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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Movie Casting Fantasies

What follows next is FANTASY CASTING for the Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits AND for the Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits–like a fan game, okay? It’s strictly for fun (unless the Wachowskis give me a ring). Got that?


Update August 31, 2020: My understanding of my characters has deepened since I wrote the first version of this blog post. This is partly because some of my characters have gone through changes, and also because The Witching Work adds a whole new cast of characters. I’ve also become aware of a whole lot of new and amazingly talented actors and performers since I first started these books in the fall of 2016. Many of these performers are LGBTQIA+, transgender, intersex, otherwise gender diverse, and/or perform drag. This revised fantasy casting list includes an increased number of such folx, particularly among the Elves and in the second book, Lucky LaFey’s witch daughters. There are many roles for BIPOC actors as well.

As a writer, it really helps to have “a face” to give to my characters. Actors and performers are easily “recruited” in this imaginative exercise. And so, enjoy the list below. I can’t promise it won’t change!

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This trilogy is about a group of human misfits (the Hermits) and their collisions with magic and a variety of supernatural beings, while having crazy dangerous adventures. It’s a “coming of age” story for characters who are already “old”– a tale of mid-life magic.

The Hermits of “Hermitville” (Book 1) and “Neoville” (Book 2)

• Babe Bump [Narrator] – Intersex, pansexual. Babe often functions as the quiet, emotional center of The Hermits, but no one should underestimate her. She’s a sexy burlesque performer and an intersex activist, as bold in her way as Tomma is in zir’s. And she goes through some wild changes!

Fantasy casting – I’ve always imagined 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 [Narrator] – Gender fluid/non-binary, pansexual. Prounouns are ze and zir. Tomma is a BIG personality–complex, creative, provocative, funny as hell, sexy, confrontational, flippant, intelligent, and courageous. Ze is also extremely tender-hearted. Tomma is Babe’s best friend.

Fantasy casting – Lately I’ve been realizing that Disasterina (Dragula, Dr. Sado), created and performed by Treiops Treyfid, has the emotional range, physicality, and over-the-top humor that I associate with Tomma. Though I don’t see Tomma with quite the non-stop boisterous campiness of Disasterina, Tomma comes close in several scenes. I find myself wondering if the thoughtfulness (as well as the punk-drag energy) behind the creation of Disasterina would allow this performer to deliver the Tomma I imagine. It’s an interesting speculation!

• Oyster Olson [Narrator] – trans man, asexual, pan-romantic. Multi-instrumental musician with a particular fondness for blues harp.

Fantasy casting – Imagining Will Krisanda who played Max in the Brothers series, but slightly gothy and with a little grey hair added. For me, he’s been “the face” of Oyster Olson all along and I remain devoted to this fantasy casting choice. Will Krisanda has the kind of range that Oyster needs, as Oyster’s life takes many unexpected turns.

• Aarrf Perry – Gender queer (they/them) “human puppy” who is head of Hermitville security and disaster prep. Aarrf is “a stray” looking for a master/mistress as the book opens.

Fantasy casting – This character requires versatility and has a pretty intense character growth. I now imagine Dina Nina Martinez in the roll, as she’s funny as hell and I think she could carry Aarrf’s character arc.

• Joe Hillstrom – Cisgender gay man, photographer and personal trainer. Always looks buffed and well-groomed (in contrast to some of Hermitville’s other residents). He was a long-time resident of San Francisco prior to moving to Hermitville. He’s also Sidley Croom’s ex.

Fantasy casting – This is a role for a Black man. I originally imagined Chiwetel Ejiofor, because he can pretty much do anything as an actor and I love him. However, there are several actors who could do wonderful things with Joe’s character. There’s no reason a trans man couldn’t be cast as Joe.

• Glysandra Shakti Om – Cisgender woman, hetero, hippy neo-tantra instructor. Glysandra can be clueless but also overly sincere and earnest. A bit of a tantric femme fatale.

Fantasy casting – I originally imagined Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders), as she is so sexually compelling. But there is no reason a trans woman or drag performer couldn’t be cast in this role.  Victoria Elizabeth Black would be amazing.

• Maximus Gordon – Cisgender man, hetero, polyamorous, kinky, musician and singer. He is tall, strong, has gravitas. Maximus is a former folk singer. His ex-wife and current girlfriend both live in Hermitville. They all get along, sometimes as a sexual triad.

Fantasy casting – This is a role for a Black man. I’ve imagined Maximus as someone like Morgan Freeman or Idris Elba.

• Sybil Perry – Cisgender woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. Maximus’ former wife and folksinging partner.

Fantasy casting – I’ve imagined Annie Golden or someone like her who could give off a vaguely hippy vibe. Doesn’t have to be a cisgender actor but would be great if the person could sing.

• Minnie Richmond – Cisgender OR trans woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. She is Maximus’ current GF. She and Maximus are a bit kinky.

Fantasy casting – This is a role for a Black or Asian woman or other woman of color. Doesn’t have to be a cisgender actor but would be great if the person could sing.

• Jennifer Juniper – Cisgender woman, hetero, musician and singer.

Fantasy casting – Another role for a woman of color. Doesn’t have to be a cisgender actor but would be great if the person could sing.

• Frank Talk – Intersex man, heteroflexible, musician. “Hipster” or gamer persona.

Fantasy casting – This role should be given to an intersex actor, preferably someone with musical skills. No particular ethnicity.

• Rozaline Rae – Cisgender OR trans woman, bisexual, musician/singer. Scottish heritage (plays bagpipes).

Fantasy casting – Imagining someone with a rock n roll persona similar to Poison Ivy (of The Cramps).

• Ginger Croom – Cisgender woman, hetero, age 70ish, winery heiress, Hermitville founder. Dies at beginning of the book. A “big” personality with lots of moxie and traces of her entitled upbringing. Seductive, charismatic. Probably a redhead. She and her brother are rich white people.

Fantasy casting – Someone like Helen Mirren would be perfect. But who plays the younger Ginger in flashbacks?

• Sidley Croom – Cisgender man, bisexual, Ginger’s younger brother. Sidley has a somewhat stocky or large build, red hair, and a beard.

Fantasy casting – Anyone who could be cast as an older Viking.

Elves of “The Realm” (Books 1 & 2)

Note: The Elves (Eldar) have 29 genders in their world, depending on their “element” at birth and timing of developmental “shifts” over the course of their lives. The Elves are all pansexual. Elf names are given in Tolkien’s Elf language, Quenya.

• Professor Osbert Almond (Laurina Eälótë – Golden Sea Flower) – Professor Almond is a Human Studies expert. He has a very complicated love life. A bit overly formal and stiff. Works closely with Fantur Nen and Artanáro Alma. Mentor (and more) to Oyster Olson.

Fantasy casting – I’ve imagined Tom Hiddleston (but more gloss and gleam than Marvel Loki) and Alexander Vlahos (Versailles). Almond is supposed to be stunning. Long dark hair is required.

• Parsifal Berry Blue (Lúnë Pië – Blue Berry) – Breadcrumb’s father. Like his daughter, he is obsessed with human clowns. He’s a big goof who forgets to tone down his overwhelming glamour. Mentor (and more) to Tomma Bedlam.

Fantasy casting – The character is 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 (Elemmírë Ohtar – Star-jewel Warrior) – Breadcrumb’s mother. Gothy, strong personality, physical (martial arts), a “straight man” foil for her husband, Parsifal. Mentor to Maximus and monitors Sidley.

Fantasy casting – At various times, I’ve imagined Eva Green (Penny Dreadful),  Jamie Clayton (Sense8), and Ave Rose in this role.

• Breadcrumb (Titta Massánië – Little Breadgiver) [Book narrator] – A “manic-pixie-dream Elf” who is in love with human clowns. Dresses like one. Ditzy cute personality, martial arts skills. The “commander” in the first book. Mentor to Rozaline Rae.

Fantasy casting – Character based on Angela Mae, a clown and bellydancer who used to perform with Gooferman. I have imagined her as well as Maxi Glamour (Dragula) in this role.

• Gingevus Sitwell (Lindë Sorno – Sky Singing Eagle) – Brother to Septimus. A somewhat outdoorsy role. Mentor (and more) to Glysandra.

Fantasy casting: Imagining Richard O’Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show).

• Hamfast (Nectë Morco – Honey Bear) – An unusually skilled shapeshifter, even for Elves. Mentor to Frank Talk.

Fantasy casting – I’ve imagined Brian Michael Smith (Queen Sugar).

Hamfast shapeshifting as Goddess Mal-i-bu Bar-bee – Imagining Candis Cayne in a cameo appearance as “the Cosmic Soccer Mom.”

• Nar (Artanáro Alma – Noble Fire Flower): Human studies expert, specialist in Asian magic traditions. Works closely with Professor Almond and Fantur Nen. Lives with “Nen” back in The Realm. Mentor to both Joe and Maxine.

Fantasy casting – Since I’m totally under the influence of The Untamed right now, I imagine Xiao Zhan (who played Wei WuXian), especially for his range, martial arts skills, and experience performing magic acts on screen.

• Nen (Fantur Nen – Cloud Lord River): Human studies expert, specialist in Asian magic traditions. Works closely with Professor Almond and Artanáro Alma. Lives with “Nar” back in The Realm. Mentor to Babe Bump.

Fantasy casting – Again, from The Untamed, Wang Yibo (who played Lan Zhan), also for his range, martial arts skills, and experience performing magic acts on screen.

• Septimus Sitwell (Irmo Arwë – Long for Treasure) – Septimus is a specialist in materializing just about anything, human or Elven. Mentor (and Master) to Aarrf.

Fantasy casting: I’ve imagined both Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange, Sherlock) and Hale Appleman (The Magicians). This role has some campy aspects and either actor could pull this off.

• Who’s There (Yéva Sanomë – Who Will Be There) – Another unusually talented shape shifter. Also enjoys documentary filmmaking. Martial arts. Mentor to Jennifer and Sybil. 

Fantasy casting: Imagining Vander Von Odd, designer and drag performer (Dragula).

P.S. I’d also put Vander and Maxi Glamour in charge of designing Elf costumes. 

Supernatural Beings (Books 1 and 2)

• Vesta the Salamander – This is a voice part.

• Nienna, Elven Goddess – A great role for one of Dragula’s stars.

Lucky LaFey & Family (Book 2)

• Lucky LaFey (Norse God Loki Laufeyjarson) – Yes, this is the Norse god wandering around Midgard as a handsome drifter, in search of his missing child. Long red hair, lanky.

Fantasy casting: Imagine Cillian Murphy in this role. Or if Hale Appleman (The Magicians) or Alexander Vlahos (Versailles) don’t end up as Professor Almond, either one could be a great  Lucky LaFey as well.

• Váli, Lucky & Sigyn’s Son – Teenager. Small role.

• Angrboda, Lucky’s Jotun wife – Powerful. Imagining Frankie Doom, (Dragula).

• Sigyn, Lucky’s Aesir wife – Imagining Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Tangerine). Brief action role.

• Gyda, Lucky’s Witch DaughterMJ Rodriguez (Pose).

• Runa, Witch DaughterIndya Moore, transgender actress (Pose). I can also see her as Breadcrumb though.

• Magnhild, Witch DaughterDahli, (Dragula).

• Ylva, Witch DaughterAngelica Ross, transgender actress (Pose).

• Thyra, Witch Daughter – The “punk rock” one. James Majesty, (Dragula).

• The rest of Lucky’s Witch Daughters, not yet cast. Eerika, Alva, Oili, Ase, Unn, Sigrid, Gunvor, Nanna, Ingrid, Eira, Asta, Sylvi — all could be played by trans women and/or drag performers. Not yet cast.

• Sophie “Socks” Lokisdottir – A transient human trans girl adopted by Lucky. Role for a trans actor. Not yet cast.

Bad Guys (Book 1)

• Anna Phylaxia – Cisgender woman, hetero, pretend “domme,” CEO of Anna’s Wicked Wares.

Fantasy casting – Bitqtch Puddin’ (Dragula, Dr. Sado) in this role. She can be super bossy.

• Stanford Lawsome – cisgender, part-human, bisexual, Anna’s assistant. Half human.

Fantasy casting: Reeve Carney (Penny Dreadful) with bleached hair and a spray tan.

• The Lawyer® – gender neutral (ze, zir), Elsewherian supernatural foe, devotee of Mal-i-bu Barbee.

Fantasy casting: Imagining Jamie Casbon (Brothers) with a very corporate wardrobe.

• Sri Niri Nimrod – cisgender man, hetero. Self-righteous yoga guy with man bun, leader of a Hippie Doomsday Cult.

Fantasy casting: Small role but Landon Cider could do it…

Bad Guys (Book 2)

• Samuel Dipps aka “The Big Dipper” or “The Dip” – Wethrini supernatural foe. He looks like an orange, spray tanned “Malibu Ken” doll. This is a nasty villain!

Fantasy casting – Landon Cider could do it! Whoever it is, has to be immensely sleazy.

• Anna Phylaxia – Returns as a friend of Samuel Dipp. See Bad Guys (Book 1).

Film Crew (Book 1)

• Miranda Jackson – Cisgender female, lesbian. Documentary filmmaker. Have imagined someone like Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black).

• Shank Stoma – Trans or gender queer person (they, them). Camera. Imagining Hudson Krakowski (Brothers).

• Eddie Sedgwick – Nonbinary trans male (they, them). Camera. Imagining Em Grosland (New Amsterdam).

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

Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) Neighbors (Book 1)

• Namaka Kamapua’a– cisgender woman, mother of two including kapu (sacred) child. Cast a Hawaiian activist.

• Uncle Iolana Kamapua’a – cisgender man, kupuna (cherished elder), age 70ish. Cast a Hawaiian activist.

• Keiki`okalani Kamapua’a, Namaka’s year old baby (gender not specified).

• Kia`i`okamauna Kamapua’a, Namaka’s ten year old son.

This “casting” is a productive exercise for a white writer to step out of a tendency to “cast white” or “cast cis” and to 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 or opportunity for roles than they deserve. This is also a bit of “magical thinking.”

So mote it be.

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Western Magic Influences

[Updated and revised yet again, April 5, 2020.]

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 third book is also planned.)

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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 been and are important and inspirational since I began writing these fantasy novels. I absorb ideas from these and other sources, however I combine what I learn in a fictional way to create my own version of an Elven magic tradition practiced by the secretive Guild of Ornamental Hermits. This tradition is eventually passed on to the ragtag residents of the Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective, much to their surprise.

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 have helped me create a fictional magical system and who have led me to a personal passion for magic and witchery and the development of my own esoteric practices.

The first important source was Ariel Gatoga’s recordings of his course, A Witch’s Primer, which provides basic instruction in “non-denominational witchcraft.” Ariel is an engaging teacher and I always find his approach refreshing. His was a cheery voice during a very depressing period in my life (late 2016-2017). I’ve enjoyed his Druidic Craft of the Wise podcasts as well, especially A Charmed Life. In addition to his website, Ariel can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. He has a wealth of offerings–videos, lectures, classes, and a forum–so please check him out and follow him on social media.

The second important source was Dr. Daniel Foor’s Ancestral Medicine website, lectures, book, and classes. His work conveys a practical, accessible path for working with ancestors. Foor’s work is grounded in animism (among other things) and I am so glad to have found these teachings. Now in a world turned upside down due to the coronavirus pandemic, I plan on taking Foor’s newest offering, Bring Out Your Dead–Ancestral Healing for Poxy Times.

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), Witchwave (Pam Grossman), and Down at the Crossroads (hosted by Chris Orapello and Tara Love Maguire) continue to provide thoughtful conversations with practitioners and authors. Orapello and Maguire recently 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, particularly with regard to working with non-visible beings.

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

Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols by Laura Tempest Zakroff. (Frankly, I need to spend more time with this book.)

• Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender & Sexuality in Magical Practice, by Misha Magdalene, published in 2020, is an extraordinary help in thinking through these topics and relating them to magical practice.

• For tarot divination, I rely heavily on 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, which are also influential) but the above are the ones I seem to go to the most.

For historical perspective, I have enjoyed Magic in the Middle Ages, taught online by instructors at the University of Barcelona, via 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.

In 2017, I discovered “inclusive heathenry” and “Northern Tradition Paganism” via The Troth and Hrafnar, and various Lokean websites and groups. I currently have a devotional practice that includes a few deities in the Norse pantheon: the trickster god Loki Laufeyjarson (my “most trusted one”); the Vanir deity, Freyr, and his Jotun wife, Gerda; and Freyr’s sister, Freya. (In daily practice, I also honor the Celtic Brigit and the Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet.)

Cosmic Muses

Though not at all a part of the “Western Esoteric Tradition,” I have to say that the Hawaiian “volcano goddess,” Pele, was a major inspiration while writing The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. In fact, I read an early draft of the book to her, aloud, as an act of devotion and gratitude for the time I spent in Hawai’i. Much as I am awed by this powerful being, I can’t help feeling somewhat relieved that I moved from Hawai’i seven months before the 2018 lava eruption in the Puna district, which took place not far from where I used to live.

Once I started working on the second book, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, Loki Laufeyjarson emerged as the book’s patron and muse, as well as a major character. In fact, his search for his missing son drives the book. I have also read much of the first draft aloud, as an offering to Loki.

Finally

Like most writers, I could probably write a novel-length list of influences but I’ll stop here. The Guild of Ornamental Hermits novels are “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, I hope this isn’t a bad thing!

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