A Dictionary of Angels

While I was working on the final As Above, So Below book, my friend E. M. Markoff suggested including a glossary of angels so I could detail some of the angelology research that inspired the backstories in both Lost Angels and Angelus Rose. I didn’t get the glossary finished in time to add to Angelus Rose, but I’ll post it here. The first part, A Dictionary of Devils and Demons, appeared last December.

Matt Ryan as John Constantine. I would cast him as Azaziel.

Azaziel – Foremost among the angels in the series is Azaziel, who goes into a bar owned by Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, in order to catch the eye of the succubus Lorelei. Aza has been watching her for a while and wants to strike up a friendship, but he doesn’t know how to approach her. As it turns out, all he needed to do was to show up.

Officially, Azaziel (ah zah zee el) was a Grigori, one of the Watcher angels sent to Earth before the Flood. According to Lord Byron’s poem “Heaven and Earth, a Mystery,” Azaziel fell in love with one of Cain’s granddaughters, a woman named Anah. When God sent the Flood to kill all the humans and animals except those rescued by Noah, Azaziel snatched Anah up, tucked her beneath his wings, and carried her off to another planet.

Brian Thomas, my co-writer on the angel books, was the one who chose Azaziel’s name. I think he actually slogged through Byron’s poem. (I only read the summaries.) Aza’s backstory gave us a rich history and informed his struggles to find companionship and balance love with his God-given duty to watch over humankind.

I gave Aza his trench coat, button-down shirts, and 501s. His fashion sense was inspired by John Constantine in the Hellblazer comic books and the angels in Wings of Desire.

Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer

Barbelo – Barbelo (barb el oh) is one of my favorite angels in the books. She is a consistently good-hearted, generous, and helpful angel. Brian described her as a Venice Beach angel. He gave her the men’s blazers she wears, with the cuffs turned back. I gave her the silver-shot scarves and sandals.

In mythology, Barbelo is an archon, one of the Gnostic angels tasked with governing the running of the world. She’s described as “perfect in glory.” I took that to mean that she behaves as you hope an angel would: helping each creature she meets to become a perfected version of itself.

In the gnostic Texts of the Savior, Barbelo is the daughter of Pistis Sophia, whose name meant wisdom. Sophia sought knowledge that was forbidden to angels, which some texts claim was sexual relations with her fellow angels. Of Sophia’s union was born Barbelo, the only angel to have a mother and many fathers.

In our books, other angels — particularly Muriel — judge Barbelo for the conditions of her birth, even though they claim to believe that all things happen by the will of God.

Michael standing on the dragon (which represents Satan) by Martin Schongauer

Michael – The greatest of all angels in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic writing is Michael (traditionally Mee ka el). Michael serves as Prince of the Presence, chief of archangels, and leader of God’s Host. During the War in Heaven, Michael’s name was used as a war chant. He is an angel of righteousness and mercy, who vanquished Satan to Hell and bound him in chains.

Michael has a very rich mythology. He is said to have been the first angel to bow before humanity. After Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden and died in the wilderness, Michael helped convince the Lord to cleanse Adam’s soul and admit it to Heaven.

Michael visited Emperor Constantine the Great at Constantinople, inspired Joan of Arc with the courage to save France, and is said to have led the angelic bowmen at the Battle of Mons in World War I. The Book of Revelation says that Michael will command the Lord’s hosts in the final conflict at the end of the world.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared Michael the patron of policemen. That inspired me to cast him as the California Highway Patrol officer on his motorcycle in Lost Angels. In appearance, he favors Samuel Jackson.

Michael is said to have wings the color of emeralds. I wish I’d been able to work that detail into the novels.

Benozzo Gozzoli’s angels chanting the “Gloria.”

Muriel – Muriel was a creation of Brian’s. He saw her as one of the relentlessly healthy gym bunnies in LA, always dressed in an immaculate gray track suit and spotless white leather Reeboks.

Formerly a member of the Heavenly Choir, responsible for singing the Eternal Hymn, Muriel strayed from the purpose she was created to serve when she watched the angels battling demons on the Plains of Heaven. Muriel longed to fight alongside them and become a warrior angel. In consequence, she was sent down to Earth, which she views as a punishment. She’s been stationed in Los Angeles for the last century.

According to A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels, Muriel was a male angel whose name came from the Greek word for myrrh. He was the angel of the month of June, ruler of Cancer in the zodiac, and when invoked from the south, could grant a magic carpet. We didn’t get a chance to work any of that into our books.

Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke

Rafael – I’m not sure what Brian had in mind when he described Rafael as dressed in an immaculate white suit and acting like a gameshow host. I always pictured him like Mister Roarke (as portrayed by Ricardo Montalban) on Fantasy Island: relentlessly cheery and quite terrifying.

Traditionally, Raphael is one of the Seven Holy Angels who attend the throne of God. He is the angel of healing, charged specifically with healing the Earth. He’s known as the sociable archangel, happiest of all angels with the best sense of humor.

Raphael often served as God’s messenger. He brought Noah the knowledge he needed to build the ark and healed Jacob’s thigh after his wrestling match with the angel in the Book of Genesis. According to the Testament of Solomon, Raphael delivered the ring which enslaved demons to King Solomon so he could build the Temple in Jerusalem. Raphael helped Tobias win Sarah as his bride by besting Asmodeus in the Book of Tobit. We tied the story of Tobias and Sarah into Angelus Rose.

The Field of the Slain by Evelyn de Morgan

Samael – I wanted to include a traditional Angel of Death in our books (because of course I would). Originally, we called him Azrael, but that was too confusing with Azaziel, Asmodeus, and Ashleigh as characters, too. Fairly early on, his name got changed to Samael.

From the start, Samael (sa my el) was linked with Muriel. She considers him a friend because she thinks he’s as merciless as she is. She doesn’t realize he’s merely relentless in his mission, which extends to angels and demons, as well as to humanity.

In the Kabbalah, the seraph Samael is known as the “severity of God.” His name is a combination of “sam,” the word for poison, and “el” which indicates his holiness. When he stands above the dying, Samael drips a single drop of poison into their mouths. They see him at the last minute before death. Apparently, he was one of the angels of death sent to retrieve the soul of Moses when the Lawgiver died.

In some rabbinic texts, Samael is cast as a demon. The Golden Legend says that dogs howl as he flies through town. I wish we’d worked that into Angelus Rose.

Shebniel and Shebethiel are two of the 70 childbed angels named in the Book of the Angel Raziel, in which all celestial and earthly knowledge is set down. The childbed angels were invoked at the time of childbirth and tasked with watching over children until they could be circumcised or baptized, depending on their family’s religious tradition. The names of the childbed angels were inscribed on amulets hung on cradles.

Shebethiel, who appears with a blue mohawk and a punk rock Needle Exchange t-shirt, was a tribute to my friend Claud, who has worn both those things. He is one of the fiercest, gentlest people I’ve ever known.

Yehudiah – Named in The Zohar, Yehudiah (yeh who die ah) is one of the chief angelic envoys. He is a beneficent angel of death who bears aloft the souls of the dead.

In Angelus Rose, Brian conflated Yehudiah with the recording angel who stands on some grave monuments, inscribing the name of the dead person in the Book of Life. Yehudiah appears at the end of the battle to tally the names (and final destinations) of the dead.

Zadkiel – “The Righteousness of God” is another of the seven angels who stand in the presence of God. In Jewish lore, he held back Abraham’s arm, when the patriarch was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac. Zadkiel’s traditional symbol is a dagger like the one as Abraham would have used.

Although Zadkiel is the angel of benevolence, he is a companion of Michael whenever he goes into battle. Rather than fight, Zadkiel bears Michael’s standard.

Zadkiel is the chief or prince of the choir, which is how he comes into our story. He served as Muriel’s Choirmaster, when she sang the Ever-spun Hymn in Heaven. I gave him his dreadlocks and maroon suit. Brian gave him his golden wings and tiger-striped eyes.

We used a stack of books to research our angels and devils for the As Above, So Below novels, but the primary ones were:

A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels by Gustav Davidson, written in 1967 and republished by Macmillan in 1980.

Angels A to Z: A Who’s Who of the Heavenly Host by Matthew Bunson, published by Crown in 1996.

Angels: An Endangered Species by Malcolm Godwin, published by Simon and Schuster in 1990.

Heaven: An Illustrated History of the Higher Realms by Timothy Freke, published by Conari Press in 1996.

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 from me, I’ll throw in a little special 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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Tools to Make Working at Home More Fun

So here we are again (or still), working from home until our chance at a vaccine finally comes along. Here are a handful of things that have helped me get work done in my breakfast nook/office over the last year. (Truth: I get no income from these items. I just like them.)

1. Fingerless gloves

I don’t know about your house, but as a rule, San Francisco doesn’t believe in insulation in the walls. We’re in California, so it doesn’t get cold, right? (It’s 45 outside at the moment.) My office, with its uninsulated outside wall, tends toward the shivery side. One of the things that has really helped me keep my fingers moving is my collection of fingerless gloves. My favorites came from Nice Tattoo Crochet for Hire.

She makes plain black gloves (or whatever color tickles your fancy), as well as Star Wars-inspired gloves, and now she’s working on “tattoo” gloves. Keeping warm will boost your productivity, I promise.

2. Timeular time-tracking device

Last year, I tried two devices for tracking my time. One of them was cheaper, but it never worked and they had no customer service. The other was a Timeular. It’s basically an 8-sided toy that allows you to assign a different task to each face. When you begin that task, you turn the Timeular to that face and it tracks your time on a desktop app.

I found Timeular easy to use, fun to play with, and really motivational. If I had only managed 5 hours of work in a day (between constitutional crises, doom-scrolling the news, and what-have-you), I could usually persuade myself to turn off Twitter and get another hour’s work done, thanks to Timeular.

3. Wireless noise-cancelling JBL headphones

As I said before, my office is a former breakfast nook. That means it’s slightly larger than a hallway between the front door and the kitchen.  It doesn’t have a door that I can close. Getting my family to leave me alone to work was a challenge until I discovered JBL noise-canceling headphones. They were pricey, but oh so worth it.  As long as I have them on — whether I’m listening to music or not — no one talks to me.  It’s lovely when I need to concentrate.

4. Hidrate Spark water bottle

I don’t drink enough water. I know I should drink more, but I often don’t remember. When someone suggested a water bottle that lights up when you need to take a drink, I thought it was a silly toy. Strangely enough, it actually works.  And the Hidrate water bottles are pretty, too.

Drinking all that water solves my other problem, too:  remembering to get up from my desk every so often to walk around before I get stiff.

5. Book Darts

These are my secret weapon. They’re a little hard to see in the photograph, but they are tiny aluminum bookmarks that slide over the edge of the page to mark something you’d like to quote later. My cemetery books are full of them, which is a huge improvement over underlining things and dog-earing the pages. I buy Book Darts by the hundreds. They’re available from Amazon, but I prefer to get them direct from the maker.

6. My life-changing planner

I know I’ve written about this before, but the Spooky Writer’s Planner I created with Emerian Rich really has changed my life. I track everything here: where I am in all my projects, what my next steps are, people to contact, questions to research, when to send out my newsletter… It has been huge to see all of that in one place.

The planner is undated, so you can begin to use it any time. It’s available from Amazon in paperback or (my preference) as a printable download from Etsy. Here’s the homepage: http://www.emzbox.com/horroraddicts/spookyplanner.html

 

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Come Write with Me

I am now an event organizer for Shut Up & Write!

In the Before Times, I used to attend two Shut Up & Write groups that met in cafes in San Francisco. Since the pandemic trapped me at home, I’ve been attending various SU&W groups over Zoom. As strange as it sounds, it is surprisingly motivating to have a screen filled with other writers working, even if we’re scattered around the world. I feel like, if as long as they’re working, I should be, too.

Now I’ve volunteered to host my own Shut Up & Write session.

Please come join me every Tuesday morning at 10 AM PST, if you’d like to have a couple hours of peace to yourself or if you have something to get out of your system or if, by any chance, you are working on a novel.  All are welcome, as long as you’re willing to put your head down and bang out some words. If you like, I will give you a gold star just for showing up.

Last week, only three of us showed up to write.  That was okay:  we got some work done and felt virtuous.

It would be more fun with more people. I’m just saying.

The RSVP link: https://www.meetup.com/shutupandwriteonlineevents/events/vdggdsycccbzb/

The description:

Staying at home to do your civic duty during the COVID-19 pandemic? Join us via Zoom for a couple of hours of writing from the comfort of your own home.

I’ve discovered that it’s strikingly helpful to write with others, even if we’re all just hanging out online together. See if it’s true for you at 10AM Pacific time on Tuesday mornings.

Be it a book, blog, script, essay, dissertation, resume, melody, poem or just plain work stuff, you are invited to write it with us. Instead of just thinking about writing, come and get some real writing done. Don’t worry, no one will see what you’ve written or give you unsolicited advice.

SCHEDULE:
10:00 – Quick introductions
10:15 – Timer starts: write until noon
12:00 – The End: chat, take off, or keep writing

WHAT DO I NEED?
A computer with working camera and microphone, a good internet connection, and optionally, headphones or earbuds. Also, an idea of what project you’d like to spend your time on.

OTHER IMPORTANT DETAILS:
Technical difficulties are part and parcel of getting together online.

If you’ve never used your computer for an online meeting, take a few minutes before we meet to familiarize yourself with how to use Zoom by reviewing the below tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VebiA5pGq0

If you run into technical issues, remember that this is the time you’ve carved out for yourself and your writing. Whether or not you are able to join our online meet-up, go ahead and get your writing started, then leave a comment below to let us know how it went for you.

In addition:

I’m hosting Creative Support, a non-Shut Up & Write group for writers and artists, on Zoom on Wednesdays from 10 am to noon PST. The format is more or less the same: a few minutes to check in at the beginning, then two hours of silent, self-directed creation.

If you’d rather join that group, drop me a note through this contact form and I’ll send you the link.

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New Year’s Goals

I always get a charge in the fall, as if the new school year is starting. (Admission: I haven’t been back to school in a very long time.) I get another jolt of ambition at New Year’s. Of course, the things I expect to accomplish in the course of a year don’t always happen, but as long as I keep nudging all the pieces forward, I’ll finish them in the end.  Right?

This year, I aim to finish another 3 books. I’m going to state this right out in public, so I can get that accountability jolt, too. There’s no drawback if I get distracted by something shiny or lucrative, but I would like to see these projects completed. So…goals, not resolutions.

  1. A collection of personal essays tentatively called This Morbid Life. I envision this as a collection of stuff I wrote for Morbid Curiosity magazine, for the zines File 13 and Zine World and Enterrupted, for Scoutie Girl and Jane and various magazines online. I bought the cover image last year from Lynne Hansen, so now I just have to assemble a book that will do it justice.

2. The Death of Memory was my first completed novel: the origin story for Alondra DeCourval, the witch about whom I’ve written so many stories. I keep going back to the book, trying to polish it so I can unleash it on the world. This is finally the year. I really need that book done, so I can move on to tell more of Alondra’s adventures.

3. Writing in Cafes is the project that’s farthest from finished. I imagine it as a workbook for writers that will help people discover how they work best and what they need to do to support their own creative processes. I think it will be a fun project to work on, too.

In and around all that, I’d like to finish the Alondra novella set on the Farallon Islands. I’d also like to write a handful of new stories — let’s say 5, shall we?

And I want to do a better job selling the books I have stashed away in my garage.

And I want to increase the readership of my monthly newsletter.

This year especially I feel like creativity can save us. We need the inspiration and escape of writing/making/creating things. What have you envisioned for this year?

If you’d like to help support my work, please buy me a cup of tea. I would be really grateful!

Buy me a cup of tea!

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Is Frankensteined a word? When it comes to planners it is!

Guest Post by Emerian Rich

I’ve Frankensteined planners for so many years, it doesn’t seem strange anymore. Sure, I waste time and money on several I end up not using, but how else am I supposed to create the perfect planner for my year?

Funnily enough, when I brought this problem up to my friend and fellow horror writer, Loren Rhoads, she had the same problem.

How, we asked ourselves, are we supposed to keep organized and productive without totally cutting and pasting our favorite parts into one monster book that will take care of all of our needs? If only there were a writer’s journal already on Amazon that we could order every year. One that addressed all of our needs at once.

I don’t remember who said it first. Was it Loren? Was it me? But suddenly an idea explosion erupted in that little chat window.

What if we teamed up to make the perfect Spooky Writer’s Planner? One that could be versatile for every writer. One that could be purchased in print for those of us who like to carry around a book, but also be digital for those of us who like to print and keep records in binders? One that included essential sheets for writer record-keeping like submissions we subbed, contacts for future ideas, and lists of what we had already published.

Could we possibly create such a monster?

Yes. Yes we could.

And now, for your approval we submit the…Spooky Writer’s Planner.

Are you spooky?

Do you write horror, speculative fiction, dark fantasy, paranormal romance, or fairy tales?

Are you a spooky blogger, macabre non-fiction columnist, or haunt travel vlogger?

Are you ready to stop dreaming and be a writer?

Are you an author who wants to take your career to the next level?

PLANNER INCLUDES

13 months of monthly and weekly spreads

Monthly goal and recap sheets

Weekly check-ins and note pages

Writing challenges, planners, and instructions

Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers

Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners

Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses

Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.

Authors Loren Rhoads and Emerian Rich share the tricks they’ve learned over the course of a combined 50 years in publishing, from working with traditional New York publishers, small presses, and as indie publishers themselves.

AVAILABLE NOW PRINT or DIGITAL

PRINT: The Spooky Writer’s Planner is perfect-bound with a glossy cover, printed on high-quality 8.5 x 11-inch paper. Everything you need is included in one handy book you can grab and go! Have book, will travel!

DIGITAL: The quick-download version gives you a digital copy so you can print the pages you want, print multiples of those you think you’ll use the most, leave those you won’t use, and create your own Frankenstein’s Monster of a planner! These pages are designed to be printed on 8.5 x 11-inch paper. You can put them in a three-ring binder, bind them with disks, or a spiral, as you choose. You can print different sheets on different colors.

Click here to find out more about this planner, see pictures, and spreads for each version.

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