Thursday, May 30, 2013

New and Shiny!

As most of you know, this year I FINALLY got a fiction book contract (with Berkley Publishing for my paranormal romance series, The Baba Yaga). After seven years of working towards that goal, actually achieving it was fairly momentous. It also felt like a good time to make some changes. Seven is one of those magical numbers, for one thing. Plus, my writing career is shifting in a different direction. In the past, most of my public focus was on the nonfiction witchcraft books from Llewellyn. Now, the focus will be on both fiction and nonfiction.

So what does all this mean, you ask? (Of course I can hear you. I'm amazing that way.)


Sorry. I'm a little excited.

My wonderful friend Robin created my old website for me, back when my first Llewellyn book came out (2007, or maybe before), and we've made a few changes in the meanwhile. But it was on a webhost that required all sorts of fancy code and such, which meant that I was always dependent on someone else to update it. Also, of course, it was based on the "old" author image of me, instead of the "new" one. (Shockingly, I still look the same. But you know what I mean.)

When Robin got busy with her new business (she runs a daycare...multi-talented woman that she is), my writing partner Lisa DiDio hooked me up with her web person, the fabulous Annette Beecher. Annette initially took over maintaining the old site, and when I decided I was ready for a new one, she built me one on WordPress. It ROCKS. Just you wait and see. The woman is a genius. (And very reasonably priced, to boot. Which is good, since I'm still paying for rat clean-up.)

Here is what the old site looked like, in case you don't remember (or, GASP, never visited it):
It was nice, but a little dark. It also had the address deborahblakehps. com (because was already taken, dammit). HPS stands for high priestess, which made sense when I was only doing witchy books.

The new website will be which is a little more general. Go take a look and tell me what you think.

I think it is beooootiful! Or as they would say on Firefly: SHINY!

What do you think?

Oh, and if you ever need anything done online, Annette has a business as a Virtual Assistant at -- I couldn't recommend her more highly. She was fast, easy to work with, really good, and not expensive!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Feline Friday: The General Update Version

Is it just me, or is spring/early summer a crazy time? I feel like I'm racing around like a crazy person (no comments from the peanut gallery) trying to get everything done. Of course, dealing with the Year of the Rat in the middle of everything else didn't help...

So--here's a general update on what I've been up to:

Rats! -- I think I've gotten all the little devils. Fourteen in total. (Even the pest guy said, "Wow, that's a lot of rats." don't want to impress the pest guy.) It has been over a week since I caught the last one, and I'm not hearing anything in the walls anymore. Whew. As a bonus, two not-very-bright mice came out of the walls a couple of days ago and were summarily dispatched by the cats. (Who were clearly trying to prove that it wasn't their fault that the rats had only come out into places that the cats aren't allowed to go.)

Today, the appliance repair guy comes to replace the chewed-through hoses on the washer and the dishwasher (ka-ching!), so I will be back in business there. Sometime next week, the pest guy will come back to clean the disgusting mess the rats made of the basement (those suckers poop everywhere). More ka-ching, but he can do it safely and I can't, so there you go.

Once THAT'S done, one of my handyman pals will come over and patch all the holes in the walls of the basement (some of which are so large, you can see daylight through them...thanks again, RATS) and generally try to spiff the place up a bit. (Ka--oh, nevermind. You see where I'm going with this. The damn rats are costing me a lot of money.) After that, or maybe during, I'm going to have my electrician put much better lighting down there, so the next time there is a problem, I will hopefully spot it earlier. Also, it will be a little less spooky....

Jewelry -- It's spring, so I am in the midst of a spurt of jewelry making, trying to round out my existing stock at The Artisans' Guild with brighter seasonal colors (like rose quartz and aventurine) and fill in the gaps in everything else (how did I end up only having ONE pair of lapis earrings?). In theory, I'd planned to finish this before I started work on the next book. In reality, life interfered (see rats, above) and so I will probably finish up this weekend. What, you thought I was going to be relaxing?

I've pretty much given up on the Etsy site, mostly because I just don't have time to keep updating it, but if you ever want a piece of jewelry [I'm looking at you, Lisa Shearin], just let me know and I'll see what I've got.

Writing -- I'm waiting for my lovely new editor at Berkley, Leis Pedersen, to get back to me with edits for The Baba Yaga (gulp). I just went through and reread it prior to starting on the 2nd book in the series, and the good news is that it was even better than I remembered. The bad news was even better than I remembered. (GULP) Now I have to equal or exceed that quality in the next one. Oy. If you look at the word count meter at the top of the blog, you can see that I have started working on The Baba Yaga's Sister. It's going slower than I'd like (see rats and jewelry, above), but the beginning of new books almost always is slow going for me.

I'm also getting ready to teach another couple of classes, and madly trying to get the garden in the ground in between torrential rainstorms.

What are you all up to these days?

And as promised, here are this week's cute cat pics. You're welcome :-)

Oh, and a belated happy birthday to my pal Sierra Meinster, who as usual, is giving me an invaluable assist with research for the new book. She rocks.

Samhain and Mystic on the couch. You can really see the difference between their sizes here (and why it is so rude that he is usually trying to beat the crap out of her for no particular reason). Every once in a while I will find them sitting on the couch next to each other. Samhain is seemingly relaxed, but she always has one eye open. On the other hand, she is stubborn, so she also doesn't budge...

This is Angus, shot over my shoulder the other day while I sat in the Red Chair of Writing. Clearly, he was taking his job of supervising my work very seriously. (Cats are the only creatures on earth who can supervise with their eyes closed, you know.)

I hope you all have great plans for the Memorial Day weekend (if you live in the US), and that you aren't feeling too crazy trying to keep up with life.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Get Yer Workshops While They're Hot!

I always feel a little bit odd about doing promo--as if I were hawking my wares on the street, yelling to all those walking by, "Get yet workshops while they're hot!" (Or books, or whatever it is I'm trying to draw attention to.) On the other hand, for those people who are interested in what I do...and I'm assuming that's at least A FEW of the folks who read my are they to know unless I tell them?

So here is a reminder of the couple of classes I have coming up, and a gentle reiteration of the warning I gave last month: that this is probably the last time I'll be giving them, since I need to focus more of my time and energy on the writing, now that I have a fiction book contract. If you were planning to take either a witchcraft or a writing workshop with me, better get them while they're hot!

At my own Workshop Loop I will be giving Herbal Magick & Kitchen Alchemy at the end of this month, Tuesday 28th-Thursday 30th. The class is given online via a Yahoo loop; I post the lessons in the morning, and come back throughout the day to respond to comments and questions. The students can check in at their own convenience. The class is $15.

[And while you're there registering for this class, don't forget to check out Heather Long's "Worldbuilding for the Paranormal Author," which she'll be giving in June, while I'm off doing the following]

In June, from the 3rd-14th, I'll be over at the FFnP (Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal RWA Chapter) giving my popular Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author class. You don't need to be a member of either the chapter or RWA to take it. (click on the class name on the top to register) -- $15 for FFnP members, $20 for everyone else. This is my most popular writing class, in which I help authors who write paranormal fiction to learn how to craft more realistic witch characters. We always have a ton of fun!

After this, I'll be presenting the new "Crystals and Gemstones Magick" class in September...and then the plan is to be done with classes, at least for now. As much as I love giving them, there simply isn't enough time to do everything! So get 'em while they're hot, or not at all :-)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Living with Pain: Grace Under Pressure

I don't talk about it much (because, dude--BORING), but I live with pain 24/7 and have since I was twenty-four. I'm Fifty-three do the math. That's when I developed fibromyalgia, which is basically Latin for "ow, everything hurts and they don't know why." And recently I got hit with a new pain thingy, which is just too irksome and weird to go into here, but it seriously effects my ability to travel and exercise, and is just generally Not Fun.

Mostly, there isn't much that can be done about either of these issues (or the tendonitis that comes from being a writer who also uses a computer at work). I do stretches and some mild exercise, use a number of non-traditional approaches like acupuncture, massage, Reiki, and hypnotherapy, and on the very worst days, take Tylenol with codeine, which is so mild it pretty much does nothing. Frankly, a glass of wine with dinner is usually more effective, and much more pleasant. For the most part, I just live with it all and do the best I can.

So if I don't usually talk about it--why bring it up now?

A couple of reasons. For one, I'm having the fibro flare-up of the century; probably the worst I've dealt with in ten years or so. I blame it on the crazy weather patterns we've had here recently (I find that my fibro tends to respond badly to drastic barometric pressure changes...I can tell you when a storm is coming before the Weather Channel ever puts up an alert). And maybe hormones. I blame everything on menopause hormones. Go ahead; prove I'm wrong.

But mostly, it is because I've been thinking a lot about pain lately. Not just physical pain, because sometimes that's the least of our worries. The Boston bombing started me off, and then I had a major crisis with one of my most important friendships, and I have two friends who are dealing with the pain of having seriously ill husbands, and then yesterday, my pal Bryan had to bury his smart, sweet, 18 year old son. I'm pretty sure that his pain far outreaches mine at the moment, and will for a long time.

Here's the thing about chronic pain, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual: for the most part, you just have to live with it. There's no choice. No magic wand to whisk it away, no miracle pill to cure what ails you. It just IS.

But you do have a choice about HOW you live with it. My earlier years of dealing with chronic illness (there was other stuff too) were miserable. I was miserable, and I'm pretty sure anyone who was unlucky enough to be in the same room with me was miserable too. There might have been whining...

These days, I try, as much as possible, to deal with the pain with a little more grace. This doesn't mean I never have a bad day, or complain to one of my friends, or even spend a few minutes first thing in the morning cursing out loud as I try to get my body moving. (The cats don't seem to care, as long as I am moving towards their food bowls.) But mostly, I just get on with things.

That's what it comes down to, really. My friends whose husbands are ill are a perfect example of this. They're unhappy, and worried, and scared, and feel helpless in the face of the pain of those they love, but they are doing the best they can to put one foot in front of the other, and just live their lives the best they can.

Grace under pressure.

I learned a long time ago that attitude is everything. You can't always choose what crap life will throw at you next, but you can choose how you deal with it. I try to keep a positive attitude, and a sense of humor, and not to take my pain out on those around me. I remind myself often that there is always someone who is way worse off than me. (If you have seen any of the videos of the Boston victims, vowing from their hospital beds that this isn't going to ruin their lives, you know what I mean. Grace under pressure, many of them.)

For people like my friend Bryan, it will be a long time before life returns to anything resembling normal, and even longer before the pain begins to subside. But when I saw him yesterday, greeting the long line of people who had come to pay their respects, and share his pain in what small ways they could, it reminded me that the people I respect the most have this trait in particular. Grace under pressure.

I don't always pull it off perfectly, and I sometimes have to struggle to keep a positive attitude in the face of (as the Irish say) shite. But pain isn't who I am; it is just something I live with. I have a new motto that I'm using to help me try and hold on to that attitude:

I choose happiness and health.

Whenever I feel whiny or resentful about the pain (physical or otherwise), I say it to myself: I choose happiness and health. 

What do you choose? And do you have a motto that helps to get you through? I'd love to hear it if you do.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Feline Friday: The Rat Report

I am still fighting the good fight against the rat incursion. (RATS!) So far the count is Deborah 9, Rats 2 --the washer hose and my good garden boots, which I went to pull out of a corner of the mudroom yesterday and discovered THIS

Rats. We hates them, my Precious...

But I'm hearing less noise in the walls, so hopefully I've made a sizable dent in their population.

In the meanwhile, I still haz the cute kitties to console me. Here's your Friday Feline fix. I hope your Friday is fabulous and your weekend lovely.
 Magic, feeling that my row of birthday cards was missing something somehow.
Samhain, giving me the "you aren't REALLY going to stick me with that giant needle again" look. Poor baby, she's a trooper.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I got 'em.

Last Wednesday, I went down into my basement, a place I tend to avoid whenever possible, on account of it is dim, dirty, and a little creepy. Not to mention full of spiderwebs. Bleh. But I was overdue to change the filter on the water cleaner, so I dutifully marched down there to take care of it.

[Side note: it is moments like this when I think, "Damn, it would be handy to have a guy around to do this crap." Just sayin'.]

I got part of the way down the narrow stairs and saw a piece of wood (from the dirt and lathe wall that has the kitchen on the other side) lying on the 4th step down. Huh. Then I got another couple of steps down, and could see that there was a bunch of dirt on the bottom steps. Clearly, something had dug through the wall. Bother. I've got a critter, I thought. Then I got to the bottom and looked across the basement, which has a stone foundation with concrete over the outside walls, low ceilings strung with wires,huge open beams,  and two not-very-bright dangling light bulbs. (I believe you now understand why I avoid the place.) There were swaths of pink insulation that had been flush to the beams that were now hanging down because something had been running across them. Crap, I said out loud. That's not good. I figured it was probably a squirrel or something, like the one that had gotten into my mudroom last fall and eaten all my spaghetti squash.

Still, not a big deal. I said something on Facebook, and one of my friends very kindly offered to lend me a couple of havaheart traps to catch whatever it was and get it the heck outa my house. At this point, I was figuring that if it was a squirrel, I could drive it a few miles down the road and release it. [I later found out that it is illegal to move critters off of your property, but nevermind.]

Checked the traps on Friday. Nothing. Checked on Saturday. Nothing. Went down to have a look on Sunday morning, and one of the traps had been sprung. So I tiptoed bravely over to look inside at what I'd caught, and said in a very loud voice, "DUDE. You are NOT a squirrel!" And then I uttered a few more words, none of which can be repeated here.

I had caught a rat. A BIG rat. Oh, the joy.

Mind you, I'm not one of those women who stands on a chair and shrieks when she sees a rodent. (And it's a damned good thing. Did I mention the rat was BIG?) For one thing, I've had cats my whole life. And when you have cats, you are occasionally going to be presented with mice, in various degrees of alive-ness. Also, I think rodents are cute. I don't want them in my damned house, but I think they're cute, and I'll rescue the mice from the cats whenever I can, despite the fact that they almost always die later from shock, and if they don't they'll probably turn right around and come back into the house. What can I say? I'm a big softy.

But not when it comes to RATS. (This is said in a low, growly voice with extra RRRRRR in it.) I had a pet rat in college when I took the "Introduction to Psych for geniuses" class (not it's official title) and got to train one in a Skinner box. Lovely rat--very smart, and pleasant company. But there is a huge difference between pet or lab rats and dirty, nasty, wild rats. Especially when they're in your freaking house. Reproducing like...rats.

They chew through wires in the walls, and hoses (yes, I discovered that the washer hose had been chewed through again, when I went to do the laundry on Saturday morning--this before I know it was rats--and almost certainly this is what chewed through both the washer hose and ALL THREE dishwasher hoses back in February, causing the Great Kitchen Flood of '13 which resulted in me having to replace the kitchen floor...RATS!). And they're dirty and carry diseases. And poop all over the place. UGH.

So I looked at that very large rat in the cage, and he looked at me, and I looked up rats on the internet, and I decided that no matter how self-sufficient I tend to be, this one was above my pay grade, and I called the local Wildlife Pest Guy, Doug. Who came over on Monday morning and gave me the Rats 101 course, and a bunch of instant-kill traps (not poison, which is nasty and kills them slowly, and often results in dead rats rotting in your walls....double UGH) and showed me how to bait and set them.

Sigh. Like I said, it is a good thing I'm not squeamish about this sort of thing. Because it was expensive enough for the first visit, and if he'd had to come out every day to empty and reset the traps, it would have cost me a lot more. (As it is, I'll have to have him come back out eventually to clean up the basement, since he has the know-how and the equipment to do it without making himself sick.)

So I baited the traps (without setting them, to make sure they were in the right place and the rats would go to them). And when they got emptied out, I went back down yesterday afternoon, and refilled and set them. This morning? Six dead rats. Again with the UGH, but those suckers have got to go. I can't even have the washer fixed until I am fairly sure that nothing is going to chew through the hose again right away. So now the traps are re-baited and waiting for the next bunch. Hopefully there aren't that many left, right?

Jeez. RATS!!!!!!

And yes, I do see the irony of having FIVE CATS and still having a rat infestation. In their defense, the cats aren't allowed into the basement (see dirty and creepy, above) and they can't reach the rats in the walls, although Magic has been staring at the kitchen wall behind the dishwasher for weeks. I assumed it was just the usual mice. But alas, no.

RATS. No thank you very much.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Birthday Weekend Report

I hadn't really planned to do anything special for my birthday this year--let's face it, turning 53 (gasp!) isn't exactly one of those big exciting occasions. But then people kept saying, "Why don't we...?" And somehow I ended up with plans for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

None of it was very fancy, but all added up together, it really made for a stellar birthday.

Friday, my friend Ellie (who runs The Artisans' Guild with me), took me and our mutual friend Bobbie, whose birthday is May 2nd, out for a shared birthday lunch at the wonderful Cajun restaurant down the street from the shop. I had this insanely good burger topped with bacon and sauteed onions and apples...

Ellie also bought me one of the best, most appropriate cards I ever saw...

 On Saturday, my fabulous blogger pal Rebecca Elson, from The Magical Buffet, came up from Clifton Park (about 2 hours away) with her husband Jim, who is an absolute sweetie. As was the amazing cake they brought with them from a local bakery, Dolce and Biscotti. It was a Guinness stout chocolate cake with Bailey's buttercream frosting. OH MY GOD. They also took me out to lunch at The Farmhouse, a terrific restaurant about 3 miles from my house, and then we just hung out and talked and talked and talked. It was a lovely day.

Then on Sunday, the actual day of my birthday, I spent the morning working in the garden with my best pal Ellen and then in the afternoon went to the movies with my friend John to watch Tom Cruise blow things up in Oblivion. Neither of those activities were particularly birthday oriented, but being with friends was the thing that made them great. Well, and John bought the popcorn :-)
All in all, it was a wonderful low-keyed three day celebration, topped off with lots of lovely birthday greetings both online and off. It made me feel all happy-shiny to know I had such great friends. There is no present better than that.