On the business/career front, the first Indigo Court book came out and stirred up mixed reviews but a lot of new fans. The Otherworld Series continues to sell well, fans seem happier with each book, and that makes me happy. There are at least two more IC books to come out and there will be at least four more Otherworld books and one OW novella in the foreseeable future. So mostly the career changes were positive.
Some changes that did happen on the cyberfront: I took down my forums after we got badly hacked. I took down the Sisters of the Moon blog because it was mostly stagnant. And the biggest, really: the Witchy Chicks are closing down at the end of the month. After five years of group blogging, the blog’s starting to get tired and we, as a group, have grown too busy and diverse to fit in a neat little slot anymore. It’s time for change, for evolution, to move and grow on our own. I’ll be doing more blogging here, on my personal blog and that I look forward to. I need to just focus on my own space for awhile, and I know several of the other Witchy Chicks do too. So we stay dear friends, but the group blog will end on the 1st, with my final goodbye from there.
I’ve been working on changing my body and really am throwing energy into that. I need to lose some weight (I’m over my comfort zone). I need to get fit—I’m not fit right now. I need to recover some of the strength I had before the accident so long ago. I just want to feel better and fit into a few sizes smaller—not HUGE goals, but definitely big ones for me. I know what works for me—eating more meats, fruits, veggies, cutting out the starches and sugars, exercising more…I just have to be consistent. Over the past year or so I’ve made it up to two workouts a week…now I’m adding in half an hour of stationary biking a day and now—stretching.
And at home? We bought our first house so I’m deeply involved in making it ours, in strengthening our bond to it, in figuring out just what and where and how…fill in the blank to those questions. My magic has also reared its head again and I’m longing to spend more time in my own thoughts, working with energy, listening to the ebb and flow of the world.
And next month—perhaps the biggest change for me: I turn fifty. Yes, I will be fifty years old on January 17th. I haven’t wanted to claim the number. I’ve never been one of the women who say, “I earned those wrinkles” or “When you get to my age…” I firmly believe in timelessness, not eternal youth, but in remaining timeless throughout life. Those lovely elderly women who don’t deny their age but don’t wallow in the black holes the concept of aging can bring.
So yes, changes this year, on all fronts. And I’m looking forward to next year—looking forward to making it a healthy, happy, successful, and strong one. Do I have any resolutions? No. I long ago said I don’t make resolutions—I set forth goals. And then I go achieve them.
I’ve been taking some time off the past day or two—need it desperately especially after having missed most of our holiday (the Solstice) to work. So I’ve been hitting movies, etc., pretty hard the past couple days. Yesterday I watched the new Clash of the Titans. I actually liked it better than the original, mostly, though it’s not a movie I’d rent again. It was worth sitting through though. And then I watched a really bad B-grade horror movie on Netflix streaming video—the remake of the House on Haunted Hill.
Tonight, I’m watching a documentary on Everest, and who knows what afterward. I have a wide variety of tastes when it comes to movies and TV—everything from some sitcoms to action/adventure/SF/Fantasy to British drama to documentaries. And my mood can vary from hour to hour. But one thing I find: media recharges me, and I’m a very visual person so movies and TV are good inspiration and recharging material, especially if I can multitask my way through the show.
I also tend to like movies that got panned. I LOVED Queen of the Damned and it got thoroughly trashed. Avatar? Left me cold and bored, and it received massive kudos. So with me, you never know.
What about you? What do you like to watch? Do you find your moods can switch on a whim? What have been some of your favorite movies this year?
So yes, as it states on my website, I’m a shamanic Witch. I’m not Wiccan, but I am Pagan. I’m not a “New Ager.” What does this mean? Well, the answer will ramble a bit, but I've got thirty years of history to talk about here.
For a long time I worked solitary, experimenting. There weren’t many books back then to rely on—I found Starhawk’s Dreaming the Dark, and Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon. So I had to make my own path, my own way. Not many people were talking openly about being Pagan back then, either. And so I worked silently, on my own, listening to my intuition. Rather than learn rituals and rites by memorization, I learned them by experimenting. I didn’t study what the elements correspond to—I learned by meditation and intuiting, by standing in the rain, facing the wind, dancing around the fire, and digging in the dirt. I created my own path that worked for me, as the years wore on.
About five years later, I had the opportunity to join a workshop Starhawk was giving at the local college. I was amazed—there were at least sixty to seventy people there. People like me, who identified as witches, as Pagans. While I didn’t make any lasting connections there, I learned…and I realized we were all following our own paths, but we could come together and meet and discuss.
Another two years and I started hanging out at a local crystal shop, where I became friends with one of the clerks. She was into Reiki, and we decided to work out a trade—I would teach her my magic and she would initiate me in Reiki. And so we started to work together and learned how to compromise so we were both getting what we needed out of ritual.
In 1990, I left my abusive ex, and at the same time, I joined the local CUUPs group at the Universalist Unitarian Church. And there, I suddenly found that all my years of experimenting had put me into a unique spot. I had a knack for working with energy that a number of others were just learning. Over the next couple of years I began working intensively with groups, leading a large number of rituals. I spent a good two years immersed in energy work—practically the only thing I did beyond my 9-5 job. I was going through a vast series of transformations, including accepting my bisexuality, accepting that my spiritual path was growing more and more focused, realizing I needed to let go and run wild in a way I’d never really before had. I spent a couple of years in a frenzy of magic, ritual, personal discovery, and at times—personal despair.
And then, in 1991…I had a dramatic shift in my path. I had been working heavily with the goddesses Cerridwen and Inanna, but one day they both vanished. I could not feel them in my space. I was very bereft but I heard Cerridwen say, “If you are to find the goddess you are to follow, then I cannot be in your space—you need clarity.” And she left. For about three-four months, I cast around, feeling alone and adrift. I’d been so used to working with Cerridwen’s energy that I felt lost without it. But one night, I went to bed, went to sleep, and dreamed about a time shortly before I met the Goddess—another mystical experience that burned itself deeply on my soul. I saw a woman standing tall, her hair seemed to alternate between black and blonde, and I heard a voice say, “Mielikki” and then “You must be pledged to a goddess who understands the true nature of unicorns.”
Well, long story short: Mielikki is a Finnish goddess and she rules over the woodland Fae/spirits in Finnish mythology, and when I invoked her and began working with her energy, everything fell into place. It was hard to find a lot of information on her but what I did, matched up with everything I received on an intuitive level. So on Feb 29th, 1992—twelve years after I first met the Goddess—I pledged myself to Mielikki and her consort Tapio, god of the woodland. And my path began returning to solitary practice, the more specific I got. I have worked with others on Sabbats (Pagan holidays), but I do so by choice and handpicking the people I work with. I began to teach magic classes at that time, too, and spent a good year as an instructor.
A few years ago, I also pledged myself to Ukko and Akka (Rauni), the sky father and earth mother of the Finnish religion. I am not a Finnish Pagan—I would feel wrong labeling myself that—but I work with Finnish gods, and I work on a shamanic level—again, experiential. Book learning is fine, and there are some important concepts to be familiar with, but spirituality is a personal path, and must be fine-tuned to fit the person in question.
So, that’s how I came to my spiritual path. It is my heart and soul…it is who I am. It is the heart of my heart. And yet—I would never, ever say it’s the right path for anybody else. I don’t believe in trying to convert others. Paganism is a hard path at times to walk, it can be isolating, and it’s highly discriminated against. But if you are called to walk the spiral path, then listen to your heart.
In 1996, I got my first book contract—for Trancing the Witch’s Wheel, and I wrote eight nonfiction books on various magical subjects. When I broke into fiction, I was ecstatic. For one thing, I said just about everything I have to say on magic and witchcraft—I truly believe you have to get in and practice to understand it, and I wasn’t writing for academics. For another, I have always wanted to be a fantasy and science fiction author. That’s been my dream goal since I was little. Which is why I quit writing nonfiction. I have never aspired to be a guru. I’m a natural born leader, but I’m not comfortable feeling like people are relying on me to give them wisdom. To me, paganism is about questioning your beliefs, finding what works, and making the path your own. That’s the way I wrote my nonfiction. That’s the way I live my life.
To answer some common questions I get about my path:
Question: What is the difference between being Wiccan and a witch?
Answer: That would take too long to answer here, but Wiccans tend to follow a few basic concepts that I don’t, like the “rule of three” for one. Think of it this way: Wicca is like a denomination of paganism. I follow a different “denomination.”
Question: Do you still read tarot for others?
Answer: No, only for close friends and myself. I am a very accurate reader, but burnt out reading tarot on a professional level.
Question: Do you take acolytes?
Answer: No, I no longer teach magic to strangers. I am too busy with my career to invest that much time and energy into teaching. That’s one reason I wrote the nonfiction.
Question: Can you tell me how to become a pagan/witch/Wiccan?
Answer: No. But I will suggest that you read and read widely, that you examine your heart and ask yourself why you think you want to walk this path. If the answer is to gain power, then stop. If the answer is to annoy your parents, then stop. If the answer is that it’s what calls to you, that you truly want to learn the ways of magic, of the gods, of the Earth, then go forward. I have a recommended reading list that I’m attaching to this post.
Question: Will you come give a workshop/talk/etc. at my store/house/campus?
Answer: That depends—I don’t have the luxury to travel much and I do have to charge fees for the time invested. If it’s local, maybe—contact me via my assistant at gev.assistant AT gmail DOT com and spell out what your gathering’s going to be like. I no longer hold book signings just for the nonfiction, especially since so little of it is still in print. If you're local, I'm more likely to be able to do so. Local means the Seattle-Olympia-Tacoma area. And it would have to be on a weekend.
Question: Will you cast a spell for me for free/for money?
Answer: No—no exceptions. First, spells cast by yourself are far more powerful than by someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your situation. And I never cast spells for money. I’ve been offered a thousand dollars before to cast spells for people. I never accepted, even during our poorest times. If I cast a spell for a friend, it is done out of love and concern and the desire to help.
(The inevitable) Question: Aren’t you worried you’re going to hell? Do you worship Satan?
Answer: I don’t believe in Hell, not in the Christian sense, so no. Not at all. And while I do believe evil exists, no—I do not believe in Satan. Or the Christian god. I do not worship within that belief system. Be you Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Muslim, I don’t care—it’s not my place to tell you what to believe, and it really doesn’t matter to me as long as you aren’t a fanatic who uses your religion as a sledgehammer. Fanatics from ANY religion scare me.
Question: I’m a teenager who wants to become a witch but my parents don’t like it. How can I change their minds?
Answer: You can’t. Until you are eighteen, they have the right to direct your life and I would never interfere with that. But hold tight to your dream, and when you turn eighteen, it will be your choice to make. The path will be here when you are of age, and if you are still called to it, then it is up to you to embark on the journey.
Question: Isn’t being a witch or Pagan just another excuse for an orgy?
Answer: Some of my friends are polyamorous like Camille out of my Otherworld Series. Some are monogamous. Sex, in most Pagan beliefs, is seen as sacred, as given by the gods for us to enjoy. Our bodies are to be enjoyed, to be shared with others if we make a connection. Anything sexual adults choose to do in a consenting atmosphere, where nobody gets hurt (and I’m not talking S&M—that’s a different type of ‘hurt’), is up to them and them alone. Love is the greatest gift you can offer someone—love and sex—whether it be between male/female, M/M, F/F, or a group. As long as everyone is content with the arrangement. There’s too much pain in the world to worry about who’s fucking who, and who your neighbor is sharing a bed with.
Question: Do you really believe in the gods? In magic?
Answer: Yes, with all my heart. I’m also very scientific and believe that magic and science can meet on the charts…but that not all magic can be explained away with scientific terminology, and not all science is out to destroy magic. As far as the gods—they are very real to me, but I do not see any of them as omnipotent/omniscient. Nor do I see the universe as having a ‘universal consciousness’—I see it as a vast pool of energy, but genderless, mindless, every forming and rearranging, and I think we can draw on that power. Again: these are all my personal beliefs. I’m not saying others should believe the way I do.
Question: Why don’t you like to talk about your spirituality that much anymore?
Question: Are you solitary? (updated 5.20.2012)
Answer: I was for many years, then I worked with groups and led a small coven, then I went solitary again for a lot longer, and now...as of last year, I'm once again leading a small coven. It was time, and I listen to my inner guidance.
Yesterday I got to meet my friend Sassy Outwater. Sassy and I’ve known each other for going on two years online, but never had the chance to meet. This weekend she was up here in the area on business and so yesterday we picked her up from the hotel, along with her guide dog, and brought them back to our place. Jenn and Scotty joined us and the day progressed with much rejoicing.
We were going to put the gurlz in the guest room where they hang out a lot anyway, but decided to wait and see how they'd react—Kody is a golden retriever who has very polite manners.
It was something to watch. Brighid was the bravest, she could NOT believe her eyes--this THING was in the house. It wasn't a cat, it wasn't a stuffed animal, it was ALIVE and she was so wide eyed and kept circling (well out of reach) trying to figure out WTF it was.
Next, Caly decided that with this CREATURE in the house, she needed to knead Mommy...constantly. She was on me most of the day.
Meerclar just glanced at the dog and meandered the other way like, "Eh, too much trouble to get all worried about."
And Morgan finally came out and after she realized Kody couldn't get to her, she plopped down in front of the Yule tree and sort of just meandered off into her own little world again--the sweet blank look like, "Oh, okay...whatever..."
I've never actually met a guide dog up close and personal before. I knew that you don't touch before asking, etc., and was amazed by how well trained he was. He was also very sweet and loved getting petted and sat politely at the table with my friend, without trying to get the lamb (though he looked Very Willing to take any handouts). LOL
It was a wonderful visit, we had other mutual friends over, I made rack of lamb and roasted red potatoes for dinner (and believe me, fielding my allergies/intolerances, Sassy’s anaphylactic peanut allergy, an onion allergy, another dairy allergy…I think I scored big point on a dinner everybody could eat). The guys went on a man-date to Tron (mainly because Jenn and I had no interest in seeing it) and Jenn, Sassy and I sat around discussing anything and everything.
Our evening didn't end till 1 AM but all the way through, I was really impressed by Kody's manners, and meeting Sassy in person was the highlight of the month! She’s an incredible musician and a brilliant, talented, and determined person.
I'm asked for this post several times a year, and so I think I've posted it on several sites but by now I can't remember where, so here it is again, without further ado:
MY RESEARCH NOTEBOOK FROM HELL! (or: How Yasmine Stays As Sane As She Does)
I’ve often been asked, “How do you create your worlds? What techniques or tools do you use to visualize your characters and their Universe and keep everything straight in your head?”
My answer won’t work for everybody—I’m so Type A, I could put Martha Stewart to shame. I’m naturally organized so I capitalize on it. But maybe this will give you some ideas for your own work practices.
As to the first: how do I create my worlds?
It’s more like I discover them. They unfold as I go along. I’m not one of those writers who sits down and plans out every detail of the world and characters I’m writing about. I just can’t write that way. I can plot out a story, but the world? I feel like I’m explorer—discovering new lands as I write my way through the journey. The same with the characters—they expose bits and pieces of them as we go along, learning to trust me as I learn to trust them. It’s a very symbiotic relationship and sometimes requires a leap of faith for me that everything will make sense in the end. And it always does.
I could write an entire book on the first two questions, so am going to, instead, focus on the nuts and bolts of the third: how do I keep everything in a series straight in my head?
1. I always carry a notepad because when I'm eating breakfast or in the car, sometimes a flash or idea will show up and I need to make sure I write it down so it will be there when I need it, safe and secure. I’m going to graduate to a digital recorder that interfaces with my computer as soon as I find one I like. Someday.
2. After the first few chapters, once I have a feel for the direction of the book, before I begin each new chapter, I write up a bullet list of things that need to happen in that chapter: highlights, nothing more extensive. That way I don't forget my immediate destination.
3. From the beginning, as I’m writing rough draft, I keep what I call a reverse chapter outline of what happens—again, highlights and subplots. After I finish writing a chapter, I go through and write up the highlights—again, a bullet list, along with the date on which the chapter took place. Say something suddenly happens in Chapter 6 that I didn’t expect, that will require foreshadowing in Chapter 1. On my reverse outline, next to the list of what happened in chapter 1, I’ll jot down a note to remind myself to include the foreshadowing during revisions.
4. If the opposite happens—say something happens in Chapter 4 that will alter the story from the synopsis later on, I’ll jot down a note on the synopsis in the appropriate place so I remember to incorporate the evolving ideas when I get to that point in the manuscript.
5. Post-It Notes are my best friend. I keep them everywhere and write down things that I need to constantly be aware of. I stick these all over the sides of my monitor where I can see them at a glance. For example, Menolly, being a vampire, doesn’t need to breathe. I keep a Post-It up while writing her books that says, “Always Night. Doesn’t Breathe” which reminds me never to write a day scene or have her ‘take a deep breath’ unless it’s a voluntary act.
6. I use a dry erase board when I’m stuck. I brainstorm on it. Because it’s so easy to erase and then write out the next idea, I use it for working out problems in plotting when I’m stuck. Writing with colored markers seems to spur on my creativity.
7. In the reverse chapter outline that I create as I go along, I keep track of the day or night that the events of each chapter happen on so that I don’t get my time-line out of synch. I arbitrarily assign a date to the beginning of the book, and that way I can check the phases of the moon so that I end up with two full moons within a two week time frame, etc., and so that I can keep track of the sunset/sunrise times for when Menolly can be awake/asleep, and the phases of the moon since the full moon affects both Camille and Delilah’s lives so much (both charts—sunrise/sunset and moon phases, also moonrise/moonset, are kept in my resource notebook).
8. Perhaps most important: I keep a continually-evolving resource notebook. A 3” ring binder, with section dividers, it’s my bible for the series. I keep one for every series I write. I'll use the Otherworld Series as an example:
My Sisters of the Moon binder contains these sections:
The notebook also contains pockets for maps, emails from my editor and agent regarding the series as a whole, etc..
Every time I finish a new book within the series, I go through the manuscript after the revisions have been accepted, and I update the notebook. I add in the new info that came out within that book—new revelations on characters, changes to relationships, changes to characters, additional shop, street, city, lake/pond/park names, etc., new sheets for characters just introduced, advancements in series arc plots and subplots, and a one-two paragraph blurb about the latest book under the SOTM Book section.
This notebook saves my butt. It reminds me what color Chase’s eyes are, it reminds me how tall Delilah is in relation to her sisters, it reminds me that Iris’s last name is Kuusi, taken from the family she served with in Finland. It reminds me that in my world, vampires are not affected by holy water or holy symbols of any sort but they will be nauseated by garlic, and silver hurts them. The notebook allows me to keep track of continuing series subplots that are carried forward from book to book. It contains the family trees for the sisters and their immediate family (which is how I know that their father’s maternal grandmother was named Selah te Freysari). In other words, it’s the bible of my world.
So the time I invest into organization allows me to keep my info straight. And I make sure I keep a copy of everything on my computer and also in a backup location. Of course, there will always be glitches, but this method allows me to circumnavigate most of them.
So there we go, the post again, for those who haven't read it, or who did and wish they'd remembered it.
First: I can show you the NIGHT VEIL cover now! I love the stark brilliance of the white and red. And yes, NIGHT VEIL is available for pre-order.
The Moon Daughters Web Comic will be back up this week—we had to take a break (and this may happen in the future during very hectic times) to reorganize our thoughts on it, and to re-do the logistics of how much work it actually is for both Jenn and me. But it will be back up this week, so I’ll announce it on Twitter and FB when it goes up.
My donations blog is still open—leave me a comment and I’ll donate a dollar to charity. Even just a ‘hello’ will do!
The Blood Wyne ARC contests continue over on the Sisters of the Moon Blog.
I have a fantastic Gluten Free, Dairy Free fudge recipe over on my GF Blog.
OK, so here we go with the question.
First, from the Hello/Comment Page (which now substitutes for email):
To anybody who asked about the Emerald O’Brien books: Please see the FAQs. I mean it when I say check the FAQs—please, peeps. The same questions over and over take time in which I could be answering new questions.
To Joel: Yes, Camille was born with an innate magical talent. In the OW world, witches over in OW are born witches, not just taught.
To Crazy Daisy: Sadly, I have no say over foreign distribution. I don’t know if it’s reached there yet or not, but I do know it’s due to hit the UK within a couple of months.
To KKluck: Thank you!
To Mary: When a young artist asks me if they should follow their dream or do something practical, I always say: both. You need a fall back, you really do—so while you are creating your art/writing/etc., find a day job that can support you and work at both until you reach the point (IF you reach the point—there’s no guarantee) where your art can support your lifestyle. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication but truly, it’s the best way. The majority of writers have to work day jobs. I do not, but I’m an exception and it’s taken years to be able to support myself on my work. Much luck to you! ~smiles~
To Quadroon: I will happily write a full-figured heroine (as in plus size—Camille is definitely curvy and not ‘slender’), as soon as one shows up and introduces herself to me. My characters define themselves as I write—I can’t arbitrarily change their looks or the writing stalls. But Cicely is not as thin as she’s portrayed on the cover of the Indigo Court books (I don’t have control over that at all)—she’s 140 pounds of muscle. So the answer is, yes, at some point I might indeed do that.
From my older questions list:
Question: I'm not 100% clear on whether or not the Rest of the World is aware or not of the vamps, weres, Fae and magic-born in the Indigo Court series?
Answer: Yes, the ‘rest of the world’ is most definitely aware of them. In fact, you’ll find out in NIGHT VEIL that even ‘mortals’ have their own sorts of powers. The Indigo Court world is inherently a magical world.
Question: Will there be any Indigo Court short stories? What about, um, freebies/perks?
Answer: As far as novellas, etc., I have no idea yet. Freebies/perks: have a few on the website so far. Should pick up as more books come out.
Question: Is there some sort of currency exchange for OW/Earthside?
Answer: Yes, but it’s never really played into the plots of the books so far.
Question: Have u ever thought about coming out with a book about smokeys people i know i would read it
Answer: There will be more about Smoky and the dragons in Courting Darkness. As far as an entire book about them—at present there are no plans but I’m not going to say there never will be.
Question: Is Songs of Love and Death out now?
Answer: Yes, it is, but it’s hardback so it might not be in some bookstores.
Question: Why can’t I enter your book contests when I’m under 18?
Answer: Because of the mature subject matter covered in the books and the chances of pissing off some parent who doesn’t want their kid reading explicit sexual scenes. ~grins~ If you buy it, I have no control over that, but I can’t send a book with graphic sex scenes in it to a minor. Just not a good idea.
Okay, that’s all I have time for today.