Tag Archives: Moon Books

The Druid and the day job

Do we hold work life as separate from our spiritual lives? As my Druidry is about what I do moment to moment, not occasional big gestures, I need to either be bringing my Druidry to my work, or working on things that are relevant to my values. Being self employed does not make this as easy as it might be fair to expect.

Very few authors are able to make a viable living out of their writing. Most Pagans who teach, lead, organise and write cannot make a viable living that way even if they do it full time. Pagans and authors alike will tend to have other income streams as a matter of necessity, which unhelpfully feeds into the idea that the work you feel called to do is a ‘hobby job’. For some this means a regular day job. For some of us it means saying yes to almost anything that slightly resembles what we really want to be doing – which can lead to some uneasy compromises. For the self employed, taking time off is a massive issue – you are only paid for what you do, there is no sick or holiday pay, and you don’t know what next month will bring so all too often, self employed folk take on all the work they can. It means trading security for flexibility, it gives you more control, but little leisure, and you don’t always feel able to say no to jobs you don’t like.

Inevitably, some of my day jobs have been happier, more rewarding and more meaningful to me than others. When I don’t feel like I’m adding something of value through my efforts, I am more likely to get depressed.

At the moment, I have a fantastic work arrangement that I’m really enjoying. I’m now officially the publicist at Moon Books. This means spending a chunk of time every week talking about books, supporting authors, and trying to find things those authors can be doing that also benefit the Pagan community. This works for me in a number of ways – I’m working with people I like and who inspire me. I have control over when I work, and a lot of scope for deciding how I work which allows me to be creative. Enabling other people to be creative is part of what I think I’m for – that used to be more of an unpaid calling aspect of what I do, but it’s no hardship to be paid for it. If what I do makes it more viable for other people to be professional authors and full time Pagans – awesome.

I’ve come to realise over the last year or so that I am happiest when my books are under no pressure to pay the household bills, when I have something interesting to do that doesn’t depend on lots of inspiration flowing, and when I feel useful. At the moment, the different strands of my working life are delivering this. It helps that I have an awesome boss. Trevor Greenfield has always been everything I could want in a publisher. He’s also everything I could want in a person I am answerable to – fair, clear, reliable, supportive, willing to trust me and not inclined to keep me on a tight leash. Day jobs, like so many aspects of life, depend on good relationship.

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Meeting Elen Sentier

The interwebs are a strange country, where there are a great many people. I know what people choose to share with me, and there are many internet people I am very fond of. However, there is a whole different kind of knowing that comes from being with someone in person. Sometimes, tone of voice, and body language can make all the difference. Some people in person turn out to be exactly as you anticipated from their online self. Some of us are more honest than others.

I think, casting my mind back, that I first ran into Elen Sentier on facebook. The first exchange we had that left a lasting impression was around the release of her Celtic Chakras book. Now, I don’t do chakras, and was very clear about this, but I read the book, and found her very readable. I still don’t do chakras. Our paths are so different in some regards that her non-fiction work makes very little emotional sense to me. Her fiction I really like.

Yesterday we sat in a cafe and drank tea, talked about Steampunk, falconry, why we don’t like scripts in ritual and how dislocated many modern urban folk are from the natural world. We talked about non-dogmatic teaching methods and the importance of finding your own path. It was all very easy, as though we had been in the habit of drinking tea and talking about the work we do for decades, not minutes.

I don’t need anyone else to see the world exactly as I do, or follow the path that I follow. It can be delightful to walk beside someone for a while, but it certainly isn’t necessary. So long as the person I’m talking to is equally relaxed about me not seeing things their way, all of the differences of opinion cease to be reasons for conflict and become points of interest. There’s a lot to be learned from talking to someone who sees things differently but doesn’t need to convert you.

We talked about books, too – of course! There are a lot of people I have connected with through their books. Moon Books, which publishes both my work and Elen’s, has a vast array of Pagan authors. I read as much as I can, most of it isn’t close to my path, but there is always some scope for finding inspiration. I like knowing what other people are exploring and are interested in. It stops me getting any silly ‘one true way’ ideas for a start. We agreed that, however alien we find the content of other people’s books sometimes, the Moon Books writers, for the greater part, clearly have their hearts in the right places. (I don’t know all of them, so, no absolute claims here).

Tea with Elen Sentier confirmed a lot of that impression for me. People who meet open heartedly and as equals, with no desire to convert or compel each other can have incredibly valuable exchanges, without needing much common ground at all.


Calling Pagan Bloggers

I know a lot of you who read and comment here have blogs – I see the links for the wordpress ones whenever you interact with my stuff. (WordPress would like me to stalk all of you.) Others of you are places wordpress prefers to pretend don’t exist, on tumblr and blogspot and the such. And if you aren’t a blogger, I’m prepared to bet you have friends who are, or blogs you like, so, no slinking off just yet, this could still be relevant!

As you may be aware, one of the things I do is write Pagan books for www.moon-books.net . Last year I started looking after the blog http://moon-books.net/blogs/moonbooks/ (and if you have community related content then talk to me, if I can use that space to support the Pagan community, I will). In the last couple of weeks, I also took on doing book promotion for Pagan authors there.

It would be fair to say that the selling of books is an arcane mystery which no one truly understands. You need a good book, but terrible books sell all too well and all too often. Good reviews and endorsements seem like a good idea, but do they sell books? Who knows? Word of mouth advertising sells books, that’s known, but how you achieve grass roots support for a book remains a guessing game. Some kind of magic happens, away on the ether. To be a marketing person is to practice a very obscure kind of magic, most days. Love, will, belief, and influencing the opinions of others are all part of it.

Like many authors, I actually find the language of marketing profoundly uncomfortable. Terms like ‘unique selling point’ leave me cold and twitching. I prefer to think in terms of good relationships, good karma, good reputation and having a good piece of work. Mostly, this seems to work. And when it doesn’t quite work, it’s still good, because you come away with good relationships a good reputation, good work and your good actions having created some good will in your favour. It might not sell this book, but perhaps it will sell the next one. I note that many successful pagan authors are also kind and generous people, and support flows back to them as a direct consequence.

Half the challenge is getting things started. You need the first handful of people to fall in love with a book and tell a friend. You need a few intrepid readers willing to have a go at something new and open to being persuaded by it. The question is, might that be you? Might you be open to reading work from unfamiliar authors and posting reviews? Might you post a shoutout on your blog for someone whose work you love? There’s free ebooks in it, and maybe the odd free print book, and a lot of appreciation, and the kind of good karma that gets results in this lifetime.

If this appeals to you, leave your blogsite link in the comments and a word or two about areas of interest if you have a particular focus. I can pick up your email address from that and add you to a mailing list, and every now and then I’ll be in your inbox, waving a thing I really hope you’re going to fall in love with.


Creating your reality

One of the concepts in magical and spiritual thinking that could use some fettling is the notion that we create our own realities. To a significant extent, we shape and inform our own experiences. However, this is not about reality conforming to our desires. It’s not about ‘doing magic’ as a thing separate from how we live. It’s about being able to see and work with the threads of connection that guide what’s happening around us.

Let’s take a case in point. How we treat people informs who they will be for us. You can get the best a person has to give by acting as though you trust them and believe in them. Just believing in them won’t do it, you have to very deliberately put that belief where it can be seen, where it affects the other person’s sense of self and their ideas about what might be possible. And thus your will flows into the world and they become better able to manifest the things you were looking for.

I’ve noticed this recently in terms of how I respond to people, as well. If I’m taken seriously and treated as though I have a value, my morale is improved and my investment in that situation increases. The person who treats me like I have a value to them gets my best work. The people who see my skills and strengths and give me room to manifest those, get the best I am capable of. I’m finding myself in a number of spaces at the moment where this is happening, and I feel inspired by that sense of being valued. I become capable of doing more.

There have been times and places where I’ve faced the opposite. Places where I felt tolerated rather than welcomed, where what I do was/is belittled, diminished, dismissed or assumed to be of little consequence. Places where I have been taken for granted, or afforded no respect for my contributions. In those spaces, I am not at all inspired to do my best – I’m more likely to plan a quiet escape as soon as I am clear about what’s happening.

I go into these as the same person – same abilities, same willingness to give, same capacity to work and think, but what I’m able to do is informed to a significant degree by how I am treated and valued. I can’t do my best work for people who don’t think I’m up to much.

Every interaction we have with every other living thing creates ripples and changes. Every word spoken, every casual gesture. We shape so many of our relationships unconsciously, sending messages that were not intended, and reaping the awkward consequences. Self knowledge, self awareness and clarity of perception make it easier to get what we were intending. Putting into the world the things we want to find makes a lot of odds. Want to be taken seriously? Try taking other people seriously. Want to be loved? Be willing to put love into the world. It’s not a simple, causal effect, it is not the case that what you put out is what comes back to you. However, what you put out shapes what comes back to you. There is magic in being able to craft that so that what you do achieves the results you were looking for. In this I am a novice, but a happy, enthusiastic novice.

And as an entirely related aside, I’m really excited about what I’m getting to do at Moon Books, at nerdbong.com, with Down to Earth Stroud and Stroud Short Stories competition and I’m wondering whether a few other spaces might start to shape up some time soon.


Uncertainty

I question, everything, a lot. It means there are a lot of days when I don’t know what I’m doing, or what the point is. People following the blog have been generous indeed with support and kindness during some of those brutal times of lost direction and lost faith. My publisher at Moon Books, Trevor Greenfield was an absolute soul-saver when he asked me early this year to write him a Pagan portal. Spirituality without Structure will be along soon.

I question myself. I doubt. I pick over, chew over, gnaw until things bleed sometimes. I wrote about dark places recently. I did not say how much my own dark side frightens me, but it does. How deeply I fear all that seems wrong in me, and there is so much. There are days when I have no sense at all of there being anything in here that isn’t made of wrong. Sometimes I have a headspace that allows me to see that as a manifestation of depression, but there are also days when all I see is the wrongness, and the idea of letting myself off the hook by saying I am merely ill, is unpalatable. There are days when showing up here is hard, when I fear that anything I post will look like self-indulgence, but every time I’ve risked one of these, someone has found it resonant. If, by sharing, I can make the dark paths a little more bearable for someone else, then there is a point.

Some of you lovely readers walk the dark paths. You’ve shared stories and kind words when you’ve had something to spare. I don’t have much to offer today, but this is something I wrote recently. This time of year, and this state of mind have me thinking about all that is unacceptable, all that our civilizations have punished through time. The witches who were hanged, the heretics who burned, the gay and lesbian folk who were deemed monstrous. The mentally-different, straightjacketed at best, the learning difficulties folk who were demonised, the outsiders and the unacceptable. To anyone else who suspects that there may not really be a place for them in the village, I offer this.

Beyond the pale

I am your dishonoured dead
Buried unhallowed for fear
Transgressions in this life might
Transcend my passing
And haunt you yet.
Crossroad grave and stake
Exiled to the wasteland
For sins forgotten.
A forlorn waif now
Hungry remnant of ghost
To mourn outside the gate
Beyond the bounds
Unnamed, unclaimed, unmarked
But not quite silenced.


Facing the Darkness

jhp51b9cc1ba1a28Facing the Darkness by Cat Treadwell is a new release from Moon Books.

My other half, Tom Brown, did the cover, and Cat is a friend, so I’m not claiming neutral objectivity here…

Depression is not a tidy ailment, but a spectrum of difficulty, from fairly mild levels of distress and disconnection through to the desire to die, sometimes acted on. For non-sufferers, depression is often equated with melancholy, angst, feeling a bit sorry for yourself and other ideas that are way off the mark, often culminating in an impression that you ought to be able to pull yourself together. Depression is a complex illness, and furthermore it is an illness that kills people.

New Age books tends to go in for a lot of warm, fuzzy affirmation. Like attracts like, we are told. Think positive thoughts. For the depressed person, this has already ceased to be a realistic option. Often as a consequence, ostensibly spiritually uplifting material can, for a depressed person, just add to that sense of failure and alienation which is already dismantling you.

Cat Treadwell knows about depression, and this really shows in her writing. This is someone who has walked dark paths repeatedly and come back with some significant insights.

The first time I read Facing the Darkness, I was, by my standards in a pretty good place (only mildly depressed, by medical standards). I found the book helpful and it was good to read. Coming back to it in states of more serious depression, I appreciated being able to just pick it up and dip in at random. Depression is not conducive to good concentration, often. I would suggest that for a person whose depression is mild to moderate, this is a really helpful book and well worth having on the shelves.

If you are seriously depressed, wanting to self-destruct, to stop breathing, to crawl into a small, hidden space and never come out again, you won’t reach for any kind of help. You’re probably not reaching for anything just to make sure you can’t pick up something sharp and dangerous. If you’re in that place and fighting to keep going from one breath to the next, then the best place for this book is in the hands of anyone who is trying to be with you through that. It offers insight. If you’ve taken Cat’s ideas on-board really thoroughly when in a more viable state, you might be able to draw on them in times of absolute crisis, but that’s going to come down to your nature more than anything else.

It is so important to talk honestly and openly about what depression is and what it does to people. It is so very important to have realistic literature that actually deals with what depression means. In writing from the heart and with a deep honesty about personal experience, Cat has made a powerful contribution to what needs to be a large and on-going public discourse.

If you, or someone you love walks the dark roads sometimes, or lives along them, this is book worth investing in. It isn’t a comfortable or easy read, but that’s rather the nature of the beast.


The White Goddess

My Father read The White Goddess when I was a child, and bits of it entered my awareness early on. Especially the idea of the Maid-Mother-Crone triple goddess. I attempted to read the book myself in my twenties. By that time I’d read a fair bit of Robert Graves poetry, and I, Claudius. I’d also picked up a degree in English Literature, and I was expecting to be able to handle it.

I was so wrong.

What happened instead was a slow, maddening trudge through page after page of mystery. I didn’t have a classical education, nor did I know my mediaeval texts well enough to get the references that sometimes came thick and fast. I found I didn’t have the history, or the anthropology or etymological skills to really grasp it either. I had at least tried to read Frazer (and, I confess, given up) I knew the gist and could at least see that bit of the puzzle, and I knew about Margaret Murray, and that helped. Mostly, The White Goddess confused the hell out of me.

There were times when I had a keen sense of this enormous, powerful mystery just beyond my grasp. A feeling that words themselves could be acts of magic, and that the entirety of reality could be reshaped if only you knew the right language. A sense of something important that was quite determined to stay hidden in its thicket and well out of my reach.

And then, there was this sneaking suspicion that some of the arguments were a bit circular and didn’t add up right, and that many of the learned references were effectively confusing me and not helping me and that this made it harder to follow the argument and that perhaps that wasn’t an accident. The book had been written to exclude those not elite and poetical enough to keep up with it. In the end I had no choice but to acknowledge that I was never going to be elite and poetical and well read enough to understand Graves.

The things I had understood weren’t terribly cheering, either. Graves writes a lot about true poetry, and what it means to be A Real Poet. Having a willy turns out to be an essential qualifier, for him. Women exist to be muses, beautiful, alluring, demanding, inspiring… but not poets. Only Sappho is apparently allowed to be a Real Poet and that’s mostly to do with being a lesbian, and her permission was grudgingly granted. So, not only am I not clever enough, I’m also not male enough. Thank you Robert Graves. Thank you very much. I never saw myself as potential muse material either. I’m never going to be ethereal enough for what Graves had in mind. I could get side-tracked on a rant about women as artists and historical attitudes, and contemporary ones for that matter… perhaps another day.

In the last week, I’ve slogged my way through Mark Carter’s Stalking the Goddess. It’s a big, difficult book, (akin to Ronald Hutton on that score) in which ideas and information come thick and fast. Not being an academic, and not automatically knowing all the references, I found it hard going. Interestingly, I did find it readable, in stark contrast to Graves. What Mark Carter does is takes the reader through the tangled maze of Grave’s influences, sources, and possible thinking. I learned a lot about Graves as a consequence, and the book I had struggled with, and came to understand more about how all that fits into modern

Paganism. The effort made in reading Mark’s work more than paid off. I came out feeling like I’d learned a lot, and not like I was stupid. I never once felt myself feeling inadequate over the whole not-having-a-willy thing either.

Mark has done the thing I couldn’t hope to do. He’s picked through The White Goddess, found the sources, cross referenced against possibly relevant things, and picked out the threads until you can see them and possibly make sense of them. I hate to think how long it took, but, as I’m going to be interviewing him for the Moon Book blog, I shall be asking.

And there are no spoilers in saying that yes, Grave’s arguments are actually quite wonky, his evidence wobbles a lot, and those things that looked like distraction tactics, probably were. It comes as a relief to me to think that there is no failing in my not having got to grips with Graves, and that the sense of inadequacy he gave me is not something I need to keep buying into. Good scholarship doesn’t set out to make you feel like an idiot. It gives you a fighting chance of broadening your mind. Mark Carter certainly did that for me, for which he has my profound thanks.

If you were in any way affected by the issues in this blog post, you can get Stalking the Goddess from all the usual places. Here’s one such… http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stalking-Goddess-Mark-Carter/dp/1780991738/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367316849&sr=8-1&keywords=Stalking+the+goddess


Announcing the next book

I’ve been talking a bit about this on facebook, so I thought a blog post was probably in order too, now that dates and whatnot are confirmed. My second book on Druidry will be out in November of this year. I’ll admit I was surprised by the speed, but Moon Books are a nippy sort of oufit, not like bigger houses, where it can take years for a book to see the light of day.

So, the next one is Druidry and the Ancestors. There were a number of thoughts underpinning the choice of direction. Firstly ancestors come up in Druidry rather a lot but I’m not aware of any books tackling how we relate to our ancestry, as druids.

Secondly, I read Ronald Hutton’s Blood and Mistletoe, which flags up how little we know about the ancient Druids – we have material to speculate upon, but none of it is issue-free. He also makes clear just how problematic our modern ancestors of tradition were – Iolo Morganwg and his contemporaries. When I read it I felt a powerful need to try and respond, to think about how we construct ourselves as modern Druids, conscious of our history and the problems in it, but still valid. In many ways, this book is me trying to start that process. I’m aware that Hutton’s work has changed what OBOD present to the world, and have no doubt that in coming years we will see more work that tackles the thorny subject of where we came from.

The third thing was my personal life. I spent six months in a cottage that had belonged to my family for many generations, and that had an impact on me. I’m also dealing with a child who detests his birth father, who needs to engage with his bloodlines in meaningful ways (not just my side of the family) and who needs to define himself in ways that do not relate to the birth parent he loathes. Working with pagan groups down the years I’ve been conscious for a long time that many pagans have stepped away from the beliefs of their families, and that many of us have a lot of problems with our most immediate ancestry.

So, this is not entirely a book about the Druids of old, although they are in the mix. It’s about how we think about all kinds of ancestry, how we construct ourselves, and so forth. It was not an easy book to write and I’m conscious that plenty of people might disagree with me. I’ve tested it on enough folk to be confident that it’s not wide of the mark and I have a lot of faith in my publisher and editor, but, I may be going to ruffle feathers.

But, for the extra win, I have my bloke’s art on the cover of this one. And, with all due reference to previous blogs about the covers of Druid books, yes, there’s a tree on it!

As an added bonus, it looks like I get to launch the book at a Druid muster in November, if all goes to plan. Watch this space….