Trance for Creativity

I was at a sleepover in elementary school when one of my friends suggested we do “light as a feather, stiff as a board.” One of us would sit in a big heavy dining room chair while the hostess stood behind us, rubbing our temples in slow circles. I wasn’t the first to volunteer, but I was amazed how easily the first girl went out. The rest of us gathered around her, stuck out the first two fingers of each hand, slipped them under her legs and butt, and raised her into the air a couple of inches. I remember it being so easy to do, as if she weighed nothing.

When it was my turn, I was sure nothing was going to happen. I felt like I resisted the rhythmic circles on my temples for a long time. Then, suddenly, I felt as if I slipped free of my body, soaring upward to the ceiling. I traveled through walls, spying on Lisa’s older sister reading a book in her room and her dad, who was watching TV. I felt like I was a ghost.

That was the first time I’d been put into a trance.

The second time was twenty years later, when I went to a Black Sun ritual in San Francisco. After the ritual theater part ended, the drumming began. Four men stood around a huge drum. It sounded like thunder, amidst a driving rainstorm made by the smaller drums.

Unable to resist the beat, I moved up to the fringes of the crowd. Several times, as I danced, I felt myself move forward, as if my soul stepped away from my body. Each time, my vision shifted six inches or so in front of my glasses. It was scary. Each time I thought, I am going into a trance, and made a panicked grab at the tail end of my spirit, hauling it back into my body. I was afraid to lose control of myself in this crowd of strangers.

When the evening finally came to a stop, I felt giddy, lightened, transformed.

So admittedly I had some baggage when I signed up for Jenny Bitner’s Trance Writing class in February. At that point, I was really struggling with my writing. I wanted to revise a novel, but it needed a lot of work. I felt as if I kept glancing off of the book, unable to sink in and concentrate and do the new writing I needed to do in order to make it come alive.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the class. I knew Jenny from an online writing group she’d organized once the pandemic lockdown got underway last year. I knew she taught writing (and she’d taught the Trance Writing class several times) at the Writers Grotto. I trusted her to be gentle with us. I was also skeptical that listening to someone over Zoom was going to have any effect on me at all.

Boy, was I wrong.

I still don’t entirely understand what hypnosis is, other than fun I can have with my brain. I’m not sure why listening to the even cadences of someone’s voice through my earpods can unleash my imagination. But Jenny would hypnotize the class several times every class session, using a combination of focused attention, repetitive actions, physical relaxation, surprising phrasing, and visualizations.

Even though I was doubtful, I saw visions. I reached breakthroughs on my book. I wrote some really lovely pieces that I had struggled with previously. I also learned some techniques that I hope will serve me as I slog forward through this book.

One of my favorite exercises came early on in the class, when Jenny asked us to imagine a place where we could go for inspiration, a place where the writing would flow effortlessly. I immediately thought of the Gilchrist Retreat Center, where I’ve spent many happy days writing. I’d been lamenting that I didn’t know when (if ever) I would be able to get back to Gilchrist in person, but Jenny gave me permission to go there in my imagination whenever I needed to.

It sounds silly now as I write it, but that permission was magical. I could see myself sitting at the table, notebook in front of me, gazing out at the wildflower meadow. I had the sense of the cottage at my back and the dark woods surrounding it, like the shadows of my subconscious mind ready to feed me everything I needed. Ahead of me lay the meadow in the sunlight, full of birdsong and butterflies. I could do this, I realized. I could finish this book. The way forward was clear.

Of course, realizing I had the capacity to do the work — and actually doing the work — are two separate things. I have really packed my days full lately and not left myself much time to create. I need to address that imbalance next.

Jenny’s Trance Writing class ended last Sunday. I’m not sure when she is going to offer it again, but I truly feel like a different person now than I was when I started in February, in the best possible way. I feel more in touch with my imagination than I have at any point in the last 15 months. I feel less overwhelmed by this novel, less afraid of it. I think, finally, I am ready to get to work.

Feel free to ask me questions about the class or  contact Jenny directly through her website at https://www.imagine-change.org/.

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Unpublished Lost Angels interview

Before I move on from all the Lost Angels/Angelus Rose posts, I want to post an interview that I did for someone else’s blog quite a while ago. It was never published, so I thought I’d put it up here. It was originally written in 2016, after Lost Angels came out, but I’ve updated it a little to be useful now.

If there was a film or TV adaptation of your book, who would you like to see play your characters?

When Brian and I first started writing Lost Angels, I had Angelina Jolie in mind for Lorelei. This was not long after the movie Hackers came out, when Angelina was young and liable to say or do anything. Charlize Theron was who I imagined as her blond sister Floria. The angel Azaziel has always been harder to cast, but I feel like Matt Ryan, who’s played John Constantine on TV, would be perfect.

How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?

Well, Lorelei’s name is closer to mine than is comfortable, but she was named for an apartment building down the street from my cowriter Brian’s home at the time. I didn’t know anything about Azaziel when Brian named him, but he turned out to have a great backstory — thanks to Lord Byron — about falling in love with a girl named Anah before the Flood. That gave us a lot to play with in our books.

Give us an insight into your main character. What makes her unique?

Lorelei is considered young for a succubus, even though she’s hundreds of years old. She’s worked her way up from imp and is aiming to be promoted to temptress, so she’s ambitious and takes risks.

She’s convinced that she has the best job in Creation, luring mortals to damnation. She doesn’t see any distinction between who she is and what she does, which of course changes over the course of her books.

What do you think of book trailers?

I love book trailers. I’ve been teaching myself to make them. This is the second one for this book, since it was published previously by Black Bed Sheet Books. I like this book cover image much better.

Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?

I like to write in cafes. I used to go out every morning, after I dropped my daughter off at school, to sit down with a composition book for an hour or so over a cafe au lait. I like collecting my thoughts longhand, then editing them as I type them in later. I really prefer writing that way, as opposed to typing directly into the computer, because slowing down to hand write everything gives me more time to think. It was strange to see all the research that came out backing me up on that.

In fact, I’ve been slowly working on a book about writing in cafes. I hope to have it out by the end of this year or early next year.

You can learn more about our succubus/angel love story here: https://lorenrhoads.com/writing/as-above-so-below/

If you’d like to order the “boxed” set of paperbacks from me, I’ll throw in a little gift. You can check Lost Angels & Angelus Rose out at my bookstore. They’re also available individually on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, or as ebooks on Smashwords.

 

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400 Days

The last time I left my house for more than a moment was February 23, 2020. When the San Francisco Indie UnCon finished at the Holiday Inn on the edge of Chinatown, I was already coming down with the bad cold/flu/light case of covid that would keep me home for the next two weeks. By the time I started feeling better, San Francisco had closed its theaters, banned gatherings of larger than 20 people, and was headed into lockdown.

In the last 400 days, I’ve gone on a handful of walks around my neighborhood and one delicious walk on the beach. Other than that, I haven’t left home.

There have been some highlights. I learned to make a spectrum of ice cream. (Blueberry coconut was my favorite.) I mastered making homemade pizza. I developed a hummus recipe. My husband bought an Instapot and learned to make scones and empanadas. I now have a house cocktail.

Thanks to E. S. Magill, I took Sarra Cannon’s HB90 Planner course, which helped me figure out just how much I had on my to-do lists. She got me started on the path toward actually doing some of it.

Like so many other artistic projects in my life, thinking about what I wanted to have accomplished before I die inspired me to put together a collection of my short stories. Unsafe Words came out in September last year.

Thanks to the inspiration and collaboration with Emerian Rich, the Spooky Writers Planner was published in December. Having my very own planner system has been really helpful in motivating me to get stuff done so far this year. I’m excited to see where it will take me next.

I went to so many fascinating events online: from a survey of Japanese ghosts to a lesson on how to discover and safely explore a cave to a history of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic to a lesson on Protective Magic at Treadwell’s Bookstore to a slide show by the Cockettes to book events with V. E. Schwab, Chanel Miller, Charlie Jane Anders, Meg Elison, Alia Volz, Armistead Maupin, and a whole lot of new-to-me authors. I took a class on how to lead a walking tour. I took a class on using self-hypnosis to unleash creativity. I’m learning how to write a talk for the Odd Salon now.

There have been lows, too, the same ones that everyone has had to contend with. At least three of my friends have suffered through Covid, although I suspect others did too without testing positive for it. Those three were sick enough that I was frightened for them. My elderly parents didn’t grasp the dangers and weren’t as cautious as I would have liked, but they are now fully vaccinated. All the events I wanted to attend last year were rescheduled or canceled, or both.

I’ve struggled more than I expected with isolation. I’ve seen one friend in the last year because I bought one of his paintings for my husband’s birthday. I saw another friend when she brought me a pumpkin because my family didn’t think it was safe for me to go to the pumpkin patch. A lot of my life before 2020 was solitary, especially since my kid started to suffer from migraines four years ago, but I was able to write in cafes and walk in parks and get out to see friends. Zoom, as much of a blessing as it has been, is not substitute for real people.

After a year, my house still isn’t organized or even tidy. I’ve had a rough time focusing on books, so my to-read shelf still overflows. I have a writing practice finally. I think I’m on track to finish 3 more books this year. But I still feel like I’m surrounded by chaos.

Last Tuesday, after 8 days of trying to schedule an appointment, I suddenly got my first Covid vaccine. It made me really sleepy and sluggish for four days, but I was thrilled to feel like it was working.

My husband should be able to start fighting with the scheduling system this Thursday. My kid becomes eligible on April 15. With any luck, we should all be vaccinated and able to leave the house by sometime in June.

I hope we’re free before 500 days have passed.

Recipe for Loren’s Liquid Sunshine cocktail

Start with homemade lemonade:

1 cup juice of freshly picked lemons

1/2 cup of sugar

8 cups cold water

1 shot elderflower liqueur

1 shot gin

Add ice cubes and a spring of mint.

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Angelus Rose celebrates its 1st Book Birthday with a Prize!

Last Saturday the second book in the As Above, So Below series celebrated its first anniversary in print.  I thought I’d throw a party — and you have the chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.

Just read through the Rafflecopter below and click on each of the entries to get up to 20 chances to win. One chance to win is guaranteed.

I will choose the winner using a random number generator on Friday night. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Music for As Above, So Below

When Brian and I wrote the books about Lorelei and Azaziel, music served as a huge part of our process. We listened to stuff together, then when I needed to get in the mood to write on my own, I’d replay the music to get my brain back into the groove.

One of the bands we listened to a lot was Garbage. The first album and Version 2.0 weren’t quite on repeat, but we played them every session that we worked together. Brian suggested the rockabilly and swing bands. I added new wave and the blues. When I was finishing Angelus Rose last year, I asked my Facebook friends to suggest songs for The Devil’s Playlist. They came up with 15 hours of songs about the devil. Some of those migrated into my As Above playlist.

After Angelus Rose came out in February 2020, I put together a Spotify soundtrack for the As Above, So Below books. Some of the things on it are songs that we reference in the books, like “T’Ain’t What You Do” and Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells.” Some are songs that Brian envisioned as soundtracks to scenes in the book. For instance, “Zoot Suit Riot” is what’s playing in Lost Angels when the fight between the angels and devils breaks out in the back room.

Rather than make a separate playlist for both Lost Angels and Angelus Rose, I put everything together in one list. There’s a break between Firewater’s “When I Burn This Place Down” and X’s “Los Angeles” where one book ends and the other begins.

After the end of Angelus Rose, I added the songs that have inspired the stories I’ve written about Lorelei working in the LA music scene in the 1960s and 70s: “Devil in Her Heart” for the story of the same name, “Dazed and Confused” for Never Bargained for You. “Fame” is there to hold a place for the Lorelei & Bowie story I haven’t written yet.

Here’s the link, in case the embed doesn’t work: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4XQGeCIyoCXzwMHvAwJ4Db

I hope you enjoy the playlist. Please let me know your favorite devil song and I’ll add it to The Devil’s Playlist.

You can learn more about our succubus/angel love story here: https://lorenrhoads.com/writing/as-above-so-below/

If you’d like to order the “boxed” set of paperbacks from me, I’ll throw in a little gift. You can check Lost Angels & Angelus Rose out at my bookstore. They’re also available individually on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, or as ebooks on Smashwords.

 

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