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Friday, April 18, 2014

Feline Friday: The Nasty Cold Version

I've had a nasty cold for over a week. I'm calling it The Cold that Would Not Die because I can usually chase those suckers off in a couple of days with a lot of garlic, Vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc lozenges. The cold itself is mostly annoying--started with a sore throat for a couple of days, then segued into the popular "constant nose-blowing, head-like-a-brick" type. The worst thing about it is that is seems to make the people who have it (I've compared notes with a few friends) feel like someone took the stuffing out of them. In short, other than going in to work, I've gotten virtually nothing done. Bah.

So mostly, there has been some variation on this most days:
Sometimes that cat and the book are on the couch, but really, that's been about it. On the bright side, I get to reread lots of favorite humorous romances and call it research. Right?


Sorry. Hope you're having a good week. Everyone stay healthy, okay?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Writing Life: Starting a New Project

It’s that time again. All the current projects are done (or at a phase where I don’t need to do my bit again until later) and that means…duh duh duh…time to start a new project.

Oh boy.

This stage of a book is both exciting and scary. For me at least. Some authors just feel one or the other, I suppose. I love diving into a new project; feeling the energy stirring as the ideas come together, finding the bits and pieces that will eventually come together like one giant picture puzzle. But it is also a little overwhelming to look ahead at all the work yet to be done and wonder if my Brilliant Idea will actually work out the way I want it to.

Of course, the process is different depending on whether I am working on a nonfiction book for Llewellyn or a novel. At the beginning stage anyway, the nonfiction is a lot easier. I figure out what the book is about, write up an outline/table of contents, and then start plugging away at it. (Assuming that my editor Elysia is at least potentially interested. If she’s not, I come up with another idea.)

Novels are a lot trickier. A LOT trickier. I have to come up with a basic plot and the primary characters, and then figure out what I’m doing with them. Luckily, the novel I’m about to start working on is one my agent Elaine and I discussed months ago, right before I got the contract with Berkley for the Baba Yaga books. I’d given her three options for what I might work on next and thankfully we both liked the same idea best. But just as I got ready to work on it, I signed with Berkley and ended up spending the next few months working on revisions for Wickedly Dangerous (Baba #1), and writing Wickedly Wonderful (Baba #2) and Wickedly Magical (the prequel novella), as well as two books for Llewellyn.

Now all that is done and I can finally dive into work on One Born Every Minute. This new book is quite the departure for me. It’s not a paranormal romance or an urban fantasy. There aren’t any witches in it whatsoever. (That’s right—NO witches. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.) In fact, it is a humorous contemporary romance. It is going to be quirky and snarky and fun to write, but still a major change from my usual, so that’s a little intimidating too. Still, I expect to have a ball writing it, as soon as I get to that stage of the game.

Before I do, however, I have to take my current basic three page summary and expand it into a longer general outline (not everyone outlines, and I don’t outline on every book, but I do find that writing goes a lot faster if I have one). I’ll be creating character studies for my two major protagonists as well as a whole slew of secondary characters, figuring out where they live and what motivates them and all sorts of background information that may or may not ever show up in the book, but which I need to know before I can start writing about them.

I’ve already found “pictures” of the two main characters (something my critique partner Lisa got me into doing in the last couple of years) and started a Pinterest board for the book where I can store them and any other pictures I come up with related to the manuscript. [Thanks, Mindy Klasky!]

Here’s P.T. “Petey” Parker (short for Pearl Topaz, of all things, but if you were named Pearl Topaz, I’m pretty sure you’d go by a nickname too) and Nathan Chandler.

The next week or two will be spent in the “Discovery” phase of the book—finding out what the book is about and who these characters are, doing some research on places and some basic facts, and mulling…letting the story start to stew in the back of my brain until I am ready to sit down and start writing in earnest.

Mind you, this isn’t the way everyone starts a new project. It isn’t even how I start every single novel, although I use this approach more often than not. I’ll also be reading (and in some cases rereading) books in the same general genre with the same basic feel. Not every author does this either. Some of my writer friends won’t go near anything that is even vaguely similar to their work in progress until it is done; if they’re writing a paranormal, they may read romance, for instance.

The theory here is that they don’t want anyone else’s writing to influence theirs, usually. I don’t worry about that much and I like to immerse myself into the kinds of worlds I’m going to be writing about to get in the zone, so to speak. So I’m rereading Jennifer Cruise (who is probably closest to what I’m attempting with this book, and whose writing I adore) and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Tawna Fenske, and reading a few authors who are new to me that friends have recommended.

And mulling, musing, and dreaming until I am ready to sit down and let this book be born.

What about you? Have you started any interesting new projects lately? If so, do you start by plotting and planning, or do you just jump in and go?

 BTW--stay tuned, because I should have a cover reveal for Wickedly Wonderful coming up soon!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Broom Magick for Spring Cleaning

When I sat down to write my latest book, The Witch’s Broom, I suddenly realized that there were a lot of ways to use a magickal broom that I hadn’t been utilizing. Mind you, I’d been doing magickal spring (and fall) cleaning for years, but my main tools had been the basics: salt and water and a sage smudge stick. Which worked just great, don’t get me wrong, but there is something quite fitting about using the magick of a broom to clean and clear the energy of your house, especially after a long winter.

There’s an entire ritual for doing so in the book, so I’m not going to try to recreate that here. But I will share the basics, in case the growing sunshine and longer days have made you suddenly feel like flinging open the windows and clearing out the stagnant energy of the cold, dark season. (This also works really well if there has been any kind of turmoil in the home, no matter what time of year it is—arguments or illness or that sort of thing.)

Really, using broom magick is pretty simple—mostly you just sweep, but add in INTENTION and FOCUS, which as we all know, are at the core of a witchcraft practice. You can also ramp up the energy of your magickal work a bit by using some herbs, consecrated water, and a few other extras. I’ll get to that in a minute.

There are two approaches to using a broom for magickal house cleansing. The first is when you use your everyday household broom (the one you always use for sweeping the floors) but add in some magickal elements along with your focus and intent. The second is for those folks who happen to have a broom that is dedicated to magickal use only (only used in rituals and not for regular cleaning).

To use a regular broom, you can give it some magickal oomph by smudging it with sage (or the cleansing incense of your choice), and/or dipping it into some water that you have blessed ahead of time—either by putting it out in the moonlight, or putting it on your altar, or adding any magickal oils. It is also nice to add a squeeze of lemon juice, which is energetically good for cleaning, as well as smelling very pleasant.

If you are using a magickal broom, you probably don’t need to do anything extra to it, although it certainly won’t hurt to give it a “freshening” boost.

Start by standing still in front of your altar or at your front door, and visualizing the broom glowing with a powerful magickal light, filled with the power to clear away any negative or stagnant energy. If you want, you can say the following:

Bless the witch and bless the broom
Bless the spirit that lies inside
Sweeping clear each household room
So peace and harmony there reside

[From The Witch’s Broom, Llewellyn 2014]

Then walk from room to room, sweeping as you go, and continuing to visualize the light from the broom whisking away anything that doesn’t belong in your home. If you are using a regular broom, you may wish to actually sweep the floors, wipe up cobwebs, get the dust off the top of radiators, and so on. If you are using a magickal broom, you probably won’t want to get it sullied, so in this case merely concentrate on moving the energy instead of the dirt. When you have gone through the whole home, you can sweep the last of the negativity and old crap out the front or back door.

Then thank the broom for its hard work, and enjoy your newly invigorated living space.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The "Holy Crap" Celebration Giveaway

I know, I know--I said I was done with giveaways for now. Mailed out the prizes for the last winners, breathed a sigh of relief, and put all the remaining swag away. Whew. (And promptly came down with a cold, but I don't think the two things are related.)

Then today, I was wandering around the Interwebs (I have a cold, did I mention?) and happened to check on the Amazon page for The Witch's Broom HERE. The book has been out for a couple of weeks, so I wasn't expecting anything spectacular. I definitely wasn't expecting THIS:

Yes, that says that The Witches Broom is #1 (#1!) in both Wicca and Witchcraft. But while that is great--really great--it isn't the thing that blew me away. Look at the number above that. #2,345 on Amazon overall. That, my friends, is phenomenal. Phenomenal for any book by any author, but for a little PAGAN nonfiction book? HOLY CRAP.

To give you some kind of perspective, my most recent book, Everyday Witchcraft Book of Rituals (which I think is a lovely book) is at #419,998 overall. The Goddess is in the Details my most popular book, which has gone back to reprint 5 times is at #216,747  in the Kindle store.

So cracking the top 2,500 overall is HUGE. And yes, if you have been here for more than a week or two, you know what that means.


(I know...I said I wasn't doing another one. But I'm out of champagne and I have to celebrate somehow.)

This one is easy. You can share the news anywhere, or Tweet about it, of course. But what I'd really like you to do is tell me here about something you celebrated recently, and how you celebrated. It doesn't have to be anything huge...just something that made your day, like this (and all of your amazing support) made mine.

One lucky winner (anywhere, in any country--yes, you heard me!) will win all of this groovy stuff
The swag package includes one of the last remaining super cool broom refrigerator magnets, postcards and cards for both The Witch's Broom and Wickedly Dangerous (the first Baba Yaga novel), plus matching magnets for both books, AND a sheet of Witch's Broom stickers that didn't get included in the original giveaways because, um, I forgot I bought them.

Thank you all for the everything you have done to get me to this "holy crap" moment. Don't for a moment think I don't appreciate how great you all are. And no, I'm not sniffling because I'm so happy. I told you--I have a cold. (Yep, that's it.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Tail of a Book Cover

My fabulous editor at Llewellyn, Elysia Gallo, posted a great blog about how the cover for The Witch's Broom was created.

Magic the Cat even has a cameo.

Take a look:

Feline Friday: The Goofiness that is Angus

I know--it seems like a long time since we have had a Feline Friday! So to make up for it, I present the goofiness that is Angus.

You're welcome.

Happy Friday, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pinterest Pleasures with Guest Blogger Mindy Klasky

I confess--I'm still trying to figure out what the heck to do with Pinterest. I know a bunch of my author friends are starting to use it as a writing tool, but I wasn't really sure where to start. Luckily, my clever writer pal Mindy Klasky has been using it for her VERY cool new series, and volunteered to come tell me (and therefore you) all about it. (Hint: if you go to my Pinterest, you'll get to see a little something for the new novel I mentioned yesterday.)

First, to make sure I have your attention, I'm going to show you the cover for the first book in her new series (PERFECT PITCH):
Yep--I thought that would do it. Here's the cover blurb:
Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant's rules—no smoking, drinking, or "cavorting" in public.

That's fine, until D.J. Thomas—God's gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch. He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam's no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.'s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss.

Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam's music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.'s son begs to trade in Little League for music class.

Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Here's Mindy to tell us how she used Pinterest to  help her writing.

You know how new social media platforms launch.  One online friend starts to rave about the Next Big Thing, and then a few others chat publicly about how much they're loving The New Thing, and then someone has Super Secret Access Codes but you're always too late emailing them to get one, and then everyone in the entire world is using the service and you're sort of wondering how you got left behind.

Or, ahem, maybe that's only me.

Four years ago, a new platform launched:  Pinterest.  A lot of my online friends were immediately taken with it.  They snapped up those Super Secret Access Codes, and they talked to each other about their favorite pins, and they collaborated on strategies, and they loved, loved, loved Pinterest.  I started seeing that script P on all sorts of websites, on blog posts, in the wild.

And I just didn't get it.  Oh, Pinterest made sense if I was renovating a kitchen – I could see using an online bulletin board to pin ideas for appliances and counters and paint colors.  And it made sense for displaying similar artwork – all the book covers created by a particular artist, or all the books published by a specific publisher.

But for me?  An author who can't draw stick figures and who has no money in her home renovation account? 

I shrugged and forgot about Pinterest.

Until I started working on the Diamond Brides Series.  My plans for Diamond Brides were audacious – I was going to write and publish nine short, hot contemporary romances in a single year.  I'd take the first three months to get some of the writing done, but then I'd be living in a sort of joyful chaos – publishing one book while editing a second while writing a third while plotting a fourth.  And just to make things interesting, I decided to publish the first three books in four weeks.

I needed to get organized.  I needed new tools for keeping track of all my writing details.  My usual go-to system, Scrivener, was up to the task of tracking all those words, but I wasn't sure I could use it effectively to handle all the images. 

Images?  You know.  An inspirational picture of the hero.  Another, of the heroine.  A picture of the setting, especially rooms in a house.  Clothes, food, all the assorted props in a 150-page novel.  With nine books coming down the production line, I couldn't afford to forget who had green eyes, who had hazel, who wore the backless red ankle-length gown, who wore the navy T-shirt.

And so I dipped my toes into Pinterest. 

I created a "Board" for each book in the series.  For Perfect Pitch, I prowled around the Internet, searching for images that resembled my hero and heroine.  I searched through hundreds of "shelter" sights (intended for people doing home decorating), to figure out what my hero's home would look like.  I tracked down images of county fairs and beauty pageants and music classes for kids.

I found pictures for every setting in my book, and I pinned them to my board.  At first, I used Pinterest as an experiment.  I figured I'd probably get tired of it in short order; there was no reason I couldn't run my searches over again to find characters and places.

But after writing the first chapter, I realized just how easy it was to click over, to check on a character's hair color or eye color, to see whether the refrigerator was against the left wall or the right one.  I started to use Pinterest as a writing tool.

Now, building my Pinterest board is the very first thing I do when I start a new book – before I outline, before I write a single word.  Sure, I change some things as I go.  I find better images of my characters.  I realize that someone's a vegetarian, so she really won't be eating that steak dinner.  I discover a better dress or better shoes or…

You get the idea.

My boards aren't very extensive – 15 pins or so for each book.  But Pinterest is letting me stay on schedule.  Perfect Pitch released on time on March 31.  Catching Hell will be out on April 13.  Reaching First will be published on May 4. And all the other books look like they're falling into place.

You can see my Pinterest board for Perfect Pitch here -- http://www.pinterest.com/mindyklasky/perfect-pitch-diamond-brides-1/  Do the characters look intriguing?  What about the settings?  Do you use Pinterest or other visualization tools when you write?

Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her she could travel anywhere through stories. As a writer, Mindy has traveled through various genres, including hot contemporary romance. In her spare time, Mindy knits, quilts, and tries to tame her to-be-read shelf.


A note from Deborah: I just got my copy! Right now it is on sale at AMAZON for only .99 cents for the Kindle version! What do you have to lose? I love Mindy's writing, and I think you will too. Now, go ahead and say hi, and show her how friendly we are around here. Thanks for visiting, Mindy!