Author Archives: DJ

Update: Now with More Cussing!

Last week, I told you about my shoulders freezing again. As a friend of mine said, I’m a “pragmatic masochist.” After going through it all twice, I know what to do – there’s no reason to drive to town and pay someone to tell me. So, every afternoon, I torture myself. The physical therapy is going well…range-of-motion is almost back to normal but the pain has only subsided a little. I know it’ll eventually go away but as I’ve said before, patience is not one of my virtues!

(I’ll be “done” when I’ve finished typing this – the right shoulder is starting to complain more loudly than usual. I’m able to lurk on social media because using the touchpad on the laptop to scroll and “like” posts isn’t too bad.)

What has me hopping mad: a little over two weeks ago I crowed about the success of a spell. To quote myself, “I usually stress being very specific in spell wording but this time, I just wanted my car back and completely functional – and that’s what I asked for.” I’m going back to stressing being very specific. I did get my car back, completely functional…for 2½ weeks and 580 miles. The husband and I were headed into town to get pizza Friday night. I’d just gotten up to speed on the 4-lane and hit cruise control when it dropped out of cruise and threw yet another check-engine light – this time it was flashing rather than steady, which hubby tells me is more serious.

And let me tell you, the “limp home mode” is really limping. Remember, I live in the mountains. We were only about 5 miles from home but hills. At a maximum of only 2,000 rpm, B2 was only doing about 12 mph on the 4-lane (65 mph speed limit) as she came to the top of a hill. It took about 20 minutes to crawl the 5 miles and even with the hazard lights on, I pissed off a few drivers behind me.

I guess the only saving grace is that it happened on Friday, not far from home, rather than on Tuesday when I was somewhere in Atlanta traffic…

So, B2 is back at the dealership waiting on a new engine and I’m waiting to hear about a rental car. Having my car back for 2 weeks has probably put me at the bottom of the list for a new engine. My guess? Late July to mid-August sometime.

I don’t want to wait that long. Back to the drawing board…

Getting Old: Not for the Faint of Heart

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you may remember that six and seven years ago, I had surgery on my left and right shoulders, respectively, for idiopathic adhesive capsulitis, aka “frozen shoulder.” That’s where, for no known reason, the shoulder slowly stops working and seems to happen more often to post-menopausal women. At the time, it was so bad I couldn’t raise my arm & had to bend over in the shower to wash my hair. But the surgery plus several weeks of physical therapy (ouch!) got me back to moving normally.

The surgeon told me they might re-freeze after a year or so and if that happened, he’d sedate me and manipulate the shoulder(s) to break up the adhesions. After two years, I thought I’d skated. Nope.

About three weeks ago, I started noticing pain in both my shoulders – right worse than left, naturally, because I’m right-handed. At first, I thought I’d just overworked them – I’m prone to that, especially in the spring when I’m cleaning up the garden and yard, then planting. But over time, I noticed my right shoulder wouldn’t work as well…getting something off anything but a bottom shelf in a cupboard became problematic – and painful. I recognized the symptoms, sighed, and made an appointment to see the surgeon again. Actually, his physician’s assistant.

That appointment was yesterday. Trying to stave off that manipulation or worse, more surgery, I got a cortisone shot in both shoulders and will subject myself to a week’s worth of painful physical therapy in the hopes that will re-stretch the capsule. If not, another appointment – this time with the surgeon, to discuss options.

In the meantime, I’ll be sorta quiet on social media – sitting at my desk typing, or even using the laptop as it was intended, is painful. That means no writing on the computer, either. 🙁 I’ve done the must do client work and that’s about it.

Getting old sucks!

 

 

Magic Works!

I know I don’t write about magic much. But I wanted to share a success story with you:

As background, I drive a Kia Sportage. There’s been quite a bit in the news about engine issues with some Kias and Hyundais catching fire and those vehicles are under recall. What hasn’t quite hit the news is another problem with those same engines: something about metal shavings from some rod in the engine that can cause the engine to seize up.

I got a letter in December asking me to bring my car in for reprogramming to listen for some noise. If the computer heard the noise, it would go into “limp home” mode – not going above 2,000 rpm. Husband, who retired from the dealership where I purchased my car, said it wasn’t an emergency and we’d do it the next time she needed her oil changed. That happened the end of February.

Less than 500 miles later, I was on my way home from my weekly trip to Atlanta when she dropped out of cruise control and threw a check-engine light. I sighed, called a tow truck, and had her towed to the dealership. Yes, it was the dreaded problem and I was put into a rental car. (While not required under the warranty agreement, it was a morally-good thing for Kia to pay for the rental. I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of dollars they’re shelling out.)

Now comes the fun part: there are somewhere around 30,000 vehicles that needed a new engine. Kia/Hyundai don’t have enough engines and there’s some strike in South Korea preventing building new engines. I was told it was going to be June 3rd before an engine would be available. Then, two weeks later, they said June 25th.

I am a creature of habit and while I can drive nearly anything, I prefer my car. I didn’t want to wait until the end of June (or, more likely, much later) to get my baby back. After a month of driving first a Ford Fusion (which isn’t made for short people – I had to use a cushion to see out the windshield), then a Kia Soul base model (which is OK, but a smaller vehicle, less power, and not as many features), I decided it was time to take action.

I usually stress being very specific in spell wording but this time, I just wanted my car back and completely functional – and that’s what I asked for.

On Monday, the dealership called. Kia had come up with two tests to put all these cars through. If the car passed both tests, the only thing needing to be replaced was a wiring harness, rather than the entire engine. My car was one of the about 60% that passed both tests – I’d have her back by the end of the week.

I got home from my Atlanta trip on Tuesday to be told she was ready. So, yesterday I returned the Soul and happily drove B2 home.

Magic works!

Blackberry Cove Herbal – A Review

I don’t know about you, but when I read a non-fiction book, I always check out the references and recommended reading section. I found this one listed in another book and am so glad I did!

Ms. Rago takes us through a year of happenings (herbal and otherwise) at a cabin in the West Virginia mountains. She grew up there, as did her parents, grandparents, great-grandparents…I think she has the “native” part down.

Her writing is extremely evocative – you can easily picture yourself walking alongside her in the hills or sitting on the cabin’s porch and admiring the view while drinking a cup of herbal tea. Along with stories, she tells you how her grandmother and other elders used the herbs she harvests in those hills. Interspersed with current-day happenings and recipes (receipts being the word used there) are charms spoken for healing purposes. A little magic woven in never hurts!

Granted, what she finds in the hills and hollers of West Virginia is somewhat different than what grows in the southern tail of the Appalachians, but I still found “folk” uses of plants I use that I’d not heard of before and they’ve been added to my notes.

I think this book is out of print (at least, I couldn’t find it new) but if you’re interested in herbs, especially those used in the Appalachian Mountains, this is a must-have for your shelf.

5/5 stars

Mystic South

I know, I know. I’ve been quiet again. Things have been crazy around here, including a 2-week bout with bronchitis right after we got back from vacation.

Anyhoo, I have great news! I’ve been accepted to be a presenter at this year’s Mystic South in Atlanta. I don’t attend many pagan gatherings because most of what they promote isn’t my thing, but this one sounds fun – I already know a couple of the presenters and they have good information.

The subject of my talk is, “Medicinal and Magical Plants of the Southern Appalachians.” Now that I’ve been accepted, I have to write it! In a way, this is a good thing. I haven’t written much about several of the plants before, so I get to research, which is something I love to do. And timing is perfect. I’m in the middle of tax season, which means analytical thinking and writing about herbs, at least to me, is a logical action. The older I get, the harder it is to switch gears between logic and imagination, i.e., writing fiction. So, I’ll be setting Ogre’s Assistant Book Four aside for a bit and dive back into the world of herbs.

If you live anywhere near Atlanta (or are willing to travel), I hope I see you July 19-21st! They haven’t set the schedule, yet, so I don’t know exactly when I’ll be presenting. Watch my Facebook or Twitter account (links on the right) for updates!

Trans Siberian Orchestra

I had planned on just posting a bunch of pics to social media but this deserves a blog post.

First, remember where we live … in the country, up in the mountains. We rarely go to concerts or other artistic events because what may be an easy 15-20 minute drive for city people is over two hours for us; at least half of that on secondary roads to this particular venue. We had tickets to see TSO last year and the weather the night before would have made our trip treacherous, so we opted not to go. (As a side note, we lost power for almost two full days thanks to that storm.)

This year, I was watching the weather closely, biting my nails. Another winter event was headed our way – would it hold off? The worst of it stayed north and east of both us and the event venue. Thank goodness! But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a miserable drive both ways: temperatures in the mid- to high-30s F, heavy rain, and gusty wind. (I’m still thanking the car gods for butt warmers in cars. The walk from the venue back to the car was wretched.)

But oh, it was so worth it. The music was great, as expected. I can’t gush enough about the visual spectacle and my puny phone camera wasn’t able to properly capture everything. But here are some shots:

If you have a problem with lasers or strobe lights, please do not watch this brief video clip. If you don’t, enjoy!

IMG_1153

I did have one problem, though. Toward the end of the performance, they had flames spurting left and right on stage. Husband said at one point, the flames formed a pentagram. I would have loved to have seen that, but I was a little distracted. This guy has one of the best butts I’ve seen in a while and I was staring at him, rather than the stage.

As someone who worked backstage at theaters [mumble, mumble] years ago, I’m always interested in the ‘plumbing’ of a show. I do believe theirs is more complicated and extensive than Cirque du Soleil (which is saying something). According to the guy who spoke while the ladies were changing clothes, it takes 20 semis, 17 tour busses, 112 TSO folks, and another 100 locals to put this thing on. 8 hours to set up, and they only did two shows in Atlanta, leaving to do another two in another city the next day. So glad I’m not one of their roadies!

One thing I really appreciated: I rarely go to concerts anymore, and not just because of the travel time. The music is simply too loud for me to enjoy. However, between using the native PA system which is a) throughout the arena and not just blaring from big, honking speakers onstage, and b) already tuned to the arena; and their board operator’s skill, not only did I not cringe at the volume, I didn’t even have to turn down/take out my hearing aids.

My sole complaint: they use artificial fog extensively. There was already a haze in the arena from their afternoon show and as the concert progressed, so, too, did the haze. I started coughing about half way through the performance and woke up early Sunday morning with a sore throat and inflamed sinuses. Didn’t last long but nonetheless…

It’s two days later and I’m still in awe. If you ever have an opportunity to see them in person, do not hesitate, go. It was so worth getting home after 1 a.m.!

 

Moving from CreateSpace to KDP

 

Mercury Retrograde strikes! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Originally, I’d published my fiction books only as e-books. Then, a couple of years ago, I realized there were still a lot of people who liked tree-books* so I decided I should bite the bullet, pay the money to get full covers, and have some paperbacks printed. However, the retail pricing CreateSpace insisted on seemed excessive to me, so I priced them at what I thought was reasonable for books that length and kept them in my own inventory. How’s that worked out, you ask? I’ve sold four in something over two years.

Enter Amazon’s decision a few months ago to combine both e-books and paperbacks under one umbrella – KDP – and do away with CreateSpace. I read every blog post I could find regarding the transition. Most people had no issues, but I read of some whose interiors got messed up. I could deal with that…

During the time I was reading about the transition I was thinking about getting the paperbacks out where they’d be more visible. I started researching paperback prices and discovered everyone else was charging what CreateSpace had recommended, so why shouldn’t I?

Stressed! is in the process of getting a new cover from the same designer who did Transformation!. While she was working on that, I figured out how to change the barcode on the original cover of Upheaval! to reflect the new price. Not being a graphic designer, I was rather proud of myself. I uploaded the ‘new’ cover, went through their online preview process (everything looked fine), then ordered a proof to ensure everything looked correct in print.

The proof arrived last Wednesday night. (Our UPS driver is already running late and the holiday shopping season hasn’t really started, yet. Yikes!) Thursday morning, I looked it over, comparing it with the original. It looked identical so I hit ‘publish’ and went on to other things.

Friday afternoon, I got an email from KDP: “The spine text is too large, which can cause the text to wrap onto the front or back cover. It must be at least 0.0625 from the cover sides.” WTF? I didn’t change a damned thing on the cover that had been used for over two years, except the barcode. Yes, I sent a query.

I usually only check email once per day on weekends. This weekend, I should have skipped it. I’d have had a much nicer Sunday. Yesterday morning, I received a reply: “I checked from my end and I see that the Spine text is close to the Spine edge which might cause the text to get wrapped up on back cover during binding process. […] In this case, I would recommend you to change the font size such that it’s at least 0.0625 from the cover sides.” Nowhere did that email address the fact that the same cover image had previously been used with no problem.

As I said above, I’m not a graphic designer. I think I can re-size the spine graphic on my own but if I can’t, that means I’m going to have to pay someone to do it. At the very least, it’ll cost me at least one more proof.

Needless to say, I was and am livid.

 

*I, too, love tree-books. However, I read too much and too fast to get everything in paper. I’d go bankrupt! (Before you say anything, the library in town is small and has a very limited selection.) Not to mention there are a lot of authors who only publish on Kindle. I’d miss out on a lot of them. So, I read e-books and if I like them enough that I know I’ll re-read, I buy the paperback if one is available.

 

23 November Update: I send another “WTF” email to KDP after I wrote this. That afternoon, I got an email from a “specialist” saying she’d look into it. This morning, another email arrived, telling me they’d fixed my cover and I could now publish it. Had a look at it – they used the original cover with the old price. So, still not fixed…

Occult Day 18 November

Did you know? There’s a holiday for that! This year it falls on Sunday, so you get my comments about it early.

Some people tend to forget that “occult” simply means hidden. Look at the various definitions from Merriam-Webster. You don’t get to the ‘woo’ until the fourth definition of the adjective, yet every site addressing this day that I looked at talked about magic. The noun (almost always used with, “the”) is what folks look at. The vast majority of images when you search for “occult” had this sort of theme:

I suspect some doctors are chuckling behind their hands – look at the fifth adjective definition…

Looking at the first adjective definition: everyone hides something.  There’s a line in Billy Joel’s The Stranger that says, “Though we share so many secrets, There are some we never tell.” If you think about it, it’s true. Or should be. Sometimes I wonder about folks on social media sharing everything to the point of TMI…

Whether it’s practicing magic, reading tarot or runes (revealing hidden messages), or simply keeping a part of yourself concealed that others don’t need to see, celebrate Occult Day!

Interview with a Witch: Laura Perry

One in a continuing series of interviews with cool people I’ve met.

Laura and I first met a bunch of years ago…in a Facebook group, I think. We discovered our mutual love of herbs (and other things), then discovered we lived fairly close to each other – a little over an hour apart which, in the Facebook world, is next door. She’s now a good friend and my editor! On to the questions:

When did you start writing and what inspired you to do so? 

I’ve always written stories of one sort or another, since I was a child, but I think you’re asking about more serious writing intended for publication. If you discount the amazing pioneer tale of Nine-in-a-Row Johnny that I wrote in fourth grade (I’ll inflict the story on you only by request), I first began writing in earnest when I became involved with the local Pagan community in the early 1990s. It was back then that I created the series of rituals that eventually became the core of Ariadne’s Thread. That was effectively the first non-fiction book I ever wrote, even though it wasn’t the first one I published. It was also around that time that I began writing magical and historical fiction, inspired by past life memories, travel, and the “sparkles” I encountered in personal and community rituals.

What prompted you to rediscover/reconstruct the Minoan spirituality path?

I’ve been mildly obsessed with the ancient Minoans ever since my 9th grade art history teacher showed my class a photo of the Bull Leaper fresco from Knossos. But I finally began taking the Minoan path seriously in my own spiritual life during that time I mentioned above, in question #1. As part of my work toward my second Wiccan degree, I was given the assignment to choose any pantheon I wanted and use it as the focus for writing a year’s worth of seasonal rituals and a lifetime’s worth of rites of passage. Though it took a little while for the universe to get the message through my thick skull, eventually I realized I needed to focus on the Minoans for that project. Doing that work opened up to me the idea of the Minoan pantheon as the center of my spirituality, which was a big deal for me because at the time there were virtually no resources at all for that sort of thing. So I did what most bootstrapping Pagans tend to do in that kind of situation: I couldn’t find the resources I wanted, so I created them. I was overjoyed to eventually discover other people who were interested in the same things, and now we’re walking the path of Modern Minoan Paganism together.

How does witchcraft help you in everyday life?

It does two things for me. First, it reminds me that there’s more to the world than just the objects and effects our five material senses can detect. We get so caught up in the modern materialist worldview sometimes, I think it’s good to remember that there’s also magic, and spirit, and far more depth to the world than any scientific instrument will ever be able to measure.

Second, it gives me a sense of power in my own life. Witchcraft has long been the purview of the disempowered segments of the population: women, minorities, the poor, the oppressed. Though I’m certainly not downtrodden in any real way, there are times when no amount of mundane activity will overcome a problem. Obviously, no amount of magic is going to help if I don’t get my butt in gear and do the material-world work first. But sometimes it’s the key to tipping the dial over just far enough to achieve a goal that I might not have been able to reach otherwise.

Do you have a routine to get you into the writing/art mood? Is it different for each?

I can manage non-fiction writing pretty much at the drop of a hat. I wrote my first two published non-fiction works, Ancient Spellcraft and The Wiccan Wellness Book, at the dining table with a toddler running around the house. So I got really good at learning to focus and work in 15- to 20-minute increments, with no special kind of surroundings, for that kind of writing.

Fiction and art, though, are different. Both of them have technical aspects that require the same kind of focus and diligence as non-fiction, but they also have creative aspects that are a little harder to just turn on and off like a faucet. So I have an office/studio now, with a door that closes (yay!) where I can get into the headspace for more creative work. Just being there, especially sitting at my art table, shifts me to that kind of mood. I’ve also had some good experiences the past few months in a new location. Due to logistical issues, I’m spending several days a week on campus while my daughter takes college courses. It turns out, the carrels in the library are an excellent place to just “fall into” the world of the Minoan-themed novel I’m working on.

I’m still in love with your novels Jaguar Sky and The Bed. What was the inspiration behind them?

Jaguar Sky is the direct result of a trip I took to visit some of the Maya sacred sites in Belize. Though the details of the story didn’t really congeal until I came back, while I was there, I began to imagine the characters and the circumstances of their journey to Central America. I’ve actually visited the places where Maddie and the rest of the team do their archaeology and where she has some very unusual encounters with all kinds of people, living and dead.

The Bed began almost on a whim. I was in an antique shop one day and I heard a woman talking with her friend about how she didn’t like buying antique furniture because of a fear that it might somehow be haunted. I must be a born-and-bred writer, because my first thought upon hearing her comment was, “That would make a great story.” So I wrote a novel about a woman who buys an antique bed that comes with a matching nightstand and a not-exactly-matching, and somewhat magical, ghost.

Finally, I know the answer to this because we joke back & forth, but coffee or tea?

Tea. Most of the time, anyway. I’ve been known to have a cup of coffee if we go out for brunch. And you’ll probably cringe, but I also love decaf after a nice dinner.

 

Laura just completely updated The Wiccan Wellness Book and the second edition is now available in various formats. Clicking on the book cover will take you to the page on her website that not only describes the contents, but gives you direct links.

 

Where to find Laura on the net:

Website: http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Laura-Perry/e/B001K8LSQ6/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraPerryAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MsLauraPerry

Interview with a Witch: Wendy Steele

I did a few of these four years ago, and am going to get back into the habit. I meet such interesting people online!

I first “met” Wendy through a mutual friend on Twitter perhaps a year or two ago (thanks, Laura!) and subsequently in a Witch Lit group on Facebook. Her books are “Witch Lit” par excellence.  On to the questions she so kindly answered for me:

When did you start writing and what prompted you to do so?

I wrote my first poem when I was twelve years old, after visiting the Tutankhamun exhibition in London and there began my love of Egypt and all things Egyptian, and a love for writing things down after visits and events. I began my first novel, Hubble Bubble, after a two day writing course on characterisation. All 100k words are sitting under my bed, waiting for me to edit them into a decent novel.

You live in Wales (I can’t wait to visit some day!), which is a source of inspiration for many writers, pagan and non-. Does your location influence your writing?

You’d be most welcome! The Welsh landscape inspired me to write the Standing Stone book series when I’d been in Wales less than a year. There’s a Bronze Age settlement site on the hill next to our land which fascinated me, wondering who may have lived there in the past and who might live there in the future.

We’re lucky enough to live in a detached house now, with peace and quiet, no interruptions and the luxury of a riverbank where we’ve made a shelter of old pallets and silage plastic, where I can sit and look at the river as I write.

How does witchcraft help you in everyday life?

I live by the Wheel of the Year, eating the foods that are in season, keeping my physical body in shape. I respect Sabbats and Esbats which helps with both mental and physical health, being aware of the waxing and waning of the moon and respecting the natural flow of nature.

My craft helps me focus on aspects of my life that need attention, sometimes with tarot cards or a simple candle spell. Feeling part of the natural wheel, I’m inspired by my craft to create, dance, teach, heal and inspire.

Your “Wendy Woo Witch Lit” series has a strong female protagonist. (I love her independence!) Is she based on you?

No! There are bits of me in her, but Lizzie is her own person.

Two things about you not many know.

I write the majority of my first drafts with a fountain pen filled with black ink on foolscap writing pads.

I came to dance at the age of forty…and haven’t stop dancing since!

Finally, coffee or tea?

Either as long as they are decaf. Caffeine gives me a thumping head ache.

The first in the series, The Naked Witch is free on Amazon at the moment. Go, get it from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Other ways to connect with Wendy:

Website: www.wendysteele.com

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/WendyWooauthor

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/destinyofangelsnovel/?fref=ts

 https://www.facebook.com/WendyWooBooks

https://www.facebook.com/TheStandingStone

Amazon author: http://www.amazon.com/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref

 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendy-steele-91257660/

Goodreads author:http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6548666.Wendy_Steele

All Author: https://allauthor.com/profile/wendywoo/