Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review--Nothing But Good Times Ahead

I find it fitting that this is my 112th blog post of the year, since we are leaving 2011 behind and going into 2012. As with everything else; it is all connected.

I know that 2011 was a tough year for many people--it wasn't a breeze for me either. But as I look back on it, I mostly see the positive. I am, when it comes down to it, a fortunate woman, blessed with friends, and home, and cats...and with you, my readers. Thank you for sharing 2011 with me. I hope you'll do the same in 2012.

So what did I accomplish in 2011?

On the writing front, I wrote another book for Llewellyn (#6, the Everyday Witch Book of Rituals, which will out around October of 2012), along with many articles for my ongoing column in the Witches & Pagans Magazine and a bunch of Llewellyn annuals and almanacs. I finished one novel, the foodie romance Reinventing Ruby, and worked on a number of novels that never saw it to the light of day for one reason or another. (For those of you who don't write, the path is never as smooth as it looks like from the outside, believe me.) I finally listened to the requests of my readers who said, "We don't want to wait any longer for your fiction," and epubbed my first novel, Witch Ever Way You Can (with much help from my long-suffering friend and web-mistress, Robin Wright).

I spent the year getting to know my agent, the fabulous Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency, and together, we expect great things in 2012.

I finally got to meet Elaine in person at RWA NYC in June, one of four writing-related trips I took during the year. (For someone who doesn't travel much, that's A LOT.) RWA was amazing, as was my trip to Salem in April for the New England Chapter RWA conference, where I got to meet one of my favorite authors, Lani Diane Rich. Both journeys also allowed me to meet up with a bunch of Betties, a group of women who first connected on Lani's blog and formed friendships whose depth has to be seen to be believed. (*Waves to the Betties*)My final trip was to nearby Albany with writer pal Nancy Holzner, where we had a lot of fun despite a less-than-successful event.

Of course, the first trip of the year was both the best and the worst: my journey to California in February, to bid my final farewells to my beloved Germambie (my maternal grandmother), but also to be together with both my sisters and my parents. That bittersweet time was followed by my visit to Pantheacon in San Jose, where I was much healed and comforted by the presence not only of my step-daughter Jenn (who lives there now), but also time spent with my adored Llewellyn editor Elysia Gallo, and many of my fans. As I said; the blessings far outweight the trials.

On the homefront, I spent much of the year doing a much-needed clearing and cleansing of my house; throwing away the old and unnecessary, clearing away clutter, and letting go of things that no longer worked for me. I can now see the floor of my barn, my entrance door is painted red, and the upstairs closets no longer hold boxes of things I moved in with ten years ago and never used. It feels good.

The five cats are all doing well, including Samhain, who is, in theory, dying of chronic renal failure, but who (thankfully!) hasn't seemed to realize it yet. I hope to have at least another year before she does. Two would be good. Three, even better.

I can't even begin to count the blessings of my life: a loving family, great friends, the best writing partner on the planet (yes, Lisa DiDio, I'm looking at you) as well as many wonderful writing pals, an agent, five cats, one very old but still-standing house, and a job I love most days. Don't get me wrong--there are plenty of things about my life that aren't perfect (you don't even want to know how long it has been since I had a relationship, or all the fun physical crap I get to deal with), but compared to people who don't have jobs, or a roof over their heads, or food on the table...frankly, I feel pretty lucky.

And then there is you. The folks who come here and read my ramblings. Who take the time to leave a comment, or go out and buy my books, or just show up. I thank you for this, and hope that, in the year to come, we can continue our travels together.

Wishing you a happy New Year, and (as my favorite author, Jennifer Crusie likes to say) "Nothing but good times ahead."

See you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Coolest Gifts

So--how were your holidays? Did Santa (or someone else) bring you something nice?

I have to admit...I love gifts; both giving and receiving them. One of my favorite parts of the holiday is the excuse to find, buy, or make something perfect for the people in my life. The holidays may come once a year, but I try to express a year's worth of appreciation and love in whatever I give. (Okay--it's usually books. Or wine and chocolate. Or jewelry. Or some combination of the above. But not always.)

My friends are all fabulous gift-givers too (yes, there are usually a lot of books, wine, and chocolate there too...although not so much jewelry). But the best gifts I got this year came from the hands and the hearts of two of the folks I'm closest to.

My pal Terry (who had the nerve to move from Oneonta to Connecticut a number of years ago) came to visit with her hubby on Thanksgiving, and brought me this beautiful shawl she'd been working on since LAST Thanksgiving. And only partially because I apparently picked the hardest pattern on the face of the earth. hey--I'm not a knitter; what do I know? Isn't it gorgeous? Yes, that's a mixed peacock-colored silk. It is as amazing and delicate as it looks, but also surprisingly warm! No doubt from all the love that went into making it.

My friend Chris (who is, among her many talents, a wonderful potter), went FAR beyond the call of duty to give me a gift she knew I'd love. She took the cover of my 2nd book, Everyday Witch A to Z (pictured here)

And somehow magically put it on a wine glass!

This process apparently involved heating the picture and the glass in the kiln. The final result looks like this (only this is a crappy picture):

The thing that makes this gift so amazing, is what she went through to achieve it. Here are tries number one through three...

Go ahead, drink out of those, I dare you!

My point is, well, LOOK at the trouble my friends went to, just to give me gifts that they knew I would like beyond anything they could find in the store.

My friends ROCK. Just sayin'.

Did someone give you the perfect gift this holiday season, or go out of his or her way to do something nice? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Nook Version is out! And "Review" Contest


For all of those who requested a Nook version of my paranormal romance ebook, WITCH EVER WAY YOU CAN--here it is!

Be sure to post a review once you've read it, and then come back here and tell me you've done it, so I can enter you in the contest. Contest ends at the end of December, though, so you'd better read fast!

Thanks again for all your enthusiastic support of this book--and me. It really means a lot.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Yule Dinner Party

Last night was the Blue Moon Circle yearly Yule Dinner Party--a time when we gather together with family and friends to celebrate the Winter Solstice. We don't do ritual (since not everyone who comes to this particular event is a Pagan). Instead, we just enjoy being together, exchanging gifts, playing games, and eating (a lot). Since we don't get to see each other as much as we used to, just being together is celebration enough. Well, and there was cake. LOTS of cake.

There's great entertainment (that's Sophia and Shaylee putting on a song and dance number).

Everyone chipped in on a Criket Cake gizmo that Robin REALLY wanted, and she was so overwhelmed with happiness when she opened the box, she burst into tears.

But the best part was just sitting around the dinner table together (in the dining room that is normally my writing area, in case you couldn't tell), with the group Yule log burning, and smiles on every face.

The Winter Solstice celebrates the return of the light, as the days begin to slowly get longer and brighter from that point onward. For me, I feel blessed to have the light of friendship in my life, no matter what time of year it is.

I hope that you get to spend time this season with the ones you love. Happy holidays from me, the kitties, and Blue Moon Circle.

Friday, December 16, 2011

BIG NEWS about the Next Llewellyn Book (and Feline Friday)

I have some very cool news about the next book (#6, in case anyone is counting) from Llewellyn.

You may remember me mentioning it some time ago, when it still had the working title of 50 Rituals for the Everyday Witch. Well, as often happens in publishing, when the theoretically-finished manuscript got sent to my acquisitions editor, the fabulous Elysia Gallo, Things Changed.

Most notably, she looked at the manuscript and said, "Um, dude, this is WAY too long." So it was decided to cut the entire last section--12 rituals for everyday use--leaving us with 38 rituals that covered New Moons, Full Moons, Sabbats, and special occasions (like handfastings, Wiccanings, and the like). And the need to come up with a new title, since "38 Rituals for the Everyday Witch" just sounded lame.

So, I'd like to announce (DRUMROLL PLEASE) that the new book,
Everyday Witch Book of Rituals: All You Need for a Magickal Year
will be coming out in October of 2012 (probably--these things can change too). Yay!

But wait--there's MORE.

Because Elysia and I thought it was a pity not to do something with those other 12 rituals. So we're doing something new, and putting them out as a mini-ebook called A Witch's Dozen. I'm not sure when this will happen; probably sometime before the main book comes out. I'll let you know when I hear more. But isn't it COOL????

*happy author dance* Is anyone else as excited about this as I am?

And here, with no further ado, is your Feline Friday pic--this is little Samhain, snuggling under the covers in her room upstairs (which is colder than the rest of the house). Hapy Friday, and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's Not Too Late! (Gift giving)

I hope you're all having a pleasant (and not too stressful) holiday season. To be honest, I find this time of year a bit stressful myself, what with managing a cooperative shop with 50 artists [really--have you ever tried to make 50 artists all do what they're supposed to do, when they're supposed to do it? Ha! I love them all, but it is like trying to herd cats], making jewelry, working on a secret contract with Llewellyn [what? I haven't mentioned that before? you're sure? okay--tune in tomorrow...or maybe later today, depending on how frazzled the 50 artists make me], putting out the ebook of my first paranormal romance, prepping for Blue Moon Circle's big yearly Yule Dinner party [10 adults, 5 kids, lots of fun--that's this Saturday!], and, of course, putting up the new Etsy shop with my jewelry.

Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it all. And I have to leave for the day job in a few minutes. Oh, and did I mention I'm fighting a cold? At least it's not snowing...

But that's not why I came here today. I wanted to remind you all that it's not too late to get someone you love (or simply like a lot) a gift from yours truly. [And my gift to you--this is the last time I mention any of this stuff! All this promo is necessary, but I start to feel like a 2 dollah ho, standing on the street corner, saying, "Please buy my stuff. Ho, ho, ho!"]

I'll be adding a few pieces of jewelry to my Etsy store over the next couple of days. Come take a look, and spread the word, pretty please. And just for those who read my blog (shhhhh, don't tell everyone else), a special giveaway: if you order a necklace from the etsy store before Monday (the last day I can guarantee it will get there before Christmas), I will throw in a signed book (any of my Llewellyn books, your choice) for FREE. You decide if the book is for you or a gift (tee hee). I won't tell if you decide to keep it. Just leave me a note on the etsy site when you purchase the jewelry, telling me that you saw this message here, and which book you want. If you want it personalized, tell me that, too!

Speaking of books, if you want a signed book for a friend for the holidays, I still haven't figured out how to add that to my website, but you can email me at magicmysticminerva at yahoo to tell me which one you want, whether you want it sent to you or to a friend, and how you want it dedicated. We can use the same email address to do a payment through Paypal. But do it by Monday, please, so I can get it in the mail right away.

And don't forget that the ebook ( ) can be given as a gift, too. There's a handy button right on the page to use just for that. (No worries about losing it in the mail, either!)

Okay--I'm done. I appreciate your patience. You may now return to your regularly scheduled program. Thank you all for all your support! It means a lot.

Holiday wishes,


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to Make an Author Happy (And a contest)

How do you make an author happy? Well, you can buy their books of course..

But posting a great review? Really makes an author's heart sing...

Look, here's another 5 Star review of WITCH EVER WAY YOU CAN

Yay! *does happy dance*

If you read the book and liked it, I'd love it if you could leave a review at Amazon and/or Goodreads. The first five people to post reviews (and come back here and tell me about it) will all get their names thrown in a cauldron...and one of them will win something COOL. (Yes, that's a one in five chance of winning. Not bad, eh? Must be the Christmas spirit getting into me...)

Of course, it would also make me pretty happy if you buy a copy for yourself or a friend. But I know a lot of you are waiting on the Nook version...which has now been delayed by my pal Robin's computer getting a virus. Considering we both have colds, that adds up to three viruses too many!

Hope you're all staying healthy and warm. And as always, thanks for all your support! It really does make this author very, very happy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Updates and My Review of MAKING WAVES at ChicklitRWA

Hi all--

I have to say, I have been BLOWN AWAY by the great response to the epub of my book, WITCH EVER WAY YOU CAN. *big smoochies all around*

For those who asked, the Nook version will be coming out soon--my poor webmistress/book midwife Robin came down with a cold, so it is taking a bit longer than we'd planned. I'll let you know when we get it up on B&N and another spot we're looking at. Also, for the folks who said they didn't have ereaders (ironically, neither do I!), if you go to Amazon's Kindle site, you can download free apps to read Kindle books on your computer, tablet, or even your phone. (And maybe you'll get a Kindle or a Nook for Christmas...) Don't forget that you can give ebooks as gifts, too... (hint, hint, hint).

I haven't forgotten I said I was going to do a giveaway, either. I plan to take all the names of those who said they bought the book or spread the word (both here and on FB) and put them in a hat. Just haven't gotten to it yet...maybe later today.

In the meanwhile, I popped over to the Chicklit Writers of America blog and posted a review of one of the top 10 favorite books I read this year, Tawna Fenske's debut novel, MAKING WAVES. If you want to run over and see what I had to say (and maybe leave a comment so I don't look like a friendless loser...) that would be really nice!

More news to come soon...

Monday, December 5, 2011

BIG NEWS! The Sekrit Project is HERE!!!

Once upon a time, there was a book. It was called Witch Ever Way You Can, and it was the first novel I sent out into the world. My first child, if you will. Witch Ever Way You Can spent about two years being submitted to agents and about a year on the RWA chapters contest circuit. It got a great response: agents loved it, editors loved it, my critique partners and first readers loved it, and it garnered all sorts of finals and wins in contests, including the much-sought-after EMILY "Best of the Best" Award. Author Candace Havens (then just someone I admired mightily, now a friend and colleague) even gave me first prize in a contest she was judging and recommended me to her (and now my) agent Elaine Spencer because of it.

But it wasn't "High Concept" enough to sell in an increasingly tough publishing market. Agents kept telling me, "Two years ago, I could have sold this in a heartbeat, but things are very tight now." If you are an author, you may have heard that one yourself. *headdesk*

Eventually, I wrote another couple of books, including Pentacles and Pentimentos which got me signed with Elaine and is currently out on submission. But I never forgot about my first baby.

So when Candace and I were talking a couple of months ago about how long it takes to get a publishing contract these days, and how people kept asking me, "When am I going to be able to read one of your novels?!" she had this suggestion: why not epublish Witch Ever Way You Can?

I talked to a couple of author friends who had epubbed some of their backlist (older books they'd gotten the rights back on) or even new novels they couldn't find a home for with a conventional publisher. They said, "Go for it!" And I talked to Elaine (because you always run important decisions by your agent), and she said, "Go for it!"

And with the help of my uber-savvy friend and webmistress, the brilliant Robin Wright, I did. Ta da!

Witch Ever Way You Can is now available for your Kindle at Amazon, and will be available soon from B & N and another couple of places. I'll post links as soon as I have them. (The Amazon link is below.) I've priced it fairly low--$2.99--because I wanted to reward all the faithful folks who have asked for a novel for so long. I hope that people will buy it for themselves, as gifts for their friends, and pass the word (pretty please!) to anyone they think might like a paranormal romance told with a humorous voice. It's about a Witch, of course.

I'll probably run some kind of giveaway contest soon...just have to come up with something suitable good! In the meanwhile, who is going to be the first to buy it? Maybe you?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Haz a Sekrit Project

I've been working on a Sekrit Project for a couple of months now. Things have shifted and changed along the way, but the important elements are all starting to fall into place now, and I hope to be able to share it with you all soon.

*bounce* *bounce* *bounce*

Can you tell I'm a little excited about this?

Actually, there are two Sekrit Projects, but the other one is smaller...

I can't tell you what the big Project is yet, but here is a hint:
The Sekrit Project is something my fans have been asking for, in some cases for years. (See, I HAVE been listening!) Stay tuned...

*bounce* *bounce* *bounce*

Friday, December 2, 2011

Introducing Lisa DiDio!

I have talked a bit about my writing partner, Lisa DiDio. She is, in a word, BRILLIANT. (No, really.) And also a terrific person, who keeps me from imploding on a regular basis, and helps me to be a better writer in the process.

She recently signed with the lovely Nephele Tempest, of The Knight Agency (with an assist from me and MY lovely agent, Elaine Spencer, from same) and is currently out on submission with her insanely good YA novels.

Lisa just put up her new website and blog, which are very cool. Go check them out at and give her a little love. You're going to want to watch this woman--she's The Next Big Thing. No, really.

Feline Friday

I plan to talk a little bit later about the Sekrit Project I've been working on...but for now, here is your Feline Friday picture of Magic the Cat, curling up with mama Minerva. Cozy looking, aren't they?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Celebrating Cyber Monday with a Book Giveaway

Because I am (as always) out of the loop, I just realized that today is the so-called "Cyber Monday" -- the day when people theoretically do most of their online holiday shopping.

*lifts head from trays full of beads and blinks*

Um...I probably should have done something about that, since I just put a bunch of my jewelry up on an Etsy store site.

So I had a brilliant idea over my hot chocolate. Well, brilliant might be stretching it a bit. Let's just call it an idea, shall we? After all, it IS Monday morning. By afternoon, it might look rather silly...

Anyway, so here's my idea. Since most of the folks who asked to look at (and in theory, be able to buy) my jewelry started out as fans of my writing, why not give away a BOOK as part of a Cyber Monday special? Specifically, a signed book, written by me. This can include any of the five books from Llewellyn: Circle, Coven & Grove; Everyday Witch A to Z; The Goddess is in the Details, Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook; and Witchcraft on a Shoestring.

Here's the deal: Go to my Etsy store TODAY. (Yes, it has to be today. That's the whole point. There is no way I'm running a special like this all season!) And buy any necklace. When you do, I will include a FREE, SIGNED copy of the book of your choice. (There is a place in the notes during the sale to leave me a message telling me which book, and how you want it personalized.) The book--and the necklace--can be for either you or for a gift. How's that for a Cyber Monday deal????

What? Why are you still here? Go! Go! (And tell all your friends. Pretty please.)

And thanks as always for supporting all my endeavors. I truly appreciate it.
Deborah, off to work at the day job

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Last Day for Jewelry Sale

Just a reminder--due to popular request, I have put a few samples of the gemstone jewelry I make up on Etsy. If you're interested (either for yourself or as a gift), this weekend I am running an anti-Black Friday sale (snicker). Buy any necklace by the end of today, and I throw in a free pair of matching earrings, $20-$30 value.

Happy shopping!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Gift for my Friends and Fans!

I am on my way out the door to go open up The Artisans' Guild (the artists' cooperative shop I run) for the day. I am always grateful to be spending Black Friday is such a mellow and pleasant atmosphere, instead of at a crazy mall or (goddess forbid!) Walmarts.

As some of you know, I recently (after much nudging) put some of my handcrafted jewelry up on Etsy, for the folks who wanted to be able to get something made by me. And thanks so much for asking!

So here is my Black Friday gift to all who asked... In case you don't feel like braving the crowds, you can go shopping at my little Etsy shop. There's not much up there yes, but I hope to have a few more pieces up by the end of the day. Here's the deal: anyone who orders a necklace today, Saturday, or Sunday--I will throw in a free pair of matching earrings ($20-$30 value) as my gift to you for being so supportive of me.

Ta da!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Feline Friday

Back by popular demand...
Feline Friday!

Here's a picture of the "family" on the sofa--Magic the Cat and mama Minerva exchanging baths while brother Mystic snoozes..

May you have a relaxing weekend too! (Starting now, for those of you lucky enough to have Veteran's Day off.) And for any of my pals here who are veterans or the family of veterans... THANKS! We appreciate your service and your sacrifice.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Too close for Comfort: Things that go BOOM!

I got an interesting call from my sister Sarah last night. (She, my brother in-law, and two darling 18 year old nieces live in Schenectady, although one niece is currently off at college.)

The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey, how's it going?
Sarah: Well, my car is gone.
Me: Gone? What do you mean gone? Stolen? You sold it?
Sarah: No. It blew up.
Me: (a pause) Did you just say your car blew up?
Sarah: Yup.
Me: Your car blew up?
Sarah: Uh huh.
Me: Holy crap.

Apparently what happened was this--my BIL Rich dropped my niece Addy off at the local college she attends, and drove the car home. He parked it at the curb, since he intended to go out again soon to run some errands. He'd gotten most of the way up the driveway to the house when he heard a big boom. And when he turned around again, the car was ON FIRE. The fire department had to come put it out. This is what's left:

Pretty scary, isn't it! It looks more like something you'd see in Beirut than in suburban Schenectady. My sister tells me that the insurance guy said that sometimes the catalytic converter will overheat and blow. Who knew?

Either way, they are all a little shaken up (especially Addy) and it's not great that they have to replace a dependable (but old enough not to have a lot of value) car while putting two kids through college. But I'm just VERY GRATEFUL that they're all okay. Cars can be replaced--my family cannot.

Holy crap. This was definitely too close for comfort.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Rave Review for Nancy Holzner's BLOODSTONE

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending the day with author pal Nancy Holzner, when we went to a writers' workshop together. Nancy lives in Ithaca, which is a couple of hours from me, and we try to get together a couple of times a year to talk writing and catch up with eachother's lives.

Nancy and I originally "met" online, after I reviewed a copy of her first book, DEADTOWN and loved it. I recently got to read the third book in the series, and I have to tell you, they just get better all the time.

“They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Mostly humans stay far from its borders—but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…”

If this blurb sounds intriguing to you, I can guarantee that the book itself more than lives up to it. BLOODSTONE, the third in author Nancy Holzner’s Deadtown series, is a fun and fabulous paranormal romp from the very first page. And the action never stops long enough for you to catch your breath. (As if you’d want to.)

Victory (Vicky) Vaughn is one of the most unusual and likable characters I’ve ever come across in an urban fantasy. Although I will confess, I have a major soft spot for her aunt Mab, and her werewolf-lawyer boyfriend. I even like Tina, her former apprentice (the ONLY zombie character I have ever found likable.) Even more, I love the world that Holzner has created; one that looks a lot like ours, until you peer beneath the surface to find various paranormal creatures (including Vicky’s vampire roommate, Juliet—yes THAT Juliet).

In this installment of the series, a killer who uses a curved blade—nicknamed the South End Reaper—is not only causing death and mayhem, he is creating even greater strain in an already difficult relationship between Boston’s human and inhuman residents. And it is up to Vicky, her friends, and her aunt Mab to find out who is doing the killing and put a stop to him, her, or…it.

If you haven’t read any of the books in this series, I suggest starting at the beginning with DEADTOWN, although any of the books can easily be read on its own. Holzner does a masterful job of building on the previous books while still making each volume a stand-alone novel; not an easy task to do, believe me!

Holzner gets better with every book; I loved this one, and I am waiting with baited breath to see what happens next…

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Romance, a Fantasy, and a YA...Oh My

I promised myself I wasn't going to buy any more books until I'd emptied off more of my To Be Read shelf. It's not my fault that three of my favorite authors have new releases. Is it?

I mean, who could resist THIS? I'm not usually a fan of the Harlequin Blaze romance series...but when Candace Havens writes goes on my automatic order shelf. I mean, seriously...YUM.

And then there is Tanya Huff. She writes fantasy, paranormal romance, and all sorts of groovy things. Her new book, THE WILD WAYS, looks truly intriguing... Check this out:
"The Gales are an amazing family, the aunts will strike fear into your heart, and the characters Allie meets are both charming and terrifying." -#1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris
Alysha Gale's cousin Charlotte is a Wild Power, who allies herself with a family of Selkies in a fight against offshore oil drilling. The oil company has hired another of the Gale family's Wild Powers, the fearsome Auntie Catherine, to steal the Selkies' sealskins. To defeat her, Charlotte will have to learn what born to be Wild really means in the Gale family...

And then there is my favorite YA fantasy author, Tamora Pierce. I have read every book she has ever written, and loved each one more than the last. Her books are full of strong female protagonists, interesting characters, and amazing world building. MASTIFF is the third in the Beka Cooper series. If you haven't read her books, run don't walk to the nearest bookstore...

What book did you buy recently that you would recommend to others? And which one of these would you get first?

A video gift for Whovians!

Something silly to cheer you up...
A November 1st gift for all you Whovians out there (you know who you are).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Samhain and Halloween

Happy Halloween and a blessed Samhain from Samhain the cat, the rest of the furball gang, and me!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Trick than Treat

Here in Upstate New York, Mother Nature seems to be taking the "trick" in "trick or treat" a little too literally...

I was hoping for BOO! Not boo hoo... And it is just getting started.

Hope you're all warm and safe.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Root Canals and Rejections: Keeping it all in perspective

This has been kind of a tough week in some ways. I had a root canal on Tuesday. (To be more accurate--the re-root canal of a previous root canal...which does not, as it turns out, make the current one any less painful. Owie.) I got an email from my agent today, forwarding a rejection of my foodie romance. (Again, owie.) It freaking snowed. In October. And they're threatening a major dump of 3-7 inches on Saturday. You know, one day before our biggest ritual of the year, for Samhain. Although it's weather prediction, so they could easily be wrong. I'm voting for that, personally.

And, of course, I'm dealing with the usual life-is-overwhelming-me-because-I-have-more-to-do-than-I-have-time-and-energy-to-do-it stuff. (None of you know what THAT'S like, do you? Snort.)

Regardless of all that, I'm actually feeling pretty good. Well, except for my tooth. (OWIE.) You see, I learned a long time ago that much of life has to do with perspective. You often can't change your circumstances, but you can change how you look at them. For instance, there's this:

I had a root canal. It hurts like hell. I got a rejection. Ditto. Snow. Argh.


I have access to dentistry, and friends who are willing to drive me the hour in either direction and be supportive after I get tortured. Er, I mean, worked on. And I have an agent to send me rejections :-) I'm actively working on my writing career. And the snow was pretty. (It was, actually.) And will probably kill the ragweed. YAY.

You see? It's all in how you look at it.

Besides which, my kid is here visiting from San Jose (whoo hoo!) and people have been saying lots of lovely things on my blog. I just had a nice chat on the phone with my parents.

Not a bad week after all. I hope yours was pretty good too.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Twenty Thousand Views

I'm a bit flabbergast. Flabbergasted? Er...flabberstruck. Never mind--I'm just stunned and amazed.

My humble little blog about writing and witches and books and whatevertheheckisgoingonhereusuallytodowithcats has hit the 20,000 views mark.

20,000 times someone (maybe you) has come here to see what I had to say. Okay, a few of them may have been looking for someone else. Or something not to do with writing or witches or cats or reading or cooking or any of the other random things I talk about here. But still, I have to think that most of those 20,000 views were on purpose. And mostly not my mother. *waves to mom*

That's just...well...kinda heartwarming.

So I wanted to say "thank you" to everyone who has been one (or more) of those 20,000. Thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting. Thanks for not pointing and laughing where I can see you...

It really means a lot.

So I'm thinking I should do something to celebrate. 20,000 things, really, but I don't have that much stuff to give away. So how about y'all tell me in the comments why you come here (Magic the Cat says it's all about her, but I don't think so). And I'll pick a random commenter on Sunday and he or she can have the book of mine of his/her choice. Even international folks. And if the winner doesn't want one of my books, he/she/it can pick one of the duplicates I have of friends' books.

So, what brings you here? And what brings you back? Inquiring minds want to know. LOTS of them, apparently.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where I'll be tomorrow (Albany, NY)

If you're going to be in Albany, NY tomorrow (Friday, October 21st), come see me at the 2011 LASTFA Writer's Workshop. I'm driving up with author pal Nancy Holzner at the crack of dawn, and will be taking part in workshops and author panels all day.

Hope to see you there! More info below...

Northeastern U.S.A.
Since March 1980
Latham-Albany-Schenectady-Troy Science Fiction Association, Inc.

2011 LASTSFA Writers Workshop

Participants Registered
David Hartwell from TOR (Guest of Honor)David will only be attending the Thursday Reception where he will be interviewed by Chuck Rothman. Come to the reception for a chance to network and ask your questions.
the Wombat
Cat Johnson
Ryk Spoor
Debi Chowdhury (Chairman)
Nancy Holzner
Stella Price (Programming)
Chuck Rothman
Deborah Blake
Erinn Phinney
Ron Drummond

2011 Writers Workshop Flier
2011 Writers Workshop Schedule

Best Western Sovereign Hotel - Albany1228 Western AvenueAlbany, NY 12203 (518) 489-2981 (518) 489-2981
Map and Directions

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Great Reviews! Doing the Happy Author Dance

Nothing makes an author happier than a shiny new positive review of one of her books. Today, I got two! EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z SPELLBOOK was reviewed by two different people at the fabulous Facing North site--and both of them loved it, despite not being "spellbook" fans.

*does happy author dance*

Check them out, then if you want, come back here and tell me if any of what they said resonates with you.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Six for Llewellyn--The Vision Meeting

As some of you know, I finished my sixth book for Llewellyn a few months ago, and sent it off to my lovely acquisitions editor, Elysia Gallo (who would be one of my favorite people in the world even if she wasn't my acquisitions editor). The book was tentitively titled "50 Rituals for the Everyday Witch," and was the third book in the "Everyday Witch" series, which already includes Everyday Witch A to Z and Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook.

Today they held the Visions Meeting for the book. Here is how Elysia described these meetings on Facebook:

"Vision is the meeting where we read a whole manuscript by unsuspecting authors,tear it apart, put it back together again, and send the author pages upon pages of annoying, nit-picking notes. "

Sadly, that's not much of an exaggeration! But what she doesn't mention is that all these changes usually result in a much better book--that's the point of the whole thing. And at least this time I only got SIX pages of notes. When I was working on book two, the first Everyday Witch A to Z, I got ELEVEN pages. (Book 1, Circle, Coven & Grove, got no changes at all, beyond a few grammatical things, lulling me in to a false sense of security.) I believe there might have been crying. Also whining, pouting, and possibly threats to quit writing forever. Then I made the requested changes, and the finished book was much better. This was actually a defining moment for me as an author. I learned something about the process, and about sometimes needing to let go of my original vision of a book. In fact, it was after that whole thing that I wrote the following haiku for Elysia (yes, we write each other haiku on occasion--what, you don't write haiku for your editor?):

Here is what I know
When an author is in doubt
Editor is right

Does this mean the editor is always right? Not at all. And sometimes, as an author, you have to stick to your guns if there is something that you believe shouldn't be changed. On the other hand, I can't stress too much the importance of having an open mind

That's why they call it Vision.

By the way--in today's Vision Meeting, they cut 12 of the 50 rituals. Something tells me I need to come up with a new title...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wolf Mountain or What I did with my Sunday when I was supposed to be working

Yesterday was Sunday, and as usual, I had a huge list of things I needed to do around here, including finishing the dismantling of the garden, putting a second coat of paint on the stairs inside while it is still warm enough to have the windows open, making jewelry, and of course, writing.

Instead, I ran off to play hookey with my friend Ellen. She called me up in the morning and invited me to go about an hour and 20 minutes away to the Wolf Mountain Nature Center in Smyrna, NY. They were having a festival there, their yearly fundraiser, with shows featuring the wolves...

Their two arctic foxes...

And Native American drumming and dancing....

Besides which, it was one of the last of the glorious days--78 degrees out, the sun was shining, the trees were turning all sorts of lovely colors--and the male protagonist of my current WIP is a Native American named Wolf. could I not go?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Six Years Ago Today: Robin & George

On this day six years ago, I officiated at the wedding of two of my favorite people: Robin and George Wright. Performing that particular ceremony was an honor and a joy, because they were good friends, a lovely couple and very much in love. Six years, two children, and many changes later, they still are. And I still hold the memories of this day among my most precious. Happy anniversary, Robin and George! I'm so glad to be a part of this enduring love story. You make me believe in magic.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Day Job: Happy Anniversary to The Artisans' Guild

Most authors will tell you that their dream is to be a full time writer. And I would certainly like that, in a perfect world. On the other hand, I am lucky enough to like my "day job" a lot, so I don't mind working at it until I become a rich and famous uber-successful author. Or find that sugar daddy I've been looking for... (not).

Twelve years ago today, we opened the doors of The Artisans' Guild for the first time with 30 artists and not much idea of what the heck we were getting into. Which was probably a good thing, all things considered.

Co-founded by me and my friend Ellie Stromberg, a potter, the Guild is a not-for-profit shop that features the work of 50 local and regional artists and craftspeople. We've got pottery, glass, wood, fabric arts, candles, chocolate, soap, baskets...and of course, jewelry (including mine).

My official title is Executive Director, but basically I manage the place; juggling scheduling, doing paperwork and accounting, decorating the front windows every month, rearranging displays and generally keeping the shop running as smoothing as possible. It isn't always easy (managing 50 artists is a lot like trying to herd cats), but the variety and the challenges suit me. And I'm good at it, which never ceases to amaze me, since my educational background was in psychology, theater, and English Ed., with nary a business course to my name.

I don't get paid a lot, because I don't work full time and we're a not-for-profit, which means almost all the money goes directly back to the artists. But I enjoy it, and not being full time gives me the time to write on the side (and on the top and the bottom). Pretty close to a perfect world after all.

Happy anniversary, Artisans' Guild! And if you're in the Oneonta area Friday night, stop by from 5-8...we're having a party to celebrate.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Report on Samhain (the cat, not the sabbat)

As many of you know, my little (6.6 lb) girl cat Samhain has been dealing with Chronic Renal Failure for a couple of years. She is only 6 or 7--an adopted stray, so we can't be sure of her exact age--so she is very young to be dealing with this illness.

She was doing quite well for the first year and a half, but then in March her test results took a drastic turn for the worse, and we went from doing subq fluids at home 3 x a week to doing them every day. Oh, the joy.

Samhain and her roommate Angus went to the vet today for their yearly rabies shots and exams, and her bloodwork. And I'm VERY happy to say that for the first time since March, it had actually improved. *insert happy dance here*

Don't get me wrong: it's still bad. She's still dying. She just isn't doing it as fast as we thought she was. And she clearly hasn't gotten the memo, since she is still eating well and acting as affectionate and feisty as ever. I won't tell her if you won't.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Good Day

Okay--not entirely good, since I am either fighting a little cold or dealing with the ragweed allergy attack from hell (or both), but some good stuff happened today:

1) I did the monthly redecoration of the shop's front windows with pal and Artisans' Guild co-founder Ellie Stromberg. When we first started the shop almost 12 years ago, we spent so much time together, when I called her house, her husband would say, "Ellie, it's your wife!" But we don't see as much of each other these days, and had a lot of fun giggling and playing as we did our best to make the shop "shiny."

2) Came home to find my biannual royalty report from Llewellyn. For those of you who don't know about such things, that's the report that tells me how many of each of my five books I sold during the last period (in this case Jan-June this year). The check for same won't arrive for another month (another good day), but the numbers were better than I expected, and the best news of all, I had sold through the advances for all five books--including the two that only came out last year. If you're not an author, take it from me...this is a GOOD thing.

I'm not going to get rich off of these books, or be able to quit my day job. But it is satisfying to know that people are enjoying my writing. (And did I mention there will be a check?)

3) I got to gab with my lovely critique partner Lisa DiDio on the phone for WAY too long this afternoon. We communicate pretty much every day, often multiple times, but usually be email. It was great to have author chat, girl chat, and more giggling.

So cold or no cold, it was a good day.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Only Two More Days!

Happy Saturday, all!

One last reminder: only two more days left to sign up for my upcoming online writing workshop, "Beyond Fangs: Creating New and Interesting Paranormal Characters."

Just in case all my blabbing about it here has slipped your mind :-)

I will have some interesting news to share soon...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Rave Review: The Hum and The Shiver by Alex Bledsoe (book give-away)

I have a lot of friends who are writers; you've seen me talk about them and their books here often. Many of these folks are on my lists of favorites to read and recommend; amongst them there are a few I consider EXCEPTIONAL--to the point where I await their newest books with an almost painful anticipation, then heave a sigh when I'm done reading and have to settle in to wait for the next.

Alex Bledsoe is one of these.

I just finished reading his new book, THE HUM AND THE SHIVER, and man, does it ever make you do both! The book's official release date is tomorrow, September 27th, and I was fortunate enough to get an advanced reader's copy from Alex's agent, the lovely Marlene Stringer. (Thanks, Marlene! I owe you one.) I'm going to tell you why you want to run out tomorrow and get a copy of this book.

But first, let me tell you about Alex. Alex and I first stumbled across each other when we were both finalists in the contest that led to our inclusion in the Llewellyn/BBI Media joint project, THE PAGAN ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT FICTION. We bonded over the shared torture of waiting to find out if either of us won (I came in third...the only time I've ever beaten Alex at anything, and at that, I think he was robbed) and then later over shared interests and beliefs. We've never met in person, because he lives in Wisconson and I live in upstate New York, but we keep in touch and applaud each other's successes.

I fell in love with Alex's writing with the publication of his first book, THE SWORD EDGED BLONDE. Who wouldn't love a guy who could create a world that is a cross between traditional sword and sorcery and a hard-edged detective novel...and pull it off beautifully. Genius, I tell you. The Library Journal called it "A well-crafted gem of a tale," which sums it up pretty well, I think. And the two books that followed it in the series just got better. (Number four is coming soon.)

Now there is THE HUM AND THE SHIVER. Here's the blurb from the back of the book:

No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, yet when the first Europeans arrived, they were already there. Dark-haired, enigmatic, and suspicious of outsiders, the Tufa live quiet lives in the hills and valleys of Cloud County. While their origins may be lost to history, there are clues in their music—hints of their true nature buried in the songs they have passed down for generations.

Private Bronwyn Hyatt returns from Iraq wounded in body and in spirit, only to face the very things that drove her away in the first place: her family, her obligations to the Tufa, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend. But more trouble lurks in the mountains and hollows of her childhood home. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, and a restless “haint” lurks nearby, waiting to reveal Bronwyn’s darkest secrets. Worst will need to summon the strength to take her place among the true Tufa and once again fly on the night winds. . . .

The Tufa are a fascinating people with secrets hidden underneath their secrets, and Bronwyn is an imperfect and tortured protagonist who nonetheless captures your heart. Bledsoe's writing is as sharp, evocative, and forceful as any author I have ever read; he draws you so deeply into the East Tennessee world of the Tufa, you are shocked to put down the book and find yourself on the couch at home. You live and breath and sing with the Tufa, and ache and cry and wonder with every character in this entralling book. There is magic hidden on the gravel roads of Cloud Country; the kind of magic that could only come from the creative mind of the amazing Alex Bledsoe.

I can't wait to read the next book in this series. And I can't wait to hear what you all think of this book. So here's what I'm going to do. I happen to have an extra copy of his second book in the Eddie La Crosse series, BURN ME DEADLY (The Sword Edge Blond's follow up). In hardcover, no less. I'm going to give that book away to the first person who buys a copy of THE HUM AND THE SHIVER, reads it, and posts a review on either Amazon, Goodreads, or both. (Of course, you have to come back here and tell me you did it.)

And of course, I want all of you to check out this amazing book and tell me what you think. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Here are links to Amazon, so you can check out the book, and to Alex's website, so you can check out the guy himself. Be sure and tell him I sent you :-)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Upcoming Newletter

In theory, I put out a newletter with updates three or four times a year. But let's face it-- my life just isn't that interesting! So it really only goes out once or twice a year when enough news adds up to make it worth it.

I will be sending one out within the next few days, however, so if you'd like to get it, you can run over to my website at and sign up. Easy peasy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

All about the Upcoming "Beyond Fangs" Writing Workshop

As writers, we strive to constantly hone our craft and improve our skills. Preferably without spending too much money or taking a lot of time away from our current manuscript. Online writing classes are the perfect solution. Most of them are fairly inexpensive, and you can devote as much or as little time as you chose. (Candace Havens even hosts a number of fabulous FREE workshops on her WriteChat loop. Check it out!)

I’ve taken a number of great workshops, many of them from the Low Country RWA chapter. A couple of years ago, they asked me to teach one based on my nonfiction witchcraft books from Llewellyn. The result was “Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author.” The class was fun to teach and went really well, so they asked me to come up with a second workshop.

At the time they asked me, I’d spent months working on the world and character building for my urban fantasy, PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS. I started out by asking myself a simple question: What kind of paranormal characters can I use to people this world, without resorting to those that are currently somewhat overused. In short, NOT VAMPIRES.

Don’t get me wrong; I love vamps. And werewolves, and such. But I wanted to create a world that was completely different from anything already out there. And that meant coming up with unusual paranormals. Hence, the workshop—

Beyond Fangs: Creating New & Interesting Paranormal Characters
By Deborah Blake

Class Description:
Want to write a paranormal romance or urban fantasy, but don’t want to be just another Vamp in the crowd? Yearning to create a completely original paranormal character, but don’t know where to start? Author Deborah Blake moves beyond Vampires to delve into a wide range of paranormal folk who don’t need to hide from the sun. From Witches to Weres, Fae to Phantasms, this class will explore the alternatives to over-used supernatural stereotypes and help you to create your own unique paranormal character. The class will include a discussion of current trends, suggested reading, hints for character building, and an overview of authors who have successfully gone beyond the traditional.

The class will cover what’s already out there and a few ways to make the more common your own. It will also explore some alternatives, as well as suggest a few helpful resources for creating something new and different. And it will give an example or three from PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS, in case you’re curious.

If you want to know more, feel free to join me for this class. Check it out at

Happy writing!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Giving Online Witchcraft Classes?

I got an interesting question yesterday (from one of my readers, through Facebook)--she asked if I ever gave online Witchcraft classes.

And the answer was, no, I don't. In fact, it never occurred to me to do so, even though I often get people asking me Witchcraft-related questions, and I have been giving very successful and popular online writing classes for years. And wrote all those books and articles about it, of course.


So here is my question for YOU: does anyone want me to give online Witchcraft classes? And if I did, which would you be most interested in--

  1. Intro to Witchcraft (Wicca/Witchcraft 101 -- very basic explanations of what it is all about)

  2. "Following the Path" (Somewhat more advanced -- "what do I do next?" "how do I practice on an ongoing basis?" kind of things)

  3. Basic Spellcasting

  4. All of the above

And also, what do you think would be a reasonable price to pay for such a class, if you wanted to take one? (Keeping in mind that the time and energy it takes to create and put it on requires some kind of payment, or I can't affort to take the time to do it.)

  1. $5

  2. $7.50

  3. $10

  4. $15

Last question--if you were going to take these classes, would you prefer them to be

  1. 1 day only

  2. 3 days

  3. 5 days

I appreciate any input you can give me, as I ponder this idea. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Upcoming Writing Class "Beyond Fangs"

Hi All!
I just wanted to let you know that I will be giving my last online writing workshop of the year over at Low Country RWA in October. The class starts on Oct 5th and runs through the 21st, and is only $16! But sign-up ends on October 2nd, so if you're interested, you should go sign up as soon as possible. These classes fill up fast sometimes!

The name of the class is "Beyond Fangs: Creating New and Interesting Paranormal Characters." I will only be giving it once next year, so I hope to see you in October!

Please spread the word!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Using Magic to Fuel Your Writing

My name is Deborah Blake and my blog is called “Writing the Witchy Way.”
There are a couple of reasons for that. The most obvious reasons have to do with the fact that I am a practicing witch (don’t worry—I haven’t turned an editor into a toad in years) and have published five nonfiction books on the topic of modern witchcraft. And witches show up in my fiction more often than not. For instance, my urban fantasy series features a protagonist who is a witch-cop who talks to dead crime victims.
I also teach a few popular online writing classes, including one called “Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author,” in which I help writers learn how to write witch characters without putting in a lot of misinformation.
But that’s not really why I gave the blog that name. In truth, it has to do with magic.
You see, I believe in magic. Not just fairy tale magic—although I like fairy tales, and their modern retellings. Real life magic that comes from within and doesn’t require an enchanted wand or an eccentric godmother. This belief affects my writing, and I’m guessing that my writing also affects this belief. So let’s talk about magic, shall we?
Modern witches—including Wiccans, who are a specific subset of a wider group—practice a nature-based religion, based in part on ancient practices and added on to through the last sixty or so years by many modern interpretations. There is a huge variety of practices and beliefs, but one of the things that we all have in common is the acceptance of magic as a genuine force in the universe. How this force is tapped into and used is a source for much debate (oh, who am I kidding—within the modern witchcraft community, EVERYTHING is a source for much debate), but we all acknowledge its existence
So what is magic, and how can you, as an author, tap into it and use it to add joy to your writing, fulfillment to your life, and maybe even use it to give your writing career a boost?
First of all, don’t worry—you don’t have to be a witch to work with magic. In fact, you probably already do so, in little ways you might not think of using that term.
There is the little everyday magic, for instance, that most writers use as fuel for their writing. Birdsong in an otherwise silent morning, the laughter of a child at play, the way your cat seems to know just when you need to be comforted—to me, these are tiny fragments of magic, free-floating like motes in the summer sunshine. Good writers use this everyday magic in two ways: they tuck away little snippets to be used later in just the right scene, and they allow the gift of these precious moments to feed their souls, so that they can keep going, and keep writing.
Writing can come from many places, including frustration, anger, and grief. But it should also come from joy, and these small bits of magic can keep that joy flowing through your heart and mind and out onto the page.
And then there is the other kind of magic—the purposeful kind, where you set out to accomplish something by tapping into the force of the universe that, for lack of a better word, we call magick (with a k, so you know it from the regular kind). Witches tend to see this energy as something that is out there, available to anyone who wants it and can figure out how to utilize it. Think of it like a scientific principle that no one has been able to prove. People used to think of gravity as nonsense, until Newton changed the way we looked at the world. Magic is like that.
Witches believe that magic is real, and can be used to create positive change in the world. Part of this belief has to do with the Law of Returns: what you put out is what you get back. [No, THE SECRET didn’t invent this concept, and it isn’t actually a secret. Sigh.] In order to do this, we use three things: intent, focus, and will.
Intent is what you want to accomplish. For instance, say you want more time for writing. You will want to make sure you have your intent clear. After all, you don’t want to get more time for writing because you’re laid up with a broken leg, or because you lost a job you loved. (Losing a job you didn’t love, now, that’s another issue…) So you may ended up deciding that your actual intent is to create more time in your life for writing, in a positive way, without reducing your income or having a negative effect on your relationships . Or something like that. It will vary from person to person.
Then comes focus. Focus is what directs that intent out into the universe in a meaningful way. Witches create focus through ritual, which can be as simple as a walk through a sacred wood or as complicated as casting a circle, calling in the elements, invoking a goddess, lighting candles and incense, beating a drum or chanting, and then saying a spell. But you don’t have to do any of that, if it doesn’t work for you. You can take a bath and light a white candle you have etched with the thing you desire. You can meditate. You can even just pray or ask for help.
Your will is what sends your intent out, once you have focused it. The reason we use focus is to get the most power out of our will. Let’s face it—most of us spend much of our time running around like crazy, doing things for others, and feeling pretty scattered and pulled in different directions. It can be hard to focus your will under those circumstances. That’s why witches use ritual; it puts them in a different mental state, removing them from the worries and distractions of normal life, so they can truly focus on what they want.
Once you have your intent in mind, have built your focus as much as possible, and have every ounce of your will behind it, then you send it out into the universe. Ta da! You’ve done magick.
Will it work every time? Of course not. Will it work right away, in exactly the form you expected? Maybe, maybe not. But sometimes magick works in ways you least expect and brings you even more than you’d asked for. And if nothing else, it might give you something new to write about. And that’s the best magic of all.

PS--Don't forget my "Writing Success" spell in Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Creating a Daily Spiritual Practice--Not Just For Pagans

Blue Moon Circle is meeting tonight to celebrate the Full Moon together and our topic for discussion tonight is how we can better integrate our spiritual practice into our everyday lives--more specifically, how each of us can come up with a daily practice of some kind that will feed our souls, help us to stay in touch with deity (however we see it/her/him), and still be "doable" given our hectic schedules.

Obviously, this is a subject near and dear to my heart, since I wrote an entire book (The Goddess is in the Details: Wisdom for the Everyday Witch, Llewellyn 2009) about integrating your spiritual and mundane lives in an easy and reward manner. [WHAT? You haven't read it? Check it out here: ]

However, daily spiritual practice isn't just important for Pagans. It is stengthening and healing for everyone, no matter what their faith. So tell me, do you have a regular spiritual practice of some kind? What does it bring to your life? How do you fit it in with everything else?

Here is an excerpt from the chapter in The Goddess is in the Details where I talk about my own practice, and give suggestions for how to develop one your own.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “ritual” as “a system of rites, a ceremonial act or action, an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.” For Pagans, ritual is all that and more. It can be as simple as looking up at the moon every night, or as complex as a Beltane celebration with hundreds of Witches coming from miles around. Some Witches have only formal rituals, performing magick within the confines of a circle and following particular procedures. Others lean more to the informal, and are likely to combine their rituals with everyday actions like cooking or gardening.

What are your rituals? Do you have some small act that you do on a daily basis to reconnect with the gods and the universe around you? Or are your rituals limited to Full Moons and Sabbats?

There are no rules about how or how often to perform rituals. (Rules? Don’t be silly. We’re Witches.) I usually suggest that people do some act of ritual at least once a week, and daily if possible. You may believe that you are too busy to be able to fit ceremony of any kind into an already overloaded life, but I beg to differ. Ritual and ceremony give us the strength to carry on, bring in positive energy, feed the soul, and strengthen our commitment to our own spiritual journey. Surely all that is worth a few minutes a day?

Generally, Pagan rituals tend to fall into three categories: daily, monthly and yearly. (This doesn’t include “special occasion” rites, which we will talk about in the next chapter.) Whether or not you perform any of these will depend in part on your particular path, your schedule and your own personal inclinations.

Daily Rituals

I will admit that until recently, my own "daily" rituals were a bit sporadic. There were times when I would faithfully go to my altar for a few moments before retiring for the evening, light a candle and speak a few words to the gods. Sometimes I even managed to do this for two or three weeks in a row, before the hustle and bustle of life inevitably got in the way.

Then my circle read a wonderful book by Dianne Sylvan, called The Circle Within: Creating a Wiccan Spiritual Tradition. In it, she highlights the importance of a personal spiritual practice and building a daily practice to support it. She made a daily practice seem both worthwhile and manageable, and I decided to give it another try.

My first step was to figure out what exactly I wanted to get out of the daily practice. Did I want to practice magick? Perform some specific rite? After I'd pondered the question for a while, I realized that all I really wanted out of a daily ritual was to reinforce my connection with the gods and remind myself regularly of the importance of Witchcraft to my life.

Once I’d determined what it was I wanted, I tried to figure out some routine that I could realistically expect myself to do almost every day. This meant coming up with something that wouldn't get derailed by exhaustion, stress or a busy schedule.

Oh, sure.

Eventually, I realized that I was taking the term "ritual" too literally. After all, I didn't need to light a candle in order to speak to the gods. I didn't even need to be standing at my altar; I could do it anywhere. And thus my own personal daily practice was born.

It's pretty simple. In the morning, after I wake up but before I open my eyes and get on with my day, I take a few moments to speak to the gods. What I say to them may change from day to day, but I always start with the same ritual opening words: “Great Goddess, Great God, I come to you at the start of another day and ask that you grant me the best day possible. Help me to feel my best, so that I might do my best, for myself and for others."

Depending on what lies ahead of me on any particular day, I may ask for strength, energy, wisdom, prosperity or any of the other areas where I feel the need of a helping hand. Then I finish up with a ritual closing: "Watch over me and those that I love. So mote it be."

At night, after I have put down my book and turned out the light, I close my eyes and speak again. Now, instead of asking for anything, I take the time to be grateful for all that I have been given. In the evening, I start with different ritual words: "Great Goddess, Great God, I come to you at the end of another day and thank you for all the blessings in my life."

I often give thanks for family, friends, and a job I like. Some days I express gratitude for the gift of creativity or for the strength that got me through a particularly trying experience. What is important is not so much which things I give thanks for, but that I am paying attention to the fact that there is so much things in my life to be grateful for.

This simple daily practice provides me with the connection to deity that I was looking for and has the added benefit of reminding me to say “please” and “thank you.” My mother would be so proud.

And if you think that maybe I am just lying in bed talking to myself, and not really connecting with the gods, you should know that Magic the cat—who generally tends to ignore me when I speak—always moves from whichever part of the bed she is sprawled upon when I utter those first words, and comes to sit by my head until I am done. And she purrs like mad the entire time.

Whether you choose to adopt a ritual like this one or come up with something completely different that’s all your own, I hope you will take the time to create a daily practice -- or at least a routine you are comfortable doing a few times a week. The gods are with us always, not merely on Full Moons and holidays, so it is probably a good idea to take a few moments to acknowledge their presence on a regular basis.

Here are a few suggestions for quick, easy and simple daily rituals:

• Prayer – Prayer doesn’t have to be formal or even addressed to any specific god/dess (although if you have one you follow, this is a good way to keep in touch). And if you worry about always asking for something for yourself, you can try praying for the earth. A common and simple prayer like this one, “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” is always good. If you want to get a little more ceremonial about it, you can light a candle on your altar, too.

• Meditation – Meditation is a way to alter your state of consciousness and let go of the issues of the day, if only for a moment. It is good practice for when you want to create a different mental environment for your magickal work and can help you learn to focus better. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and follow the movement of your breath in and out. If you want to make your meditation practice more “Pagan-centric,” try saying “goddess” with your breath out and “god” with your breath in. Or substitute other words that help you to feel more relaxed and centered, like “serenity,” “oneness,” “or “spirit.”

• Positive affirmations – It has been scientifically proven that our thoughts influence our physical being (the mind-body connection). In truth, our thoughts influence all aspects of our health: mental, physical, and spiritual. But no one can control his or her thoughts all day long. Instead, try setting aside a few minutes a day to purposely concentrate on the positive. Positive affirmations are short statements that are aimed at changing our negative physical or emotional patterns by replacing them with more beneficial ones. They are always voiced in the present tense. For instance, if you are struggling with trying to loose weight, your positive affirmation might be: “I am eating healthier and am satisfied with smaller portions”. Because I have ongoing health issues, one of my favorite affirmations is “I am strong and healthy, my body is balanced and working perfectly.” Positive affirmations can be combined with meditation, or even exercise.

• Yoga/Tai Chi/Qi Gung – These are all forms of exercise that are designed to be spiritual as well as physical. When they are done slowly and mindfully, yoga and tai chi can leave you feeling more centered and more grounded. Qi gung helps to move your energy, or qi, through your body. And these exercises also strengthen your body as they refresh your spirit. Many people who practice yoga on a regular basis like to start their day with what is called the “Sun Salutation,” a series of movements that flow smoothly from one yoga pose to another as you greet the new day. What could be more Pagan than saluting the sun?

• Aura cleansing – This is a good one to do at the end of the day before you go to bed, or when you come home from work (especially if you work in a physically or psychically toxic environment). The intention is to get rid of whatever negativity you have picked up during the course of the day. One easy way to do this is to leave a bowl of water by the front door. Whenever you come in, take a moment to focus on sending anything “icky” into the water. If you do this for a while, you will probably notice the water turning cloudy or darker, so it is a good idea to replace it periodically with a fresh bowl. Alternately, you can use incense or a sage smudge stick to clean your aura, or even just envision yourself surrounded by a glowing, positive light.

• Read – There are a number of good books available that contain one-a-day spells, rituals, meditations or Pagan-oriented readings. Try reading a page every day from one of the following: Pagan Every Day by Barbara Ardinger, The Real Witches’ Year by Kate West, or Llewellyn’s Spell-A-Day Almanac (put out yearly).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

National Read A Book Day--What I've been reading!

Happy National Read A Book Day! Of course, around my house, EVERY day is read a book day. Which would explain why I had to buy yet another bookshelf last month...

I have a stack of books I've read recently that I liked even more than usual, and I've been meaning to blog about them. Seems like National Read A Book Day is the perfect day to do so. Some are books in series I've been reading and enjoying, others are new books by a few of my favorite authors, and I've got a couple of new discoveries in there as well. Every single one of them comes with  my highest recommendation, and I hope you'll go out and try one or two and come back to tell me if you liked them as much as I did.

Favorite Series:
GHOST STORY by Jim Butcher -- The Harry Dresden series (which I first discovered from the short-lived but wonderful TV show based on the books) is amazing, magical, clever, and funny urban fantasy. For these of you who might not be familiar with it, Harry is the only professional wizard in Chicago. This book has been eagerly awaited by fans of the series, since Butcher left us hanging at the end of the previous book. *shakes fist at author* And it doesn't disappoint. At all. If you haven't read these, I suggest you start at the beginning, with STORM FRONT.
THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW by Jim C. Hines -- the final installment in the "Princess" series, this book features the same kick-ass heroines as the others, and winds things up very satisfactorily. Hines' take on the traditional fairy tales is second to none; these are NOT your childhood princesses, I assure you. Read this whole series, too. The first book is THE STEPSISTER SCHEME.
MAGIC SLAYS & MAGIC BLEEDS by Ilona Andrews -- I got behind on this series, which meant I got to read two in a row. Huzzah! Another urban fantasy series, this one is set in Atlanta, but in an Atlanta that is very different from the one we know. Kate Daniels is one of my favorite heroines, and the world-building here is second to none. The series starts with MAGIC BITES.

Favorite Authors:
I don't always read fantasy or urban fantasy; sometime I like a nice contemporary romance, especially one with a touch of humor or an exotic locale. (I'm actually very picky about the romance I read, however, so the few favorite authors I have are REALLY good.)
I have a weakness for British contemporaries, and my absolute top author there is Katie Fforde. I like her work so much, I actually order the books directly from England, rather than waiting the extra year for them to come out here. (Although I do usually wait until the hardcovers are available used through an Amazon seller.) I somehow got one behind on these as well, so I just read two and loved them both. These books are all stand-alones, so they don't need to be read in any particular order. If you're a fan of Jennifer Crusie's writing, you'll like SUMMER OF LOVE, A PERFECT PROPOSAL and everything else Fforde has ever written.
Mindy Klasky is another author whose work I love, whether it was her humorous paranormal series or her earlier fantasies. I don't normally read the Harlequin Special Edition books, but when Mindy came out with one, I made an exception. And I was glad I had, because THE MOGUL'S MAYBE MARRIAGE was sweet and charming and lots of fun to read.
Starhawk is a well-known Pagan author of nonfiction (THE SPIRAL DANCE is a must-read classic) but I'd had her novel THE FIFTH SACRED THING on my bookshelves for years without getting around to reading it. My writing partner Lisa recommended it, though, and she was right--it was amazing!

New Discoveries:
One of the best parts of reading is when you find a new author whose work you love. I just read three new or new-to-me authors, one of which I liked a lot and two of which I loved with a white-hot passion that had me telling everyone I know to run out and buy their books.
I've been in fairy tale mode, so I really enjoyed the YA fantasy THE AMARANTH ENCHANTMENT by Julie Berry. If you like charming stories set in earlier eras with likable heroines, you should definitely check this out.
I was lucky enough to get an advance reader's copy at RWA of Rosemary Clement-Moore's new book, TEXAS GOTHIC. Run out and buy this book. (No, really--I'll wait.) I love books that feature magic and witches, especially if the author finds a clever new approach. This YA has a terrific protagonist, Amy Goodnight, who is saddled with a charming but eccentric family and a lot of secrets. I read this book in two days, because I just couldn't put it down, and I can only hope that Rosemary writes another one with these same lovable and quirky characters.
And I just finished a fabulous debut novel, MAKING WAVES by Tawna Fenske. Another contemporary romance, with just the right amount of humor and spiciness, this is another book you should run out and buy immediately. If not sooner! I was laughing out loud by page five. Heck, it is worth reading it for the Jell-O salad alone. Fenske is my new favorite discovery and I can't wait to read her next one.

So, now that I've told you what I've been reading, what about you? Any new books by old favorites? Any great new discoveries you have to shout about? What are you reading for National Read a Book Day?