he is the keeper of the mysterious Book of Moons, created by the original Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

Creating the “mythos” that matches the story is definitely one of the challenging parts of writing fantasy fiction!

Johann_Landner_Litho

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Western Magic Influences

[Updated and Revised, Feb. 9, 2019]

Since 2016, I have been researching magical knowledge, neopagan traditions, and other esoteric resources for The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits and the sequel, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

A_grotto_containing_a_magic_circle,_books_and_mythical_creat_Wellcome_V0025853
Creative Commons/Wellcome Images. A grotto containing a magic circle, books and mythical creatures. Etching by J. Vezzani after G. Rocchetti.

Here are some of the sources and teachers who have become important and inspirational since I began writing these fantasy novels. I am absorbing quite a lot of material and ideas from these and other sources, however I am combining what I learn in a fictional way with my own fantasies of the magic practiced in Hermitville and the Realm (the Elven home). Faery cities are important to this made-up magic, as are many other things.

Again, I emphasize: nothing that I am writing in my fantasy novels should be considered an accurate portrayal or reflection of the teachings and sources below.

Even so, I want to take grateful note of the teachers and books which are helping me scrabble a magical system together.

Ariel Gatoga’s podcasts, The Witch’s Primer, is a course in the basics of “non-denominational witchcraft.” Ariel is an engaging teacher and I find his approach refreshing. His was a cheery voice during a very depressing period in my life. I’ve also enjoyed many of his Druidic Craft of the Wise podcasts as well, especially the one called A Charmed Life. Unfortunately, Gatoga’s websites have been hacked and his podcasts are almost impossible to find. That link above to the Druidic Craft of the Wise lectures is on Google Drive.

Dr. Daniel Foor’s Ancestral Medicine website, lectures, book, and classes, convey a practical, luminous path for working with ancestors. This is exceptional work and I am so glad to have found Dr. Foor’s teachings.

Gatoga and Foor were two of my most meaningful discoveries during the first year of writing and learning.

Podcasts such as Missing Witches (hosted by Risa Dickens and Amy Torok),  Bespoken Bones (hosted by Pavini Moray) and Down at the Crossroads (hosted by Chris Orapello and Tara Maguire) provide thoughtful conversations with practitioners and authors. Orapello and Maguire have since published their own book, Besom, Stang, and Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & The Hidden Landscape.

Also influential:

Aidan Wachter’s Six Ways: Approaches and Entries for Practical Magic.

Sex, Sorcery and Spirit: The Secrets of Erotic Magic and The Elements of Spellcrafting: 21 Keys to Successful Sorcery, both by Jason Miller.

Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols by Laura Tempest Zakroff.

For divination, I rely heavily on Nordic Runes by Paul Rhys Mountfort and The Ultimate Guide to the Rider-Waite Tarot by Johannes Fiebirg and Evelin Burger.

I have a lot more magic books in my library of course (ditto for tantra and hypnosis) but the above are the ones I seem to go to the most.

I have enjoyed Magic in the Middle Ages, taught online by instructors at the University of Barcelona on Coursera. This class provided some wonderful background on one period in the history of European magic, as well as the criminalization of witchcraft and spellwork.

“Inclusive heathenry” and “Northern Tradition Paganism” has also made its way into my life during this time and so I owe a debt of gratitude to The Troth and Hrafnar, as well as to various Lokean websites and groups. I am particularly happy to make the acquaintance of the Norse deities: the trickster god Loki, who is my “most trusted one”; Freyr and his Jotun wife, Gerda; and Freya.

Aside from the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, two books on Loki have been hugely helpful, as well as a delight to read:

Dagulf Loptson’s Playing With Fire–An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson.

God in Flames, God in Fetters: Loki’s Role in the Northern Religions by Stephan Grundy, Ph.D.

I’ve also drawn freely on what I know about trance states as a hypnotist and as a practitioner of Western Neo-Tantra.

So my fantasy novels are definitely “a work of art, on the whole, but showing the influence of too many schools” (as Oscar Wilde wrote of his character, Mrs. Cheveley). But in this case, perhaps it’s not a bad thing!

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August Natterer: Witch’s head, c. 1915, Prinzhorn Collection – public domain.