Monday, April 29, 2013

Contest Winners Announcement!

Thanks to everyone who took part in my Celebration Palooza Contest last week and helped me celebrate the new book deal and my birthday.

The winners are.... (drumroll please)

Lariss LaBrant -- The copy of Everyday Witch Book of Rituals
Robert Dix -- 10 pages of your work edited
Stephanie Wurtz -- a handcrafted necklace
Lenora -- your name used for a character in my next book

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who entered the contest. You all rock!

Emails have gone out to the winners, but if you don't get yours for some reason, you can contact me at magicmysticminerva at yahoo to arrange for your prize.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Feline Friday: The Big Changes Version

Here is one reality of life--some things never change. For instance, here is Magic the Cat, waiting (somewhat impatiently) for me to bring my breakfast into the living room, where I eat every morning because the light is amazing and I can watch the birds out the window. She's excited because I am eating cereal with cut up strawberries, and she loves strawberries. Yes, my Magic is Not Your Average Cat. You're just figuring this out? (In case you were wondering, that is Kim Harrison's new book I'm reading. Fab, as always.)

On the other hand, change is necessary for growth, and periodically we tend to hit times of major change and shift. This can be unsettling, especially if you are an uber-rooted Taurus (snort). I'll admit it--I'm not good with change.

Except right now.

Things are definitely changing and shifting, and not always in comfortable easy ways. But I am embracing the change, because it just feels like TIME.

I've finally gotten a fiction book deal after 7 years (interestingly, 7 is not only a traditional number for change--like the 7 year itch people in relationships are said to get--but also a biological fact...every 7 years, all the cells in your body have changed. You are literally a new person.).

And achieving that goal, after being focused on it for so long, frees me up to look around and see what else I need to be doing. Don't get me wrong: the hard work is just starting. But I don't have to be quite as driven in that particular direction and so now I am working at getting rid of old patterns that don't work for me and setting up new ones that do.

I'm now on an "internet diet" -- no Facebook, Twitter, or blogging on the weekends. If it is possible (within my obligations), I won't be on the internet at all on Saturdays and Sundays. If there is something I have to do, I'm zipping on and off again. It's amazing how much time this has freed up, and how much more relaxed I feel.

I am also back to a regular (although not yet every day) meditation practice, working at increasing my exercise, and taking a close look at the people and patterns in my life to see what works, and what doesn't.

Change is scary, but sometimes good. Are you working on any changes in your life? Does it feel good, or scare you...or both?

Oh, and don't forget to enter my Celebration Palooza Giveaway to help me celebrate both the book deal, and my birthday this Sunday. (And yes, I might pop onto Facebook for ten minutes to thank people for any birthday greetings...)

Here's something I hope doesn't change for a long time--a reasonably healthy Samhain, lazing in the sun.
Happy Friday, all!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Celebration Palooza Giveaway!

I just realized that I had promised to celebrate my BOOK DEAL (whoo hoo!) with a giveaway...and I never did it! And now we're coming up on my birthday, which is this Sunday, so I've decided to combine the two into a REALLY BIG CELEBRATION PALOOZA GIVEAWAY!

I'm using Rafflecopter again, and hopefully it is designed to let me give away the different prizes to different people :-) I'm still figuring the sucker out. But one way or the other, I intend to give away four prizes. You can enter starting now, and it will run through my birthday. Good luck, and thanks for celebrating with me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 19, 2013

Changing Patterns

As human beings, our lives tend to fall into set patterns--and it can be extremely difficult to change these patterns. I've been giving this a lot of thought lately, because clearly some of the patterns I've fallen into aren't working for me. [Flabby butt, I'm looking at you.]

I'm too tired, and have been getting more so over the last couple of years. Some of that is disrupted sleep (thanks so much, menopause hormones...and um, bite me) and not enough sleep because I'm staying up later to write. Some of that is not enough exercise. Too much stress. La la la. Any of this starting to sound familiar to you?

I also need to be getting more work done...while at the same time, finding more space for play and fun in  my life, as well as my spiritual practice. HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO BOTH????

So I took a look at my goals: more focus, less stress, more rest, less sitting on my butt in a chair (a tough issue for an author, since that is pretty much the job description).

There are so many things that MUST get done. But there are a few places where I think I can work on changing those patterns. My friend Mindy Klasky had a great blog post here about improving/changing her writing and networking approach, and it made me decide to finally implement my own changes.

So here's the plan:
Weekends are now internet free zones. GASP! Yes, you heard me. No Facebook. No Twitter. No posting on blogs or reading other people's. I haven't decided yet if I can get away with checking my regular email from friends (probably) or if I need to leave the desktop turned off entirely and only use the laptop for WRITING ONLY.

I'm also going to reduce my web time during the week, and try to replace some of that with exercise and meditation. We'll see how that goes. And no morning news while I do my stretches. It slows me down and starts out my day with a lot of negative input.

Patterns are tough to change. So wish me luck!

What patterns would you like to change in your life? Are you making any headway?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In Times of Horror, Joy and Love Must Triumph

I turned on the TV yesterday to watch Doctor Who with my early dinner, and got the Boston Marathon bombing instead. Like most other folks, my first reactions were horror and sorrow, and a feeling of frustration that there was nothing I could do. And fear, of course.

I asked myself the same questions many other people were asking, in Boston and across America: Is no place safe? What kind of world do we live in now? Who could do such a thing? How do we live our daily lives in the face of what seems like one catastrophe after another?

I don't have any brilliant answers to those questions. I'm not sure anyone does. But here are a few of my thoughts, in no particular order:

Find out the facts, and then turn off the TV/computer/iPad -- we help no one by letting ourselves feel overwhelmed and traumatized by the constant bombardment of horrific pictures by the news.

As much as possible, don't let a disaster elsewhere sidetrack your own life. Yes--sometimes we need a day to regroup (I didn't get much done last night). But after that, don't focus on the tragedy unless you have some personal involvement in it. We "win" against terrorists and all others who create mayhem by getting on with our lives with as much grace and dignity as possible. Every moment of joy is a gift we give to ourselves and to others.

When disasters are caused by people (as opposed to hurricanes and other acts of nature), it can be easy to feel as though All People are Bad. The truth is, most people are pretty wonderful. More people ran towards the explosion, to try to help, than ran away. There were heroes everywhere. We cannot let a few evil people change how we view the world.

If you are feeling the need to do something positive to counter the bad stuff, by all means, do SOMETHING. You can donate blood or money. You can pray or light a candle, if those are things you are comfortable with. What you do doesn't have to be in any way connected to the disaster. I fully believe that every good thing counts in some way. So do something nice for your family, your friends, your neighbors. Volunteer at a shelter. Feed the poor. Hell, feed the birds. Whatever makes you feel like you are making a difference, no matter how small.

What's important is to meet negativity with positivity. Every time someone acts out of hatred, I do my best to be even more loving. For it is in our coming together that we triumph, and in our love that we overcome hate.

Lots of love to you all on this difficult day.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Feline Friday: The Petfinder Version

A bunch of years ago, I found a starving half-feral cat in my driveway one cold February. I ended up taking her in and she hid out in my upstairs room for six months, gradually becoming more socialized. Six months later, she died suddenly of renal failure. The vet said she'd been dying the whole time and I just didn't know it. I believe the gods sent her to me so that she would have a safe and warm place to live out the rest of her life. This sounds like a sad story, but really, it wasn't.

Because a year later, I decided that (despite having Magic, Mystic, and Minerva) I was really missing my little Melisande. So I decided to adopt a cat from a shelter in her honor--to save another kitty the way I couldn't save her. I went online to Petfinder which is a wonderful organization that takes pets that need to be adopted (both dogs and cats) and puts up their pictures and info so that their prospective people can find them. You put in your zip code, and all the animals up for adoption at shelters in your area come up. Then you can narrow it down by searching for "cat" and age, or male/female, or color, or breed. They give a brief description as well.

For instance, when I did a search for my area, this beautiful girl turned up.Kitty  NOT LOOKING AT HER. Magic, stop growling.

Anyway, I did a search for an orange cat, since I'd had a couple of brothers years ago that I adored, and this is who I found
That little foxy face captured my heart right away, so I went to the Delhi Shelter (Heart of the Catskills) to see him in person. At the time he was named Tweed. Don't ask me why. The folks at the shelter told me that he was 7 months old and he'd been there since he was 7 weeks old. And that he hadn't been adopted because he was so shy, he wouldn't come anywhere near the people who came to look at him.


As it turns out, Angus (aka Tweed) isn't shy at all. He's twitchy as all hell, so if you move too fast, you scare him and he runs away. Yes, even now, after all these years. Idjit. But I went and sat in the room where he lived with about 20 other cats, and he came right up and started purring louder than any cat I'd ever met. Huzzah, I thought. That was easy.

Not exactly.

Because then this tiny little calico girl came sauntering up to see me. Only about 7 pounds of bright eyes and attitude, "Azella" was just adorable. She was a stray--they thought about 3 or 4 years old, and she'd been there for a year without being adopted. Look at this face:
But I was determined to only get ONE CAT. After all, four cats is really the limit. You hit five, and they start calling you a crazy cat lady...

So I went back three times, determined to make up  my mind between them. The last time, I gave up and said, "Okay, I'm leaving it up to the gods. Whichever cat sits on my lap, that's the one that's going home with me." I went into the room and sat down on the floor and Tweed came right up and sat on my lap. Fine. He was the one I found on Petfinder in the first place. Only then he got up, and little Azella came and sat down on my lap. Not one of the other cats in the room came anywhere near me.

Never let it be said that I can't take a damned hint.
Seven years later, here they are, Angus and Samhain. I think they look pretty happy, don't you? I know I am.

You can check out some other cool I Am a Cat Parent stories on Petfinder. And if you have a fun story about how you got your cat, feel free to share it here.

Happy Feline Friday from the Crazy Cat Lady :-)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

With a Little Help from my Friends: Writers Helping Writers

I've been in the writing biz for about 8 years, give or take. I started out in 2005 by sending out a proposal and 1st three chapters of a book on witchcraft to Llewellyn Worldwide and arrived, as of last Friday, in the fiction publishing world by getting a two book contract from Berkley for my modern fairy tale, THE BABA YAGA.

Finally. Whew. And yay!

But along the way, a remarkable thing happened. You see, I didn't make this journey by myself. I'm not sure I could have made it by myself. Certainly it wouldn't have been as rewarding or as fun.

At the time I wrote that first book, Circle, Coven & Grove, I knew a few folks who wrote, none of whom had been published (except my father, who has three nonfiction books about his specialty). My mother, a gifted writer in her own right and the best line editor I've ever met, read the manuscript before I sent it out, which resulted in a polished book (with a lot fewer commas) that needed virtually no in-house editing from Llewellyn at all.

Which was great, but I decided that if I was going to seriously try to have a writing career (and I was--that first book not only got me hooked on being published, it proved that I could actually FINISH A DAMNED BOOK, in which case I had no excuses not to work on a novel), I needed to figure out how the business worked.

So I set out to do some research, and also to purposely stalk follow authors online who I liked and admired. I thought I might learn something from them, and also perhaps make a few connections that would be useful.

Smartest thing I ever did in my life.

Not just because many authors talk on their blogs (and Facebook and Twitter) about the writing biz, although that is certainly part of it. I learned more about agents, editors, the craft of writing, and the joys and pitfalls of the publishing world than I could ever have dreamed to. And won a few free books along the way :-)

But mostly because I made some of the best friends a writer could hope to have. It turns out that the Biz is full of smart, funny, warm, generous people--many of whom take time and energy they really can't spare from their own writing to mentor those who are following in their footsteps.

During the long 8 year slog from "I think I'll write a novel" to "OMG I got a book deal!," sometimes the only thing that kept me from giving up was the encouragement and support from these fabulous authors (and a few fabulous agents who didn't sign me, but stayed in my corner nonetheless). They gave me pointers, hooked me up with useful people, and sometimes just repeated over and over, "SOMEDAY IT WILL HAPPEN. HANG IN THERE. YOU CAN DO IT."

I could write out a whole list of names of people you should stalk follow if you are an aspiring author, but here are a few of the folks who helped me the most, and who are always generous and smart and kind when dealing with those who are following in their footsteps. If you're going to stalk follow anyone (and support them by buying their books, of course), you want to include Candace Havens (who has practically made a career out of helping other writers), Jim C. Hines, Lucienne Diver, Alex Bledsoe, Annette Blair, C. E. Murphy, Jennifer Crusie, Lani Diane Rich (whose Story Wonk podcast is an education in itself), and Heather Long.

These folks are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. I suggest starting with the authors you like and admire, and who write the kind of books you want to write. People who don't hesitate to share their experiences and their advice. You can learn a lot from a writer. But even better, writers make the best cheering section in the world.

And sometimes, if you're as lucky as I am, the very best friends.

For the aspiring authors, I have this message :SOMEDAY IT WILL HAPPEN. HANG IN THERE. YOU CAN DO IT.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Big BIG News! (Yes THAT Big News!)

In case you wondered what Magic the Cat was looking so secretive about this morning...

I have a two book deal for my novel, THE BABA YAGA, and it's sequel, with Berkley Publishing!

Yes, there is some major happy dancing going on at my house.

As most of you know, I wrote my 1st book for Llewellyn in 2005 and it came out in 2007. Six other books on witchcraft followed, including THE WITCH'S BROOM, which will be out in about a year. During this time, I also wrote seven novels. I spent a couple of years polishing the first one, then two years submitting to agents. And being rejected, over and over again, until happily, I signed with the fabulous Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency. That was three years, one month, and 4 days ago. Not that anyone's counting. (Ahem.) In those three years, we sent out four novels. And they were rejected, over and over again. Usually with absolutely great rejections that praised my writing. But still. Book four, which went out in mid-January, was a modern fairy tale/fantasy romance called THE BABA YAGA.

And thankfully, editor Leis Pedersen at Berkley loved it! (And the idea for the next book in the series.)
More happy dancing.

The reason I mentioned all of this, rather than just shouting
(Although there is a little bit of that) is to say to those of you who are still out there trying to get published...
don't give up! Some day it will happen for you too! And we'll all join you in doing the happy dance too.
Did I mention YAY I FINALLY SOLD A NOVEL (well two)?!
I owe huge thanks to Elaine (YAY #AgentWin). But also to my many writer pals who have encouraged and mentored me along the way--they made the journey a lot more fun and contributed to my ending up here.

So, what do y'all think I should do to celebrate? I'm thinking some kind of giveaway, so everyone can celebrate with me. Because, you know

Feline Friday

Magic the Cat is looking very mysterious...because she has a secret.

What is it? I could tell you, but then she would have to kill you....

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It's Heather Long's Birthday!

As some of you know, the lovely Heather Long is the driving force behind my witchy & writing workshop loop -- she's the person who, when I said, "Gee, people keep asking me to give classes, does anyone have any idea how to do that online?" not only told me how, but offered to run them for me.

Well, today is her birthday! And in honor of the year-long Sabbats classes we are giving together, I am going to give away my last copy of this year's Llewellyn Sabbats Annual (which, of course, includes an article by me) to one lucky person.

All you have to do is say happy birthday to Heather today (Tuesday) or tomorrow (Wednesday). I'll pick one lucky commenter to receive the annual. Sorry, USA folks only. (Although you can wish Heather a happy birthday no matter where you are.)

Llewellyn's 2013 Sabbats Almanac