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Monday, January 31, 2011

Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author Workshop

Guest Blog FFnP
February 2011
Deborah Blake

I give a number of online writing classes—all of which people seem to like and get something out of—but by far the most popular is my “Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author” workshop. The workshop is aimed at giving those who write witchy characters accurate information about modern Witchcraft, so that they can get their characters right. Or at least know what they’re doing when they choose to get it wrong. (This is fiction, after all.)

I am particularly well-qualified to teach this class, and not just because many of my novels feature witches as protagonists. You see, I’m a witch. (Insert cackle here.)

Don’t worry—I’m a good witch, not a bad witch. Well, really there is no such thing as the bad witch, outside of fairy tales and Hollywood, so that was a given. But not everybody knows that, of course. There is a lot of misinformation out there about Witchcraft and Wicca, which is one of the reasons I give this class. Most of the writers I know try and write realistic characters, even in books that have unrealistic settings, like paranormal romances and fantasies. So whether their witch character is the hero/heroine or the bad guy, they want to have at least some basis in fact for the actions and motivations of that character.

That’s where I come in. I have written five nonfiction books on Wicca and modern Witchcraft (all published by Llewellyn), so I have some expertise in this area. Not that there is one right way with Witchcraft; practices can vary so widely that it is hard to make sweeping generalizations about the modern practice of this ancient path. But here are a few basics that are usually accepted to be true by most Witches.

1) Witchcraft is a nature-based religion, usually involving the worship of both a goddess and a god. Often god/dess is worshipped in many forms, in which case the religion is considered to be pantheistic.
2) The modern versions of Witchcraft (of which Wicca is probably the best known) are based in part on the practices of Pagans from earlier times, and in part are a modern construct. Either way, it seems to work for those who follow it.
3) There are no rules as such, but one core concept is known as “The Wiccan Rede” and says, “An it harm none, do as ye will.” Which sounds pretty free and easy, until you realize that it means that no Witch should take any action which will lead to the harm of another or him/herself. And while this can be a challenge, most Witches do their best to follow the Rede. So…no wicked witch. Sorry.
4) Witches also believe that what you put out into the universe is what you get back. This is also known as “The Law of Returns” or, for those who take it one step further, and believe that what you put out comes back to you times THREE, it is referred to as “The Threefold Law.” Again, imagine if you will that supposed wicked witch, casting a spell to give her enemy warts. And ending up with um, maybe boils. Ugh. No thank you. [And yes, of course there are people who don’t follow the rules—but that’s true in any religion.]
5) Because Witchcraft is a nature-based religion, most Witches feel a strong connection to the natural world. In real life, this often translates to people who recycle, compost, have gardens, and do a lot of their worshipping outside. In a fictional world, this gives the author a great opportunity to play with the elements (earth, air, fire, and water), as well as the moon in all its phases.
6) Witches usually base their practice on natural cycles, such as the changing seasons and the phases of the moon. This is often referred to as “The Wheel of the Year,” and includes both Esbats (full moons) and Sabbats (the eight holidays of the Pagan year, many of which are the basis for the holidays most people celebrate…such as Easter, Christmas, Halloween, and even Ground Hog Day).
7) Witches believe in magic. Yes, we really do. Not Harry Potter wave-a-wand-and-you’re-invisible magic (darn it), but magic as a natural force in the universe. Witches believe that you can harness your own will and intent to create positive change in the world. (Like prayer, in many ways.) And of course, an author can truly work magic with a witch character to help them.

I love to write about witches, both in fiction and nonfiction. And I love to read other author’s approaches to witchy characters, too. Some of my favorites include Candace Havens, Mindy Klasky, and Yasmine Galenorn, although there are many, many wonderful writers out there creating fun and fascinating witches to entertain and bespell their readers with.

If you write paranormal or fantasy fiction, I hope that you will join me for my next “Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author” workshop, at the FFnP RWA online loop in March. Otherwise, just go out and read some fun books about witches. I promise you’ll find them to be absolutely magical!

http://www.romance-ffp.com/workshops.cfm

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Candace Havens class for writers--Great opportunity!

Hi All,

Just wanted to alert the writers among you to a great (and possibly one-time only) opportunity. My pal, author Candace Havens, is offering an amazing class for both newbie and experienced writers. Candy, who not only writes but often offers free workshops and other support for writers on her Write_Chat loop, is trying something new: a great class with one-on-one time from her. If you are serious about your writing, you might want to check this out! She comes with my highest recommendation.

Here is a blurb and a link, for those who are interested.

Comprehensive Writing Course: Level 1

This is a six-week comprehensive writing course that takes students through the creative process, to writing, revising and polishing, so that the final book is ready to shop to agents and editors. It is designed to be motivational as well as educational and students will be working with a multi-published author one-on-one. Space is limited so sign up now. The cost is $100.


http://www.candacehavens.com/index.php/workshops/

Monday, January 17, 2011

Guest blogger Jennifer Wylie

One of my favorite things about being an author is how many other cool authors I meet online. So one of my goals this year is to introduce a few of these lovely people to others.

Last week I was lucky enough to have Lois Winston stop by, and this week I have Jennifer Wylie. Take it away, Jen!




Secrets and Lies: The story of an author mom.

I am a stay at home mom for my two darling boys. This year they now both full time in school. You'd think I'd have a lot of time to write. Not so much. Though I do try. There seems to always be a million things to do. I'm known to be a very organized person, yet still things get away from me.
My morning starts with a very cranky me in search of coffee. My husband, the boys, and even the dog stay clear until I reach the pot. Our mini australian shepherd will wait a few feet away, butt wiggling and waiting to be taken out. Coffee in hand we head to the back yard, we have a five foot fence , it was high enough for our last full sized aussie. This one jumps it. So I must stand there and wait to ensure she doesn't escape. Though we live in the country our road is busy and people drive too fast. In the summer I don't mind so much. This time of year when its snowing and -20 out I wish she'd learn to pee faster.
Back inside I fill up my cup and if its a school day the orders start. Get dressed, eat your breakfast. No, do NOT leave your jammies in the middle of the floor! Brush your teeth, did you go pee? I am weaving through our horribly small kitchen now. (I really hate it. It's literally 3 feet wide. You can't have more than one person in without bumping into them). Hub is trying to get his breakfast and coffee, I'm trying to get sandwiches made for lunch, do breakfast dishes, ensure all school paperwork and homework is in backpacks. Now the cranky moments of trying to get kids in snowsuits and out the door.
Finally a moment of quiet. Time to check emails, sigh at the amount, tweet good morning. Take dog out again, get more coffee. I spend a few hours tweeting, emailing, facebooking, checking various forums and lists and blogs. Not all for fun, as an author you have to maintain that internet presence. I also have a work from home job which involves working with other authors, reading, editing etc.
During the day I rotate the laundry, pick up toys, do dishes (no dishwasher!), take the dog every hour, make beds, sweep floors. Oh, did I mention I have over 50 birds? A hobby which got a bit out of control. We can't forget the hour or so feeding and watering and checking on all of them. If I'm lucky I get a short nap.
The kids get off the bus at 4. Hubby is home before or after, who knows. Where has the day gone? Time for checking journals, cleaning out bags, doing homework and starting dinner. Eat fast. Do dishes, more laundry, more tidying, bath the kids, get them in jammies and teeth brushed and lunches made and tucked into bed. I feel like collapsing but I've yet to do any writing. Sometimes I manage. Luckily the boys go to bed at 7.
Where are the secrets and lies? My house is clean. (Snort! Do not look in the corners, or too closely) Of course I sit around eating bon bons all day and watching soaps. (TV? What is that? I don't have time for TV! Okay yes I do eat a lot of chocolate though :P) How often to I sit down to edit or write and just get started... and then am called away. Yet I still say, yes I'm editing, yes I'm writing.
The classic of course... What did you do today?
Oh, not much.
On the other hand, there are those days all I do is edit or write, but I'll whisk around the house just before everyone gets home and when asked I say I cleaned all day. :D Shh. That's a secret.

Being a published author is fun and exciting and also a lot of work. With the marketing, edits on upcoming work and writing new stories my brain sometimes start to spin.
My debut short story Jump came out Dec. 15th. March 1st my next short story, The Forgotten Echo will be released, and my novel Sweet Light is coming out in May. I've two other shorts and another novel submitted, four novels in progress and a few I need to clean up before submitting. I just signed on with my publishers to do a minimum 6 part short story series. One due each month.
I might be insane.

Jump

If you were told to jump off of a bridge would you?

Perhaps it would depend on who was doing the asking. Our heroine has spunk and a sense of humor, however suffers from an extreme case of inappropriate clothing. When things take a turn from dangerous to worse what will she do when fantasy becomes reality? Warning: May include hot leather clad men, singing and demons.

Available at:
OmniLit http://www.omnilit.com/product-jump-493574-234.html
Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Jump-ebook/dp/B004FPYT4O
Barnes & Noble http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?ean=9781590807354

My website: www.jenniferwylie.ca
My blog: http://jlwylie.wordpress.com/


Monday, January 10, 2011

Guest blogger Lois Winston



One of the best parts of being a writer, for me at least, is that you get to meet a dazzling array of fascinating people along the way. In my journey from "newbie" to published author, I have made friends with many talented and generous folks who helped me get from there to here.

Not least among these is the charming Lois Winston. Lois is both an author (with two earlier books and one just out now) and an agent, so she has the benefit of being able to see publishing from both sides of the table. Since she has been doing a blog tour to announce the release of her new book, Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, a crafting mystery, I asked her if she would come here and share some advice for aspiring novelists.

I hope you'll say "thank you" by leaving a comment with a question or an observation...and maybe run out and buy a copy of her book!

Take it away, Lois--

HONING YOUR WRITING SKILLS
© 2010 Lois Winston
Would you go to a doctor who hadn’t graduated from medical school? Of course not! To work in the profession of your choice, whether it’s medicine or accounting or archeology, you first need to acquire the skill sets needed for that profession.

Yet tens of thousands of people each year think they can just sit down at their computers, bang out a book, and expect the publishing industry to be waiting for them with open arms. The truth is that 99.9% of would-be authors lack the necessary skills to write a book. I know this because along with being a published author and designer, I work for a literary agency. I spend a good part of my day reading queries from these people. Here’s an example:
I haven’t published a book before this is my first book. I’m a screenwriter (not a highly paided one) I want to get away from screenwriting and focus on books. I can expression whats in me through books more than I can in screenwriting. I get nice letters from my small group of fans who love the idea that I’m turning to writing (which I thought I would get hate mail if you like my idea please let me know. As I tell my fans. Thank you for your time of thinking of me.

I chose that query excerpt to share with you, not because it’s unique but because it’s all too common. The sad fact is that most of the population doesn’t know a pronoun from a predicate. They were either never taught proper grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure in school, let alone English composition, or didn’t pay attention when it was taught. Yet they believe they’re the next James Patterson or JK Rowling. When their lack of skills is pointed out as a reason for rejection, they often come back with a response of, “That’s what an editor is for.”
No, that’s not what an editor is for. In today’s extremely tight publishing market, unless your manuscript is nearly perfect, an editor won’t read past the first few pages.
So what if you have a wonderful idea for a book and the urge to write it but lack the necessary skills? Or what if you’ve already written the book but it’s been rejected everywhere because it lacks voice? Or isn’t polished enough? Or because you haven’t grasped the concept of point of view? Or your protagonist has no inner conflict? Or your plot suffers from a sagging middle? Or you’ve front-loaded the back-story? Or your scenes lack the proper pacing? What if you don’t know what in the world I’m talking about?
Should you just give up right now? Definitely not. Unlike brain surgery, you can learn the skills you need to hone your writing without going back to school. And unlike medical school, you can do so for relatively little money and at your own pace. The trick is to follow five simple steps:
1. Join a writing organization. There are well-respected organizations for just about every genre of fiction, and some include non-fiction. Many accept unpublished members. They offer mentoring, critiquing, one-on-one meetings with editors and agents, and networking opportunities with published and unpublished authors. Some have online workshops and online Q&A’s with guest speakers. Many hold yearly conferences.

2. Start a writing library. Treat yourself to a good dictionary and Thesaurus. Don’t rely on ones that come with your word processing programs. They’re seriously lacking. Purchase a good book on grammar/punctuation and one on editing. Read them from cover to cover. Learn the rules.

3. READ. You wouldn’t believe how many so-called writers don’t read. If you want to be a published author of books, you need to be well read in the genre in which you want to write. You can’t all of a sudden wake up one morning with what you think is a great idea for a novel, write it, and expect it to sell. You need to study the marketplace. Find out what the conventions of the genre are, familiarize yourself with what’s already been published.
4. Do your research. And by research I don’t mean relying on Wikipedia or CSI. Both are notoriously wrong when it comes to getting facts rights.
5. Finally, don’t get scammed. There are a lot of people out there who make their livings as professional freelance editors. Some of them are highly respected. However, many are not. Some are themselves unpublished authors; others are out-and-out scam artists. You need to learn how to write if you want to be a published author. Paying someone to professionally edit your work will only make the editor richer.

***
Lois Winston is an award-winning author and designer as well as an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Her latest book, ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, the first book in her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. PW said, “Crafty cozies don't get any better than this hilarious confection,” and Booklist stated, “Winston has hit a home run with this hilarious, laugh-until-your-sides-hurt tale. Oddball characters, uproariously funny situations, and a heroine with a strong sense of irony will delight fans of Janet Evanovich….” Kirkus Reviews called it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Visit Lois at http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.






Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter Musings



It is January, and in upstate New York, that means that winter is most definitely here, as these pictures will attest. Taken in my driveway, you can see the 7 inches of snow that have already fallen today. Look closer, and you can spot the flakes still falling. Snow. Winter. cold.

I will confess--I am not a winter person. My idea of a winter sport involves the couch, a good book, a cat or three, and a cup of hot chocolate. On the other hand, I have come to appreciate some of winter's blessings.

Before I started to practice Witchcraft, I used to get depressed every winter. But one of the tenets of The Craft is that we follow the cycles of the seasons; working with their energies instead of fighting against them. Going with the flow, as it were. And the winter season is one of quiet; more introspection than outward movement, thought instead of action.

As a writer, that translates to the perfect time to turn my energies inward and write, write, write. In the last few years, I have completed a book every January-March. It often takes me the rest of the year to complete another, when I am busy with garden, work, friends, and more. So while I may not ever learn to love the winter, I can happily sit at my computer, poised to work on my two current projects, and say: let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year: Goals and Focus

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, as such. People rarely seem to stick to them, and then they feel bad. Phooey.

Goals, on the other hand, I can get behind.

I like lists, for one thing, and you can write down goals in lists. But I also find that if I start the year with a concrete set of goals, it helps to keep me focused as I forge ahead. And let's face it, with everything we have on our plates, it is nice to have a reminder of what the heck it was we'd set out to do in the first place.

I sat down this week and reviewed my goals for last year to see how well I'd done. Not terrible, actually...about 7.5 out of 10, I'd say. (Yes, the list could have been written better, hence the .5)

I tend to divide my goals into two categories: personal, and writing. On the personal side I did much better with rediscovering how to relax and have fun (thanks, Blue Moon Circle!)and pushing outside my comfort zone. Didn't find the man of my dreams, but I'm not sure that belonged on the list anyway. Oh well. Let him find me.

On the writing side, I actually accomplished 4.5 out of 5--finished Pentacles and Pentimentos,the novel I'd started during NANOWRIMO (and another after it), finished the edits for P&P and sent it out to agents, spent more time and energy promoting the nonfiction books (since I had two coming out in one year), and managed my online time better with more blogging and less "social" time. Oh, and I got an agent. WOOT.

Yep, that was the big one.

The only thing I didn't accomplish was to get a book contract for the fiction. So that goes on the top of this year's list. And I have every expectation that I'll be able to put a check-mark beside that goal before too long.

I'm coming up with a new list of goals for this year, both personal and writing. But the biggest goal remains the same: to be my best self, both as a human being and as a writer. Working on that one...check.

What are your goals for the year, and what are you doing to achieve them?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1/1/11 Nothing But Good Times Ahead

Happy New Year, all.

Today is 1/1/11 which probably means something important if you speak binary. But since I don't, I'm just going to translate it into Deb-ary, in which it says:

Nothing but good times ahead.*

I hope 2011 brings nothing but good times to you all. And I'll be back with a real blog tomorrow on my goals for the year. At least, that's the goal.

Thanks for sharing my journey through the last year, and I look forward to walking this one with you. Because seriously, nothing but good times ahead.


*Note: I stole this bit from Jennifer Crusie's blog. But if it is good enough for my favorite author, it is good enough for me. Besides, I really liked it.

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