Edith Sitwell and Tom o’ Bedlam

Here are two of the most pervasive and enduring influences on me, as I make my way through the writing of this work of fantasy fiction.

First, Edith Sitwell’s English Eccentrics, which has a chapter on Ornamental Hermits. Some of England’s “landed gentry” really did hire ornamental hermits to flit about in the shrubbery for their amusement. I believe this should be a 21st century career choice, with better wages and job security, even a union, of course! The San Francisco Chronicle once rejected my (somewhat satirical, somewhat serious) advocacy of a unionized Hermits Guild as a career option for people in need of work (I would have applied!), but the editor did compliment me on providing the most obscure literary reference to come across their desks! I still think a Hermit’s Guild could have made neat use of cast-off costumes from ACT and Beach Blanket Babylon!

In fact, in 2016, the village of Adleburgh advertised for a professional “village idiot,” which I am convinced is very much in the spirit of Ornamental Hermiting.

ornamental-hermit

Secondly,  Tom o’ Bedlam, a poem written (most likely) in the 17th century, author unknown. And this musical version by the Rude Mechanicals. The late Michael Rossman, of Free Speech Movement fame, is the vocalist. Nay, more than a mere vocalist! He became Tom when he sang. Should this book ever be made into a movie, I’ll lobby hard for this version of the song to be part of the soundtrack. My character, Tomma Bedlam, named zirself after this poem. The “madness” of another character also loosely follows Tom’s trajectory.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/339842

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The Fourth Book Begins – NaNoWriMo 2020

Good news! Tomorrow, November 14th, I will sign a contract with Digital Parchment Services to publish the first four books in my Guild of Ornamental Hermits fantasy series with the Futures-Past Editions imprint. I am choosing tomorrow to sign because it is an auspicious day for me with a New Moon in Scorpio and some good Saturn and Neptune energy.

It’s also just about the middle of NaNoWriMo 2020 – National Novel Writing Month – which begins each year on my birthday, Nov. 1st. I began this fantasy during NaNoWriMo 2016, just as a certain catastrophic election took place in the U.S. That same month I put together a 50 page “resistance handbook” while also banging out 50,000 words of the first draft of The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. The book is set in a communal farm near Pahoa, Hawai’i Island. There are Elves, supernatural and human bad guys, and a number of human characters, “the Hermits of Hermitville,” that I have come to adore. Eventually the book ended up weighing in at over 250,000 words and I worked hard to par it down to about 179,000–still a lot!

My publisher, Jean-Marie Stine, suggested I take the manuscript and turn it into two books: The Dire Deeds of the (etc.) and The Witching Work of the (etc.). The third book, which takes place in California and Oregon, is called The Queerest Quest of the (etc.). (You have probably figured out I like alliteration in my titles.)

For NaNoWriMo 2020, I began working on the fourth book, The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. As of tonight, Nov. 13th, I am over 23,000 words so far. Tomorrow I plan to leap over the 25,000 word mark.

The Perilous Past weaves together an important love story that triggered the founding of Hermitville; the contemporary struggles of the Hermits to adjust to their new home in Oregon; and the 17th century origin of the Elf/human mystery school known as The Guild of Ornamental Hermits. This was the heydey of the English witch persecutions, so there’s that.

I am, once again, completely in love with the characters who’ve been with me in the first three books. I also have some new adversaries and more about the Guild founders collectively known as “Twelve Families.”

I’m excited by the prospect of completing the fourth book in record time and I am hoping to see all four published in 2021. These are LGBTQIA++ fantasies and offering these books to readers feels so right after the hell of the last administration. It’s a time for joy (as well as hard work), so maybe these books can provide that as we make a better world for us all.

May we all be safe, healthy, and prevail in this very difficult time!

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Rune Illustrations by Paul F.S. Bauer

Today I am sharing two illustrations I commissioned from my youngest son, Paul F.S. Bauer, as illustrations for The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. There is a scene in the book where the Elves teach rune casting and I wanted the results illustrated. Paul added the additional design elements, based on his own inspiration, and I think they are perfectly appropriate for an otherworldly divination. And his hand-stippling is truly amazing!

I hope these beautiful illustrations will be published soon, along with the rest of the book!


Paul Runes 2 copy
Copyright Paul F.S. Bauer, 2017. All rights reserved.


This one features a reversed Berkana, as this is how it showed up in a rune casting during the novel.


Paul Runes 1 copy
Copyright Paul F.S. Bauer, 2017. All rights reserved.


Please do not share these images without permission or credit. Thank you.

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July 2020 Progress

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.

I am back firmly in fantasy novelist mode! This past weekend I put some character and plot development changes in place and continued the final edit on Dire Deeds. I updated my lists of Elven (ala Tolkien) names and words; plus revised the list of 29 genders of the Elf world; and sorted and organized several files of character “faces” (a form of fantasy “casting” that helps my writing process). This is a series about “mid-life magic”–most of the human characters are in their forties or older and most are encountering magic for the first time.

The first book, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is set in a fictitious “Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective” in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island, during a “not too distant future” when the U.S. occupation has ended and the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom is rapidly reorganizing. Unfortunately, the Hermits of “Hermitville” realize their own occupation has had unintended mystical and spiritual consequences, causing the Elves of the Realm to return and revive the Guild.

The second, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is set in Lake County, CA. The Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, took over this plot with his search for his final missing child. But an evil Lake County cult leader teams up with a villain from the first book, to dump yet more challenges onto the newly reformed Guild (consisting of the “Hermits” and their teachers and guides, the Elves).

The third in the Series, The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, will blend a contemporary plot with the origin story of the Guild, created during the times of witch persecution in Europe.

I began writing The Dire Deeds in 2016, during my time in Pahoa. I was very lonely so I began creating characters I wish I knew and a community life I wish I had. And I was homesick for the SF Bay Area. So naturally, these books contain a majority of LBGTQIA+ and BIPOC characters–all of whom get to do magic and have adventures.

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From “A” to Ze

 

This is a coming out post. 

Even as a child I never liked my first name, preferring often to simply use the letter “A.” I used to think it was because “Amy” seemed too wimpy and I also resented being named after a character in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (yes, my parents did that). I began to feel better about the name just last year, after I discovered that Amy is also the name of a gender-fluid Goetic demon. (I mean, you can never call a demon “wimpy,” can you?)

Little_Women-Demon-_frontispiece-1

As a little kid, I was never an Amy in my imagination. I was Captain Nemo (20 Leagues Under the Sea), or Dr. Doolittle, or Sir Lancelot. I was also, often, a “Pirate Queen.” You see a pattern starting to emerge, right?

In my teens and early twenties, I went along with “being a girl” because I didn’t know there was an option. But I felt uncomfortable, never quite right. I’m artistic, intellectual–never athletic–so “tomboy” wouldn’t fit. I wanted love, so I became “a girlfriend” for a series of boyfriends, later “a wife” and “a mother.” I was and am other things too, but the stakes for success or failure in the gender roles were always the highest, the most precarious. As uncomfortable as I was in them–though I tried my best–I didn’t want to be “a man” or “a boyfriend” or “a husband” either. The concepts of gender neutrality, gender plurality, and gender non-binary, didn’t show up on my radar until I was in the middle of menopause. Yes, there was the old idea of “androgyny” in the 1960’s, and I was often attracted to androgynous people, but that didn’t seem like something I’d be able to do myself.

Anyway, there’s a long story behind all this and I’m not up to telling all of it now. It’s just that I only recently realized that the gift of being unpartnered for the last three years has given me the opportunity to discover an essential core truth. The truth is this: I have seldom felt like “a woman” (pregnancy and lactation the closest thing to experiencing that), though I’ve had to live as one. But I don’t feel like anything super nameable either.

I feel like…a creature…forced to wear an ill-fitting garment that hides zir true beauty. (And is the “garment” only made of ill-fitting concepts or is “the ill fit” more physical? Too soon to tell.) And so today I’ve claimed the pronouns of ze/zir, at last. I may not be able to do much about the ill-fitting garment, especially since the physical aspects are aging, but I can at least claim the right pronouns for myself.

On a literary note: Some readers of earlier chapters of The Dire Deeds have suggested to me that Babe Bump is my alter-ego. But though I’ve given Babe a number of characteristics and background details of my own, she’s not my alter-ego. My alter ego is Tomma Bedlam, if anyone is.

That is all.

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Why I’m Spelling MagicQ with a Q

And why I’ve created a new social media group as a place for queer, trans, non-binary and pretty much everyone else who is “othered” and tormented by the soul-sucking, climate-changing, greed-slurping dementors of the world we live in today…

dementor

Since 2016, when I started writing The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, I knew that my characters would create a safe, vibrant place for people to learn and enjoy a new kind of magic–something that today I am calling MagicQ. In my second book (close to completion), my characters–including trans guy Oyster Olson, intersex woman Babe Bump, and non-binary Tomma Bedlam–are actively engaged in creating a new Hermitville Center for Arts and Magic as a place of refuge, inclusion, and empowerment for LGBTQIA+ people, and anyone facing violence and discrimination as a result of personal bigotry and systemic injustice.

Two days ago I learned about J.K. Rowling’s most recent transphobic statement on Twitter, in support of a woman who holds hateful beliefs about trans and otherwise gender diverse people, and who believes it is fine to discriminate against them. While I never thought of Rowling as someone who had great politics (I mean, she poured money into preventing Scottish independence, for gods sake…), I was startled and dismayed by her most recent public statement. I hadn’t been following Rowling’s transphobe trajectory but others have, as early as 2018 or before.

My kids (now adults) grew up on the Potter books–along with other, better works of childhood fiction. One of my kids is trans–and I will never forget how dismayed he was when he found out he was not going to Hogwartz when he turned eleven. However, he’s since claimed his place in the worlds of magic and witchery, and has even created a church for LGBTQIA+ people. To work for social change and justice is a magical, transformational act. This is the real thing, not make-believe.

Inspired by both my own kid’s action and the mission of my own characters, I’ve created The Guild of Ornamental Hermits group on Facebook, as a home for magicQ and its practitioners and allies. Since I am also a practicing witch, as well as a writer/blogger and sexologist dedicated to gender equality, as well as a mother–I can do no less and I also pledge to do more!

So, I say to J.K. (who also writes under a male name–go figure!!!) that in my world of magic and literature, she has now become “she who must not be named.” If she ever repudiates her current stance, and educates herself, and humbly serves as a fitting ally to LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized people, perhaps I’ll reconsider giving her a place on my bookshelf again. But til then I’m boycotting. I won’t be giving her books to any more young people.

#IStandWithTrans and I always have.

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NaNoWriMo 2019

This month, during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits has gained 34,548 words so far, bringing the total word count for the first draft up past 80,000. I just paused at the end of Chapter 25, to do a little updating on this website. I have slightly over 15,000 words to write to meet the NaNoWriMo challenge of 50,000 words in one month.

I’m mindful that I need to wrap up this draft soon, before ending up with an unwieldy word count that no one agent will want to touch. Honestly, though, it’s too much fun to stop writing, so my plan is to wrap up the end and then get started on the first few pages of the third book, if I have to. Then, I’ll rewrite this first draft so that I get a polished second.

The Hermits and the Elves are tangling with yet another supernatural bad guy as they attempt to come to terms with a new setting for their adventures. And the changes are not over yet!

Best_Buffalmacco,_trionfo_della_morte,_eremiti_02 copy

QQ Excerpt: More Lucky LaFey

Excerpt from The Queerest Quest of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits:

To hear Lucky tell it, he’d spent a chunk of time hobnobbing with the poshest Sonoma county growers (grapes, not cannabis) and had known Ginger’s parents as well as Ginger. He’d lived on this property as a sort of unofficial caretaker, off and on, ever since their death.

“Why haven’t we seen you before now?” Tomma asked.

“Been away,” Lucky said tersely, through a mouthful of cinnamon-spiced dough.

“Do the Elves know about you?” Roz wanted to know.

“Well of course. I’m rather well-known,” Lucky admitted. He was now wearing a miniature donut on the ring finger of each hand, admiring the look of them.

Oyster rolled his eyes impatiently. Getting the story out of Lucky seemed to be a series of two to seven-word phrases punctuated by sounds of chewing. “She means, do the Elves know about you living here?”

“Ah…” Lucky tried (unsuccessfully) to look disarming and innocent. “…No.”

Tomma, who’d been staring at Lucky with blatant fascination, then blurted out, “We’ve got the exact same hair color!” Ze then looked embarrassed. We all laughed but it was true.

“Yes, we do.” Lucky admitted. “Also the same taste in nail polish.” He pointed at Tomma’s toenails.

“You, me, and every drag queen within a hundred mile radius,” Tomma replied flippantly. Then ze looked at me, “You know, this guy may be shady, but I think I kind of like him.”

“What’s not to like?” Lucky looked hurt—genuinely hurt. It surprised me.

Massive Max spoke for the first time. He’d been hanging back, leaning against the refrigerator, watching Lucky closely. “Dude, you show up out of nowhere on the first day that the Elves are gone, and tell us this story about living here, and, well, it can sound pretty fishy. Understand?”

“Okay,” Lucky said, “you know that little trailer in the garage? Have you cleaned it out yet?”

“Not yet,” Massive admitted. “It’s locked and we just haven’t gotten around to breaking in. And it looks like a mess in there.”

“Here’s the key,” Lucky said, pulling out a Thor novelty keychain with two keys. He tossed it to Massive. “If you go there now and open the cupboard over the kitchen sink, you’ll find a red mug decorated with a picture of a fox, a box of old breath mints, and the title to the trailer in my name.”

Massive was about to check it out when Oyster stopped him and then addressed Lucky, “You just materialized a bunch of donuts. What’s to say you haven’t just materialized those objects into the trailer?”

Lucky sighed. “How hard it is to be believed! Haven’t you learned any truth-telling spells yet? You could try one of those. I’d gladly submit.”

[End of Excerpt]

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.

sunsetmalibuhs
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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