Sonya Clark's Blog, page 8

March 14, 2013

Author Mae Clair is here today. Welcome, Mae!

What was your initial inspiration for this story?

I’ve been a fan of David Soul from the time I was a teen. A number of years ago I was searching through online movie databases when I happened upon a photo of him in a Union officer’s uniform (from the movie Manions of America). That was the first spark of inspiration in creating WEATHERING ROCK.

I like American history, particulary the Civil War period, so I decided to create a story revolving around a flawed but noble character. His name came almost immediately--Colonel Caleb DeCardian. Naturally, I had to complicate matters by making him a werewolf who time travels to the present. Arianna Hart, my heroine, is the woman he falls for and who challenges his 19th century mindset!

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book, without giving too much away of course.

My heroine‘s BFF holds a costume party where all of the major characters in the book converge. I loved describing the setting and the costumes. To liven things up, there’s a romantic encounter, a fistfight, a shocking discovery and a supernatural shower of ball lightning. Definitely a lot going on at that party, LOL.

What was the hardest part of the book to write, again without giving too much away?

The time travel loop. It has multiple facets to it, and took a lot of headache-inducing logic to figure out how everything factored together. I went through a lot of Tylenol while working out the intricacies.  :D

How long have you been writing and how did you get your start in publishing?

I wrote my first story when I was six, my first novel when I was fifteen. It wasn’t until 2012 that I decided to get serious and finally submit something. I hadn’t planned on jumping in so early in the year, but fate intervened and made the decision for me. I heard Piper Denna, editor for Lyrical Press was taking pitches on the Word Wranglers blog, so I took a chance. I was fortunate to have WEATHERING ROCK accepted the first time out, though I had to trim the size by 15,000 words.

Tell us a little about your writing process. Are you a pantser or a plotter, and if you’re a plotter what method works best for you?

Definitely a panster, though I always make a few notes before I start a new project. It gives me a framework on which to build. I always develop characters first, and then decide on plot. The story generally develops as I write

What draws you to your genre?

That’s a tough one because I like multiple genres and write in multiple genres although I’ve only published romance to date.  The most important aspect in any genre for me is the characters. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing/reading romance, mysteries, YA, thrillers, or something else entirely. As long as I care for the characters, I’ll happily camp out in the genre.

Do you need silence while you write or do you listen to music? If you listen to music, what were you listening to while writing this book?

I generally prefer silence, but I do listen to music occasionally. When I do, it’s always instrumental, usually something in the new age genre. Lyrics distract me. When I’m done with a project, I sometimes make a mix of music I feel relates to the characters and story.

Do you put much of yourself into your characters? When you do, does that make it easier or harder to write them?

There is a small portion of me that funnels through in certain characters—personality quirks, likes and dislikes--but, for the most part, I try to distant myself from my characters. By the same token, I never write a character that resembles anyone I know. I’m strangely freaky about that.

What’s the most interesting thing you ever learned while doing research for a book, or the most fun you ever had with research?

I think that has yet to come. I’m currently in beginning stages of planning a mystery/romance revolving around the legend of the Mothman, a creature that was seen by numerous witnesses in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the mid-1960s.  Because I want a good grasp of the history and setting when I start writing, I’m hoping to visit the town in the near future. It’s the first time I’ve planned a trip around a research project for a book and I’m looking forward to it.

Tell us a little about your non-writing life. Do you have a day job, hobbies, pets that demand your slavish attention?

I’m married to my high school sweetheart and work full-time. I’ve spent 20+ years in the real estate industry, hold a PA real estate license, and specialize in marketing and administration.  I lost my cat, Onyx, last year so am presently without a pet, but am a lifelong friend of felines. My husband and I hope to do some travelling over the next several years, then settle down with a cat again in the future.

Please share with us a favorite guilty pleasure that helps you unwind after a long day of writing/revising/editing, whether it’s a decadent food or a strong drink or a cheesy TV show.

The thing I love to do best is read each night before falling asleep. It really helps me unwind. I’m not much of a TV watcher, though I love Sherlock, Merlin and, most especially, Once Upon a Time. I rarely watch any of the shows when they’re on, but make sure I DVR what I can.

Any projects on the horizon for readers to look for?

I have a new Lyrical Press release coming in August called TWELFTH SUN. It’s an older woman/younger man romance/mystery that revolves around a treasure hunt for a marine artifact. I love the characters, especially my hero, Dr. Elijah Cross, a twenty-five year old marine archeologist who falls for Reagan Cassidy, my thirty-five year old heroine. She, however, is not immediately smitten, LOL.

I’m also putting the finishing touches on a romance/mystery called ECLIPSE LAKE which should be ready for submission before the end of the month. It involves two bitterly estranged brothers, a free-spirited photojournalist, and a fifteen-year-old unsolved murder that embroils them all.

I truly appreciate the opportunity to visit your blog, Sonya. Thanks so much for having me today and for letting me ramble about writing and WEATHERING ROCK. I loved being here!



Lyrical Press - Kindle - Nook - iBooks

Drawn together across centuries, will their love be strong enough to defeat an ancient curse? 

Colonel Caleb DeCardian was fighting America’s Civil War on the side of the Union when a freak shower of ball lightning transported him to the present, along with rival and former friend, Seth Reilly. Adapting to the 21st century is hard enough for the colonel, but he also has to find Seth, who cursed him to life as a werewolf. The last thing on Caleb’s mind is romance. Then fetching Arianna Hart nearly runs him down with her car. He can’t deny his attraction to the outspoken schoolteacher, but knows he should forget her.  

Arianna finds Caleb bewildering, yet intriguing: courtly manners, smoldering sensuality and eyes that glow silver at night? When she sees Civil War photographs featuring a Union officer who looks exactly like Caleb, she begins to understand the man she is falling in love with harbors multiple secrets--some of which threaten the possibility of their happiness. 

Finding a decent guy who'll commit is hard enough. How can she expect Caleb to forsake his own century to be with her?

About the author:

Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back.  Her father, an artist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars. She snagged the tail of a comet, hitched a ride, and discovered her writer’s Muse on the journey. 

Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with conflict, romance and elements of mystery. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about writing, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats. 

Mae can be found at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
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Published on March 14, 2013 05:00 • 30 views

March 11, 2013

Er, I forgot to do a February update. Well, it was a short month anyway. ;)

The developmental edits for, er, whatever FreakTown winds up being called are completed. It was hard work but worth it. The things my editor Jeff Seymour had me work on definitely made it a better book. I didn't think it was possible but I'm even more excited about the book now than I already was. Next up is line edits and copy edits and at some point a new title.

As for the current work in progress, Hoodoo Woman is just a couple hundred words shy of 75k. That makes it the longest Mojo book to date, and I'm not quite finished. I'm still not very good at estimating word count so I can't guess how much longer it will be, but it's getting very, very close. The other day I joked that the book had entered the carpal tunnel phase. The pain in my wrists is no joke, though. When I was writing FreakTown and had this problem, my doctor said it was part of the pregnancy. Well, that's not the case now! I'm going to have to do some research about how to handle this so that it stays a joke and doesn't become a serious problem. Dictation software is not something I'm remotely interested in - it would not work with my thinking and writing process. I'm also not interested in relearning how to type on a keyboard with the keys in a different place. My best bet is probably a wireless ergonomic keyboard. I told my husband he could get me that for Mother's Day. Or Supernatural on Blu-Ray, whichever. :)

I can't remember if I announced this on the blog but I'll have my first anthology release later this year. My short story Musicmage will appear in Dark Harvest, released by Dark Continents Publishing and edited by Nerine Dorman. This is a project I'm pretty excited about. For one thing, I was invited to participate, which is so very cool, and for another, I just really love this little story. It's about magic, of course, and music, of course, and, well, I just love it. So that's really cool and I look forward to its release.

My personal assistant is keeping things exciting. The other day I put her down for a nap and went to check on her after a few minutes when I could still hear her babbling. She had worked herself into a sitting position! She's been sitting up for a while but this was the first time she did it on her own. We're still waiting on teeth and crawling. Here's a pic from this weekend:

I had two picked out for possible inclusion and asked my husband for his opinion. In one she looked thoughtful, in the other maniacal. Of course he went with maniacal. :) She was babbling up a storm when this was taken. Sometimes she bops her head as if keeping time with music only she can hear. I've joked about there being pixies in the house now that only she can see (which would explain the occasional tiny flash of glitter that will show up in random spots on the carpet or the furniture). I like the idea that she has brought her own magic into the house.
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Published on March 11, 2013 05:00 • 33 views

March 7, 2013

< - Part 1

I met my best friend Daniel* at an Indian restaurant downtown shortly after dark. Not that he ate, being a vampire, but he was a bit of foodie and enjoyed the smells of good food and whatever descriptions I could give him of the taste. I filled up my plate at the buffet and joined him at our corner table.

Dark blond hair, blue eyes, an athletic build and a movie star’s face, Daniel always drew attention, even sitting in a corner in a low-lit restaurant. As I took my seat I noticed a woman ignoring her date and checking out Daniel like he was the daily special. I was sure he noticed, but he didn’t act like he did. Instead, he started questioning me about my new case. Again.

“Are you sure this is a good idea? It doesn’t sound very safe to me.” He sipped his sweet tea and looked over my plate.

“It’s not like I’ve never been in a graveyard at night.”

“Yeah, but that far away from home. What if something happens and you need help?”

“What could happen? You expecting hellhounds to come after me? I’ll be fine.”

He shook his head, lips pursed in disapproval. “No, I don’t think this is a good idea. It’s too dangerous.”

I dropped my fork on the plate in frustration. “Why are you being such a killjoy about this? I’m a grown-up, I can take care of myself.”

“I know you can take care of yourself. This isn’t your usual thing, though. We’re not talking about a ghost playing tricks in somebody’s house. We’re talking about demons, Roxie.”

Daniel had a habit of getting over-protective, and it could be real damn annoying. “I seriously doubt there are any demons hanging around Mississippi graveyards at night. If I run into anything, it’ll be teenagers out partying.”

He leaned closer, his expression intense. “You’re talking about disturbing the grave of a man who made a deal with a demon. That doesn’t sound like a lark to me, Roxie.”

“Oh, come on…”

“No, you come on. You’ve never had any dealing with this sort of thing. I know you’ve seen a lot of ghosts. Seen some other things, too. But never anything like this. This is not even in the same zip code as dealing with ghosts.”

“I have no intention of standing in some crossroads and summoning a demon. I’m just gonna go dig in the dirt a little. Really, I’m not worried. Not in the least.”

He sat back in his chair. I continued eating, making short work of the curry chicken. I wasn’t lying to Daniel. I really didn’t think anything would happen. It might be creepy as hell, but that’s pretty much my stock in trade. I didn’t believe any demons would be making an appearance. For one thing, there would be no reason for it. Collecting a little graveyard dirt was a far cry from a summoning rite.

Daniel broke into a smile. “You said you have to do this at night, right?”

I nodded. “Yeah, the guy wants it done at night under a dark moon and no way are you going with me. I do not need a babysitter.”

“Oh, come on. It’ll be fun. It’s been a long time since I did a road trip. We can drive at night, I can stay indoors during the day.”


“It’s winter. Nice long nights. Hey, how late you do suppose Graceland stays open?”

I pictured Daniel shopping for crazy souvenirs, surrounded by blue haired old ladies and foreign tourists. If there was only one limited edition Elvis teddy bear in a gold lame suit left, who would win that fight?

“I’m not even going through Memphis. You know I hate to drive in Memphis.”

“Back roads, huh? Well, that’s even better.”

I knew I’d already lost so I didn’t fight it. Daniel never used his vampire mind whammy on me but even so he could be damned persuasive. And persistent. And really, it probably wouldn’t be that bad. Might even be fun.

“So we leave day after tomorrow?” I nodded. He was in full planning mode now. “Come by the house right before sunset then. We’ll leave from there. Make sure you check what the weather’s going to be like so you pack appropriately.”

“Yes, momma.”

He ignored the dig. “It’s winter but it’s late winter and the weather can be unpredictable. Probably a little warmer since we’re going further south. Oh, and bring some CDs for when it’s your turn to drive.”

I gave him the eyebrow. “Driver chooses the music, huh?”

“Of course,” he said, throwing his hands wide. “I just got a new Conway Twitty greatest hits. I will be sure to bring that.”

“Oh boy,” I said, grinning, suddenly feeling a little queasy at the thought of hours in the car with Daniel and his classic country CD collection.

Part 3 ->

This week's musical selection, Kind Hearted Woman. I've always loved the line, "she's a kind hearted woman, studies evil all the time."

 * If you're not familiar with my Mojo series, Daniel is Roxie's ancestor. She doesn't know it yet in this story but she does in the first book. I need to write the story of how she finds out. I'm pointing this out because I think my brains would leak out of my ears if anyone suggested they would make a great couple! Ha. Although Daniel is awesome...
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Published on March 07, 2013 20:16 • 21 views

February 28, 2013

Goofer Dust Blues is another Mojo short story, and if it weren't for this one the Mojo series wouldn't exist. I had about half of what became Mojo Queen written when I ran into trouble and stopped to write a short story to help me get to know the characters. I wound up posting it as a free read on my first (long since deleted) website, and my first editor at Lyrical Press, Nerine Dorman, read it. Nerine saw something in it she wanted more of and let me know, so I untangled my problems with the manuscript as quick as I could and submitted Mojo Queen. Goofer Dust Blues itself is a bit of a valentine to the blues, the places that gave it shape in Mississippi, and my long-time obsession, the man I like to call the Big Bad Hoodoo Daddy of the Blues, Robert Johnson. For Friday Flash purposes I've managed to break it down into eight parts, some of them a bit over the usual word count limit, some under. I hope you enjoy, feel free to take a look at the Mojo series if you like it, and most of all - thank you, Nerine! Thank you so much!


I pegged the guy for a lawyer as soon as he strolled in the door. His handmade suit looked way too nice for this neighborhood. I put down my paperback and sat up straighter, adjusted my glasses, hoping I didn’t have any rips in the old flannel shirt I was wearing. I don’t often get people that look this prosperous here at the office. Not that the rich don’t ever find themselves being haunted, cursed, or stalked by overzealous brownies, but when they hire me they usually want me to come to them. Just wouldn’t do to be seen walking into a place labeled Mathis Paranormal Investigations. I might have expected attitude from someone like him, especially if he was a lawyer dispatched to do something a client found distasteful. This guy, though, had the attitude of a kid on a field trip to the zoo.

“Miss Mathis, I presume.” He greeted me with cheer and an English accent, extending his hand and smiling.

“That’s right,” I said, rising from the sofa and shaking his hand. I offered him coffee and a place to sit, both of which he accepted. I set about making the coffee and asked, “What can I do for you?”

He pulled a business card from inside his suit jacket and placed it on the coffee table. “My name is Geoffrey Craig. I’m an attorney, and I represent a client who would like to contract your services.”

I took a seat opposite Mr. Craig, waiting for the coffee to brew. “Who’s your client?”

“No one local.” He glanced around the office, clearly curious. “Discretion is very important to my client. Very. I do hope it won't be a problem, dealing only with me.”

I shrugged. “It would depend on what you hire me to do. I take it I wouldn’t be going to the client’s house?”

Mr. Craig smiled, the corners of his eyes wrinkling. “No, this isn’t about a haunting or anything like that. Though I daresay my client might quite enjoy having a ghost as a house guest.”

I laughed, keeping my opinion to myself. A ghost for a house guest was usually about as much fun as a rabid cat for a house guest.

The lawyer continued. “My client just needs you to acquire something for him. That’s all. Very simple, really.”

Yeah, right. “Okay. What is it?” The coffee finished brewing and I got up to make two cups.

“It’s, um, sort of a curio item.” For the first time he sounded unsure of himself, as if he couldn’t quite believe he was having to do this. “You come highly recommended for both your discretion, and for dealing with things of this … special nature.”

“Milk and sugar?”

“Both, please.”

“Mr. Craig, I am a paranormal investigator. I’ve seen ghosts and poltergeists, credible evidence of reincarnation, and a sasquatch femur bone.” Plus a few other things I wasn’t going to tell him about. I placed a cup in front of him and sat. “You don’t have to tiptoe around things with me. You won’t shock me, or scare me.”

“Do you know what goofer dust is?”

I choked on my coffee and fought the urge to grab some salt and pour myself a protective circle. “Uh, yeah,” I said, hoping he didn’t notice my loss of composure.

From the look he gave me, though, I could tell he had. “My client would like you to formulate a bottle of goofer dust, with certain specific ingredients.”

Okay, I was wrong – he could shock me. “What specific ingredients?”

Mr. Craig took a long drink of his coffee, looking like he wished there was something stronger than milk and sugar in it. “My client is willing to compensate you quite handsomely for your time, your efforts, and all travel expenses.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“It’s my understanding the prime ingredient of this … substance is dirt from graves.”

I nodded.

Mr. Craig closed his eyes for the briefest of seconds, then plunged ahead. “My client would like you to use dirt from the graves of a specific person.”

Both eyebrows went up this time. The graves of a specific person … oh hell no. One person, with multiple graves. There’s no way this could be what I thought it was.

“My client would like you to use dirt from the graves of a man named Robert Johnson.”

Holy crap – it was exactly what I thought it was. Who the hell was this guy’s client? And how many of their albums did I own?

“My client has determined that the best time to do this would be in a few days time, when the moon is dark. After midnight, of course.”

I blinked, finally able to speak. “You want me to gather graveyard dirt, after midnight, under a dark moon? From the graves of Robert Johnson?” What I didn’t say was, are you freaking kidding me? “You know that stuff is bad, right? You can use this in killing spells.”

“If one were to believe in that sort of thing,” said Mr. Craig with a slight smile. “But I can assure you my client does not. He’s merely a collector of odd and unusual items.”

“I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head.

Mr. Craig leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “What would you think if I told you this wasn’t even the strangest thing in my client’s collection? Or the most, ah, potentially lethal? I’m quite certain he could do quite a bit of damage with the handful of very rare grimoires in his library. And yet he does not. As I said, my client is a collector, Miss Mathis, not a practitioner.”

He pulled a folded sheet of paper from inside his suit jacket, handed it to me. I took it with reluctance. “Here is a list of the other ingredients my client believes would be needed in the substance. And the sum of the contents of an envelope in my pocket.”

I opened the sheet, scanned the ingredients without really reading them, eyes just about popping out at the sight of the number written at the bottom of the page.

With a smile Mr. Craig said, “Another envelope with the same sum will be yours once you hand over the goofer dust.”

It took me all of two seconds to make my decision. “You know, it’s funny. I get paid in cash so much you’d think I was running some kind of sex business.”

He laughed. “I know exactly what you mean, Miss Mathis. Really, I do.”

I just bet he did. I told him to call me Roxie, and took his client’s envelope full of cash.

Part 2 ->

For added fun and musical nerdery I thought I'd include with each post a Robert Johnson original and a cover version by various artists, starting with one of my favorites, Malted Milk.

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Published on February 28, 2013 20:17 • 30 views

February 25, 2013

Today I'm pleased to welcome fellow Lyrical Press author Joanne Wadsworth to the blog to talk about one of the locations featured in her Young Adult romance, PROTECTOR.

Let me introduce you to New Zealand’s Hot Water Beach. Above is a picture of one of the most isolated and unusual beaches in the world, and being a Kiwi writer, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring these kinds of locations to you in my new release.

Hot Water Beach is as good as its name. Yes, it’s a beach where if you arrive two hours before or after low tide, you can bring a spade and hollow out a hole which fills with natural hot water. What? It’s true. The hot water actually seeps up from below and through the sand to fill the hole, so you can dig a hole as big as you want and get that fabulous spa experience, all without having to pay a cent.

Above in the picture is a snapshot of people doing just that, and this beach is one of my favorite spots. I love taking a dip in the ocean, then warming up afterwards in my very own hot water pool. Yep, gotta love that.

So, how does this phenomenon happen?

New Zealand sits on the Pacific Rim of Fire, which sounds scary, but in actual fact it isn’t. It just means we have a lot of deep underground reservoirs of superheated water and with it unusual geothermal activity like what happens at Hot Water Beach. Here at this beach there are two springs which the hot water escapes up from far below the surface. The water cools on its way up, and once hitting the surface, only comes forth if you dig for it. That’s what makes this beach so unique. A little digging, and the hot water rises. It certainly makes for a wonderful experience if you’re ever in my neck of the woods to come and see.

It’s also this uniqueness to my country which drew my interest in using various locations like this one in my new release. PROTECTOR is a young adult, fantasy romance, and within my book, I get to bring you here, to a place I hold close to my heart. You’ll get to join me and a hot cast of characters for a wonderful little taste of New Zealand.

Here’s more of a peek at my book.


Lyrical Press - Kindle - Nook - iBook


To love and protect…across worlds.

Eighteen-year-old Faith Stryker is prepared to leap out into the unknown world beyond her home shores of New Zealand to experience life. Only she never expected to encounter Magio, a planet with two warring countries, where its people reach adulthood at eighteen by coming into their strength and prophetic abilities. Only after Faith discovers she’s a Halfling--thanks to her warrior father she’s never met--does her own skill of forethought develop.

Peacio’s Prince Davio Loveria is sent to the young Faith Stryker by his grandfather, but not all goes as planned. Davio discovers Faith isn’t just a Halfling, she’s also his soul-bound mate--an intense relationship he cannot, nor will not, give up.

With two wars now waging…one of land and the other of the heart…can the young lovers find their place in the world?


Davio leaned over me, all six foot four of him, his warm honey-brown hair falling forward to curl snugly around his neck, and I longed for him, just as I had during my first sighting of him in the classroom.

“What’s happening is the bond, my mate. It will become difficult for me to keep my distance both physically and emotionally unless I leave and end this now.”

My heart hitched. “You want to leave?” I swayed closer on impulse. “Is that how this bond works? We find each other and then you leave?” God preserve his people if it did.

“No, it is not. Those mated are bonded for life if we allow the link to grow. Except that would be the most unwise choice for us to take. You are, quite clearly, neither from my country nor from my world, and as such will have no allegiance to me or my people. I have no wish to join with one who does not wish to join with me in all ways. With that being the case, I will find another when the time is right. As should you,” he added solemnly.

I frowned. Hold on--did he just say he would be joining with another woman?

I bit my tongue. That was good? I should leave it at that, right?

Jeez, what was wrong with me for questioning that choice?

“I’m sorry. We just met, and you’re right. Go find your, your--” Strangely, I struggled to get the words out and finally gave up. “Well, have yourself a nice long life, and all that.” I patted his chest roughly.

That was more like me.

The clock ticked and time slowed.

He didn’t move.

“Look at me.” He tipped up my chin, directly staring at me. “This would never work.”

“I understand. It’s been pretty awful meeting you too.” I leaned back, only to feel the pressure of his hand move around my waist to the small of my back, preventing me.

I moved to grip his arm. “Okay, you were going.”

About the author:

Reading romance books captivated Joanne Wadsworth as a teenager, particularly when she tucked herself into bed at night and continued to dream those stories as she slept. She'd visualize the direction, taking the hero and heroine on an adventure unparalleled to what she'd read. Today she is devoted to writing romance, bringing her imagination to life within the lines of young adult, and thrilling romantic suspense.

Born in New Zealand, Joanne works both as a writer and a financial controller, all while keeping up with her four energetic children and dreamy husband.

Find out more about Joanne at her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Published on February 25, 2013 05:00 • 23 views

February 12, 2013

Professor emeritus of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Jimmy Page can be seen in this video giving a lesson on music wizardry to the cleverest musicmage of his age Jack White and visiting muggle Edge.

Heh. But seriously, It Might Get Loud is a fantastic documentary for music fans, especially fans of Page and White. I am a U2 fan as well but I have to admit, Edge was out of his league in this company. One of the many things that struck me while watching this is how magnificently Page fits the role of sorcerer musician as I've always seen it in my head. Look at that coat! The way he sways with the curve and bend of the song's rhythm. And his hair - that's a head of hair you'd imagine seeing on a magician. To my knowledge Page has never written or given an interview about his magical practices/beliefs back in the days when he was known for having an interest in the occult and living in Aleister Crowley's old home. Now that would be a rock bio I'd love to read! Or even better, write. Mr Page, I'm available to work as your biographer should you be interested. But since that's unlikely to happen, perhaps one day I'll write my own fictional version of an elder sorcerer who wields a guitar rather than a wand to cast spells, who takes on a gifted, intense young apprentice prone to losing himself in the music/magic and obsessed with the blues.

Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore once referred to music as "a magic far beyond" what was taught at the school. I've long seen a connection between the two, music and magic, considering them both combinations of science (technique, practice, skill) and art (the intuitive leap into the unknown). An act of magic can cause change - so too can a song. How often has your mood been altered by hearing a piece of music at the right time? Attending a concert can leave you feeling transported, the live music lifting you to another realm, the crowd's energy creating a feedback loop with that of the musicians on stage so that it feels like a group rite of celebration in some dark corner of the night. And like a spell, music can chase your demons away, or invite them in for a long chat, depending on your purpose. There's a strange, indefinable power to music, and if that doesn't count as magic I don't know what does.
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Published on February 12, 2013 14:31 • 24 views

February 5, 2013

Magic 3 by ~Ameliy on deviantART

What is magic, and what is it not? That may sound like a dumb question but stick with me. Let's start with what magic is not.

It is not a band-aid for plot problems. It is not a cure-all for when you write yourself into a corner and can't figure out how to fix it. It is not a deus ex machina. If you want magic to serve in that capacity in your fiction, by all means do so. Just don't be surprised when readers used to books with a little more thought to them file yours as DNF (did not finish) on their Goodreads profiles.

So what is magic? I love this quote by Aleister Crowley:

Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will. 

(Illustration: It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take "magickal weapons", pen, ink, and paper; I write "incantations" — these sentences — in the "magickal language" ie, that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth "spirits", such as printers, publishers, booksellers and so forth and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of Magick by which I cause Changes to take place in conformity with my Will.)

If you don't know who Crowley was, don't worry. We'll get to that in a later post. Let's take a look at the quote. Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will . To me, that sentence means everything when it comes to magic. (Some use the k to distinguish stage magic from what we're talking about. I'm neutral on that, spell it however you want.) You want to be a writer. It is your Will to be published, so to cause a small, half-formed idea to Change into a novel - not just a novel but a publishable novel - you employ Science - everything you've ever learned about plotting, characterization, grammar, sentence structure, setting, subplots, themes, all the tools of the trade - and Art - the rhythm of language, the spontaneous ideas that come to you while engaged in something as mundane as washing the dishes, the barely remembered snatches of dreams that fall onto the page, the altered mental state that occurs when you are deep in the story and time and space have lost all meaning. We weave a spell as we write and yes, there is structure to it. Shape and form. Rules, even. But there is also art.

Aside: don't let anyone tell you it's not art because it's genre. I have no time for snobs and you shouldn't either.

Back to magic: I was writing about magic before I figured out writing itself was a form of magic. I honestly can't remember what it was that drew me to magic. Some people like to write about vampires. I've done that too. For others it's shapeshifters. Also done that. But it's magic I come back to, magic that endlessly fascinates me, for whatever reason. When I decided to use magic as a central feature in my first novel (trunked, never to see the light of day), I didn't want to be half-assed about it so I started doing research. I didn't know much but I knew I didn't want to use magic as that deus ex machina get out of jail free card, so I needed to understand how stuff worked. I needed to get a handle on the science before exploring the art.

In subsequent posts I'll get into the elements, various types of magic, famous magicians both in real life and fiction. I also plan to talk about another powerful form of magic - music. And of course my thoughts on combining science and art to create magic in your fiction that will leave readers, ahem, spellbound. (Sorry, easy joke.)

If you can think of any topics you'd like covered please feel free to say so in the comments.
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Published on February 05, 2013 20:51 • 24 views

January 30, 2013

The third Mojo book, HOODOO WOMAN, is at forty-five thousand words and going strong and steady. Roxie has gone home, asked by her old love Deputy Ray Travis (who is introduced in a scene in RED HOUSE) to help the spirit of a dead girl find rest by solving her murder. This book is going in some surprising directions. If my editor doesn't hate the changes (*fingers crossed*) then I plan to write two more, giving Roxie a nice five-book run. (Again, *fingers crossed*.) I've even got tentative titles for the next books: HOWLING FOR YOU and SEASON OF THE WITCH.

With the way things were left at the end of RED HOUSE, I had to figure out where to take Roxie, magically speaking. Her new supernatural assistant was created/conjured in the chaos of a storm, so I got to thinking about how that might change Roxie's magical practice. She's never been one for formal ceremonial magic. Chanting and fancy robes and all kinds of paraphernalia set out in the correct directions and correspondences - whew. There's a lot to that. If you're going to write about magic then you need to learn all that so you have a basis in how things work, but I wouldn't suggest sticking to it unless there's a very specific plot-related reason for it. No one wants to read about your character chanting for six hours. I've talked before about choosing hoodoo as the basis for Roxie's magic but I don't think I've talked much about Chaos magic. A very basic definition of Chaos would be: if it works, use it. (That definition is as basic as it gets. I would strongly suggest doing some research before bringing it into your own fiction. This group of articles at the Internet Sacred Text Archive is a good place to start.) I looked into Chaos because I thought it would be a good fit for Blake, but as I've written more and more in this world I think it's actually a good fit for Roxie as well. Her magic still has a foundation in hoodoo and its rootwork and other trappings, but she's also been known to send a "hex message" on a cellphone and now she's branching out even further afield. Here's a short excerpt to give you a taste:

Fat drops of rain hit my skin like coins. The wind turned my hair into a tangled flag. Energy rolled through the night, calling to the magic that dwelled deep inside. I planted my feet firmly in the wet grass, raised my hands high to touch the sky. Magic above, magic below, my body a conduit between the two sources. More than my body, everything that was me. The storm intensified, lashing me with its power. Stack, my supernatural assistant, once acted as a buffer when we first started this. Now he rode the lightning and thunder like a madman, his laughter howling right along with the wind. 

I let the storm shake me, raised my face in welcome to the rain. Blue-white lightning danced in the sky, but too far away. The storm would get closer in time, and be strong enough to shatter every nerve in my body. It seethed in my auric vision like a live thing, which of course it was. Anything with that much energy is alive, if not entirely sentient. The storm and I spoke to each other on a cellular level, in some wordless language that went beyond spells and incantations. It called to me and I gave a response. 

Lightning cracked open the dark, filling my auric vision with a whipsaw of violet. I screamed under the onslaught. The bolt hit the ground close enough for me to feel the sizzle through the soles of my shoes. Magic wrapped around me in spirals of energy. I drew it in with a breath.
The rain calmed to a steady shower rather than a frantic downpour. I relaxed my stance, whirling my arms. Light flew from my fingertips in thin streamers, the blue-white of the lightning I'd captured. I painted the dark night with it, laughing.

Recently I realized that for someone who fills their fiction with magic, I don't write about it much here on the blog. Is that something you think you'd be interested in? My aim for the blog this year is one post a week and I think it would be fun to devote some of those posts to magic. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Published on January 30, 2013 05:00 • 16 views

January 23, 2013

It's been a while since I did a general update sort of post so here goes.

Last night I posted this on Facebook despite it being way too long for a status update and thought it was worth sharing here:

A year ago I was pregnant and deep into writing FreakTown. Today I took my six month old to the post office where we mailed off the contract for that book. If she wants to read it when she's old enough, I'll tell her I wrote the book because of her. I'll tell her that it was a time when I was tempted to write what I thought might sell, instead of a story I believed in telling. That I was tempted to write something easy, because I was pregnant and nauseated and tired all the time. That I was tempted to quit writing altogether because it seemed pointless with my books not selling and nothing resulting from all the hard work I'd put into this. But that wasn't the kind of mother I wanted to be, the kind of person I wanted this baby to know, so I wrote a book that was different and off-kilter and not quite a perfect fit in any of the usual genre definitions, a book I didn't think had much chance of finding a home. I wrote it anyway because I wanted my baby to know that sometimes the only way to get where you're going is to make your own path, and even if you wind up going nowhere the journey is worth it - your independence and integrity are worth it. If it did nothing but sit on my hard drive I'd be proud of this book. But it found a publisher, although that's no guarantee it will find readers, and I hope one day she does read it and is proud of it too. Even if she says to me, "Oh god, Mom, you're not supposed to write *those* kind of scenes! Now I'm scarred for life! Buy me a car to make up for it!" So, today was a good day.

At least I didn't break down crying in the post office. I'm sure if I hunted I could find blog posts from those difficult months when I struggled with what to write, or whether to bother writing at all. I don't feel like reading them right now, I don't need the reminder of how badly I felt like a failure. My books may never find a wide readership and I may never make much money from writing, but I feel like I've found a way to tell the kinds of stories I want to tell that will at least give them a shot at finding a publisher and readers. Writing FreakTown was a watershed experience for me, creatively speaking. I recently did a tally of my written works: I've completed nine books of novella or novel length, and am now working on book ten. So it took nine books for me to start to get a handle on what I'm doing. Call me a slow learner, I don't care, every one of those eight that came before it was worth the time and effort they took to write, whether they were published or not.

This improved outlook has spread to the Mojo series. Red House was such a hard book to write and for such a very long time after I had no idea where to take those characters next, I didn't know if there would be another one. (I was also struggling with huge self-doubt, despite having two published books under my belt. That felt like a fluke, like at any time someone might come along and say, ha ha the joke's on you, we didn't really mean it when we let you think you're a published author.) I wanted to do one more Mojo to wrap it up, though, so I kept trying. I had a few ideas that went nowhere and I had an opening scene that sat around for months. Finally I had some ideas that felt like a real story, and that opening scene still worked. In fact, that opening scene told me what the book was all about. Crazy how that works sometimes. Even with outlines (which I now do) and character charts (which I tried but found useless for anything beyond remembering everybody's eye color) and goal-motivation-conflict worksheets (which, heh, no) there is still an element of magic to this. When you can feel that energy helping push the story into place, it's exhilarating and fun and worth all the nights you couldn't sleep because you were trying to work it out in your head. Mojo is back in that space full of magic and dumb luck and a wide open outline that leaves me a lot of room to wander around and play. Book three, tentatively titled Hoodoo Woman, is just shy of forty thousand words and going strong. The story and characters are going in a very unexpected direction. Part of me is scared readers will hate it because of that new direction, but I love it. I love this new direction so much, not only is this book going strong, I have stories for two more. I'll try to post an excerpt or two next week, plus a few tidbits about that new direction.

So there you have it, a general update on the writing-related goings-on around here. I leave you with this, just because:

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Published on January 23, 2013 06:00 • 24 views

January 17, 2013

Part One

Part Two

I cleaned my glasses on my shirttail to give me something to do while I thought. If this Carlyle ghost was holding on tight, as Rambin said, it had to be holding on to something. There’s always a connection between incorporeal spirits and the piece of corporeal world they haunt, something that binds that spirit to this world. A good banishing should have been able to purge the spirit from the house, unless it wasn’t the actual house keeping the ghost here. “Do you have anything that belonged to the man? Any personal objects?” I replaced my glasses and fished a ponytail holder from a pocket, pulling my hair out of my way.

The vampire shook his head. “The only thing left from back then other than the house itself is the son’s diary. It’s a hell of a read, too. Until the old man started acting crazy I thought about taking it to a publisher.”

Could that be it? Could the son have written so evocatively of his father that the man’s ghost was able to forge a link to the book? I’d never heard of anything like that but until twenty minutes ago I would have told you vampires weren’t real either. “Where’s the diary?”

“I left it on my nightstand. Why?” With his hands on his hips and a curious look on his face, Daniel Rambin did not look the least bit like a monster.

I explained my theory, having to speed it up when a pounding started on the door. The salt would hold, but we couldn’t hide in the bathroom forever. “Okay, I need to get to that diary. Can you draw the ghost away from me?”

“You want me to be bait?” I nodded. “Well, that’s a new one for me.” More pounding, then something crashed against the door. “Damn it. I love this house.” He looked frustrated, furious, a little heartsick. How old was he? How many homes had he owned? What made this one so special that he refused to give it up, even though he clearly had the money to live anywhere. A lot of questions, and I found myself hoping I’d get to know the answers. He may have been a vampire, but he seemed like a decent person. He ran a hand through his hair and nodded. “I’ll do my best. You ready?”

“Let’s do it, bubba.”

He reared his head back and gave me sharp look. “I don’t know about you calling me bubba.”

“You’ll get used to it.” I gave him a tentative pat on the arm. “Now, come on. Let’s get this over with. I need a drink.”

On the count of three Daniel flung the door open and ran, cussing at the top of his lungs like a madman. I bolted for the stairs and found his bedroom. Each side of his bed had a nightstand, both piled high with books and magazines. I went through the closest one first, finding a strange mix of Wired, Playboy, Cosmo, Vogue, and several paperback mystery novels. The other nightstand held more paperbacks, an ereader, several newspapers, and finally an old leather-bound journal. I skimmed a few pages to confirm it was what I needed.

Full of careful old-fashioned handwriting, the journal was well over a hundred years old. What a boon a discovery like this would be to a historian, what an incredible window into day to day life in that particular time and place. What a great shame to have to destroy it. Maybe if I removed it from the house, the ghost would leave. I could find someone at Vanderbilt or the University of Tennessee who’d want to study the journal.

And maybe the ghost would follow the journal and start tearing up some history department. Like it or not, I had to destroy this book. I dug my lighter out of my pocket, flicked it, got nothing. Shook it and examined it for fluid. It looked almost empty and probably wouldn’t light anymore. Spotting several candles around the room, I started searching for a lighter or matches but came up with nothing.

I heard more yelling from downstairs but couldn’t be sure if it was the ghost or the vampire. Then another crash of something breaking, followed by what was definitely the vampire swearing a blue streak. For a moment I considered what to do.

No one else was in the room. No one would see or know what I did.

I grabbed a candle off a shelf and a metal waste basket from a corner and sat on the edge of the bed. Moved everything off the nightstand to make room for the candle. Concentrating on the wick, I focused everything in me on pulling a flame out of it. Soon sweat rolled from my hairline down my face and I trembled with the effort. I felt a little sick to my stomach too but I got what I needed. The wick burst to life, giving me a nice healthy flame. I started ripping pages out of the journal, setting them on fire and dropping them into the garbage can.

By the time Daniel joined me I had a nice roaring fire in the waste basket. He kept his distance but looked pleased.

“I want to go through the house and check, but I’m pretty sure this worked.” I stayed seated, though. I felt like I’d trudged uphill through clinging mud.

“I think you’re right. It stopped breaking my stuff and it made this weird noise, almost like it was sad.”

“Guess he liked tormenting you.”

We watched the fire for a long moment in companionable silence. The vampire spoke first. “You mean what you said, about needing a drink? Cos I got the best private bar in the county downstairs.”

I took him up on his offer. After making sure the journal was nothing but ashes and the fire was out, we went downstairs.

He led me to the bar at the far side of the living room. I took a seat in one of the stools as he walked around. He turned off the Howlin’ Wolf CD then began mixing our drinks. “It’s early evening. Brunch by my watch, so I thought mimosas would be nice.”

He produced two champagne flutes, a bottle of the bubbly stuff, and a container from a small half-hidden fridge of orange juice that looked like he’d squeezed it himself. Next to all that he placed a single shot glass and a long stirring spoon. I watched as he poured the orange juice, then the champagne. He stirred the drinks gently with a steady hand, meeting my gaze with a slight smile. “You’re not scared of ghosts,” he said. He wasn’t asking.

I shook my head once. “No.”

“You don’t seem to be too scared of vampires either.” There was an unasked question in his voice.

I answered it. “I’m not scared of you. But you are the first vampire I’ve ever met.”

He replaced the spoon next to the shot glass and rested his hands on either side of our drinks. His blue eyes seemed to take a measure of me, of what I was made of. I’d already done the same to him so I couldn’t complain. “There’s two things you need to know about me, Roxie.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m not like other vampires.” He smiled, a warm friendly smile like a summer day. Then his fangs slid out in a quick motion. “But I’m still a vampire.”

I thought of my ability to see auras and ghosts. All the time I’d spent hanging out in graveyards. Using herbs and roots to do magic, throwing the bones for divination. I was no stranger to summer days but night was where I belonged. I picked up a glass and tipped it in a toast. “Here’s to long nights and strange friends,” I said with a grin.

Fangs retracted, he drew another container from the mini-fridge. Stuck it in a microwave behind the bar for thirty seconds, then filled the shot glass with its contents. Blood.

A nervous skitter ran through my stomach.

He stirred the shot of blood into his mimosa, then raised his glass to me. “Here’s to the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

We drank our cocktails and talked more about his ghost. Relaxed, got to know each other a little, got comfortable in each other’s presence. I felt no fear at all. Then at one point he turned to the stereo and said, “Hey, you like Rascal Flats?”

I choked on my mimosa. A vampire that liked country music? “Bubba, now you’re scaring me.”

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Published on January 17, 2013 20:06 • 18 views