Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Family and Faerie Festivals

Lots of fun stuff happening this week! (Which means I won't be getting any writing done for the next few days, but that's okay, because sometimes you have know...LIVE.)

The best thing is that my kid sister Becky (and by kid, I mean that she is younger by four years, and cuter by leaps and bounds) is coming out from San Diego with my nephew Stamo (15) and niece Athena (17). We're all meeting up in Schenectady, where we grew up, and where my other (middle) sister Sarah lives with her hubby--the ubertalented Rich--and my fantbulous nieces Addy and Bri, both of whom just finished their first year in college. We'll spend some time there, and some time here, and lots of time just hanging out and reconnecting. Probably playing multiple games of Apples to Apples, sitting by the BBQ, and just enjoying the rare opportunity to be together. [The last time we were all together was a year ago last Feb when our beloved grandmother died. This should be a slightly cheerier visit!]

Sarah, me, Becky. Aren't we a good-looking bunch?
The gorgeous Athena, Uncle Rich, and Stamo (that handsome devil). Stamo and Rich will probably take their shared love of baseball to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown at some point, while the rest of us go to my shop in Oneonta or hang around my house.

Depending on how the schedule works out, I am hoping to also make it (with or without Becky and the kids) to the New York Faerie Festival up near Binghamton. I didn't get a chance to go last year, because I was in NYC at a conference, and it is a blast. The theoretical plan is for me and pal Ellen to drive up and meet Robin and the kids (who live 5 minutes from the FF) and spend the say together. There is music, all sorts of revelry, and I believe...jousting. I highly recommend it, if you live anywhere nearby.

This is probably as close as I'm coming to a vacation this year, so I intend to enjoy it as much as I can. I might even (gasp!) relax. After all, the writing and everything else will still be waiting for me when I get back.

Are you going to get together with family this summer? Go to a particularly interesting event? Share, please--I'd love to know!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Feline Friday

It has been a long month this week, and I used up all my clever on yesterday's review of the magical THE GARDEN OF HAPPY ENDINGS by Barbara O'Neil (didn't read it? go back and do so now..we'll wait).

So you're getting another fun and furry feline Friday post. Here ya go--have a great weekend!

Mystic, Magic, and mom Minerva take over the couch.
Little Samhain, enjoying a snooze. Naps for everyone!

Happy Friday, all. Anyone have interesting weekend plans?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Recommended Reading: The Garden of Happy Endings

Recommended Reading—The Garden of Happy Endings

Periodically I like to choose from among the best books I’ve read recently and share them with my readers. I’m a big advocate of spreading the word about great writers and great writing. The last couple of months, I have been truly amazed—almost everything I read was so great, most of the books made it to this list. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll talk about my favorites in more detail than usual—because they deserve it. I hope you’ll check some of them out.

One of the books that really stood out was THE GARDEN OF HAPPY ENDINGS by Barbara O’Neal. I discovered Barbara through another author I love, Jennifer Crusie, and immediately ran through everything she’d had published under that name. [She also writes romance under her own name, Barbara Samuel.] I suppose these books would be classified as “Women’s Fiction,” but frankly, I think they are in a genre all their own.

The book blurb says: “In Barbara O’Neal’s novel of hope and renewal, two very different sisters discover that life is like a garden: tend to it daily, nourish it with patience and optimism, then watch the beauty unfold.”

The beauty is interspersed with darkness, and the hope with tragedy. This is not an easy book to read, although the writing itself is lyrical and flows smoothly. Reverend Elsa Montgomery struggles with a crisis of faith after a terrible incident, and her sister Tamsin’s world is shattered when she discovers that her husband is a criminal. But there is also gardening, and community, and faith, and friendship, and love.

This book is a treasure: a feast for mind and heart and soul. Harsh, vibrant, gentle, loving…its spirit will resonate in my bones long after the words have faded from memory. It may be a novel, but it is not a work of fiction. Just the opposite, for it contains the essence of all that is real and true about life. Including, of course, a difficult, believable, and ultimately satisfying tale of love.

If you read one book this summer, make it this one.

Coming up soon, my favorite paranormal romance, YA paranormal, fantasy, urban fantasy and short story anthology!

Also coming up is my next online workshop at the class loop -- registration is open now!
 For those who are writing a witch character (whether protagonist or antagonist) and want to get it right. See what's already been done, learn the basics of a modern witchcraft practice, and get hints from someone who has written six nonfiction and four fiction books about witches, magic, and spellcraft.

This is a class that I have given a number of times before, usually over the course of about three weeks. We're going to see if we can cram it into FIVE DAYS. Are you up to the challenge? I hope you'll join me!

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Author's Life: Giving Birth to a New Book

I've started working on a new novel. I'm not going to tell you its name yet, but I can tell you it is a paranormal romance with a fun twist on an old foreign fairy tale; a dark book with a hint of whimsy. For now, we'll call it TBY.

As any of you who have kids know, no two children are alike. Some come out of the womb feisty and independent, others are timid and clingy. Dark and light, smart or slow, calm or volatile--each one has his or her own personality and style, and yet we love them all.

So it is with manuscripts. One of the things that has struck me as I've written the last couple of books is how different each one is from each other. I'm not talking about things like plot and characters (although that too, of course). I'm talking about how each book wants to be written.

Those of you who are authors already know what I'm talking about. Each book tends to show up with a different voice, new demands, and sometimes, what worked for previous manuscripts doesn't work on whichever one is on your plate right now. It's kind of strange, but also fun.

My previous approach was usually to outline the entire book (anywhere from 7-21 pages of general plot, character notes, who is doing what and why), and then just dig in and write it. On SEEDS OF CHANGE, the last manuscript, I tried that. And the book simply refused. I had to do some serious brainstorming with friends to even get the first 3 chapters down, and write the first 2 (one from the female protagonist's point of view, and one from the male's POV) in order to discover who they were and what they wanted. The book fought me until I was about halfway through, and then, finally, settled down. Hardest book I ever wrote. And that was before the massive revisions.

The current one, on the other hand, seems to be talking to me all the time. The characters are firmly in my head (a little bit too firmly, maybe...since I keep thinking about them when I'm supposed to be doing other things, like, y'know, driving). I have a few pages of notes, and I keep having to pop online to look up strange and obscure stuff, but I think once I have the first couple of chapters down I will be able to outline most of the rest, at least vaguely.

The big problem? I always do the majority of my writing at night. Usually between 7-10:30 PM. This book, however, seems to want to be written in daylight. No idea why. And I'm not sure what I've going to do about it. But sometimes, there is no arguing with your children.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Roof & Garden Update #1

Yes, yes, I were hoping for something a little more glamorous...sorry, this is about as glamorous as it gets, at the moment. Well, all right, ever.

In writing news, the novel I was working on, SEEDS OF CHANGE, is officially out on submission. (That means my agent has sent it to a number of lucky editors, all of whom will love it. Right? Right?)

Needless to say, this can be a little nerve-wracking, so I have done what all good authors do under these circumstances: lit a candle, said a prayer, and then started the next book. Not only does this mean you have the next book ready, whether or not your first (or second, or third) one sells, but it also gives you something to think about besides "OMG--do they like it????"

In the meanwhile, back in the back yard, work proceeds apace on the new barn roof. For those of you who didn't guess correctly (which would be all of you--lol) the metal roof of the barn is....RED. (Really, have you not been paying attention? Red chair. Red pillows. It is the year of red, people. Man, it's a good thing this blog is graded on a curve. I'm just sayin'.)

My "rent-a-husband" George is doing an amazing job. He's half done already.

 Doesn't it look great?

And I've finally gotten the garden in (the last of the tomatoes and herbs went in today), as well as about 85% of the weeding. You never get 100% of the weeding done because, y'know, they keep coming back. *sticks out tongue at weeds*

But it is looking pretty good, I think.

That amazing tall stuff in the back left corner is garlic, in case you were wondering :-)

Do you garden, or have an indoor green thumb? If so, what is your favorite thing to grow?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Upcoming Class: Vampire & Werewolf Archetypes

Over on my workshop loop, the fabulous Heather V. Long will be giving a class on Vampire and Werewolf Archetypes [a much-requested follow-up to her Witch Archetypes class]. It starts on the 11th, so run and sign up now!

Vampire & Werewolf Archetypes Registration Now Open
Taught by: Heather Long
For:  Authors and others with a desire to study the portrayal of werewolves and vampires in popular culture and fiction including novels, television and film.
Time: 5 days
Cost: $25
Date: June 11-15
Optional Texts: Brave Are the Lonely (Warning: Adults Only)
[Please note: registration closed on the 10th at 6 PM EST]

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Little Too Much Nature

We're been having a Wild Kingdom kind of week around here.

Outside, the usual assortment of rabbits, woodchucks, and a raccoon (the rabbits tend to leave the garden alone, believe it or not, but the woodchucks...I'm having to spend close to $500 on a new shiny better fence).

Inside, a workman moved my stove last week, and must have disturbed a mouse nest, because my cats have caught FIVE (count them, five) mice over the course of the last four days. Each time involves me chasing after the cat (or cats) with a shoebox in hand, trying to rescue the mouse before it is murdalized--something at which I have had mixed success. The mouse is then removed to the outside world, where it belongs.

Because this apparently wasn't enough for Mother Nature, who clearly needs to get a TIVO or something else to provide her with entertainment besides me chasing critters all over my house, this morning, the cats cornered THIS in the bedroom.

It's a harmless garter snake -- they're all over my property, and I don't mind them much when they are OUTSIDE. It must have come through a crack in my stone foundation...which I will now have to find and block off. I caught it fairly easily with the shoebox you can see in the picture (which had previously been used for all five freaking mice) and a pair of kitchen tongs. Note to self: wash kitchen tongs.

I have a --I think very reasonable-- NO SNAKES INSIDE rule. This is just a little too much nature for me, thank you very much. Gah.

Going outside to work in the garden now. You know, where nature actually is supposed to be.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Jewelry, Jewelry, Jewelry

As some of you know, I am not just an author--I have also been making and selling jewelry for over 25 years. I'll confess, the jewelry doesn't get nearly as much attention as it used to, because the writing has eaten my life, but I still sell it in The Artisans' Guild and now, because people asked me to, on Etsy.

There aren't very many pieces up on the Etsy shop, since it takes a long time to do it, but I did just add a few new ones. (And if you are looking for something in particular, ask me, I might have something in the gemstone you are looking for. I also do special orders for weddings and things...)

Here are a couple of the ones I just added. There are more at the Etsy site. Look...shiny!