Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Contest Winner and Big Thanks

The winner of the birthday giveaway contest was Danielle Dolich--which is only fitting, since HER birthday is next week!

And thanks to everyone for all the lovely birthday wishes. You guys made my day.


Friday, April 25, 2014

It's My Birthday! The Birthday Giveaway

Me, about 50 years ago. As you can see, I've barely changed at all. And I always loved reading...

My birthday is today, the 28th of April. I will be (wait for it...) 54. Yawn. I'm sorry, but 54 is not an exciting birthday. 50, now that's worth getting all het up about. 80 (which my father will be celebrating on the 18th of May)...holy crap. 54, however, just seems to be one of those birthdays that fall a little flat. To be honest, I don't even have any plans to celebrate, other than a traditional shared birthday lunch with my friend Bobbie whose birthday is May 2nd, and a mutual pal.

But people keep insisting I have to do something to observe the anniversary of my birth (hey, it's not like I did any of the hard work...oh, and THANKS, Mom!). So I'm going to do a birthday giveaway.

I know, I know--it's more traditional to get gifts on your birthday than it is to give them away. But you guys have made the last couple of months pretty shiny for me, what with The Witch's Broom hitting number one briefly, and consistently staying in Amazon's top 15 for Witchcraft, and my ebook re-release of Circle, Coven & Grove staying at #1 on the Kindle Witchcraft list for ages. I pretty much already have the gifts I wanted.

So I'm going to do what makes me happy, and that is sharing my happiness with y'all. I've got a little bit of new swag...
And rather a lot of old swag

(since the person who won the last giveaway never contacted me so I could send it to her).

And I will also throw in a signed copy of one of my books--winner's choice. That includes the new one, a copy of the (now out of print) paper edition of Circle, Coven & Grove, or any of my other Llewellyn books.

You don't have to do anything special to be entered, either. No big contests, no "you must spread the word" (although if you want to brag about my books or this giveaway, I won't stop you), nothing to buy. Just leave a comment here. You can share a birthday wish with me--for me or for anyone else. You can just say "hi." I'll pick a random commenter on the day after my birthday, to receive all these celebratory goodies. [Make sure you leave an email so I can get in touch with you.]

Thank you all for making the last year so amazing. Having you in my life is all the gift I need. Although if you wanted to put up a review for either of the books mentioned above, that would make an awesome birthday gift :-)

Otherwise, feel free to just email me some cake!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Making a Joyful Noise: Drumming & Chanting

There are many ways to celebrate your spiritual path, whatever that may be. But virtually every society has used some form of music as a part of their communion with deity, from Buddhist chants to hymns sung in church. For Pagans and witches, making a joyful noise and sending it out into the universe often involves chanting or drums or both.

My group Blue Moon Circle often integrates one or the other of these into our rituals, although not always in the same way. Drumming is usually used to build energy, which is then channeled as extra power into a spell or magickal working. Chanting might be used as we cast or dismiss the circle, or as part of the ritual itself. On the last full moon, we simply stood out underneath that glorious bright light and sent our song up to the goddess in praise of Her beauty and grace.

When done as a group, drumming or chanting can bring the individuals together and form them into one voice, one beat, one song. When done by yourself, the sound can connect you to the world outside yourself—to all those who came before who sang or beat a drum and to the gods themselves.

Drumming is associated with spiritual practices in so many cultures because it can be done in a rhythm that mimics the human heartbeat. It is easy to learn, and you can create a drum from scratch if you can’t afford to buy one. (Ask anyone with a toddler—all you need is something to bang on that makes a cool noise, and maybe a stick to hit it with.) You don’t have to be a talented musician, and while it is nice if you can keep a beat, even that is optional.

In the same way, you don’t have to have a great voice to sing or chant. The gods don’t care that you would never win American Idol. They hear the true spirit in your voice and that is enough. If you have a hard time memorizing long complicated chants, you can print them out on a piece of paper, or use ones that are short and simple.

Here is the one that Blue Moon Circle is using the most of late:
Earth my body, Water my blood, Air my breath and Fire my spirit

It doesn’t get much simpler than that, and yet when sung from the heart it can be tremendously powerful. There are times in circle when the sound is so deep and strong and true, it gives me goose bumps. You can find all kinds of chants on You Tube, too.

One of the women in the group told me recently that she had a tough time getting into the drumming. It wasn’t that she couldn’t do it—in fact, she spent years playing snare drum in a bagpipe band, marching in parades in front of large crowds. But that was something very different. In professional music, the emphasis is on perfection and control. Spiritual music, though, is all about NOT worrying about perfection—about whether the rhythm is steady or the song sung exactly in tune. Letting go and embracing your own music in all its glory, perfect or not.

Making a joyful noise is really just that: taking the joy (or sorrow) you feel and sending it out into the universe. Drumming in thanks or praise or celebration, singing from the heart and soul. You can drum by yourself to get into a meditative state, or chant in the shower to start your day off right. Either way, the gods don’t need you to be perfect. They only want you to be present, in your own life, and in the world. The vibrations that move through the air on a beat or a breath are just another way to connect with your own inner voices, or send your energy out to connect with the rest of the world. And that’s enough.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Feline Friday: The Nasty Cold Version

I've had a nasty cold for over a week. I'm calling it The Cold that Would Not Die because I can usually chase those suckers off in a couple of days with a lot of garlic, Vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc lozenges. The cold itself is mostly annoying--started with a sore throat for a couple of days, then segued into the popular "constant nose-blowing, head-like-a-brick" type. The worst thing about it is that is seems to make the people who have it (I've compared notes with a few friends) feel like someone took the stuffing out of them. In short, other than going in to work, I've gotten virtually nothing done. Bah.

So mostly, there has been some variation on this most days:
Sometimes that cat and the book are on the couch, but really, that's been about it. On the bright side, I get to reread lots of favorite humorous romances and call it research. Right?


Sorry. Hope you're having a good week. Everyone stay healthy, okay?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Writing Life: Starting a New Project

It’s that time again. All the current projects are done (or at a phase where I don’t need to do my bit again until later) and that means…duh duh duh…time to start a new project.

Oh boy.

This stage of a book is both exciting and scary. For me at least. Some authors just feel one or the other, I suppose. I love diving into a new project; feeling the energy stirring as the ideas come together, finding the bits and pieces that will eventually come together like one giant picture puzzle. But it is also a little overwhelming to look ahead at all the work yet to be done and wonder if my Brilliant Idea will actually work out the way I want it to.

Of course, the process is different depending on whether I am working on a nonfiction book for Llewellyn or a novel. At the beginning stage anyway, the nonfiction is a lot easier. I figure out what the book is about, write up an outline/table of contents, and then start plugging away at it. (Assuming that my editor Elysia is at least potentially interested. If she’s not, I come up with another idea.)

Novels are a lot trickier. A LOT trickier. I have to come up with a basic plot and the primary characters, and then figure out what I’m doing with them. Luckily, the novel I’m about to start working on is one my agent Elaine and I discussed months ago, right before I got the contract with Berkley for the Baba Yaga books. I’d given her three options for what I might work on next and thankfully we both liked the same idea best. But just as I got ready to work on it, I signed with Berkley and ended up spending the next few months working on revisions for Wickedly Dangerous (Baba #1), and writing Wickedly Wonderful (Baba #2) and Wickedly Magical (the prequel novella), as well as two books for Llewellyn.

Now all that is done and I can finally dive into work on One Born Every Minute. This new book is quite the departure for me. It’s not a paranormal romance or an urban fantasy. There aren’t any witches in it whatsoever. (That’s right—NO witches. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.) In fact, it is a humorous contemporary romance. It is going to be quirky and snarky and fun to write, but still a major change from my usual, so that’s a little intimidating too. Still, I expect to have a ball writing it, as soon as I get to that stage of the game.

Before I do, however, I have to take my current basic three page summary and expand it into a longer general outline (not everyone outlines, and I don’t outline on every book, but I do find that writing goes a lot faster if I have one). I’ll be creating character studies for my two major protagonists as well as a whole slew of secondary characters, figuring out where they live and what motivates them and all sorts of background information that may or may not ever show up in the book, but which I need to know before I can start writing about them.

I’ve already found “pictures” of the two main characters (something my critique partner Lisa got me into doing in the last couple of years) and started a Pinterest board for the book where I can store them and any other pictures I come up with related to the manuscript. [Thanks, Mindy Klasky!]

Here’s P.T. “Petey” Parker (short for Pearl Topaz, of all things, but if you were named Pearl Topaz, I’m pretty sure you’d go by a nickname too) and Nathan Chandler.

The next week or two will be spent in the “Discovery” phase of the book—finding out what the book is about and who these characters are, doing some research on places and some basic facts, and mulling…letting the story start to stew in the back of my brain until I am ready to sit down and start writing in earnest.

Mind you, this isn’t the way everyone starts a new project. It isn’t even how I start every single novel, although I use this approach more often than not. I’ll also be reading (and in some cases rereading) books in the same general genre with the same basic feel. Not every author does this either. Some of my writer friends won’t go near anything that is even vaguely similar to their work in progress until it is done; if they’re writing a paranormal, they may read romance, for instance.

The theory here is that they don’t want anyone else’s writing to influence theirs, usually. I don’t worry about that much and I like to immerse myself into the kinds of worlds I’m going to be writing about to get in the zone, so to speak. So I’m rereading Jennifer Cruise (who is probably closest to what I’m attempting with this book, and whose writing I adore) and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Tawna Fenske, and reading a few authors who are new to me that friends have recommended.

And mulling, musing, and dreaming until I am ready to sit down and let this book be born.

What about you? Have you started any interesting new projects lately? If so, do you start by plotting and planning, or do you just jump in and go?

 BTW--stay tuned, because I should have a cover reveal for Wickedly Wonderful coming up soon!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Broom Magick for Spring Cleaning

When I sat down to write my latest book, The Witch’s Broom, I suddenly realized that there were a lot of ways to use a magickal broom that I hadn’t been utilizing. Mind you, I’d been doing magickal spring (and fall) cleaning for years, but my main tools had been the basics: salt and water and a sage smudge stick. Which worked just great, don’t get me wrong, but there is something quite fitting about using the magick of a broom to clean and clear the energy of your house, especially after a long winter.

There’s an entire ritual for doing so in the book, so I’m not going to try to recreate that here. But I will share the basics, in case the growing sunshine and longer days have made you suddenly feel like flinging open the windows and clearing out the stagnant energy of the cold, dark season. (This also works really well if there has been any kind of turmoil in the home, no matter what time of year it is—arguments or illness or that sort of thing.)

Really, using broom magick is pretty simple—mostly you just sweep, but add in INTENTION and FOCUS, which as we all know, are at the core of a witchcraft practice. You can also ramp up the energy of your magickal work a bit by using some herbs, consecrated water, and a few other extras. I’ll get to that in a minute.

There are two approaches to using a broom for magickal house cleansing. The first is when you use your everyday household broom (the one you always use for sweeping the floors) but add in some magickal elements along with your focus and intent. The second is for those folks who happen to have a broom that is dedicated to magickal use only (only used in rituals and not for regular cleaning).

To use a regular broom, you can give it some magickal oomph by smudging it with sage (or the cleansing incense of your choice), and/or dipping it into some water that you have blessed ahead of time—either by putting it out in the moonlight, or putting it on your altar, or adding any magickal oils. It is also nice to add a squeeze of lemon juice, which is energetically good for cleaning, as well as smelling very pleasant.

If you are using a magickal broom, you probably don’t need to do anything extra to it, although it certainly won’t hurt to give it a “freshening” boost.

Start by standing still in front of your altar or at your front door, and visualizing the broom glowing with a powerful magickal light, filled with the power to clear away any negative or stagnant energy. If you want, you can say the following:

Bless the witch and bless the broom
Bless the spirit that lies inside
Sweeping clear each household room
So peace and harmony there reside

[From The Witch’s Broom, Llewellyn 2014]

Then walk from room to room, sweeping as you go, and continuing to visualize the light from the broom whisking away anything that doesn’t belong in your home. If you are using a regular broom, you may wish to actually sweep the floors, wipe up cobwebs, get the dust off the top of radiators, and so on. If you are using a magickal broom, you probably won’t want to get it sullied, so in this case merely concentrate on moving the energy instead of the dirt. When you have gone through the whole home, you can sweep the last of the negativity and old crap out the front or back door.

Then thank the broom for its hard work, and enjoy your newly invigorated living space.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The "Holy Crap" Celebration Giveaway

I know, I know--I said I was done with giveaways for now. Mailed out the prizes for the last winners, breathed a sigh of relief, and put all the remaining swag away. Whew. (And promptly came down with a cold, but I don't think the two things are related.)

Then today, I was wandering around the Interwebs (I have a cold, did I mention?) and happened to check on the Amazon page for The Witch's Broom HERE. The book has been out for a couple of weeks, so I wasn't expecting anything spectacular. I definitely wasn't expecting THIS:

Yes, that says that The Witches Broom is #1 (#1!) in both Wicca and Witchcraft. But while that is great--really great--it isn't the thing that blew me away. Look at the number above that. #2,345 on Amazon overall. That, my friends, is phenomenal. Phenomenal for any book by any author, but for a little PAGAN nonfiction book? HOLY CRAP.

To give you some kind of perspective, my most recent book, Everyday Witchcraft Book of Rituals (which I think is a lovely book) is at #419,998 overall. The Goddess is in the Details my most popular book, which has gone back to reprint 5 times is at #216,747  in the Kindle store.

So cracking the top 2,500 overall is HUGE. And yes, if you have been here for more than a week or two, you know what that means.


(I know...I said I wasn't doing another one. But I'm out of champagne and I have to celebrate somehow.)

This one is easy. You can share the news anywhere, or Tweet about it, of course. But what I'd really like you to do is tell me here about something you celebrated recently, and how you celebrated. It doesn't have to be anything huge...just something that made your day, like this (and all of your amazing support) made mine.

One lucky winner (anywhere, in any country--yes, you heard me!) will win all of this groovy stuff
The swag package includes one of the last remaining super cool broom refrigerator magnets, postcards and cards for both The Witch's Broom and Wickedly Dangerous (the first Baba Yaga novel), plus matching magnets for both books, AND a sheet of Witch's Broom stickers that didn't get included in the original giveaways because, um, I forgot I bought them.

Thank you all for the everything you have done to get me to this "holy crap" moment. Don't for a moment think I don't appreciate how great you all are. And no, I'm not sniffling because I'm so happy. I told you--I have a cold. (Yep, that's it.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Tail of a Book Cover

My fabulous editor at Llewellyn, Elysia Gallo, posted a great blog about how the cover for The Witch's Broom was created.

Magic the Cat even has a cameo.

Take a look:

Feline Friday: The Goofiness that is Angus

I know--it seems like a long time since we have had a Feline Friday! So to make up for it, I present the goofiness that is Angus.

You're welcome.

Happy Friday, and have a great weekend!