Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest Blog/Giveaway with Author Alex Bledsoe

As my regular readers will know, one of my favorite authors is Alex Bledsoe, who I "met" years ago when we both had short stories in the Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction (Llewellyn 2008). Alex is the author of numerous books in the fantasy genre (my favorites, the Eddie LaCrosse novels which are a mix between noir detective and sword and sorcery--brilliant!), a couple of classic vampire horror with a twist, and his latest, The Hum and The Shiver, which may have created an entirely new genre...Gravel Road Fantasy (like Urban Fantasy, but set in the back hills.

Alex's writing is like the man himself--clever, charming, and never quite what you expect. For instance, would you have guessed that the author of all these books is also a stay-at-home dad? AHA! I thought not.

Alex and I decided to exchange blog posts. My post on his blog today can be found at and here is Alex's kind contribution to my blog. Please show him some love by leaving him a comment :-) And as it happens, I have an extra HARDCOVER copy of BURN ME DEADLY, the second book in his Eddie LaCrosse series, which I'll be giving away to one of today's commenters.

And then go on over to his blog and say hi to me there, and while you're there, feel free to explore a little...



By Alex Bledsoe

When people find out I'm a full-time writer and also the stay-at-home parent of two small boys (ages 4 and 7), they immediately want to know one thing: how I find time to write.

Well, here’s how I do it.

There's a certain wisdom to the old adage that you find time for anything important to you, and certainly writing is super-important to me. But it's also a matter of prioritizing, and breaking the task down into its components so that you're not trying to do the wrong thing at the wrong time.

For example, for me actual first-draft, pull-from-you-brain writing requires relative silence and solitude. I try to average between one and two thousand words a day, so to reach that goal, I get up early, between 4 and 5 AM, so that I've got the house to myself. That lasts until about 6:30, when my oldest son wanders in for his daily dose of breakfast and Japanese cartoons. Once I've got him settled I might get another half hour until my youngest son awakes, and after that there's basically no more writing. After I get them to school/preschool, I have another break of about three hours.

At 12 my youngest son gets home, and we pick up my oldest at 3:15. Especially in the winter, it means they're around constantly. However, it doesn't mean I can't use the time productively. When they're underfoot, constantly interrupting and demanding unreasonable things like attention and affection, I'm still able to edit and revise. Working on existing text is easier, or at least can accommodate more distractions, than first-draft writing. So when the kids are around, that's what I do.

When you start so early, you often run out of steam (at least mentally) pretty early in the day. By dinnertime there's not much creative juice left. But that doesn't mean I can't work, because that's when I do my research and reading. Since I'm usually researching something that fascinates me enough to include it in one of my novels, it's fun rather than work. And as for reading...again like the old adage says, you can't be a writer if you're not also a reader. I do most of my fiction reading outside the genres in which I write, something I'd recommend to anyone who doesn't want their genre fiction to read like everyone else's. And I read lots of nonfiction.

And with that, my writer's day is done.

I don't hold this up as any sort of example of how it must be done. Every writer is different; some do their best work late at night, which I can't imagine. Some produce first drafts that are very close to the finished work, something else I can't do or even comprehend. But one thing we all have in common is that we've figured out how to make our writing a priority--not more important, but as important as other aspects of our lives.

BIO: Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls. His books include The Hum and the Shiver, Dark Jenny and The Girls with Games of Blood.

And here are a links to a few of his books. Go get one. I promise you won't be sorry. (Unless you read the vampire books late at night. These are NOT shiny vamps. They are horror vamps. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Minerva's Story

Last month, I put up a blog post about the "kittens," Magic and Mystic, on the occasion of their tenth birthday. And I promised to come back and tell you a little bit more about their mother, Minerva. (Pictured above.)

I went looking for pictures of Minerva (or Mina, and I sometimes call her) and realized that there were a LOT more of the other cats than there are of her. In part, that is because she is very shy, and runs away when she sees the camera. In part, it is because she is usually curled up with one or the other of her babies, as you can see below. (With Magic.)

Minerva's story is a sad one, but it has a happy ending. When I first saw her, she was at the shelter with four kittens--the kittens were in great shape, but she was sickly and terrified. The volunteers who ran the shelter told me that she'd been brought in by some "white trash people" (their words, not mine, although you do get a certain mental image from these phrase...) who handed her over, still large with the kittens inside her, and said, "This damned cat got pregnant. You take her." I just hope these folks didn't have teenagers...

[Pause to insert: PLEASE have your animals spayed or neutered. Thank you.]

That was a couple of months before I met her, of course. The shelter kept her until she had the kittens and they were old enough to adopt out. But the shelter workers were afraid that no one would want the mama cat (then named "Patsy" if you can believe it) because she'd had a rough time during the pregnancy and was sickly and very skittish. They thought it was possible she'd been abused, too. When I decided to adopt Magic and Mystic, they offered (pleaded, really) to throw in Minerva as a "bonus"--waiving the usual adoption fee and charge for shots.

I said I'd think about it, and make a decision when I came back the final time to pick up the kittens. But I really didn't intend to take her--not until I got back there and saw that they had moved the remaining kittens (my 2 and 1 other that was being picked up that afternoon) to a separate cage, right next to hers. If you could have seen that mama cat, alone in her cage, terrified and gazing with longing at her babies...well, SHIT, you would have taken her too. Yes, I know. I've got a neon sucker sign in the middle of my forehead. Those shelter people clearly saw me coming :-)

So I brought my little family home. (By way of a visit to the vet for tests, and medicine for poor Minerva.) I think it is very possible that the shelter folks were right about her having been abused, since she was extremely skittish and untrusting. It look me TWO YEARS to get her to sit on my lap. Of course, these days, she always wants to be there, so I'm guessing she's adjusted okay.

Minerva still doesn't come out of the bedroom when strangers are here (and strangers are anyone she doesn't see on a regular basis), but she snuggles with me all the time, and still adores her babies. I've never regretted bringing home my "bonus kitty." And I'm pretty sure she's okay with it too.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Witchcraft Workshop Loop--A Happy Report

As many of you know, I just started a new online workshop loop (with the invaluable help of author/Pagan pal Heather Long, who is much better at the techy stuff than I am). The goal was to provide a variety of Witchcraft classes--from intro to advanced, and everything in between--and a sprinkling of writing classes, many of which are aimed at the paranormal author. [That is to say, an author who writes paranormal-themed books, not an author who IS paranormal. Although those folks are free to come, too. Snicker.]

We just finished up the first class, an "Intro to Modern Witchcraft" basic. And I am happy to say that it was a HUGE success, far exceeding my expectations. We had 36 participants (including one who was given a scholarship due to circumstances--so if you ever REALLY want to take a class, and can't afford it, feel free to contact me and explain why--I'll probably give away one freebie either by contest or gift for each class). There was a tremendous amount of participation, with the "students" often offering information to each other, which I love. Everyone seemed to get what they were looking for, which isn't always the case. And a number of the folks who took this class are already signing up for the next one, on Spell Casting, which is very encouraging.

Heather and I are still looking at how we are going to run the loop on a long-term basis. We will probably give workshops 9 out of 12 months (we're both too busy in July, November, and December) and most of the classes will be led by me, with the occasional "guest lecturer" like Heather herself, and maybe some other Witches or authors. Some classes (like the "Intro" one) will probably be given once every year, while other will be one-off offerings.[Even when there is a guest teacher, I will still be around, adding my 2 cents and helping with questions when I can.]

So--a big thank you to all who took part this time around. You really know how to make an author and a Witch happy.

And if you didn't manage to attend this time, let me know if there is a class--or a guest teacher--you would particularly like to see in the future.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Highly Recommended for Writers: Candace Havens' Fast Draft Workshop

For those of you who are aspiring writers, or writers who could use a kick in the (ahem) to get you going, I highly recommend author Candace Havens'Fast Draft Workshop, which is starting soon.

Fast Draft and Revision Hell Beginning January 22, 2012.
In the new version of Fast Draft, Candy teaches you how to let go of that internal editor and let your creativity flow. She has exercises and advice that will help you get those words on the page faster than you ever imagined. The last two weeks of the class are devoted to Revision Hell. Candy will take you through revisions so you may polish your prose to perfection. The best part is you must be accountable to the class on a daily basis and Candy is there to cheer you on or kick your butt, whatever the case may be. Cost is $20. 
Go check it out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

lovingkindness for Martin Luther King, Jr.

A friend sent this to me, and I just thought I'd share. It is amazingly beautiful.

I Am Writing

Okay, I am world building.

And working on goals and motivations and character descriptions for all my major characters (2 protagonists and 2 antagonists). And organizing research. Getting ready to do some serious brainstorming with my CP, followed by some serious outlining.

The book I'm currently working on is the first in a complicated post-apocalypse romance series, so I'm trying to really lay down some foundation before diving into the major part of the writing process. (Although I did write the first two chapters, so I could "meet" my protagonists.)

When you are writing, do you do all this? Do you do something different? Or do you just sit down and start writing...?

Deborah, who really wants to know

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy Birthday! Magic and Mystic Turn Ten

In March of 2002, I lost the 2nd of three older cats, and the remaining cat (who was 19 and the aunt of the one who had just died) was clearly pining and lonely. But she was also quite timid, so I was worried about how to get her some company. So I decided to get her a kitten.

One. One kitten. Let me be clear about that.

But it was March, which isn't really kitten time, so I had a hard time finding one. Finally, my friend Ellen, a dog groomer who works as local dog warden on the side, told me about some kittens she'd seen at the shelter she used, about 45 minutes away. We went to check it out.

There was a sad-looking, sickly mama cat (Minerva--she'll get her own blog post later) with four kittens: two gray and white, one black and white, and one black. I decided I wanted one of the gray ones, to replace the other cat I'd lost earlier that year. [It was a BAD year.] I thought I knew which one I wanted, but he was solidly asleep and wouldn't wake up so I could get a better look at him. We worried there might be something wrong with him, so I decided I'd come back another time. (Note: It turns out he just sleeps like a rock. A large gray rock.)

Before we could leave, the little black kitten shoved her way to the front of the cage, looked me in the eye, and said something assertively in kitten that sounded distinctly like, "You can take my stupid brother too if you want to, but I am DEFINITELY going home with you." There was simply no arguing with her. Then or now, frankly.

So I thought, "Well, if I get two kittens, they'll keep each other company, and not torment the older cat as much. Makes sense. I'll get two."

Of course, when I came back the next time, the shelter folks told me that the mama cat was terrified and sickly, and would be next to impossible to place. They wanted to know if I'd consider taking her, if they threw her in with no fees. A bonus cat, if you will.

I said no. About twelve times. She came home with me anyway. But that's her story.

Either way, I ended up with two kittens and one mama cat--a whole family--instead of the one kitten I intended to get. Luckiest day of my life, really. In fact, Magic the Cat is sitting on my lap as I type this, purring like a maniac.

And somehow, inconceivably, she and her brother Mystic turn ten today. They used to be so tiny and cute:

They're still pretty cute, but no longer tiny. Especially Mystic, who is a gigantic boy whose shoulders are about 2 inches higher than everyone else's, and who weighs almost 17 pounds. (Magic is about 11, to give you the contrast.) Of course, looking at the size of his paws when he was a kitten, I should have seen that one coming.

Here's the Furball Gang today. That's Mystic on the left, Magic on the right, and Minerva lurking in the background.

Happy birthday, babies! I love you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New! My Own Witchy & Writing Workshop Loop

As many of you know, I have been giving online writing classes for the last few years, usually on loops run by RWA chapters such as the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter or the Low Country RWA. I've also done quite a few on Savvy Authors (and will be giving my only regular online writing class there in April). My most popular classes have been "Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author" and "Beyond Fangs: Creating New & Interesting Paranormal Characters."

I think I see a trend here...

But lots of the folks who follow me aren't writers, and there have been numerous requests for me to give classes about Witchcraft, too. *Bows in the general direction of the internet* So, with the help of the wonderful Heather Long (another great author and fellow-traveler at many a blog and loop), I have finally started my own workshop loop, "Deborah Blake Witchcraft and Workshops."

This loop will be dedicated to short workshops (usually 3-5 days in length, since the regular online classes run 2 1/2 to 3 weeks, and take way too much time away from my writing) on the topics of Witchcraft and writing. Most of the classes will be given by me, but there may be the occasional guest teacher as well. We'll be starting out with the requested basic Witchcraft classes, and if those are successful and there is enough demand, I'll add in some advanced Witchcraft, and maybe an abbreviated version of my writing classes as well.

There's even a blog for the workshop here which will give you the latest info, as well as links to sign up and pay for the classes, if you are interested in taking them. Most classes will cost $15. I might even occasionally run a contest to give away a spot, if y'all are nice...

The first class will be held January 23rd-25th (there will always be an additional day after the class when I am available for questions, as well). It is a basic "Intro to Witchcraft" workshop, suitable for anyone who wants to learn about modern Witchcraft. [Note: It really is an intro class, so if you've been practicing for a while, this class probably covers things you know already. Although you're always welcome to come visit anyway!]

If you want to decide if the Pagan path might suit you, need to know the basics for a Witchy character you are writing, or just want to learn about modern Witchcraft, this class is for you. I hope to see you there! Just go to the link above to sign up.

I'd also like to know what other classes people might want me to give in the future. February's class is "The Basics of Spell Casting," but after that, I'm open to suggestions. So tell me--what do you want to learn about that I might be able to teach?

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 -- Beginning A Year with Good Intentions

It has been interesting to see people talking online about New Year resolutions (pro and con) and the approach they intend to take to the New Year. It is a good time to reassess and start fresh, and there is no right or wrong way to do so, just what works (or what you hope will work this year, by golly) for you.

I'm not a resolution kind of girl, myself, but for the last few years I have set a list of goals. Two lists, really; one professional, with my goals for my writing career, and one personal, with my goals for pretty much everything else. (You know, that's the one that says, "Exercise more." Every damn year.)

The goals approach has actually worked pretty well for me, and I've ended up most years with a lot of the items I'd aimed at crossed off the list. (All except that damned "Exercise more." Damn it.) Write another nonfiction book and a novel. Check. Get an agent. Check. Spend less time online and more time writing. Check. Exercise more. Oh, shut up.

But there has been a drawback to this approach--one that actually made me stop and decide to do something different this year. It's not that setting goals wasn't successful; it was. It's that I found myself being SO goal oriented, some important stuff didn't get the attention it should have. Stuff like, you know, PEOPLE. And, um, exercise more. (DAMN IT.)

Also, I was just working too much. Working at what I loved, which is great, but also, just working. I went to four conferences. Gave a bunch of online writing classes (each of them lasting for about 2 1/2 weeks). Wrote another book for Llewellyn. Wrote another novel. Started a bunch of novels that didn't work and beat my head against the wall a lot. (That should count as exercise, right?) Epubbed my first novel. Wrote articles, edited manuscripts for some writing pals and my main critique partner, blogged, networked, and so on. And that's without counting in the day job, and making jewelry on the side.

What I didn't do much of was spend time with family and friends, or relax, or, you know EXERCISE MORE. (Sigh.)

So what does that mean for this year? I'll still have goals. Pretty much the same goals as the last few years: get a fiction book contract, continue to build my writing career, find true love...exer--oh, never mind. But I'm not making a list. I know what the goals are, and I'll keep working at them.

But this year, I'm starting with some Intentions instead. My main intentions for the year are simple: joy and peace. (Well, simple to aim at. We'll see how well I do at attaining them.) But generally, I'm going to try to PUSH less, and GO WITH THE FLOW more. And maybe trust that the universe will bring me what I need/want/aspire to without me having to shout at it quite so loudly. Also, I'm going to exercise more.

Oh, stop laughing.

What are your Intentions for 2012?