Sunday, February 27, 2011

California Trip Report--San Diego with the Famdamily

The cold I brought back from California with me is finally starting to subside, so I will get on with my slightly-delayed Part Two of Trip Report. Please ignore the sound of snuffling in the background...

As most of you know, I combined a trip to the Pantheacon Pagan convention in San Jose with a trip to San Diego to see my family (or, as we like to say, the whole famdamily...shorthand for the whole damn family). It was a bittersweet visit, because my beloved grandmother died two days before I got there; I had REALLY been hoping to say my final goodbyes in person, but alas, it was not to be.

On the up side, I had the previously-unplanned company of my sister Sarah and wonderful brother in-law Rich (who live in Schenectady, not far from the Albany airport I fly out of), who journeyed out to SD with me so the family could be together. There we would join my parents and my youngest sister Becky, her husband Nick, and their two kids. This would be the first time in six or seven years that the three sisters would be together (we saw each other, but not all at the same time)--a tremendous bonus at any time, but especially important to us all as we came together to mourn the matriarch of the family.

That's Sarah on the left, by the way, and the ever-gorgeous Becky on the right.

My mother had been kind enough to set up a viewing for me at the crematoriam where my grandmother had been taken (Germambie had everything set up ahead, including instructions for her cremation and the disposal of the ashes--made life MUCH easier for my mom, who had to deal with the details. Make a Will, people. Fill out a Health Proxy. You never know...) so I got to say my goodbyes there. She looked very old, and very peaceful, as if she had just fallen asleep. It seems morbid, maybe, but for me, it was what I needed.

Then we all went to lunch and enjoyed each other's company. It was good. Although the weather, cold and rainy, was not was I'd been hoping for, in running away from an Upstate New York winter. Shame on you, Southern California!

Luckily, the next day brought us a morning of 65 degrees and sunny, and my sisters and brother in-law and I promptly decamped for the beach. Just the four of us, we spent a wonderful few hours walking along the ocean, decompressing and sharing our memories. Very healing, and truly a gift for the spirit that was worth crossing the continent for. Have I mentioned how much I adore my sisters (and BIL)?

Then we had lunch at a fabulous restaurant with a view of the ocean, and raised a glass to Germambie's memory.

In the evening, we had dinner with the whole famdamily, and I took this picture of the entire gang. (Minus me, of course.)

So here's the strange bit: if you look closely at the picture, you will see what looks like a bunch of little soap bubbles, scattered throughout the frame. We took a bunch of pictures in the series, in the same lighting, and they're not in any of the rest, with the exception of one picture of the three sisters together. So--nothing on the lens. Nothing in the lighting. And yet...there they are.

My writing partner Lisa says it is a phenomenon known as "Spirit Orbs" and that these are small energies that show up in the presence of a spirit. Was Germembie there, watching over her family one last time? I don't know. But is a nice thought.

All in all, the trip to San Diego was lovely, and I was almost sorry to leave on Friday morning to go on to Pantheacon. Except, hey--I was going to PANTHEACON. More on that, next report.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Guest Post Author Kate George

Tomorrow I promise to put up part two of my California travel report (The Family Visit, and a final goodbye to Germambie). But for today, I have a special treat. I've been reading my author pal Kate George's first book, Moonlighting in Vermont, and her second book, California Scheming, just came out. So I asked her if she would come say hi, and talk to y'all a bit while I try to get over my cold enough to write tomorrow's blog in a semi-coherent fashion. Be sure and leave a nice comment for her, so she feels welcome, yes?

Take it away, Kate!

When I read that our Deborah was going to San Francisco I was extremely jealous. Not only is she going to a convention I would find interesting and entertaining, Deb is also going to California – The land of golden sunshine where I was born and where the majority of my remaining family live. It seems like forever since I was there, but in reality I was there last summer hanging out with my Aunts Sue and Jude and My Grandma Hilda. Gramma died shortly after I left, which wasn’t a surprise. She was getting close to one hundred years old and she had congestive heart failure.
She was good and worn out physically, but she was as lucid as I am… what am I talking about? She was more lucid that I ever was. Witty and clear headed. Hilda lived a good long life and was spared loosing any part of her mind. Her sight was pretty much gone, but she could still play a mean game of bridge. I will miss her forever but I figure she’s hanging out with my mom now so it’s all good.
You can probably tell by this post I’m not a plotter. I start in one place and my mind wanders around until it seems like a good place to end. I had no idea I was going to talk about my grandma. My thoughts about California were supposed to lead me to my latest book, California Schemin’, which is partially set in California.
I did quite a bit of my growing up in California. I was born in Sacramento and as soon as I could walk I would take off all my clothes and run giggling down the sidewalk. When my mother was alive she used tell stories about how I was a nudist. Of course when I was two we moved to a cattle ranch in the country north of Sacramento and apparently the nudity wore off. You can be nude all you want in the country and nobody says boo. Where’s the fun in that?
My attention getting tactics transformed and I started bringing the feral cats into my bedroom. I am horribly allergic to cats. (My apologies to Deb who has a house full of the lovely creatures. I love them but I cannot pet them.) I tried to hide my nefarious cat smuggling activities but two things would give me away, my eyes would swell up and I’d have a terrible time breathing. I’d be gasping for air, scratching at my puffball eyes and telling my mother “No. I didn’t bring a cat in the house.” She would then go into my room and find the terrified creature hiding in some dark corner. Furious cleaning would then ensue.
There is nothing like the wrath of a mother who is having to sterilize everything in her daughters room. That didn’t, however, keep me from bringing the kittens in the house. I was immune to my mother’s anger. Or if not immune, so enamored of little creatures that I couldn’t help myself. If it was living and I could catch it, I sneaked it into my room.
When I was six my mother bought a poodle puppy who we named Black Molly Brown after The Unsinkable Molly Brown. But the puppy was black, not brown so I insisted on the noir part of the name. I wasn’t supposed to be allergic to poodles, and truthfully I did pretty well with Molly except when I let her lick my face. That tended to cause hives and itchy eyes - but not the asthma, so I guess that was an improvement.
Look at that. I’ve managed to ramble on for almost six hundred words with out really talking about why I set California Schemin’ in California. The short answer? British Columbia Schemin’ just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Award winning writer, Kate George, is the author of Moonlighting in Vermont and California Schemin’ (due out March 1, 2011). She lives in Vermont with Dogs, kids, and currently, snow. You can reach her at Her books are available at, or can be ordered from any bookstore.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author Workshop

It's that time again! I'm giving my popular workshop for authors and aspiring authors who want to have a witch character in their books. Come to the FFnP loop (no need to be a member) and sign up for my "Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author" Workshop, starting March 7th and running for 3 weeks. You'll have fun, and probably even learn something...

I hope to see you there!

(Please pass the word to anyone you think might be interested.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Live chat today at 5 PM EST

Hi all!

I was supposed to do a live chat from Pantheacon with the fabulous Brandi, from Llewellyn. Alas, we had technical difficulties, so that chat is now rescheduled for today (Wed) at 5 PM EST at the Llewellyn Author Chat site

I hope you'll come join me. Feel free to ask be all those burning questions you've been saving up!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

California Trip--Home again, thank goodness!

I will be doing a number of blogs about my recent trip to CA (San Diego and San Jose), since there is too much info to cover in just one. And, like, there are pictures.

For now, I would just like to say:
1) I am really happy to be home.
B) It was a great trip--everything I could have hoped for, on both legs of it.
And 2 and 3/4ths) OMG, I hate flying.


1A) Except for the snow, of course.
B+) No, really. It was fabulous.
And 3 and 4/5ths) Big kudos to Southwest for getting me (and everyone else) home and safe, even with unexpected plane changes, and multiple delays.

As they said in my favorite movie, The Princess Bride:
"I will too much, I will sum up."

The trip in general went well. As most of you know, I was already planning to fly out to CA to visit with the family in San Diego, then fly on to San Jose for Pantheacon (the biggest Pagan convention in the country) and to see my step-daughter Jenn. Of course, then came the news that my beloved grandmother (Germambie) was dying, and things got--shall we say--more complicated.

Alas, I didn't make it out to SD in time to say my goodbyes while my grandmother was still alive. In fact, I missed her by THREE DAYS. She died on the 14th and I flew out on the 18th. But I was able to say my goodbyes in other ways, thanks to my mother, who kindly arranged for me to be able to visit my grandmother's body before she was cremated. This sounds a bit ghoulish, I know, but she looked as beautiful in death as she had in life, and only as if she was sleeping. I got to say the things I needed to say. Then the family--including my sister and fabulous brother in-law, who had flown out with me--got to spent two days together, which was very healing for us all. More on that tomorrow.

Then I flew out to PCon (more on that later as well), which was also wonderful.

And then I spent 150 years on a plane. No? Okay, maybe it just felt like it. But I left the hotel at 8:45 AM PST, got on the plane in San Jose for a trip that started at 10:10 AM, and got in at the airport at Albany at midnight, EST. In between, there were two unscheduled plane changes, a number of delays, and one cross-airport sprint. All of which was followed by the drive home (which I didn't have to do, thanks to my amazing pal JC) and an arrival at home at 2 AM.

And at that, I still feel lucky, since my Llewellyn editor and other folks had their flights cancelled, and may or may not have gotten home at all. So I'm recuperating from the trip, catching up with my 200+ emails, sucking up to the cats, and generally feeling grateful to be home.

It was wonderful to see everyone, and I promise a more detailed report on the rest of the trip tomorrow and the next day...when my brain has figured out what time zone I'm in...

Oh, and I finally got to meet my CP (critique partner) Lisa DiDio in person...and she ROCKS. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Go in Peace, Germambie

My beloved grandmother slipped away quietly last night. It is fitting that she died on Valentine's Day, since she was one of the great loves of my life.

Go in peace, Germambie. I love you more than words can say.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Packing for Pantheacon

Packing for Pantheacon

As many of you already know, I’m getting ready to head out to San Jose, California to attend my third Pantheacon convention. Pantheacon is a huge four-day meet-up of Pagans from around the country, with total attendance of over 2,000. It is also so much fun, it should probably be illegal.

To begin with, Pantheacon is held at the Doubletree Hotel, which is simply a lovely place. They give you a warm chocolate chip cookie when you check in. ‘Nuff said. But that is just the beginning. Add in hundreds of workshops, rituals, and musical performances—some by famous (or semi-famous) authors, and some by everyday folk—and the chance to hang out with a bunch of people who believe more-or-less the same things I do, and it is a little slice of heaven.

Some of the highlights of this year’s trip are particularly special for me. I get to see my step-daughter Jenn, who moved out to San Jose last year (after attending Pantheacon with me for the second time). I also get to spend time with my main critique/writing partner, Lisa, who is taking the train down from her home in northern CA to join me. I am REALLY looking forward to that. And as always, the chance to hang out with my wonderful editor from Llewellyn, Elysia Gallo, is a major treat. Not to mention all the other fun authors I will see, and the chance to meet some of my fans in person. (I have fans. No, really.)

I will be taking part in three panels/workshops during Pantheacon, so if you’re going to be there, you have a few chances to catch me. Saturday night at 9PM, Llewellyn will be hosting a 110 year anniversary party and a “Meet the Authors” event. I will be there with lots of other great Llewellyn writers, and Elysia, of course. Also, I heard a rumor that there might be CAKE.

Here is the official description of the event:
When & Where: Saturday - 09:00 PM - Fir

Title: Llewellyn's 110th Anniversary Author Fair

Description: To celebrate our 110th year of independent metaphysical publishing, we're hosting a very special author event here at PantheaCon. Meet Llewellyn authors Mary K. Greer, Amber K, Azrael Arynn K, John Michael Greer, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, Tess Whitehurst, Lon Milo DuQuette, Donald Michael Kraig, Deborah Blake, Alaric Albertsson, Melanie Marquis, Ruth Barrett and Jhenah Telyndru as they introduce their latest and forthcoming Llewellyn books. Share your ideas, questions, and suggestions with Llewellyn staff, and join us for mini-readings, book signings, light refreshments, door prizes and other goodies!

Presenter: Llewellyn Author Panel

Bio: Barring any scheduling conflicts, our featured authors will include John Michael Greer, Azrael Arynn K, Amber K, Donald Michael Kraig, Alaric Albertsson, Mary K. Greer, Tess Whitehurst, Deborah Blake, Melanie Marquis, Ruth Barrett, Lon Milo DuQuette, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Jhenah Telyndru. Llewellyn staff Elysia Gallo, Acquisitions Editor, and Brandi Palechek, Marketing Specialist, will emcee and handle prize drawings.

Sunday morning at 9 AM (which will probably seem early after staying up late the night before), there is a Llewellyn panel on “Publishing” which I will also be a part of. If you have any interest in writing for the Pagan audience, or are just curious about the way the whole thing works, you will want to come to that one.

Here is the official description of that one:
Title: Book Publishing 101

Description: Thinking of getting published? Don't miss this workshop! Get all your questions answered, including: how to submit your proposal, the timeline and the process, the money question, the agent question, covers and titles, publicity, and much more. Published authors Donald Michael Kraig, Lon Milo DuQuette, Amber K and Azrael Arynn K, Deborah Blake, Tess Whitehurst, and Alaric Albertsson will give you the author's perspective, while Elysia Gallo (acquisitions editor) and Brandi Palechek (marketing specialist) from Llewellyn Worldwide will provide information on acquisitions, publicity, marketing, and distribution from the perspective of a mid-sized publisher. Q & A will follow presentation.

Presenter: Publishing Panel hosted by Llewellyn Worldwide

Bio: Panel members include Elysia Gallo, Acquisitions Editor for Witchcraft, Paganism and Magick at Llewellyn; Brandi Palechek, Online Marketing Specialist at Llewellyn; and esteemed authors Donald Michael Kraig, Lon Milo DuQuette, Amber K and Azrael Arynn K, Deborah Blake, Tess Whitehurst, and Alaric Albertsson.

Sunday at 11AM, I will be doing my own workshop on “Spiritual Spring Cleaning” to help everyone prepare for the season to come. There will be a ritual with a banishing spell from the new Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook, and I will be selling and signing books at the end of the session.

In between, I will be socializing, and going to workshops, and generally enjoying being in California for a few days, away from the nasty New York State weather. (Thank goodness for cat sitters!) I hope I’ll see a few of you there! Be sure and come by and tell me if you know me from the blog, or Facebook, or Twitter…

And just in case you didn’t believe I was really packing, here is the proof:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Germambie

When I was growing up in Schenectady, NY, my family lived eight blocks from my maternal grandparents. They were a major part of my formative years, especially my grandmother, who got stuck with the nickname “Germambie” due to the fact that as a child, I couldn’t say the word “grandma.” In later years, after my sisters had children, she became known as “GG,” which stood for great-grandma. And let me tell you, people, the woman really was great.

She and my grandfather had one of the most amazing real-life romances I’ve ever heard. Her parents didn’t approve of him, so they were secretly married for TWO YEARS, while she stayed at her parents’ house and slept with her wedding ring under her pillow. Once they were finally together, as far as I know they were never apart until his death—at home—from cancer in 1976.

Germambie was a gifted concert pianist before her marriage, and when the Depression hit, she gave piano lessons to neighborhood children to help support the family. My grandfather, who had gotten his law degree, went to work for GE, and stayed there the rest of his life. Together, they raised my mother and her two siblings in a household that prized learning and music and intellect, but also specialized in the world’s worst puns.

As well as being a pianist, Germambie was a master-weaver, a published author, and a life-long learner. In her sixties, she went back to college and finally finished her Bachelor’s degree. In her seventies and eighties, she audited class after class, and went to aerobics at the local Jewish Community center until she was 89. She walked there, by the way. She traveled to places as far away as Sweden and Poland in search of knowledge and, in the case of Poland, her family roots.

After my grandfather’s lingering death, which she dealt with mostly on her own since there was no such thing as Hospice then, she founded an organization called Haven, which helped the dying and their families. It eventually grew so large that she handed it over to a board of directors, and it continues her work today.

For her 80th birthday, Germambie went up in a hot air balloon. For her 90th, she wanted to go white-water rafting, but since she had broken a hip the year before, her doctor said it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. She lived in the house she and my grandfather shared until a few years ago. At 96, she finally couldn’t live on her own, and was moved out to San Diego to be near my parents in a wonderful adult home where she was treated like the queen she was. This coming April, she would have been 100.

But she is unlikely to make it to that anniversary. You see, Germambie is dying. Today, tomorrow, next week. Maybe even a couple of weeks. But soon now. The family is flying out in two’s and three’s to San Diego to say their final goodbyes as she slowly slips away from this world and closer to the next.

For the most part, this isn’t a sad thing. She had a full and wonderful life, and has said that she is ready to go. As her short-term memory disappeared, and with it her ability to keep busy and interested, her life has become more and more frustrating. It is time. For her, death will be a gift, and—no doubt—the start of a new adventure; she wouldn’t have it any other way.

For me, and for her family, it is a mixed blessing, as these things always are. We are happy for her to be free of the burden that her life has become. But we are sad for ourselves, that we will no longer have this glorious, amazing, shining woman in our lives. We remember the family dinners, filled with laughter, and the way she baked a perfect apple pie, with just enough cinnamon (although we always said, “not enough cinnamon” as an on-going family joke).

For me in particular, this loss is beyond measure. My grandmother and I always had a special relationship. Maybe because I was her first grandchild. More likely because we were both “oddballs” in the family, drawn together by our love of writing and gardening. She was the bedrock on which my life was built, and her passing shakes my world to its core. Most of all, she was the one person who always believed in me—even when no one else did, including me. Everyone should be so lucky at to have a Germambie in their corner.

As it happens, I was already preparing to go to San Diego next week, to visit with the family for a couple of days before going on to the Pantheacon convention in San Jose on the 18th. Now my sister and brother in-law from Schenectady will be traveling out with me, in the hope that we will arrive in time to say one final goodbye to this remarkable woman who touched all our lives so deeply. And if we’re too late, at least our family will be together; to mourn, to celebrate, and to remember.

So I say to Germambie: hang on if you can; I’m coming. And if you can’t, then may you go easily along your path to the Summerlands. There you will get your well-deserved rest after almost a hundred years of living your life to the fullest. There you will be reunited with your beloved Efrem, and hold his hand in yours again as you walk in a place of peace. And when you are ready, I believe, you will move on to live yet another lifetime; one which will no doubt be filled with love, and laughter, and learning. And it is my hope that, when the great wheel turns, I will find you there, and meet you once again. We will be strangers to each other, but I am sure that I will know you. Because wherever you are, and in whatever lifetimes, you will always hold within you a piece of my heart.

Goodbye, Germambie. Thank you for all the gifts you gave me. I love you. Go in peace.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Upcoming Appearances

Wondering where to find me this year? (Yes, you know you were.) Here's a list of the three conferences I'm planning on attending, and the workshops I'll be giving there. I hope I'll see a few of you at one or the other of these!

Upcoming Appearances

Doubletree Hotel
San Jose, CA
(Pagan Convention)
Fri 18th-Sun 20th
Sat 9PM – Llewellyn “Meet the Authors” Panel
Sun 9AM – Llewellyn “Publishing” Panel
Sun 11 AM – “Spiritual Spring Cleaning” Workshop

APRIL 2011
New England Chapter RWA Conference
Hawthorne Hotel
Salem, MA
(Writers’ convention)
Fri 29th-Sat 30th
“Writing for the Paranormal Author” Workshop
Literacy Booksigning

RWA National Conference
Marriot Marquis Hotel
New York, New York
(Writers’ convention)
Wed June 28th-Fri July 1st
“Getting an Agent: The View from both sides of the table”
With The Knight Agency agents Elaine Spencer/Lucienne Diver
And author Candace Havens