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Monday, October 16, 2017

Season's End

It is always a little bittersweet to get to this part of the fall, when I put the garden to bed, put away the outdoor furniture and fountain, and start cleaning the house to prepare for a long winter stuck inside. (I do a "fall cleaning" blitz rather than a spring one, usually.)

On the one hand, it is something of a relief to have one less thing on my plate--and the garden is a fair amount of work. On the other, it provides a bit of therapy and lots of lovely fresh veggies, which I'll miss. Still, this part of the year always rolls around, and here we are again.

Two weekends ago, my sainted friend Ellen (who will work for veggies and beer, bless her) helped me tear out the rest of the garden and put it to bed for the winter. I just left the basil (since we have been having a run of unusually warm weather, and I hadn't made the second batch of pesto yet). All I have left to do now is cover the beds with straw and pull the pump from the new pond.

Ellen taking down the last of the tomato cages.

An amphibian supervisor next to the asparagus bed.

It seems so empty now. The greenery you see is outside the garden. And mostly weeds.
Then I spent much of this last weekend putting up the last of the harvest, turning my bounty of golden delicious apples into applesauce (they're not really the perfect apple for that, being a bit too sweet, but they're ugly little organic apples and aren't great for eating out of hand) and much of the remaining basil into pesto. Everything that's left will probably die in the frost we're expecting tonight, but I've left it for the bees for now.



Applesauce prep. Thankfully, the slow cooker makes applesauce cooking a lot easier than it used to be.

Mystic supervised me in the kitchen.

Magic supervised me as I prepped the basil in front of the TV. It takes a long time.

Pesto ingredients. The flavored sea salt has citrus in it, made by my friend Chris. The garlic is from my garden too.

A fraction of what I ended up with. Pretty, isn't it?
I also had a visit the weekend before last from my pal Princess Alethea Kontis and her friend Lillie (Alethea lives in Florida, but was in the area visiting Lillie), which was lots of fun, and then a brief drive-by visit this last Sunday from pal Karen Buys as she drove from Bouchercon in Ontario back to her home in New Jersey. She brought me chocolate. Really good chocolate.

Princess Alethea!

Plus, I got to spend an unexpected three hours with Magic the Cat at the emergency vet on Saturday morning (we at least got to see her regular vet, who happened to be working, and it looks like it was nothing major), although I still managed to make a dump run with a borrowed truck-and-strong-guy to clear out the barn. YAY!

What have you done these last couple of weekends to celebrate the season's end?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Year and a Day of Everyday Witchcraft Release Day Giveaway

Okay, so the book actually came out in print a few days early, and some people already have it. (THANK YOU so much to those who have posted reviews! SMOOCHES!) But today is the official release date for A YEAR AND A DAY OF EVERYDAY WITCHCRAFT, my latest book from Llewellyn. As you might guess from the title, it is a 365 day book (well, 366) that is part devotional, part daily reminder to put spirit into your life. Here is the description:
Enjoy the Sacred Wisdom of Witchcraft Every Day
Connect with your witchy self each and every day using quick, easy, and fun practices. This handy book features simple yet meaningful ways to integrate witchcraft into your daily life, inspiring you to take your magic to a new level whether you’re a beginner or an experienced practitioner.
Deborah Blake guides you on a journey through the Wheel of the Year, providing witchy wisdom, affirmations, spells, questions to ponder, and much more. From working with herbs and gemstones to connecting with deities, A Year and a Day of Everyday Witchcraft explores a variety of modern Pagan practices to help you get more in touch with your personal path of witchcraft.

It is the #1 New Release in Wicca over on Amazon, which is pretty cool.

 As are the rankings :-)

So of course, I'm going to have to celebrate with a giveaway, right? I have two remaining ARCs (advanced reader copies), which are almost exactly like the actual book, only not quite. Plus a couple of fun witch's shoe pens for Halloween/Samhain. So we're going to have two winners to celebrate, instead of one. Because that's how much I love you people.

Look how cute!

Magic approves.
 As always, no purchase is necessary (although the author would be very happy if you would leave a review, tell all your friends, and such). And you get credit on the Rafflecopter form for anything you already do, like follow me on Twitter. Happy new book day!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

RoberCon with Faith Hunter

One of the best things about being an author (besides writing books, of course) is being able to meet and get to know some of the other authors I like and admire. Many of these folks are people I follow online and become friends with, so it is a great joy when I finally get to meet one of them in person.

My "local" SF/fantasy convention, RoberCon, held every year in the Roberson Museum in Binghamton, NY (a little over an hour from where I live) has done an amazing job the last few years of moving this dream forward, by inviting as Guests of Honor a number of the folks on my "Want to Meet" list. Two years ago it was the amazing Tamora Pierce, last year it was longtime pal Alex Bledsoe, and last weekend it was the fabulous Faith Hunter.

Faith and I had been online friends for years, and I always thought she seemed very nice, but she is even more lovely in person (and her husband Rod is a hoot). As always, my best friend Ellen came along as my driver/tote-r of heavy bags of books. One of these days I am going to get her a badge that says "entourage." We had a great time, I also got to see the lovely Nancy Holzner, the astonishing con chair Crystal Sarakas, who somehow pulled this all together, and a bunch of other lovely folks. I also sat on a number of fun panels (including one on dragons!), met up with my friends Robin and George and their kids Sophie and Nate for a couple of hours on Sunday, and went out to a delicious dinner at the always fab Remlik's restaurant.

I can't share my food with you, but here, have a few pictures from the weekend.

Saturday's book signing

The dragon panel. Yes, I AM wearing a dragon hat.

At Remlik's for dinner. They gave us our own room :-)

Laughing it up with Nancy Holzner and Faith Hunter
 There are lots more pictures on Facebook, but this last one should give you some idea of how much fun we had together. I hope I'll see you (and someone else on my list) there next year!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Wickedly Spirited Release Day!

Whoo hooo! Wickedly Spirited is out today! This is the third novella in the BABA YAGA SERIES, and falls between the events of Dangerously Charming (the first Rider book) and Dangerously Divine (the second Rider book, out November 28th). It features the teen Jazz we first met in the story of the third Baba Yaga in Wickedly Powerful.

I hope you like it!

Wickedly Spirited on Amazon
Wickedly Spirited on B&N
Wickedly Spirited on Books a Million
Wickedly Spirited on iTunes

Monday, September 11, 2017

Kindle & Kitty Giveaway!

I'm going to be traveling for a chunk of the time leading up to release day for the newest Baba Yaga novella, Wickedly Spirited (have I mentioned it is only $1.99?), so I thought I'd leave something here to entertain you.

And because I know some folks are sad that the novella isn't available in print (it's too short for the publishers to do that), I'm going to do a giveaway for a Kindle Fire 7 Tablet! And a cute kitty that looks a bit like Koshka, the Norwegian Forest cat who is featured in the novella.

Cute and fun!
As always, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below, you can take credit for things you've already done (like following me on Twitter...you already do that, right?), and no purchase is necessary. Now, you all just talk among yourselves until I get back. Feel free to talk about me :-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Coming soon to an eReader near you!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Visit to Animal Adventure Park and April the Giraffe

Things have been a little crazy here (what's new, I know) and I realized I never put up a blog post about my visit to Animal Adventure Park last month. Many of you might have followed along last February and March as much of the world watched April the giraffe's pregnancy progress, and the birth of little Tajiri. I certainly got caught up in it, in part because the park is practically in my friend Robin's back yard in Harpursville, NY, less than an hour from where I live.

It had been one of my goals to get to the park to meet April in person, and in August, pal Ellen and I made the trip, joining up with Robin, her daughter Sophie, and Sophie's friend Rosie. It was a blast. It is a small park, although expanding all the time, and it took us about two hours to get around the whole thing, including a chunk of time spent with April, Oliver, and little Taj (who was asleep during our visit, alas, so we could only peek at him). April really is just as sweet as she seemed with the keepers who take care of her, and Sophie and I both took turns letting her take carrots (the giraffes' favorite treat) from our mouths. Here are a few pictures from the day:

Me and April the Giraffe!

Sophie said April's tongue tickled her

More carrots please!

Little Taj!

Sophie, Rosie, me, Ellen, and April

Daddy Oliver

Look how tall!

Ellen made friends with the camels

Lots of different kinds of animals, not just giraffes

Can you tell I was happy to be there?
It was a terrific day, spent in terrific company, and I'm already looking forward to going back next year.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Wickedly Spirited Giveaway

I looked at the calendar and suddenly realized it is SEPTEMBER. (Seriously, how the heck did that happen?) And that means that the next Baba Yaga novella, Wickedly Spirited, is coming out in less than three weeks!

Wickedly Spirited is the story of Jazz, the teen who Bella met in WICKEDLY POWERFUL, the third novel. (You read that one, right?)
Jazz, the powerfully magical teen first introduced in Wickedly Powerful, is now being trained as a Baba Yaga—and she’s determined to free the Broken Riders herself.

Jazz had a rough life before meeting her guardian, and she knows she’s lucky that Bella is training her to be a Baba Yaga. But the gifted young witch is frustrated by the slow pace of her lessons. Jazz knows she’s capable of even greater magic, and she wants nothing more than to find a spell that will give the Riders back the immortality they lost.

With the reluctant assistance of Bella’s dragon-turned-cat Koshka, Jazz travels to the Otherworld to get the necessary ingredients to perform the spell. A willful young witch, dangerous magic, and one powerful wish—what could possibly go wrong?
I had so much fun writing Jazz's story--she is, as the title says, spirited, and a completely unconventional Baba Yaga in training. And the novella features Bella's Chudo Yudo, Koshka, the dragon who is disguised as a giant Norwegian Forest cat. So obviously, this giveaway had to include a stuffed cat. Plus a signed copy of WICKEDLY POWERFUL, in case for some bizarre reason you haven't read it yet. And a broom pen, just because.

So cute!

Magic the Cat approves.
As always, all you have to do to enter is fill in the Rafflecopter form (and you can take credit for following me on Twitter and things like that if you've already done them). Of course, I hope that you will order the novella, because, really, Magic likes to eat. But also, because this is probably the last Baba Yaga novella, so you know you want to. And as always, I really appreciate you spreading the word!

Wickedly Spirited on Amazon
Wickedly Spirited on B&N
Wickedly Spirited on Books a Million
Wickedly Spirited on iTunes

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Reinventing Ruby Themed Giveaway

It has been about a month since REINVENTING RUBY, my self-published foodie contemporary romance came out, and I'm pleased with the response. Most people who have read it seem to like it, even though there are no witches in it at all :-)

If you haven't given it a try yet, I hope you will! It is available as an eBook everywhere, and in print from Amazon (you can follow the link up above). If you did read it and liked it, remember that good reviews are really, really, really important for authors, and pretty please take a minute to put up a quick one.

As thanks for all your support, I decided it was time for a Reinventing Ruby themed giveaway. Since pomegranates are a big part of the book, I found some cool citronella and pomegranate tea lights, and a lovely pomegranate scented soap. Plus, there is a fun notebook with the book cover on the front.

Giveaway goodies!

I think Magic and Angus approve.
As always, to enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter form. Yes, you get credit for things you've already done (like following me on Twitter--you DO follow me on Twitter, right?) and no purchase is necessary. Although if you buy the book, it will certainly make my day.

So tell me, what is your favorite fruit to cook with? I love cooking with pomegranates and pomegranate syrup. There are even some of my favorite recipes at the end of the book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mystic, An Update

I took Mystic back to see his vet today, a follow-up to the emergency visit last week when he had to see someone else because she was on vacation. As many of you know, my giant gray cat Mystic (not so large anymore, alas), the brother to Magic, has been going downhill for some months now. We're still not really sure what's causing the issue--x-rays haven't shown much, and blood tests show us all sorts of issues, including kidney failure, which is a new development in the last few months, and an unexplained very low red blood cell count. He lost his appetite and a lot of weight (going from 16.8 lbs to his current 12.2) and had problems pooping, but we've never really figured out why. There could be an underlying cancer we've never found, or it could simply be age, although even fifteen year old cats don't usually fall apart for no reason.

Mommy, I don't feel well.

We'd managed to stabilize him to some extent. Half a prednisone every other day got him eating again, and three other meds kept him pooping. Recently I also started giving him subq fluids at home, something I had all-too-much practice with from dealing with Samhain's six year fight against renal failure.

But then he peed outside the box three times in eight days. (Copious amounts, but not stinky, thank goodness, because he drinks so  much water.) I was pretty sure it wasn't another UTI, because that's not how he manifests them, and tests showed I was right. The vet we saw last Wednesday suggested that it was possible it was happening because he was in pain, and I thought that was likely because he'd been sitting all hunched over and also really being nasty and aggressive with Magic all of a sudden, unlike his usual periodic bullying.

So the vet tried him on a strong painkiller, which was premeasured in syringes I could just squirt into Mystic's mouth. The verdict was very clear--his behavior changed almost immediately, and he hasn't peed on the floor since, he's mostly better with his sister, and he is obviously more comfortable. This was a little bit "good news, bad news." Obviously it meant he was in increased amounts of pain, which was bad (and probably another indicator of the worsening of his condition, as was the fact that he had lost another pound after staying stable for a few months at 13.4). Plus, this medicine is usually used on a temporary basis only, usually for post-op pain relief. There are very few pain meds that can be used on cats, unfortunately, so our options were limited.

So we went back today to see his beloved regular vet to get her take on this. Luckily, she agreed with me that at this point, any possible negative issues from the painkiller were offset by the necessity to keep him comfortable and reasonably happy. (Basically, he's on kitty hospice, although there is no way to tell if he has a month or six.) He's on a half dose, which seems to be doing the trick for now. It's expensive stuff, of course, but I don't care. He may be fifteen years old, but he is still my baby, and I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure that whatever time he has left is as good as I can make it.

He is, if anything, more affectionate than ever, and I feel blessed that I have such a great vet, and good friends who are willing to care for him--bazillion meds and all--when I go out of town. He's a damned good cat.

Stretchhhhhh. I feel better!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Jewelry Sale!

From time to time, I put up a few pieces of my gemstone jewelry on Facebook--mostly just to show off what I've been working on, but also so my fans and friends can have a chance to buy a piece now and then. But I realized I haven't been sharing them here, so to make up for that, not only am I going to do a post with some of my jewelry in it, I'm going to put them on a special sale, available only here! (They're all currently at The Artisans' Guild at their full price, but if you happen to live local to me, let me know.)

Here are a few necklaces that I thought my peeps would like. The first person to claim a necklace in the comments gets it. We'll then arrange payment through Paypal (or a check, if necessary, although I will cash the check before I send the jewelry). Or I could do it through my mostly-defunct shop on Etsy, but then I'd have to add a couple of dollars to cover their fees. Shipping will be $6 in the US, and more elsewhere.

#1 Amber & Jet w/ Pewter Goddess 22" long, $85 on sale for $72

#2 Amber & Jet with Double Sterling Pentacle 22" long, $89, on sale for $72

#3 Double Strand w/ aventurine, amethyst, moonstone with crescent moon, 17" and 20", $69, sale $59

#4 Aventurine & glass crescent moon, 19 1/2 inches, $69, sale $59

#5 Book cat pendant w/ black onyx, riverstone, tiger's eye, 20", $69, on sale for $59

close up of the kitty!
 #6 Black cat pendant with amber & jet, 18", $79 on sale for $69

I only do these kinds of sales a couple of times a year, if that, so if you've been longing for a Deborah Blake original, speak now or, well, wait until the next time! If you do want one, be sure to comment here first to hold the necklace for you, and then contact me either via Facebook or email (magicmysticminerva at yahoo) to deal with the details.

Either way, feel free to say how pretty they are.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Research Taken to Extremes

I've done some strange research for my books in the past. For instance, when I wrote WICKEDLY WONDERFUL, I had to Google "locations of nuclear plants in California." For weeks I waited to see if the FBI was going to show up on my doorstep...

But this weekend I got a little more, um, hands on, with my research than usual. In the manuscript I'm working on right now, the protagonist--who knows nothing about farm animals--has to milk a goat. I had a pretty good idea of how it was done from looking at youtube videos and talking to a friend who used to have goats, but I wanted to make sure I got it right. (If you get info wrong in a book, I assure you, people will tell you about it later. Repeatedly.)

Luckily, one of the artists at The Artisans' Guild shop I run happens to be a nun who is in charge of the animals at the Holy Myrrbearers Monastery where she lives in nearby Otego, so she invited me to come milk one of her goats. My friend Ellen went along to watch, take pictures, and no doubt laugh quietly to herself.

It's not as easy as it looks.
 I had a great time, even if initially I got as much milk on my pants as I did in the bucket.

The goat was very patient with me.

Mother Katherine with another one of her charges

Where the milk ended up!
 There were three adorable little kittens in the barn that had been abandoned across the street not long before. (People do that in the country all the time, alas.) They were happy to clear away the milk I got out of poor Claire. The rest went to her kids, who took it directly from the source.

Lots of goats!

Ellen with her new friend Caliban
 Mother Katherine also tends to many sheep (whose wool is made into the yarn, scarves, and felted insoles she sells at the shop), chickens, and the working dogs who live there.

So tell me, what did you do with your Saturday? And if you're a writer, what is the strangest research you've ever done?