Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Alex Bledsoe is one of these.
I just finished reading his new book, THE HUM AND THE SHIVER, and man, does it ever make you do both! The book's official release date is tomorrow, September 27th, and I was fortunate enough to get an advanced reader's copy from Alex's agent, the lovely Marlene Stringer. (Thanks, Marlene! I owe you one.) I'm going to tell you why you want to run out tomorrow and get a copy of this book.
But first, let me tell you about Alex. Alex and I first stumbled across each other when we were both finalists in the contest that led to our inclusion in the Llewellyn/BBI Media joint project, THE PAGAN ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT FICTION. We bonded over the shared torture of waiting to find out if either of us won (I came in third...the only time I've ever beaten Alex at anything, and at that, I think he was robbed) and then later over shared interests and beliefs. We've never met in person, because he lives in Wisconson and I live in upstate New York, but we keep in touch and applaud each other's successes.
I fell in love with Alex's writing with the publication of his first book, THE SWORD EDGED BLONDE. Who wouldn't love a guy who could create a world that is a cross between traditional sword and sorcery and a hard-edged detective novel...and pull it off beautifully. Genius, I tell you. The Library Journal called it "A well-crafted gem of a tale," which sums it up pretty well, I think. And the two books that followed it in the series just got better. (Number four is coming soon.)
Now there is THE HUM AND THE SHIVER. Here's the blurb from the back of the book:
No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, yet when the first Europeans arrived, they were already there. Dark-haired, enigmatic, and suspicious of outsiders, the Tufa live quiet lives in the hills and valleys of Cloud County. While their origins may be lost to history, there are clues in their music—hints of their true nature buried in the songs they have passed down for generations.
Private Bronwyn Hyatt returns from Iraq wounded in body and in spirit, only to face the very things that drove her away in the first place: her family, her obligations to the Tufa, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend. But more trouble lurks in the mountains and hollows of her childhood home. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, and a restless “haint” lurks nearby, waiting to reveal Bronwyn’s darkest secrets. Worst will need to summon the strength to take her place among the true Tufa and once again fly on the night winds. . . .
The Tufa are a fascinating people with secrets hidden underneath their secrets, and Bronwyn is an imperfect and tortured protagonist who nonetheless captures your heart. Bledsoe's writing is as sharp, evocative, and forceful as any author I have ever read; he draws you so deeply into the East Tennessee world of the Tufa, you are shocked to put down the book and find yourself on the couch at home. You live and breath and sing with the Tufa, and ache and cry and wonder with every character in this entralling book. There is magic hidden on the gravel roads of Cloud Country; the kind of magic that could only come from the creative mind of the amazing Alex Bledsoe.
I can't wait to read the next book in this series. And I can't wait to hear what you all think of this book. So here's what I'm going to do. I happen to have an extra copy of his second book in the Eddie La Crosse series, BURN ME DEADLY (The Sword Edge Blond's follow up). In hardcover, no less. I'm going to give that book away to the first person who buys a copy of THE HUM AND THE SHIVER, reads it, and posts a review on either Amazon, Goodreads, or both. (Of course, you have to come back here and tell me you did it.)
And of course, I want all of you to check out this amazing book and tell me what you think. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Here are links to Amazon, so you can check out the book, and to Alex's website, so you can check out the guy himself. Be sure and tell him I sent you :-)
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I will be sending one out within the next few days, however, so if you'd like to get it, you can run over to my website at http://www.deborahblakehps.com and sign up. Easy peasy.
Monday, September 19, 2011
I’ve taken a number of great workshops, many of them from the Low Country RWA chapter. A couple of years ago, they asked me to teach one based on my nonfiction witchcraft books from Llewellyn. The result was “Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author.” The class was fun to teach and went really well, so they asked me to come up with a second workshop.
At the time they asked me, I’d spent months working on the world and character building for my urban fantasy, PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS. I started out by asking myself a simple question: What kind of paranormal characters can I use to people this world, without resorting to those that are currently somewhat overused. In short, NOT VAMPIRES.
Don’t get me wrong; I love vamps. And werewolves, and such. But I wanted to create a world that was completely different from anything already out there. And that meant coming up with unusual paranormals. Hence, the workshop—
Beyond Fangs: Creating New & Interesting Paranormal Characters
By Deborah Blake
Want to write a paranormal romance or urban fantasy, but don’t want to be just another Vamp in the crowd? Yearning to create a completely original paranormal character, but don’t know where to start? Author Deborah Blake moves beyond Vampires to delve into a wide range of paranormal folk who don’t need to hide from the sun. From Witches to Weres, Fae to Phantasms, this class will explore the alternatives to over-used supernatural stereotypes and help you to create your own unique paranormal character. The class will include a discussion of current trends, suggested reading, hints for character building, and an overview of authors who have successfully gone beyond the traditional.
The class will cover what’s already out there and a few ways to make the more common your own. It will also explore some alternatives, as well as suggest a few helpful resources for creating something new and different. And it will give an example or three from PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS, in case you’re curious.
If you want to know more, feel free to join me for this class. Check it out at http://lowcountryrwa.com/online-workshops/
Sunday, September 18, 2011
And the answer was, no, I don't. In fact, it never occurred to me to do so, even though I often get people asking me Witchcraft-related questions, and I have been giving very successful and popular online writing classes for years. And wrote all those books and articles about it, of course.
So here is my question for YOU: does anyone want me to give online Witchcraft classes? And if I did, which would you be most interested in--
- Intro to Witchcraft (Wicca/Witchcraft 101 -- very basic explanations of what it is all about)
- "Following the Path" (Somewhat more advanced -- "what do I do next?" "how do I practice on an ongoing basis?" kind of things)
- Basic Spellcasting
- All of the above
And also, what do you think would be a reasonable price to pay for such a class, if you wanted to take one? (Keeping in mind that the time and energy it takes to create and put it on requires some kind of payment, or I can't affort to take the time to do it.)
Last question--if you were going to take these classes, would you prefer them to be
- 1 day only
- 3 days
- 5 days
I appreciate any input you can give me, as I ponder this idea. Thanks!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I just wanted to let you know that I will be giving my last online writing workshop of the year over at Low Country RWA in October. The class starts on Oct 5th and runs through the 21st, and is only $16! But sign-up ends on October 2nd, so if you're interested, you should go sign up as soon as possible. These classes fill up fast sometimes!
The name of the class is "Beyond Fangs: Creating New and Interesting Paranormal Characters." I will only be giving it once next year, so I hope to see you in October!
Please spread the word!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
There are a couple of reasons for that. The most obvious reasons have to do with the fact that I am a practicing witch (don’t worry—I haven’t turned an editor into a toad in years) and have published five nonfiction books on the topic of modern witchcraft. And witches show up in my fiction more often than not. For instance, my urban fantasy series features a protagonist who is a witch-cop who talks to dead crime victims.
I also teach a few popular online writing classes, including one called “Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author,” in which I help writers learn how to write witch characters without putting in a lot of misinformation.
But that’s not really why I gave the blog that name. In truth, it has to do with magic.
You see, I believe in magic. Not just fairy tale magic—although I like fairy tales, and their modern retellings. Real life magic that comes from within and doesn’t require an enchanted wand or an eccentric godmother. This belief affects my writing, and I’m guessing that my writing also affects this belief. So let’s talk about magic, shall we?
Modern witches—including Wiccans, who are a specific subset of a wider group—practice a nature-based religion, based in part on ancient practices and added on to through the last sixty or so years by many modern interpretations. There is a huge variety of practices and beliefs, but one of the things that we all have in common is the acceptance of magic as a genuine force in the universe. How this force is tapped into and used is a source for much debate (oh, who am I kidding—within the modern witchcraft community, EVERYTHING is a source for much debate), but we all acknowledge its existence
So what is magic, and how can you, as an author, tap into it and use it to add joy to your writing, fulfillment to your life, and maybe even use it to give your writing career a boost?
First of all, don’t worry—you don’t have to be a witch to work with magic. In fact, you probably already do so, in little ways you might not think of using that term.
There is the little everyday magic, for instance, that most writers use as fuel for their writing. Birdsong in an otherwise silent morning, the laughter of a child at play, the way your cat seems to know just when you need to be comforted—to me, these are tiny fragments of magic, free-floating like motes in the summer sunshine. Good writers use this everyday magic in two ways: they tuck away little snippets to be used later in just the right scene, and they allow the gift of these precious moments to feed their souls, so that they can keep going, and keep writing.
Writing can come from many places, including frustration, anger, and grief. But it should also come from joy, and these small bits of magic can keep that joy flowing through your heart and mind and out onto the page.
And then there is the other kind of magic—the purposeful kind, where you set out to accomplish something by tapping into the force of the universe that, for lack of a better word, we call magick (with a k, so you know it from the regular kind). Witches tend to see this energy as something that is out there, available to anyone who wants it and can figure out how to utilize it. Think of it like a scientific principle that no one has been able to prove. People used to think of gravity as nonsense, until Newton changed the way we looked at the world. Magic is like that.
Witches believe that magic is real, and can be used to create positive change in the world. Part of this belief has to do with the Law of Returns: what you put out is what you get back. [No, THE SECRET didn’t invent this concept, and it isn’t actually a secret. Sigh.] In order to do this, we use three things: intent, focus, and will.
Intent is what you want to accomplish. For instance, say you want more time for writing. You will want to make sure you have your intent clear. After all, you don’t want to get more time for writing because you’re laid up with a broken leg, or because you lost a job you loved. (Losing a job you didn’t love, now, that’s another issue…) So you may ended up deciding that your actual intent is to create more time in your life for writing, in a positive way, without reducing your income or having a negative effect on your relationships . Or something like that. It will vary from person to person.
Then comes focus. Focus is what directs that intent out into the universe in a meaningful way. Witches create focus through ritual, which can be as simple as a walk through a sacred wood or as complicated as casting a circle, calling in the elements, invoking a goddess, lighting candles and incense, beating a drum or chanting, and then saying a spell. But you don’t have to do any of that, if it doesn’t work for you. You can take a bath and light a white candle you have etched with the thing you desire. You can meditate. You can even just pray or ask for help.
Your will is what sends your intent out, once you have focused it. The reason we use focus is to get the most power out of our will. Let’s face it—most of us spend much of our time running around like crazy, doing things for others, and feeling pretty scattered and pulled in different directions. It can be hard to focus your will under those circumstances. That’s why witches use ritual; it puts them in a different mental state, removing them from the worries and distractions of normal life, so they can truly focus on what they want.
Once you have your intent in mind, have built your focus as much as possible, and have every ounce of your will behind it, then you send it out into the universe. Ta da! You’ve done magick.
Will it work every time? Of course not. Will it work right away, in exactly the form you expected? Maybe, maybe not. But sometimes magick works in ways you least expect and brings you even more than you’d asked for. And if nothing else, it might give you something new to write about. And that’s the best magic of all.
PS--Don't forget my "Writing Success" spell in Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Obviously, this is a subject near and dear to my heart, since I wrote an entire book (The Goddess is in the Details: Wisdom for the Everyday Witch, Llewellyn 2009) about integrating your spiritual and mundane lives in an easy and reward manner. [WHAT? You haven't read it? Check it out here: http://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738714868 ]
However, daily spiritual practice isn't just important for Pagans. It is stengthening and healing for everyone, no matter what their faith. So tell me, do you have a regular spiritual practice of some kind? What does it bring to your life? How do you fit it in with everything else?
Here is an excerpt from the chapter in The Goddess is in the Details where I talk about my own practice, and give suggestions for how to develop one your own.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “ritual” as “a system of rites, a ceremonial act or action, an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.” For Pagans, ritual is all that and more. It can be as simple as looking up at the moon every night, or as complex as a Beltane celebration with hundreds of Witches coming from miles around. Some Witches have only formal rituals, performing magick within the confines of a circle and following particular procedures. Others lean more to the informal, and are likely to combine their rituals with everyday actions like cooking or gardening.
What are your rituals? Do you have some small act that you do on a daily basis to reconnect with the gods and the universe around you? Or are your rituals limited to Full Moons and Sabbats?
There are no rules about how or how often to perform rituals. (Rules? Don’t be silly. We’re Witches.) I usually suggest that people do some act of ritual at least once a week, and daily if possible. You may believe that you are too busy to be able to fit ceremony of any kind into an already overloaded life, but I beg to differ. Ritual and ceremony give us the strength to carry on, bring in positive energy, feed the soul, and strengthen our commitment to our own spiritual journey. Surely all that is worth a few minutes a day?
Generally, Pagan rituals tend to fall into three categories: daily, monthly and yearly. (This doesn’t include “special occasion” rites, which we will talk about in the next chapter.) Whether or not you perform any of these will depend in part on your particular path, your schedule and your own personal inclinations.
I will admit that until recently, my own "daily" rituals were a bit sporadic. There were times when I would faithfully go to my altar for a few moments before retiring for the evening, light a candle and speak a few words to the gods. Sometimes I even managed to do this for two or three weeks in a row, before the hustle and bustle of life inevitably got in the way.
Then my circle read a wonderful book by Dianne Sylvan, called The Circle Within: Creating a Wiccan Spiritual Tradition. In it, she highlights the importance of a personal spiritual practice and building a daily practice to support it. She made a daily practice seem both worthwhile and manageable, and I decided to give it another try.
My first step was to figure out what exactly I wanted to get out of the daily practice. Did I want to practice magick? Perform some specific rite? After I'd pondered the question for a while, I realized that all I really wanted out of a daily ritual was to reinforce my connection with the gods and remind myself regularly of the importance of Witchcraft to my life.
Once I’d determined what it was I wanted, I tried to figure out some routine that I could realistically expect myself to do almost every day. This meant coming up with something that wouldn't get derailed by exhaustion, stress or a busy schedule.
Eventually, I realized that I was taking the term "ritual" too literally. After all, I didn't need to light a candle in order to speak to the gods. I didn't even need to be standing at my altar; I could do it anywhere. And thus my own personal daily practice was born.
It's pretty simple. In the morning, after I wake up but before I open my eyes and get on with my day, I take a few moments to speak to the gods. What I say to them may change from day to day, but I always start with the same ritual opening words: “Great Goddess, Great God, I come to you at the start of another day and ask that you grant me the best day possible. Help me to feel my best, so that I might do my best, for myself and for others."
Depending on what lies ahead of me on any particular day, I may ask for strength, energy, wisdom, prosperity or any of the other areas where I feel the need of a helping hand. Then I finish up with a ritual closing: "Watch over me and those that I love. So mote it be."
At night, after I have put down my book and turned out the light, I close my eyes and speak again. Now, instead of asking for anything, I take the time to be grateful for all that I have been given. In the evening, I start with different ritual words: "Great Goddess, Great God, I come to you at the end of another day and thank you for all the blessings in my life."
I often give thanks for family, friends, and a job I like. Some days I express gratitude for the gift of creativity or for the strength that got me through a particularly trying experience. What is important is not so much which things I give thanks for, but that I am paying attention to the fact that there is so much things in my life to be grateful for.
This simple daily practice provides me with the connection to deity that I was looking for and has the added benefit of reminding me to say “please” and “thank you.” My mother would be so proud.
And if you think that maybe I am just lying in bed talking to myself, and not really connecting with the gods, you should know that Magic the cat—who generally tends to ignore me when I speak—always moves from whichever part of the bed she is sprawled upon when I utter those first words, and comes to sit by my head until I am done. And she purrs like mad the entire time.
Whether you choose to adopt a ritual like this one or come up with something completely different that’s all your own, I hope you will take the time to create a daily practice -- or at least a routine you are comfortable doing a few times a week. The gods are with us always, not merely on Full Moons and holidays, so it is probably a good idea to take a few moments to acknowledge their presence on a regular basis.
Here are a few suggestions for quick, easy and simple daily rituals:
• Prayer – Prayer doesn’t have to be formal or even addressed to any specific god/dess (although if you have one you follow, this is a good way to keep in touch). And if you worry about always asking for something for yourself, you can try praying for the earth. A common and simple prayer like this one, “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” is always good. If you want to get a little more ceremonial about it, you can light a candle on your altar, too.
• Meditation – Meditation is a way to alter your state of consciousness and let go of the issues of the day, if only for a moment. It is good practice for when you want to create a different mental environment for your magickal work and can help you learn to focus better. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and follow the movement of your breath in and out. If you want to make your meditation practice more “Pagan-centric,” try saying “goddess” with your breath out and “god” with your breath in. Or substitute other words that help you to feel more relaxed and centered, like “serenity,” “oneness,” “or “spirit.”
• Positive affirmations – It has been scientifically proven that our thoughts influence our physical being (the mind-body connection). In truth, our thoughts influence all aspects of our health: mental, physical, and spiritual. But no one can control his or her thoughts all day long. Instead, try setting aside a few minutes a day to purposely concentrate on the positive. Positive affirmations are short statements that are aimed at changing our negative physical or emotional patterns by replacing them with more beneficial ones. They are always voiced in the present tense. For instance, if you are struggling with trying to loose weight, your positive affirmation might be: “I am eating healthier and am satisfied with smaller portions”. Because I have ongoing health issues, one of my favorite affirmations is “I am strong and healthy, my body is balanced and working perfectly.” Positive affirmations can be combined with meditation, or even exercise.
• Yoga/Tai Chi/Qi Gung – These are all forms of exercise that are designed to be spiritual as well as physical. When they are done slowly and mindfully, yoga and tai chi can leave you feeling more centered and more grounded. Qi gung helps to move your energy, or qi, through your body. And these exercises also strengthen your body as they refresh your spirit. Many people who practice yoga on a regular basis like to start their day with what is called the “Sun Salutation,” a series of movements that flow smoothly from one yoga pose to another as you greet the new day. What could be more Pagan than saluting the sun?
• Aura cleansing – This is a good one to do at the end of the day before you go to bed, or when you come home from work (especially if you work in a physically or psychically toxic environment). The intention is to get rid of whatever negativity you have picked up during the course of the day. One easy way to do this is to leave a bowl of water by the front door. Whenever you come in, take a moment to focus on sending anything “icky” into the water. If you do this for a while, you will probably notice the water turning cloudy or darker, so it is a good idea to replace it periodically with a fresh bowl. Alternately, you can use incense or a sage smudge stick to clean your aura, or even just envision yourself surrounded by a glowing, positive light.
• Read – There are a number of good books available that contain one-a-day spells, rituals, meditations or Pagan-oriented readings. Try reading a page every day from one of the following: Pagan Every Day by Barbara Ardinger, The Real Witches’ Year by Kate West, or Llewellyn’s Spell-A-Day Almanac (put out yearly).
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I have a stack of books I've read recently that I liked even more than usual, and I've been meaning to blog about them. Seems like National Read A Book Day is the perfect day to do so. Some are books in series I've been reading and enjoying, others are new books by a few of my favorite authors, and I've got a couple of new discoveries in there as well. Every single one of them comes with my highest recommendation, and I hope you'll go out and try one or two and come back to tell me if you liked them as much as I did.
GHOST STORY by Jim Butcher -- The Harry Dresden series (which I first discovered from the short-lived but wonderful TV show based on the books) is amazing, magical, clever, and funny urban fantasy. For these of you who might not be familiar with it, Harry is the only professional wizard in Chicago. This book has been eagerly awaited by fans of the series, since Butcher left us hanging at the end of the previous book. *shakes fist at author* And it doesn't disappoint. At all. If you haven't read these, I suggest you start at the beginning, with STORM FRONT.
THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW by Jim C. Hines -- the final installment in the "Princess" series, this book features the same kick-ass heroines as the others, and winds things up very satisfactorily. Hines' take on the traditional fairy tales is second to none; these are NOT your childhood princesses, I assure you. Read this whole series, too. The first book is THE STEPSISTER SCHEME.
MAGIC SLAYS & MAGIC BLEEDS by Ilona Andrews -- I got behind on this series, which meant I got to read two in a row. Huzzah! Another urban fantasy series, this one is set in Atlanta, but in an Atlanta that is very different from the one we know. Kate Daniels is one of my favorite heroines, and the world-building here is second to none. The series starts with MAGIC BITES.
I don't always read fantasy or urban fantasy; sometime I like a nice contemporary romance, especially one with a touch of humor or an exotic locale. (I'm actually very picky about the romance I read, however, so the few favorite authors I have are REALLY good.)
I have a weakness for British contemporaries, and my absolute top author there is Katie Fforde. I like her work so much, I actually order the books directly from England, rather than waiting the extra year for them to come out here. (Although I do usually wait until the hardcovers are available used through an Amazon seller.) I somehow got one behind on these as well, so I just read two and loved them both. These books are all stand-alones, so they don't need to be read in any particular order. If you're a fan of Jennifer Crusie's writing, you'll like SUMMER OF LOVE, A PERFECT PROPOSAL and everything else Fforde has ever written.
Mindy Klasky is another author whose work I love, whether it was her humorous paranormal series or her earlier fantasies. I don't normally read the Harlequin Special Edition books, but when Mindy came out with one, I made an exception. And I was glad I had, because THE MOGUL'S MAYBE MARRIAGE was sweet and charming and lots of fun to read.
Starhawk is a well-known Pagan author of nonfiction (THE SPIRAL DANCE is a must-read classic) but I'd had her novel THE FIFTH SACRED THING on my bookshelves for years without getting around to reading it. My writing partner Lisa recommended it, though, and she was right--it was amazing!
One of the best parts of reading is when you find a new author whose work you love. I just read three new or new-to-me authors, one of which I liked a lot and two of which I loved with a white-hot passion that had me telling everyone I know to run out and buy their books.
I've been in fairy tale mode, so I really enjoyed the YA fantasy THE AMARANTH ENCHANTMENT by Julie Berry. If you like charming stories set in earlier eras with likable heroines, you should definitely check this out.
I was lucky enough to get an advance reader's copy at RWA of Rosemary Clement-Moore's new book, TEXAS GOTHIC. Run out and buy this book. (No, really--I'll wait.) I love books that feature magic and witches, especially if the author finds a clever new approach. This YA has a terrific protagonist, Amy Goodnight, who is saddled with a charming but eccentric family and a lot of secrets. I read this book in two days, because I just couldn't put it down, and I can only hope that Rosemary writes another one with these same lovable and quirky characters.
And I just finished a fabulous debut novel, MAKING WAVES by Tawna Fenske. Another contemporary romance, with just the right amount of humor and spiciness, this is another book you should run out and buy immediately. If not sooner! I was laughing out loud by page five. Heck, it is worth reading it for the Jell-O salad alone. Fenske is my new favorite discovery and I can't wait to read her next one.
So, now that I've told you what I've been reading, what about you? Any new books by old favorites? Any great new discoveries you have to shout about? What are you reading for National Read a Book Day?
Sunday, September 4, 2011
|Addy at Genericon|