The Unlikely Occultist receives a Five Star Readers’ Favorite Badge!

The Unlikely Occultist

Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers’ Favorite

Shortly after her loving Aunt Hilary’s funeral, Heather faced a challenge at her job. At the State Library in Victoria, Australia, she was assigned the task of assessing a one-hundred box collection donated by the late Professor Foyle. She was a professor of religious studies, with a strong interest in Alternative Spiritualities, often called New Age. Heather soon became engrossed in the professor’s writings, and how her own belief system was affected by the study of this collection is a fascinating aspect of this book. Author Isobel Blackthorn has crafted a thought-provoking, insightful book in The Unlikely Occultist: A Biographical Novel of Alice A. Bailey. The journey of Alice is told in a chronological format, including both her personal life and her work in the spiritual realm.

This biographical novel is written in an easy-to-read, flowing manner. It describes the facts of Alice Bailey’s life – the early years of strong Christian beliefs; her commitment to service; the expansion of her spiritual beliefs; the telepathic connection with several Masters; her marriages and mothering three daughters. It also includes how some spiritualists accepted and others vilified her prolific writings and presentations. How Isobel Blackthorn interweaves the life of Alice of the last century and the life of Heather at the present time is truly masterful. This book provides a context for anyone interested in Alice’s teachings and books, the Arcane School, or organizations she or her followers founded. A novel based on historical facts, The Unlikely Occultist is truly an exceptional read. – 5 STARS

Discover more herehttps://isobelblackthorn.com/the-unlikely-occultist-a-biographical-novel-of-alice-a-bailey/

The Transformative Process of Writing Fiction

Benefits for Readers

When reading, the suspension of ordinary awareness through engagement in a story world has enormous benefits of itself. Empathy, theory of mind and critical thinking are all enhanced. Reading relaxes you, de-stresses, takes you out of yourself and improves vocabulary and memory.

Then there is the enrichment that comes with engagement. Other views are expressed. Moral dilemmas confronted, insights into human nature given. We learn stuff! Tons has been written by psychologists and educators about how fiction benefits readers. What about the benefits for writers?

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Benefits for Writers

I’ve been writing fiction for over a decade and I often reflect on how the process has changed me for the better. One thing I found early on is that writing fiction might be a solitary act but the writer is never really alone. They have for company the imaginary world they have created and that world can be all-consuming.

Creative writing is multifaceted. Everyone surely knows composing good fiction requires and develops the imagination. But I think it does a whole lot more than that.

The act of creating sentences in a story is a form of meditation in which the writer’s own sense of self is temporarily suspended as they enter the flow. There are therapeutic benefits embedded in the act. Self-forgetfulness is a release from all of the worries and preoccupations of daily life. A soothing, centring, focusing takes place, and the more the writer practices the craft, the stronger, the more complete this self-forgetting becomes. All art and craft does this, including and even especially knitting and needlework, anything that brings the mind to a single point of focus beyond the self. Writing goes the extra mile as it replaces the self-forgetting with an imaginary world of the writer’s own making. There is nothing more thrilling than watching all those sentences come together into chapters as the story grows and grows.

The various elements of the craft of writing require different skillsets and position the writer differently.

Action scenes bring the writer very close to the story in a process of imaginative embodiment. I find action the hardest element of storytelling to write, only because, for me at least, an action scene cannot be written in one hit. There are layers to build and each sentence requires a lot of crafting and altering to make sure the reader is right there with the writer, living the action. Good action writing disappears from view as the reader engages with the story. Any tiny thing that jars and brings the reader back to the realisation that they are reading rather than actually living the story is to be avoided. A lot of fine judgements have to be made to get everything sitting right and pacing is crucial. I daresay some writers find writing action natural and easy. I’m a little envious! I think my failing is that I am inclined to rush.

Description is built out of blocks of sensory observation, pieced together like a work of impressionist art, the writer standing back, just as the painter stands back to observe the canvas. I find writing description rewarding. I enjoy shunting around phrases, making sure a descriptive passage flows well and is very much embedded in the story through the eyes of the narrator and/or protagonist. It’s important not to overdo it. Sometimes, two words are enough to describe something. As ever with writing, description involves lots of fine judgements and a dollop of style.

Dialogue, for me at least, is like channelling voices. I write dialogue stream of consciousness style and figure out the attributions and tightening and styling afterwards. Dialogue can be ideas-driven, sometimes intuitive, or it can simply be a shorthand way to progress the story. I find dialogue easy to write and very pleasurable but I know other writers don’t. I seem to have an internal editor that cuts out most of the fat before the words appear on the page. The trick with dialogue is to pare things down to a minimum so that a conversation appears to be natural and lively but is not at all how real people speak. The art of writing dialogue also develops a kind of inner poise.

Reflective passages require the writer to enter the mind of their protagonist or character via the narrator who is in charge of the voice or tone of the work. Empathy is required and is also developed through this extraordinary process of giving voice to the thoughts and feelings of the imaginary other. For me, reflection is the best part of the writing process. It just seems to land on the page fully formed. But it is a kind of brainstorm and the better you are at brainstorming the easier reflective writing will be. Stands to reason, then, that this element of creative writing develops our critical thinking skills and expands the higher mind.

Telling a story through combining the elements of action, description, dialogue and reflection requires another skillset. The writer needs an idea or premise and a plot and they need to follow the conventions of genre and storytelling. Above all, the writer needs to embody a story, bit by bit and make it whole. A story is a synthesis of its parts. Once the first draft is written and the story is told, the writer holds that entirety in their mind as they tinker with all those parts. This process is expansive and stretches the mind of the reader. It’s a visioning thing.

All creative arts offer the potential of a pathway to wholeness. I have found over the past decade that writing fiction full time has enriched my life in ways I could not have thought possible. There’s the satisfaction side when others tell you your story is pretty good. But that is only a small part of the gains. Imagination, intuition, empathy, poise, focus, concentration – all these attributes and qualities have grown in me through writing fiction. And I have managed to lay to rest a whole heap of junk in my life. I’ve developed a sense of humour and proportion. Above all, I am a lot more detached about the hard stuff that happens to me as it does to all of us. And I have a fabulous way to work through the things that bother me.

I might have developed the habit of solitude to the detriment of other areas of my life. I might have lost interest in other pursuits like cooking. But I am contented, satisfied, the happiest I have ever been. If anyone questions why writers write, I hope I’ve provided a few insights to offer up in our defence. I firmly believe creative writing is an excellent way to grow as a person.

Book Review: The Plot Against Heaven by Mark Kirkbride

About The plot against heaven

Death doesn’t stand a chance against love.

Hell-bent on confronting God after the death of wife Kate, Paul gate-crashes Heaven. With immigration problems and a wall, Heaven turns out to be nowhere near as welcoming as expected. Both Heaven and Hell are modern and militarized, and the cold war that exists between them is about to heat up, with him in the middle of it. Caught on the wrong side of Heaven, Paul faces an impossible choice if he’s to have any hope of seeing his wife again.

Death doesn’t stand a chance against love.

My Thoughts

This is an intriguing little book – just a few hours read – that takes you across unexpected vistas of the afterlife – God in his police state, the Devil in his Casino, both too self-absorbed to give much time to our heartbroken hero, who is only there because he wants to find his wife, and who never meant to get caught up like this… The working out of it nicely captures the paradox of the idea of a war between heaven and hell: what could it look like, such a war? Kirkbride forces it to absurdity, giving both sides a panoply of military equipment and personnel, not to mention the PR men, spinning their propaganda – this is no different from all the other wars, in our own worlds, all of them billed from both sides as battles between good and evil, with the accident of where one happens to live determining one’s allegiance. Kirkbride doesn’t appear to take sides – the Devil, as always, gets the better lines and the more attractive characters, but there is a redemptive moment at the end, reminiscent of the strange scene at the end of Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey, where God gets a better look-in. It’s not a tract: the theological issues take second fiddle, in the end, to a touching love story – and a twist to die for.

Many thanks to Blackthorn Book Tours for the chance to read this book!

Book Review: Cancer Daily Life by Carola Schmidt

About Cancer Daily Life

Cancer Daily Life is a bittersweet collection of single and double-frame strips that only readers who are highly involved with the C world could relate to. It’s sometimes cute and sweet, sometimes acid, sometimes trivial, sometimes funny, just like daily life.

It’s ideal:

*For adolescents and adults age 12 to 100 years old or older

*As a gift for a friend who received a diagnosis of any type of cancer

*As a gift for a friend who will start or is undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy

*When you have a family member or friend aged 12+ coping with cancer, and you don’t know what to say

*When a friend or family member with cancer feels stressed and needs to know they are not alone in this

My Thoughts


A child with cancer: for most of us, our children blessed with health, the idea is too shocking: one would rather not think about it. But of course, for the children concerned, cancer becomes ordinary, their daily life. This little picture book depicts a series of critical points in that daily life, that hurt, have to be tolerated, become ordinary – but does so in a way that remains warm and tender and upbeat. It is a book of charming pictures – just a few words.

The issues it glances at will be familiar to anyone who has suffered cancer treatment – the waiting, the difficult reactions of friends and family, the side effects. It will speak to teenagers who will assume it’s for little kids but read it anyway and find it is also for them. It will speak to the little ones who will find different things in it. It will speak to their parents and family and friends of all ages – and perhaps flag up a few paths not to go down.

I was given access to this little book by Blackthorn Book Tours who are giving copies to clinics around the world where children with cancer are treated without charge. A welcome addition to all their waiting rooms.

You can find your copy of this lovely book here – https://www.amazon.com/Cancer-Daily-Life-Carola-Schmidt/dp/B08DSYSP3G

Book Review: The Patchwork Prince Book 1 Stumbling Stoned by A. van Wyck

I’m delighted to review Stumbling Stoned (The Patchwork Prince Book 1) for Blackthorn Book Tours!

About The Patchwork Prince – Stumbling Stoned

State-sponsored drugs in the megaton range. More rice pudding than I could shake a spork at. And a little padded terrarium of my very own.

If you’d told me yesterday that, come morning, I’d be hunted by the police, the mob, the supernatural (and a cat), I’d have laughed in your face. Granted, I’d have laughed in your face regardless (Clozapine gives me the giggles). Then I’d have gone looking for your flying DeLorean in the nuthouse parking lot.

An epic misadventure involving drugs, sorcery, cannibalism, love and other necessary evils.

My Thoughts

Stumbling Stoned is a celebration of a particular brand of surreal : quirky, violent, gross, chaotic – an excited celebration of drug culture , that embraces the transgressive, the outrageous, the dangerous, the unconstrained, the unpredictable. Like Mad Magazine on steroids, it races through its 300 odd pages with the wild and gleeful abandonment of familiar novelistic restraints (such as a semi-coherent plot, or a single arc of reality, or regard for a particular genre). Mafia bosses and a psychiatrist vie for attention with witches and a zombie skeleton. There are lapses of time and place and person. The hero can accidentally eat and then vomit up an assailant’s finger. He occasionally has superpowers.

If you search this book for moral nourishment, you will find thin pickings. At one point our hero sides with an abducted damsel rather than the sex traffickers who are abducting her (well done!) though there are no great heroics and most of the victims he leaves behind. He’s on a quest for a sense of identity, which I guess is creditable in a psychological novel. There may be other creditable moments but they don’t, in retrospect occur to me. It’s not that sort of book.

On the other hand, it is sharp and slick in its writing and the author is clearly witty. Much of the book is ‘actually’ amusing (in that rather contentless way that stoned people often ‘imagine’ they are being amusing). And it is, it would appear, a thoroughly ‘novel’ novel, and ‘once off’ is something of a recommendation (though the promise of a sequel – this is only book one – rather undermines this premise). But let me give it the benefit of the doubt. It is no more absurd than Buster Keaton or the Marx Brothers, no more drug crazed than much of Coleridge, no more elusive in its narrative arc than Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps one day, like them, it will gain a cult following or be treated with reverence as a classic. Such elevation is slightly more plausible than its plot, so I award these stars to mark my place in its history in case that happens. Future enthusiasts: I was here before you were.

About the Author

André van Wyck is a South African-born writer and law school graduate. Despite the hardships of earning coffee money, and in between yelling at Duolingo, he perseveres at his passion: writing.

“When I started The Waking Worlds series, it was as an exercise in exorcism – a way to rid myself of this ‘writing nonsense’ and get back to my nine-to-five… It did not work out so well.”

His debut novel, A Clatter of Chains, published on Amazon’s Kindle Store in 2016. The supposed palate cleanser (before starting the second installment) turned into a book in its own right and delayed publication of A Fray of Furies considerably. Stumbling Stoned was published in 2018 and advanced to the semi-finals of the vaunted Booklife Prize.

André lives in Luxembourg, with his Industrial Psychologist wife and imaginary pet rock.

Alice Bailey in 1920 at Theosophical HQ Krotona

There are so few photos of Alice Bailey which is why I’m delighted to share this digitally enhanced image courtesy of Steven Chernikeeff, original photo courtesy of the Lucis Trust. The image appears in the original in my biography Alice A. Bailey: Life & Legacy.

This image of Alice Bailey – then Mrs Alice Evans – seated on a rustic bench in the grounds of Krotona, Hollywood, Los Angeles is delightful. She was almost forty years old and even with her hand obscuring part of her face it is easy to see how beautiful she was.

Here she is again in the same photo, this time with her future husband Foster Bailey. Both held key positions in the administration of the USA branch of the Theosophical Society, Alice as editor of The Messenger, the sectional magazine, and Foster as National Secretary.

And here seated with the couple is editor of The Theosophist Bahman Pestonji Wadia who had been sent by TS head Annie Besant to try to help sort out an ongoing organisational dispute that Alice and Foster were embroiled in. The dispute is detailed in depth in my biography, along with a possible explanation of why Alice looks so contended in the photo. She wasn’t to know what 1920 would bring.

getbook.at/AliceBaileyBiography

https://isobelblackthorn.com/alice-a-bailey-life-and-legacy/

Praise for Alice Bailey biography

I’m truly humbled by all the praise pouring in for my biography of Alice Bailey. Such kind words as these warm my heart.

“This is so much more than a very detailed biography of Alice Ann Bailey; it is also a very comprehensive review of the many interesting groups and people throughout the history of theosophical thought and the continuing impulse of the Ageless Wisdom teachings. At every turn we feel like we are on intimate terms with the lives and events of this span of time, and the overall view is awesome and inspiring.” – Gail Jolley, School for Esoteric Studies.

“Our thanks to Dr Blackthorn for her insights into the life of one of the most influential esoteric teachers of the twentieth century. As scribe for the Tibetan Master, Alice Ann Bailey provided a body of teachings unrivaled in their importance at the dawn of the Aquarian Age.” John F. Nash, PhD www.uriel.com

“A thorough documentation of Blackthorn’s years of dedicated research into Alice Bailey’s life and spiritual output. This book encapsulates the wide-ranging illumination which flowed through Bailey’s life, along with its trials and triumphs. Gaps are filled and misconceptions corrected, which have allowed many a conspiracy theory and error to proliferate. A treasure for the serious student of life in all its dimensions.” – Murray Stentiford, physicist and student of universal human spirituality

“A must-read for any Bailey student, anyone interested in the New Age movement, and for those who wonder, amidst our confused and divided world, where will it all end?“-  Steven Chernikeeff, author of Esoteric Apprentice

“A really enjoyable read! A clear light shining on a very important spiritual scribe of our age, and that to come. The inclusion of historical context gives great flavor and understanding of AAB’s challenging life, and clears up many misunderstandings of her views. An erudite explanation of living theosophy for general consumption – no mean feat!” – Brenton Phillis,  www.heartforchange.net

“As a long time student of the blue books and someone who deeply admires AAB I couldn’t have asked for a better biography. It is all I hope for and more, combining scholarship and heart. A pleasure to read. Many clues are drawn together to provide a fuller picture of AAB. New information is given. Key periods in her life are given new light – such as the Ascona period. Alice Bailey and her writings are made more accessible and put into historic and esoteric context. It is high time the myths and misconceptions about AAB and her writings be dispelled and she takes her place as one of the greatest esoteric thinkers of the 20th Century. Isobel Blackthorn has done a great service to Alice Bailey’s legacy and provided a gateway for a new generation of Alice Bailey students.” – Patrick Chouinard, theosophical scholar and teacher

“This remarkable, deeply researched book on Alice Bailey is a fascinating read for anyone who has an interest in the occult, Theosophy, the origins of the New Age movement, spirituality or the esoteric. Isobel Blackthorn has done an extraordinary job of writing an accessible biography of a unique woman whose ideas and writings have inspired generations, yet remains obscured and half-forgotten in history.” ~ Right Worshipful Master K. Crombie, 18° Freemason.

“This is a remarkable biography for its sheer scope and level of detail, placing Alice Bailey clearly amid her spiritual contemporaries. One of the many strengths of Alice A. Bailey: Life and Legacy is the way it enables the reader to follow the maturation of Bailey’s teachings, and to witness how through Bailey’s unique spiritual guidance, she arrived at such a large vision for humankind.”  – Maggie Hamilton, author of The Secret World of Fairies

“I don’t think you will find a more thorough and documented treatment of Bailey’s life. Extremely well researched.” Dr Lisa Love

“One of the most fascinating visionaries of the 20th century is Alice A. Bailey, often called the Mother of the New Age Movement. Although her cultural influence has been immense she is still very much vilified and even neglected by academic scholars of Western Esotericism. Hopefully this situation will change with the biography Alice A. Bailey: Life & Legacy by Isobel Blackthorn. She is eminently qualified for this difficult task, holding a PhD from the University of Western Sydney for her research on the texts of Alice Bailey. Blackthorn´s study is a treasure trove of new data on the life and work of Alice Bailey, The Arcane School and the many organizations and activities based on her writings. This biography is an important and ground-breaking contribution to our understanding of, not just Alice Bailey, but also the Esoteric Tradition, the third intellectual force or pillar in cultural history alongside science and religion. Isobel Blackthorn is to be commended for an excellent work of interest to all serious students of esotericism.” Håkan Blomqvist, Sweden Librarian and co-founder of Archives for the Unexplained (AFU)

“This biography details the turbulent life of Alice Bailey, the Mother of the New Age. An orphan by the age of eight, living a rigidly disciplined childhood with grandparents, a violent husband, lone parenthood, the struggle for survival, and constant ill health. Hardly a promising start for the woman who brought so much esoteric knowledge to the world through her writing and teaching. Isobel Blackthorn’s thorough research and compelling style present the polarity of experiences of Alice Bailey: admiration and antagonism, leadership and service, devotion and betrayal, and the accumulation of wisdom that underpins, without acknowledgement, much of our modern belief systems. Lovers of enlightenment and esoteric philosophy will treasure this book.” – Veronica Schwarz, author and editor.

“Isobel Blackthorn, does an excellent job of weaving the many threads of Bailey’s life and works into a cohesive, well-written and very readable biography with just the right balance of biographical details and critical discussion around the intellectual, spiritual and theosophical thoughts and tenets that emerged at different points along Bailey’s life journey. The contention around Bailey’s legacy is also addressed and will be of particular interest to specialist readers as will the author’s inclusion of a good range of photos, lists and extensive chapter notes. The book’s subject matter is not for everyone but I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in esoteric thought and/or the subjective nature of spiritual experience in general and in the contribution of Alice Bailey to New Age ideas in particular.” – Carmel Bendon, Scholar in Medieval Literature and Culture

 

Purchase on Amazon here – getbook.at/AliceBaileyBiography

Or through all good booksellers!

 

A Prison in the Sun wins Readers’ Favorite Book Award Finalist 2020

I am excited to announce A Prison in the Sun, Book 3 in my Canary Islands Mysteries Series, has received the Readers’ Favorite Book Award Finalist award.

I’m over the moon!!

About A Prison in the Sun

After millennial ghostwriter Trevor Moore rents an old farmhouse in Fuerteventura, he moves in to find his muse.

Instead, he discovers a rucksack filled with cash. Who does it belong to – and should he hand it in… or keep it?

Struggling to make up his mind, Trevor unravels the harrowing true story of a little-known concentration camp that incarcerated gay men in the 1950s and 60s.

Find out more here:

https://isobelblackthorn.com/canary-islands-novels/a-prison-in-the-sun/

http://mybook.to/prisonsun

Fuerteventura history

Blackthorn Book Tours book review Central City by Indy Perro

About Central City

Kane Kulpa learned which laws could be bent and which broken after a short stint in prison courtesy of Detective Vincent Bayonne. Bound by time, integrity, and the reality of life in Central City, Bayonne and Kane made peace with the past. Now, gang tension spirals from corrupt to deadly, and a series of murders stresses Kane and Bayonne’s uneasy alliance. Kane balances on a razor’s edge to protect his bar, power, life, and family, and Bayonne hustles to keep another lonely man from being strangled.

Central City is a city struggling for identity. The cops protect the rackets, and the criminals shelter the injured. Innocence is only an appearance, and rage finds a voice.

My Thoughts

 

What makes one man into a successful detective? Or an unsuccessful one?  What makes another man into a crime baron?  Or a monster?  What pushes one woman into prostitution, another into an unhappy marriage?  What drives them? How different are they, really, under the skin?  These are questions that are explored in this novel – part crime noir, part meditation on in human motivation.  Indy Perro doesn’t go for the easy answers, which gives this book a terrific depth of perspective.

At the background of the story there are the lives of the little people – prostitutes, small businesses, their clients, caught up in a turf war between rival crime syndicates.  Perro makes real people out of all of these players, and as the central narrative touches each of them, it is always clear that they have their reasons for the choices that they make, the roles that they take.

In format at least it is police procedural in the crime noir tradition – a dedicated police officer with controversial methods and an unpromising side-kick tries to unmask a serial killer who is haunting the brothels of Central City.  The plot is well worked out, with enough twists and misdirections to keep one interested, but the central “whodunit?” is signposted – albeit indirectly – a little too clearly.  So I guessed the two chief reveals of the story quite a while before they appeared.  There are also moments when the “philosophical points” are made a little too explicitly and feel a bit “preachy”. This is a novel by an academic, and one feels that the author may have a bit too much to prove: he wants to write a crime novel that makes the reader think, and he succeeds in this – but he also wants to write a crime novel that will let the reader know that the writer is a thinker. The book would have been better if he’d worked less hard at that.  Anyone who is interested in such things will work out that the writer thinks deeply and is a wise sort of fellow.

This is a debut novel but it feels like the start of a series – a series that will mellow as the author gains in confidence and will give readers a feast. Whatever else, this is a thoroughly enjoyable example of its genre, and I look forward to more from this talented author.

 About Indy Perro

Indy Perro is a novelist, an independent thinker, and a recovering academic. Indy has a degree in history, graduate degrees in religious studies, comparative literature, and education, and has spent more than a decade teaching philosophy, religious studies, writing, and literature. While continuing numerous side projects and building a career as an author, Indy launched his website, Indyperro.com, to reach a larger audience, an audience interested in the practice of writing. “We’re all in this together. Let’s connect, have a conversation, and engage each other to generate meaning.”

 

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Central-City-Indy-Perro/dp/1952258006