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Monday, April 30, 2012

Beltane

I had a lovely birthday, really--especially the part I spent at a Beltane celebration with a bunch of Binghamton area Pagans and my pal Ellen. It was cold out, but sunny, and fun was had by all.

Here is the traditional Maypole dance (being done by people wearing way more cloths than usual for this holiday, because it was cold).

Beltane is a holiday with very old roots, which is observed on May Day, the 1st of May (or sometimes May Eve). It is a fertility holiday which celebrates both the fertility of the land and of the spirits of those who live on it. The counterpart to Samhain, this day is also a time when the veils between the worlds grow thin...but instead of speaking to our ancestors, we frolic with the fairy people. And, of course, each other.

A fire festival, Beltane was also used as a time of cleansing, getting rid of the winter funk before moving into summer. People would light two Bel-fires (bonfires) and drive their flocks between then to let the smoke cleanse the animals of illness and negative energy. You can try doing the same thing with two candles, if you like! Other folks would jump the Beltane bonfire for luck and prosperity in the coming year. (If you're going to do so, make sure the fire is small and your garments not too flowy...)

Beltane is all about love, too. Yes, since it is a fertility festival, is has long been associated with the sexual/sensual joining of man and woman (or any variation thereof you prefer). In days gone by, a May Queen and May King were chosen to symbolize the fertility of the land...sometimes quite literally. But these days, I prefer to focus on the holiday as a time to celebrate love and abundance in all their positive forms.

So happy Beltane, and be sure to give the people you love a hug!

Blows kisses to you all!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me! (And a gift for y'all.)

Yes, it's that time of year again. No, not National Hot Fireman with a Cute Kitten Day, although it should be
You're Welcome, Ladies . In point of fact, it is my birthday. Tomorrow, April 28th, I will be 32 um...42 older than you are, probably. Definitely older than that fireman, more's the pity. Ahem.

Anyway, I started celebrating today with a lovely lunch with pals Ellie (who runs The Artisans Guild with me) and Bobbie (from Blue Moon Circle). We all went out to a great Cajun restaurant, where we ate way too much yummy food, including this guy:
(The owner, Bryan, had just gone to visit his family in Louisiana, and came back with some genuine Louisiana crayfish. Seriously--yum.)

Tomorrow, I will be going with my friend Ellen to a Beltane celebration outside of Binghamton. I may even dance around a May Pole. I'll let you know :-)

In the meanwhile, my fabulous critique partner Lisa sent me an amazing Tetsubin (a small Japanese cast iron tea pot--one of which is featured in her great YA series, so she wanted to make sure I knew what her character was talking about--lol)
Isn't is pretty? You can't quite tell from this picture, but it is a beautiful lavender color.

And I'm rewarding myself for finishing the novel revisions in time for my birthday by starting a book I have REALLY been looking forward to The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal.

I am having a lovely birthday, so I arranged with my fabulous webmistress/epub expert/newsletter goddess Robin Wright to use one of our remaining free days for my epubbed short story. (When you put a story up on Amazon under certain circumstances which she understands but I don't, see above, you get a total of 5 days when you can give the story away for free.) So, if you weren't around when we gave away Witch Upon a Star the last time, now is your big chance! From midnight EST tonight to midnight on the 28th, you can go to Amazon and download the short story (a paranormal romance set in the Star Stone series that starts with the novel, Witch Ever Way You Can ). Feel free to tell all your friends; I am happy to share. Happy birthday to me--and thank you all for another great year!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Done! Done! Done! And also, DONE!

Huzzah and hurrah! The massive revisions on SEEDS OF CHANGE are done and I will be sending the manuscript off to my beloved agent in a few minutes. You know, as soon as I finish doing my happy dance.

The book went from 90,300 words to 111,058 words...that gives you some idea of how major some of the changes were. I guess that's what I get for naming a book "Seeds of Change," eh?

Did I mention, it's DONE?!

Of course, this is publishing, so it is only "mostly done" sort of like the "only mostly dead" of Princess Bride fame, but still. There is a distinct possibility that Elaine will have more (probably minor) edit suggestions. And when it sells, my then-editor will have still more. But for now, it's done. And you know...I think it doesn't suck :-)

What's more, it is done in time for me to take the weekend off to relax and celebrate my birthday, which is Saturday. Speaking of which, I have a special surprise gift for YOU my readers, to celebrate with me. So check in tomorrow to see what it is.

DONE!

*does happy author dance then falls over*

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Revision Heck

There are two kinds of authors. (Well, really, a bazillion kinds, but in this particular case, usually two.)

There are authors who love writing first drafts and hate doing revisions. And authors who love doing revisions but hate first drafts. There may be some who love both, but I haven't met one yet :-)

The authors who hate the revision part call it "Revision Hell." And I am usually one of them. But something interesting happened while I was working on my latest book, SEEDS OF CHANGE. I kinda, sorta enjoyed the revision process. I'll tell you why.

Let me start with a confession. (No, not about that. We're not talking about my personal life here.) My confession is this: I don't tend to do a lot of revision. Or at least, I don't do big post-first draft revisions, in part because I edit as I go along (which catches a lot of the small stuff) and in part because I usually work from a very detailed outline (which prevents some of the big stuff from being a problem in the first place).

In fact, when I signed with my agent, Elaine Spencer, she told me that my manuscript (for Pentacles & Pentimentos) was the only one she ever sent out on submissions without having to edit it first. I tend to write very clean, tight books. And I learn from the mistake I make in each previous book, which means I'm making fewer  mistakes in the next one, in theory at least.

But SEEDS OF CHANGE fought me every step of the way. It didn't want to be written out first in outline form, although I had a pretty good idea of beginning and end, and some of what happened in the beginning. I had to do serious brainstorming with the fabulous Candace Havens and Heather Long before I could even get past chapter three. In short, the first draft process kicked my ass. And then when Elaine read it, she told me the manuscript needed some serious revision.

Normally, that would have freaked me out. But the truth was--I already knew it. And she liked what I had written, for the most part, she just thought the book needed MORE. More layers, deeper connections between the characters, more world building. And, thankfully, she had detailed notes and suggestions for how I could accomplish all those things. We had a great phone conversation to make sure we were both on the right page, and I sent both notes and ms to Lisa DiDio, the best critique partner on the planet for her input. And then I got to work.

 But to my surprise, instead of dreading the revisions, as I usually do, I mostly enjoyed them. I had lots of great pieces to work with (thanks to Elaine and Lisa) and plenty of ideas of my own on how to add things--it was more like trying to figure out what the bits and pieces were, and where they should be put to add the most to the story. In short, it was a puzzle--and I LIKE puzzles.

It took me all month, pretty much, but I've finished the major revisions. I'll spend the next few days doing another read-through and making sure I didn't miss something [when you make a lot of substantive changes, it is easy for small things to be left that no longer fit with the new stuff], and then send the new and improved version off to Elaine. Hopefully, before my birthday on Saturday, so I can actually relax.

I started the revisions with 90,553 words and ended up with 110,409 (and since I cut one huge scene, there were more words added than it looks like: 26K words and 81 pages of new material, in fact). The book is much improved and I learned some new skills along the way. It wasn't always fun, but it was an interesting challenge. Hopefully I will be a better writer for having done it.

And from now on, I won't worry quite so much about Revision Hell. Truth is, it isn't much worse than Revision Heck.

So, if you write--which part do you like better, first drafts or revisions? Inquiring minds want to know.




Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Next Up at the Workshop Loop--Witch Archetypes

As you know, I'm busy this month teaching my "Beyond Fangs" class at Savvy Authors. So the fabulous Heather Long, my Technical Handmaiden over at the Witchcraft & Writing loop, will be teaching our April class. I've got to tell you, people, this one looks FASCINATING. I'm going to be popping in and out too, don't worry, but I'm looking forward to learning a thing or two myself.

Here are the basics. Go sign up for this class right now! You don't want to miss it!
Workshop

Class 4 - Witch Archetypes 

For: Authors and others with a desire to study the portrayal of witches in fiction and popular culture, including the defined archetypes as featured in popular novels by Candace Havens, Kim Harrison, Deborah Blake, Charlaine Harris and more.

Time: 4 days
Cost: $20
Date: April 26-29, 2012
Day One
  • Witches in popular fiction
  • Introduction of three archetypes
    • The Chaste Witch
    • The Succubus Witch
    • The Royal Witch
  • Assignment, create a witch character based on one of these archetypes, discover the challenges associated
  • Q & A
Day Two
  • Discuss Three Archetypes
    • The Crisis Witch
    • The Scribe Witch
    • The Servant Witch
  • Assignment, expand on the previous day’s assignment, integrating new qualities
  • Q & A
Day Three
  • Discuss Three Archetypes
    • The Teacher Witch
    • The Warrior Witch
    • The Wicked Witch
  • Assignment, what pros and cons do each archetype offer to your work
  • Q & A
Day Four
  • Discussing hereditary witches in and out of fiction, reality versus fantasy
  • Open Q&A, reviewing assignments, discussing how to infuse your work with fresh perspectives based on the witch archetypes discussed in the class.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Back to Class

Okay--REALLY this time...the Savvy Authors site is back up and running after losing three days to [expletive deleted] hackers. I uploaded the next lesson a few minutes ago, so if you're in the class, get back to work :-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Healing Spell--My gift to you

I know that many of you, like me, struggle with physical issues that make life...er...more challenging than we'd like it to be.

I wrote a new healing spell this morning to deal with my issues, and I thought I would share it with those of you who need it. Feel free to send anyone here that might benefit--it is my gift to you. This spell isn't in any of my books, so this is the only place you'll find it.

You might want to light a blue candle (white is fine) when you say the spell, but you certainly don't need to. Remember to spend some time visualizing yourself as you wish to be: healthy, energized, and free of pain.

Blessed be.


Healthy healing head to toe
Letting pain and illness go
Faith and goddess shelter me
From discomfort set me free
Healing healthy balance give
Energize the life I live
Banish all that hurts and harms
With this spell and magick’s charms

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Savvy Authors site still having issues!

Hi all--


Despite having been informed yesterday that the problem at the Savvy Authors site had been dealt with, I got another email this morning that told me that now they think there is still an issue.


Please do not go through to the site. I apologize profusely for the inconvenience this is causing, and I assure you that one way or the other, we will find a way to finish the class. I am as frustrated as I'm sure many of you are (and no doubt the Savvy Authors folks are, too.) but hopefully it will be fixed soon.


ARGH. And have a lovely weekend.
Deborah
*banging her head against her desk repeatedly*


Friday, April 13, 2012

Workshop site back up and running

If you're taking my "Beyond Fangs" class, you know that there has been an issue with the Savvy Authors site being hacked. They have got it fixed, but apparently the site is still listed as dangerous, because the "Malware warning" shows up anyway.

I am assured that it is okay to click "ignore warning" and go back to the site.

Sorry for any inconvenience!


GAH! Workshop Interruptus

I'd like to blame Friday the 13th, but actually, the issue started yesterday.


It looks like the Savvy Authors site, where I am currently giving my Beyond Fangs writing class, has been hacked. Many people (me included) have gotten "Malware Warning" alerts from our antivirus software. I'm still waiting for official word from the SA people, but I'm sure they're working hard to fix the problem.


In the meanwhile, if you're taking the class, you have my profound apologies, and my assurance that one way or the other, we'll finish this dang thing.


GAH!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reminder: Beyond Fangs Class starts Monday!

Just a reminder, since I know a number of people mentioned that they wanted to take the class, and I won't be giving it again for a couple of years. (It is very time and energy consuming!)

One of my most popular classes, "Beyond Fangs: Creating New & Interesting Paranormal Characters" will be given over at the Savvy Authors loop, running Monday, April 9th through Friday, April 27th. (My birthday is the 28th, so I expect everyone to show up on the last day of class with virtual chocolate, lol.)

The cost is $15 for members, and $25 for non-members (pretty reasonable for 3 weeks of ME!), and you don't have to belong to take the class.

I hope to see you there. We always have a great time!

For those who celebrate, have a lovely Easter weekend.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Teaching, Learning, and Paying It Forward


Here's a little-known fact about me: for a while, I was actually a certified Secondary English Education teacher. (That's right, take a moment to envision me with my hair in a bun with a pencil stuck through it. Got it? Okay.)

My original college education was in Psychology and Theater (a good background for writing rituals, when you think about it), but a number of years later, I went back and got my certification to teach middle and high school English. I did my student teaching with the seventh grade, and no one was more surprised that me to discover that I absolutely loved teaching. A number of different things conspired to send me down a completely different path, but here we are, LOTS of years later, and somehow, I've come back around to teaching again. And yes, I'm still loving it.

I started out teaching a couple of popular online writing classes, including Beyond Fangs: Creating New & Interesting Paranormal Characters, which I'll be giving for the last time (for a while, anyway) over at the Savvy Authors site April 9-26. Then, this year, I gave in to the folks who'd been nagging me (you know who you are!) and started my own Workshop Loop, where with the help of fellow author and pagan Heather Long, I give classes on Witchcraft, and the occasional writing seminar.

I'm having a great time giving the classes, and it earns me a bit of money on the side, which is always useful (especially when you need new brakes for the car and a new washer in the same month), but that's not why I do it. In fact, the teaching really cuts into my personal writing time, and takes a lot of energy.

So why do I do it? Two people, really. My grandmother (Germambie, someone I've talked about here before) was a life-long learner. She was auditing classes into her 80's, just because she loved to learn.

And Candace Havens . Candace is an author who goes out of her way to teach others, both by giving workshops, and by hosting others on her Write_Workshop loop. When I was just starting out writing fiction, she took the time and energy to mentor me--giving me a much needed (and much appreciated) boost when I had SO much to learn.

She also strongly advocates paying it forward: if someone does something good for you at the beginning of your career, she thinks it is important to pay that forward to others when you are further along the road.

So I teach because I enjoy it, but also because I think it is important to keep learning (and I learn something from my students in every single class I teach). And because it is my turn to pay it forward.

See you in class!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy Foolishness!




            Happy foolishness! Today is April Fool’s Day, well known for pranks and trickery and general silliness.
No one really knows how the day originated, although the most popular theory claims that it came about when the Gregorian calendar took over from the Julian calendar in 1582.  According to this theory, some people didn’t get the message about the change, and tried to celebrate New Year’s (previously observed on April 1st instead of January 1st) on the wrong date. These poor folks were teased for being “April Fools.”
Other theories suggest that April Fool’s Day was derived from the Roman holiday of Veneralia, which celebrated the goddess Venus. According to Barbara Ardinger, “to the Romans, it was All Fools Day. They spent the day doing foolish things and playing pranks.” It is also possible that there is an association with the Spring Equinox, when Mother Nature is known for playing her own tricks.
Still, whatever its origins, whether you call it All Fools Day or April Fool’s Day, it gives us the opportunity to indulge our playful side. But I look at it as a time to be more serious as well. (Reverence and mirth, after all, are at the core of all we do.)
Let’s take a look at my favorite Fool, The Fool card from the tarot. This card is number 0; either the beginning or the end of the Major Arcana cards, depending on the book you are looking in. Since all things are circular, maybe he’s both!
The most common representation of The Fool is as a young man with his possessions hanging in a bag on the end of his staff, cheerfully preparing to step off the side of a cliff. His little dog dances gaily at his feet.
Popular tarot expert Mary K. Greer, in her book Tarot for Yourself: A workbook for personal transformation, gives the following as some possible interpretations of The Fool: “Leaping off into some new phase of life. Free-spirited. Carefree. Being open to experience. Acting on impulse without thought or plan. Spontaneity. Childlike enthusiasm. Innocence. Lack of inhibitions. Footloose and fancy free. Being silly. Frivolity. Trusting in the universe. Experiencing life in the here and now—from moment to moment. Optimism.”
Doesn’t that all sound wonderful? Who among us wouldn’t like to have a little more of those qualities in our mundane lives?
So today, on All Fool’s day, let’s resolve to let ourselves be foolish. Let us live a little more freely, be open to what the universe has to offer and put aside our fear of change, even if just for a day.
What do you dream of doing? What would you change about your life if you could gather up your courage and take that leap of faith? Is there something you’ve been longing to do, but have held back from out of a fear of looking foolish?
Well, today’s the day! Make a wish list for yourself of all those dreams you keep in that dusty, “I just don’t dare,” corner of your mind and heart. Do you want a new job or a new career? Have you been pining for the guy next door, but lacking the courage to ask him out? Is there a writer or an artist, a singer, actor or comedian inside you, longing to be brought out into the shining light of day?
Today, on All Fool’s Day, why not pick one of the aspects of The Fool and make it your own? Choose to be more spontaneous or optimistic. Take a leap of faith. Trust in the universe to help you make your dreams come true.
And if things don’t work out the way you’d hoped, and you make a fool of yourself, so what? At least on April Fool’s Day, you’ll have plenty of company.

[Some info for this post came from the following very good books:
  1. Ardinger, Barbara. Pagan Every Day: Finding the Extraordinary in our Everyday Lives. San Francisco: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2006.
  2. Greer, Mary K. Tarot for Yourself: A Workbook for Personal Transformation. North Hollywood: Newcastle Publishing, 1984.]
Speaking of making fools of ourselves...I hope I don't make a fool of MYSELF, when I speak live on the radio/streaming online tonight on the Edge of the Unknown radio show out of Rochester, NY. Host Mark Henry kindly invited me to be his first witch (huzzah!) on his paranormal show, which is broadcast from 9 PM to Midnight EST tonight! I've done podcasts before, although not this one, and they are always lots of fun. Of course, once it gets late and I get tired, who knows what will come out of my mouth!

I'll be talking all things witchy, and answering questions from listeners, so if you have an interest in my books, modern Witchcraft, or have always been dying to ask me something...here's your chance! I hope that you'll listen in, and maybe call to say hi! No fooling!

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