Leaving Blogger--Moving Blog

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Lughnasadh--the First Harvest

People are always asking me about the holidays I celebrate.*

Tomorrow is one of our Sabbats (pagan holidays). Lughnasadh (pronounced in a number of ways, but we pronounce it Loogh-na-sah, but it’s also pronounced Loo-na-sah). My coven will be celebrating.

The seventh holiday in the Pagan year (which starts on November 1st, with Samhain), Lughnasadh is celebrated on August first.

There are a number of stories about the origin of the holiday, but in the modern era, a number of the pagan celebrations focus on the holiday as the First Harvest—the harvest of grains.

It’s the time when the spirit/God of the grain is sacrificed so that the people might live through the coming winter months.  This spirit is personified by the name John Barleycorn.  In Lammas, the Christianized version of Lughnasadh, we see a strong connection to the sacrifice of the grain god, for Lammas means loaf mass.

In our tradition, we also see it as the time when the Oak King, who fell to the Holly King at midsummer, journeys deep into the underworld where he will rest until Yule when they will battle once again and the Holly will fall.  The Holly King increases his grasp over the season as the days grow shorter.  As the fruits of the Lady ripen, she becomes the Dark Goddess, the Crone, who sacrifices the God of grain so that the people might live.

Blackberries are intricately linked with Lughnasadh, as is the berry known as bilberry (a dwarf blueberry).  Both ripen at this time of year and both have been important food staples in history.  With berries, one could make jam which would keep for long periods, or ferment them into wines.

On a personal level, we focus on our individual sacrifices—making adjustments to our behaviors and goals, in order to harvest what we’ve started earlier this year, and in order to grow stronger and more focused in our lives.

We honor the grain spirit (we personally honor the Corn spirit aspect of the Grain Gods, because corn is such an intricate part of the United States). We also make our corn dollies at this time of year—or a variant of them (I like using cinnamon brooms to make them because of their smell and their shape), which represent the Corn Mother, who watches over the household with prosperity and abundance until the next holiday season.

So that’s what Lughnasadh is. J And to my fellow Pagans: whether you are solitary (as I was for many years—by choice) or in a group, I hope that your celebrations go well, as the Wheel of the Year turns once again.


*some of this info comes from my book Dancing With the Sun


RWA12 Recap!

Long post here!

So Andria (my assistant) and I traveled to Anaheim last week for the RWA National Conference, 2012. I’ve never been to Nationals, only to the regional Emerald City Writers Conference which is great—but not nearly as huge as Nationals. Over 2000 writers, aspiring writers, and industry peeps descend for a week of workshops, book signings, networking, and an awards presentation  that is—for this genre—one of the “Academy Awards” type ceremony of romance.

Headed to RWA--our beautiful Mount Rainier, from the plane.

Why I love living in the Puget Sound area. Seattle from the air.

Caught the sun in my camera--with Mount Rainier in the distance.

With that preface, here’s my recap of the RWA Nationals Conference.

First, the personal. So I got to have dinner with my editor—the second time we’ve met, but only the first time since we’ve been working together, and we spent well over two hours talking. It was wonderful and confirmed to me just why I love working with her. Not only is Kate a fantastic editor, but she’s a great human being, too. We had a blast and it feels so good to have finally connected.

I also finally got to meet some of the other Berkley peeps I really needed to touch base with, including the head of Berkley, the head of publicity, someone from marketing, and—once again—Jodi from publicity, who is just awesome-sauce on her own. I met my French publisher, and found out that I apparently am very popular with the French (which made me happy). So on a professional level, it was excellent networking for me. I wish my agent could have been there, but unfortunately, she couldn’t make it this year.

I also got to hang with some of my beloved author peeps—the ones who are friends as well as peers. I was especially thrilled to hang with Ann Aguirre. We met for breakfast and then just hung out in my room and caught up. Ann is one of the most down-to-earth, incredibly genuine people I’ve met in a long time, and we got to spend time together at both RT and RWA, and I’ve decided that some time, I’m going to drag her home and keep her. (Hey, Mom, can I keep her??? She followed me home!). I’m absolutely thrilled she won a RITA award—if anybody deserves one, she does.

I spent one lunch with Alyssa Day, another good bud of mine. We caught up on life, work, and everything in between. And I’m on an author loop with Kate Douglas, Ann Macela, Eileen Wilks, and Melissa Mayhue and we spent part of one morning together. It was as if we’d already met in person—we’ve been talking so long online about so much of our lives.

At RT, I met Shawntelle Madison, Kerry Shafer, and Leigh Evans, and it was wonderful to reconnect at RWA and hang in the bar with them. I’ve decided I need to convince them to move up here to the PNW so we can all hang out together on a regular basis.

Eileen Wilks, Kate Douglas, Ann Macela, and Melissa Mayhue

There were a lot of other authors I got to touch base with in person, who I’ve met on Twitter. That is one wonderful thing about these conventions and conferences—meeting up with your peers, talking about both our personal lives and business. Writers are hardwired in a different way and it’s really comforting to meet people who understand the weird mindset we tend to have.

So, reconnecting with beloved friends, and meeting new peeps was one great part of RWA.

And then there were the workshops. I didn’t go to many, but what I did attend was extremely helpful. Industry news that will be of help to me in promoting and marketing my books—because the truth is: selling books is an inevitable part of being a career author.

The bottom line is, we need to sell books in order to continue writing for a living, and in order to keep our contracts and pay the mortgage, and though it feels like a touchy subject at times, it shouldn’t be. Nobody disses someone working in retail for needing to do a good job in order to keep their position, but for some reason, there seems to be a hesitance about discussing the necessity for sales in order to keep contracts going. But the fact is, if my books didn’t sell at a good clip, I wouldn’t be able to write three books a year because I’d be off at a job that would pay the bills. I’d probably be writing, at most, one. If that. So yes, the workshops were good and I learned a lot.

By the Anaheim Convention Center.

The Anaheim Convention Center, where the Literacy Signing was held.

Setting up for the Literacy Signing, where over 400 authors would soon descend to sign their books.

Authors in action!

Another great thing at RWA was getting to meet some of my fans at the Literacy Signing. I was thrilled that my books sold out! And it was great to meet everybody. I’m always so humbled by how much you guys love my work, and it’s one of the greatest compliments that I can get to see you show up at the signings or hear from you online or via the mail. (Well, as long as it’s not hate mail—grins—that I don’t like so much). And also, it was so gratifying to meet other authors who love my work. I never expect my friends to read my work, but it sure feels wonderful when they do.

The RITA Awards ceremony was Saturday night, and I was asked to present one of the Golden Heart awards. I was honored to be asked, and it makes me smile to know I helped make Lorenda Christensen’s night so special by announcing her as the paranormal Golden Heart winner! People were dressed to the nines—we’re talking sequins and satin and silk and shawls.

Sitting on the balcony and looking across at the Hilton.

Another view from the balcony.

Staring down at my friends Sassy Outwater and Kody (her guide dog).

The travel there and back actually went fairly smoothly. The hotel was excellent—they were so accommodating and they had a FULL SERVICE Starbucks there—I mean full service! The staff was incredible, and they were always available to help when necessary. Andria and I were so impressed.

Oh yeah, and lastly—one of the wonderful perks—lots of free books! I emptied one suitcase of author swag for my fans, and brought it back filled with books. *grins* As if my TBR bookcase isn’t full enough!

So there it is, short recap of RWA12, and yes, I plan on being in Atlanta GA next year for the next one.



Answering Reader Questions

Q: What do you do to coax your muse back into the groove when she decides to take a hiatus from you?
A: That, I actually answered Here in this post. J

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the sisters and Otherworld?
A: The Sisters of the Moon series just flew in one night, when I was sitting there, watching TV. All of a sudden, they were there in my mind, introducing themselves, and I was like, “Oh, hello. This sounds like fun!” That’s where the series started. My subconscious works on its own a lot. I feed it all sorts of ideas and when they’re ready, it kind of rubs my nose in them and says, “See!!!?? A new one is born!”

Q: What would I have to do to get you to come to Melbourne, Australia?!
A: LOL, increase my readership enough so that my assistant and I could afford the trip, and then decide what books I shouldn’t write in order to give me the time to travel that far. My publisher doesn’t pay for my appearances. Seriously, though, in a couple of years, I’d like to make it to Europe/the UK, but I don’t know when that will happen.

Q: Do you think you may come to the east cost for any signings.
A: I’m working on the upper east coast right now—I may be able to travel there next year. I do plan on a trip to the RT Convention in Kansas City MO, in May. And to RWA Nationals in Atlanta GA, in July.

Q: What helps you with writing block if it ever happens?
A: I addressed this issue HERE and in THIS post. J

Q: Do any of your characters represent you?
A: Not totally, of course not, but I'm a lot like Camille in many ways--or should I say she's a lot like me? And I have Menolly's temper. Of course, I love cats--so there's Delilah. I think all characters have a little of the writer in them, and even the villains, too.

I have a LOT of writing advice on this blog and you can find a list of most of the posts HERE.  More questions and answers later!



Guest Blogger: Jess Haines

Jess Haines
While I am winging my way down to RWA Nationals, I thought I'd leave you with a guest post from an author I met on Twitter, who I have really come to like. Jess Haines is witty, funny, and talented, (and more than a little snarky--in a GOOD way). So here she is to talk about supernaturals, her books, and the melding of the two. ---Yasmine
Hello there!  Jess Haines here.  I’m the author of the urban fantasy H&W Investigations series: HUNTED BY THE OTHERS, TAKEN BY THE OTHERS, DECEIVED BY THE OTHERS, and the recently released STALKING THE OTHERS

I love me some books with sexy supernaturals in them. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had a love of dragons, vampires, werewolves, wizards—you name it.  Once I got older, I realized that there were books out there that catered to this love in a way that my favorite fantasy novels did not.

Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire was the book/movie that really spurred my obsession with the undead as a teenager. It sparked the idea that a supernatural creature in a story could be more than just a bloodthirsty, ravening monster. Later, when I discovered things like the Vampire: The Masquerade roleplaying game and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show, I realized just how limited my view of these monsters really was.

Vampires did not have to be disgusting creatures that ravaged their prey, killing whomever they sank their fangs into.  Werewolves did not have to be mindless beasts with no concept of anything but hunger and a passion for destruction.  Wizards did not have to be all-powerful demigods with no discernible weakness or human flaws.

While I occasionally enjoy reading paranormal romance where the supernatural creatures have blunted fangs and claws, there’s something dark and delicious about knowing that the love interest holds the power of life or death over the main character. There’s something tantalizing about knowing that at any moment the werewolf could lose its hold over the beast within, that the vampire might abandon itself to its hungers, that the demon could show its true nature and take the soul of its unsuspecting victim—and there is nothing quite like the majesty of seeing one of those dark beings revert its fall from grace to become a better person. Though it’s easy to make a story like that come across as corny, sappy, unbelievable, or a combination thereof, when it’s done right, it makes for some truly fascinating reading.

When there is no threat of danger, these characters cease to be interesting. What is the point of making a character a monster if they show no evidence of that monstrous nature? Why should they be feared or revered when there is no evidence of what is hiding beneath the human fa├žade? 

Making supernatural characters both believable and frightening is something I strive to achieve with my work. Aside from whatever else they might be, they are people. They have hopes, fears, and dreams. Families, after a fashion, and homes, and jobs, the need to pay taxes, to vote, and to be upstanding citizens.  And while their desires may not be what you would expect of someone normal, they crave the warmth and normalcy of human interaction, just like everybody else. The only problem is that it is tempered by a beast lurking beneath the surface, ready to slice through the veneer of humanity with fangs and claws at any given moment with the right provocation.

That, I think, is what makes them so intriguing to write and to read about. When a vampire kills for the sake of killing, or a werewolf goes on a mindless, murdering rampage, there is little conflict aside from “oh, just another monster—yawn”.  I find it much more compelling to read about a werewolf who has to fight against the desire to shift and hunt the one they love, or the vampire who aches to fill the emptiness of their lives by turning their love interest—whether that person wants it or not. 

What do you think?  What makes for an interesting story involving a supernatural character in your book?

Want to talk to me about your favorite sexy supernatural critters? Visit me on the web:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JessHainesAuthor
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#%21/Jess_Haines
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/jesshaines

Thanks again for having me, Yasmine!


Spiders Dreaming

I had nightmares a couple nights ago. Or rather, one prolonged nightmare about spiders. About not being able to avoid them, getting caught in their webs, getting them on me. These weren’t the terrifying big brown house spiders that I absolutely loathe—(we get the giant European house spiders here. Really really scare the hell out of me, especially since I am arachnophobic).

No, I was dreaming about the argiopes—they’re the big orb weaver garden spiders we get here. While I think they’re rather striking in looks, I sure don’t want them on me. And while I appreciate they stay in their webs, they have a habit of building everywhere—across paths, from tree to tree, from the grill to the hanging tomato baskets. Yeah, if they can latch onto it, they build their webs there.

So in my dream, I was trying to get through this lawn toward a house, and everywhere I turned, there were webs. I’d take a step and get caught in one. More than once, a spider was almost on me, hanging from their thread, and I’d be screaming while friends tried to get them off me before I went ballistic. I couldn’t turn around without a spider being there.

Aside from being one of my more common nightmares (being trapped around webs), it feels like this dream might have a bit more meaning. Spider is the weaver of language, (you’d think I’d like her more, but phobias are really ingrained illogical fears and frankly, though I’ve worked on it, the fear is definitely entrenched).

Often, I construe spider in a dream to mean—what am I weaving in my life? Am I getting caught by my own snares/webs? She is Arachne, the weaver. She is Grandmother Spider. She is also a hunter, a weaver, one who constructs, her number is 8 (8 legs, 8 eyes) (which is interesting since numerologically, 8 is a huge factor in my name/birthdate/life), so she is success and foundation.

However, I felt trapped by her webs, trapped and unable to get free from them. This again, could have several meanings—from being forced to look at a situation, to being trapped by something in my life, to being unable to shake off something that perhaps I’m meant to experience.

My fears of spider stem from having them on me and I have deep rooted childhood anxiety about this. The webs themselves don’t bother me, unless a spider is in them. I think that—while this was definitely a nightmare in that I’m terrified of them—it was also a tap on the shoulder. Spider wants me to look at something, to pay attention to something she’s trying to tell me and by putting me in a situation where I can’t get away from her/the webs, she’s forcing me to confront an issue in my life.

The setting of the dream was pleasant, usually when my spider nightmares are there, they’re related to childhood (and I fully understand the impact/messages in those), but this setting was out of doors, not inside, and it was in a pretty area. So it wasn’t related to my childhood.

Now, the key will be to finding out what issue she’s bringing up for me to face, and then examine it. And that, is something that only meditation and my tarot cards can help.

The key to dream analysis is to figure out what the symbols of the dreams mean to you, on a personal level. Which is why when people ask me about their dreams, I tell them they have to figure it out for themselves, unless I know them on a personal level to the point of where I know what is going on in their lives.

Anyway…so yes, Argiope visited me in my dreams. And I hope I figure out her message before long because I really don’t want a repeat visit.

Do you understand your dreams? Do you even remember them? I always get amazed by people who don’t remember their dreams because I’m such a vivid dreamer, and I always dream in color. And what have been some of your most striking dreams that left you going, ‘there’s a message in that!’?