Introduction to Enochian Magick Talk

holy_table_2I will be giving an introductory talk on Enochian magick at Leaping Laughter Lodge here in Minneapolis on the evening of Saturday, January 14th. Leaping Laughter Lodge is located at 3107 California Street NE, Minneapolis MN, 55418. The event will start at 7 PM.

Here’s a link to the event on Facebook, if you would like to attend. If you are not local, I will be posting the text of my talk over on Augoeides as usual a few days later so you can read it then.

Hope to see you there!

UPDATE: Full text of my presentation can be found here.

The Truth About Writing

die_by_the_penWhile my efforts to post more articles about writing on this site have been less fruitful than I had originally hoped, I came across this article on Slate yesterday. To get to the letter I’m talking about you need to scroll down a bit. Seeing as that letter is directly relevant to the state of the writing industry today, and it seems to be alluding to misconceptions that a lot of writers and would-be writers have, I figured it was worth sharing with some comments.

While he has a full-time job, my boyfriend considers himself a writer first. He’s had shorter works published and just spent two years on his first novel. He sent the first chapter to numerous publishers only to get rejections or no response at all. He’s just gotten rejected by the one publisher who asked to read the whole novel. Each rejection is painful to him, and the whole thing has left him devastated and questioning his passion. I’m trying to be supportive but don’t know enough about the industry to offer helpful advice. Given the state of publishing nowadays, I always thought it may be a long shot even though he’s talented. He was just starting on a second novel but says he’s giving up if this first one doesn’t go anywhere — that it’s not worth the time and effort. What’s the best way for me to support him through this, and is there any advice you’d give to him?

First off, my advice is to read this from 2004, this from 2013, and this from 2015. The general trend of the industry should be evident – the money in writing has basically been going away for the last twenty or so years. These articles are all written by people more successful than I am in the writing industry, and even for those folks, it’s tough going.

My first book, Arcana, was published in 2009. It did what most new novels do – it produced a flurry of sales when it came out, and then the sales rank dropped like a stone. Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy and Mastering the Great Table have actually done better over the years, and continued to do better, despite their niche subject area. One of the things that I didn’t understand at the outset is that even though there is a much bigger market for fiction, essentially every fiction book has to compete against every other. The Enochian books do better because there aren’t many books on Enochian magick, especially compared to fiction.

Slate’s Dear Prudence recommended that the boyfriend in the letter should find an agent. I suppose that might help – if it works. The trouble with submitting work to agents is that it’s just like submitting work to publishers. Most of them will reject you, too, for frustrating but understandable reasons such as your work not really fitting market conditions at the time of submission. So there’s a good chance that submitting to agents rather than publishers will just lead to another round of rejections for this poor guy. I’ve submitted to agents myself and still don’t have one, after seven years and three published books in print.

Still, as the first article there from 2004 shows, the problem with agents, especially today, is that they take a cut of the already not-very-much-money that you make writing. Unless you’re sure that you have a real bestseller on your hands, it may not turn out to be worth it. No matter how sure you are, and – this is important – no matter how good a writer you are, that’s hard to predict. Most readers have trouble distinguishing good writing from great writing, and many even have trouble telling good writing from mediocre writing. A survey of popular books from the last ten years will show you that quality is really not the deciding factor. Market forces are.

So why write? You have to do it because you love it, full stop. And yes, you have to have a full-time job unless you are unbelievably lucky or independently wealthy. And luck is what sales are about – it’s very difficult to predict how the market will react to a book, if not impossible. Dan Brown’s first three novels didn’t even sell 10,000 copies, but then his fourth was The Da Vinci Code, which sold 81 million copies making it one of the most popular books of all time. Brown’s work is hacky, kind of cliche, and not particularly literary – but now that he’s hit the jackpot, everything he writes (of course) sells very well.

The big secret about publishers now is that they basically do no promotion for your work – besides some straightforward online stuff you can do yourself – unless you’ve proven yourself successful enough to warrant it. And that’s a big chicken-and-egg problem, because you essentially only get promotional resources once you no longer need them. That’s a big problem for authors who are just starting out, and it was already a big problem seven years ago. Sometimes I wish I would have gotten off my butt and finished Arcana sooner (it was a rewrite of a novel that I first completed in 1989) because at that time, publishers were more engaged with promotion. But still, all that depended on getting the book accepted in the first place.

I don’t know if this is where the boyfriend in the letter is coming from – it’s hard to say from a secondhand account, edited into an article. But if he is working on writing novels with the goal of “making it” as a writer and being able to do it full time, he probably is doing it for the wrong reasons – especially in this day and age. I can only think of a couple writers who are able to do it full time without holding another job, and none of them are rich or even that well-off. Once I realized this, I was very happy to have done as well as I have as a software developer. The writing helps too, since being a developer who can also write has opened a lot of doors.

My advice is pretty simple. You have to love what you write, because otherwise it’s usually not worth doing from a strictly financial point of view. Statistically speaking, you’re not going to be the next J. K. Rowling or Dan Brown regardless of how well you write. And unless you break into that upper upper tier, you are probably going to be able to make better money doing something else. It used to be that mid-list writers with established fan bases, coming out with a book a year, could make maybe $20,000 per year. These days, it’s more like $10,000 – not even minimum wage.

Second, look into small indie presses and consider self-publishing. Indie presses will give you a bigger royalty cut than the big publishers will, it’s easier to get your work accepted, and big publishers won’t do much promotion for you anyway. Self-publishing requires you to learn a few more skills like formatting ebooks and putting everything together for printing, but you get all the profits – and I will point out that popular self-published books do sometimes get picked up by big publishers if they do well.

Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fanfiction, then was self-published with “Edward” and “Bella” changed to “Christian” and “Anastasia,” and “vampire” changed to “billionaire,” and after that was picked up by a big publisher. Now there are movies. So it can happen, even with a book that by traditional writing standards is just plain awful. But it’s highly luck-based and very hit-or-miss. If the right people happen to get ahold of your book, and they happen to like it, even a self-published title can do very well.

Me, I’m still writing in the Indie-publishing space. Ipswich, the second novel in my Guild series, is going to be released by Moonfire Publishing, a new publishing startup here in the Twin Cities, sometime this next spring. We’ll see if it does better than Arcana. It’s always possible that it might go through the roof, and all of a sudden turn Arcana into the bestseller it never was when it was originally released – but I’m not holding my breath.

It does take longer to get books written when writing is essentially a second job, but these days it’s pretty much unavoidable unless you hit it big. The first draft of Ipswich was written back in 2011, five years ago. I’ve been tinkering with it ever since. Mastering the Thirty Aires, the final book in my Enochian trilogy, is still not finished, even though Pendraig would be happy to publish it as soon as it’s done. That’s kind of frustrating, I won’t lie, but it’s necessary. There are only so many hours in the day.

To some extent, I would say that my feelings about writing are like filmmaker Werner Herzog’s famous quote about the jungle – “I love it, but I love it against my better judgment.” At the same time, there are other hobbies I could be pursuing that would make me no money at all, and even incur significant expenses. Really, that’s what it usually has to be – more of a hobby than a vocation. And I don’t know what would have to happen in order to fix the industry and make it a place where you could earn a living by writing books. The current trend has been in place for a long time, and shows no signs of abating.

Ipswich Accepted by Moonfire Publishing

ipswich_coverIt’s been a while since I published my last fiction piece, but that’s not because I haven’t been writing any. Arcana, my first novel, was published by Pendraig back in late 2009. At the time, Pendraig was primarily an esoteric press, and my debut novel was their first fiction release. Arcana did what most indie novels do – it racked up some sales the first year it was released and then tapered off substantially.

Pendraig would go on to publish my Enochian series, but over the last couple of years the company made the decision to focus on esoteric titles rather than pursuing more fiction releases. As their esoteric titles are their best selling books, that probably is a good business decision for them. But it also meant that Ipswich, the second novel in my Guild series, was without a publisher. Fortunately, that has now changed. Ipswich was picked up by Moonfire Publishing, a new independent press here in Minnesota. The novel has been scheduled for a spring release if all goes according to plan.

Ipswich was shaped by some of the feedback I received from Arcana. The biggest problem with my debut novel is basically that people either loved or hated all of the technical magical exposition. All of that is in there by design, but treating urban fantasy more like hard science fiction was not what mainstream readers were used to, and resulted in a book that mostly appealed to folks already interested in esotercism. And the fact is, statistically speaking, there aren’t very many of those. So the idea behind Ipswich was to write a novel that was less heavy on the technical magick side and structured more like other urban fantasy titles that are currently popular.

I suppose time will tell how popular Ipswich turns out to be, but so far my trial readers have agreed that it is more readable, more fun, and less technical than Arcana. It tells the story of Sara Winchester, a young heiress and newly empowered magician. With the help of the Guild, she explores her newfound powers and the mystery of her mother’s untimely death. In her search for answers, she confronts a killer who can control the spirits of the dead and the machinations of a rival order seeking the Guild’s destruction. It also introduces some of the alternate history of the Guild universe, in which the direct Winchester family line never died out and the Winchester corporation became one of the world’s major multinationals.

I am currently in the process of working with an editor on the manuscript, but once it is released you’ll be the first to know. Watch this space for future announcements.

Liber Spirituum Deluxe Edition Available

I have just received word that the deluxe edition of Liber Spirituum, the new anthology containing my essay “Evoking Zodiacal Angels,” is now available from Azoth Press. It is limited to 28 copies, so if you want one, get it while you can.

The deluxe edition is admittedly pricey, but the standard limited edition that I have in my possession is a beautiful book. I expect that the deluxe edition meets a similar standard of excellence, and it looks fantastic from the images that I have seen at the publisher’s web site.

Also, as a collector of such volumes, I can testify that they generally appreciate substantially in value after only a couple of years. So not only do you wind up with a lovely edition of an excellent book, it makes a solid investment as well.

The deluxe edition of Liber Spirituum can be ordered here, direct from the publisher. There are also more images at the link for you to check out.

Write Every Day

writingAs I mentioned a while back, one of the things I am looking to do going forward is to make more posts on this site about writing and some of the techniques that I have found beneficial over the years.

A friend asked me today if I had any advice on how to start writing. The best advice I can give is to commit some time to it every day, like, say, ten minutes. One of the myths that people believe about writers is that we are just inspired to write all the time and let that inspiration motivate us. That might be true for a few rare talents, but not for the rest of us.

I wrote semi-compulsively all through elementary school and high school. I started two novels and finished a draft of one of them while I was still in college. But you know what got me to the point of actually publishing a novel? It wasn’t inspiration or compulsion. It was sitting down and writing for at least ten minutes a day, whether I felt like it or not. Inspiration is a trap, and waiting for it is a pretty reliable recipe for writer’s block.

When you do your daily writing, you don’t need to work on a particular project. You can spend that time writing anything. Poems, scenes, bits of dialogue – it’s all writing, and it all counts. It’s not unlikely that at some point you will settle on a project, but you should let that happen organically. The important thing is just to get your time in, writing something – writing anything.

Of course, you don’t need to limit yourself to ten minutes. If you find yourself on a roll, by all means keep going. Just make sure that you spend that ten minutes every day. Don’t tell yourself, “I did 30 minutes yesterday, so I can take a break for a couple days.” The regularity of it, not necessarily the time spent, is what’s most important. In that way it’s just like magical practice.

The key is that you need to build up habit energy. Some studies have suggested it takes something like sixty repetitions to ingrain a habit, so that suggests when starting out you should try to do your ten minutes of writing every day without fail for the first two months. After that, you can skip a day every so often. But you want to maintain a routine that helps you sit down and do the work.

That’s about where I’m at these days. I write most days, and when I do it I spend longer than ten minutes at it. Blogging is a big help in that department, especially when you have an audience who expects posting at a certain frequency. I try to put up a new post every other day or so on Augoeides, so I post fifteen or sixteen articles during a usual month. I’m adding posting here, so that will be at least a few more depending on how it goes and what I decide to do.

The key skill is in developing the ability to write when you don’t feel like it. On a longer project like a novel or non-fiction reference book, there are always going to be some parts that you find boring, but which are necessary to get to the next plot point or more interesting patch of exposition. That’s where writers get stuck a lot of the time. “I want to work on my novel, but where I’m at in it is really dull.”

Push through it and get it done. I’ve experimented with trying to jump around and start by writing the fun parts, but that leaves a bunch of boring stuff to do at the end and it starts to feel overwhelming. The only novels that I’ve finished were written from start to finish for the most part. It helps you keep the plot points straight, and it means that you don’t reach a point where there’s nothing left but scenes you will never get around to writing.

Now this article does offer a counterpoint. I do think that relying on word quotas is a problem – some days you’ll write more, some days you’ll write less – and I also agree that trying to set up an excessive routine is likely to fail. But ten minutes? Without a hard quota? I think just about anybody can stick to that. And that really is all it takes.

So those are few suggestions that I hope aspiring writers will find useful. If you give the ten minute practice a try, I think you will be surprised at how powerful the technique really is.

Adventures in Marketing

In 2013, I contacted up and coming YouTube star (and fan of the book) Xsavior Mussolini about making a promotional video for my 2009 novel Arcana. At the time, I decided that the resulting shoot did not go well.

Because of that initial assessment, I decided that I would be better off not releasing the footage. However, this year, after seeing the success of the Donald Trump presidential campaign, I am no longer convinced that such a thing as bad publicity exists.

Therefore, I figured that I might as well go ahead and make it available. Enjoy, and if this motivates you to buy a copy of Arcana, available from all major online retailers, more power to you.

Zodiacal Angels Presentation at Leaping Laughter Lodge

zodiac_wheel_spaceNext Saturday, August 20th, I will be giving a presentation on zodiacal angels at Leaping Laughter Lodge in Minneapolis. The presentation will be a distillation of the material found in my Evoking Zodiacal Angels article, published in the new Liber Spirituum anthology from Azoth Press.

Much has been published on the angels and other entities related to the planets and elements, but far less is available for working with the angels of the zodiac. However, the zodiacal forces represent 12 of the 24 sets of key scale values found in Liber 777 and correspond to many useful practical powers.

This presentation will discuss how to conjure these angels, according to the methods that I have used over the years that have yielded good results. If you are local or will be in the Twin Cities next weekend, I invite you to stop by the lodge and check it out.

Leaping Laughter Lodge is located at 3107 NE California St, Minneapolis, MN 55418. The presentation will begin at 7 PM. For those who are not local, I will do my best to post the text of the presentation on Augoeides the following Monday.