Sunday, April 26, 2015

They Say It's Your Birthday--Hitting 55

I usually tend to associate the number 55 with the speed limit in some places. This year it means a little something different.

On Tuesday the 28th, I am turning 55. I know--I'm not sure how that's possible either! I could swear that it was only a couple of years ago that I was an adorable little kid. Jeez.

Even then, I was all about the books.

55 seems to have a kind of "Here there be dragons" feel to it. Mind you, I don't have a problem with getting older. (It sure beats the alternative.) I didn't have a crisis at 50. In fact, I had such an amazing birthday that year, thanks to my incredible friends and the terrific folks at Llewellyn Publishing, I ended up saying, "Gee, if I'd known turning 50 was going to be this great, I would have done it sooner." And this year I'm mostly not doing anything at all except my yearly lunch with friends Ellie and Bobbie (whose birthday is May 1st) and  possibly bringing cupcakes to my book signing at Imagicka in nearby Binghamton.

On the other hand, there is something about that number that gives one pause. For instance, in theory, I am ten years away from retirement age. (Feel free to insert hysterical laughter here.) Unless I miraculously become a bestselling author, I will probably never actually be able to retire, but still, I'm suddenly much more focused on getting my financial ducks in a row.

And then there's the body. Oy. I don't so much mind the silver strands in my hair that have, in the last couple of years, become silver streaks. I just tell people it is nature's highlighting, or that I am going blonde one hair at a time. I think I look pretty good for my age (thanks, mom and dad--really appreciate the good genes!), but I'm starting to feel the effects of spending the last few years mostly sitting in a chair in front of a computer. I've been saying for ages that I was going to get back to exercising. Looking 55 in the face seems to have motivated me to actually do so.

Mostly, it makes me think about priorities. Nothing lasts forever. At 55, I have to acknowledge the fact that my parents are getting older. (They're like, 60 now, right? They had me VERY young.) My nieces and my nephew are getting on with their own lives. If I want to spend time with these people, I'd better get around to it.

My maternal grandmother lived to be almost 100--my other grandparents died much younger. Even if I want to take her as the best case scenario, I am now over halfway through my life. That's okay--big huge swaths of the earlier years stunk out loud. I plan to make the rest of them count. Starting with this one.

Mostly I'm just kind of amazed by that number. But hey, it's just the speed limit in some places. Nothing to get all worked up about, right? Please pass the cake...if you dare.

Don't forget to enter my 55th birthday 5 book giveaway HERE -- it's on until Monday the 27th at midnight, EST.

Friday, April 24, 2015

55th Birthday 5 Book Giveaway!

I find it a bit hard to believe, but I am turning 55 this coming Tuesday. Good grief. How time flies when you've been having...well, whatever this is.

I plan to do a nice deep philosophical post on turning 55. But to keep you amused until I get to it, I figured I'd celebrate with another giveaway. Yes, I realize that most people get presents for their birthdays, but I'd rather give them. And since I am turning 5-5, I thought it only fitting to give away 5 signed books! (Each one may also come with some kind of goodie...a bookmark, a broom pen, whatever I'm in the mood for that day.) I'll announce the winners next Tuesday, on The Day.

I will be giving away THREE copies of the new Llewellyn book, Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World and one copy each of the novels, Wickedly Dangerous and Wickedly Wonderful 

DO NOT wish me a happy birthday yet (grin).

If you want to give me a present, you can pick one or both of my favorite entry options: Post a new review of one of my books (if you posted one before, thank you SO much, but it doesn't count for the purposes of this contest--although you can certainly take a previous review and post it in a new place--Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads for instance) AND/OR buy a book. Obviously, it would be nice if you bought one of mine. But if there is some other author whose book is on your list, buy that. Just buy a book, any book. This makes me happy. (If you can't afford to buy one, go get one out of the library! And while you're there, feel free to suggest that they get my books, if they don't have them.)

Or you can pick any of the other options, of course, including telling me what you would give me for a birthday gift, if you could give me anything in the world.

Of course, I already have the best gift there is--all of you. Thank you so much for spending at least part of the last year with me. I look forward to the next one...

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Midsummer Sabbats Book Giveaway

Llewellyn has a new series out, covering all eight Sabbats (Pagan holidays) including Ostara/Spring Equinox and Beltane, already out, and Midsummer/Summer Solstice, coming in a couple of weeks. The rest of the books will be out before the end of the year. The series was written by different authors, and Midsummer is the one I did. I just got a couple of advance copies, so as always, I will be giving one away!

Here is the blurb for the series:
Llewellyn's New Sabbat Essentials Series
With rituals, recipes, lore, spells, crafts, correspondences, and more, the books in the new Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series explore the old and new ways of celebrating the seasonal rites that are the cornerstones in the witch’s year.
I had a lot of fun writing this one and can't wait to collect them all. Can you believe this is my nineth book for Llewellyn? *faints*

Obviously, Magic the Cat approves...

Llewellyn was kind enough to send me a few cover flats too, suitable for framing. I'm going to pick two winners, and they will have their choice of a book or a cover flat. (This is for the folks who have already ordered the book, although this one makes a nice gift, too.)

If you want to take a more detailed look or order the book, you can check it out here on Amazon or here at

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment here (tell me which your favorite Sabbat is, if you celebrate them, or what your favorite thing about summer is) and/or post on Twitter or visit (and hopefully "like" and "get notifications") my Deborah Blake author page on Facebook. Easy peasy!

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Monday, April 13, 2015

A Spring Prosperity Spell

Snowdrops in my yard

Spring is the perfect time to do prosperity work for the rest of the year. Nature is beginning to grow and burst into bloom, at least in most places, and we can use that energy to work towards positive increase in our own lives.

Keep in mind that prosperity doesn’t just mean having cash money in your hands (although that’s not a bad thing). If you ask for prosperity with an open mind, it may manifest in unexpected ways: a gift or aid from someone else, an unforeseen opportunity, or a situation that looks grim that turns out to be less so than expected.

For instance, I recently got a flat tire. While I was waiting for AAA to come and put on the spare, I asked the goddess to make the situation turn out as well as possible. You’ll note I didn’t specify “please don’t make this cost me any money.” There was a giant bolt in the side of the tire; even the goddess couldn’t fix that. But when I got to the place where I’d bought the tires, it turned out that there was enough tread on all the other tires that I only had to buy one, instead of two. And it also turned out that there was a road hazard warranty I didn’t remember, so the replacement tire only cost me $64 instead of $112. So in this particular case, prosperity meant that I was only out a little bit of money instead of the larger amount it could have been.

As another example, I was expecting a check from one of my publishers (an advance for the books I just sold, not huge, but enough to make a difference) and found out it was going to be delayed, possibly for months. My finances are precarious enough that this could have been something of a disaster, at least temporarily. Then I got word that I was getting an unexpected payment for books that had sold better than I’d thought. Again, not a huge amount of money, but enough to carry me through until the other check finally shows up. Ta da! A gift from the gods!

In this case, my own hard work was paying off in unanticipated prosperity. That’s an important thing to keep in mind, since Witchcraft isn’t just about “wishing” for something better, but also doing the practical work that will enable it to manifest when the time is right.

Now that spring is here, be sure to start planting the seeds for your own prosperity in actions and intentions. And while you’re at it, you may want to say this spell, just in case you need a little extra help.

Note: You may want to put a vase full of lush flowers in full bloom on your altar as an offering, and/or place a coin in front of you to represent the prosperity you ask for. If you are using a candle, green is a good color for this. For an added boost, try doing the spell on the night of the full moon. If you are at all concerned about your prosperity coming at a cost to others, you can always add “For the good of all and according to the free will of all,” at the end of any spell.

God and Goddess, hear my plea
Bring abundance now to me
Let the blessings overflow
And good things come to all I know
Send me that which I desire
Help me lift myself up higher
Steer my path so I might gain
And true abundance now attain*

*Originally published in Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook: Wonderfully Witchy Blessings, Charms & Spells (Llewellyn, 2010)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Owning Your Success

It occurred to me recently that I've had the same basic conversation a number of times over the last few months. Maybe even years. It goes something like this:
Other person -- "I'm impressed by how well your books are doing. Congratulations, you're a success!"
Me -- "Uh, no, not really. I mean, I'm doing okay, but I wouldn't call myself a success."
When I had this conversation with my mother recently, she scolded me. "Of course you are," she said. And you know what, she was right. (Duh, she's my mother. Of course she was.)

After all, I've published nine books with Llewellyn and I'm working on a great tarot project with them that will be out next year. (If you're thinking you missed a Llewellyn book, #9 is the Midsummer book in the Sabbats series, and it will be out soon.) My Baba Yaga series with Berkley seems to be doing well. I just found out that I've earned through the advance for the first book (which is a good sign) and both the novels seem to be doing reasonably well as far as I can tell. The most obvious sign of success is probably the new book deal with Berkley for three more books and a novella in the series, as well as an eBook version of the first book in a new series. But I was also on the front cover of Witches & Pagans Magazine recently, which was pretty damned cool.

So that brings us to the question of why it is so hard for me to own my success. I know it isn't just me, either, which is why I'm bothering to talk about it here. Many of the writers I know are quick to downplay their success, no matter where they fall on the spectrum of number of books published or awards won. But this issue isn't limited to authors. How many of us have a hard time accepting a compliment or admitting to success in one form or another? Quite a few, I suspect. Maybe almost all of us.

There are probably a number of reasons for this and they are likely to vary from person to person and situation to situation. Culturally, we are taught that bragging is bad. Saying, "Yes, I'm successful," can feel a little bit like bragging. Maybe we're afraid to jinx things. If we admit to success, the universe might punish us by coming to take it away again.

For those of us who had critical parents or partners who put us down for year after year, it can be hard to see ourselves as successes no matter how well we are doing. It just doesn't feel like it could be true, no matter how much evidence there may be to prove it. After all, if you know you are just not good enough, how can what you do--whatever it is--be successful?

Then there is "imposter syndrome." This one is so common among authors, you'd be amazed to find out who suffers from it. Imposter syndrome is that horrible suspicion in the back of your mind that no matter how successful you are, any minute now people will figure out that you are an imposter (you can't write, your art is actually dreck, your achievements at work were all flukes) and they will make you leave the room with your tail dragging as they all laugh and point. If you say you are a success, then later when everyone figures out you actually suck, it will feel all that much worse.

And of course, success is a moving target. What seemed like success at one point (getting an agent, selling that first book, getting one positive review, earning a certain amount of money, getting a raise or a new position at work, achieving a goal) doesn't seem all that impressive once you've done it. Most of us keep adding new goals--and that's a good thing, since positive forward movement is part of what helps us to grow as human beings. But if we are too focused on the next achievement, moving the bar always higher, the things we've already achieved may no longer seem like success, just the steps on the way to the next goal.

I think all of these things are part of why it was so hard for me to say, "Why thank you, yes I am a success." I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, and frankly, it all seems kind of impossible, like maybe it is happening to someone else and any second now it will all be snatched away again and someone will say "Whoops, just kidding!".

And, of course, if you are a success, then there is the expectation that you will continue to succeed, always doing as well if not better at your chosen path than you have done already. No pressure, right? Yikes! This is especially true for authors, who are expected to make each book better than the one before. Oy. Who the heck can live up to that?

But here's the other side of the coin. I worked REALLY hard to get to this place. Wrote all the books, including a number that never saw the light of day (and yet still took months to write). Pursued agents until I finally got one. Honed my craft with practice, practice, practice. Learned to roll with the blows from repeated rejections, bad reviews, and years of waiting for someone to say yes instead of no. Spent virtually all my free time for the last nine years working towards this point in my life.

So what does it mean if I finally achieve at least some measure of success and then deny it? Doesn't that belittle all that hard work? At what point is it okay to finally say, "I am good at what I do. There is a lot for me to be proud of"?

I'm calling that point today. And not just for me. Do you do something well? Are you good at your job, a hobby or craft, caring for your family, surviving in the face of life's difficulties? If so, you're a success. You may or may not have money or fame, but success means a lot of different things to all of us. I'm willing to bet that you're a success at something...probably a bunch of things. We can probably all come up with a long list of the things we're not good at or haven't achieved, but just for today, let's own our success.

I will if you will.

So, I am a success at writing. I am good at my job running The Artisans' Guild. I take good care of my cats. I keep my house from falling down around my ears, despite its best efforts. (Snort.) And the bad review of Wickedly Dangerous I read earlier today hardly made me twitch at all.

What are you a success at? Come on, tell me. I want to know. Own your success--you earned it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tarot Deck Progress Report Part Two


Deborah: As most of you know, I have been working on a great tarot project for Llewellyn with illustrator Elisabeth Alba. We thought it would be fun to make some blog posts dedicated to the process, showing how I begin by writing a description, to Elisabeth's final painted result. Last time we did the Six of Swords ( Today, we're looking at the King of Pentacles.

The description for this one was:

Picture: An older sage with gray-streaked dark hair sits on a throne-like chair outside; he looks powerful and strong. Behind him in the distance, you can see a prosperous looking manor house. To his left stands a bull wearing a garland of flowers, and to his right, a white hound reclines at his feet with a large bone. He is holding a chocolate cake with a pentacle on top in one hand, in the other hand is a goblet filled with wine. Grape vines are growing up his chair. He wears a green cloak over brown tunic and pants that are decorated with green ferns or leaves and a simple circlet crown with a pentacle in the front. The mood is one of strength and prosperity.

Deborah: I send the description to Elisabeth, and then she starts the magic of transforming my words into art!

Elisabeth: I usually begin with very rough small pencil sketches, trying to work out the overall composition.

Elisabeth: I scanned those, and place the sketch I like best into the card template. I then digitally create a better, more detailed sketch! I send this to Deborah; the art director, Lynne Menturweck; and the acquisitions editor, Barbara Moore. This one didn't require any revisions! Sometimes they do.

Elisabeth: Once the sketch is approved, it's time to take photo reference. My husband Scott (he's also an illustrator) posed as the King of Pentacles.

Deborah: Scott is so cute! I love the way Elisabeth uses him (and sometimes herself) to create poses for the cards.

I work on the finished drawing using my reference. In the background, the manor house had to look like the one included in the Knight and 10 of Pentacles cards, so I had to design a house and make sure it looked like the same house in each! Here is the finished drawing and a digitally colored version. I like to figure out how I'm going to color and shade it before painting it.

Once again, I make sure to get approval on the drawing before I paint it. I print the drawing lightly on watercolor paper and ink it with a dip pen. I watered down the ink a bit so that the background line work would be grey and more atmospheric. Then I start painting, using my digital color version as a guide!

More painting progress...

Once it's painted I scan it, color correct it, do any minor digital touch-ups, and send it off for approval. Here's the final result!

Here is the Rider-Waite version, for comparison:

The process all in one!

Here is the text that will go along with the card in the book, written by Deborah:

“The world is your oyster. Or possibly, your chocolate cake.”
Work hard, do good for others, and all will be well.

The King of Pentacles represents prosperity and abundance, but more than that, his strength comes from being strongly rooted in his own success and the success of those around him. The King can represent your own financial situation or he can indicate a strong male figure who is willing to help you achieve prosperity and security, whether on the job or at home.

Things to consider: The Kings are all strong male figures, but that doesn’t mean that a King card can’t represent a woman, although it is less common. If this card falls at a place in the reading where it stands for you, it indicates that your focus is on success and money. This isn’t a bad thing, but be careful not to let your desire for security or nice belongings sweep you away. If there is a King figure in your life—husband, father, boss—are you taking full advantage of the gifts he is offering you? And is what he offers truly what you want?

Deborah: Well? What do you all think? Are you enjoying seeing our progress? Do you like the cards? If you use tarot, do you think you would find these useful? Inquiring minds want to know.

(And don't forget to enter the current giveaway for a print copy of Circle, Coven & Grove plus a great candle sconce by Mickie Mueller! It's still on for a couple of days.