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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Belated Feline Friday with Sierra, Queen of Research

I realized I didn't do a Feline Friday this week (when people started yelling at me), so I'm adding some "guest cat" photos to my Thursday post about the lovely Sierra, Queen of Research. These lovely creatures are Ploof and Elwing :-)




Some authors love to write books that involve a lot of research. Not me.

Don't get me wrong--I do plenty of research, especially for particular books. I own a gazillion (approximately) books on magic, witchcraft, and the like, for use both when writing the Llewellyn nonfiction and my paranormal romance/urban fantasy fiction. And I spend a fair amount of time online doing research as well.

Therein lies the problem, of course. Research takes time. Online research not only takes time, but offers lots of opportunities for distraction. You know what I mean, if you're an author. Say you put in a search for "movies with brooms" for example. This takes you to a Wikipedia site that shows you info on a particular movie. But that site also contains interesting links to about twelve other things: actors, the book the movie was based on, clips from the movie...three hours later, you still don't have the information you were looking for, and you haven't accomplished a thing. GAH!

Which is why, when I was writing my last Llewellyn book, A BROOM FOR EVERY WITCH (title tentative), I called on a friend for help.

I needed to do an unusual amount of research for this book, including things like the history of brooms (both as a household tool and a magickal one), brooms in popular culture, how to make one from scratch...all sorts of things. But I only had two months to write the book, and I knew perfectly well that I couldn't do that AND do all the research.

Enter the amazing Sierra M.

Sierra is a pal of mine, and online research is her super power.

I gave her a list of information I needed, and she came back with exactly what I needed, including links to where she found it, so I could go look further if I needed to. It was AMAZING. Saved my butt with the book. And I will definitely be using her for this service again.

In fact, she was so amazing, I suggested she take her show on the road, so to speak. I know lots of writers who love to do research. But I also know plenty more, like me, who simply don't have the time and energy to do it all. So here is my official recommendation, should you need someone to help with online research. Her rates are extremely reasonable, she's fast, and she's GOOD.

If you need someone to help you out with research (or know a friend who does) you can contact Sierra at sierrakatresearch@gmail.com

Just tell her Deborah sent you :-)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Witchcraft 101/102: It's now or never!

The next online workshop, a combined Witchcraft 101/102 class (good for witches, Wiccans, writers who use witch characters and the curious) starts Monday, and registration closes Sunday at 6 PM EST.

Despite the enthusiasm for these classes last year, the sign-ups for this year's classes have been minimal, so I probably won't be continuing to give them.

Just a heads up, in case you wanted to take this one, but were putting it off until later.

Witchcraft and Writing Workshop loop

(You can also still sign up for the year-long Sabbats/holidays class.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Feline Friday: The Back to Work Version

The Cold From Hell, which hits the end of week two today, seems to finally be easing up. I've still got a runny brick of a head and crap in my chest, but at least I no longer feel quite so much like I was hit by a bus. So I am heading into the Artisans' Guild for the first time in a week and a half, hoping to clear a bunch of the paperwork that is undoubtedly sitting on my desk, waiting for my return. I also have to run a bunch of errands and go to acupuncture (which I cancelled last week due to the plague). Let's hope my energy holds up through it all...

And no, the errands can't wait. Unless you want to tell the cats I am out of cat food AND cat litter. No? I didn't think so. Also, I need more damned tissues.

On the bright side, once I have today's tasks out of the way, I'll have another couple of days to recover, with only two things on the schedule: going to the dump on Saturday (or else) and watching the Oscars on Sunday night with my pal JC (he of the floor help).

Also on the bright side, I finally got my brain working enough over the last few days to write up three ideas for Whatever Novel I'm Writing Next, and sent them off to my agent Elaine. Hopefully she'll get back to me today on which one(s) she likes best, so I can pick one and start mulling...

It is too soon to start talking about the stories themselves, but I will tell you that all three of them are (gasp!) contemporary romance, rather than the paranormal romance or urban fantasy I normally write. Nary a witch to be seen. This isn't the first time I've written a contemporary romance (REINVENTING RUBY, my foodie romance is out making the rounds right now). But it will be quite the change of pace. And you know what they say: a change is as good as a rest. Which is just as well, since I spent what was supposed to be my vacation fighting a cold instead...

Oops! Sorry...Magic the Cat just reminded me that this is supposed to be a Feline Friday post. So enough about me. Here are the cute cat pics!
Minerva, lying in the sun.
 
Minerva and Magic curled up together on the bed. (Remind me to post a picture of that quilt one of these days, BTW, since a few of you have commented on it.)
Magic, up on the table, "helping" me to put away the last of the tax paperwork from 2012, and pack up a surprise gift for my parents. (Don't worry, it's in the box, so they can't see what it is.)

Okay--out into the the cold sunshine. Wish me luck with my first day back into the real world...coff coff sniff sniff.

Happy Friday all! So, who's watching the Oscars with me?


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The New Kitchen Floor Saga

Still fighting the Cold from Hell, but I think it is on the wane... (PLEASE goddess, let it be on the wane. 11 days is really enough, thank you very much.)

In the meanwhile, I promised to post about The New Kitchen Floor Saga, part of which started as long ago as the end of December, and the last of which finished up as the cold was really hitting me last week.

You  may recall, she said in a storytelling kind of voice, the Great Appliance Meltdown of 2012. That was when the week after Christmas, the washer started spewing water all over the mudroom floor, followed the next day by the dryer making a *clunking grinding* kind of noise (never good) and dying on the spot. Followed, a week and a half later, by the dishwasher causing a major flood during the dinner party I held for my step-daughter Jenn's last night in town.

Was there cursing? you ask. Oh yes, I reply, there was cursing. But not a lot. These are the joys of home-ownership. You get used to them.

Anyway. Due to some major incompetence on the part of the Electrolux people (not the repair folks, who were great, but they didn't have the right part for the washer in stock, and when they ordered it from Frigidaire/Electrolux, the company didn't send it....and didn't send it...and didn't send it, until I finally went on Twitter and complained about them, and magically, the part appeared. Yay Twitter.) it took us three weeks to get the washer and dryer fixed and the dishwasher looked at. To discover that we needed a couple of hoses the repairman didn't have... So he had to order them and come back a week later.

All of which is important to our story because water kept coming up through the floorboards (which were laminate flooring that looked like wood--what they call a "floating floor"--a term which was becoming more ironic by the minute, I might add) and I kept thinking, "Man, that was one heck of a flood, that there is still water under there."

Until the lovely repairman pulled the dishwasher out, and before he replaced the bad hoses, went to wash his hands at the kitchen sink...and water came out of one of the broken hoses behind the dishwasher.

*headdesk* Yes, that's right. Even though I turned off the water to the dishwasher itself, I'd been adding more water under the floor every time I'd used the kitchen sink. FOR OVER A MONTH. The upshot of which was...the floor was now an ex-floor, and needed to be replaced. [The top of laminate flooring is like granite. The underneath is made of pressed stuff, and not meant to be soaking wet for a damned month. Some of the flooring might have been reusable, and I did give it away to someone for free, but frankly, I thought the chances of the thing developing serious mold issues was way too good, and I would have had to replace a bunch of pieces anyway. So--dead floor.]


This is what the floor looked like before, and what the piece right in front of the dishwasher looked like when I pulled up a bit. The greenish stuff is a plastic underlayment, which was holding the water in and also smelling like er...BAD.

This is the kitchen with the old flooring pulled up, and half the underlayment ripped out. You can see the Really Ugly Linoleum that was in the house when I bought it (I redid the entire kitchen when I moved in, because it was a nightmare of 4 white metal cabinets, no countertop at all, and an ancient stove with 4 electric burners and 2 wood ones). Luckily, the RUL was put in really well, so it seemed to have contained the water. And there is cement underneath, anyway.
This is my heroic friend John Carter (not the one from Mars) who I paid to help me put in the original flooring, and this time to pull it out and put down the new flooring. I was already really ill from this stupid cold, so he did the nasty job of  cleaning the smelly icky wet Linoleum. On his hands and knees with rags and a bucket full of bleach water. Like I said, heroic.
This is poor Minerva, who is terrified of loud noises and commotion. She spent most of the three day project either hiding behind the couch or under the bed. But she's better now. She just wanted me to tell you how traumatic the whole thing was. Poor baby.
 This is kind of cool. I'd forgotten I'd written this blessing on the old Linoleum before laying down the laminate floor. It's right by the door everyone comes into the house through. Covered up again, so you can't see it. But still cool. We also found a piece of the laminate that John had signed and dated on the underneath from the earlier job. History. Every house has it.

This is John putting down the new vinyl flooring squares. It took me multiple trips to the Home Depot to decide on the color (which almost exactly matches my countertop, and I thought might be Too Much) and a conversation with my sister Sarah the Kitchen Designer, during which she started laughing and said, "Go check your email" and when I did, saw a picture of her new kitchen floor...featuring these exact same tiles. So there you have it.
And here it is, the new kitchen floor. TA DA!

It's not perfect. The reason I originally used the floating laminate flooring (which costs a lot more than the vinyl tiles) is because the kitchen floor is quite uneven, and the floating flooring compensates for that, so you can't tell. With the tile, you can tell. Which is kind of a drag. But it sure looks pretty, and if there is ever another flood, there is no place for the water to go, and I'll just mop it up. So for the moment, I'm happy.

What do you think? 

Perty, isn't it?










Monday, February 18, 2013

Witchcraft 101 and 102 Class Coming Right Up!

We interrupt the Cold That Would Not Die for this brief announcement:

Up next at the Witchcraft and Writing Workshop Loop
WITCHCRAFT 101 and 102

When I gave these classes last year, I did them as separate workshops, for $15 each. But since virtually everyone who took 101 also took 102, I thought I'd cut people a break this year and I'm giving them together as only one class, for the bargain price of $25. *pauses for cheering to die down*

These classes are designed to give basic info on the practice of modern witchcraft, and then to delve a little more deeply into that practice. They're great for anyone who is considering following a Pagan path, or who has just started out and would like to learn more. It is also perfect for writers who have witches (whether realistic modern witches or paranormal "magic" witches) as characters, and need to find out how to make them more realistic. If you are just curious, that's okay too.

The classes start next Monday, the 25th and run for 5 days, through March 1st. Sign-up closes Sunday the 24th at 6 PM EST, so sign up now! Register for the classes 

You can also still register for the ongoing "Wheel of the Year" class that covers all the Sabbats (holidays) in the Pagan year. The next one up is Spring Equinox, otherwise known as Ostara. Find out where Easter eggs really came from :-) This class will be given on a special loop, and will be taught by both me and the fabulous Heather Long. All the information will be available until the end of the year, so if you missed the first class, you can still catch up. The ongoing workshop is $40 for the entire year (with 8 Sabbats, that's only $5 a class!) with an information-packed post for each holiday that includes the basics, a ritual, and even a recipe or two.  

Whether or not you are interested in taking the classes, I'd really appreciate anything you can do to spread the word. And if you took the 101 and/or 102 class last year, what did you think? Was it fun? Informative? Turn you into a toad? (Gee, I hope not.)

We now return you to our regularly scheduled Cold From Hell, which we hope is gone by next week.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Feline Friday: The Terrible, Horrible Cold Version

This post is a little late because I have been fighting a terrible, horrible cold. Since last Saturday. And losing, I  might add. Blergh. Snuffle. Cough.

I'm not used to this, I might add. If I feel something coming on, I slam it with echinecea/goldenseal tincture, zinc lozenges, vitamin C, and LOTS of garlic, and I usually get rid of whatever it is in about 48 hours. This, apparently, is the Cold from Hell. Because I've had it for seven days, and it shows no sign of leaving. *shakes fist at cold*

Of course, it probably didn't help that I insisted on going to work earlier in the week, thinking I wasn't that sick (it was mostly just a really bad sore throat at that point). And helped tear up the kitchen floor. (Did I mention I have a new kitchen floor? But that's another post. Maybe tomorrow, if I'm less blergh than today.)

Ironically, I ended up taking yesterday and today off...the same days I would have taken off if I had been able to keep my original plans to fly out to California to see my family in San Diego, and then go to Pantheacon in San Jose. So while I am still disappointed I couldn't go this year, I am REALLY REALLY glad I wasn't traveling this week. Not only are my ears and head stuffed, which would have sucked on the plane, and not only do I feel horrible, but I sound like a 90 year old woman with a 3 pack a day habit, so I'm thinking that trying to give my presentations would have been...unpleasant for all involved. Just sayin'.


 Anyway, that was Plan A. There was a Plan B, which has been moved to another week when I am not dying feeling like crap on a plate. This, apparently, is Plan C.
Lots of tissues, a reread of all my favorite humorous romance books by Lani Diane Rich (and when I run out of hers, probably Jennifer Crusie....I have a huge stack of unread paranormal romances and urban fantasies, some of them things I've been waiting for, but my brain just isn't up to the job at the moment...book comfort food, that's what I need). And Samhain, who very kindly sat on my lap much of the afternoon, but was understandably unimpressed when I wanted to take a picture of her with a bunch of used tissues.

Angus isn't very good at sitting still, bless him, so he resorted to his usual "Aren't I Cute?" poses to entertain me.

I don't know about you, but I feel better already. Kinda.




Friday, February 8, 2013

Finished! Snow! And Your Feline Friday Fix!

In today's news...

I finished writing the new Llewellyn book, A Broom for Every Witch, last night! Huzzah! (Working title only, of course. These things change.)

Happy dance time!

I'll spend today (and maybe some of this weekend, depending on how long it takes), reading over the manuscript for boo boos [yes, that IS the technical writing term, why do you ask?], and then send it off to Elysia, my fabulous editor. Who started doing her happy dance last night when I messaged her on Facebook to tell her it was done :-)

In other news, they're calling for snow here. A LOT of snow, although not nearly as much as Boston and some of the other coastal areas are looking at. I've seen reports ranging from 6 inches to 16 inches. Er, I'd like to put in my vote for less, please?

On the bright side, I should be home well before the worst of it hits, and have no place I need to be tomorrow, so I should be fine except for the shoveling... And I'm sure it will be pretty. Also, in even more news, it's winter in upstate NY. So, there you have it.

If you live in the area that's being hit by snow, check in and let me know you're okay tomorrow, yes? You know how much I worry.

And here it is, your Feline Friday fix! That's Samhain on top of the pellet stove. She seems to have nabbed it as her spot this winter, and who can blame her? Stay warm! Stay safe! Have a great weekend.


Monday, February 4, 2013

The Gift of an Hour of Joy- Brigid’s Cauldron of Creativity



We just finished celebrating Imbolc, so I have been thinking a bit about Brigid, the Celtic goddess who is most commonly associated with the Sabbat. Brigid is a triple fire goddess, known for her patronage of the fires of the forge, the fires of the hearth, and the fires of creativity. In the middle of cold winter, all that warmth is truly welcome!

It’s the creativity part that’s my focus today. After all, creativity is important—it feeds the soul and nourishes the spirit. One might even argue that it is one of the elements that makes us human. Certainly a spark of creativity makes us more well rounded people, and allows us to express our inner selves, or to relax and let go a little.

The problem is, many of us don’t take the time to be creative. We have all those things to do: people depending on us, jobs that won’t wait, work, cooking, cleaning, kids or animals or significant others making demands on our time and energy. Sometimes creativity feels a little too much like playing hooky. We don’t have time to just stop and have fun.

Or do we? I think it’s vital to feed our own fires, or in the end, we burn out and don’t have anything to give to anyone. (And if you can’t do it any other way, try sharing the hour with your family, and have everyone do something creative!)

I’m as guilty of this as most people are. Don’t get me wrong—I do creative things all the time. After all, I make part of my living from writing and jewelry making, both creative endeavors. The problem here is that they ARE part of my living, and hence, work, not play. I enjoy doing them both, but because they’re work, they don’t really count as relaxation and down time. Creativity needs, in part, to be an escape from the rest of our lives. So I’ve decided to make the time to do something else occasionally. Something creative that isn’t work. Something…dare I say it…fun.

Here’s what I’m going to do, and I’m hoping a few of you will try it to, and come back here to tell me if it works for you.

I’m using a small cast iron cauldron, since the cauldron is one of Brigid’s symbols, but you could use any bowl or dish you happen to have handy. Or even treat yourself to something new and special, just for this.

In the cauldron, I am going to put a number of slips of paper. Each one of them is going to have the name of some form of creative activity that I enjoy. I might even put in a few that I’ve been meaning to try out, and haven’t gotten to (you know—because I was too busy WORKING). My cauldron slips are going to include things like the following: paint a picture, write a poem, learn a chord on the guitar, learn to spin,  learn to crochet (again), sew something, put on music and dance for no reason. There might even be a few options that are a little less creative, but more about just relaxing: take a bath with a book, meditate, do a picture puzzle.

The main point is that I will be gifting myself with a space in time that isn’t about work, or achieving something concrete, or pleasing someone else. Brigid’s cauldron will give me the gift of time spent at play, something many of us forget to do as we get older.

Your cauldron may have completely different thing written on its slips of paper, depending on which creative things excite you: journaling, drawing, knitting, singing, playing a musical instrument, decorating things around the house—whatever makes you happy.

I’m going to start by committing myself to an hour, once a week. That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a start. And you can do that too, I’m sure. One hour a week, as a gift to yourself. You’re worth it. Don’t believe me? Just ask Brigid, and I’m sure she’d say the same.

And if you feel like it, I’d love it if you come back here and tell me what things you’ve put on the papers in your cauldron—and then tell me what you ended up doing and how it made you feel.

Let’s all dive into Brigid’s cauldron of creativity together, and let Her fire spark a flame in our own spirits…no matter how cold it might be outside.

Friday, February 1, 2013

February Feline Friday Feast!

Okay, I just couldn't resist all the "F's." :-)

Well, people, we made it through January. Only 48 days until spring. Not that I'm counting, or anything. On the other hand, I am enjoying the quieter days, and slowly working my way through writing the new Llewellyn book, which I'm hoping to get to my editor within a couple of weeks. (It's not due until March 31st, but she really needs it earlier. Important lesson for prospective authors: any time you can do your editor a favor, DO IT.)

In the meanwhile, here are some Feline Friday pics to brighten up the end of your week.

Tell me the best thing that happened to you this week, and brighten up mine!

This is my favorite cat picture of the week. I call it, "Who knew you could get that from Amazon?"
(Snicker. That's Mystic, proving yet again that cats will sit in a box whenever possible.)

Samhain, completely ignoring the "No cats on the TV tables" rule. Proving yet again that I am SO not the one in charge at my house. (In case you're wondering, the book on the table is Tanya Huff's A Long Hot Summoning, and it was fabulous.)


The three-cornered bed hold. It's a well-known cat wrestling move, in which three cats hold down a waterbed, just in case it decides to get frisky. (The cats love the waterbed, since it is warm and comfy. The author loves it for the same reason. On a cold winter's night, it's like crawling back into the womb. Don't judge me.) That's Mystic in the front, Angus in the yellow coat on the left, and Minerva in the back.

And here was my best moment from the week:
That's the sunrise, a few days ago. Pretty spectacular eh? It really made my heart sing.

What made your heart sing this week?

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