drinking from the firehose

Research for the Great Work (TM) includes a wide variety of subjects to get the details of sixteenth century life in a gentry household just right. My grip on the architecture, food, household economics, technology, and day-to-day life is firm enough to get the story moving. However, a magical household isn’t ordinary. I’ve run into a topic that is impossible to crash-course: Enochian magic.

Dee and Kelley invented (or channeled, take your pick) an entire magical system during their years together. “Enochian” includes:

Prophetic and apocalyptic visions are sprinkled in throughout, and don’t get me started on the ritual furnishings…

I’m never going to get my head around this material. There’s so damn much of it, and I lack the necessary background in Renaissance occultism and numerology/mathematics to appreciate its context. As such I’m confining myself to identifying the different parts, creating a timeline of their delivery, and figuring out their supposed functions.

When were they building furniture? Would a certain table lend itself better to Kelley faking it, or being possessed as the angels speak through him? Which visions made the biggest impressions? What did they expect to accomplish with all this stuff? These are the narrative questions I need to answer even if I never understand how the system works.

I’d love to be able to describe spoken Enochian as dramatic and musical, but I can’t. Recordings of the calls [YouTube] sound so ridiculous I have no problem believing Kelley generated the language while speaking in tongues. My dreams of writing Kelley weaving elegant angelic poetry are dashed!

So I plow onwards through waking dreams, countless tables of strange characters and names I suspect no one can pronounce. It’s interesting but brain-breaking, so I’m rereading the Dresden Files as a well-deserved break.

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Four questions for writers

This is my reply for the “four questions for writers” meme that’s been floating around. Heather Rose Jones was kind enough to tag me when she posted her answers, and I’m tagging Shawn Humphrey and Day Al-Mohammed.

What are you currently working on?

A historical fiction novel about the adventures of the Renaissance mathematician/magus John Dee, his medium Edward Kelley, and their wives.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I’ll let you know when I figure out my genre! It’s largely historical fiction but includes a love story and elements of fantasy and gothic horror.

It’s different from other fiction about Dee and Kelley because everything else seems to paint Dee as a deluded genius and Kelley as a callous fraud. Dee’s surviving diaries suggest their personalities and collaboration were far more complicated.

Also, I’ve not seen much written from the perspective of their wives. I can’t help imagining they had difficult and confusing lives.

Why do you write what you do?

I’ve always been interested in both history and the weird/occult. The ways people deal with strange experiences and the subjectivity of reality intrigues me, and the odder corners of history are ripe for speculation and invention.

How does your writing process work?

I’m still on a massive learning curve. I research and write at the same time, so I start with what doesn’t need much historical input, often dialogue. As I get a grip on the time and place I add setting details and description. I take extensive notes and comment my first draft in an effort not to constantly rewrite (though that still happens).

I write scenes out-of-order and keep each in a separate file in Scrivener, so I can move them around as needed and keep track of the whole thing.

Aeon Timeline software is invaluable for keeping track of what happened when – I think it would be impossible to track their activities over 7 years and as many countries otherwise!

I have a full time day job so my progress is slow, but I get up early to write. I try to do at least 200 words a day every day, and more when I can. I figure I need this kind of self-discipline both to practice my writing and to finish this beast!