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Friday, March 27, 2015

Everyday Witchcraft Celebration Giveaway!

I'm sorry I haven't been around much lately (see previous post for explanation). But I'm going to make it up to you by doing another big giveaway! Do you forgive me now? I thought you would.

In fact, I'm going to do two giveaways in a row, so be sure to check back at the end of the month to see what the second one is. (I have a surprise for you. No, I won't tell you what it is. That would ruin the surprise!)

This is a celebration giveaway, because I'm happy to say that it looks like my new Llewellyn Worldwide book,  Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World  is doing quite well, even though it was released almost a month ago.

Can I get a huzzah?

 In fact, here is what I saw when I looked on Amazon yesterday:

That's right--that says #1 New release!

At the bottom of the page, it looked like this:

Insert more "huzzah-ing" here.

Yes, I know that's not a real word. Never mind.

Those numbers are great for a book in its first week of release. For the end of a release month, they're fab. Of course, I only have five reviews so far, and I'd love to get some more (HINT, HINT, SUBTLE HINT), but over all, I'm very happy. I've also had lots of people writing to me and saying how much they love the book, which of course, makes me happier still.

So now I'm going to spread the happy by doing a giveaway! I'm going to give away one big prize pack with a double-sided tote bag (just one bag, but it has Everyday Witchcraft on one side and The Witch's Broom on the other), plus a notebook, postcard, and magnet, and a cool broom pen. Sorry, Magic the Cat is not included. She was just supervising.

PLUS, I'll be giving away TWO signed copies of Everyday Witchcraft!

As usual, it is easy to enter. You get extra points for doing things like buying a copy of the book and posting a review (which this time you can do every day of the contest, as long as you post it in different places each day, like Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble ). Or you can just comment and tell me if you are excited about the book, love the cover, or just think Magic the Cat is the best prize-putting-together supervisor evah.

And of course, I'd love it if you'd spread the word. On account of you are all teh best readers evah.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cute Kitty in the Midst of A Horrid Week

Those of you who follow me on Facebook may already know that it has been a tough week here. Last Sunday night at 11:15 I got a call from my beloved step-daughter Jenn to tell me that her mom Jo had suffered a massive heart attack and gone into cardiac arrest at the local hospital. After seven minutes of CPR, they managed to stabilize her and send her to the Bassett Hospital in nearby Cooperstown, which is set up for cardiac patients. Jo has been in the ICU there ever since. Jenn flew out from San Jose late on Tuesday and we have been spending most of our days there since she got here. (Hence the radio silence here.)

Jo is also a friend of mine and a frequent guest at Blue Moon Circle events, as well as being my best friend Ellen's other best friend. (Basically, we are a strange modern family.) And of course, this has been especially rough for Jenn. Jo is slowly improving every day and we are hoping for the best, although it will be a long road to recovery.

But in the meanwhile...I decided I needed to do something to cheer Jenn up.

Again, if you follow me on Facebook (and clearly if you don't, you are missing out on all the News), you will know that as I was returning from my visit to San Jose in mid-February, my friend Ellen, who works as a dog groomer at our vets' office, called to tell me about a little cat someone brought in who reminded her of my recently lost Samhain.

This little cat, who they think is about six months old and only weighs 4 1/2 lbs, was found in a snowbank, almost dead. She's apparently pretty tough though, since she made a full recovery. They were looking for someone to adopt her. I fought it...I swear I did! But it kept feeling like Samhain had her paw in this, and eventually I caved and said I'd take her. But I had to wait for her to be spayed, and for a second feline leukemia test to come back negative.

When I called on Friday to see what they thought about me bringing her home temporarily, I was told that the second test had been done, she'd been given her booster shots, and was ready to go! So I brought her back home (I'd had to skip the hospital for the day to catch up with things at work, so Jenn was coming in later with a friend) and surprised Jenn with a buddy to hang out with in the upstairs bedroom at night. There may have been happy squealing :-)

Here's the newest member of the family: Luna (so called because it looks to me like she has a partial lunar eclipse on her face, and when I was trying to decide whether or not to take her, I pulled The Moon tarot card)

What do you think?

For the moment I am trying to keep her upstairs with the intention of introducing her to the other cats slowly. But she is affectionate and full of beans and has already made a break for it once, so something tells me that isn't going to work. I'll keep you posted.

In the meanwhile, I'd intended to do an overdue giveaway to celebrate the four book deal from Berkley, but it is going to have to be a little more overdue, since I'm pretty much on hospital duty until Jenn goes home on Thursday. (And then I'm going to be madly playing catch-up.) But don't worry, I haven't forgotten about it, and soon enough, there will be another fun batch of goodies up for grabs.

Did I mention I also had to replace my furnace unexpectedly? Oh, the joy.

Here is a fun picture from the wonderful Christmas Day we all had together in December.

Jo, Ellen in the back, Jenn, and me on a much happier day
So, that's life, really. Some good stuff, some bad stuff, and always, cats. Thanks to all those who sent their good wishes on Facebook--they were all much appreciated.

Friday, March 6, 2015

SURPRISE! Meet the New Baba Yaga and Chudo-Yudo

As many of you know, I am hard at work on the next Baba Yaga book (after Wickedly Dangerous and Wickedly Wonderful). I thought you might like a sneak peak at our third Baba Yaga and her (mostly) faithful dragon companion, Chudo-Yudo.

Here is our first Baba and Chudo-Yudo

And here is our second

The first cover is a pretty good rendition of what I'd envisioned, and the second isn't quite what I had in mind, but not bad. Of course, we are a long way from having a cover for book three, tentatively called "Wickedly Powerful" (they won't even start working on it until the book itself is done), but I thought you'd like a look at how I envision our third Baba, Bella Yates, and her dragon is his disguise.

Are you ready? Here's Bella

And here is her Chudo-Yudo, who she calls Koshka (which is Russian for a female cat--kind of an inside joke between them, since he is neither a female or a cat, really).

Surprise! Yes, we finally have a Chudo-Yudo who is a CAT! (Doesn't he look as though he could actually be a dragon, though?) This is a picture of a Norwegian Forest cat--they can grow to be over 30 pounds, although of course Chudo-Yudo is even larger than that.

What do you think? Are you happy? Surprised? Excited?

I'm really pleased to finally be getting a cat on the cover. I hope you are too!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Everyday Witchcraft Giveaway!

Good news! It looks like my new book from Llewellyn, Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World is available now (March 1st for Kindle), instead of on March 8th, its predicted release date. I'm not sure if it is showing up on store shelves yet or not. (Let me know if you see it.)

Yayayayayayay!Happy dance!

Of course, since I was busy traveling and then finishing up the tarot project, I hadn't gotten around to doing much promo for the book yet. Oops. So I'm going to do this groovy giveaway (as well as one over on Goodreads, which should go live later today or tomorrow), and hoping that y'all will help me to spread the word. Pretty please?

Oh, and here's some more good news: the book is already looking pretty hot over on Amazon
 Can I get a "woot"!?

Don't forget to go to Goodreads and add the book to your "To be read" list, and if you DO read it, I'd love it if you could put up a review as soon as you can, so everyone else knows how fab the book is.

Here's a few handy links:

And now...the GIVEAWAY! This one is open to everyone (no matter what country), so all of my lovely distant readers can have a chance too. As usual, you get points for leaving a comment here and extra extra points for buying the book, but you don't have to do either. I'm giving away a signed copy of the book (and whatever other goodies I feel like throwing in when I get ready to mail it). The giveaway ends at midnight on 3/2/15, so enter right away! Thanks in advance for helping me to spread the word.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Tarot Deck Progress Report and Giveaway!

As some of you know, I have been working on a tarot deck for Llewellyn, along with illustrator Elisabeth Alba. (Who rocks. Seriously.) And I am happy to say that I just finished my part of the project, which included coming up with the theme, descriptions for Elisabeth to work from, and writing the book that will go with the actual deck. BOOYAH! Of course, Elisabeth's part will take a lot longer, since she has to do 78 cards in multiple stages. So don't expect to see this deck any time before next year, late-ish. In the meanwhile, though, this seemed like a perfect time to give you an update on our progress, and a sneak peek into how the process works.

Plus, of course, a giveaway, to celebrate my finishing the book!

Addendum: Elisabeth posted a little something on her blog today too, with a link back here, plus a link to a video interview she did where she talked a lot about the tarot! (And said some nice things about me.) If you want to see what she's like, go check it out. One Fantastic Week Podcast

Progress for the Six of Swords by Deborah and Elisabeth

Deborah: Elisabeth and I have been hard at work on the tarot deck for Llewellyn – me writing the descriptions and book that goes along with the deck, and Elisabeth illustrating. We thought it would be fun to make some blog posts dedicated to the process, showing how I begin by writing a description, to Elisabeth's final painted result. It's taken us a while to get to writing this, because we've just been so busy working on the deck! We begin with the final painting for the Six of Swords.

6 of Swords

Elisabeth: The Six of Swords is one of my favorites from the Suit of Swords. I had taken some progress photos along the way, so we figured this was a good one to start with! I was first given a list of all the Sword cards and their descriptions. The description for this one was:
 Picture: A black-haired witch is getting ready to fly off on her broom, two hooded shapes perched on the broom in front of her. A blue backpack with silver swirls on it sits on her back with six swords sticking out of it, a small black cat is perched on top. The full moon shines overhead. She is making an arcane gesture to summon up the wind. The mood is urgent, and a little dark, but also hopeful.
Deborah: Here’s how I arrive at the picture descriptions, in case you were wondering (and of course you were). I have been reading tarot using the Rider-Waite deck for many years, and this deck is based on the 78 cards that are in that classic. So for each card, I would look at the original (as well as a few variations, including Barbara Moore’s fabulous Steampunk Tarot, to see how other people had done theirs). Then I’d consider how I usually interpret the cards when I do a reading, which often varies from the traditional definitions. After that, I’d consider how my interpretation would look in the retro witch style we were using, which includes lots of witches in black hats, with brooms, black cats, and some fairy tale elements. From that I would “visualize” the card, and then try my best to translate that vision into instructions for Elisabeth.

Elisabeth: After reading over the descriptions, I begin drawing small 'thumbnail' sketches to work out the composition with all the needed elements. I usually do them in pencil first.

Hard to believe that she gets from this to the finished product!--Deborah

Elisabeth: Then I scan then and put them in the card template on Photoshop and make a better, but still rough, sketch there. This is what I first show Deborah; the art director, Lynne Menturweck; and the acquisitions editor, Barbara Moore.

Deborah: Sometimes (usually, in fact) the sketch was perfect from the very first. Other times, there might be small details that didn’t match up with what I’d had in mind, and Elisabeth and I would email back and forth until we’d gotten the changes ironed out to both of our satisfaction. Thankfully, our visions for the deck line up very well, and we’ve never had a problem coming to an agreement on the best possible arrangement.

Elisabeth: If all is well in the sketch, I take photo reference! My husband Scott (he's also an illustrator) and I have accumulated a lot of costumes that are great for posing in, though the only costume part visible in this photo is the white skirt. For other cards, I've used tunics, leather armor, medieval leather belts, cloaks, and even a sharp battle-ready sword.
I love this part--Deborah

Then I work on the finished drawing, using the reference. Sometimes I draw the figures with pencil and scan them and place them in the sketch digitally. Other times I just draw them entirely digitally with my tablet. This one was drawn digitally. I also do a rough digital color version at this point, so I can figure out how I'd like to paint it.

I sent the drawing in for approval and everyone agreed that the figures in front of the witch were too blob-like (the color version above shows their unedited appearance), so I made a hand visible and the tips of their boots, which helped immensely.

I then print the drawing lightly on watercolor paper. I ink the drawing with a dip pen and black ink (Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star matte ink - super waterproof, strong black, flows nicely). Then I start painting! I paint with Dr. Ph. Martin's Hydrus watercolor inks. Very saturated colors, and I can get darker than I would with tube watercolor. They are a little harder to work with though because they are not reworkable. Once it's on the paper, you can't take it off. I also used gouache to get more opaque in the moon and stars.

Here it is, inked, paint started, next to the Ten of Swords which I was painting at the same time.

Base colors down... Note - the colors are off from the original because I was using my phone camera and didn't bother to color correct!

Then once it's painted I scan it, color correct it, do any minor digital touch-ups, and send it off for approval! Card done! Whew! Once again, here's the final:

Here is the Rider-Waite version:
Quite a difference between the original and this one, but you can see where the idea came from--Deborah

Process comparison!

Here is the text that will go along with the card in the book, written by Deborah, along with the card again, so you can see how it will look:

“Anyplace but here.”
Sometimes you just have to get gone. Try not to take your troubles with you.

This witch isn’t going to spend one more minute where she is. She’s already on her way, with only a few necessities, because time is of the essence and sometimes it is better to get out with nothing than to hang on to things or people that are weighing you down. But she’s not traveling alone. It isn’t clear if she is helping her traveling companions or if they are helping her, but either way, they are in this together. An arcane gesture to summon the wind, and they’re off into an unknown future. All she knows is that anyplace will be better than whatever it is she’s leaving behind.

And now for the giveaway!!!! 

I bought a number of decks to look at when I was working on this, some of which I just used the book for, and some of which I never got around to using at all. None of the decks themselves have been opened. Here are three of them. The winner will get to choose which one he or she would like to have! (And I will probably give away the others in the future, so don't despair if you don't win this time.)

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment. Tell me if you have ever used tarot cards either for fun or for serious fortune telling, or if you just like the pretty pictures. Are you looking forward to this deck? Planning to buy it when it comes out? Want more progress reports on other cards? Inquiring minds want to know.

This contest is open to everyone and will run until Friday 27th at noon EST. The lucky winner will have until the following Friday to contact me, and let me know where to send the prize. No purchase is necessary.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Big Huge Fabulous News

Greetings from the depths of cold and snowy upstate New York! I hope that those of you in colder climes are managing to make it through this unrelenting winter. Hopefully my news will brighten up your day a little (it sure brightened up mine!).

I know that many have you been waiting to hear whether or not Berkley was going to give me a contract for the next Baba Yaga book. It took them quite a while to decide and I’m sorry to tell you that after looking at all the numbers, they have decided not to do book 3.

In, fact, they have contracted for THREE MORE BOOKS IN THE SERIES—books 3, 4, and 5!!
Plus another novella, which will be out before the next book. [Insert author happy dance here.] I hope this news makes you as happy as it does me. Which is pretty darned happy, I gotta tell you.

The bad news is that since it took them so long to decide to contract for the next three books (did I say YAY?), the third Baba book won’t be out until sometime around February of 2016. The novella (which will revisit our first Baba Yaga, Barbara, so we can see how things are going for her and Liam and little Babs) would be out around January, but that still means that all my faithful readers will have to wait a year or so for more Baba Yaga stories. I know; it’s a bummer.

But wait—there’s MORE good news! Yes, really.

Once upon a time, I wrote an urban fantasy novel called Pentacles and Pentimentos, featuring a witch-cop named Donata Santori. It was pretty darned good, if I do say so myself. How do I know? Because that was the book that got me signed by my agent, the wonderful Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency. It was meant to be the first in a series and was based on the award-winning short story I wrote that was included in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction. But for whatever reason, we didn’t manage to sell that book at the time. (Publishing, go figure.)

Luckily, my editor Leis knew that my readers would want something to tide them over until the next Baba Yaga book comes out, so I am also getting a contract to publish Pentacles and Pentimentos at last! They’re only going to put it out as an eBook to begin with, but if it does well enough, they’ll put it out in print too. (No pressure, eBook buyers!) AND, if it does really well, they’ll put out more books in that series too.

So, to sum up…

I’m getting a THREE BOOK CONTRACT for the next three Baba Yaga books, plus a novella, and an additional smaller contract for Pentacles and Pentimentos. [They’ll be changing the name, but I don’t know what to yet.] And you all are getting a lot of new books over the next couple of years!

I guess I’m going to have to come up with some way to celebrate, aren’t I? Any suggestions? Maybe another big giveaway?

And, of course, I am still working on the tarot deck project for Llewellyn, and my next nonfiction book is coming out from Llewellyn on March 8th, which is only a couple of weeks away!

I  hope you’ll join me in doing the happy dance for this great news—because it would never have happened if it wasn’t for all the wonderful readers.


(So tell me, are you happy dancing too?)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

California Journeying: Family, Pantheacon, and the Ocean

I just returned this morning from a week-long trip to far-off California. (Well, it's far off from where I live in upstate NY, anyway.) It was a fabulous trip, starting with a visit with my parents, sister Becky, and nephew Stamo in San Diego...which very kindly decided to have a heatwave the couple of days I was there, thanks to the Santa Ana winds. On the two previous occasions I made this trip, it was about 65 degrees when I went out. Which is still pretty nice when you are coming from minus ten. This time, it was 81 even at the ocean. Quite a change from sub-zero temps and piles of snow. I wore shorts. *mind boggles*

Yes, the sky really was that color.
Yes, that handsome guy is my dad.


My fabulous parents. Sand. Shorts. Beach. In short, heaven.

Any guesses which one of these arms belongs to the woman from upstate NY? 

Now that's a good-looking family.
I hadn't seen my nephew in two and a half years. He got TALL.

We had a great time--two days in a row at the ocean (which is my idea of heaven), my mom's homemade lasagna and apple pie, and laughing hysterically over a game of Apples to Apples.

Then I got on yet another plane to San Jose, where I spent three and a half days attending Pantheacon, one of the largest Pagan conventions in the country. Which would be fabulous enough all by itself, but I also got to spend time with my beloved step-daughter Jenn, my incredible Llewellyn editor Elysia Gallo, and my insanely wonderful critique partner/all-around-great pal Lisa. Plus all sorts of cool Llewellyn authors and Pagan friends. Plus I got to finally meet the top dude at Llewellyn, Bill, who was a sweetie.

That's Bill on the left.

Me and my beloved editor Elysia

Posters on the wall of the Llewellyn suite. Gee, those two to the right look familiar.
A LOT of Llewellyn authors, our publicist Kat, and a few innocent bystanders

Me and the amazing Selena Fox (who put on a fab Brigid healing ritual earlier in the day that Lisa and I loved)

Me and the luminous Lisa, one of my favorite people, and also a great roomie
It was pretty tough to leave all that sun and warmth (and my kid) behind and come back to the chilly Northeast. Although of course, I was pretty darned happy to get back to my cats and my own bed.

Here is last Tuesday:
The view from the patio of the restaurant where we ate lunch
 And here was this Tuesday:

Icicles, anyone?
 Still, it was nice to get away for a bit from the snow and the cold, and at least I have pictures like this to look back on...

Llewellyn publisher Bill photo-bombing me, Elysia, and Kat
Did you miss me while I was gone? Maybe just a little?

Don't wander off too far, because tomorrow (Wednesday) I'm going to have a Big Big Announcement. No, really, I mean it. BIG. HUGE BIG.

In the meanwhile, I'm going to go to bed, because I have no idea what day it is or what time zone I'm in.

I hope you're all staying warm!