Almost a Year Old

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None of this process of a dream realized was easy or natural for me.  So many of my fellow occult authors have fond stories of being offered a contract because their editor read something they had written and were so enchanted that they were nearly immediately given a book contract.

I wasn’t.

I wrote in Llewellyn’s annuals for years.  I blogged for even longer.  I didn’t even pitch this book to begin with, to be honest.  I pitched a Kitchen Witchcraft book but I had written in enough annuals at that point that I realized that writing two hundred pages of recipes sounded like an unadulterated circle of hell of my own making that when my editor had notes for me about it before she pitched it to the shadowy Vision Board, I said, I want to pitch something else.

Now, at this point, I had been doing research for months, I’d been practicing recipes for months, I had written 10,000 fucking words and a full pitch.  In one email, I napalmed months of careful labor.

I said, Everyone has some glamour naturally, some people have a lot of glamour naturally where everyone wants to hand that person their wallet, their spouse and their car to them.  Most of us (myself included) can’t do that naturally.  Not having a lot of glamour naturally myself, I’ve done a lot of magical work to enhance it and it’s worked.  Really, really well.  I think it’s something Witches are quick to dismiss but it’s hand to heart life changing.

She said, okay.  Pitch it.

And I was, like, so excited for a hot second until I realized that meant doing all that work again and I think I gently rested my forehead to my desk for a moment.  But I did it and she pitched it and I waited to see what the Vision Board would say.  I was so scared they wouldn’t take it and that my career as an author would be over before it started.  It was a long week.  A very long week where I only told a very small handful of people what was going on.  Gordon was always so secretive in his planning and plotting and I thought, I will never be able to do that.  But I did and I’ve come to play my cards very close to my chest too.  Because it’s too scary to put it out there.  Because I didn’t want everyone else’s wishes and dreams and magic to get muddled up into mine.  I needed a clear, clean line.

I got the contract while I was at my desk on a very dull day at work.  I immediately rushed into my mother’s office and hissed, I got it, I got it, I got it!!!!!  And she hugged me and there was that profound sense of relief that I wouldn’t have to carry it all anymore.  I could lay it down.  I could put it on paper.  I could finish this dream that I started when I was nine.  I visited the graves of the people I had loved to tell them that I would finish this, which left me heavy with their hopes and dreams that never came to pass.  That I would do it for them by writing this book that they wouldn’t really have understood, like my mom and sister didn’t.  They both tried diligently to read it, but my brain was too strange, too foreign for them to for them to read more than a few polite chapters.  They were more interested in the cover art, the numbers, the podcasts, tax implications (for my mother) and the things that made sense to them.  I learned during that time, when I thought I would be devastated if the people I loved most never read any of my book that it didn’t matter if they did.  They understood how important this was for me, they showed up for me.  I didn’t write this book for them, I wrote it for you.  Their jobs were never going to be to understand my work, their jobs were to support me while I was working.  And oh lordess, I needed a lot of support.  And I was granted it, over and over and over again.

Most of my writing happened during tax season.  You have to understand, tax season is a time where all you do is chop wood and carry water.  The idea of doing anything else during that time, the time where your brain had been essentially squeezed through a toothpaste tube for over ten hours a day was unthinkable.  It’s like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.  But I did.  I chopped wood and carried water at work and then I went home and chopped wood and carried water where ever I was writing (home, locked in an isolation chamber in my library, coffee houses, cruise ships, where ever).  All the other authors I knew made it look so effortless.  They were the equivalent of that annoying mom everyone knows – the one who went to prenatal yoga and looked blissful the entire pregnancy and ate perfect healthy things for their perfect healthy bodies and gave birth in a water bath with a doula and cleaned up baby and herself the next day to take irritatingly perfect Vogue esque pictures of themselves.  Me, I had my head in a toilet the whole pregnancy and ate a shit ton of ice cream and got hella fat, pushed futilely for hours with an epidural and then needed a C-section and then to add insult to injury, had postpartum to boot.

Always, in the past, people had read my work as I was going.  My beta readers read my first few chapters and had really helpful notes.  But usually Jow reads everything.  But with nursing school and the speed I had to write . . .it just wasn’t possible.  No one had read all of it until Elysia did.  Which was terrifying.  It felt like being at the bottom of a well where no one could understand fully what I was trying to do besides a couple author friends.  But even then, most of their processes weren’t so . . .arduous.

I had just finished writing my book two months ago when it was time to go to a large festival I love.  But the thing is, at that point, I was basically feral.  I had maybe two hours a week of interacting with people who were not Jow.  And now suddenly, I was surrounded by ten thousand members of one of my tribes and . . .all I could do was cry and fight with anyone who had the misfortune to care about me and interact with me.  I was so anxious, it was so hot that waves of humidity would come off the lake at 11:30 at night.  I hadn’t been that miserable for that long in a long time.  Adding to my misery: an email from my editor crisply informing me (in summary) that if I wanted my book to go out in the May catalog, I had better get my shit together and make my edits.  Within two weeks.

It was August.

So I locked myself back into the library’s isolation chamber and wrote and edited and worked my ass off.  Eventually, there were other things to do – reading the check copy, reading the galley (last looks!), approving the cover art, continuing to work on the marketing approach, planning the launch party.  I love my cover so much, it’s like it was pulled directly out of my word filled brain.

Launch day, Jow was working and then had nursing school til late.  I spent the day feeling isolated, my mom made lunch plans with a coworker (thanks, mom) and all I kept thinking is that my uncle (whom I had dedicated my book to) would never see it.  And I promptly sunk into a deep depression that lasted for several days.  Like normal people who accomplish their life’s dream do.

My darling PAH Gordon interviewed me the evening of my book drop on his show, Rune Soup.  I am actually not so secretly shy about my accomplishments and always feel a bit awkward lauding them, but since Gordon was at my wedding, it’s one of my favorite podcasts I’ve done to date (along with Down at the CrossroadsChris and Tara also have the misfortune to know me in real life).  I remember Gordon saying something along the lines of, why glamour?  We had already been talking about all my cemetery habits and I know for a science fact my mother cannot operate podcasts, so . . .for the first time since I started talking about glamour, I was painfully awkwardly honest.  I replied with something like, Um.  Because I was never the pretty one.  My sister was. And if I could never be the pretty one, there had to be a way around that right?  So if I couldn’t be pretty, I could learn to be glamorous.  I could get around it that way because I didn’t have to be pretty to be glamorous.  

My launch party was held in the club I had loved best as a twentysomething. To say they were good to me would be the understatement of forever, they were so excited to have one of their girls made good, they treated me like an actual princess (yes, the p-word).  There, at my beloved club, I tried not to throw up on my shoes.  It sounds so dramatic, but that was the actual truth of what was happening.  Like, I had baby burp vomit in the back of my throat, I had gained ten pounds from all the stress, my shoulders were up to my ears with tension and I was trying really really hard not to disassociate in this moment where I had paid a decent amount of money for everyone to look at me.  I read well, thanks to all my years in mock trial and speech and debate, but I had to sit to do it because I was shaking really hard.

April2 threw me a bookerlette party with some close girl friends.  I breathe for the first time at our favorite spa in the Womb Room.

The first quarter of my book launch is a blur of in-person events where I was always terrified and self conscious, reverting back to my goddamn factory settings that I had spent nearly two decades resetting and full of west coast podcasts which were always a huge thing for me because I keep verrrrrrrrrrrry sexy hours due to my fibro where I’m usually in bed before 10p asleep during the week but now had to be totally on.  Always in the background, the publicity department hissing, you only have three months of our support.  After that you’re on your own.  It’s your first book, you want it to do well!  I was so tired.  So, so tired.   And I knew, I knew to my pinkie toes that I could still be doing more, more, more.  More podcasts, more social media, more blogging.  For everything I did do, there were four more things that I couldn’t get done.  My career looked at my book as a charming and time consuming hobby . . .as long as I never touched it at all during work hours.  Ever.  Ever.

I had trouble interacting with others, podcasts always exhausted me because I had to be on fire, totally not knowing where any line of questions were going to go at any given time, trying to read the hosts (whom I had never met) and their audiences (whom I didn’t know terribly well in most cases).  Writing, writing, writing so no one would forget about me.

Because . . .I could be forgotten.  I knew how lucky I was to have what I have – my editor, the podcasts, the appearances, the cover.  I know authors who didn’t get nearly as much.  And if I couldn’t perform when I was given so much?  What then?  The fact that I could be dead in the water one book in which somehow seemed worse.  I’d have to give back my advance.  I’d be dead in occult circles.  Harlequin was never interested in my pitches.  Where would I go, what would I do?  No one else would take me on, no other publisher would touch me.  No one would understand what I was trying to say.  Fuck, I could have been dead after writing my entire book and allowed to keep my tiny advance, my book would never see the light of day and never be allowed to see the light of day and I would be sent to the Island of Misfit Toys.  E & N are editors, it happens.  Not all the time, but often enough.  Often enough that I didn’t dick around about my edits or anything else.

The thin silver thread of sanity during this time: All of you.  All of you who sent me pictures of my book in bookstores, all of you who sent me pictures of my book on your altar, all of you who talked up my book, who reviewed my book, who said it was meaningful and that you were changed by it and that you felt understood, you are the only ones who kept me from getting in my car and driving until I got . . .somewhere.  You kept my shoulder to the wheel because you were constantly saying, I see you!  What you do matters!  We matter to each other!  Keep starting fires!

And now, I’m nearly a year with my book having been born into the world.  I spent today anxiously emailing my Sales department about book returns (the bane of every author’s existence, but mine are pretty decent) and percentages, are my eBook sales good (yes), are my print sales good (almost).

So yes, I’m shameless as you know.  Whether it’s screaming about half eaten chickens or how much bitches love candles or why you’re not important enough to hex because no one is that into you, I’m fairly consistently doing primal scream therapy as performance art and you have been gracious enough to be my audience for this long.  It’s my hope that I can prevail upon you to be just a teeny bit even more gracious.

Here’s How You Can Help Deb Keep Writing books:

1. Buy my book (please and thank you). 
Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want

2. If you’ve read my book, please review my book on Amazon. Amazon reviews are ridiculously key.  We hit 40 reviews today, 50 would be awwwwwesome!!!!!

3. Signal boost by regramming about my book on Insta and sharing on FB!

All I keep thinking about are the notes I’ve started writing about my next book after Sicily, after stumbling through offering my hands to the bereaved several times over this summer, my heart has been ripped open in so many places and so many ways this summer that a book has to come out of it.  I am afraid, as I always am.  JohnM, my writing partner for life (who wore a tiny silver tiara and a pink sash proclaiming him my Writing Partner MVP at my launch – No you’re crying!  You shut up!  Shut up!) has agreed to take our Monday which was supposed to be a beach day for us to instead be there for me in New Hope to hold my hand while I twibble and whine and act really undignified about this whole process because he’s also held my hair when I threw up for the first time in my apartment from Irish tequila (. . . don’t ask) and told me I was still beautiful, so he’s got this.  He’s seen me worse.  He’ll see me still worse.  He’ll tell me what’s shit and to pull myself together and do it.  Because as incredibly difficult as this has been, I need to keep doing this.  I need to keep screaming into the world.  It’s been my honor and privilege for the last eight years and I hope to have many more with you, for as long as you’ll have me.

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


2 Responses

  1. You are the bomb, Deb! Keep on screaming.

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