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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Herb Harvest: Basil Uses, Magical and Mundane

We are in the midst of harvest season now. The Fall Equinox (also known as Mabon, and the 2nd of 3 harvest festivals on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year) is either the 22nd or the 23rd, depending on which calendar you look at. Either way, in most parts of the country, the harvest is in full swing, and most gardens are beginning to slow down as the nights grow cooler and the days grow shorter.

One of my favorite things to harvest at this time of year are herbs, so I've going to do a short series on a few of the ones I use the most. I tend to grow herbs that have multiple purposes: culinary, medicinal, and/or magical. Many herbs fall under this category, and they often have lovely flowers that attract bees and other beneficial insects. They're usually easy to grow, and you can harvest smaller pieces all through the growing season simply by snipping off the amount you need.

One of my basil patches in the garden.
 Basil is one of the herbs that tastes immensely better fresh than it does dried, and although it can be grown in a pot on a windowsill, I've always found it does much better outside. It's very sensitive to frost, so once it gets cold, you need to do something with whatever basil you have left in the garden. For me, that means PESTO!

Pesto is a simple sauce made from a few ingredients. There is no cooking required--just put them all together in a food processor or a blender and whir them together until you get the consistency you like. If you don't have a machine, you can do it by hand, but this involves a lot of chopping...

Pesto freezes extremely well, so you can grow or buy fresh basil, and put up a big batch at the end of the season. When you pull a container out in the middle of winter, it is like having a little bit of summer on your plate.

Basil's magical properties are love, protection, and prosperity, which means that it pairs well with the other ingredients in pesto. The traditional recipe calls for pine nuts, which are actually the seeds from inside a pine cone. (prosperity, love, strength) and they impart a nice creamy taste that helps to cut the strong flavor of the basil. But pine nuts are expensive and can be hard to find, so you can either mix them with or substitute walnuts (protection, intellect). Along with these you will use olive oil (sacred in many cultures, and used for health, peace, and spirit), garlic (protection and health), grated Parmesan cheese, and salt. (I also use a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, although I've never seen a recipe that calls for it. It's my secret ingredient, so shhhh...)

All the other ingredients for pesto. Just add fresh basil.
Various recipes will call for different proportions of these ingredients, but I never measure. I just start off with a lot of basil and a little bit of everything else, then tweak it as desired. If you are working a little love, protection, or prosperity magick with your cooking, remember to focus on bringing out these qualities as you blend and stir.

The finished product, ready to toss with pasta, put on top of little red potatoes, or, anything else your little heart desires.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Musings, Guest Posts, What's Next

Well, THAT was a short weekend. In fact, it was a short summer. I can't believe it is September. (You know, except for the copious ragweed...that's kind of hard to ignore.) Kids are back to school, here in Oneonta, the students have returned to our two colleges and the tourists are gone, which completely changes the feel of the town.

And, of course, WICKEDLY DANGEROUS is finally out in the world. I've done insane amounts of promo and guest blogs and contests, but that's winding down. You can check out my last two (coff) special appearances today, at
HARLEQUIN JUNKIE where there is a fun interview with me, and she is giving away TWO books
and
THE QWILLERY where I am asked some interesting questions, and have been included as part of their 2014 Debut Author Challenge where participants have to read at least 12 debut books, and get a chance at winning a $100 gift card--doesn't that sound like fun!

This Thursday night, you'll be able to hear the dulcet tones of my voice (coff coff) on AFTER HOURS AM radio podcast (available via computer if you follow this link). I'll be on from 9:30-11pm EST, chatting with host Joe Sturgis about the new novel, the nonfiction books, and witchcraft in general. The show includes a call-in, so you can even call and say hi, and ask me a question if you want. [studio phone number is 612 326 6874]

People have been asking if the book is doing well. To be honest, I don't know. The only clue the author gets is Amazon's ranking numbers, and they change every couple of minute, and nobody really knows what they mean. For a while, my Circle, Coven, & Grove eBook rerelease was in the top of the Kindle witchcraft books (it even made it to #1 for a few weeks!). But that's a much smaller pool, and it was easier to be a big fish in it. [I kind of miss being a big fish in a small pond...apparently you guys need to go back to buying this book. I'm just saying.]

So I just don't know. Most of the reviews have been pretty good, and I am REALLY REALLY REALLY grateful to those who have read the book (or the prequel novella WICKEDLY MAGICAL ) and taken the trouble to post reviews at Amazon, Goodreads, and/or B&N. It is a huge help to an author--to me--when you do that.

As for sales, it is just to early to say if the book is "successful" or not. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed, and getting back to work on Everything Else. Things have kind of piled up in the last few weeks, believe it or not :-)

I'm hoping that I'll be able to announce the exciting Sekrit Project soon, but other than that, things are going back to whatever "normal" (coff coff coff) means around here. Expect the regular meanderings about witchcraft, gardens, cats, writing, and all that jazz for a while. Yes, it is okay to breathe a big sigh of relief.

Thank you all SO much for all of the support and encouragement you've given me during pre-book release and book release time. I have the best friends, followers, fans, and readers in the whole damn world. And if you don't believe me, I've got a dragon-dog who is eager to change your mind.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Contests, Links, Reviews and More

Wow--what a week.
Thank you all for all the kind words about Wickedly Dangerous, and for cheering me on during Book Release Week and for sharing the word about the book. Y'all rock AND roll.

I have been all over the Interwebs promoting the book, and there have been guest blogs, interviews, reviews, and contests. Here are a few of the highlights, in case you  missed them:

There is a guest post and a HUGE contest at Bitten by Books that runs until midnight on Friday night (EST). I'm giving away a $50 Amazon gift card!

And of course my contest ON MY BLOG HERE where I'm giving away a Super Prize Pack to one lucky winner (and where you can view my first-ever Vlog video and laugh at me). That contest also ends at midnight on Friday, so if you haven't entered yet, Go! Go! Go!

Nice reviews at Literary Escapism, at Ami's Hoard, at Heroes and Heartbreakers, at ISmellSheep (where they are giving away a copy of the book), an interview and book giveaway at Urban Fantasy Investigations, Talk Supe's Review and 5 Fun Facts about Baba Yaga, and interview and signed book giveaway at Lucienne Diver's Blog and others that I've lost track of...

Starting Friday morning (although I have to go in to work for a while) there will be a guest blog and contest at Fang-tastic Books, and I'll be popping in to answer comments all day, and probably on and off during the weekend. (I'm not exactly sure how long the contest lasts, so you might want to get there on Friday if you can.) I'm giving away a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, a signed book, and a bunch of swag!

And if you live anywhere near Oneonta, NY I'll be doing a booksigning at THE GREEN TOAD BOOKSTORE, my local Indy bookstore, from 1-3. (There is also a huge street-wide event called The Grand and Glorious Garage Sale going on at the same time, with live music, lots of garage sale type booths, and a farmer's market.) I hope you'll come see me!

Thanks again for all your support, and don't forget to send me your pictures of the book in the wild (or, you know, at your house) and to put up a review if you read the book. *blows you all kisses*

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Interview with Lucienne Diver & Book Giveaway

CONTEST REMINDERS: My contest here is still open until Friday at midnight Deborah's Contest 
and you can still enter at Bitten by Books for the $50 Amazon gift card until Friday as well. And I can't believe NO ONE said anything about my very first Vlog :-(


And now to my special guest...
The beautiful Lucienne Diver
I first met Lucienne Diver in her agent persona, when I started stalking following her online back in the days when I was still working at getting my fiction published. She was always smart and kind, and generous with her advice and encouragement, and we eventually became pals, bonding over our shared love of Ren Faires, jewelry making, and general silliness. In fact, she was instrumental in my signing with Elaine Spencer, her fellow agent at The Knight Agency, and so we became Agency Buddies. Then Lucienne had her Vamped novels published at Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Publishing (where my nonfiction books on witchcraft come from), and we became Publishing Company Buddies. (Fun fact: our birthdays are also just one day apart. You know, and a few years.)

My prized collection of Lucienne's books, including the first 2 in the Latter-Day Olympians series
We finally met in person at the RWA National Convention in 2009, and we had a great time together. Now we both have books coming out on the same day, September 2nd, so we are Book Release Buddies too. In honor of our mutual release date, I’ve invited Lucienne to come by my blog and talk about herself and her new book, and I’ll be visiting her blog to do the same. I hope you’ll visit me there and say hi! (She interviewed me, too.) http://luciennediver.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/deborah-blakes-wickedly-dangerous/
Melissa Jeglinski from the Knight Agency, Lucienne, and me

Let’s give Lucienne a nice warm welcome! And be sure to answer her question at the end, since she’ll be giving away a signed copy of her book so a random commenter.

 DB: Hi Lucienne, welcome to the blog. For people who aren’t familiar with your Latter-Day Olympians series (which I LOVE, by the way), could you give us a brief overview of the series and then tell us a little something about the new book, Battle for the Blood?


 LD: Absolutely, thank you!  To understand the Latter-Day Olympians, I have to start with some background. 

My heroine’s family line may or may not trace back to when the god Pan beer-goggled one of the gorgons.  Certainly that’s the way the stories go. Tori Karacis never believed such nonsense, despite the evidence of some of her family’s more colorful attributes—her grandmother the bearded lady of the Rialto Bros. Circus, her parents and brother able to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, her own strange power to stop men in their tracks, even if she can’t actually turn them to stone.  That is, she doesn’t believe until she witnesses a murder by something that looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon…with the victim Circe Holland, brass-bra’d Hollywood agent rumored to be that Circe, the enchantress of myth and legend.  Well, that’s just the start of things (BAD BLOOD).  The series continues into CRAZY IN THE BLOOD, RISE OF THE BLOOD and, on September 16th, BATTLE FOR THE BLOOD. 

By the end of each book, nothing is quite the same…or ever will be again.  There’s crazy fall-out from the proceeding books, along with all new threats.  The tensions escalate, the stakes are higher…  In BATTLE FOR THE BLOOD, Tori isn’t just dealing with the loop I threw her at the end of RISE OF THE BLOOD, she’s dealing with the rise of an ancient Babylonian plague demon who’s stirring up nosoi, djinn, demons, and other forces dark and deadly enough to bring about an apocalypse. Various factions vie to control the daddy of all demons and the end of the world, hoping that they will be the ones to rise triumphant from the ashes.

I love these covers, don't you?
 DB: This series is very different from your first series, the Vamped books, which are very funny and snarky. Where did the idea come from for these books?

LD: The series sprang from two sources, really—my crazy family and the five years I spent on Latin in junior high and high school.  I thought at the time that I might want to be a doctor (before I realized how ridiculously squeamish I am), and teachers, etc. had told me how helpful it would be in understanding medical terms to know the Latin roots.  Well, that turned out to be a bust, but my favorite part of my Latin class was when we went over religion and culture.  It turned out that I wasn’t so much cut out to be a linguist as an anthropologist.  Specifically, and I think my medical interest played into this, I was fascinated by forensic anthropology.  I even applied to grad schools for it at the same time I applied for jobs in publishing.  Publishing got back to me first, which turned out to be a good thing, because as much as I like mysteries and skeletal remains, they don’t always come fully skeletonized.  Examining remains in situ means bugs, fluids, any tissue still attached and, well, we’ll leave it at that.

As far as my crazy family—I wouldn’t have them any other way, but, well, to give you an idea that we may be an acquired taste…you know Stephanie Plum’s family in Janet Evanovich’s bestselling series?  Well, sometimes I wonder where she’s hidden the video cameras around our familial homes.  (For me telling tales on my family, check out the post I did for Faith Hunter’s blog here: http://www.faithhunter.net/wp/2011/06/07/lucienne-diver-and-bad-blood/.)

DB: You are both an agent and an author, which gives you a unique view from both sides of the table. Can you give us a little idea of how you balance them both, and what a typical day might be like?

LD: I’m trying to find my new normal, now that my son is off to high school, shifting our whole schedule an hour earlier.  Traditionally, I wake up, have coffee, walk the dogs, kiss my husband and son good-bye on their way out the door and sit down to write for an hour before my agent brain kicks in, the phone starts ringing off the hook and my overflowing inbox calls me away.  I have about an hour a day to write during the week, which is not nearly enough, so I work weekends as well, sometimes carving out as much as two whole hours to myself before I have to put my work aside to read and critique manuscripts or actually spend time with my family!

DB: Do you have any more books coming out in this series? What are you working on now?

LD: Samhain has contracted me for a fifth novel in the Latter-Day Olympians series, which I’m really excited about. I’ve established in the series that the Greek gods didn’t necessarily start there, but have been various things in various cultures, changing with the times and the worship.  I’m planning, finally, to bring in Athena, but as her Egyptian counter-part…or anyway one of them.  The fun thing with mythology is that different sources point in different directions, so I can pick the one I like best!  All I’ll say is underworld goddess and escape from hell.

[Note from Deborah—OH, boy! I can’t wait!]

Outside of that, I’m working on a YA thriller that I’m equal parts nervous and excited about.

DB: Why don’t you ask my blog readers a question—and we can give away a signed copy of the new book to a random commenter!

LD: Sounds great! I’ll go easy on you all so you don’t have to have read the series already.  Maybe I can get you hooked now! What god or goddess or other mythological beastie most intrigues you? Who would you like to be or meet (or definitely NOT meet) in a dark alley?  I’ll give away a signed print copy of RISE OF THE BLOOD, which just came hot off the presses yesterday, to one lucky commenter. (Or an electronic copy of BATTLE FOR THE BLOOD, if you’d prefer.)

Thanks so much for being my guest, Lucienne. I can’t wait to read this new book myself.

Thanks so much, Deborah, I can’t wait to read YOURS! I’m off to go queue it up on my Kindle!



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

BOOK RELEASE DAY!

It's finally here! BOOK RELEASE DAY for WICKEDLY DANGEROUS! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!

video

As you can tell if you watched the video (or as you can probably guess, even if you didn't), I'm pretty excited. It seems like I have been talking about this book for a long time, and now it is FINALLY here!

If you want to pick up a copy of the book, and you don't happen to have a bookstore near you, you can get one at any of these places online:


Buying links:
B&N

Of course, you can also ask your local Indy bookstore or library to order it.

I'm celebrating the book release today over at Bitten By Books with a live chat that starts at 3pm EST/noon PST and will go on throughout the evening until I have to go to bed, and then continue the next morning. I will be giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card, so go enter the contest, and if you want, you can ask me questions or just say hi! (The live chat is only today and tomorrow--but the contest runs until Friday.)

And I know I said I wasn't going to do any more contests here, but it's RELEASE DAY! How could I not?

I'm going to do things a little differently this time. Instead of giving away a bunch of things and spreading the winning around, I'm going to give away a Bunch of Things to one lucky winner! Maybe it will be you :-) This will include a signed book (or a signed ARC, if you prefer--I still have a couple left), a bunch of swag, and a tote bag to carry it all around in.




[Note: because this is a Bunch of Things, I will only be able to send them to a winner in the USA. But if you win and you live outside the USA, I think of something cool. The contest at Bitten by Books is open to international entries.]

Thanks SO much for coming to celebrate BOOK RELEASE DAY with me--I really appreciate it...and you.




Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Release Party and Guest Blogs


I had a fabulous Book Release Celebration Party on Sunday (which worked out well, since I could clean the house on Saturday, have the party on Sunday, and recover on Monday!). A fitting 13 people come to help me celebrate this landmark--the release of my debut novel, Wickedly Dangerous.

To be honest, I almost didn't bother to have a party. I'm not much on being the center of attention, and I'm a wee bit tired and burned out from all the promo and preparation leading up to the actual release day, Tuesday the 2nd.

But I finally decided, what the hell, you only have ONE debut novel, right? So I invited a few of the folks who have been so supportive for so long, and who live within driving distance. Of course, they couldn't all make it, but the ones who did brought yummy food to share, and the company was great. I felt very, very lucky. And not just because of this...

Pals Rebecca and Jim brought this amazing Chocolate Guinness Stout cake from their favorite bakery

The gang, cheering for the book (along with my posters sent by Berkley)

More cheering, with me in the middle

My gorgeous sister Sarah came all the way from Niskayuna for the party

I hated to cut into the cake. And yes, that poster has legs.

My charming and handsome pal Rob came from Binghamton. And brought pomegranate mead!
It was a fabulous day...but now I'm back to work. I hope you'll come visit me at a couple of places online where I'm guest-blogging (or just being talked about) today.

I'm the guest of Nancy Hunter at the very cool Eight Ladies Writing blog, which features eight different writers from four states and three continents. Come see what I have to say in my guest blog, and leave me a question or a comment (you know, so they won't think I have NO friends).

Author pal Alex Bledsoe, who was one of the people who read early and gave my publishers a blurb for the book cover, is talking about me over on his blog Alex's Blog. I have no idea what he is going to say...hopefully it will be something nice!

Important Advance Head's Up!
I am going to be doing a live chat and giveaway of a $50 Amazon Gift Card on Tuesday, release day, over at Bitten By Books
Follow this link to RSVP early, and get an extra 25 points towards the contest!

And I'm going to have a special surprise for you all on release day, as well as one last big giveaway, so be sure to come by and say hi! We can have a party then too...but I'm afraid you'll have to bring your own cake!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Two Guest Blogs and Feline Friday: The Helpful Cat Version


I'm all over the Interwebs today :-)

Come visit me at Maria V. Snyder's Blog, where she asked me the best interview questions ever (you might even learn a few new things about me) and where we are giving away a signed copy of Wickedly Dangerous to one lucky commenter (including international readers).

Then pop over to see the fun (and very positive, thank goodness!) review at Talk Supe, where I answer the question: What are the 5 Top Fun Fact about Baba Yaga?

Any guesses?

As you can tell, the pre-release promo has moved into high gear, and I really appreciate the author friends and bloggers (including many I don't know at all) who have invited me to visit, or are otherwise spreading the word. Not to mention all of you! I hope you'll go visit some of these blogs, and keep spreading the word.

I'm not doing many book signings, but there will be one at my local Indy bookstore, The Green Toad on Saturday, September 6th from 1-3. If you live anywhere nearby, I hope you'll come say hi! [I will also be at a SF Con in Binghamton, NY the last weekend in September--more info to follow.]

Can you believe that the book comes out in FOUR DAYS????

I'm thinking about doing one more giveaway on release day itself--what do you think? Are you bored with contests, or do you want one more shot at winning a signed book and some Baba Yaga swag? Inquiring minds want to know.

Now--Feline Friday pics! The theme for this week: Cats being helpful. (And if you have cats, you know that this is sarcasm...)

Magic the Cat, helping me take a picture of the two posters Berkley sent me for book signings

Magic the Cat helping me make the bed. (It is a little tough to put on the top sheet and comforters this way...)

Magic the Cat helping me to package up giveaway winnings. Yes, Magic is UNUSUALLY helpful, even for a cat.

Samhain helping me write. At last, something really useful! If you like to read gibberish.
I hope you all have a fabulous 3-day weekend (those in the USA that have one, anyway). I'm actually going to have a small Book Release Celebration Party at my house on Sunday. I wish you all could come!

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