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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Birthday Not-Celebration Giveaway!

So, today, April 28th, is my birthday, and I'm not really celebrating.

Don't get me wrong--I have nothing against birthdays. Birthdays are cool. Turning 56 is a little yawnnnnnn... but mostly, I'm just not doing anything in particular, because, well, me.

For instance, my friend John is coming over tonight for a BBQ and to help me out in the garden because my twisted knee is still, you know, twisted. We'll hang out, eat yummy food, and watch a movie. But it doesn't have anything to do with my birthday. We would have done it anyway.

And the closest I came to getting myself a present was to spend money redoing my driveway. Yes, it is distinctly possible I suck at this. (pictures of driveway to follow)

Which is why the closest I am going to come to an actual celebration of my birthday is by giving away stuff to y'all. Just because that's the way I roll. I asked on Facebook if I should do a giveaway with a VEILED MAGIC theme, or a WICKEDLY POWERFUL theme, or one focused on the upcoming first Rider book, DANGEROUSLY CHARMING
and it was a tie between Veiled Magic and Dangerously Charming. (Thanks. Jeez.)

So here is the prize pack:

Birthday giveaway!
 The first few pieces of Dangerously Charming swag, including a notebook and a postcard magnet, plus another notebook and a tote bag for Veiled Magic, and a broom pen just because.

In case you were wondering what I wanted for my birthday (I know you were), I'd really love to get a few more reviews for Veiled Magic and Wickedly Powerful. So if you've read them, pretty please? Let everyone else know that you liked them?

And now, happy my birthday to you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 22, 2016

Feline Friday: Lounging Around

It has been a while since I did a Feline Friday post. Clearly, I'm overdue. (No, really--the cats told me so.)

I'm still recovering from severely twisting my knee three weeks ago, and other than having people drive me back and forth to work (I still can't drive, although I did make a very short excursion to the post office down the street on Wednesday to mail off giveaway prizes, so hopefully soon...) I'm basically stuck inside the house.

This has given me a lot of opportunities to cat-watch, as you might imagine. So I took some extra pictures. Here's one of my favorites:

That's Magic the Cat (Queen of the Universe) looking slightly Put Out that her pal Angus has the temerity to touch her tail. But I think it's sweet. Angus has been battling an eye issue (probably viral) one and off since January, and for the last three weeks I've been trying to get antibiotic eye drops into his right eye three times a day. He views this as akin to the tortures of hell, and being a skittish cat to begin with, he has now started running away as soon as I come within five feet of him. Given that he has four working knees and I only have one, this had made the entire thing an interesting challenge... He's now on an oral anti-viral as well, but thankfully my beloved vet was able to get a compounding pharmacy to make it up in liquid form. It was supposed to get squirted directly into his mouth, but not only did that mean catching him an extra two times a day, but it apparently tasted NASTY, since he foamed at the mouth the one time I tried it. Now it is hidden in wet food, and apparently that's working. SIGH.

Magic and Mystic enjoying the sunlight.

Angus, who took over the patch of sun when Mystic got up, looking perfectly happy as long as I didn't make any fast moves.

After the first bad week, I went back to doing my energy healing work on my regular client/pal Julie. As you can see here, Magic often gets up and helps. It's amazing how often she puts a paw on just the right spot. (You can just see Angus curled up on a catnip pillow on the futon in the background.)

Mystic, looking majestic.

Little Luna, who stays in the upstairs room most of the time because she is too aggressive with Magic and Mystic is too aggressive with her, has gotten the short end of the stick since I hurt myself, since getting up and down the stairs is difficult. Some days, doing it twice to feed her is all I can manage. But there have been a few days when I managed to catch Mystic and Magic napping in the bedroom, shut the door, and let Luna come run around for a few hours. Here she is enjoying the first day of open windows.

Happy Feline Friday to you! Anything fun planned for the weekend?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Nine Months Until the Tarot Deck! Guest Post by Elisabeth Alba

This is cross-posted from the blog of Elisabeth Alba, who illustrated the Everyday Witch Tarot I wrote for Llewellyn. Here's what she had to say as we hit the (more or less) nine month mark before the deck is released:

Hi All! Well Deborah and I don’t know the exact publication date yet, nor can we share the packaging design, but at least we have less than a year until publication! We’re so excited! We thought it was time to share another image.

The 5 of Wands… when I first read the description that Deborah wrote, I was dreading working on this image. The description: “Five witches in black hats (some tilted crookedly in the heat of the moment) and various color capes are standing around a cauldron. Each holds a parchment scroll (or a toad dangling by one leg, or some herb) in one hand and a wand in another, and they are clearly arguing about who has the best recipe for whatever spell they’re working on. To the right, five cats of different colors are hissing at each other. Unnoticed by the witches, the potion in the cauldron is beginning to seep over the edge and onto the ground and small flames are springing up. The mood is of unnecessary and unproductive argument among people who truly agree.”

The Wands had a few multi-character cards, AND this one included five cats to boot! A daunting composition to figure out.
Here is my rough sketch. You can see I made a few adjustments from the description:
Then I took reference for the witches, using myself as the model for all five of them because I was in Europe at the time and had no one else I could use. The reference is pretty hilarious…
In the end though, it became one of my favorite cards and I love the colors. Here’s the final image (followed by the full text)!
“I know best! No, I do!”

Sometimes it is hard to work with other people. Other times, it’s impossible.
“These witches are the best of friends and all of them are skillful and knowledgeable. Just think what they could achieve if they could actually cooperate. Unfortunately, each one is sure that she has the best recipe, or knows the most powerful ingredients, or which direction to stir the pot in. Now they’re so busy arguing, nobody is stirring the pot, and you can almost see the explosion that is sure to come. Let’s hope they come to their senses in time and remember that they can achieve much more working together if they can all just stop trying to be the one who is right. Things to consider: If the Five of Wands shows up in your reading, it probably means that you are dealing with some kind of chaotic situation involving other people. Family, co-workers, friends—whoever it is, they clearly aren’t playing nice together. Are you? Maybe you can be the peacemaker, the one who helps everyone to come together in a more productive way. Maybe this is a situation that can’t be resolved, and you would be better off walking away. Sadly, you can’t make other people behave reasonably, but you can make sure that you aren’t making things worse by letting your ego or pride get in the way of cooperation. You wouldn’t do that, would you?”

The deck will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in January 2017.
Meanwhile, you should consider pre-ordering the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot, written by Melanie Marquis and illustrated by my husband, Scott Murphy! :D

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I Love Fairy Tales Giveaway

As you've probably figured out by now, I love modern retellings of old fairy tales. That's why I ended up writing the Baba Yaga series, based on an updated version of the old Russian Fairy tales of a sometime wicked/sometimes not witch. Of course, like all modern retellings, my version is a little bit different from the original.

Barbara, my modern Baba Yaga, complete with her dragon-disguised-as-a-dog

A rendition of the classic Baba Yaga, riding in her mortar, steered by a pestle. (Barbara's now looks like a BMW motorcycle)
I've been thinking* about just how much I love these kinds of stories lately because my lovely friend Sierra (also my research goddess) recommended a cool book by Naomi Novak, UPROOTED. This isn't an updated fairy tale at all, really, just a new one set in a Slavic world like the one the Baba Yagas come from. There is a poor peasant girl who turns out to have magic, a powerful magician named The Dragon, and, well, it's just wonderful.

You should read this.
I have so many fairy tales, both old and new, that I love. Jim C. Hines did a great series that put an entirely new spin on the traditional princesses, starting with The Stepsister Scheme. Robin McKinley has written a bunch of them. So I thought we'd spend a little time celebrating all of our favorites. Which means a fun giveaway, of course!
I've put together a prize pack including the winner's choice of one of my Baba Yaga books (Wickedly DangerousWickedly Wonderful, or Wickedly Powerful), a cute stuffed dragon, a 3D magnet that says "You say WICKED like it is a Bad Thing" (that one cracks me up), a Wicked Good Beer bottle opener (I found those on Cape Cod last summer and couldn't resist--they're magnetic too, so they can go right on the fridge), a broom pen, and some bookmarks and such. A fun fairy tale kinda giveaway, you might say.

Sorry, black cat not included. She was just supervising, as usual.
 You can enter using the Rafflecopter form, and as always, you get extra points for doing the stuff that makes me really happy, like buying a new book or putting up a review of one of the ones you've read (it has to be a new review, but you can always copy an older one to a different place, like Goodreads). Or you can just leave a comment here, answering this question:

What is your favorite modern or classic fairy tale?

I can't wait to see what you all have to say!

*This is what happens when I'm laid up with a twisted knee.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Don't Try This At Home

So, you might have noticed that things have been a bit quiet over here lately. There's a reason for this. (Those of you who follow me on Facebook probably already know what it is.) Last Saturday, I tried out my new contortionist act, and it didn't go well.

Okay, that's not exactly what happened. It seemed like a simple plan. I ordered a new futon to replace the really beat up hand-me-down twin mattress and box spring in the upstairs guest bedroom (aka "the room where Luna lives"). I cleaned the room, put Luna and her litter box in the other upstairs room, and when the futon arrived, my lovely friend John came over with his truck so he could help me carry down the old mattresses, take them to the dump, and then put together the futon--mostly in preparation for a visit this summer by my daughter Jennifer, but also because Luna had reduced the already crappy mattresses to this:

Gee, I don't know why Jenn didn't want to keep sleeping on these...
So John and I very carefully carried the top of the mattress down the stairs and put it in his truck. Very carefully, because I have steep, narrow, treacherous old farmhouse stairs.

Nice paint job, huh? I did that. That's the landing and the top three stairs.
 Then we went back for the box spring...and things went HORRIBLY WRONG.

I swear, I was being really careful. I've lived in this house for 14 1/2 years and I know how tricky the stairs are. And yet, somehow, while John was at the bottom of the stairs with one end of the box spring, and I was coming down the top with the other end, I missed a step. (Note how tall the steps are. Old farmhouses. They really are trying to kill you.) So my left foot ended up on the landing, while my right foot was still on the second stair up.

There might have been screaming. (John swears there wasn't cursing, but I'm not sure I believe him.) In short, I twisted/torqued/screwed the crap out of my right knee. Ow.

I could tell as soon as I did it that it was Very Bad. Sometimes you just know. We got ice on it right away. I took arnica. Wrapped it with an Ace bandage while we quickly ran to the dump, and stayed off of it the best I could while we put together the futon. [Which wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but after all this, the damned thing is staying. Jenn, you better love it. I'm just sayin'.]

I was pretty sure I hadn't torn anything, although it can be tough to tell. The knee blew up like a balloon (and not one of those fun, party balloons) but didn't turn black and blue, and my former-nurse friend agreed with me that if I went to Urgent Care, they'd basically charge me a lot of money to tell me to R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevate) plus take ibuprofen, all of which I was already doing. So this has pretty much been my week:

Couch, ice packs, borrowed quad-cane, a bunch of pillows. Watching the unseasonable snow come down outside the window.
I can't drive--hell, I can barely walk--so I had to find people to fill in for me at work. (Which they very kindly did.) Friends have brought me food, helped to feed Luna upstairs (I can get up the stairs, but it ain't pleasant), put out birdseed, brought me an Ace compression bandage, even today, helped me wash my hair in the sink, since I can't get in and out of the large cast iron tub that holds my shower.

My friend John took me to acupuncture on Tuesday, where my acupuncturist (who happens to be a neurologist most of the time) confirmed that I was doing all the right things, and that unless it still wasn't improving in a couple of weeks, there wasn't much point in going to the doctor. Mostly, he said, it was going to take time. Probably a lot of time. Bah.

There have been a few compensations:

Kitties to keep me company, and good books to read. Thankfully, I have a LOT of books on the TBR shelf.
I thought I'd get a lot of writing done, but to be honest, the first few days I mostly just lay on the couch and read. Apparently your body doesn't like it when you throw it down the stairs. Go figure.

I'm finally starting to get a little bit of writing done, and my editor loved the manuscript I sent her for DANGEROUSLY CHARMING, so the copy edits are done on that--whew. Now I'm working on Gregori's story, which we're calling DANGEROUSLY DIVINE, and spending a lot of quality time with ice packs, not getting much of anything done. Sigh.

Did I mention? Don't try this at home, kids.

I think I should do some kind of giveaway. (Even though it will be a while before I can get to the post office to mail it out.) How about the signed book of the winner's choice to the person who comes up with the most entertaining/amusing/clever suggestion for what to do with myself while I'm laid up? Keep it clean, people. I'm injured here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Belated Weekend Report with Pictures

I meant to post this on Monday, but, well, MONDAY.

This was my weekend:

I did some spring cleaning, including moving the Minerva altar from the living room to the bedroom (I have altar shelves in both rooms, and the living room one tends to be focused on whatever is going on right now--often whichever book I'm working on--and I thought that since Minerva spent most of her time in the bedroom, she'd rather be there) and changing the comforter cover from the winter one to the spring one. This was actually a pretty emotional endeavor, because it meant washing the last of Minerva's fur and smell off of the other comforter cover. On the other hand, it really needed washing, because the last weeks of her life she had been spitting medicine all over it. (She was NOT happy about taking meds.)
Here's the altar now--that little wooden box with her picture on top of it has her ashes in it. A lovely sympathy card from my friend Karen Rose Smith is to the left.

Here is the gorgeous spring comforter (which was made especially for me, along with the wall hanging above it, by one of the artists at The Artisans' Guild)

The same bed, with cats a few hours later. If you look closely at Angus, the yellow cat, you can see that he is holding his right eye partially closed. He has something going on with it--probably viral, and returned from an occurrence a month ago--and I have to put antibiotic ointment in it twice a day. You can imagine how well THAT'S going.

Lest you think these guys are the only ones getting attention, I also spent some time playing with Luna. I need to do a post about her soon--did you realize I've had her for over a year?

I know the pictures are a little blurry...she rarely stops moving!


On Sunday, my friends Ellen and Chris and I had a small birthday celebration for Jo, my step-daughter's mom. Some of you may be aware that Jo, as well as being sort-of family, came to Blue Moon Circle rituals for a couple of years before she had a massive heart attack a little more than a year ago. To be honest, no one expected her to be celebrating this birthday (she's since had another smaller heart attack, open-heart bypass surgery, and is in her 11th year of dialysis), but she's tougher than she looks. Or more stubborn. Either way, we broke her out of the nursing home for a few hours so we could celebrate her turning 54. She had a great time.

Chris made these great cupcakes

Jo asked for pizza, so that's what we had.

Blowing out the candle

Opening gifts

Of course, in with all of the cleaning and partying, I also did a lot of writing. Here's a picture from Saturday evening of Magic helping me.

The Red Writing Chair

So tell me, what did you do last weekend? Anything interesting planned for the one ahead?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Guest Author & Giveaway: Toni McGee Causey

I have a confession to make right off the bat: I never intended to read Toni McGee Causey's (aka T. M. Causey) book, THE SAINTS OF THE LOST AND FOUND. Not because I didn't expect it to be good--I'd read a number of Toni's earlier humorous cozy mysteries and liked them a lot, and the book has been getting amazing buzz. But because it was the kind of book I don't read. Way darker than I am normally comfortable with, and with a lot of topics I avoid like the plague, including serial killers, abused women, and dead children. But I wanted to host Toni here on the blog, so I thought I'd at least read the first few pages, so I could talk about it with some knowledge.

But then I ran into an unexpected problem. The book isn't just good--it's GREAT. So great that I couldn't stop reading it, even when it pushed me well past my comfort zones. Toni's earlier books were lovely; light, frothy, amusing entertainment. This? This is a damned masterpiece. (And no, she didn't pay me to say so.) The writing was stellar, the characters enthralling, the story so intense that I had to keep reading to find out what happened. And while I'm going to warn y'all that there are definitely some trigger warnings for this book, it is also well worth reading. I am giving it my highest possible recommendation. She calls this book "Southern Gothic Suspense." I call it one of the best books I have ever read in my life.

I love this cover too--and Toni did that as well!
I asked Toni to come post a guest blog, and here it is. She'll be giving away a signed copy of the book (or an e-copy, if the winner prefers) plus a $25 gift card to the bookstore of the winner's choice (she'll do international as long as the card can be purchased there electronically) to one lucky commenter this Friday, the first of April. Take it away, Toni, and thanks for stopping by!

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

One of the most dreaded questions a writer can field is the 'Where do you get your ideas' question, especially with regard to longer fiction. It's the kind of query that has a million answers, and often the author has no real clue how they put this idea with that one, stowing them somewhere in the crannies of their minds where the random ideas may bump and roll around until they become so entangled, they form a completely new idea. Or mess. It can work both ways. What makes this one better than that one? What makes this one the thing you knew you would use for a book, when there were a thousand other notions that seemed just as viable shunted off to the side, where hoarders even feared to tread.
This is the one time I feel like the kid at the back of the class who finally has an answer, who raises her hand with an "oh oh oh PICK ME PICK ME, I KNOW!" squeal. 

THE SAINTS OF THE LOST AND FOUND is the story of a woman, Avery Broussard, who sees lost things. Glimpses, like photo snapshots, of anything (or anyone) someone has lost bombard her as she moves through life and interacts with anyone. Lost keys, a phone, cameras, money, love. A child. Imagine having that ability to know the condition that lost thing is in, and see it, but not always be correct. She can see something lost in a wheat field, but may not know which wheat field.

Now imagine... you have that skill and you're trying to find a lost child... before a killer can finish his task... and you fail. One of your rare failures. 

Avery fails... and runs... and the story starts with just what happens when you cannot outrun your own abilities, or the vengeance someone will take for your mistakes.

So, where did that idea come from? Two odd-but-true events that took place probably fifty years apart. The first happened to my dad. The second, to me.

My dad told me his story... and he's not one to believe in anything extra-sensory. He swears it's true. He and my Paw Paw had been hunting. My dad’s family were very poor, and if  they didn’t hunt, they didn’t eat. This was back in the days of the Great Depression, and my Paw Paw’s three hunting dogs were prized because they helped most of the hunts be successful.  

 On one such trip, two of the hunting dogs returned, but the best one did not. My Paw Paw and Dad searched everywhere, and couldn’t find her. Dad was about ten years old at the time, and after they’d been searching futilely for a while, Paw Paw told him to get in the truck. They drove for about an hour (once they were out of the woods), far south of the property they’d been hunting on, and my Paw Paw pulled up to a very old house where an even older black man sat on a rocker on his front porch. His eyes were milky-white, the cataracts were so thick, he could not have seen who it was who'd driven up, and he had no phone. When Paw Paw got out of the truck, Dad was surprised that the old man started talking first—and knew who they were. Without anyone having said a thing yet.
“You lost a dog a ways back,” the old man said by way of intro, and Dad said his hair stood straight up on his head.  
“Yep,” Paw Paw said, but didn’t elaborate as the old man turned his head and sort of stared out into the trees. Trees he couldn't see.
He hummed to himself for a few minutes, kinda nodded as if figuring something out, and then said to my Paw Paw, “You know that river where you were hunting?” 
“Well, about two miles west of where you were, the river forks. You know it?”
“Take the right fork, and go on down a ways, ‘bout a mile or so, and your dog’s hung up there in the barbwire fence.”
Paw Paw thanked him, promised him some food from the hunt, and he and Dad climbed back in the truck, heading the almost hour drive back to where they’d been hunting.
My dad’s not the kind of person who believes in woo-woo stuff, especially something like this, so he indicated he thought it was all a waste of time, but they found the fork in the river, veered to the right, and about a mile from the fork, the dog was hung up in the barbwire fence. 

I probably would have dismissed the entire thing as completely far-fetched, except that it was my dad telling the story, he was sincere in his disbelief-until-he-saw-the-proof aspect, and I’d had enough oddball experiences finding things that other people had lost that I knew there could potentially be more at work than someone simply telling a tall tale. 

For many years, I’d get flashes of where something was that I was looking for... I’d “see” it, and then sure enough, that’s where it was. I’d never thought much about it other than assuming I had simply probably memorized its location as I walked through a room—maybe something akin to a photographic memory—but I never assumed it was anything extraordinary beyond just memory, until one day, a friend was telling me about her mother’s lost high-heeled red stiletto shoe (her telling me was for a story reason), and as she talked about it, I “saw” the shoe underneath a very specific kind of porch.
I asked, "Does she live in a house that's raised off the ground?"
My friend was a little surprised, and said yes.
I asked, "Is it a little higher off the ground than maybe normal... it has steps in the center of the front porch that lead up to the front door, and no railings?"
My friend was getting a little weirded out, because her mother lived in Nova Scotia, and I'd just completely described her home... Even though we both knew we'd never talked about where her mother lived, and I'd never been to Nova Scotia or to her mother's.
Then I said, "Well, I have this weird image of that red shoe. If she faces the stairs and goes to the left, behind the third pylon, there's a depression in the dirt. The shoe is lying there. But it's been chewed on by a dog.
My friend laughed, because her mother didn't have a dog, but she said she'd ask her to look anyway.
She called me right back. The shoe was where I described it, exactly. In the condition I described it.
How does that even happen? I have not a single clue.
That freaked me out. Plenty.  

Not long after, a different friend, Julie, who lived in Arizona (and I lived in Baton Rouge at the time), was desperately looking for another friend, K, who’d left a suicide note. Many mutual friends had gone out searching, but K couldn't be found. When Julie called me and told me what was happening, as she talked, I could see K... she was sitting by a large tree, eyes closed, having already died. Her white car (I didn’t know she had a white car) was parked nearby. I could sense water, but not see it, which was odd and I could also see a woman with a backpack leaning over K, not yet realizing that K had died.
I told Julie all of this. She was noticeably disappointed when she sighed and said, “Unfortunately, where we live, it's a desert. There are no trees like that, and no water.” 
And I completely understood--she was hoping for that magical solution, and I honestly couldn't give it to her. It bothered me terribly to be so wrong, but it was a long shot anyway. I told Julie, “Ignore it then, it’s just an odd image.”
She called back four hours later, devastated. They’d found our K... two hundred miles north of where she lived, sitting on the bank of a dried river bed, leaning against a giant cottonwood tree. Her white car was parked nearby. A woman with a backpack who’d been hiking with friends had found her.
She'd only died about an hour earlier (Julie believed), based on a ticket she'd paid to enter the park. Witnesses would later confirm sightings of her when she'd parked and then gone and sat by the tree.
Aside from the shock and grief for the mutual friend, the entire conversation and ensuing discovery stunned me and if it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t blame anyone for not believing it. What was worse, I didn't know what to do about it. Help people? How?
Not long after, I told a couple of people, and the first thing they did was ask me about something they’d lost. It was a near-instant reaction on their part, and sometimes it was something important, but sometimes it was something that had just eluded them and they were tired of being thwarted. Every time, I 'got' an 'image' that popped in my head. And I was almost always wrong about my guesses. I think my ratio of correct “images” to questions was so low, it probably needed multiple zeroes after a decimal point. 

I didn’t mind being constantly wrong. It was a relief, actually, because the hope that people have when they are asking about something lost is palpable, and dashing those hopes, or seeing their disappointment, was equally brutal.  

Which lead me to wondering... What if? What if you could do this for real... But you're human, you're not perfect, and you make mistakes? Would you go to the police? Would you volunteer? Where do you draw the line?
What if everyone wants your help? How do you have a life? Do you hide your ability?
What if a child's life depends on it?
What if your own life does? Or someone you love?
Years after losing K, Avery was born, and I think she’d probably been there all along, from the first time I found something... or maybe even as far back as when my dad told me that story about the hunting dog.
And those what ifs kept piling up, pressing forward, begging to be answered until I could ignore the questions no longer.
THE SAINTS OF THE LOST AND FOUND is not for the faint of heart. It's a dark book, and it may break your heart, but it may also give you hope.
For me, it's finally given me peace.

Tell us if you have ever had any sort of experience with finding lost things, or other weird paranormal oddities. And be sure to go find Toni here:

http://www.facebook.com/ToniMcGeeCauseyAuthor (for giveaways and contests)
http://www.facebook.com/ToniMcGeeCausey (more of the sillier stuff in life)

And get the book here:

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