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, 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

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

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.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Look What Came Today From Llewellyn!

Some days it is pretty great to be an author. This is one of those days. About mid-afternoon, the wonderful FedEx guy showed up with a box from Llewellyn containing the proofs for WITCHCRAFT ON A SHOESTRING (which I need to edit and get back to Becky ASAP) and the first five copies of EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z SPELLBOOK. Isn't it perty?

Look at that purple cover!

And it has that shiny new book smell.

Everybody who wants one, just raise your hand...

Guest Blog at FFnP

Hey all! It's a not-so-nice day here in upstate NY; cold, gloomy, and rainy.

But you can cheer me up by going to my guest blog at FFnP (Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal RWA chapter) and leaving me a nice comment. Pretty please?


And the newsletter is FINALLY going out later today, so if you haven't signed up yet and you wanted to, run over to my website--quick!

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's here! The new book is in!!!!

I got an email this afternoon from Becky Zins, my wonderful production editor at Llewellyn, telling me that she had finished the final proof edits on WITCHCRAFT ON A SHOESTRING (due out in September) and she would be overnighting them to me so I could look them over ASAP.

In case you haven't figured it out by reading this blog, publishing is usually a matter of "hurry up and wait." You spend a lot of time waiting for things to happen, and when they do, you have a very short amount of time to deal with them.

When I wrote her back, saying, "No problem--I've cleared my plate," I got this in return:
"And when it rains, it pours . . . your latest book will accompany your proofs. They just came in from the warehouse! :)"

The book is in! The book is in!

By the latest book, she means, of course, EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z SPELLBOOK

The official release date on the Spellbook is July 1st, but since Llewellyn has received their copies, it may show up early in bookstore and online. Feel free to run out and look for it in a week or two, and be sure and tell me if you spot a copy.

In fact, the first person to send me a picture of a copy of EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z SPELLBOOK sitting on a bookstore shelf (or at their house!) will win an autographed copy of the book! Yes, I'm that excited.

You see, there is a lot of waiting when you write a book. The actual writing takes months, of course, and then usually there is about a year and a half before the book comes out. Which is why it is so darned wonderful to be able to say

THE BOOK IS HERE! (Or at least, nearly here.)Yay SPELLBOOK!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Review of SHADE

Check out my review of Jeri Smith-Ready's excellent YA urban fantasy, SHADE at Debuts & Reviews

Then go buy the bok. Yes--it is THAT good.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Garden

Lest you think I spend all my time writing (which is only *almost* true), here are some pictures of my garden. From the time the ground can be worked (usually the end of March) until about now, I work like a madwoman trying to get everything in. And, of course, talking to the frogs in the pond.

In Praise of Brilliance

I just finished reading my critque partner's latest manuscript. And it is freakin' brilliant. Not just darn good, mind you. Not even very impressive. Brilliant. She just knocked my socks off.

I've been reading the manuscript all along, so I knew it was good. But the ending clinched it for me. Brilliant. Sweet, poignant, clever, and sad all at once.

Make a note, folks, because you are going to be hearing this name a lot in the future.

Lisa DiDio.

You heard it here first.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

DONE! and Newsletter update

I'm happy to report that this morning I finished the edits on PENTACLES AND PREDATORS (Pentacles & Pentimentos #2) and sent it off to my agent, Elaine Spencer.

This is a good thing for a number of reasons:
1) Finished is good, just in general
2) I had been aiming at finishing it by the 1st of June and came dang close
3) I have alls sorts of other things that need to get worked on (if you saw my post on my writing to do list, you already know this!)
4) I expect us to sell the first book in the series any day now, and it will be good to have the second one done and ready to go.

I started this manuscript on March 7th, and finishing on June 2nd is right around the 3 month mark I was aiming at. And I'm really pleased with the way the book turned out. (My critique partner likes it too, lest you think I am completely deluded...)

In other news:
I am FINALLY, SERIOUSLY getting ready to send out my first newsletter. Yes, I know I have been saying this for a while, but THIS TIME I REALLY MEAN IT. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am finally getting around to sending the sign-up invites to all the lovely folks who signed up to get the email while taking a workshop from me at Pantheacon in February. My apologies to everyone for my lateness. See notes on writing a book in three months, above :-)

If you are interested in getting the newsletter (which will probably only come out 3-4 times a year, and will contain info on new releases, contests, sales, etc.), please go to my website at and sign up. I promise the thing will be done and out within the next two weeks!