Category Archives: Musings

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/

 

 

Transformation!

After four long years, Transformation! Ogre’s Assistant Book Three is finally done! I had to find a new cover designer: the old one disappeared. But boy, am I happy with the change!

I think Fiona did a fantastic job!

Release date is 4th October but the Kindle version is up for pre-order now! (Paperback is going to take a wee bit longer but there will be one.) You can find it on Amazon US and Amazon UK as well as other Amazon sites. It’s in Kindle Unlimited so if you subscribe to that, it’ll automatically be delivered to your device on release date!

To all the readers who were so patient with me, thank you!

On Copyright Theft

/begin rant

Pirated books are nothing new. When I was younger, photocopies of books were passed around until the pages were torn, worn, and almost illegible. Another photocopy would appear and continue making the rounds. The digital age just makes it easier.

Most authors, especially indies, spend an inordinate amount of time protecting our ownership of our books. This involves tracking down the owner(s) of a site (sometimes an exercise in futility because they’re well hidden) and sending a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice. Sometimes it works, sometimes the pirates just laugh. If I had the money, I’d hire a lawyer to prosecute every pirate. I don’t. But every illegal download is taking money from the author’s pocket, whether the site charges for the copy or not.

A couple of days ago, a friend found a Facebook group that was sharing pdfs of books still in copyright. When the friend called them out on it, one of the responses was, “I didn’t copy the book. I found it on Google, or another website. I’m not guilty of theft.”

Well, yes honey, you are. From the Wikipedia article on copyright:

Forgive my horrible highlighting but if you lend (share) a book without an author’s (or publisher’s) permission, you are guilty of copyright infringement.

Still don’t get it? Okay, how about an analogy:

Let’s say someone stole a painting from a museum. Oh, not to sell it to some rich collector, but to allow many people to enjoy it in their own home. The painting passes from art lover to art lover, without charge, and finally to you. It’s hanging on the wall, right where you can enjoy it from the comfort of your sofa.

Then the cops come to your home and find the stolen painting. “But I didn’t steal it,” you say. “It was given to me by someone else. I have no idea who took it from the museum.”

Do you think the police are going to let you go scot-free? Nope. You’re going to be charged with possession of stolen property.

Perhaps not the best analogy but you should get the idea. If you do not purchase a book from someone the author or publisher has given permission to sell it, or borrow it from a bona fide library you are guilty of a form of theft.

//end rant

Coming Up with Characters

I’ve heard it said that fiction writers base some or all of their characters on people they’ve met. In my case, it’s true. Well, the personalities, anyways. Probably not the species. Mostly. I thought I’d give you a glimpse into how I came up with some of my main characters.

(Clicking on that photo will take you to the page where this mug is offered. I love gifts! 😉 )

As background: In my previous life and, to a lesser extent, my current one, I’m an administrative assistant. In addition to accounting and bookkeeping duties, I end up typing up correspondence for my clients who, although they own computers, can only hunt-and-peck at the keyboard. (Don’t get me started on proper formatting of a business letter!) Hence the premise for the books.

Anyways. As many friends have deduced, Amy’s personality is very similar to my own: a stereotypical Virgo. Her appearance, though, is definitely not me!

Ev, Amy’s boss, is my former employer with a touch of another businessman I worked with for a while. (Neither of whom looked anything like Ev, but I did work for a while with a man who had a hygiene problem.) Not that I’ve ever known anyone to get into the pickles Ev seems to find himself in. Thank goodness.

Fudge, the familiar cat? Anyone who is or has been owned by cats will recognize him in one of theirs. In my case, he’s very much like my first cat, Boomer, who thought he was human. Although he never spoke English to me, the various tones in his meows and expressions on his face were easily interpretable. We had conversations.

Amy’s boyfriend, Tony, comes from an old boyfriend of mine. Their appearance is even similar. No spoilers, but what happens to Tony happened to the boyfriend, too.

Gregory, Ev’s driver and bodyguard and, eventually, Amy’s mentor, is loosely based on a bouncer I worked with at a bar many moons ago. Cork, the owner of Amy’s favorite pub, comes from that same bar. (I have fond memories of that place…)

So, a peek for you into how I come up with characters. There are even more in Amy’s third adventure, which is currently at the editor’s (and, sadly, still lacking a title). Like the egotistical elf, whose prototype I also dated for a (very short) while.

Writers: how do you come up with your characters? Readers: do you see anyone you know in a writer’s actors?

Cheap Proofreading

 

I read. A lot. And one thing that irritates the snot out of me is poor (or non-existent) proofreading. Surprise, surprise. I already complained about it six years ago. And in those six years, it’s gotten worse. I’m currently slogging my way through the last book in a series because they’re cute stories, but Oh. Em. Gee. The errors. Missing open- or close-quotation marks. (Especially the open-quote – makes it difficult to figure out what the hell is going on.) Wrong word usage. (You wear a brooch; you broach a subject, for example. Both are valid words and spellcheck won’t catch the error.) Even her own notations are still there: there’s a phrase in brackets toward the end of one book I’m fairly certain she wanted to consider changing. This author (whom I will not publicly shame) has another series out. I won’t read it, no matter how fun this first set of stories. I will move on to a different, hopefully better proofread, author. (If they hadn’t been on Kindle Unlimited, I wouldn’t have even read the second book in the series.) I won’t write really bad reviews, so won’t review her on Goodreads. Because they’re anonymous, I’ll tell you I two-starred her books on Amazon. Yeah, the grammatical errors brought it down from four – it really detracts from the enjoyment.

Here’s the thing, Independent Author: poor proofing costs you money. If you have more than one book out, people won’t buy the next. I’ve known of people returning books because the poor grammar makes the book nearly unreadable. If you’re in the Kindle Unlimited program, they won’t read all the way to the end of the book. And remember, those of us with disposable income are your bread and butter – not your friends who don’t care if your book is sloppy.

And yes, I know. Proofreading, much less editing, is expensive and most independent authors can’t afford it. I know how much I don’t make on my books and it’s the same for everyone else. (Unless you’re Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, or someone in that echelon.) I can afford an editor and do use one because as good as I am at self-editing, I can’t see all my own damned mistakes.

So, I’m hanging out a shingle as a cheap proofreader. Why?

  1. Public Service. As I said, most indie authors can’t afford a proofreader, much less a full-fledged editor. Professional proofreaders charge approximately 2¢ per word. On a 60,000 word book, that’s $1,200. Even I won’t pay that much. But with decent proofing, your readers won’t want to get out their red pencil three pages in. Chances are, you’ll sell more copies of the next book; or people will read all the way to the end, giving you a larger slice of the Kindle Unlimited pie. Then there’s that thing I mentioned in the linked post about kids learning English by reading. Important!
  2. I have the time. I’m semi-retired from my day job and after Amy’s third adventure goes to print, I don’t know if I’ll write another book. Although there are ideas in the back of my noggin, I might; I might not. I can’t spend all day in the garden because my joints are no longer willing to work that hard, and there are those rainy summer days and dreary winter months where I won’t spend any time at all out there. And no one wants to top-to-bottom clean house every day!

I said cheap, not free. I am not a professional, just your everyday grandmother with, apparently, a better grasp of grammar (in its larger sense) than some. I’m not a copy editor*. I won’t help you structure your book or make suggestions to make it better. I also won’t promise perfection – I’ll probably miss something here or there. (I’ve caught errors in books put out by major publishing houses. No one’s perfect.) But to give away that sort of service would imply that it’s not work. It is. While I can read a book quickly for enjoyment, reading it critically takes more time. And it seems a service is more valued if money changes hands.

So…here’s a deal. $50 for any book up to 80,000 words. Fiction only; no erotica or horror – I can’t even slog my way through those genres. For most authors on Kindle, that’s going to amount to the income from about 18 books – or 2 weeks’ worth of a daily iced mocha half-caf, shot-of-vanilla latte. At that price, it should be worth it.

What do I get out of it? First, a chance to help independent authors. Second, perhaps a chance to read the next-to-hit-it-big author before anyone else (apart from family and friends, that is 😉 ).

If this is of interest, email me at dj[at]authordjmartin[dot]com and we can talk. I’d love to help.

 

*If you’re looking for a good editor, mine is awesome and reasonably priced. I’m happy to put you in touch with her.

(Image found on Pinterest without credit and I couldn’t track it back. Happy to credit if it’s yours.)

 

 

City Mouse Builds a Country Garden, Part Trois

Lack of forethought means a lot more work…

Almost three years ago, I gave up on the cypress mulch in the garden paths and put rock down. I was tired of re-mulching the paths every year ($$) and the mulch washing away when we had a hard rain.  I failed to think before doing so…

The reason I had to re-mulch every year is because as an organic substance, it degrades over time. A long-term composting, if you will.  I put the rock down right on top of the mulch. I should’ve done the hard work of taking up everything first.

Two-plus years later, nearly all of the mulch is now dirt. Nice stuff, too, according to the weeds that are filling the pathways. But it’s compacted down, so there’s moss filling in gaps. Weed killer, of any kind (and I’ve tried just about everything), doesn’t completely work. (Salt does kill the moss – leaving black crap between the rocks instead of green.) The paths are a mess I can’t keep up with, and it all offends my Virgo sense of neatness. So, I decided it was time to take up the rock, get rid of the dirt, and put the rock back down on the weed-block fabric we’d put down when the garden was originally built. (At least we thought about that!)

I thought it would be a simple matter of scooping the rock to the side, shoveling all the dirt off (I have plenty of places to dump dirt) and smoothing the rock back down. Not! I also failed to think about the weight of the rocks themselves, or the fact that those paths get walked on – a lot. The rocks have worked themselves all the way down into the dirt.

So, it’s scoop it up a bit at a time, put those scoops into a screened box the husband built, wash it off, empty the box into the wheelbarrow, repeat, ad nauseum. Once the wheelbarrow’s full, clean up the rest of the dirt, dump the rocks back into their spot, and continue. Unfortunately, I can only do this for about an hour at a time before my back, hips, and knees start barking. (Gads, I hate getting older.) I can get about 9 square feet done before having to stop. To give you some idea of the scope of the project, just the outer ring is about 400 square feet.

I’d told husband it was going to be a summer-long project. At the time, I had no idea how right I was…

Belize

As most of you know, we went to Belize for our vacation this year. It was …enh. And not the fault of anyone, really. I chose the wrong time of year to go for fishing (my husband’s hobby), and the weather was unusually rainy, making it unpleasant to go for walks on the beach. But there were bright spots!

The place we stayed was wonderful. After a rough start (our flight was almost an hour late leaving Atlanta, making us miss our connection from Belize City to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, and thus to the resort), we were greeted by smiles and

Tidbit: we were talking with one of the owners over drinks our first night. (A Dutchman who’d been in Belize for 17 years.) He was telling us about all the different sorts of people who populate Belize…Maya, mestizos, blacks, whites… and some of the personnel difficulties he had when developing the resort. Apparently one worker got pissed at another worker of a different race and put a curse on him! It was mentioned casually, as if witchcraft was normal. I loved it!

The first day was relaxing – sort of. Our cabaña was right on the beach, affording a lovely view from the porch.

Unfortunately, they have a major fly problem. They do spray for mosquitoes but haven’t figured out the flies, yet. Sitting on the porch meant a lot of swatting. But there were “pets”, too.

This little guy lived below our porch and we saw him every day. He didn’t do a lot of snacking on flies, though.

Palm trees usually mean coconuts, right? Yep. But these sure don’t look anything like the ones we get in stores here – they’re about twice the size! I had to watch where I walked because I didn’t want to get beaned by one…

Tidbit: coconut water comes from green coconuts. Coconut milk comes from ripe ones. The staff person who answered my questions offered to knock down one of the green ones, bore a hole, and let me drink the water. I declined but it sure was sweet of her to offer!

You may not know it, but Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world. Although I’m used to the sound of surf when near the ocean, the waves breaking over the reef sounded very much like the roar of a distant interstate, minus horn honking and the howling of jake brakes. And because of the reef, the water really isn’t very deep. At the end of the resort’s pier, it’s only about 3 or 4 feet and (according to my husband who knows about these things) only about 30-40 feet at its deepest inside the reef. Not really deep enough to go swimming. Not that I wanted to. I dipped my toes into the water and it was cold. (For friends: I panicked over getting a new swimsuit needlessly. It never came out of the suitcase.)

Enlarge & look closely. There’s a line of waves indicating the reef.

I spent a lot of time on the porch, supposedly reading but in reality, watching the birds. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good picture of the frigate birds flying around but there were at least four of them.

Pelicans.
White Ibis

Tuesday was the highlight of the trip. We made our way inland (15 minute boat ride from the resort to the airport, 15 minute flight from the island airport back to the mainland, one hour drive north) to the Lamanai Archaeological Reserve. Our tour started 27 miles downriver from the Reserve with about an hour boat ride. The guide stopped several times for us to see cool things along the river.

Water Lilies
Can you spot the Iguana?

Two things I couldn’t get a picture of: one crocodile (Lamanai means “Sunken Crocodile”) who submerged too fast for me to get the phone up, and a pair of Jabiru storks (google them, they’re cool), who were too far away for the puny camera on my phone to capture. (One of these years, I’m going to remember to bring a real camera with me.) I have a couple of photos of howler monkeys that are so bad, I won’t share them.

The ruins were fascinating. Lamanai was active for about 3,000 years (1500 BCE to 1500 CE) and encompassed 20 square miles. The Reserve (the protected area) unfortunately only covers about a tenth of that. The estimated population was between 40,000 and 60,000, quite a bit larger than Tulum. It’s not as open or excavated as Tulum, either. Three temples plus a few other structures have been uncovered. The first we were taken to was the “Mask Temple”:

Mask on the left bottom side of the temple. There’s another one on the right (the stairs are on the right of this photo.)

What you see isn’t stone. It’s a fiberglass shell covering the original stone, preventing further erosion. Our guide had a drawing of what it looked like when initially uncovered:

The blue paint was only visible for about a month before it washed away.

Nearby, a building with a stela, depicting a Mayan chieftain.

Tidbit: as a chief, his headdress has feathers in it. (I forgot to get a picture of the sketch of what it originally looked like.) I verbally assumed quetzal feathers and got a glare in return. The guide’s response was, “Have you ever seen a quetzal? [No, of course not.] They’re small, very rare birds with only three tail feathers. There’s no way every chief could have quetzal feathers in his headdress. Me? I’d rather have feathers from an ocellated turkey. Their feathers are bright blue.” I googled them when I got home and agree with the guide. The feathers are gorgeous!

The second temple we were taken to is the main temple for Lamanai.

In its heyday, it was 13 stories high. Eleven are still (mostly) intact. Tourists may no longer climb the stairs in front. Almost 4 years ago, a lady climbed the precipitous stairs and took the express down. She was airlifted back to the US, unconscious, with multiple broken bones. No one I could find knows if she survived, including our guide. Instead, there are now wooden stairs to the left so you can go all the way up to the top. My hips and acrophobia said, “nope” to that one.

Tidbit: a good friend has visited the site and says it’s still active. Not wanting to piss any local spirits off, I took some cornmeal with me as an offering. (No one in customs had a second thought about a container of powder in my cosmetic case. 🙂 ) About five minutes into the walk to the first temple, I started getting a migraine. I haven’t had one of those in decades. While everyone was clambering around the top of the main temple, I excused myself from the rest of the group, walked a ways away, and sprinkled the cornmeal around with a quiet ‘thanks’. Five minutes later, the headache was gone. Active? You be the judge.

In addition to the ruins, they’re very good about marking the types of trees. For those of you who enjoy copal resin, this is what its source looks like:

The last temple is called the “Jaguar Temple”. Yes, those lovely animals still populate the surrounding area.

(The grassy area is large enough to put in a football pitch with room to spare.)

Tidbit: husband had a closer look at this temple than I did. He said there are the remains of something being burned very recently (probably incense) on one of the stones.

Opposite this temple are the remains of a palace. We know the Maya were small people according to today’s standards but the rooms uncovered are smaller than my bathroom!

That was the extent of our tour. There are mounds, and mounds, and mounds that they haven’t yet uncovered but have scanned. They know at least two are burials … that much was shared with us. But the rest? Nobody’s talking. And frankly, I don’t blame them. If they published all their findings, looters would probably be there in a heartbeat.

The ride downriver back to our starting point was miserable. The air temperature was in the mid-70s (F) but it was raining. (Yes, we brought rain ponchos.) 25 mph boat speed into a windy rain for about 45 minutes. I froze. I changed into jeans & a long-sleeved shirt when we got back to the resort, put on my lightweight jacket, and was still shivering through dinner. I spent the rest of the evening huddled under a down comforter and didn’t feel completely warm for several hours.

Our last day was sunny … and rainy … and sunny … But it afforded this gorgeous shot:

If we go back (and I say ‘if’ because there are a lot of other places in the world we want to visit), we’ll stay on the mainland. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to get to stuff to do, and you still get all the water sports you can get on the island. (Fishing for husband only. The rest don’t interest us.)

Yuletide* Ruminations

I know, I know. I’ve been terrible about blogging. 2017 has had its ups and downs, most of which I don’t care to share with the public.

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere. Because I celebrate a solar year, that means Friday is New Year’s Day for me. This is the time of year I reflect on what has happened and plan for what (hopefully) will come to pass.

The reflections: it’s been a tough year for both not-straight-white-Christian-and-rich humans and the Earth. Between all the natural disasters around the world and the crap coming out of our elected officials in Washington, DC, I haz a major sad. My one public political rant: I see things happening in 2017 I thought we were moving past. Hell, I protested against some of it almost 50 years ago. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana) Seems history isn’t being studied much anymore…

I haven’t written a whole lot, even outside this blog. I’ve been too busy reading old herbals/medical texts as research for the next herb book. And by old, I mean 16th-19th century stuff. Let me tell you, it’s eye-crossing. Some of the “remedies” are jaw-droppingly horrid (and probably quite ineffective), and there’s the issues of archaic language, handwriting, and typography. (The typography is especially difficult if you’re reading a scan of a book printed on thin paper – the print bleeds through, further muddling what you’re trying to read.) I can only handle it in small chunks, which makes the research slow-going. It’s frustrating because I’m usually a fast reader.

A bright spot: our 6th grandchild was born in March. Although we don’t get to see him much, son & daughter-in-law are great about posting pics on Facebook so I’ve been able to watch him grow that way. The other 5 are growing like weeds and we delight in every accomplishment.

The planning: first and foremost, completing the aforementioned research and actually start writing! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel but I’m not quite there, yet. I’m hoping to have a first draft completed sometime in the 4th quarter of 2018. That means actual release mid 2019.

Also writing related: figure out how to get myself out of the fiction funk. I’ve only written a few thousand words on Amy’s third adventure with Ev this year. Although I know what has to happen, I haven’t been able to talk myself into sitting down and typing it out.

I need to almost completely replant the garden. 2016 was a drought; 2017 was so wet I had pools rather than raised beds a lot of the time. You know it’s been a stressful couple of years when the catnip gives up.

And finally…finish up the work on the house so I can enjoy the peace & quiet for a few months until my husband retires late next year and will be home all the time (eek!). The weather hasn’t cooperated with some of the outside work and local contractors don’t seem to want or need my business to do the few things I want done inside. I suspect it’ll be next spring before my sidewalks are finally finished (they were started in August). I solved one inside problem by calling someone I know down in Atlanta who agreed to come all the way up here. That’s what I call service!

Whatever and however you celebrate, I hope this is one of the best holidays seasons for you!

 

*Yuletide was once celebrated for 13 days, starting with the first full moon after the Winter Solstice. So, going by what our ancestors did, that would be January 1-12, 2018. I gave up trying to follow that calendar a few years ago, and now go with the general pagan definition of 13 days beginning on the Winter Solstice (as opposed to the Christian definition of 13 days starting on December 25th). It’s just easier…

 

 

2017 Solar Eclipse Thoughts

Pick any superlative adjective … it was all that and more.

We were lucky enough to be in the path of totality so invited friends who weren’t to join us on the deck for a day of fun and a (probably) once-in-a-lifetime experience. At the time I issued the invitation, no one knew what the weather was going to be like. Summer afternoons in Georgia can be anywhere from perfectly clear, to partly cloudy, to popup showers/thunderstorms, to completely covered up. Even the morning of, the “local” (Atlanta) meteorologists were predicting 30% cloud cover in the areas of totality in Georgia. It was a crapshoot.

We lucked out and as guests started arriving, it was perfectly clear. Which meant wonderful viewing but on a deck that gets 12 hours of direct sun, it was toasty! Adult beverages, lots of conversation, and some guitar jamming by my husband and a friend … it was a party!

I did, however, watch some clouds building in the south with a little apprehension. Would they hold off?

A light lunch, then sky-watching – it was still clear above us. It started shortly after 1:00 p.m. I wanted photos but had read that taking a direct photo of the sun can harm the camera lens on a phone, so ingeniously (I thought), I taped a lens from a pair of viewing glasses over my phone’s lens. Nope. Just an orange blur. I even tried the same thing on our regular camera. Not quite as blurry as the phone but still didn’t show anything of import. The photo below was taken with my phone at totality without any filter. The sun’s corona still overloaded the camera so you can’t even tell the moon is in front!

I’m still heaving a big sigh. However, we do have a lot of trees which become a good filter if you look down, rather than up. See the half-moons?

The moment (a little over a minute) of totality was probably the most awesome thing. The lighting was a nice twilight (ah, a little relief from the heat!) but the silence. No birdsong, no bugs’ buzz, not even the usual slight background hum from the 4-lane four miles away. It wasn’t quite dark enough for the night critters to start their song, either. Just a couple of quiet “wows” from us.

The “diamond” appeared (the first glimpse of the sun as the moon moves out of the way) and that moment was almost over. We were still quiet until…a small plane flew by. That ruined the moment and it went back to being a party again. The clouds finally made it this far north about an hour after totality (we even had a very brief shower) and obscured the rest of the eclipse but that was okay.

I didn’t experience any “woo” during the eclipse but I can tell you that neither my husband nor I slept at all well that night. We’re wondering if it messed with our circadian rhythms a little. Thankfully, it was just one night – I slept like a log last night!

I’ve been thinking about that day since then. Unless we travel (which we might), husband and I will never see a total eclipse again in our lifetimes. (If we travel, I will definitely buy a real solar filter for the camera.) But what I really took away from it:

There were ten people on our deck that day. All friends of ours, to be sure (which automatically means they’re cool people), but they’d never met each other before. Christians, Pagans of different paths, Agnostics, and Atheists all intermingling, enjoying themselves, and making new friends. I wish that would happen more in the wider world.