Thursday, May 28, 2015

Baba Yaga Novella Preview and Giveaway!

I have been hard at work at the next installments in the Baba Yaga series. I'm midway through the next novel, WICKEDLY POWERFUL, and I just finished the second novella and sent it off to my editor, Leis. It is called Wickedly Ever After, and it revisits the first Baba Yaga, Barbara Yager, taking place after the events of the first two novels, WICKEDLY DANGEROUS and WICKEDLY WONDERFUL. Basically, it asks the question: Can the not-quite wicked witch of the story get a happily ever after?

Of course, you will have to read the novella to find out the answer. (Chuckle.) But since the novella won't be out until January 2016, people have asked me to give them a sneak peek. So here you are! And in case that wasn't enough, I figured I'd do a Baba Yaga themed giveaway too. So I'm giving away a large double-sided tote bag with the covers on either side, and in the bag will be signed copies of each of the two novels, a cool wicked witch magnet, and a few other goodies.

Here's your sneak peak...enjoy! (The giveaway is at the bottom of the page.)

The irresistible sound of a child’s laughter drew Barbara Yager’s eyes out the window as she stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes. A sweet smelling blossom-scented summer breeze floated in the through the open casement carrying with it the unaccustomed joyful noise of childish giggling.
The source of the laughter became apparent as soon as Barbara looked; little Babs, her adopted daughter and pint-sized Baba Yaga in training, was lying on the bright green grass being tickled by Liam, Barbara’s new husband. Her other companion, the dragon Chudo-Yudo in his customary guise as a gigantic white pit bull, relaxed on the lawn nearby, gazing on in benevolent approval.
Barbara couldn’t believe this was her life. After all, it was a far cry from the one she’d lived until recently, a solitary roaming existence with only Chudo-Yudo for company as she traveled the United States carrying out the duties of a Baba Yaga. Not that she’d had any complaints, mind you. It had been the life she’d been raised for as one of a small number of Russian fairy tale witches whose job it was to keep the balance of the natural worlds and guard the doorway between the Human lands and the fantastical Otherworld. She’d never expected anything else.
Not until Liam came along and changed everything.
A call for help brought Barbara to Clearwater Country in rural upstate New York, where Liam dedicated himself to upholding the law as sheriff. To say that their styles had originally clashed would be an understatement; in fact, Liam had for a time suspected her of being behind the disappearances of several young children. With her gleaming royal blue classic BMW motorcycle and black leathers, Barbara hadn’t exact fit in with the local population, and her cover as a traveling herbalist at one point made her look even more suspicious.
Thankfully, they’d eventually uncovered the actual culprit and after Liam found out who and what Barbara really was, they’d worked together to rescue the children, even though that had meant a trip to the Otherworld. While they were there, they had discovered Babs, stolen as a baby and given to Liam’s insane former wife to raise as her own. The unpredictable magic of the Otherworld had caused the infant to be about six when they found her, even though it had been less than a year since she’d been stolen from her murdered parents.
The too-solemn little girl and the antisocial Baba Yaga had been drawn to each other right away, and in the end, Barbara, Babs, and Liam had formed a family, as wonderful as it was unexpected. As the not-quite wicked witch in the story, Baba Yagas rarely got to act the part of the princess. But this time, Barbara thought she’d actually get the happily ever after, as unlikely as that seemed.
All that remained was one technicality, and they were going to take care of that this very afternoon. Barbara glanced down at her hands, sunk deep into soapy water, and acknowledged that she’d probably been stalling. Not because she didn’t want to return to the Otherworld, which was something of a second home to her when she was growing up, but because nothing was ever certain there—especially when the High Queen was involved. Still, the moment couldn’t be delayed any longer, or the Queen might consider it an insult, and that could be a fatal error.
Barbara wiped her hands on a dishtowel and opened the back door that looked out over the yard. Back doors and yards were just one of the many changes she’d had to get used to after years of traveling in the shiny silver Airstream trailer she’d inherited from her mentor Baba, who had lived long enough to oversee its conversion from the original Baba Yaga’s hut on chicken legs so renowned in Russian folklore.
The old yellow farmhouse was far enough outside of the town of Dunville to give Barbara the privacy she needed, with the South River as a boundary to the back and rows of tall pines on the other three sides. A faded red barn leaned slightly to the right at the end of the driveway and the Airstream was parked behind it out of sight until it was needed. If you ignored the benign ghost that haunted the place and the witch who lived inside, it was practically the picture of normalcy.
Still, in general Barbara liked her new life, especially the part currently walking towards her in well-worn jeans and a tight tee shirt that accented his broad shoulders and slim hips. Liam had dark blonde hair and hazel eyes that twinkled when they saw her, and the sight of him still made her heart skip a beat every single time.
 “Hey,” he said, folding his strong arms around her and giving her a quick kiss. “Where have you been? You’re missing all the fun out here.”
Barbara smiled at him. “So it seems,” she said. Liam swore that she still had a faint Russian accent, but she didn’t hear it in her own voice. “Was that actual laughter I heard coming from Babs?”
The girl in question picked herself up off the ground, brushing grass off of the brown shorts and shirt that matched her dark pixie-cut hair, and walked over followed by Chudo-Yudo. The dragon-dog had appointed himself her unofficial guardian and where one was, the other was likely to be found nearby.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Magical Monday: A Spell for Bravery

In honor of Memorial Day, which we in the USA are celebrating this weekend (even though it is actually at the end of the month--that's the way we roll here), here is a spell for Bravery.

Most of us don't have to go into actual battle, thank goodness, but life can be a pretty daunting experience sometimes, and most of us have circumstances now and again where we could use a little more courage. I hope this spell (from Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook, Llewellyn 2010) helps you when you need a little boost.


Goal: To boost courage when needed
Optional Extras: Orange or red candle, piece of carnelian or tigers eye—if you want, light a yellow candle for air, a red candle for fire, a blue candle for water, a green candle for earth and a white candle for spirit
Notes: This is a simple spell and can be said any time you need a boost. Write it down and tuck the paper in a wallet or pocket if you need to, or carry the stone with you.

Gods grant me courage
To face what lies ahead
And deal with the challenges
In the best way possible

Earth lend me strength
And make me strong and grounded
Air blow fear away
And keep my head clear

Fire burn away doubt
That would sap my will
And water calm and sooth me
So I might go with the flow

Spirit burn strong within me
That I might be brave
In the face of difficulty
Gods grant me courage
Gods grant me courage

So mote it be

Friday, May 22, 2015

Feline Friday: This Week in Pictures

We're still having issues trying to integrate Luna into the household. Some days things seem a lot better, and then there are days like yesterday, when she suddenly attacked Magic (who has actually been great and mostly just ignoring Luna) and chased her through two rooms. Argh.

I'm working on what Jackson Galaxy, who is a cat behaviorist with a show on Animal Planet called My Cat from Hell calls "catification" of the household. (This means giving Luna a bunch of higher places to escape to so she doesn't feel trapped, although since she doesn't use some of the ones I have already and often just jumps down into the middle of things anyway, I'm not sure if it will help.) And some other changes. But mostly I'm just enjoying the rare moments when everyone is calm.

Angus being calm and adorable
Magic and Minerva hanging out

Luna on her perch in the kitchen, in a rare moment of calm

Not calm. Mystic actually chased Luna up *into* the window. Sigh.
 Happy Feline Friday and I hope everyone has a lovely weekend (those of us in the USA mostly have a 3-day weekend for Memorial Day--huzzah!). What do you all have planned?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Belated Weedy Wednesday: A Lovely Pile of...Poop?

Okay, yes, it is late Thursday night and by the time most of you see this, it will be Friday. What can I say, it has been a long week. Now that I'm back in the garden again, I'm hoping to start posting regular garden and yard pictures and updates on, you know, Wednesdays. For now, just work with me, will ya people?

As usual at this time of year, there is a mad dash to get everything in the ground in time to take advantage of the limited growing season we get here in Upstate NY. But this year the process has been complicated by Extremely Rude and Erratic Weather. It stayed cold long past the time when the planting season would usually have begun (there was still snow on the ground in early April, when I'd normally plant lettuce, spinach, peas, and such) and then it got insanely hot. Before getting cold again. (We've had a frost warning this week and there is another one for Friday night.) So the planting has all been compressed into an even smaller window than usual, and I'm just hoping for the best.

On the bright side, I got a huge truck load of 2 year old composted horse manure, which will give my garden a much needed boost (and no, it doesn't smell at all). This made me ridiculously happy. And since my garden is across the yard from where the pile was dumped, is negating the need for any visits to the gym anytime soon, as I shovel a load into a wheelbarrow, push it across the yard, then shovel it back out again inside the garden. I'm so happy about the manure, I don't even mind the hard work. Yes, I do realize this means I need to get a life.

Ye Olde Pile of Poop and a yellow wheelbarrow

Manure pile to the left by the barn. Garden to the right.

In we go

And a happy raised bed topped off with manure

The strawberries, and the garlic behind them, get sidedressed, which means that the manure is spread between the rows.
Some other early sights in the spring garden:

A handsome frog, sitting on the pond filter, looking unimpressed by my efforts

Fish, ditto

The big green patch is spinach that overwintered and the little bitty things are spinach and lettuce started this season. The long tomato in the cage has already had to be covered a number of times due to frost threat, so the rest go in later.

Eggplant plants on the left and onions on the right, from the local garden center. They're still pretty spindly looking.
Do you plant a garden? Or do you wish you could? What is your favorite thing to grow?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Magical Monday: Anxiety Spell

I often get requests for spells and other magical advice and tidbits. Just this week, one of my readers sent me a message on Facebook saying that she needed a house blessing for her new home, but she had already packed all her books. She wanted to know if I could help.

Anyone who has been around here for more than a couple of weeks can probably guess that my answer was, "Congratulations on your new home! And yes, of course I can." I sent her a copy of the house blessing and consecration spell out of my second Llewellyn book, Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook.

But then it occurred to me that since I got these questions fairly often, other people might enjoy a weekly dose of magic. So I declare today to be the first Magical Monday, and I will try to post something witchy every Monday. We'll see how it goes. It may not be a spell. We'll see. And hopefully those who aren't magically inclined will still get something out of these, whether it is an idea for a prayer or spiritual practice (remember that just because something is "magical" doesn't mean it can't be helpful for someone who isn't a witch) or even a story or character idea for the authorly folks who visit here. I'd love some feedback, to tell me if y'all are finding these helpful, entertaining, or you know, not.

Today we're going to start with another spell from the Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook--this one is for anxiety. Let's face it, most of us deal with anxiety in one form or another, whether it is brought on by work, our home life, money worries, or something else. Me, I'm afraid of thunderstorms, and one is moving into my area, so I'm feeling more than a little anxious. (I know, I know, lots of people love them. I'm not one of them. The energy makes me twitch like crazy, and I know too many people who have had direct hits to their houses, including my parents and my best friend. If you enjoy them, all the more power to you!)

I hope this spell is helpful for whatever it is that makes you anxious.

Goal: Dealing with and lessening anxiety
Optional extras: White candle, lavender, lemon balm or calendula essential oil, rose quartz tumbled stone or pendant
Notes: Calendula is an especially good oil for calming anxiety. It can be quite expensive, but a little bit goes a long way, and if you have ongoing issues you may want to keep some on hand. If you wear jewelry, try finding a rose quartz necklace or pendant that “feels” right to you. You can anoint both the candle and the pendant or stone with whichever oil or oils you chose.

Take a deep breath and light the candle. Spend however much time you need focusing on the flame and your breathing until you feel calm and peaceful. Then say the spell slowly, envisioning yourself surrounded by a glowing light filled with serenity. After doing the spell, wear or carry the rose quartz whenever you are feeling particularly anxious.

Let calm flow in like waves of water
With each breath in, with each breath out
Let tension ease like ropes unknotted
In magick’s light there is no doubt

The goddess wrap her cloak around me
Loving warmth and reassurance
That all will happen as it must
Gifting me with calm endurance

No more worries, no more stress
My burdens lie on stronger shoulders
I release anxiety’s weight
Turn into pebbles what seemed like boulders

Faith is mine and strength is mine
The love of those who stay unseen
Let calm flow in with every breath
I am grounded and serene


Friday, May 8, 2015

Midsummer Release Day Giveaway!

My contribution to Llewellyn's new Sabbats series, MIDSUMMER finally released on Amazon today! And I just checked, and they're already out of stock. Good grief! I guess that means I'll have to give away one of my author copies just to tide y'all over until they can get some more. (You can also get it directly from Llewellyn or B&N or just order it from Amazon and they'll send it out when they get more.)

Luckily, I got this lovely box o'books last week.

Aren't they pretty?

[It feels like Midsummer here today, even though it is only the beginning of May. Normally it should be in the 60's and 70's with lots of rain. Instead it is bone dry and we broke major records today with a temp of 94. Yeesh.]

We're going to keep this giveaway fast and simple. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment here (not at Facebook, although you can certainly leave one there too if you want) and tell me which one of my books is your favorite. (Obviously, I'd also love it if you'd leave a review for that one, if you haven't yet, because reviews really help authors, but that's completely optional.)

If you don't think I know where to find you if you win, you can also leave your email (josephineschmo at yahoo etc.) or let me know your real name and if you're on Facebook.

Addendum: If you leave a comment as "Anonymous" you should definitely tell me your name and a contact email!
I'll pick a winner on Monday at noon.

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Luna Update: Twins from Different Mothers

Don't let that innocent face fool you. I guarantee she is plotting something...

I figured it was time for an update on Luna, the kitty I adopted back in March. The short version is this: she’s happy, healthy…and driving me crazy. The long version is a bit more complicated, but mostly she is doing well. Mystic the gigantic gray boy is still going after her, alas, but she is figuring out some high spots where he can’t reach her, and has made friends with yellow boy Angus, who at eight years old is the next youngest and still very much a kitten at heart.

Angus and Luna playing.

I've had to buy a lot of new cat toys.
The vet finally decided, back in March, that she was about six months old, which would mean she is about seven months and a half months old now. Still very kittenish and full of beans. Just like my author friend’s cat Miss Paddington, also known as Paddy.

In fact, the two kitties look so much alike, they might be twins. (And yes, they’re BOTH still wide-eyed and full of mischief.)

That's Paddy on the left and Luna on the right. See what I mean!

Karen Rose Smith and I actually “met” through our mutual love of cats. I commented on a blog post she wrote about one of her rescue cats, and talked about how all mine were rescues too. She invited me to write a guest post about my cats, and so a beautiful friendship was born. We live in different states, so we haven’t met in person, but we’ve been there for each other when dealing with cat issues—she called me when she was worried about Halo, Paddy’s mom (Karen had never been present at a kitty delivery before, and I’d been a cat midwife a number of times), and I called her when I was bereft at the loss of Samhain right after Christmas (since she’d been through the same thing not that long before with one of her favorites).

Karen Rose Smith and Paddy
So it is kind of ironic that Paddy, the child of the cat she rescued last summer, and Luna, who I rescued this winter after she was found in a snow bank and put up for adoption by the vet who saved her life, look like mirror images of each other.

In fact, we’ve had so much fun with all our cat chat on Facebook, we ended up starting a Cat-Crazy Book-Lovers page HERE with two other cat-loving authors. The page is dedicated to people who love both cats and books, and apparently there are a lot of us out there! Every week one of the authors takes a turn doing a kitty (and sometimes book) related giveaway, and we are having a blast. If you're on Facebook, drop by and see us.

In the meanwhile, Luna is growing fast. She was tiny when I got her, only four and a half pounds. I haven’t taken her back to get weighed, but I’m pretty sure she’s gained weight. She has a long body and long legs, and even so is still much smaller than the other cats. It’s hard to say how big she is going to be when she finally stops growing, but I can say for certain that she gets prettier every day. Just like her twin, Miss Paddy.

Karen was talking about us on her blog today too. Go check it out if you have a minute. Karen's blog

So, anyone else have a cat who has a twin?