Wearing the Editor’s Hat

It’s always a great feeling to finish writing a new book.  I’ve put the final words to the manuscript and am content with a story well told.  Now I want nothing more than to put it out there and start work on the next one.  But first, I have to put on my editing hat.

By editing, I don’t mean rewrites.  My non-fiction works never require rewrites, they’re all meticulously planned from the outset and I know exactly what ground I need to cover.  And I rewrite my fiction as I go along; if something needs tweaking or changing to suit developments later in the story, I’ll make those changes right there and then while they’re fresh in my mind.  I also have my wife Celeste to help me spot any loose ends, as she reads many of my stories while they’re being written.  I’m lucky in a way, I have a really good imagination and the characters I write really come alive in my mind and before long they’re making their own decisions without any conscious manipulation on my part.  By the time I get half way through writing a novel, all I need to be aware of are the broad shape of events and the ending I’m aiming for.  The characters then shape their own reactions and responses to those events and steer their own course through the book.  I’ve had plots completely reshape themselves as a consequence of character actions that were decided by ‘them’ rather than ‘me’.

The editing I’m referring to is the painstaking checking of spelling and grammar.  It’s a chore to do, but it’s an essential part of the job.

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I pride myself on my high standard of spelling and grammar (British spelling, of course, what on earth do you American folks do with all your ‘u’s anyway?), but when pounding out words on a keyboard at the kind of rate that has allowed me to write a 440 page book in just two months, errors and omissions will occur.  You can’t rely on a spellchecker either:  that only spots incorrectly spelled words, not incorrectly used words.  If I type “father and so” instead of “father and son”, missing a letter, the spellchecker will find no error, but the reader will be left scratching his / her head.  And it’s even more common to muddle up the word order in a sentence, to write “He didn’t know even what he was doing” instead of “He didn’t even know what he was doing”.  Sure, the meaning is still there, but it jars to read the first version and anything that jars the reader’s mind from the flow of the story is not a good thing.

I’m in the unusual situation at the moment of having not one, but two, books in preparation for publishing.  The first is Damsels and the Dark Arts, the latest novel in the Rampant Damsels Gutter Fantasy series:  all the vulgarity, depravity and perverse hilarity you could wish for between two covers.  This one is thankfully edited now.  The book interior is print ready, just waiting for the cover art to be completed and delivered.

The other title is The Sevenfold Mystery, the latest title in the Apophis Club’s range of Draconian titles, a study and curriculum of Work based around the Enochian system of Dr John Dee.  Now this one I have cover art for and am a third of the way through the painful process of checking and rechecking my spelling and grammar (an especial bind where Enochian is concerned!)

The thing is, with every single book I have published, no matter how many times and how carefully I have checked them, I have always found some little error after the event, some niggle that escaped me and made it into print.  I apologise for these and can only say that these things happen, in spite of my high standards and the many, many hours of work spent editing.  I can comfort myself by reflecting that in recent years, I have found just as many, if not more, errors in commercially published books by huge publishing companies as in my own modest titles.  One of the most poorly formatted and edited books I ever read was a writer’s guide which insisted strongly throughout on the necessity for professional editing.

This leads me to conclude by asking people to be kind in their comments to indie authors.  I’m not asking on my own account, my spelling and grammar are good and the few errors that creep through are small indeed.  But there are a lot of indie authors out there who also have to do their own editing.  They don’t have the money or resources of the big publishing companies, but you know what, their books often contain no more errors than the big boys’.  And yet, when you look at book reviews on Amazon, you’ll find the indie author gets ripped a new arsehole for spelling a few words wrong, while nobody blinks at the big boys.  Again, this doesn’t apply to me, and I agree that good spelling and grammar are really important and help a great deal with immersion in a good book.  But don’t let these things stand between you and a good story.  Indie publishing is one of the most exciting things to happen in years, books are being written by people with a real passion for their stories.  And bear in mind that these are people who will only make a few quid – if that – from what they’re doing, it’s done for the love of it.  So show them some love in return and you may find a new world of fresh and original stories opening up to you.  Give them enough encouragement and maybe they’ll be able to edit better in future.

Upsetting Applecarts

I haven’t got much money.  I’m pretty much broke most of the time.  I’ve never had money.  And bearing in mind my approach to life, I will probably never have much money.  But by all the Gods, I have lived!

I don’t own my own house.  The car I drive is over 20 years old.  All of my family and friends (save those I actually work with) earn more than I do.  But I have travelled the world and seen incredible places and things.  I have met some of the most amazing and fascinating people alive today.  I am married to a beautiful wife, we live in a country cottage with the most breathtaking sea view and that old car I drive is a luxury model that far outclasses most vehicles in the showroom.

It’s not money that matters.  It’s quality of life and how you throw yourself into it.  When I first remarked that I had started writing my autobiography, quite a few people looked at me askance and said, “Why?  What’s so interesting about your life?”  If only they knew!  I discovered the lore of the Banshee in London from a woman asking for loose change in a doorway; I’ve spoken with the tongue of Angels in Texas to those who could Understand it; I’ve explored the catacombs under Kiev by candlelight; I was passed the beacon of Leviathan in San Francisco; I led a party in Munich to the constellation of Seven Stars and back again, revealing their essential Selves; I unveiled the Mysteries of Desire in Helsinki; I wore Doc Marten boots on the beach in Fuengirola, and I had my arse caned by a pretty young lady whilst eating a sandwich in Japan.

No, I’ve never had much money.  But I have so very many memories, of strange places and stranger people, and I always – always – land on my feet.

So what’s this all about?  What am I building up to in my usual rambling way?  Simply this:  life isn’t made of money, it’s made of experiences.  These are the things that make us rich.  And in those terms I can turn to many of the people who have more material assets than me and confidently assert in the words of Harry Enfield that “I’m considerably richer than you”.

There is so much wonder and beauty and adventure in the world, and we need to reach out and take it.  We are each responsible for our own lives and our own circumstances.  Decide what you want and go for it.  If you keep your eyes fixed on your goal and steer your every decision in its direction, you’ll reach it.  And it really is as simple as that.  Some of you are going to react to that, saying that you can’t quit your job or go swanning off abroad.  Of course you can.  You’re the one who decides.  If you hate your job but are still in it, it’s you who’s deciding to stay there.  Maybe you have your reasons for that, maybe it’s a means to an end, but don’t pretend you haven’t a choice, and be certain of what that end might be.  If you’re not heading for what you want, change your course.  Otherwise one day you’ll be on your deathbed with no memories to look back on except yet another weekend’s overtime.

Some things require planning and time, sure.  But if that’s the case, make damn certain that you’ve done the planning and have measured the time, that your plan is running according to your schedule.  And as soon as you can seize the thing you want, do so.

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One of the reasons I never have much money is that I’m never prepared to rest on my laurels.  There’s always something to achieve, some plan to bring to fruition, and every penny gets funneled towards that.  My wife is a great spur and inspiration, believing in me and helping me to make things happen.  This is why we live in an idyllic cottage, drive a plush car and have a really great quality of life:  because we apply ourselves and we make these things happen, in spite of money, not because of it.

I’m not trying to be unrealistic.  I’m not saying I could go out and get a luxury yacht tomorrow.  I couldn’t.  (Give me 5 years and I might.)  But everybody is capable of achieving far more than they imagine if they only fix their sights and aim for it.  Please do so.  Life can be much more than you think it is.

As for me … yep, it’s nearly time for me to transform my situation again.  Me and my wife, we’re looking forward to it.

So get out there and dare to shape the life you want.

It’s Scribbling Time

There are a lot of writing projects on the go at the moment and some pretty major life changes to follow in the next few weeks too.  So this week’s blog is just a few minutes taken to muse over these projects.

It’s been a few weeks now since I finished writing ‘Damsels and the Dark Arts’, the latest in the smutty comedy range of gutter fantasy novels.  ‘Dark Arts’ is the fourth book in the Damsels series, or the fifth if you count the short stories collected in ‘Auld Bobby Bob’s Campfire Tales For Kiddywinks’ (which you should, they’re some of my best work).  The book interior is now print ready and just awaiting the finished cover art.  Once I have that, it’ll be published in the blink of an eye and I’ll be blogging it up big time.  So watch this space.  The Damsels are my babies, my signature series.  My non-fiction is far more successful commercially, but no matter what they’ve read by me or think they know about me, people who haven’t read the Damsels haven’t a clue what makes me tick.  This series is more truly magical than anything else I may write, even though it may be less obvious.

But speaking of magic, I blogged last week about my progress with ‘The Sevenfold Mystery’, the Apophis Club’s Enochian handbook, which ties the Heptarchia Mystica, the Watchtowers, the Enochian Calls and the Aethyrs all into a single coherent system based around the Seven Heads of the Dragon.  I’m writing this at an incredible rate of knots.  I began at the start of July and reached page 350 today.  The book will be over 500 pages when complete.  It’s a real powerhouse and a very demanding curriculum of Work, not for the faint hearted at all.  It pulls no punches, but the rewards are worth it.  With the rate I’m writing, I hope to have it written before the end of September.  Preliminary editing and proof reading are being done for me as I go, so hopefully my own edits won’t take too long and the book will appear very soon.

After that, Orry Whitehand will be producing another ‘Apophis Club Practical Guide’, this one addressing the ways to influence people through the skills of suggestion, misdirection, stage magic and hypnosis.  The first volume in this ‘How to Influence People’ sub-series will address the question of how to obtain a new job or obtain a promotion in the job you already have.

Yup, scribbling...

Yup, scribbling…

Following that, I’m going to need to write another novel to refresh me after concentrating so furiously on ‘The Sevenfold Mystery’.  So I’ll be penning ‘Vicars and Tarts’, a sequel to my erotic … well, okay, porn … novel, ‘Water Into Whine’, about a randy vicar and his parishioners.  ‘Water Into Whine’ is my biggest selling and fastest selling work of fiction, it seems everybody loves a naughty vicar.  So it’ll be fun to write another story featuring the same characters, plus a few new ones.  In this, Rev Redders and his wife are in a little village church in Scotland using a false name.  When the Grace family go to visit, they discover that Redders is under fire from both the local pagans (who believe they should have the exclusive rights to nudity and naughtiness) and the hard-liners at the chapel on the hill (who hold that nudity and naughtiness are a no-no altogether and object to the Rev’s unconventional ministry).  It’ll be the same blend of humour and shameless sex scenes as before.

Looking beyond that, there’ll be another Apophis Club title, ‘Everything and Nothing’, not a practical manual this time, but a philosophical examination of all the BIG questions.  There are more Damsels on the horizon, more of Orry’s ‘How To’ books, and of course, my autotheography, ‘The Confessions of Michael Kelly’, is always bubbling away on the back burner.  It may be that I issue this in a series of volumes as ebooks initially, dealing first with the periods people most want to read about.

The Enochian Dragon

My latest writing project is another addition to the growing Apophis Club library of Draconian Magic manuals.  This most recent volume – titled The Sevenfold Mystery – takes the Enochian system and adapts it to the Seven Heads curriculum.  It’s a perfect fit.

I have been a student and practitioner of Enochian magic for some thirty years now.  I began – as most do – with the Golden Dawn and Crowley presentation of the system, then worked through the Schuelers’ heroic attempt to craft a coherent system from the disparate parts.  I discovered new nuances as I encountered the Temple of Set’s Word of Set recasting of the Enochian ‘message’.  All the while, I streamlined and improved both practice and pronunciation.

The first Apophis Club book, APOPHIS, was concerned with presenting the initiatory model and curriculum of the Seven Heads in as straightforward and direct a manner as possible, later augmented by additional essays in Dragonscales and a much meatier look at the later and more advanced Heads in Draconian Consciousness.  The book Aegishjalmur: The Book of Dragon Runes was a demonstration of how this system could then be applied and Worked through a specific magical system – in this case, runic.

All this while, I was planning the day when I would write a version of the curriculum expressed in terms of Enochian magic.  It has taken me years of fine tuning and testing to reach the point where I feel confident to do so.  But the result is a perfect synthesis.

ENOCHIAN TRIANGLE

The Sevenfold Mystery provides a presentation of the Enochian material from the most authentic sources, providing the most accurate Watchtowers and Calls I have been able to discover.  It recounts Dee and Kelly’s discovery of the system, dwelling upon those often overlooked aspects which are of especial significance to the Draconian practitioner.  It then traces the system’s development – its uses and abuses – through those who have followed:  the Golden Dawn; Crowley; the Schuelers; LaVey; Aquino.  It discusses the various merits and demerits of their adaptations.  It then goes on to present a fully coherent and integrated Enochian system of magical Initiation keyed to the Seven Heads of the Ancient Dragon, as first outlined in APOPHIS.

The magical system of The Sevenfold Mystery is much more ritualistic than preceding Apophis Club titles and will appeal very much to magicians who enjoy ceremonial work.  It succeeds in using the Dragon to bind together the disparate elements of the Heptarchia Mystica, the Watchtowers, the Calls and the Aethyrs into a fully coherent and integrated practical programme.  This could not have been done without the insights and assistance gained through conjurations of Madimi and necromantic conjurations of the shade of Dr John Dee (see my essay in the Apophis Club publication Gods and Monsters for details of this ritual).  Unlike most Enochian texts, The Sevenfold Mystery has a strong emphasis upon working real magic with measurable results; there can be no other determinant of success.

I have spent so long developing this system that writing it down is now easy.  What once seemed an impossible and complicated task is now fast and direct.  The book is anticipated to be some 400 pages in length.  250 pages are already written after only 6 weeks and I anticipate that the finished volume will be ready for editing shortly, aiming for a September publication date.

Mark this one on your ‘to get’ list.  There has never been an Enochian book like it!

Event Horizon

They say that black holes have an event horizon.  This is the distance from the collapsed star where the point of no return is reached.  Beyond this point, nothing – not even light – can escape the gravitational field.  Once you reach the event horizon, there’s no turning back.

I entered a black hole last night.  Not a super-massive anomaly in space, but the black hole which was once the dungeon where prisoners were shackled in the old courtroom in Peel, beneath the building which is now the Leece Museum.  The building dates back to the 1500s and is reputedly haunted by several ghosts.  I attended a ghost investigation there last night, the evening of 1 August 2015, arranged and hosted by the good folks of Isle of Man Ghost Tours.  I entered the black hole and crossed an event horizon, which cannot be uncrossed.

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The evening began with everyone trying out dowsing rods.  These reacted well and I found the process quite fascinating.  We were encouraged to ask questions, looking for yes or no answers to be indicated by the rods.  This was good fun and I was content to wander about the dungeon with my rods, listening to others ask their questions.  I’m fully able to accept the ability of the rods to detect a ‘presence’ or an ‘energy’ and respond decisively to it, but personally I’ve never warmed to the notion of the yes / no question routine, either by this or any other method.  I can accept a direct flash of insight or a spontaneous psychic message if they stand up to scrutiny, but the yes / no questioning doesn’t cut my sceptical mustard.  But it was fun and others were enjoying it and I was happy just walking about with my rods, seeing what they could detect.

Then my rods doubled back upon themselves, pointing directly at me.  Try as I might to realign them, they kept swinging insistently back to that position.  Emma, the medium working with the Ghost Tours folks, came over and our little group discovered what was going on as I passed over the event horizon and experienced something which cannot be unexperienced.  I was struck by a most uncharacteristic emotional response as I realised how linked the past and present were, spanning some fifty years of family history and location.  Plans which I have shared with very few people (and am not about to share here either) were openly revealed and discussed, and as Emma moved off to assist another group, she correctly named my grandfather.  This was a very real phenomenon, which shook me.  I always keep an open mind about things and am aware of several different possible explanations of this particular event, I won’t pin the hypothesis down to a certainty or a belief.  But I will certainly assert that the phenomenon was very real and it was beyond the pale.

Returning upstairs, the group experimented with electronic voice phenomena.  There was little response this night (sometimes there’s more, sometimes there’s less), though the downstairs group reportedly got some good recordings, and there may be more when the recordings are properly listened to.  We were played some interesting recordings from prior investigations, and there were a couple of very definite noises heard upstairs, including somebody loudly whistling at one point and the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs behind us and beginning to cross the floor (everyone was all together and the sounds could be heard to emanate from the empty boards right in the room with us).

We were treated to another experience before the evening closed.  As I stood with the two friends I had arrived with, we observed an empty water bottle which had been standing on top of one of the museum’s display cases, begin to move of its own accord.  It began to vibrate on the spot very rapidly, then swayed back and forth at an ever increasing speed before it fell over and rolled to the ground.  We stared at each other amazed, then picked it up and put it back.  A few seconds later, it began to tremble and then rock rapidly back and forth again.  By now a few other people had gathered around.  We tested the floor and the case (both solid), there was no way we could discern that any vibration could possibly be conveyed through to that bottle.  A camera was set up to watch the bottle in case it happened again and set recording.  The bottle sat still after that, but when the camera was picked up later, it was discovered that the recording had been paused as soon as it had begun.  It seems someone was determined not to have their picture taken!

Every walk, talk and presentation I have attended with Isle of Man Ghost Tours has been interesting and entertaining.  This was my first actual investigation with the equipment, but it won’t be my last.  These aren’t the first ghostly experiences I’ve had in my life, but they’re the first for a number of years, the first under these investigative conditions, and the personal revelations of the evening were very important and emotional indeed.  Treat yourself.  Take a walk on the dark side…