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Monday, December 31, 2012

Endings & Beginnings

Wow--I can't believe it is the end of another year. 2012 was a challenging one for many of us, but it had its fair share of blessings as well.

I could dwell on the negative: the physical and financial frustrations, the things that broke unexpectedly, the bad news, or the difficult weather. But frankly, there is no point in wasting your time or energy on regrets or complaints. I'd rather talk about what was wonderful about 2012.

I had a new book come out (Everyday Witch Book of Rituals), signed a contract for another one, and finished two novels, one of which is currently out on submission, and the other of which will be going out shortly. Things are going reasonably well at The Artisans' Guild, despite the crappy economy, and I still like my job most days. Samhain, the cat with chronic renal failure, is hanging in there (yay for stubborn cats!) and is just as feisty as ever, and the other cats are all doing well despite a few bumps in the road.


I got to visit with family this summer, when my sister and her kids came in from San Diego to spend some time with me and our other sister (and her hubby and kids) who lives in Schenectady. And my step-daughter is here from CA right now, so we can celebrate her New Year's birthday together for a change. I don't get to spend nearly as much time with my family as I like, so this is a great blessing indeed.

Blue Moon Circle celebrated another turn of the Wheel of the Year together, and as always, brought great joy to my life. And my friends, both actual and online, brought light where there was darkness, and laughter when there might otherwise have been tears.

I thank you all for sharing this journey with me, and I hope to see you often in the new year. Here's wishing you a fabulous, prosperous, healthy, joy-filled 2013. Here's a "New Beginnings" spell for those who want one, and I'd love to hear about the best things that happened to you in 2012!

Bless this new beginning
A gift from the gods
Which I accept with gratitude and appreciation
Let it be productive like the earth
And nurtured by the warmth of the sun
Let it flow smoothly like the water
And carry me in a positive direction
Like a seed blown on the winds
Bless this new beginning
That it may broaden my horizons
Strengthen and enlighten me
And help my spirit to grow and blossom
So mote it be

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Solstice!

Today is the Winter Solstice, also known as Yule. It is the longest night (the most dark) and the shortest day (the least light) of any day of the year. It is also the origin of almost all of the commonly celebrated Christmas traditions, including putting up trees and greenery (which represented life in the midst of the death of winter) and decorating them with lights (which used to be actual candles) to show light shining out in the darkness. Caroling began as a rather rowdy movable door-to-door party, where people sang and drank their way from neighbor to neighbor. If you listen to many carols even today, you will hear them talk about "making the Yuletide merry."



I have a confession to make: Christmas is not my holiday. Never has been. I grew up Jewish, and the only time I ever celebrated Christmas was the couple of years I was married, way back in the 1980's. And these days, as a Pagan who runs an artists' cooperative shop (and sells her jewelry there), I am mostly just grateful that it isn't my holiday, so I don't have to feel guilty about focusing all my energy on making money...

This doesn't mean I don't celebrate at all, though. Every year, my group, Blue Moon Circle, gets together for a Yule dinner party at my house. This year, it will be held tomorrow. We don't do a ritual, so it is a "safe" time for people to bring the husband who isn't comfortable with witchcraft, or the kids who don't sit still well. We usually invite a pagan-friendly friend or two, too. BMC is really one big family anyway, so for us it is a time to gather as an extended tribe and enjoy being together and celebrating the light in the midst of the darkness.

We always have a big feast. Everyone brings a dish to share, all of them made with love (and no little cooking talent). Unlike the post-ritual feasts we normally have at the other sabbats, where we tend to sit around the living room with paper plates on our knees, we actually put all the leaves in the dining room table and sit down together. There are often over a dozen of us, so it can be kind of crowded, but nobody minds.
We usually exchange gifts in one way or another; sometimes we play a silly gift-stealing game, and this year we're each pulling one name and getting a gift for that person. (The kids get gifts from everyone!)

I keep the decorations simple, since I haven't got the time or inclination to put up a big tree (see "not my holiday" above, plus I have 5 cats). I have a couple of lovely evergreen and juniper swags (about 6' long) that a local artisan made, and I hang them up, along with strings of white lights to symbolize the light of the Yule holiday. I may put up a few shiny ornaments here and there, but otherwise, that's enough to give the house a festive look.
Here is this year's Yule altar in the living room.

If I'm really feeling the desire to go all out, sometimes I dig a small volunteer pine tree up from my yard, where they tend to sprout up where I least expect them. They're always a little "Charlie Brown" looking, but that's okay.
I don't think Magic the Cat was very impressed with this previous effort...

Sometimes we light candles on a Yule log we've made, and talk about our wishes for the year ahead. Mostly, we just enjoy being together. Friendship is the greatest light in the dark there is.

I hope that you get to share Yule (or whichever holiday or holidays you celebrate) with people you love.
Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A "Thank You" Giveaway!

I've been doing this blog for a few years now, mostly as a way to reach out to and interact with those who read my books, and talk about the writer's life. It took me a while to really get into the swing of things, but this year, I think I hit my stride. Or rather, you all did.

The blog hit 50,000 page views not too long ago, which knocked my socks off. I can't believe that many people actually thought I had something interesting to say! I've got a bunch of great followers (I hope you'll be one too, if you're not already) and people seem to be starting to pass the word along, which is wonderful. And I've had all sorts of fun contests to give things away--including copies of my new book--with a truly enthusiastic response.

In short--damn, you guys ROCK!

You've made me really happy by coming here and sharing my world, whether you show up for the contests, to hear about my writing, or just to see the cute cat pictures. I wish I could give you each a big hug. But since I can't, I'm going to give one lucky person a $25 Amazon gift card. You can use it to buy yourself a copy of one of  my books, or anything else your little heart desires.

Here's how it is going to work:
All you have to do is tell me what your favorite part of the blog is, or which was your favorite post, or anything else about why you come here. On December 31st, I'll end the year by pulling one random commenter's name to be the winner. And one lucky person will start out the new year right...with FREE BOOKS!

If you feel like it, you can do something nice for me: go click "Like" for one or more of my books (they're all conveniently listed on THIS POST ). I read somewhere recently that the "Like" button on Amazon makes a big difference...but only once you hit 50 Likes, which none of my books has yet. Or put up a review on Amazon, B&N or Goodreads.

But you don't have to. All you have to do is tell me what you like about my little blog, and you'll be entered into the contest. My way of saying THANK YOU for all your support, encouragement, and friendship this year.

Damn, you guys ROCK!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Yearly Yule Dinner Party



I have a confession to make: Christmas is not my holiday. Never has been. I grew up Jewish, and the only time I ever celebrated Christmas was the couple of years I was married, way back in the 1980's. And these days, as a Pagan who runs an artists' cooperative shop (and sells her jewelry there), I am mostly just grateful that it isn't my holiday, so I don't have to feel guilty about focusing all my energy on making money...

This doesn't mean I don't celebrate at all, though. Every year, my group, Blue Moon Circle, gets together for a Yule dinner party at my house. We don't do a ritual, so it is a "safe" time for people to bring the husband who isn't comfortable with witchcraft, or the kids who don't sit still well. We usually invite a Pagan-friendly friend or two, too. BMC is really one big family anyway, so for us it is a time to gather as an extended tribe and enjoy being together and celebrating the light in the midst of the darkness.

We always have a big feast. Everyone brings a dish to share, all of them made with love (and no little cooking talent). Unlike the post-ritual feasts we normally have at the other sabbats, where we tend to sit around the living room with paper plates on our knees, we actually put all the leaves in the dining room table and sit down together. There are often over a dozen of us, so it can be kind of crowded, but nobody minds.
We usually exchange gifts in one way or another; sometimes we play a silly gift-stealing game, and this year we're each pulling one name and getting a gift for that person. (The kids get gifts from everyone!)

I keep the decorations simple, since I haven't got the time or inclination to put up a big tree (see "not my holiday" above, plus I have 5 cats). I have a couple of lovely evergreen and juniper swags (about 6' long) that a local artisan made, and I hang them up, along with strings of white lights to symbolize the light of the Yule holiday. I may put up a few shiny ornaments here and there, but otherwise, that's enough to give the house a festive look.
My "tree" from 2010. Magic the Cat seems a bit dubious about my decorating efforts. And rightfully so :-)

If I'm really feeling the desire to go all out, sometimes I dig a small volunteer pine tree up from my yard, where they tend to sprout up where I least expect them. They're always a little "Charlie Brown" looking, but that's okay. (See picture above. Yes, it is okay to laugh.)

Sometimes we light candles on a Yule log we've made, and talk about our wishes for the year ahead. Mostly, we just enjoy being together. Friendship is the greatest light in the dark there is.
Blue Moon Circle and friends in years past.

I hope that you get to share Yule (or whichever holiday or holidays you celebrate) with people you love.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Books: The Gift of Knowledge, Entertainment & Escape

This will probably not come as a shock to anyone...but I LOVE to read. I have since I was a kid, when I spent my time curled up in a corner with Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein, exploring fabulous new worlds and ignoring my mother when she said, "Get up and GO OUTSIDE." [To be fair, I got my love of reading from my mother, so she has no one to blame but herself. *waves at mom*]

And I still love to read, although my interests have expanded to encompass not only SF and fantasy, but urban fantasy, romance, mysteries, women's fiction, and of course, various nonfiction books. I always take the time to read with my breakfast and before bed, if nothing else. I feel that as an author, I learn more from reading good books by other authors than I could by taking classes or reading books about how to write. Also, they're FUN. I learn new things, am entertained, and for the space of an hour or two, I get to escape from my own issues. Whew. What's not to like?

Books are among my favorite gift-giving items, too. I'm giving one of my friends a book on how to make wine at home, along with some of the supplies to get him started. My niece is getting some books on Witchcraft, since she shares my interest in it. And cookbooks are a favorite gift for many of my foodie friends. If I'm lucky, I'll reap the rewards in the form of yummy meals somewhere down the line...

I also like to share my favorite authors--both because I know that my friends will enjoy the books, and because I try to support the authors I like the most. Call it enlightened self-interest: if they keep selling books, they'll keep writing more, and I'll get to keep reading them!

I hope that you will be giving a few books as gifts this year (or, if you don't know which ones to give, you can use an Amazon or B&N gift card, or a gift certificate to your local Indy book store, should you be lucky enough to have one). Ebooks can be given as gifts too, as long as you have the email address of the recipient.

And in case you need a few ideas...feel free to give one of these :-)
[Note: if you want to personalize a gift, I will be happy to send a signed bookplate to you if you send me a self-addressed stamped-envelope. Just let me know who you want it signed to.]

Everyday Witch Book of Rituals (All the books are currently ON SALE on Amazon!)
Witchcraft on a Shoestring
Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook
The Goddess is in the Details
Everyday Witch A to Z
Circle, Coven & Grove: A Year of Magical Practice
The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction (This has a short story of mine in it, along with 12 other cool Pagan-themed tales)
Witch Ever Way You Can (paranormal fantasy novel, eBook)
Witch Upon a Star (the accompanying short story, also eBook form)
[to give to a friend, click on the button to the right that says "give as a gift"]

Also, if you look on the left-hand side of this blog, you'll see a button that says "Buy a Signed Copy" for the newest book, Everyday Witch Book of Rituals, in case you want a signed one for you or a friend.

Soon I'll put up a post with books I recommend. Which books, fiction or nonfiction, are your favorites to give as gifts?

Addendum: If you don't have anyone on your list who wants a book--which I suppose could happen--then don't forget that you can give the gift of a reader to the writers you like by recommending their books, writing and posting reviews, and clicking "like" on Amazon. You have no idea how much this helps authors, but it does!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Witchcraft/Writing Poll & BOOK GIVEAWAY

As many of you know, this year (after much nudging...ahem...encouragement) from fans, readers, and other interested folks, I started a new endeavor, my Witchcraft & Writing Class Loop . With the help of my Tech goddess and occasional guest-teacher Heather Long , I began giving classes on witchcraft and writing. I think it went pretty well! Lots of people seemed to enjoy the classes we offered, and I had a good time giving them.

It is time consuming, however, so we're trying to narrow down our offerings for the coming year, so we give only the classes people are most interested in taking. I've put a poll up here, and I would really really really appreciate it if anyone who might want to take a class in 2013 would take a minute to let me know which ones they want the most. And spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested.

You can vote for as many different classes as you want, and the poll will be up until December 8th. You'll note that some of the classes are mostly about witchcraft (although many of those can be useful for anyone writing a witchy character) and a few are aimed specifically at writers. The ones that Heather teaches have her name next to them, otherwise you can assume I'll be giving the class.

To reward y'all for helping me out with this, I'll be giving away a signed copy of the new Everyday Witch Book of Rituals to one person who comments (you can just say you took the poll, or you can tell me which class you would most like to take). If you aren't interested in taking a class, you can spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else you lurk online, and tell me you've done that, and you can still be in the contest. Or click on the link to the new book and go click "like." That's always helpful too.

And thanks so  much for all your support and encouragement in this new endeavor--I really appreciate it!


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