Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas #Excerpt from Destruction

Merry Christmas! Please enjoy a free holiday excerpt from Destruction.


One of David’s earliest memories was about Christmas. Lately, he had run the memory through his head over and over, wishing he could make it ‘sticky’ so he could live it again. With so much missing, this memory of his childhood felt like a nugget of gold in his brain.

The Vandergraffs didn’t celebrate Christmas. As a child, he would have at least known why. They would have celebrated the Solstice, instead. Although, of course, he didn’t remember any of that. He just remembered the absence of Christmas and how much he hated his parents for not letting him have Christmas like all the other kids. Even as an adult, he never forgave them for this, especially since, as an adult with no understanding of wizardry, he had seen this as an arbitrary cruelty, a child abuse in its own right, one of the many things that had made Amanda’s job of gently removing the Vandergraffs from David’s life easy. As she had said, she had removed only memories of the actual physical abuse. David still had plenty left in his mind about his parents to piss him off, and no Christmas topped the list.

In first grade, right before Christmas break, all the kids talked on and on about Santa Claus. David remembered asking his teacher, Miss Atwood, why Santa Claus didn’t visit his house and if that meant he was naughty. He remembered this in part, because Miss Atwood cried when he said this, and he hadn’t seen many grown-ups cry. She had seemed old to him at the time, but David guessed Miss Atwood had just graduated college, in her early twenties. She had very curly blonde hair and wore glasses.

She told him, “No. It doesn’t mean that you’re naughty. You’re a very good boy. Santa tries very hard to visit every child, but sometimes even Santa makes mistakes. Sometimes he will spill milk on parts of his list or he will accidentally leave pages at home. He has a very hard job, you see, and he’s very old.”

The next day, she pulled him aside before recess and said, “I called Santa, and he wanted you to know he’s very sorry for missing your house. He said one of his reindeer ate some pages of his list. The missing pages were from the Nice List, and you were on it.”

“Really?”

“Yes. He wants to make sure he doesn’t miss you this year. So he wants you to write him a letter telling him what you want for Christmas. He said to give the letter to me, and I’ll make sure he gets it.”

David rushed home that day and told four-year-old James all about how Santa Claus had missed them by mistake and would come this year. They just had to write him a letter. James opened his eyes wide and ran to find David a piece of paper and a marker. David carefully wrote two letters, one for him and one for James, starting with Dear Santa and followed by a list of toys. When he couldn’t write the words, he drew pictures. He signed their names. James leaned over him and watched carefully to make sure he got it right.

David took the letters to Miss Atwood so she could give them to Santa. On Christmas Eve, he started to get nervous. They didn’t have a fireplace for him to come down. They didn’t have a tree or stockings where Santa could put presents. He should have warned Santa in the letter. Maybe that’s the real reason Santa had never come. He saw their house and thought they didn’t believe in him.

But lo and behold, Santa came right before dinner on Christmas Eve. Since they didn’t have a chimney, Santa rang the doorbell. David remembered a blast of fear and happiness at once when his father opened the door and saw Santa Claus, complete with the red suit, white beard, and bag of toys. He wished Santa had known to come at night while his parents slept, as he did for the other kids.

This bizarre appearance probably baffled David’s father so much that he forgot to be angry right away. He said, “I think you have the wrong house.”

“Is this the house of David and James Vandergraff?” Santa asked in a deep, authoritative voice.

“How do you know my sons’ names?”

“I’m Santa Claus,” Santa said, and then he winked at David’s father. Grown-up David couldn’t help but laugh at this ridiculous act.

“We didn’t ask for this,” his father said. “You need to leave.”

“Just take the presents,” Santa said, in a less Santa-like voice. He took a wrapped package out of his bag. “James, this one’s for you.”

James approached Santa like a squirrel trying to take a piece of food out of someone’s hand. Then Santa gave a gift to David.

“Merry Christmas,” Santa said and then left quickly.

David feared his father would take away his present. He looked at his brother and said, “Run.”

They ran out the back door before their parents could react and into the wooded area behind their house. They ran until they had to stop and catch their breath. He had worn only socks, and his feet hurt from running across the rocky ground, but he didn’t care. He and James sat down on the ground and opened their presents. David got a Lego set, and James got a toy car. They played with their toys in the middle of the woods until their hands got stiff with cold. David didn’t remember what happened after that.

The grown-up David figured that memory had stuck with him for a reason. A far more important memory than his little self would have ever guessed. It would have shown little dark wizard David that good magic existed, too. Because if Santa Claus wasn’t an example of a good wizard, he didn’t know what was.
---





Semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Awards and #1 category bestseller in coming of age fantasy.

About Destruction:

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything.

Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.

Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without.

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice #Excerpt from Destruction

This winter solstice, enjoy a free excerpt from the dark wizard family drama Destruction.




David and his family plus Samantha stood in a circle around a small pile of unlit firewood in the backyard. They stood arranged by age: David, Amanda, Jude, Patrick, Xavier, Samantha, Emmy, Evangeline, and then of course, David again, all twice as thick with jackets and scarves. The air felt hard with cold, a determined cold that seeped through all of David’s layers. They held candles—but no matches—in their gloved hands. The family had gone through the house, turning off lights. All of the lights. They even turned off the red lights glowing on electronics. They had unplugged the entire house. However, David could easily see. An orange haze of light peeked up from the trees. Millions of lights lit up the world all around them. Darkness didn’t exist in the middle of Houston.

As soon as they had managed to arrange themselves into a circle, the kids got quiet without David or Amanda instructing them to. Wizards standing in a circle felt significant to David. When they got in that position, they snapped into place. The air became denser around him and he was rooted to the spot, as if with extra gravity. But he didn’t feel confined. He felt powerful. He plugged into an energy source he didn’t even know existed. His fingers had an itchy, tingly feeling. He knew he could do magic.

The paper in Amanda’s hand crinkled loudly as she held it close to her face. She had done her research, which David found endearing and impressive. She had talked to Samantha and Evangeline and some of the witches Penelope’s mom knew and had created a ritual designed specifically for them, as the matriarch of the family should. Amanda had explained that he matriarch of the family always directed group spell casting, because she understood her family’s magic, the purpose of each family member, and knew how to keep them in balance—a tall order, since Amanda didn’t know much about some of the newest members of her family and knew even less about magic. But David had never known Amanda to say she couldn’t do anything, so why start now?

Amanda owning this task shocked the kids, but not David. He knew her better than anyone did. Thus, he knew her mind and the rest of her often disagreed. Her left brain dug her feet into the ground and wouldn’t budge. That part of her would say things such as “We’re not practicing magic” and “We’re divorced” until kingdom come. She would say it. She’d believe it. And she’d do the opposite, because occasionally the parts of her not governed by her left brain would break free. David may not be able to sway the left-brain side of her, but he could influence her other side, and he thought that maybe he had actually convinced her of something, for once.

And, part of Amanda had really wanted to be convinced, because wizards stayed wizards, no matter how many years they’d been indoctrinated otherwise. They listened to forces that had nothing to do with logic or reason, making them stupid, reckless, destructive, and exciting. And they liked to play with fire. Literally and figuratively.

“How am I supposed to read this in the dark?” Amanda asked. “How do people do this?”

“You’re supposed to have it memorized,” Evangeline said.

“Your eyesight is terrible,” David said. “Let me see it.”

She thrust the paper out of his reach. “Back off.”

“Why don’t you just let Evangeline or Samantha speak?” David said. “I’m sure they have some stuff memorized.”

“No,” Amanda said. “It’s supposed to be me. My words.” Amanda let out a shivery sigh. “I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to do this.” She took her phone out of her pocket and turned it on. She illuminated her paper with the dim blue light.

“First, we honor the darkness,

For in darkness, our eyes are not distracted by the flash and flare of Mundane sights

So, only in darkness can we truly see.

In the silence of the deepest night, our ears are not assaulted by Mundane sounds

So, only in darkness can we truly hear.

In darkness, we are unable to see danger and are rendered vulnerable

So, only in darkness can we truly feel.

We do not believe that light exists in spite of darkness. We believe that light exists because of it.

Darkness is the only fertile ground for light. It is the only garden where light can be sown.

So, now we experience the darkness. Use this time in the dark and quiet to use your deeper senses. Experience what you are called to experience. The answers wait for you in the darkness. Do not deny them.”

And then, she fell silent.

David couldn’t hear the cars on the highway anymore. He couldn’t hear the music playing down the street. He could hear only the breathing of the others in the circle. And the sky… the orange haze disappeared, and the sky reminded David of the one he had seen over Big Bend. Millions of stars set against a perfect pitch black. The moon cast a crisp, blue light upon them. With her words, or perhaps with some other magic deeper than words, she had called the darkness to them. David pictured it as a bubble around them.

The quiet didn’t feel as awkward as David would have expected. No one giggled or even coughed or sighed. His lungs felt larger. He could breathe. This darkness didn’t feel frightening. In fact, David couldn’t remember ever feeling so safe. The darkness was the foundation that everything else was built on. The garden where the universe grew. The simplest, most basic thing in existence. And it was spectacular.

He supposed that was the answer that waited for him. That darkness in itself was not evil. Darkness was peace. Potential. Home.

“The solstice marks not only the height of darkness, but also the return of the sun.” Amanda read from a second sheet of paper. “The cycle of the seasons represents a promise from God. A promise that in darkness, light never truly falters. Although it appears dark here, the sun burns with all its glory on the other side of the Earth. With the change of the seasons, God reminds us that darkness always ends. Light always exists and will always return when missing. There is no night that doesn’t end. No nightmare from which you cannot awaken. No hurt that cannot heal.

“Remembering this promise, we will now sow light in the garden of darkness. For tonight, the darkness is at its richest and most fertile. Use your deeper senses to find and sow your light.”

David’s heart rate picked up. Now he and the others would perform a spell. And not just any spell: a flashy, awesome spell. The first spell he would do on purpose since he had lost his memories.

Earlier, he had doubted his ability and hadn’t succeeded in practice. But he hadn’t considered the magic the ritual would invoke. He felt confident now. He knew he could do it as easily as he knew he could clap his hands on command.

Evangeline would go first. The youngest always did. She pulled David’s oversized man’s gloves off her hands and stuffed them in her pockets. She held out her hand, palm facing up, and blew on her palm as if trying to ignite a fire. A puddle of emerald green light appeared in her hand, as if she opened a portal to another dimension. She dipped the wick of her candle into the light, and the candle burned with a green flame.

He knew Evangeline could do it but couldn’t wait to see what his previously unmagical daughter could do. When he saw the look in Emmy’s eyes, he knew she could do it. Her reckless determination and confidence would make her a fantastic witch. From what David had learned so far, so much of spell casting was simply about truly wanting something and believing it could be. Sure enough, a ball of fire came from all the way down her arm and rolled off her fingertips, as if she pitched a softball. She tossed it in the air and then it rested in her hand. Way more fire than necessary to light a candle. She only had to hold the wick within close proximity of the flame to get it lit.

Samantha did something similar to what he had caught her doing in Emmy’s room. Globs of bright white light oozed from her hand, like one of those lava lamps from the eighties. She touched the wick to one of the globs and instead of a true flame, a little ball of light perched on top of the candle.

Xavier’s flame mesmerized David. The flame danced, alight with the full spectrum of colors, moved in unpredictable directions, and gave off iridescent sparks. They would no longer need to purchase fireworks for the Fourth of July.

David could tell they all held their breath for Patrick. In that moment, they all wanted him to succeed. David thought their combined magical good wishes would have a powerful effect. Patrick had the face of an Olympian preparing for a race. Not nervous. Just focused. He narrowed his eyebrows at his palm. He glanced for a second at Samantha, and then turned back to his palm. His hand turned bright gold, as if King Midas had touched him.

There was a collective, “Ooo.”

Patrick smiled broadly and held his hand in front of his face to inspect it. Then he touched one golden fingertip to the wick. It didn’t work at first, but then he shook his hand and a flame erupted from under his fingernail.

Jude had something impressive up his sleeve. Without even needing a moment to prepare, he sent a golden rivulet out of his palm. It meandered upward like a quickly growing plant. That was exactly what it turned into. The sprout became thicker, grew higher, and branched off into a tree. When he finished, the tree looked as perfect as if sketched on paper, stood five feet above his hand, and flames flickered on the branches instead of leaves.

“Holy shit,” Patrick said.

Holy shit, indeed.

“I can’t believe I have to follow that,” Amanda said. “Well done, Jude.”

Jude smiled with full teeth and dimples. He hadn’t smiled that way in a long time.

Amanda had a deep red flame. It swayed hypnotically and turned David into a moth. He couldn’t keep his eyes off it and would have stuck his nose in it if Amanda hadn’t said his name.

“Go on,” she said.

His heart beat faster. He felt the pressure of everyone’s eyes and everyone’s expectations. What would they think of him if he couldn’t do it? As the father, he should come up with something impressive and awe-inspiring. Something worthy of the head of household.

He thought about Amanda’s original command, find and sow the light. So, first he had to find. He remembered how his fingers had felt itchy and tingly. He only had to recall the feeling for it to come back and spread up his hand and into his arm. It felt hot and cold at once and built steadily without him even trying. He knew what to do instinctively. He clenched his fist, which was the trigger. He shot a ball of flame out of his knuckles that climbed into the sky like a flare. Thank God he had aimed his arm upward.

His light shot a good thirty feet into the air and then scattered in a rain of what reminded him of pixie dust. He looked at his unlit candle.

He heard a scattering of giggles.

“Hush…” he said.

“Try again,” Evangeline prompted.

David held his fist up again and positioned the candle above it. He tried pumping his fist more gently. The same thing happened, although he spanned only about ten feet this time. He tried to follow the light with his candle as a catcher would follow a fly ball, which resulted in even more giggles.

Then, before he could ready himself, another fireball shot out of his fist unwillingly and went straight for Emmy.

She dove to the ground and dodged it.

“Oh, God. I’m so sorry, honey. That one was an accident. Are you okay?”

She laughed so hard she couldn’t answer.

“Why are you doing it like that?” Amanda asked.

“I have no idea,” he said. “How do you make it stay on your hand?”

“No, the real question is, how did you shoot it out of your hand like that?” Xavier asked. “That’s awesome. Show me how to do that.”

“I would if I knew.”

“Okay, try it again,” Amanda said.

“Picture the light staying on your hand,” Jude instructed. “Visualize in your head what you want it to look like.”

David followed his instruction and managed to get the orange orb of light to hover only about a foot over his hand. He carefully dipped the wick of the candle into the orb, and an orange flame stayed on the candle, while the rest of the orb sprinkled around him.

“Okay, try to get serious again,” Amanda said. “We’re not done.”

She waited for quiet.

“Now we will combine our lights into a communal fire,” she continued. “This symbolizes the importance of the connections wizards have with one another. Our lights are how we find each other in darkness. Wizards can always find each other. It is a sign that God does not intend for wizards to be alone.”

This seemed dangerous to David. He didn’t like them throwing random unknown chemicals together to see what might happen. Starting with Evangeline again, they each used their candle to light a part of the campfire. The result prompted many ooos and aaas. The fire twisted and spat in a swirl of colors that reminded David of the Tasmanian devil. David placed his hand on the jug of water, but the fire relaxed into a more normal, yet multicolored fire that swayed unpredictably but stayed in its ring.

“Do you think we can cook marshmallows on it?” Patrick asked.

“Yummy. S’mores,” Emmy said.

“Just to be safe, let’s not cook food with the magic fire,” David said.



Semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Awards and #1 category bestseller in coming of age fantasy.

About Destruction:

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything.

Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.

Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without.

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

5 easy ways to celebrate the winter solstice


In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice will occur on 12/21, specifically 5:03pm CST. Go here to find the exact time where you are. The exact moment of the solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. It's the exact moment of the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere! It's the shortest day of the year, and often known as the first day of winter.

No matter your spiritual or religious beliefs, you can celebrate the solstice. It's been observed by people all over the world since ancient times, and no matter what you believe, or don't believe, it's the moment when the days get longer...the moment the sun returns.

If you're looking for some good ways to celebrate the winter solstice, here are some ideas:
  • View the sunset on 12/21 and/or the sunrise on 12/22. The sunset on the winter solstice celebrates darkness and winter. The sunrise is the birth of the sun, and the return to light.
  • Candles everywhere! Lighting candles is a great and simple way to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness. To make it into a ritual, light a candle for each prayer or wish you have for the coming year.
  • Light a fire...preferably in a fireplace or outdoor fire pit, not just anywhere. ;) Bonfires and yule logs are a big part of solstice traditions. It's yet another way to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness. Make it into a ritual by writing down things you want to let go off from the past year on pieces of paper, and then burn them.
  • Unplug. Sorry, the glow of your screens does not count as celebrating the triumph of light over darkness. Get closer to the natural balance and cycle of the seasons by taking time away from your devices and spending time with the natural world.
  • Make and display lanterns.  If you're feeling ambitious, go all of the solstice night without any artificial light. You can put candles in decorated jars or make luminarias. 

Whatever you do, or don't do, have a blessed solstice and happy new year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

#CoverReveal for Loving Avery by @KatieTeller1


Title: Loving Avery (Bearville County Novella #1)
Author: Katie Hamstead
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date: TBD

Add on Goodreads

Blurb:
The Bearville County Novella series follows on from Papina.

The Clark and Davis kids are grown up!
Follow Rhett, the Clark's second son, who has loved Avery, the Davis' only daughter, for as long as he can remember. But after her string of high school boyfriends, and Rhett getting beat up at prom, Rhett decides going to college is the best way to start over and forget Avery Davis.
Except Avery finally realizes she can't live without him. But is it too late?

Get the novel, Papina, that starts the series: Amazon


About the Author:

Born and raised in Australia, Katie's early years of day dreaming in the "bush", and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing.

After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog.

She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing.

Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports and be a good wife and mother. She now works as an Acquisitions Editor to help support her family. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Upcoming Events in 2015 - Win A Signed Copy of Destruction OR Watch Me Burn!

I've got three events lined up in the first half of 2015 and I'd love to meet (or re-meet) some of my fans in Texas! As a special thank you for coming to see me, I'm giving away 5 free signed paperbacks (your choice) at EACH event! Simply enter your name on the form for a chance to win. You must pick up the book in person, but you can pick up your copy at any of the three events. Please be aware that some of the events do require a ticket for entry, but it should be worth it!




2/7/15 - Deep in the Heart Author's Event, Austin, TX

https://www.facebook.com/events/1444318495827401/

https://www.facebook.com/deepintheheartindieauthoreventfanpage




2/28/15 - Houston Author's Bash, Houston, TX

https://www.facebook.com/houstonauthorsbash





5/22-5/24 - Austin Author Affair

https://www.facebook.com/events/1448346612074544/

Fall into #Fantasy Week 17: Evensong by @Krista_Walsh


Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 17: Meratis Trilogy
Book One: Evensong
By Krista Walsh


Author Jeff Powell wakes up to find the impossible has happened. He is within his own novel—summoned into the fictional world of Feldall’s Keep by a spell he didn’t write. One the House enchantress hasn’t figured out how to reverse.

When the villain he’s been struggling to write reveals himself, unleashing waves of terror and chaos, Jeff must use more than his imagination to save the characters he created—and the woman he loves.

Trapped within a world of his own creation, he must step outside the bounds of his narrative to help his characters defeat an evil no one anticipated, even if he must sacrifice his greatest gift. In the end, he has to ask: are novels really fiction, or windows into other worlds?

Buy it from: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iTunes
Or add it to Goodreads





ABOUT KRISTA WALSH
Known for witty, vivid characters, Krista Walsh never has more fun than getting them into trouble and taking her time getting them out. After publishing a few short stories and novellas in various anthologies, she has now released her own anthology, the serial collection Greylands. When not writing, or working at her day job, she can be found reading, gaming, or watching a film – anything to get lost in a good story. She currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Find Krista online: Website  Facebook  Twitter



Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?
  • Don't forget to join us at the Facebook party here
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  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Conscious Gift-Giving: A Guest Post From WildCat Magic

My guest post author today is Wildcat, a magic worker who conducts workshops and provides private consultation in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about her and what she does at WildCat Magic.



Did you know that Americans spend on average over $700 per person on holiday gifts, or about 1 1/2% of their total annual budget?  Holiday gifts cost a lot of money (even if you're below the national average), and it's well worth bringing your gift spending in line with the wisdom of your Divine Spirit.

The time and resources spent on gift-giving can be a conduit for love and be used to strengthen our relationships, if we take the time to give gifts consciously.

Gift-giving meditation:

Picture the person you're selecting a gift for, or, better yet, notice them in your daily interactions.  Get in touch with your feelings of affection and love for them.  What is unique about them?  What are they dealing with in life right now?  What are they passionate about?  What are their favorite activities, colors, styles?  What are they talking about wanting or needing?  (You might ask them, if you're willing to give up the element of surprise, but often a little sneakiness in the service of love is a good thing.)  Just notice.  Then, in a private moment, allow your Divine Self to suggest a gift for them.  Go into "3-point attention" and imagine yourself blessing the gift and giving the gift to them. How do they react?

Once you've got an idea for a gift, here are some questions to ask yourself, to be sure that it is coming from a place of selfless love (rather than ego masquerading as the Lover), and will be received as a love-gift.
  1. Is this something this person wants?  Is it something they would have chosen for themselves?  Is it what they asked for?  Does it communicate your appreciation for them as an individual?  Does it support their values?  Will they LOVE it?  (Watch out for the natural ego tendency to give people what you would like to receive.  It works out ok if your loved one wants what you want, but be careful!  If you're really sneaky -- in a good way -- you can also use this as an indication of what someone else might want...  "Let's see, they got this for me last year and that wasn't something I wanted, so that might mean it's the kind of thing THEY would like to receive!"  When in doubt, ask...)
  2. Does the gift include a bit of your individuality (your taste or effort or thoughtfulness) as well as being something the person really wants?
  3. Is the gift good quality, in new condition, with more than the ordinary level of craftsmanship and beauty?  (This criterion eliminates most possibilities for recycled gifts.  Gift-giving is not usually a good way to get rid of something you received as a gift, or bought for yourself and decided you didn't like...  People can usually spot re-gifting.  I once had a good laugh when I received a wedding present from a young couple that still had the gift card in the box from THEIR family member who had given it to them.)
  4. Is the gift at least as high quality as something you would have selected for yourself?  (No one will feel you're being generous if you buy your gifts at Walmart and your own stuff at a boutique.)
  5. Is it extraordinary?  (i.e. NOT an ordinary practical thing you would usually be buying for them even if it weren't a special occasion.  Such gifts are guaranteed to underwhelm or even bore the recipient.)
  6. Have you put care into the packaging and presentation of the gift (including selecting the appropriate time to give it)?
  7. Will it be a surprise?  (Especially important if the person LIKES surprises.)
  8. How will the recipient feel upon receiving this gift?  (One hopes closer to "delighted" than "disappointed" or "offended"!)
  9. Will they perceive it as having "strings attached" (judgment, guilt, duty to use it, expectations of some behavior or reciprocal gift you want from them in the future, etc.)
  10. Does this gift communicate the level of love or affection appropriate to the relationship?  (Generous enough, but not embarrassingly so?  Romantic enough, if it is a romantic relationship?  Platonic enough, if it is a platonic relationship? Magical enough, if it is a magical relationship?)
  11. Is it appropriately generous relative to the gifts you are selecting for others (especially if they will be receiving them at the same time?)
  12. Will the gift bring you closer and strengthen your relationship?
  13. Have you blessed the gift?  (One way to do this is to make the gift yourself, thinking positive thoughts about the person as you do so.  Another is to do a little ritual in which you pour love into the gift, using "3-point attention".)
Remember that gifts do not have to be durable things.  For the person who "has everything," or is difficult to please, you might go to consumable gifts (like food or concert tickets) to avoid the awkwardness of the gift someone doesn't really like but feels they should keep because it was a gift from you.

If this all sounds tedious, go back to the meditation and remind yourself WHY you're bothering to give consciously, and do it from the heart, with the intention of communicating your love, as a spiritual act of devotion to the Beloved.

Receiving can be a conscious process, too...  Remember that even non-magical friends and family have probably gone through many of the above steps in choosing gifts for you.  Give them eye contact and sincere thanks for their care, and forgive them if they bought you a present that is really for themselves!  We're all in this (human condition) together...



Join WildCat at the Candlelit winter labyrinth walk at 5:30 pm on the second Sunday of December (Dec. 14), at Seton SW labyrinth, weather permitting (check facebook if it's raining to see if the walk has been called for weather.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

WildCat has been teaching magic for over ten years, working with a variety of goddesses and gods. Trained as a Witch in the Feri and Reclaiming traditions, she is true to her WildCat name, drilling for spiritual experience in the places between charted territories, and her practice and teaching draw upon a number of traditions. She loves the consciousness she has developed and the ecstasy she has felt practicing magic. She gets a kick out of sharing her experience and co-creating new and powerful transformational magic in each class. For her, magic is an important ethical act as well as exciting -- "what we do between the worlds changes us and all the worlds!" Check out WildCat's current offerings on her website: www.wildcatmagic.org, and sign up for her monthly newsletter.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Winter Solstice Interview with Magical Teacher WildCat

I am thrilled to introduce you to Wildcat, a magic worker who conducts workshops and provides private consultation in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about her and what she does at WildCat Magic. I asked her some questions about the winter solstice...






1) Humans have been celebrating the winter solstice since ancient times. What are some of the ways the solstice is meaningful in modern society?

For me, the principal meaning of the Winter Solstice is bringing the light (of our own Divine Selves) into the world. This is a very compatible image with Christianity and other modern religions and badly needed in today's society!


2) What are some easy ways to honor the solstice?

Here are four ways my family traditionally honors the Solstice:
    • A feast, especially involving Sun Bread, Yule Log cake, hot spiced drinks, and lots of happy people.
    • A candlelit labyrinth walk, using either a 7-spiral labyrinth or a tree of life labyrinth. I host a public version of this ritual (this year it is at Seton SW labyrinth at 5:30 Sunday the 14th), and we have often set up a labyrinth made of Christmas lights in our yard when we lived in the city, with instructions so the neighbors could walk it if they wanted. The meditation is simple -- walk the labyrinth holding an (unlighted) votive candle. Imagine your life as it is now on the way in, from the more public to the more private aspects. Then light a candle from a flame in the center of the labyrinith, representing the light of your Divine Spirit, and walk back out, seeing how your life would change if you brought your whole self into every aspect of it.
    • A private family gratitude ritual. On Yule eve, we gather in front of the fireplace, which is laid with a candle-stand that holds enough pillar candles for each family member to have one. Each person takes an unlighted candle from a basket in turn, and shares with everyone the things they are grateful for from the past year. This can take a long time -- even the teenagers have a lot to be grateful for! After listing the things they are grateful for, the person makes a wish for the coming year (secret or spoken aloud), and lights the candle. We leave the candles to burn until they burn out, as a spell to bring the wishes into manifestation.
    • A Yule tree. This is just like a Christmas tree, but with pagan decorations, instead of, or in addition to, the Christian symbols. And we give Yule gifts, too, in lieu of (or in addition to) Christmas gifts, depending on where the kids are when over the holidays, since we share them with exes.

    3) You mentioned that you celebrate with your kids. What are some good solstice activities for little ones? How did you first introduce your children to the solstice?

    I recommend the children's book "Sun Bread." My kids loved the recipe on the back, as well as the lively illustrations, and still get it out every year to make the bread, even though they are all teenagers now. My friend Anne Hill's book "Circle Round" also has some good ideas and the accompanying CD has good children's songs for a variety of seasons.

     

    4) Most of my readers celebrate Christmas. How do you recommend incorporating winter solstice celebrations into a traditional mainstream Christmas?


    My wife and I are both from Christian up-bringings, and include Christian symbols as well as pagan, Buddhist, Hindu, and shamanic practices in our traditions. Many of our family's traditions above can incorporate people of other faiths without their being uncomfortable. Yule is actually one of the easiest pagan feasts to do in an ecumenical way, because the Christian celebration is so close to its pagan roots, and the Jews, Hindus, etc. all have winter celebrations involving candles as well.


    5) Do you have any poems, songs, or other readings that you'd like to share?

    We love the Revels songbooks and CDs. One year my daughter hosted a Revels carol singalong for her birthday (which is just before the Solstice). We made a recording for her friends who all loved to sing, and gave them the music in advance so they could listen to it and the songs would be more familiar. We had a great time with 7 9-year-olds and their mothers singing Solstice songs. They all have a Renaissance-Faire-pagan feel to them. I also love Renaissance music, such as the CDs by "Anonymous 4" One of my favorite poems for the Solstice is Hafiz: "Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, 'You owe me." Look what happens with a love like that: it lights the whole sky!"


    Over the next few weeks, I'll also be sharing some guest posts from Wildcat, so come back and check that out!
    ---

    WildCat has been teaching magic for over ten years, working with a variety of goddesses and gods. Trained as a Witch in the Feri and Reclaiming traditions, she is true to her WildCat name, drilling for spiritual experience in the places between charted territories, and her practice and teaching draw upon a number of traditions. She loves the consciousness she has developed and the ecstasy she has felt practicing magic. She gets a kick out of sharing her experience and co-creating new and powerful transformational magic in each class. For her, magic is an important ethical act as well as exciting -- "what we do between the worlds changes us and all the worlds!" Check out WildCat's current offerings on her website: www.wildcatmagic.org, and sign up for her monthly newsletter.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2014

    Fall into Fantasy Week 16: The Disciple Series by @lblankenship_sf


    Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

    Week 16: The Disciple Series by L. Blankenship


    War is coming. Kate Carpenter is only a peasant girl, but she’s determined to help defend the kingdom and its bound saints against the invading empire. Her healing magic earned her a coveted apprenticeship with the master healer; now she must prove herself ready to stand in the front lines and save lives.

    She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though. This is no time to be distracted by romance — the empire’s monstrous army will tear through anyone standing between them and the kingdom’s magical founts. All disciples must put aside their tangled feelings and stand in the homeland’s defense.

    Disciple is a six-part gritty fantasy romance by L. Blankenship. Part I through Part IV are on sale now at all major retailers

    Download PART I for free! 
    FREE at AmazonSmashwordsB&N AllRomance



    Disciple, Part V on sale now

    Look for the final volume, Part VI, in 2015!

    EXCERPT:

    “You couldn’t sleep either?”

    At the whisper, I looked up from struggling to lace my boots with trembling hands. My master stepped into my dormitory room, adding his lamp’s light to my candle.

    “Why must I dress as a boy?” I whispered back. Perhaps I was not so buxom, but I doubted I’d fool anyone. “This makes little sense.”

    “Patience.” Master Parselev placed his lamp on my writing-table and checked my packed bags. “They’re gathering at the chapel already. None of us got much sleep, it seems.”

    The straw mattress creaked when I stood, boots laced and the woolen hose sagging between my thighs. I ran my fingers around my waist, under my layered cotes, to check the drawstring. “Are these right, Master?” I’d strung the hose and braies together as best I could guess and as memory was my Blessing I had no excuse for failing. Men’s underthings weren’t much concern to me — if I saw such, or more, it was while the man lay bleeding on the surgery table.

    “If they stay up, it’s right. Good. This too.” He slung a heavy felt cloak across my shoulders and pinned it on. The hood buried my face in shadows; my blonde braid, even wrapped around my head, would give me away.

    I asked, “Master, this journey will be long, won’t it?” Parselev had given me more clothes than I’d ever owned to pack in those bags. All heavy winter woolens, too. “Shouldn’t you go, then?”

    He looked down at me, mouth quirking to one side. Master was a greybeard, said to be over a hundred years old, but his kir kept his eyes bright and his face lightly creased. I had only been his apprentice two years. Surely I could not be ready for this.

    “It must be you, Kate,” was all he said. He carried one of my bags, and I took the other.

    Wreathed in breath-clouds, we crossed the Order’s campus. Low on the horizon, the slim, waxing crescent of the Shepherd hung golden, all seven of his Flock scattered in the sky behind him. He gave the only hint that dawn was coming. The cloak kept me marvelously warm, even in the chilly breeze. No frost this morning, not yet, but it was only a few weeks off.

    Master un-bolted the side gate and led me to the door of the Grand Chapel. Horses waited on the grass, many horses chewing at their bits and shaking their heads, most of them with knights in the saddles. The knights’ black tabards, worn over suits of mail, had a white horse embroidered on the right shoulder and two gold stars on the left, marking them knights and Prince’s Guard as well. Kite shields and bucket helms hung on their saddles, in easy reach.

    Several of the horses stood with empty saddles, collectively held by a couple of pageboys, and that gave me pause. I’d never been on a horse; I was only a peasant girl. But it could not be so awful, I told myself, so I gripped my cloak a little tighter and followed Master Parselev inside.

    My new boots rang too loudly in the empty chapel, and when I slowed to lighten my step I fell behind. Only one lamp burned on the high table before the icons, and its light was mostly blocked by those gathered below the two steps. Faces were cast in shadow as they turned toward us — all looming in the dim light, some cloaked like me, others not — and I knew none of them. I kept my head down as I joined my master before them, glad the hood hid my face.

    “Not ready, Elect?” one asked, his voice low but strong. “Who’s this?”

    “My apprentice will safeguard the travelers,” my master answered. “She has —”

    “What?” The man stepped closer, his shoulders blocking out the light.

    “Majesty, she’s my finest student.” Parselev put up a hand when the stranger reached for my hood.

    My knees trembled as the word echoed in my head. Majesty. I stood before the king of Wodenberg. Wobbling a bit, I dropped to one knee in obeisance, fist pressed to my heart. The king yanked off my hood while I stared at the flagstone floor, pulse pounding.

    “This girl?” the king demanded. “You trust a mere disciple with this mission?”



    ABOUT L. BLANKENSHIP
    L. Blankenship started writing animal stories as a kid and it's just gotten completely out of hand since then. Now she's out publishing her gritty fantasy and hard science fiction adventures. L grew up in New Hampshire but currently lives near Washington, DC.

    Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?
    • Don't forget to join us at the Facebook party here
    • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
    • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.
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    Friday, December 5, 2014

    WATCH ME BURN now available for pre-order!!




    Well, the title of the post says it all! :) Watch Me Burn is officially available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Buy now to have it magically appear in your Kindle on 1/5/15.





    More about Watch Me Burn:

    David Vandergraff lost his home, his job, and contact with his oldest son, but remains determined to be a good husband and father despite being a dark winter wizard.

    His resolve is tested when a flyer for a missing girl--who happens to be a summer witch--begins to haunt him. David believes a spell needs to use him to save her, so he follows the magic's command and looks into her disappearance. His teenage daughter Emmy resents him for caring so much about a random stranger. But when she uncovers some disturbing evidence close to home, she begins an investigation of her own.

    David and Emmy quickly learn that the mystery is not only about a missing girl they barely know, but a deeply personal story that impacts everyone they care about. As their world crumbles, they fear the warning may be true—never mess with summer wizards, because the good guys always win.



    If you're new to The December People Series, start with Destruction--99 cents for a limited time!


    Tuesday, December 2, 2014

    Review Roundup for The December People Series #review #bookreview #freebook

    I'm very thankful for every single person who has reviewed Destruction! Your reviews have helped my book gain credibility and be accepted by BookBub and other book promo services. Thank you so much! 

    I read every review I get, and the good ones always make me ridiculously happy. It really never gets old. I'm even thankful for the bad ones. Every serious author has bad reviews! The bad reviews make the good reviews more credible.

    My goal for Destruction is to have 100 Amazon reviews within a year of the release. So far, it's looking good! And now that book 2 is coming out soon, I'm doing another push for new reviews to get closer to my goal.

    So...if you're willing to read Destruction and make a good faith attempt to write an honest review on Amazon.com within 60 days of receipt, you can have a free copy. Simple as that.

    Already reviewed Destruction? I am giving out a LIMITED number of review copies for Watch Me Burn. You can only request Watch Me Burn if you've already reviewed Destruction on Amazon.com and are willing to make a good faith attempt to write an honest review by 2/5/15.

    Interested? Fill out the form:




    Destruction
    The December People Series 
    Book One

    David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.

    Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without. 

    Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.

    Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.



    Watch Me Burn
    The December People Series 
    Book Two

    David Vandergraff lost his home, his job, and contact with his oldest son, but remains determined to be a good husband and father despite being a dark winter wizard.

    His resolve is tested when a flyer for a missing girl--who happens to be a summer witch--begins to haunt him. David believes a spell needs to use him to save her, so he follows the magic's command and looks into her disappearance. His teenage daughter Emmy resents him for caring so much about a random stranger. But when she uncovers some disturbing evidence close to home, she begins an investigation of her own.

    David and Emmy quickly learn that the mystery is not only about a missing girl they barely know, but a deeply personal story that impacts everyone they care about. As their world crumbles, they fear the warning may be true—never mess with summer wizards, because the good guys always win.

    ---

    Did you get a secret code word? That means you can enter the special secret giveaway! I'm giving away a talisman!

    This charm bracelet is inspired by Julie Prescott's talisman in Watch Me Burn:

    Actual design may depend on the season of the wizard who wins. :) 

    If you're of the male persuasion, I have this Fleur De Lis steel ring to honor the spring wizards in book 3...or The Saints, whichever you prefer. Guys can also opt for the charm bracelet and give it to a lovely lady in their life, or wear it themselves, I won't tell anyone. :)


    Good luck!



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    Monday, December 1, 2014

    Bewitching Brews Holiday #Giveaway


    December 1-15 open to US Shipping
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    Bewitching Brews and Devilish Desserts 
    A Collection of Cocktail and Dessert Recipes 

    By Bewitching Book Tours' Authors
    Roxanne Rhoads, Sharon Bayliss, Ami Blackwelder, Cassandra Lawson, Susannah Sandlin, Cherrie Mack, Maggie Mundy, Suzanne Johnson, Katalina Leon, Kay Dee Royal, Sophie Avett, Elizabeth Loraine, G.L. Ross, T.W. Kirchner 

    Book Description:

    Stir up a little magic from our cauldron full of cocktails and desserts.

    The authors of Bewitching Book Tours conjured a collection of delicious potions inspired by their books and characters.

    Grab your wand (or spoon) and cast one of these spellbinding recipes today.

    Available at Createspace and Amazon


    Watch Me Burn #coverreveal and #trailerreveal





    I am so excited to show off the cover for book 2 in The December People Series, Watch Me Burn!!!

    Thank you to artist Michelle Johnson and the whole team at Curiosity Quills Press for creating a cover I love! 

    If you haven't guessed it by now, you'll see a butterfly on the cover of every book in The December People Series. The butterfly is a symbol of transformation, hope, freedom, and generally creepy crawlies turning into beautiful things. And also...look how pretty! ;)

    Instead of the broken glass from Destruction, this butterfly is surrounded by fire, and it's probably obvious why from the title. Watch Me Burn is the summer book in the series. All the books center around my winter wizard family, but each book takes us deeper into a different season. Summer wizards are the "light" wizards, but light also means HEAT and FIRE.


    More about Watch Me Burn:

    David Vandergraff lost his home, his job, and contact with his oldest son, but remains determined to be a good husband and father despite being a dark winter wizard.

    His resolve is tested when a flyer for a missing girl--who happens to be a summer witch--begins to haunt him. David believes a spell needs to use him to save her, so he follows the magic's command and looks into her disappearance. His teenage daughter Emmy resents him for caring so much about a random stranger. But when she uncovers some disturbing evidence close to home, she begins an investigation of her own.

    David and Emmy quickly learn that the mystery is not only about a missing girl they barely know, but a deeply personal story that impacts everyone they care about. As their world crumbles, they fear the warning may be true—never mess with summer wizards, because the good guys always win.




    If you're new to The December People Series, start with Destruction--99 cents for a limited time!


    Enter to win!! Get a paperback of your choice of Destruction OR Watch Me Burn. International entries welcome. Also join The December People Winter Celebration for more giveaways!!


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