Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yule lore (and a recipe)

My apologies for not posting more often this month. It's December. I run a shop and make jewelry. 'Nuff said.

To make up for it, here is my take on Yule, the Winter Solstice, as found in my second book, EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z. Today is Yule, so I hope you find this entertaining and educational. Happy holidays!

Yule is another name for the Winter Solstice, which falls every year on or around December 21st. Yule is the longest night of the year, and it marks the point on the Wheel of the Year when the Goddess gives birth to her son, the infant Sun God.
It is a time of great rejoicing and merriment and is often observed with family and friends. Pagans bring in evergreen trees and boughs to symbolize life in the midst of the death of winter, and exchange gifts to celebrate the holiday. They often sing traditional songs and feast on the hearty foods that will sustain them through the cold months ahead. Sometimes they hang up holly or mistletoe, which was sacred to the Druids.
Is any of this starting to sound strangely familiar?
If so, there is a good reason: the holiday currently known as Christmas was taken in great part from the pagan traditions of Yule. Even the colors, green and red, were taken from the colors of the berries and evergreens that early pagans used to decorate their homes, and if you listen to Christmas carols you will hear the words “Yuletide” or “Yule” pop up from time to time.
There is even a theory that the origins of Santa Claus can be traced back to the Oak King, who regains his throne at Yule from his counterpart the Holly King, who reigns from midsummer until midwinter. And that star on the top of the Christmas tree? Yup, you got it—that comes from the Witch’s five-pointed star that symbolizes the five elements.
So why did the Christians take so many pagan traditions and adopt them for their own? Historians theorize that when the Christians moved into Europe they tried to force the Pagans who already lived there to change their beliefs and practices to Christian ones. When that didn’t work (stubborn folk, us Pagans) they simply put a Christian twist to the holidays that were already celebrated in the region and called them their own. Pretty clever, when you think about it!
Yule was, at least in those days, a pretty raucous holiday, involving a great deal of drinking, carousing and dancing in the streets from home to home (the origins of caroling, by the way)—so much so that the Pilgrims made Christmas illegal for a while once they moved here. Big party poopers, those Pilgrims.
Yule is a little calmer these days, but still a time for celebration and joy. And one of the benefits of having so many traditions in common with those observed by our Christian friends is that we can use the Winter Solstice as an opportunity to merge our two worlds in shared gratitude and appreciation for the light of friendship and family on the darkest day of the year.

“Yule Wassail”
Wassail comes from a toast that translates as “be in good health” and can be made with (traditional) or without alcohol. It is usually made for Yule, but can be served at any of the harvest festival holidays.
Combine: A gallon of apple cider, a bottle of red wine, and a bunch of spices (usually in whole form, such as allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, cloves and a slice or two of ginger) with maple syrup to sweeten (how much you use will depend on personal taste). Warm on stovetop or in a crock-pot, top with slices of orange or an apple sliced crosswise to show its pentacle shape. Then shout “wassail!” and share with those you love.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Spectacular Concourse of the Forces

A Spectacular Concourse of the Forces

Tuesday December 21st is the Winter Solstice (Yule, for us Pagan types) AND a Full Moon AND a lunar eclipse! Check out this great blog post by Donald Michael Kraig on Llewellyn.com.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Plain White T's - Rhythm Of Love

This makes me inexplicably happy...so it is going on the playlist for the foodie romance.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Artisans' Guild

As some folks know, in my "day job" I run an artist's cooperative shop featuring the work of 50 local and regional artists, located in Oneonta, NY. In case you were wondering, this is what we're doing in December:

The Artisans’ Guild, located at 148 Main Street in Oneonta, will be hosting their first ever “Customer Appreciation Day” on Sunday, December 5th, from 12-4. Refreshments will be served, and there will be a 10% off sale of almost everything in the shop. During the Downtown Open House on Saturday December 11th, the Artisans’ Guild will have free gift wrapping, thanks to the local food pantries. Bring in a nonperishable food donation and volunteers will wrap your small or medium sized gift from 10 to 3. From 3 to 5 on the 11th, come in and sample the wonderful beers of Brewery Ommegang! The Artisans’ Guild’s 50 local artists hope that you will shop locally and support your community, and thank you for your ongoing support. Happy holidays!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Duck! Or, it's all research when you're a writer.

I spent all day Thanksgiving cooking, even though it was just me (and the cats). But I figure that since I'm working on a "foodie" romance, it's all research :-)

Here is the duck that was the centerpiece of dinner.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

I try to give thanks every day, but on this day--Thanksgiving--I thought I'd share a few of the things I'm grateful for...

I'm grateful for my wonderful family (all of whom, alas, live too far away for me to spend the day with them), my amazing friends (who keep putting up with me, year after year) and my beloved cats--Magic, Mystic, Minerva, Angus and Samhain (who was kind to me today and sat very still for her fluids, even after I stuck her twice with the first, dull, needle).

I am grateful especially for the ladies of Blue Moon Circle, who make my life extra magical, and to the fabu Lisa DiDio, Queen of the Critique Partners, who has brought more to my life than I can ever put into words, much of it having nothing whatsoever to do with writing. Thanks for everything, including bringing out the Uggs when I need my butt kicked :-)

I am grateful for the writers who stir the cauldron with me at Creativity Cauldron--thanks for liking my online classes so much that you never wanted them to end. You make me feel very special.

Thanks too, to the Betties at LucyMarch.com for all the FGBV's, the bacon, the sex, and OMG, the Old Spice Guy. [For everyone not a Betty, and currently confused, well, all I can say is, it makes sense if you're in on the joke.] And I am uber-grateful to Lucy herself, for the community, and for the personal support. You rock, Lucy! (And your little bald Betty, too. And Jenny, whose writing inspires me.)

I am thankful for home, and health, and a job I like (mostly)--in fact, in these days, I'm thankful to have a job at all. Thankful for the food on my table, and those who work and sacrifice to put it there.

Thankful for the creativity that allows me to follow my dreams.

And REALLY, REALLY thankful for my agent, Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency. Together, we're going places.

I hope that whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving, you will take a moment out to say thank you for whatever good things you have in your life. And know that I am thankful for you--my readers, fans, friends, and followers. You people rock, big time.

Here's wishing you a lovely, relaxing day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jewelry Making

I don't have just one job. My "real" job, as Executive Director and manager of The Artisans' Guild is part time (due to the limitations of a not-for-profit's budget, and my own desire to have the time to do other things). So I do a bunch of "jobs" all of which, taken together, more or less make up one reasonably manageable income. As long as I don't go crazy buying books. Or, ya know, food.

As most people know, these days my second--and often first--job is writing. Currently I am working on two novels and one nonfiction proposal, along with the usual blogging, keeping up with networking, and The Creativity Cauldron.

But from now until the end of the holiday season, my OTHER main job gets priority: jewelry making.

I'm been making gemstone jewelry for over 20 years (man, how did THAT happen?)and selling it professionally, both at the shop and at various craft shows and other stores. And yes, I do special orders, on occasion :-)

For those who have asked, here are some pictures of some of the jewelry I've made:

And you thought I was just sitting around doing nothing...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Daniel Radcliffe sings the "Elements" song!

I have been very bad about blogging lately, I know. It is coming into the crazy time of the year when I try to juggle writing and jewelry making and holidays and extra hours at the shop.

So to hold you over until I can do a real blog post (hopefully tomorrow), here is a YouTube clip of the adorable Daniel Radcliffe (from Harry Potter, for all of you who have spent the last 10 years living in a cave) singing Tom Lehrer's "Elements" song on a recent episode of the BBC's The Graham Norton Show.

(click on the title to get an easy link, or copy and paste this:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guest blog at AzureGreen!

As many of you know, in addition to my work as an author and a shop manager, I also make jewelry. (And I used to sell a few Pagan items in a friend's shop, to boot.) I have been buying supplies and books for a bazillion years from a company called AzureGreen that specializes in Pagan, Witchcraft and New Age supplies, books, and generally cool stuff. They are a small company, run like a close-knit family, and have always been super-supportive of my writing, even though I have never met any of them in person. (And the goods they sell are fabulous, and the customer service is second to none.)

So I was particularly honored when they started a new blog, and asked me if I would kick things off by writing the first blog post.

I hope you'll go read it, and leave a comment to show them they picked the right Witch for the job :-)



Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guest post with author Tia Nevitt

As some of you know, I do a guest book review from time to time on Tia Nevitt’s fabulous site, DEBUTS & REVIEWS. She is a terrific supporter of both new and established authors, and a great cheerleader for the writing community in general.

What you may not know is that Tia herself is an author. Her first book, THE SEVENFOLD SPELL,a completely original retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, has just come out from Carina Press in ebook form. Yay Tia! (Ahem.)

One of the things that fascinated me about this book was the cover. I mean, it’s an ebook, right? So why have a cover at all? And it is one of the most beautiful and eye-catching covers I have ever seen, to boot. So I asked Tia if she would come to my blog and talk about covers, and her experience.
Take it away, Tia:

A Cover Art Story

Over the summer, just after I finished the final copyedits for The Sevenfold Spell, I received an unexpected email. It contained what was called a “Carina Press Art Fact Sheet” and it was my chance to give input to my cover art. I had, of course, heard horror stories about cover art, but as in all other aspects of working with Carina Press and Harlequin, those stories did not apply.

I had no idea how much detail they wanted. So I erred on “overkill”.

The artist for my cover art is Frauke Spanuth, a German artist who runs a company called CrocoDesigns. She has a vast portfolio of cover art, print ads and websites.

Here are some direct quotes from that form that Frauke actually used.

“SETTING COMMENTS: I think a dark setting would work for this story, perhaps with some subtle fairy magic where appropriate. See the question on visual elements below for more details.”

And here is the section I referred to.

2) What interesting visual elements (either object or place) have great significance in this book?

The spinning wheel is the most important visual element, followed by the fairies’ spells.

From my research, I’ve learned that spindles aren’t particularly sharp. They are simply a thin dowel of wood with a base, which spins and collects the yarn onto a bobbin. If the spindle/bobbin assembly was partially empty, it would be possible to slam your hand through it only if accompanied by great force (which is what happens in my story).

This one has a visibly sharp spindle, but I’m not sure how historically accurate it is:

Fairy magic is an important visual element. I describe the fairy magic as the typical dancing sparks you’d see in a Disney movie. However, Disney overdoes it nowadays; I much prefer the vision of fairy magic from Fantasia. Here is a fairy working her magic from the Nutcracker sequence in Fantasia.

Check out the blooms of magic at the bottom of this image:

Love these understated magic effects:

Here’s another one with the fairies:

Frauke granted my wish when it came to the melancholy mood and the magic effects, and I just love the bobbin. The astronomical effects, the girl covered by the leaves, and the book all came from Frauke and the artistic team.

The open book along the bottom, in my mind, was an inspired idea. Aideen, who emailed me the cover, said that she envisioned it as a continuity look for future volumes. And when they had a big ad on Carina Press the week The Sevenfold Spell released, the book was a prominent element.

The cover was nothing like what I envisioned, but my first thought was that it was beautiful. And a lot of reviewers are having the same impression; many of them say that they just love the cover. One person said she saw it at Dear Author, and wanted to read it because she fell in love with the cover.

Therefore, the cover is doing its most important job—it is selling books.

Have you ever fallen in love with a cover and bought the book because you hoped the story within lived up to the promise without? In the comments, I’ll share about a book that disappointed me in this aspect.

Thanks for joining us, Tia!
Check her out at www.tianevitt.com -- and don't forget to run out and get a copy of her book!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Samhain (Halloween)

To all my friends, Pagan and otherwise, I wish you a very happy Samhain. Samhain (pronounced SOW-WIN) is the third of three harvest festivals, and is also known as the Witches' New Year. It marks the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new, and it is a time for letting go of the past, and opening up to new possibilities. The veil between the worlds of the physical and the world's of the spirit are at their thinnest on this day (hence the tradition of ghosts) and so it is the perfect time to speak to those you have lost and say goodbye, if you need to.

My wish for you all is that your sorrows, should you have them, are lifted, and washed away with the remnants of the old year, and that the year to come brings you health, prosperity, love, and joy. Blessed be!

Happy Samhain from me, and my cat Samhain (so named because she is orange and black).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Samhain Ritual

For those who asked, here is a Samhain ritual, suitable for both solitaries and groups. This is the one I wrote for Blue Moon Circle to perform this year, and which we will be doing at 6:30 tomorrow (Sunday) night.

Samhain 2010

Supplies: Quarter candles, god and goddess candles, sage smudge stick, salt & water in a small dish, small tealights on a fire-safe plate, leaves or pieces of paper, pen(s), or a pomegranate, tarot deck/runes/scrying mirror, matches. Cakes and ale. For group—a speaking stick. Optional: if you are going to be outside in the dark, or inside in dim light, a battery-powered reading light makes it easier to read the ritual!

[Note: this ritual can be done by a group or an individual, simply make the necessary adjustments, such as saying “I” instead of “we.” I suggest reading through the ritual before trying to do it.]

If you are going to be outside, this is the perfect night for a bonfire. If you don’t have a firepit, a hibachi or portable firepit works well. If you are going to be inside, you may want to put candles around the room if it is safe to do so, or use a dish/cauldron filled with sand or salt, and place candles on that in the middle of your altar.

Clear the space where you are working by smudging it with sage and/or sprinkling a mixture of salt and water around the circle. You can also smudge yourself to clear away negative energy.

Cast the circle by walking around clockwise (deosil) and pointing with your finger/an athame or sweep around it with a magickal broom. Visualize a line of protective white energy and say: I cast this circle round and round, from earth to sky, from sky to ground. I conjure now this sacred space, outside of time, outside of place. [close circle] We are [I am] between the worlds, safe and protected, in a sacred space. So mote it be.

Call the quarters:
East (yellow candle)—I call the watchtower of the East, the power of Air, to protect this circle from all that which is unseen, from the winds that blow cold with the touch of winter, and from negative energy of any kind. So mote it be.
South (red candle)—I call the watchtower of the South, the power of Fire, to guard this circle with the warmth of love; past, present and future. So mote it be.
West (blue candle)—I call the watchtower of the West, the power of Water, to wash away the year past; its sorrows and its triumphs, and clear the way for the new year to come. So mote it be.
North (green candle)—I call the watchtower of the North, the power of Earth, to ground and center me, so that we [I] might have the strength to face the long night and the winter ahead. So mote it be.

Invoke the goddess:
(black, white, or silver candle)
Great Hecate, goddess of the Witches, come to us [me] on this, your sacred night. She who is the face of darkness and yet protects the young; She who guards the crossroads—we are at the crossroads of the year, with the old year behind us and the new year yet to come—join us, and show us the way!

Invoke the god:
(black, gold, or green candle)
Great Herne, Lord of the beasts, He who howls in the night, and leads the Wild Hunt on their terrible journey from death to life and back to death again—help us to safely part the veil between the worlds, so we might speak with our honored dead once more. Welcome and blessed be!

High Priest/High Priestess (or say aloud to yourself): Tonight is Samhain, the Witches’ New Year, our most sacred and powerful holiday. It is the third and final harvest festival, when we rejoice for those things that grew to success, and mourn those that did not thrive as we might as wished. Tonight, the veil is thin and so we may speak to those who have gone before. Tonight the veil is thin, and so we might ask for guidance in the year ahead. Tonight, the way opens before us, so we let go of that which no longer works for us so that we might move on, free and open to new possibilities.

There is a myth about Demeter, the goddess of all that grows, and her daughter, Persephone. It was through Demeter that the trees grew strong, the crops grew high and bountiful, and the flowers blossomed. But it happened that one day Hades, the god of the underworld, saw Persephone out walking and was so captivated by her youthful beauty that he carried her away with him to the land of the dead. Demeter mourned for the loss of her daughter, and the world grew cold and barren. No plants would grow when the goddess wept for her lost child. And so Zeus, the king of the gods, decreed that Hades must return Persephone to her mother. But the young goddess had eaten six pomegranate seeds while in the underworld, and so it was decided that she must spend six months of the year with Hades and return to the upper world for the other six. And thus it was that the seasons began, and so it is that we have summer, when the land grows and blooms, and winter, when the land lies quiet and dormant, waiting for Persephone’s return. But what is often not mentioned is that Persephone grew to love her dark husband, and although she missed her mother in the months they were apart, she returned gladly to the underworld for those six months, and proudly reigned as queen.

There is a lesson in this myth for us, too. If you cannot change the seasons, you must embrace them instead; taking what is good and positive about the dark time and making it work for you until the light returns again in the spring. Winter is a time to turn inward; to be quiet, and introspective, to rest and regain your strength.

First, we unburden ourselves of all that no longer has a place in our lives. Sometimes we chose to let go of things and people. Sometimes that choice is made for us, through fate or the choice of another or even death. But the weight of the past will only hold us back as we walk through the door to the future, and so we choose to let go. Think of all those things you have lost, or realized you must give up since they no longer work for your benefit. Write them down on a piece of paper, or place them into a leaf or a pomegranate seed by visualizing the energy moving from inside you into the item you hold. Then speak aloud of what you will let go, and cast it into the fire. [If not using a fire, you can tear the paper into shreds, crumple the leaves, or place the seeds into a bowl that you will dump outside later.]

If you wish, you may light a candle for anyone (person or pet) you have lost, either in the past year, or at any time, and speak to them. Listen with your heart open for a reply, or even just a feeling of presence or peace.

Samhain is a bittersweet night. For while we must let go of the year past, we may also look ahead to the year before us, filled with potential beyond what we can even imagine. Picture your dreams for the year to come and ask for guidance in achieving them. Take a moment to fix your goals and aspirations firmly in your mind, then pull a tarot card, or a rune stone, or look into a scrying mirror or bowl of water, and see what suggestions you might find to help you as you walk your path. Remember that Hecate is the goddess of the crossroads—if you ask her, perhaps she will show you your way. [If practicing with a group, people can also go around the circle and pull cards or runes for the person next to them, and see if they can channel some words of wisdom from the goddess.]

Eat some cakes and drink some ale (or bread and cider, or whatever you prefer), both as a way of grounding back to the real world, and in appreciation for the harvest. If meeting as a group, pass a Speaking Stick, so all might have a chance to speak whatever is in their heart and be heard.

Thank the quarters for their protection and dismiss them individually or all together.

Thank the goddess and god:
Great Hecate, Powerful Herne, we thank you for your presence here in our circle, and in our lives. May you continue to watch over us and guide us as we walk through the world. Thank you, and blessed be.

The circle is open, but never broken. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.

Booksigning tomorrow! And editing workshop Nov 1st!

Hi All!

Just a quick reminder that if you live in the Oneonta area, I'd love to have you join me at the Borders bookstore at the Southside Mall on Rt. 23, from 2-4 on Sunday the 31st. I'll be doing a booksigning, and starting the fun at 2 with a scavenger hunt (there will be two winners--one gets a signed book, and the other a basket of assorted goodies including a signed cover flat!). I hope to see you there...mostly so I'm not standing around talking to myself and looking silly :-)

Also a reminder that if you haven't signed up for my "Editing As You Go: How and why to edit as you write the first draft" mini-workshop at SavvyAuthors.com you only have until the end of the day tomorrow (the 31st) to do so, since the class runs from Nov 1st-6th. If you're doing NANOWRIMO this year, this is the perfect class for you! Also, if you're not...


Be sure to spread the word, and tell all your friends. Seriously. There might be chocolate in it for you. Or my undying gratitude. Or both.

History of Halloween

Check out this great blog post on the history of Halloween, and how it moved from its roots as a Pagan holiday to the holiday we celebrate today. The author even quoted from my book, The Goddess is in the Details :-)


Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Magical Buffet meets Deadtown author Nancy Holzner

One of my favorite blogs to visit is The Magical Buffet. Blogger Rebecca Elson is interested in lots of things, from Paganism (which is how I got met her), to ghost hunting, to Buddhism, to reading...just about everything. Her blog is always interesting and never predictable, which is one of the things I love about it.

Today's blog post is extra interesting to me, because it is a guest post by author Nancy Holzner. Nancy wrote a wonderful and original urban fantasy called DEADTOWN (which you should run right out and buy, if you haven't read it yet). I'll let you go to The Magical Buffet and read all about it, in Nancy's own words.


What--you're still here? GO! Go read!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

YAY! Great review for Witchcraft on a Shoestring

The New Age Retailer printed a great review of the new book! I am doing the dance of joy, author version!

Witchcraft on a Shoestring: Practicing the Craft without Breaking Your Budget
Deborah Blake
$15.95 P, 9780738721361, Llewellyn Publications, www.Llewellyn.com

In a struggling economy, the cost of witchcraft supplies can be a roadblock for many aspiring Pagans. Finding imaginative ways to use what you have, tracking down free supplies, and focusing on the principles of the craft, rather than its trappings, are all ways she and the members of her beloved Blue Moon Coven hone their skills. All that is truly required for the practice of witchcraft is a belief in natural law, fueled by the power of will and focused on a specific outcome. Of course, the tools, costumes, settings, and feasts all add significantly to the experience.

Blake doesn’t try to tell readers to do without; instead, she shares ways to have it all on a budget. The book includes simple instructions for craft projects (such as making your own clay runes and creating magical candles), dollar-stretching recipes (such as “grown-up” hot chocolate and Magikal Moussaka), and low-cost/no-cost things to add to a Pagan practice. One of the things she does suggest spending money on is books, and she includes an eight-page list of suggestions for a starter library.

Blake’s enthusiastic personality comes through on every information-laden page of this fun-to-read book. The lively cover completes the package and makes it a terrific item for both holiday and post-holiday sales. --Anna Jedrziewski, www.SpiritConnectionNewYork.org, New York, N.Y.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A day in the life of an author--"What's on my desk"

I have a (free) subscription to an online magazine devoted to writers and writing, The Verb. Once a month it lands in my email inbox, full of tips, interesting info, and a contest.

One of my favorite sections is called "What's on My Desk," in which a featured author shows you their work space and a glimpse into how they write.

So you can imagine how tickled I was when Elizabeth Guy, who writes The Verb, asked me if I wanted to be the (spook-ish) guest author for October! If you are curious about what's on MY desk, go take a look!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Music for the New Project

Found this accidentally and fell in love with it. Now it's the musical theme for the New Project

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A reminder and a funny video

First the reminder: today is the last day to sign up for my online workshop at lowcountryrwa.com

And now, for those who love Monty Python and Star Trek, a funny video to perk up your Sunday.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Can I get an ark?

We had torrential downpours here starting last night and going through this afternoon. My road was okay this morning when I left, although the creek across the street had massively overflowed its banks and flooded the fields next to it, creating a lake (not uncommon, but not usually to this extent).

When I was halfway to work, I heard an announcement on the radio saying that they'd declared a state of emergency in my county, but by then I was over the border into the next county (where the store is located) and besides, it is the FIRST, which means I have to go in and do everybody's checks and masses of paperwork. Or there are riots.

I was getting ready to leave the shop around twelve-thirty, because I had a friend from Albany and her hubby coming in for Fabulous First Friday (and some energy healing work from me before hand) when my friend Jess called to say, "Just thought you should know: they've closed down your road due to flooding. You can't get home."

Oh, grand.

She did say that she thought I could get to her place, which is about a mile away from mine, and park my car there. So I sweet-talked my way past the guys blocking off the road and raced to Jess's. She let me borrow a pair of her husband's Wellies (theoretically waterproof boots, which, as it turns out, weren't even remotely waterproof--but did keep me from wrecking my regular shoes, or having to walk barefoot on the road, which had been my original plan), and I slung my shoes into my bag and set off down the road.

I had to wade through fairly high water (above my ankles in all cases, and once up to my shins) in three places, but thankfully, I made it home okay. Then I frantically called my pal Rebecca just in time to stop her and her husband right before they walked out the door. I would have hated for them to have driven all the way here (an hour and a half), just to find out that they couldn't make it the last three mile to my house.

I was grateful to be home, and even more grateful to discover that my phone and TV were back on (all my cable services were out when I woke up this morning, probably because of the severe winds that came with the storm). I ended up missing the last Fabulous First Friday, which was too bad, since I was one of the people who arranged it all, but at least I was home and safe.


And on the bright side, that meant I got to work on the ms, and I did 1,200 words so far this evening. I may give my arms a rest and try and do some more later.

I hope everyone is home, safe and dry!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How To Support Authors You Like--Via Mindy Klasky

I've been meaning to write a blog post on ways that readers (including yours truly) can support the authors they like. As both an author and an avid reader, I think this is a truly important issue.

Luckily for me, author pal Mindy Klasky blogged on that very thing today, and said it much better than I ever could have.

So run over to her blog and see what she has to say

http://tinyurl.com/24jc68e (or click on blog post title to link automatically--the blog is fighting with me today)

Then run back over here and tell me what YOU do (if anything) to support authors you like. If I get a particularly spectacular answer, there might be a free book in it for someone...

(See, authors like to support readers, too.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Best Job in the World--Author

Most days, being an author is a solitary and thankless job. You work long hours, often with no guarantee that your words will ever see the light of day. Unless you are very, very good and very, very lucky, you will never get rich from it. (Although sometimes there are cookies.)

But some days, something happens that makes it all worthwhile.

This was what I got today from one of my readers:

I just thought I would drop you a note to tell you that Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook is just amazing. Nothing against other authors because I realize the hardwork and loving intent put into their books, but your book is amazing. My dog Brew and I have spent countless hours researching the right spell and here they are in one beautiful reference.
I love your books and they are kept close to my heart at all times. You have a magickal way with words and have found a true calling. I am so glad to have found your books and appreciate all the hardwork and love you put into them.
Thank you for sharing your gift (and Magic's) and I look forward to whatever you are brewing up next.
Blessings to you and all you love!
Your Fan Kimberly

Thank you, Kimberly, from the bottom of my lonely author's heart. You made my day. Hell, you made my freaking month.You (and Brew) are why I write. Blessings to you, too. And lots and lots of cookies.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Autumn Equinox Ritual

A few folks have asked me how I will be celebrating the Autumnal Equinox, so here is the ritual that Blue Moon Circle and I will be using. If you normally cast a circle and call the quarters, do so at the beginning. This can be used by a group or an individual. You will need a sage smudge stick (you can substitute any incense you like) and an apple.

Happy Mabon!

Tonight marks the Autumn Equinox, also known as Mabon. This is the second harvest festival in the Pagan year—the Witch’s Thanksgiving. And so we gather to give thanks for all that which we have harvested in the past year.
When we talk about our harvest, we speak not only of the physical harvest of vegetables and grains to grace our tables, but also of spiritual, intellectual and symbolic harvest—that which graces our lives. Whatever you have been working toward this year, whichever goals are finally bearing fruit in tangible ways…these are the things we celebrate tonight.
At the equinox, day and night are equal, in perfect balance. We look to find this balance in ourselves as well. So let us look clearly at the harvest, and what it means for us as individuals.
It is a time of rejoicing, and of gratitude for all that has been given to us. But we have worked hard for that which we harvest, and sometimes, when the harvesting is done, we are tired and dirty and filled with regrets for those things that failed to grow and prosper. Shall we let this hold us back from celebrating with joy and enthusiasm? By the Goddess, we shall not!
Instead, we will work toward balance by allowing the elements of fire and air to cleanse us of the accumulated debris of the last year. Sage is traditionally used to cleanse and purify. Light a sage smudge stick and let the smoke waft over you. Visualize yourself letting go of all that holds you back from joy and celebration, and emerging clear and energized, ready for another year.

Now that we have lightened our spirits of their burdens, we can give thanks for the many blessings in our lives without sadness or reservations. Cut an apple in two, through the middle. Be sure to look inside to see the star that hides within! Think of those things you are grateful for and say them aloud one by one. After each one, take a bite of apple, to symbolize the sweetness of the blessings you have reaped.

We have washed away the dust of the long year behind us, and given thanks for our present blessings. Now, to complete the cycle we will look to the future, balancing what has gone before with what lies ahead.
It is time to refresh and reenergize ourselves, taking in the last light and warmth of the summer to sustain us through the darker, colder days ahead. We need this energy not only to finish this year’s harvest before season’s end, but also to plant the seeds for next year’s goals. So together, we will recite a spell to replenish our bodies, minds and spirits and use the abundant positive energy we have created here in this sacred space to bring our intent into being. (Hold the remaining half of apple as you recite the spell.)
Spell for Energy:
I call upon the Power of Air, with energy creative
I call upon the Power of Fire, with energy passionate
I call upon the Power of Water, with energy healing
I call upon the Power of Earth, with energy strong and unending
I call upon my inner wisdom
That I may tap into this energy only when it is needed
And rest when rest is called for
Let the energy be there for me when I need it
Let the energy be there for me when I call it
Let the energy be there for me when I will it
So mote it be
(Eat the apple!)

Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author class!

Hey all you writers out there!

It's that time again--I am giving my "The Real Witch: Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author" online writing class over at the Low Country RWA loop. It is only $16 and you don't have to be a member of LC or RWA to take it. This has been my most popular class (and was the one that prompted people to ask me to start the Creativity Cauldron loop for paranormal writers).

I hope you'll join me!

Go here to register or get more information:


And pass the word to all your writer friends who might be interested :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Free Online Writing Workshop starts tomorrow!

I am giving two online workshops in the near future. (I'll post about the second one in the next couple of days.)

The first is more accurately a mini-workshop, "Editing as You Go" on the hows and whys of editing during the first draft process. I'm giving this one for free (this time, it will be available later elsewhere for a small fee) as a favor for my author pal Candace Havens.

Candace is not only a fabulous author but a tireless supporter of aspiring and beginning writers. She was one of the people who continually encouraged me in my earlier years; she even read my work as part of a contest, chose me as the winner, and put in a good word for me with her agent. Also, she kicks my butt when I need it :-)

She runs an ongoing loop for writers called Write_WorkshopChat and often offers free classes to help authors hone their skills. That's where the class will be, starting tomorrow, so if you aren't already a member (it's free!), go sign up here http://www.candacehavens.com/index.php/workshops/

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Magical Buffet of Authors--The signing event

The booksigning at the Saratoga Barnes & Noble went quite well, all things considered. There were five other great authors, and me, of course. And the wonderful Rebecca Elson, of The Magical Buffet blog, who brought us all together. (Not to mention her uber-patient husband, Jim.)

My pal Bobbie, one of the Blue Mooners, and I left my house around 10 AM and got to Saratoga at 12. She took off to visit a friend for a while and I met up with author pal Gail Wood (3rd from left, in the multi-author pic, Rebecca is the one kneeling and holding my book!), Rebecca and her hubby, and we all had lunch at Panera Bread. Yum.

Then we went back to the B &N where I spent much too much money on books. Big surprise there. But in tiny Oneonta, we only have a mini-Borders and a small Indy bookstore, so being let loose in a large bookstore is always a big treat.

The signing went from 2-6, with each author having a half hour to talk. I signed and sold a bunch of books and my "chat" went well, with lots of laughter and questions. [Okay, some of the laughter was because my sister Sarah and niece Addy were there, and in true sisterly fashion, Sarah kept asking embarassing questions...thanks so much, S'ra!]

It was great to see everyone, and I got to meet a Twitter friend, a Facebook friend, and one of the "Betties" from Lucy March's blog where I spend so much of my time these days. And I had a few fans come up and tell me how much they loved my books and give me big hugs. Always nice to be appreciated.

All in all, a great day. Thanks to Rebecca, for putting this together, and to all the folks who came out to see me. This is what makes the working of writing worthwhile.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jonathan Coulton in LA -02-Skullcrusher Mountain

The booksigning went really well--I'll report more when I'm not so tired. In the meanwhile, here is the song I've had stuck in my head for the last week, thanks to Lucy March.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Magical Buffet of Authors--BOOKSIGNING TOMORROW!

If anyone who reads the blog lives near Saratoga, NY, I hope you're come join me and the 5 other authors doing a booksigning at the Barnes & Nobles there. It's going to be great fun! I'll be there signing books from 2-6, and speaking at 3:30.

I hope to see you there!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Witchcraft on a Shoestring

Witchcraft on a Shoestring
Check out my guest post at Llewellyn.com's blog! I talk about how Witchcraft on a Shoestring came to be written.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

OMG! It's book release day!

I've been busy all day; cleaning, gardening and writing...and it wasn't until just now that it hit me--


Today is the day that WITCHCRAFT ON A SHOESTRING officially hits the stores (and Amazon). Whoo hoo!

I hope if you'll run out and buy a copy :-)

And if you do read it and like it, it would be great if you could review it on Amazon and Goodreads, if you use either one.

But don't worry, I'll still love you even if you don't. Wanna know why?


*does the happy author dance*

Friday, August 27, 2010

Read about my agent journey at Guide to Lit Agents Blog!

Ever wonder what it takes to get an agent? Read about my journey at Chuck Sambuchino's "Guide to Literary Agents" blog today.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What I'm Reading: 3 great books and a magazine

I just finished one great book and a terrific magazine, and am in the midst of two other fabulous books (one fiction, the other nonfiction). They're all so good, I wanted to share!

Just finished: Jim C. Hines' Red Hood's Revenge. The 3rd installment in his fairy tale series, the first 2 were also incredible. If you like fantasy, fairy tales retold in completely new ways, and just plan terrific writing, you will want to read these books. http://tinyurl.com/34hfdlt

Also read from cover to cover, the new issue (#21) of Witches & Pagans Magazine. Yes, my new column is in there, and that's nice, but there are also a ton of other interesting articles and two great interviews with Ellen Dugan and Starhawk. If you are a Pagan, you MUST read this issue.

Currently reading (started last night and already on page 122, which will give you some idea of how fast and fun this book is): Mindy Klasky's To Wish or Not to Wish. This book is the third and final installment of her genie series, but it can easily be read on its own (although the first 2 books were equally wonderful and I highly recommend them). If you like genies, live theater, fun heroines, realistic characters, and humor with your romance, you can't do any better than to read this book--or anything that Mindy has written, for that matter! She is easily one of my favorite authors, and I love her writing! Run out and get this book today!

The final book is a nonfiction book I'm reading as research for the current work in progress. But I'm finding the information fascinating enough that I am happy to be doing it. The book is Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch by Lora O'Brien, and it is exactly what it sounds like. I'm getting lots of great (and presumably authentic!) info, and the book is well-written and put together in a way that makes it easy to use.

I highly recommend all of these books, and hope one of them catches your fancy. What you reading now, and what do you think of it? Is it something you would recommend to others?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Feline Friday

Here's today's feline Friday pic -- that's Magic the Cat, curled up with her mother, Minerva (the gray one is Minerva).
Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Look What Came Today! (Oooh, Shiny...)

I came home today to find an unexpected Fed Ex package on my doorstep. Opened it up to find the first copies of the new book, due out in September. Ooooh, shiny!

There's nothing like that new book smell. Or the sight of a book cover with your name on it. Yay! (And big thanks to Becky Zins, my production editor, for sticking these in the mail for me, so I didn't have to wait for the official shipment.)

Isn't it perty? Dontcha want to run right out and buy one? You know you do...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Llewellyn Annuals are out!

The new Llewellyn 2011 Annuals are out. And I'm in them! If you are of the Pagan-ish persuasion (or just curious), check out my articles in the Witches' Companion [My Top 3 Rules for Pagan Living & Becoming an Everyday Witch in 6 Easy Steps], the Magical Almanac [Spiritual Housecleaning: Integrating the Magickal and the Mundane], and the Sabbats Almanac [I wrote about my favorite holiday, Samhain!]. Cool.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Save the Date! September 11th in Saratoga

Hi All!

If you live anywhere near Saratoga, NY...

I hope you will join me and six other spiritual/Pagan/paranormal Nonfiction authors at the Magical Buffet of Authors event at the Saratoga Barnes and Noble on Saturday, September 11th from 2-6.

Here is the link to the B&N site with specifics http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/3044002

This event is the brainchild of fabu blogger, Rebecca Elson of The Magical Buffet (if you have never checked out her blog, by golly, you should! http://www.themagicalbuffet.com/ )

The other authors include Ellen Evert Hopman, Gordie Little, Lama Willa Miller, David Pitkin, Maria Kay Simms, and my pal Gail Wood (who some of you might remember from The Spiritual Arts Fair here in Oneonta).

I hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Column in Witches & Pagans Magazine!

I got my copy of the newest issue of Witches & Pagans Magazine, and there, on page 83, was the first installment of my new column, Magick on a Shoestring! Whoo hoo!

Big thanks to the wonderful publisher/editor of the magazine, Anne Newkirk Niven, for giving me this chance to bring my work to a wider audience. I'm sooooo excited!

If you enjoy reading all things Pagan, please consider getting a subscription to the magazine, which is wonderful. And check out the current issue, which features the amazing Ellen Dugan (the Garden Witch) and an interview with Pagan elder Starhawk (author of the classic book, The Spiral Dance, which is a must-read for every Witch).

I have a column! Whoo hoo!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Renaissance Faire Trip--Report Part Deux (Family)

Family is a wonderful thing (mostly). You have the family you are born to, and the family you choose. Here are a few pics of my extended Blue Moon Circle family, enjoying our time together, camping out and having fun. Love you guys!

Sophie and I catch up on some reading. (In case you can't make it out, I was rereading one of my favorite books, DOGS AND GODDESSES, by Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart, and Lani Diane Rich--perfect summer fun reading!)

Nate caught his first fish.
Sharing laughter.
Cooking together over the fire. It doesn't get much better than this.
Tomorrow--Fabulous First Friday in Downtown Oneonta, and then a trip to Saratoga to spend a few days with my other family, the one's who've been stuck with me since I was born!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ren Faire Report, Part One

I took a rare break this last weekend and went away for three days with some friends--specifically, pals Chris and hubby Charlie, Robin and hubby George and my goddess-children (the ever adorable) Sophia and Nate, and Ellen and Bobbie.
We took three days and went camping, hung out at the Fair Haven State Park beach, and spent the Saturday (most of us, anyway) at the Sterling Renaissance Faire.

No internet. No computer. No TV. No writing. (Gasp!) Just hanging out with friends and having a great time. Pretty close to heaven, if you ask me.
One of the highlights of the weekend was our visit to the Ren Faire. We've been before as a group, and it is always a blast. The Sterling Ren Faire (http://www.sterlingfestival.com/ ) runs each weekend for a couple of months during the summer, and is full of pagentry, wonderful items for sale, and fun shows. The weekend we went happened to be the Highland Fling theme, which was even more fun. I even made a couple of friends, as you can see!
Of course, now I have to get back to work, and reality...but it was nice to take a break from it all. Next blog, I'll share a few pics from around the campfire.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guest post at Llewellyn Journal online

Hi all,

I'm sorry not to have posted much lately--crazy busy preparing for the Ren Faire trip with the Blue Moon Circle gang this weekend, keeping up with the garden, a friend in town from AZ, and all the usual writing stuff.

But you can check out my guest post at Llewellyn's online Journal here: http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article.php?id=2130

Also, don't forget to run out and get a copy of the current edition of WITCHES & PAGANS Magazine--my 1st column is in there! "Magick on a Shoestring" is a new column I'll be writing for them from now on, and I'm really excited.

If you read either the guest post at Llewellyn or the column, PRETTY PLEASE come back here and tell me what you think!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Handfasting--Joy and Responsibility

I officiated at a handfasting earlier today. And it was lovely.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the word, a handfasting is a pagan wedding ritual. It comes from the old practice of having the couple's hands tied together during the ceremony; that's why they still call getting married "tying the knot."

See, you've learned something!

As a high priestess, I've been fortunate enough to help a number of couples celebrate their special day. I consider it to be part of my role as priestess; a service to my community.

It is a little overwhelming to think of the responsibility that comes with this task--tying a couple together both spiritually and (in most cases) legally. Not something to be undertaken lightly, especially in light of the fact that Witches believe words to have power, and vows even moreso.

But it is also a great joy and and a great honor to stand with a couple and accept those vows.

Each new handfasting makes me think of all those which went before. Some, like the first one I did, were unconventional (two Pagan women who wanted a formal ritual to solemnize their commitment to each other, even if they couldn't have a legally binding ceremony). Some, like the formal wedding of my best pal Robin and her wonderful husband, George, were a combination of traditional wedding and Pagan rite. (Not so difficult as it sounds, since many of the traditions come from Pagan origins in the first place!)

Each one was different, and special, and a little bit magical. I think my favorite part is when I lift the goblet and say:

Let it be known that no man is greater than a woman, nor woman greater than a man. For what one lacks, the other can give. And when they are joined, it is magic in truth, for there is no greater magic in the world than love.

I could use a little bit of that magic myself. But until I find it, it is my great pleasure to share in the magical day of others. Best wishes to Patti and Chris--may you walk the path together in joy and merriment.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Feline

I promise I'll try to put up a real blog post later, but for now, here is your Friday Feline to keep you entertained.

Hope everyone had a great week, and is looking forward to an even better weekend!

Here's mamma Minerva, dealing with the hot and hazy summer as only a cat can...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another great review!

Check out this great review for the new Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook


I love it when people love me! (Well, or my books, anyway.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Interview and Review

I had a rough night last night, but this morning made up for it in spades. When I went online, I found a great review of my newest book that I wasn't expecting, and there is an interview with me up at The Wiccan/Pagan Times. Go check 'em out, and if you'd like to come back here and comment (and leave comments there, so I don't look pitiful and friendless), I'd really appreciate it!

Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday (or whatever day it is where you are).

(you may have to copy and paste the links, since I can't seem to make the insert links command work)



Friday, July 9, 2010

And the Winners Are...

Thanks to everyone who commented on my "Release Day" blog and helped me celebrate the big day. You all rock!

The winners of the contest were:

Amy Lynn -- signed copy of the new Spellbook

Beth Bartlett -- signed copy of the cover flat

Teresa Reasor -- signed copy of Circle, Coven & Grove

Contact me at mysticmagicminerva at yahoo and give me your snailmail addys, and I will get your prizes out to you right away. I really appreciate you helping to spread the word!


Thursday, July 8, 2010


I've been thinking a lot lately about community, mostly as a result of my participation in two online communities: The Creativity Cauldron Loop that was started at the request of folks who'd taken my online writing classes, and LucyMarch.com, the ongoing blog of author Lucy March/Lani Diane Rich.

Although these two online communities are populated by two very different sets of people--the Cauldron is primarily authors and aspiring authors, and Lucy March is mostly readers, with a sprinkling of authors--they have much in common. All the folks who frequent these two sites are friendly, supportive of each other, insightful and often wise, and willing to share their own trials and tribulations for the betterment of others.

What more could you ask for?

I am that interesting contradiction: a loner who has, by some inexplicable good fortune, acquired many wonderful friends. And when I look at the communities I am a part of, I am truly amazed and astounded by the richness they bring to my life.

There is my Pagan community, my artist community (which is a direct result of running the Artisans' Guild for almost 11 years), and my writing community, which includes the two bunches of people named above, and more talented and generous authors than I could name.

Who is in your community and what do they bring to your life?

I am a lucky woman, indeed. Thank you for being a part of my community.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Guest blog at Fang-tastic Books & last chance to win!

Check out my guest blog over at Fang-tastic Books, talking about my thing for witches :-)

Comment for a chance to win a free book! (Even if you don't want a copy of the book, please leave a comment so I don't look like an unpopular, friendless wonder, eh? Pretty please?)


And there is still one more day to comment on the last post here and win a free copy on the new Spellbook. DO IT NOW, PEOPLE!

I'll be picking a winner on Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Release Day to Me--Contest & book giveaway!

Happy release day to me!

July first is the official release date for my fourth book, EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z SPELLBOOK.

[Does happy dance.]

If you ask any author, they will tell you that no matter how many books they have out, it never gets any less exciting to have a new one hit the bookstores. It’s also a little scary. What if people don’t like this one? What if it gets bad reviews? What if no one buys it?

These things rarely happen, however, and I’m in favor of celebration over trepidation. So let’s have a virtual party here at the blog! I hope you’ll join me. There might even be cake…

In honor of the book’s release, I’m going to run a new contest. (This is in addition to the current contest, where to win all you have to do is be the first person to send me a picture of the book out in the world somewhere—at a bookstore, the library, or on your table at home.) There are three prizes:

Prize one is a signed copy of the new shiny book! Yay!
Prize two is a signed copy of my first book, CIRCLE, COVEN & GROVE: A YEAR OF MAGICKAL PRACTICE.
Prize three is something a little different. My publisher Llewellyn always sends me a cover flat of each book—the cover in flat form, suitable for framing. Very cool. Well, this time, they sent me a few extras. So one lucky person will win a signed cover flat of the Spellbook!

Here’s the way the contest is going to run. You can do as little or as much as you have the time and inclination for, and the more you do, the more points you earn. The person with the most points gets prize 1, the next gets prize 2, etc. In the case of more than one person with the same amount of points, I’ll pull names out of a hat to see who wins.

To get one point, all you have to do is leave a comment here. Easy peazy! [And you could still win if that’s all anyone choses to do.]

To get more points, you can do any or all of the following:

Post a link to either this blog or to the book (I’ll put links to Amazon and Llewellyn at the bottom of the page) on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or your blog. 1 point for every place you post it. [Be sure to come back and tell me you did it, and where!]

Buy the book anywhere you like (Amazon, B &N, Llewellyn.com. your local Indy bookstore) then email me a receipt proving you did so. Good for twenty points. And my eternal gratitude.

Keep in mind that you don’t HAVE to buy the book. Ever.

I hope you’ll help me celebrate the book’s release! And thanks for all your support—I really do appreciate you walking the path with me.


Here is the Amazon link:

And here is the Llewellyn link:
(You can still get 15% off until the end of the day June 30th.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

At the New York Faerie Festival

Last Sunday, I spent the day at the new York Faerie Festival, near Binghamton, with pal Ellen and her guy, and Robin and her kids Sophia and Nat. It was hotter 'n hell, but we had a blast anyway.

This was the second year of the festival, and the folks putting it on had made some serious improvements from the first year. There was some amazing music, lots of fun performances, and plenty of wandering faeries, trolls, and goblins. (And I'm not just talking about me and my friends.) The vendors were many and varied, and the land on which the festival takes place is one of my favorite places on earth. [The local Pagan community uses it for gatherings throughout the year; that is where Blue Moon Circle usually goes for Beltane celebrations.]

This is the kind of event that is the most fun to do if you have young kids with you (although it is great for adults, too), since there is so much for them to get excited about. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea:
Teribus performs (love the kilts!)

Nat and a tall friend

Sophie walking the stone labyrinth

Nate meets a goblin

Just one example of how beautiful this place is

It is too late to get to the New York Faerie Fest this year, but I hope you'll consider going when they do it again next year. Check out the website for more information http://www.nyfaeriefest.com/

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Last day to sign up for "Beyond Fangs"

Hey all,

Just a reminder that today is the last day to sign up for my online writing workshop, "Beyond Fangs: Creating New & Interesting Paranormal Characters." I already have about 50 students, but there is always room for a few more :-)


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beyond Fangs Workshop coming soon

Hey all! Just a reminder to those writers out there--
only four days left to sign up for my workshop, "Beyond Fangs: Creating New & Interesting Paranormal Characters" at FFnP (Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal RWA). It is only $20 for nonmembers and $15 for members, and starts on June 28th.

I hope you'll join me!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Review--Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom series

Check out my review of Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom series over on DEBUTS & REVIEWS. Here's a hint: I LOVE it!


Happy Solstice!

Happy Summmer Solstice!

Yes, today is the first official day of summer, although for some of us it has been feeling like summer for a while.

Also known as Litha by us Pagan types, the summer solstice marks the longest day of the year, with the most daylight and the least amount of night. From this point onward, the Wheel of the Year continues to turn toward the darker side, with decreasing daylight and increasing night, until we reach the winter solstice on or around December 21st.[For a summer solstice ritual, check out my first book, CIRCLE, COVEN & GROVE: A YEAR OF MAGICKAL PRACTICE.]

Summer is a time of energy and activity. If you have goals, now is the time to be putting all your effort into achieving them, so that hopefully, by the time we reach the harvest celebrations of fall, you will be ready to reap what you have sown.

It is also a time for relaxation and merriment in the midst of hard work. Our ancestors went pretty much from dawn to dark at this time of year, trying to grow the food that would sustain them through the long dark winter. But you can bet that they also took time to enjoy the summer sun and each other's company--so let's not forget to do the same!

Among my goals for the year (which I first posted in January and will revisit in a couple of weeks as we reach the mid-way point of the year) was to focus on the balance between work and play. I've been pushing pretty hard the last few years, trying to get my writing career started (in addition to the day job and everything else). And it was starting to show. So this year, I am trying to give myself permission to sometimes stop and enjoy myself.

I'll report more on my summer plans for fun later this week...

In the meanwhile, have a great summer solstice. BBQ, anyone?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CONTEST! Win a signed copy of the new book!

Hey all--the official release date of the new book, EVERYDAY WITCHCRAFT A TO Z SPELLBOOK is July 1st. But I've already gotten my copies from Llewellyn, so it should be showing up everywhere else soon. My books are all carried by Borders, Barnes & Noble, and many Indy and New Age books store, so you never know where you'll run across one.

I just wanted to remind everyone that the first person who finds a copy of the book "in the wild" and sends me a picture, will get a free, signed copy! Of course, I'd love to see or hear about ALL the sightings :-)

Keep coming back here, too, because I have a few more contests in mind...

Who doesn't love a free book???

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Writing something new and different

I am going to be giving my online writing workshop, "Beyond Fangs: Creating new and interesting paranormal characters" over at the FFnP (Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal) site starting June 28th. They asked me to write a blog on how I came up with the idea for my current series (and from there, the workshop). And here is what I said:

As writers, we all want to write the book of our hearts. But we also want that book to sell. As someone once said: “Writing is art; publishing is a business.” And nothing illustrates that better than the publishing industry’s tendancy to fall in love with trends. Everyone who has ever been told, “We want something that is just like what is already out there—but different,” raise your hand. I thought so. Okay, you can put them down now.

The vampire craze is a perfect example. You can’t sneeze in a bookstore without bumping into a book with vampires in it. Don’t get me wrong; I like vampires. But when I set out to write an Urban Fantasy last year (after reluctantly setting aside my two previous humorous paranormals because agents kept telling me that humor was OUT), I made the conscious decision to write something different. No vampires. No werewolves. And no zombies. Definitely no zombies. I wanted to write something that was in keeping with the current trends, but different.

Easy peasy. Not.

Luckily, I had a starting point. A few years ago, I had a short story published in THE PAGAN ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT FICTION: 13 PRIZE WINNING TALES (Llewellyn 2008). That story, “Dead and (Mostly) Gone,” featured a protagonist who was a witch-cop in a world much like ours, except that witches were another race and finally accepted in society. This protagonist, Donata Santori, worked as a Witness Retrieval Specialist, talking to dead crime victims. Since everyone who read the story asked for more of Donata and her world, I knew I would use this character and the bare bones I had laid down in the short story.

But there wasn’t much there. So I set out to do some serious world building. I knew I wanted to come up with paranormal characters that were different and interesting, so I started out by reading piles of Urban Fantasies by authors I respected—C. E. Murphy, Kim Harrison and the like—so I could see what was already out there. After all, if your intention is to do something completely different, you have to know what already exists.

Then I sat down with a stack of reference books. I’ve published five books on modern witchcraft for Llewellyn, so I have all sorts of interesting books on the paranormal that I use to research the nonficton; many of which came in surprisingly handy for creating my new world. In the end, I narrowed down the major paranormal races in my world to six, along with a number of minor ones. These included Witches, Dragons (who aren’t exactly dragons), Ghouls, Fae (who aren’t like most of the Fae in other books), and the Ulfhednar, based on a Norse shapeshifter legend. Okay—yes, you’ve counted correctly. But to find out about the sixth race, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the books to come out. It’s a secret…

But you’ll note that there’s not a vampire in sight, and that the shapeshifters aren’t your traditional werewolves at all. (And the Ghouls turned out to be almost aas creepy as the zombies I was trying to avoid, but that’s not my fault. It’s theirs. Don’t you hate it when the characters have minds of their own?)

One of the things I knew I wanted to have in the books was a cool sidekick. For this role I needed a minor paranormal creature, one that could garner some respect but still be good for the occasional bit of comic relief. Enter Ricky the Kobold. Kobolds are among the races of “little people,” in this case, ones who were said to live in caves and low places, and moved into basements and such when people came along. According to legend, Kobolds could be quite helpful if they liked you, and downright annoying if they didn’t. Perfect.

Needless to say, there was a lot more worldbuilding involved before I was done. Backstory and history, and the plot “hook,” and such. And I spent hours creating in-depth profiles on each of these races, and how they each tied into the main backstory. But I firmly believe that part of what made this manuscript succeed when the previous ones didn’t was my approach to “the same but different.”

And it did succeed. (Yay—dontcha love a happy ending?)

This manuscript, PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS, is the one that finally got me an agent; the wonderful Elaine Spencer from The Knight Agency. With any luck, it will be the one that kick-starts my fiction career.

So take heart. There is no need to let “We want something that is just like what is already out there—only different,” make you crazy. Well, crazier, anyway. If you’re a writer, you probably need a certain base level of crazy to keep you going. Just figure out what you like that is already out there, do a lot of research so you can come up with an interesting twist that no one else has come up with yet, and write, write, write.

Easy peasy.

Note: if you are interested in the workshop, you can get more information at my website http://www.deborahblakehps.com/olc.html

Friday, June 11, 2010

Feline Friday

To celebrate the end of the week, here is another kitty pic:

That's Magic the Cat on the left (co-author of the Everyday Witch books) and her brother Mystic. You can already tell he's going to be huge...

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Working with editors

No matter what kind of writing you do, at some point or another you will probably work with an editor. Over the course of a long career, you will probably work with quite a few. There will be editors who make you look good, by catching every mistake you make…and editors that don’t. Most of the time you don’t have much choice in the matter; the editor who picks your book is the one you end up working with.At worst, this can be frustrating. At best, they will be enthusiastic about your writing and a joy to work with.

I’m lucky—I’ve got the best editors in the world.

Unlike fiction books, where the person who buys the book is also the person who is your primary editor for the entire process, in non-fiction (or at least at Llewellyn, where I have all my experience) there are two main editors involved: the Acquisitions Editor and the Production Editor.

The Acquisitions Editor, in my case a fantabulous woman named Elysia Gallo, is the person you submit the book to in the first place. She reads the proposal you send, and your sample chapters, and if she likes it, she’ll ask for the rest of the book. If she REALLY likes it, she’ll then take it to an acquisitions meeting and pitch it to the rest of the team. If everyone REALLY likes it, she then offers a contract. And paperwork ensues.

Elysia was the one who bought my first book, bless her little acquistional heart, and all the ones that followed. She has been everything one could hope for in an editor: supportive, enthusiastic, and a strong advocate for my work. But beyond that, she has become a friend.

Now conventional wisdom will tell you that authors and editors—no matter how much they like each other, and no matter how well they get along—can’t really be friends. This is, after all, primarily a business relationship. And to some extent, conventional wisdom isn’t wrong. I know that when we are in negotiations, she HAS to put Llewellyn’s interests first. That’s her job. Business first, friendship second. And I’m okay with that. But the rest of the time, we really are pals, and I know that she has gone to bat for me more than once. And I hope that our relationship will continue long after my time with Llewellyn is over.

For some Acquisitions Editors, the job is more or less over once the contract is signed. But Elysia tends to be more hands on, and frequently offers in-depth feedback and suggestions for the scope, direction, and content of the books. Some authors don’t like this in an AE—but I love it. I want to turn in the best possible book, in a form that is going to make all those higher up on the food chain at Llewellyn happy. Working closely with Elysia helps me to do this. She makes me look good.

Once Elysia and I deem the book finished (a process that usually takes about three months from the time I start writing to the time I finish—almost always well ahead of my official deadline), it gets sent on to the Production Editor. There are a number of PE’s at Llewellyn, but on all but the first book, I have been lucky enough to be paired with Becky Zins. Becky rocks, too.

The PE helps to polish the book. She goes through it word by word and (hopefully) finds anything I screwed up or left out. Eventually, she contacts me via email with her biggest questions, and we usually have a few days of “is this really what you wanted to say?” and “would you mind if I changed this?” exchanges. When she’s done, she sends me the final proofs—which I just got yesterday for WITCHCRAFT ON A SHOESTRING—and it is my job to make sure that it all turned out right.

Like Elysia, Becky is a joy to work with. Her vision of the books has always matched mine EXACTLY; something which is a minor miracle in publishing and for which I thank the gods daily! And unlike most PE’s, she is (as far as I know) the last remaining PE at Llewellyn who also works on the book design itself. All those adorable cats in the EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z books…her idea.

I have been really fortunate in my editors so far, and hope that this good fortune will continue as I move into the fiction world. But it isn’t all luck—I also work hard to be as good an author for them to collaborate with as I can be. I want them to be singing my praises as loudly as I sing theirs.

Here’s a few basic ways to be a editor’s dream writer:

Always be polite and cooperative. (Yes, that should go without saying—but it doesn’t.)

Always meet or beat your deadlines. (Much of publishing takes a long time, and then you get two days to do the next step. The more lead time you can give an editor, the easier their job is.)

Submit the cleanest copy you can. (Just because it is an editor’s job to clean up your manuscript doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to find all the typos and other errors yourself. Becky has said she loves to see one of my books land on her desk, because she knows that there will be very little for her to do. That’s what you want to hear!)

Say “thank you” often and loudly. (Editing is one of the behind-the-scenes jobs, and it can be pretty thankless. It never hurts to tell your editor how much you appreciate all the work they put in to make you, the person everyone associates with your book, look good.)

With two books coming out this year, I have spent more time than usual dealing with editors. Which only makes me even more grateful than usual to have two such wonderful ones to work with. Thank you, Elysia and Becky! If I look good, it is all due to you.