Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Weedy Wednesday: Garlic! Garlic! Garlic!

Yes, I get just that excited about garlic. More about that in a minute.

First, I want to let you know that I am interviewed in a very cool Aussie book blog along with author Nicola Marsh, who used my "Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author" class as research for her book. Check out what we both have to say (and see how cool the book sounds) HERE

There are Things In the Air here... (and I'm not just talking about all the balls I'm juggling). Stay tuned this week to see what happens. If anything.

Today is a Weedy Wednesday post, when I feature some aspect of my garden. This week, I'm all about the garlic. And why wouldn't I be? Garlic is one of nature's wonders--it tastes amazing, has the medicinal properties of an antibiotic [Fun fact: during WWI, when the Russian Army ran out of antibiotics in the field, they used garlic instead. You're welcome.], and is easy to grow. I'm a big fan of easy :-)

If you've never grown garlic, this is what it looks like:
The actual garlic bulb is underneath the ground where you can't see it.
Garlic is an allium, related to onions and chives. It is planted in the fall, and then in the spring it is the first thing up in the garden. It couldn't be easier to grow. Take a head of garlic and break it into individual cloves. Poke a hole in the ground about 2 inches deep and place one clove in it, with the pointy end sticking up. Ta da! You've just planted garlic. You don't need to buy a special garlic from a supplier--just plant the kind you most like to eat. There are many varieties, but they are divided into two basic types: stiff neck and soft neck. The soft neck kind is what you see braided, so if you want to be able to braid your garlic when you've harvested it, get that kind. I like the stiff neck, because it tends to have fewer but larger cloves and is easier to peel.

Garlic is harvested in mid to late summer, when the bottom leaves start turning brown. Before that, you will want to clip the "scapes" or the flowering stalk that comes up from the middle. Not only do you want to remove this bit because then the energy of the plant goes into making larger bulbs instead of useless and not very pretty flowers, but you can also use the scapes in cooking. They have a mild garlic flavor and are good in stir fries.

This week was harvest time. I pulled the garlic out and let it rest for a few days, then cut the bulbs off the stalks and trimmed the roots off the bottoms.

And there you have it--this year's garlic harvest.
The heads will be spread out in a single layer to cure (dry) and then about half of them (the biggest and best ones, since the biggest cloves make the biggest plants) will be replanted in the late fall for next year.

As for the rest, why, I'll eat them of course.

If you really love garlic, you might want to try making garlic aoli, which is a kind of REALLY garlicky mayonnaise. Here's a recipe on garlic aoili recipe . Otherwise, you can just cook up a big pot of spaghetti sauce, or saute it with onions and mushrooms to serve with your next barbequed steak. Yum.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Feline Friday and ALMANAC WINNER!

First things first! The winner of the contest for a copy of one of the new Llewellyn Almanacs is...
*drumroll, please*
MELISSA, who said "I would love the Witches' Almanac--they're always so useful and interesting to read."
Melissa, email me at magicmysticminerva at yahoo and tell me if you wanted the Witches' Companion or the Magical Almanac :-) [And give me an address to send it to.]

In other news, it is Friday morning, and the workmen fixing my basement steps and building a new deck started banging outside my window at 7:30, I have a headache, and the post-root canal pain has hit its height. Thank goodness it is Feline Friday!

On the bright side, I had a lovely chat yesterday with my Berkley editor about edits (yikes!) and I'm going to be awfully close to finishing BABA YAGA 2 by the end of the weekend, if all goes well.

Question for my blog readers: I know some of you are aspiring authors (well, you're AUTHORS now, you're aspiring to be published). Do you want to know more about the journey and how things work once one actually gets the agent, the publisher, the book contract, etc?

That's it for me...I hope you have a lovely weekend, and big congrats to Melissa!

Here are your cute cat pics:
 Angus, wishing you a happy Friday with his foxy little smile.
Angus and Samhain chumming it up together.
Magic the Cat, eating a piece of nectarine. Yes, you heard me. I have a cat that eats fruit. In fact, Magic loves fruit so much, she will steal strawberries, raspberries or blueberries out of my bowl or off the counter. (I can't actually leave a basket of fruit on the counter. Because the cat will get it. Go figure.) I call her my little fruit bat :-)

I would love the Witch's Almanac -- they are always so useful and interesting to read! - See more at:
I would love the Witch's Almanac -- they are always so useful and interesting to read! - See more at:
I would love the Witch's Almanac -- they are always so useful and interesting to read! - See more at:
I would love the Witch's Almanac -- they are always so useful and interesting to read! - See more at:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2014 Llewellyn Annuals! Giveaway! Updates! (Whatever)

Well, I survived my root canal yesterday (although it wasn't what I'd call "pleasant" it was bearable, and the root canal guy told me it would probably only hurt for another couple of weeks... *headdesk*). Please pass the wine.

And the work on the second Baba Yaga novel is coming along really well. If you have been watching the progress bar at the top of the blog (and I know you have) you can see that I am at about 77,000 words. I'm aiming about about 100,000 so that means--tough math coming up!--I am 77% done. But I'm now at the point in the writing where the book is trying to tear its way out of my brain, so I expect this last bit to go a lot faster than the first 2/3rd of the book did. For instance, even with an aching tooth, I wrote over 9,000 words last weekend alone. Of course, nothing else got done, but nevermind.

In other news, I got an unexpected package from Llewellyn the other day. I hadn't ordered any books, and my new release isn't coming out until next April, so I couldn't figure out what it was. Turns out, it was this:

I KNOW!!!!
These are my author copies (2 each) of the Llewellyn annuals and almanacs I contributed to for 2014. That includes the Witches' Calender, the Witches' Datebook, the Magical Almanac, the Witches' Companion, and the Sabbats Almanac (I wrote about Beltane this time around, one of my favorite holidays). I love these things, and I still get a big kick out of being a part of them.

I promised the second calendar to my pal Ellen, who has been saving my butt by helping out with the overwhelming weeding in the garden this year and so far has only been paid in lettuce and peas :-)

But that means I have a spare copy of the four of which I am going to give away to one of my lovely blog readers, JUST BECAUSE I CAN.

If you already read these books, you probably have a favorite. If you don't, here's what my articles this year are:
Sabbats Almanac (Beltane)
Witches Datebook (A Witch's Mini Herbal Garden)
Magical Almanac (various mini practical bits in the middle almanac section)
Witches' Companion (5 Essential Stones for Witches)

SO...Do you have a favorite Llewellyn Annual or Almanac? Which one is it, and why? If you haven't read them and would like to, tell me which of this year's bunch you'd like to win. All you have to do is tell me in the comments (although I'd love it if you'd spread the word, of course). I'll have Magic the Cat announce the winner on Friday, along with the Feline Friday pictures.

Which one do you want?

And just think about it--other than the authors who wrote them (who like me will have gotten their copies this week), you could be the first person in the country to actually hold one of these. How cool is that????

Friday, July 19, 2013

Feline Friday: Magic Speaks

Hello peoples and others,

Deborah is busy doing something Human-ish, so I thought I would give her a paw and put up this week's feline Friday post. I think you will like it. All these pictures are really MAGICAL.

You're welcome.

Have a nice weekend. I hope you get to chase your tail, snitch food from other people's plates, catch a few mice, or whatever it is that fluffs your fur.

Magic the Cat, Queen of the Universe

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rolling with the Punches

Sometimes the universe just throws shit at you (kind of like the overexcited monkeys at the zoo, I guess). Life will be going along more or less steadily, you have "a plan" (always your first mistake), and then BAM: stuff happens. A bunch of stuff. Usually carrying a large price tag.

I'm not talking about the big whammies here--being diagnosed with a horrible illness, losing someone you love unexpectedly, having your home destroyed by fire or flood. That's a whole different category of cope. I'm just talking about when there is a series of everyday life bumps in the road, and you have to figure out how to roll with the punches.

As gracefully as possible, with a minimum of whining. (Yeah, I know. Where's the fun in that?)

I've had that kind of last few months. Not that it hasn't been a good year overall; I got that long-awaited book contract, after all. But there have been a few more thanks-universe-but-no-thanks punches than I expected.

 It started with the rats. You remember the Great Rat Invasion of 2013, right? Not only was that one kind of icky (rats! in my walls!), but it necessitated calling in the pest guy for help, plus the appliance guy (to repair the washer and dishwasher hoses they ate--TWICE...although I didn't realize it was rats the first time), plus the electrician/plumber to fix the wire from the water pump to the breaker box and rubber gasket they ate through. [I know...a rubber gasket doesn't sound that bad, right? It was on the huge pipe through the basement that led out to the septic tank. Think about that one for a minute. Ew. Thank goodness they didn't chew all the way through. Just sayin'.] If you add in having to replace the kitchen floor because of the first dishwasher flood, which was almost certainly caused by the first rat or rats in the invasion, that one cost me about $1,300. Thanks, rats. You suck. Too bad you're all dead now. Heh.

Still, it could have been worse.

For instance, once the rats were all dead (heh, take that, rats), I had to take a close look at the damage they'd done in the basement. Including paying my electrician to put in five more lights with brighter bulbs, so I could actually see in the basement. Oy. I kind of wished I'd left the lights dim. Anyway, in the process, I discovered that a small problem I'd noted a few years ago had become a major "must be dealt with now" problem. I've always had water in the basement--there's a sump pump in the floor, even, and the woman who owned the house before me had told me to expect it. It is an old farmhouse with a stone foundation, and it seeps and leaks a bit when it rains hard for days. Plus there is an outside metal hatch that leads down cement stairs, and it was rusted and ugly, and I'd been meaning to paint it this summer anyway.

Except it turns out that the hatch and the cement walls leading into the basement have been channeling water into the basement instead of keeping it out. One wall had been moved and shifted by freezing and thawing to the point where the cement was cracked and coming off in chunks (one of the places the rats came in). So I have to have my construction guy in to take out the old wall, pour a new one, patch the cement on the outside wall in the basement, and make a new wooden door to replace the one at the bottom of the stairs that is so swollen by water it no longer closes.

At the same time, we worked at coming up with a permanent fix so that the water wouldn't keep coming down the stairs (necessitating a repeat ten years down the line). We actually came up with a plan that will give me something nice and add value to the house once we're done (but of course, cost more money)--we're tearing out the ugly old raised hatch door, building a 6 X 10 patio with a trap door in it that will open to the stairs. Then we're putting a roof over that, so that the rain will run down and off, reaching the part of the yard that slopes down away from the house, instead of in towards the basement. I'll take pictures when we get to that. But, of course...this all costs money too. About $3,500 that I hadn't been expecting to spend, to be exact. Still, it is going to fix a long-standing problem that should have been dealt with years ago, so that's good.

Thank heavens that was it. Oh, but WAIT.

Then came this last couple of weeks, and the tooth saga. Warning: if dental stuff freaks you out, don't read this part. Seriously. (You can skip to below the next red bit.)

I'll try to keep this short, since this post is already running insanely long. Two years dealing with a probably cracked tooth. Lots of pain the last 3 months, leading me to finally give up and go back to the dentist, who said that "maybe" just a crown would fix it. Last Thursday, going to be fitted for the crown (which involves whittling the tooth down to a nub that the crown can fit over). After, MUCH worse pain. Chasing the dentist, until finally I sat in his office on Tuesday afternoon and just waited until he could fit me in. He told me, no surprise, that I was going to have to have a root canal. In the meanwhile, he would do a partial thingy which involved removing the pulp from inside the tooth to relieve some of the pressure and hopefully reduce the excruciating pain. Two shots of Novocain. They didn't work. Three more shots. They didn't work either. He went ahead and did the procedure anyway, since there really wasn't much choice. If any of you suddenly started hearing loud profanity in your heads on Tuesday afternoon, I'd like to apologize--that was probably me.

So--that hurt. A lot. About an hour of serious dental work without benefit of anesthesia. Afterwards, I said to my dentist (who all indications to the contrary, is not actually an evil sadist, but was in fact trying his best to help me), "Well, at least if I ever need to write a torture scene, I'll have some real-life experience to draw on." He replied, with a straight face, "You're welcome." Humor. Har.

The pain is a little better, although still there, and I am almost looking forward to the root canal on Monday, just to have this over with. And hey, I used to be freaked out about root canals, and after surviving the debacle on Thursday, it barely intimidates me at all. So, hey, bright side!

The total cost of all this, when the root canal and crown are done? Brace yourself: $2,814. In part because of the extra procedure, and in part because dentistry where I live is insanely expensive.

Okay, it's safe to come back.

So, what was my original plan, you ask? My original plan was not to have any big expensive house or other projects this year, because I need to buy a new (used) car. That noise you hear is the gods laughing.

But that's okay, because I'm rolling with the punches. For one thing, I got the first part of my advance for the BABA books. It's not much (especially once my lovely agent gets her well-deserved 15%, and I put 25% in the bank for taxes later), but it helps. Also, well, it's money. I'm not happy about it, but when you have a house (and teeth, apparently), you can pretty much figure you're going to have unplanned expenses. I'm not happy about it, but I'm not letting it upset me, either.

See, that's my theory on rolling with the punches. (You knew I had to be going somewhere with this rambling mess, right?) You can't prevent the universe from throwing shit at you. And sometimes you have to deal with things you'd really rather not. (Rats. Dentists. And did I mention a chunk fell off my car the other day? More about that some other time.) But you have two choices: you can deal with them well, or you can deal with them badly. Either way, the shit is still going to happen. You can't control that. (Dammit.) What you can control is how you cope.

I mostly make a lot of bad jokes, write a blog post, and then come up with a new plan. Because, hey, nobody died and my house is still standing. At least for this week. I call that a win, even with the torture.

I hope that life isn't lobbing too much crap in your direction. But if it is, here's hoping that you can manage it with as much grace as possible, and maybe learn a few things along the way. I learned that I was kind of tougher than I thought: I killed and disposed of 14 rats, and survived a really painful dental experience. Booyah, me.

But if you're listening, universe, feel free to take a break. Really. I'm good.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Feline Friday: The Cute for the Heck of It Version

Okay--technically, today is still Thursday (for at least a few more hours). But I'm putting this up early because A) I have to leave early tomorrow morning to pick up a friend at the mechanic's before work, so I won't have time to do it then and B) a dentist tortured me for an hour and a half this morning (first by fitting me for a crown, which involves, apparently, grinding down most of the existing tooth--OW--and then by charging me over $1,000 for the privilege--OW OW) and I needed to look at cute cat pictures.

Incidentally, the actual procedure wasn't all that bad. Now, however, it hurts like a son of a bitch. Phooey. (On the other hand, the tooth was cracked, and had been hurting on and off for the last two years, and just plain on for the last three months, so if the torture actually fixes that, once the screaming dies down, it will be worth it.)

I hope that no one tortured you today. But if they did, here is some cute:

Samhain, Angus (who couldn't NOT be goofy if he tried...and he doesn't try very hard), and Mystic. Lying on my car research. Thanks, Mystic. Very helpful.

Samhain, sitting on my lap and "allowing" me to pet her.

Mystic, who always sleeps in oddball positions, and REALLY doesn't fit on that chair.

Okay--you caught me...that's not a cat :-) It's Hugh Jackman. But he sure is cute. You're welcome.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Guest Blog: Rayne Hall and the Ten Tales Anthologies

One of the great things about The Creativity Cauldron loop that I started (after requests from many of the folks who took my writing classes, for a place for people to stay in touch once the classes were over) is that there are so many really creative people there. Big surprise, right?

Among those folks is Rayne Hall, who has come up with a fabulous idea for a group of anthologies, some of which include a few other folks from the Creativity Cauldron loop (among others). I asked Rayne if she would like to come by my blog and share a little bit about those anthologies.

Take it away, Rayne:

A Taste of Ten Tales

Anthologies are wonderful. Like boxes of chocolate, they hold a variety of delightful flavours.

In the “Ten Tales” fantasy anthologies, all ten stories explore the same theme, each from a different angle. Every author has a different vision, a different writing style and a different approach to storytelling, so every reader will find something to their taste.

For example, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft contains ten stories about witches of all kinds, while in Spells: Ten Tales of Magic the authors share their idea of what magic is and how it works.

Readers sometimes tweet or email to tell me which stories they like best... and every reader has a different preference. Many readers discover a new favourite author they hadn't heard of before, and  read that author's novels next.

As the editor, I look for variety. The stories need to have the theme at their core. For example, in Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft the stories had to revolve around witchcraft, and not just mention it in passing.  At the same time, they need to interpret the theme in an original way; I don't want ten similar stories.

Where possible, I choose stories with main characters of different ages, ethnicities and physical abilities. This allows the readers to experience life from a new perspective. I also like stories set in a variety of cultures.

Strangely, most writers feel compelled to write about handsome able-bodied white twenty-somethings in New York, and a whole anthology with just that type would be dull. When I see a story whose main character is a blind child in the slums of Brazil, or a seventy-year old Japanese wheelchair-user, my interest perks.

I like stories which play with imaginative “what if?” scenarios,  which make the reader think or which explore ethical issues in a non-preachy way.

The Ten Tales are about horror and fantasy, and many involve magic. This may be real magic, based on an existing system - whether  that's modern Wicca or medieval Alchemy, Mongolian Shamanism or ceremonial magic of the Golden Dawn - or something fantastical the writer has invented.  Invented magic systems can be a joy to read in fantasy fiction, but they have to be believable.
With fantasy magic, I want to understand where the power comes from and how the mage directs it, what its limitations are and what ethical dilemmas it may stir. A story in which a wizard can achieve anything by merely pointing a wand is boring, and won't get into a Ten Tales book.

The Ten Tales books have become known for quality fantasy stories as well as for variety, and many readers who have enjoyed one book come back for more. Published so far are Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft.

Book Trailer for Beltane Anthology

About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more. 

Which tales tempt you the most? I want to read the ones about witchcraft, of course...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Feline Friday: Catitude

Today's Feline Friday is a little late...but hey, 6:30 PM is still Friday.

I've coined a new word. I'm an author; I can do that. Really, it's in the rule book. Go ahead and look it up. I'll wait.

You're back? Oh, you decided to take my word for it. Good call.

Anyway, the new word is "Catitude." It means that particular ability that only cats have to give you attitude with a single look. Here are a few examples of catitude.

Here's mama cat Minerva, trying to give me a little bit of Catitude.
Magic the Cat is queen of Catitude. (Well, of everything, really. But that too.)
I tried to suggest to Mystic that perhaps that chair was a little too small for him. Yes, I got Catitude.

Who gave you Catitude this week?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Weedy Wednesday: In the Garden Today

My approach to gardening is a lot like my approach to writing: I start out with a fairly detailed plan, knowing full well that it is likely to be derailed somewhere along the way...

Oy. This year's garden is definitely living up to that theory, mostly because we have had a lot of rain, followed by some rain, alternating with a few storms. And then some more rain. Mind you, compared to the scorching heat and wildfires that some of my friends are dealing with, I really can't complain (there is some serious flooding here, but not near me this time--yet). I just wish I could sent some of this rain to the folks who really need it.

I'm a lazy gardener, without a lot of extra time, so one of the things I do is mulch most of my garden beds by laying down a layer of straw or hay in between the plants. This prevents most of the weeds from forming, and makes a lot less work for me later on. The problem is, I didn't get out to do the mulching in most of the beds at the time I normally would. So now I am playing catch-up, and the weeds are growing like crazy because of all the rain.

Mostly it has been dry (or drier) in the mornings and then raining in the afternoons. So I'm at work when it is dry, and as soon as I get home...rain. (And we're not talking a light rain here. I've been known to garden in a light rain. This is torrential downpour rain.) But Wednesdays are my day off, so I ignored the 80 degree temps and 90% humidity to go try and rescue my corn bed from the weeds.

 The top picture is what it looked like when I started. (And yes, those are weeds growing next to the raised bed too. Don't get me started on the seed-filled straw disaster.) The bottom picture is what it is supposed to look like, with space between the rows.

It took me about an hour to finish weeding the whole bed (you have to be careful with corn because it has shallow roots) and then mulch it so it looked all pretty and wouldn't just go back to looking like that top picture in a week. On the bright side, while I was out there, I might have met my new boyfriend :-)
I went to pull up some weeds at one point and they wiggled. Not sure who was more startled, him or me. But clearly he wasn't all THAT alarmed, because when I was done, I had a bed that looked like this:
 And look who was still hanging around...
I think I'll call him Herman...

Most of the rest of the time in the garden was spent clipping garlic scapes. If you've never grown garlic, you may not realize that it has a flower that grows on a tall stalk. You want to clip that off before it blooms, so that all the energy of the plant goes into making large bulbs under the ground, instead of pretty flowers. It's an easy task, but I grow a LOT of garlic. (Half of it is replanted in the fall, to make next year's crop.) You can see the curly bits on the top. Those are the scapes.

Here are the harvested scapes. You can see the one in the front that I haven't clipped the flowery bit off of. You don't eat that, but you can eat most of the stalk. It has a garlic-y flavor and is kind of tough, so most people use it in things like stir-fries. I'm pondering trying to pickle some of it...

Anyone have any good recipes for using garlic scapes, by chance?

And is this all WAY more information than you wanted? I could just post a few pictures on Weedy Wednesdays, with a lot less commentary. You know, something like this:

Okay, back to writing like a good little author. Work is progressing quite well on the 2nd Baba Yaga novel; I'm about a third of the way done. Sadly, the rest won't just write itself.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Faerie Festival Time!

Despite the lingering effects of my cold and the less-than-perfect weather (it had been raining for days, and rain was predicted again in the afternoon), my pal Ellen and I set out for the Faerie Festival last Sunday.
The Faerie Queen and King lead the processional.
The New York Faerie Festival, put on for three days in lovely Ouaquaga, NY (near Binghamton) just celebrated its fifth year, and it gets better every time.

As always, we met up with my friend Robin, who lives with her hubby and my goddess-children Sophie and Nate a convenient 5 minutes from where the festival is held. It was hot, and there was a LOT of mud, but as always, we had a great time. (And the rain very kindly held off until we were on the way home.)

If you ever get a chance to go to this event, I highly recommend it. Fabulous music, lovely handmade crafts, and lots of crazy folks dressed up as faeries, trolls, goblins, and more. There was even a dragon...and a light green faerie dog.
Here's me and my two favorite kids (who were incredibly well-behaved this year)

Nate wearing the little horns I bought him, and looking devilishly handsome as usual.
Ellen walking the labyrinth
Nate and Sophie with some friends...
 Robin and the kids
Me and Sophie at the end of a long, hot, but FUN day. That's it until next year!