There's a hole in my yard

Yesterday evening, I was alerted to the squawking and clicking of ravens in the front yard. They appeared to be strutting with round white objects in their beaks, and since we don't have ping-pong balls in the yard, I thought, "Oh, they're eating toadstools." (It's rained A LOT this spring.) Then I realized the grass was cut recently-- making for a less hospitable environment for the fungus. I went out to investigate and found a hole in the lawn. 

We've lived in this house for fourteen years, but it was only in the last couple of years that I witnessed a turtle laying eggs on my property. Though I always watched for hatchlings, I never did see any, and I wondered what happened to the eggs. 

I poked around in the hole and felt something. I had a pretty good idea those weren't toadstools the ravens were gobbling up. I pushed back some of the dirt and found an egg. Possibly more behind it. 

Since I didn't see the mother turtle, I don't know for sure, but based on previous years I suspect they're snapping turtle eggs.  Snapping turtles are at risk and under special concern status since a variety of conditions could cause their quick extinction. Ontario recently permanently banned snapping turtle hunting

Over the past few weeks, I've seen more dead turtles on the roads than I have in my entire lifetime. I don't why. Perhaps the rain had turtles going farther to look for nesting places. Perhaps motorists couldn't tell the difference between turtles and the lumps of cold-patch my municipality uses to make cheap, useless road repairs. Perhaps some motorists are feeling vengeful after the loss of their right to kill two snapping turtles a day. 

I love to be around nature. When I'm out with my family and we see a turtle crossing the road, we stop to help it. Sometimes we just stop and watch to make sure they get across safely. One time we stopped to watch a mama turtle lay eggs in the soft shoulder of a rural road. We've helped small turtles and great big giant turtles. Painted box turtles and snapping turtles. (The snappers are a little tricky to help. Those claws have a long reach. Some suggest using a snow shovel to pick them up.)

What was I to do about this nest? Surely there would be more than ravens after the eggs. 

I figured I could add more dirt to bury the eggs better, but I also figured the ravens would probably dig it up. 

I found a rock and placed it over the hole. 

It's heavy enough the ravens won't be able to move it. It's shallow enough the turtles should be able to get out once they hatch, but I'll keep an eye on it. Hopefully it will help keep the earth under it warm, like an incubator.

Once I was back indoors, the ravens returned. They clicked and strutted around the rock and then flew away. One raven returned this morning and seemed non-plussed about the rock. 

I tried to get a photo, but, unlike other birds, they seem to know when I get close to the window. 

Stay tuned for more turtle and raven watch. 

Winter Blossom

I've had enough of winter. Driving to work in freezing rain this week has done me in. That's it. I want spring. 

To cheer myself up, I made blossom tea. I have hyacinth bulbs sprouting in the living room, but they're just tiny yet. I needed more. 

These are hand-packed balls of flowers and green tea leaves that unfurl in hot water. This one opens with spikes of green tea leaves, and for a big finish, a chain of three scarlet blossoms pop up. 

The tea can taste quite strong if left to steep too long or if the water is too hot. I've made that mistake before. So this time, I prepared it in a single cup, and used water that hadn't quite reached boil, and it worked. The green tea was more subtly flavoured. I'm not a fan of jasmine, though, and unfortunately there was some of that in this blossom. 

But I do love to watch it grow. And it smells wonderful. 

I kind of like having tea outside the bag. There's an added ritual to the preparation, a period of waiting with anticipation, and no soggy bag to spoil the flavour. 

I think I'm going to do this again tomorrow. 

My point is...

When I was a kid, every Christmas morning, I got up, went downstairs to the living room, had one look at all the gifts under the sparkling tree, and ended up tossing my sugar cookies. Once that was all cleaned up, I would open my first gift with a bucket beside me, which I often ended up using. After I got through the first few gifts, then my stomach would settle down. Likely because it was overrun with guilt-- guilt for puking and ruining Christmas for my family, guilt for not feeling grateful enough, etc, etc.)

Anyway, my point is, I used to love Christmas. (Especially once I outgrew the whole vomiting thing, which happened around the same time I found out about Santa. I'm sure these two things are not unrelated.)

Then I grew up and had kids. The first few Christmases were great. Exciting. I loved everything about Christmas-- decorating, baking, anticipating the boys' faces on Christmas morning, a slice of Christmas cake with a cup of tea in the afternoon. Then we hit upon hard times, real hard times. There were days when I had to decide between buying food or buying toilet paper. (Let me tell you, that was not an easy choice.) Buying food or buying gas to get to work. Buying food and choosing which bills to let slide another month. You can imagine the hard choices during gift-giving seasons. There were a lot of homemade gifts for a while. 

Thankfully, the hard times were short lived, but unfortunately, the damage had been done. I suffered from post-traumatic shopping disorder, and holidays were the worst, even when we could easily afford to buy gifts again. I would be in the store, looking over price tags, getting sick to my stomach, thinking "I don't know about this. I mean, it's a perfect gift, but what if something happens next week and we can't afford to buy food again? What then? Then I'll hate myself for buying this gift." I would have panic attacks while standing in the check out line. My post-trauma was so bad I felt sick just putting up a Christmas tree-- it was like the tree symbolized all my anxiety: "Could we even afford Christmas this year? And what about the weeks after Christmas? Will we be able to pay our bills? What if there's no work over the winter?" And the lights-- the Christmas lights-- "Will we be able to pay the hydro bill?"

Anyway, my point is, for a long time, I hated Christmas. 

This year I decided I've had enough of my own bullshit. I want to love Christmas again. I want to sit by the tree in the morning with my cup of coffee, with the lights on the tree, while it's still dark out and the kids are still asleep. I want to bake treats again. I want to listen to Christmas music and sing along-- even if it makes my kids' ears bleed.

And you know why? Because there are people I love who are not around anymore. Life is too short to be worried about Christmas. Just being around for the holiday is good enough. Everything else is gravy. Life is too short to be hung up on my own anxieties. I only have to do the parts of Christmas that make me happy. (Sorry, but you're not getting a Christmas card this year. Sorry, but I didn't see your float in the parade because I didn't go because I hate standing around in the cold. Sorry, but I don't own an ugly Christmas sweater and I'm never going to because I don't see the point. And many more 'no's to many more things.)

I put up the Christmas tree and for the first time in years, I felt happy about it. So I put up two more Christmas trees. (Three, if you count the little light-up one on the porch.) Four trees. I love it.

Honestly, if I could, I would put one in every room. #ChristmasGoals 

I even made a garland.

Getting stressed out about the holidays is not news, I know. Everyone gets stressed out at holiday time. And I've known all along I was stressing myself out for no reason (with exception for the years when we had legit reasons) and I should just be grateful for everything I have. But knowing all this just made me more stressed because I wasn't getting over it, I didn't know how to get over it, I just knew I should be over it and I wasn't, so there was something wrong with me. I don't know what finally clicked-- that I acknowledged that times were once hard, that I told myself I was okay enough times I finally started believing it, that I turned forty-two, or that I decided I just didn't care what anyone thought about me, not even my inner critic-- but something finally clicked. 

Anyway, my point is, I'm enjoying Christmas again. 

I'm even going to do some grain-free chocolate-free baking. (That's a story for another day.)

Hunting A Demon - available for pre-order

Hunting A Demon, book 2 of the Melantha Caldwell Spell-Turner series is back from the copy editor, so today I will be making those changes. And I have a release date! Hunting A Demon is set to release February 5

If you can't wait that long, and you're willing to write a review, I'll send you the ebook today. Just send me an email to let me know: sarawalkerauthor@gmail.com

In the meantime, I've started to work on the next Melantha Caldwell spell-turner novel, Saving A Spell-Turner. 

To celebrate Melantha's book 2 finally being on pre-order, I've dropped the price on book 1, Catching A Sorcerer. The ebook is on sale for $0.99 everywhere. If you know someone who hasn't read it yet, now's their chance to get it.

This week I launched a brand new version of my website. I hope you'll check it out and tell me what you think: www.sarawalker.ca

Hunting a Demon 2-2.jpg

Hunting A Demon, Melantha Caldwell spell-turner #2

The second book of the Melantha Caldwell spell-turner series is coming soon! (I'm looking for beta readers. If you're interested in reading and letting me know what you think of Hunting A Demon, please let me know.) Newsletter subscribers have already seen the cover. I'll be revealing the cover here as soon as I have a publish date. (If you're not signed up for the newsletter, you can do that right now: http://eepurl.com/Wi3mL)

In the meantime, I have the first two chapters here for you!

But first, the summary. Here's what the book is all about:

When Melantha Caldwell suspects her friend and fellow spell-turner, Savion Lebrun, is following in his father's footsteps and becoming a black magic sorcerer, she decides to find out exactly what he's doing when he's not attending high school or magic lessons. What she discovers surprises her: he's spending time with another girl-- a ballet dancer named Hope, who has suddenly developed sleep walking and seizures.

Meanwhile, there's a strange sickness affecting spell-turners everywhere. First Gran is infected, then Savion, leaving Mel no choice but to trust the new spell-turner in town to help her figure out what's wrong with Hope. He calls himself Phoenix and he's much more than he seems, but he's willing to help Mel and teach her spell-turning while her tutor is honeymooning.

After Mel learns the truth about Phoenix and the real reason he's in town, she's not sure she can trust him. Then Mel realizes Hope has been possessed by a demon, she and Phoenix are the girl's only hope of getting it evicted, and if they don't work together, the demon will be free to carry out its own plan for the destruction of humankind— starting with the girl named Hope.

HUNTING A DEMON

Chapter 1

Gran's best copper spell pot was on fire and for once it wasn't my fault. Smoke filled the kitchen of our apartment, tickling my nose. I coughed and waved a hand to disperse the unpleasant stench of burnt olive oil, thankful it wasn't my mess so I didn't have to clean it up.

Flames stretched up, reaching for the lights above the kitchen table. Gran reached over and clamped a lid on the pot, putting the fire out. Sweat beaded her brow from a combination of the elevated temperature in the room and her jangled nerves. Every window in the apartment was open, and every ceiling fan spinning, but still the sunny June weather beat through the glass and the spell-casting attempts certainly weren't helping.

"Oh, dear," Gran said with a sympathetic cluck of her tongue. "We'll just have to try again."

Savion, with his glasses askew and dark smudges on his face, suddenly let out a cry. "My bag!"

A spark had jumped from the pot and landed on Savion's leather satchel, where it had festered undetected long enough to burn itself a hole down to the books contained inside. An orange flame shot straight up around the flap of the bag, feeding on the papers and books.

I didn't stop to think. Magic had been dancing in my veins, itching to be let out all during Savion's lessons. I let it loose. The magic pulled on the water molecules from the air, bending them to my will. A beam of water shot out from the palm of my right hand. I aimed the stream at the satchel. The flame went out with a hiss.

Savion raced around the kitchen table and chairs and dove for his bag. He dumped the contents on the floor. Soggy spell-turning books and waterlogged papers and pencils spilled out in a river of ashy water.

Though I had vowed to myself that I wouldn't clean up Savion's mess today, I grabbed the roll of paper towels and started sopping up the dirty water. Savion picked up the spell books, wiped them with paper towel and put them back in his bag. The rest he threw into the garbage.

"Sorry," I said. I felt terrible for him. I would hate it if my stuff had caught fire.

Across the table, Savion slumped down into a chair. "Forget it," he intoned, crossing his arms over his chest. "It's just things. I can replace them."

His short-sleeved button-up shirt and khaki shorts put my black tank top and jean shorts to shame. At one time I would have been jealous, but not anymore. Not now that I knew what Savion's life was really like.

We were supposed to be learning how to create a ball of light, but every time Savion got close to finishing the spell, the potion splattered and set the pot on fire.

"We can try again," Gran said.

"I know how to use a flashlight," he said, pushing his glasses up his nose. "I don't need this."

Her short curls squashed in spots, Gran looked a little frazzled as she examined the blackened and slightly misshapen rim of her pot. Dark carbon smudges marred her periwinkle cotton pants and her white t-shirt with the silk-screened scene of blue birds, picket fence and hollyhocks.

"There might come a day when you will need it," she said, seeming distracted by the damage. It was the third pot Savion had destroyed this month. She wiped at her damp forehead and left streaks of black behind.

"At least you get to learn stuff. I know exactly two spells," I said. "I've got no teacher while Paul is on his honeymoon."

I'd been warned not to try to use my powers without Paul there to guide me. Bad things happened sometimes for spell-turners like me. Turners like Savion and Gran made their spells with liquids in a pot, but turners like me and Paul— well, we were blood turners. Our power ran in our veins. And sometimes it jumped ship and ran out of other people's veins resulting in their deaths.

I was darned lucky the water spell had worked with no unintended consequences.

My rant earned me a sharp look from Gran. She narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips reminding me of her feelings on the matter— not that I needed a reminder.

The problem was, I was bored to tears. I wasn't allowed to practice my magic and I wasn't allowed to skip these lessons.

"You were lucky enough to survive that mess," Gran said. She stepped back from the disaster on the kitchen table, her hand gripping the back of a chair. "Looks like we'll be taking a trip to the Sanctuary."

"The Sanctuary?" I sat up, anticipating a return to the place where all spell-turners and magical creatures could congregate hidden from human eyes.

"Not today," Gran said with a sigh. "I think I'm going to lie down. You two are in charge of cleaning up the kitchen."

She shuffled out and went to her room, closing her bedroom door with a soft click.

Huh. Gran didn't want to stay to micromanage the clean-up? To make sure we put away all her stuff exactly as we found it?

"Is she all right?" Savion asked. Even he noticed the change in Gran, and he'd only been coming here for lessons a couple times a week for the last few months.

As I stared at her closed door, one of my eyebrows went up and I bit my lip. This wasn't like Gran, but I didn't think it was anything serious. Maybe she was just getting the flu.

"I don't know," I said, turning to him with a shrug. "But since she's not here, let's dig into the cookie jar."

Normally such a snack suggestion would earn me a reprimand from Gran and a lecture on having fruit or vegetables instead of chocolate chip cookies. As I reached to remove the ceramic jar from the counter, there was nothing but silence from her room. That was perhaps the most telling sign of all.

Savion stood by the door, stuffing his few spelling items into his leather messenger bag. We had the kitchen cleaned up and the smoke cleared from the air, although the smell still lingered. For some reason, I couldn't let Savion leave without asking him something about himself. It had become my little project these past weeks— trying to get him to talk about himself.

"Do you read comics?" I gripped the back of a kitchen chair and waited.

"No." He continued to put the small jars into his bag. He'd built up quite a collection of dried flowers and twigs and stuff. His short response wasn't unexpected. That's just the way he was.

"I'm going to the comic book store later. I didn't think I'd like comics at first— they're so thin. I assumed there was very little story to each volume, but then I found the collected works—" I crossed the apartment to the coffee table and lifted up one to show him. "You know-- graphic novels. I'm really into Stan Lee's stuff and Buffy the Vampire Slayer right now. You can borrow one, if you like. I know they're not your usual doorstopper-sized books, but you might like it."

He shook his head, shifting his hair from side to side. His once white-blond hair had taken on more of a gold tone— maybe it was the approach of summer, or maybe it was because his father was no longer pulling spells through him. His mouth was drawn tight, his eyes wary.

I was trying too hard to get a response from him. Forcing him to give up too much information. Pressing him to use more words than he wanted to. Maybe I should switch to a lighter approach.

"You do read, don't you?" I asked with a wry grin.

Savion paused, shrugged a shoulder. "Mostly history books."

"What— like textbooks?"

He lifted his bag, securing the strap over his shoulder. "Non-fiction. The witch trials of Salem. The history of witchcraft in England. That stuff."

I frowned. Those were all for our spell-turning studies. "You must be doing something for fun."

He returned my prompt with a blank stare.

"Come on," I said. "You can tell me."

"Martial arts."

"I know about that. What else?"

He bit his lip and shrugged.

I scrunched up my nose. Time to change tactic and my angle of questioning. "Ready for exams?"

He nodded and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Of course."

I didn't doubt it. I, however, would be studying my butt off between now and then. If there was one thing I envied him, it was his smarts.

In addition to his darkening hair colour, I'd noticed his shirts fit a little tighter across the chest, and with closer examination, he'd put on some muscle— most noticeable on his arms and chest, but also subtly around his neck and jaw. He wasn't working out— I'd asked him that in a previous visit. He maintained he was keeping up with his martial arts but that was it.

"See you tomorrow," he said, and then left.

No doubt changes were happening to that sorcerer's boy, but none of them were social in nature. I meant to change that boy. By the end of the summer he would be more human and less robot. Looked like I had my work cut out for me.

 

Chapter 2

The end of my semester at Sir John Sparrow David Thompson Secondary School remarkably resembled the start: here I was in history class thinking of ways to spy on Savion again. Last time I'd been trying to find a way to make him my friend so I could get access to his house. This time I was trying to figure out how to get him to loosen up and be a normal kid. What was he doing when he wasn't at school or my place? Where did he go? The dark circles under his eyes told me he wasn't staying up late playing video games anymore.

Rory MacDonald still sat across the room, but now he was less of a distraction. I'd had almost no contact with him since his memories of me were removed— nothing more than a smile and a nod in the hallways. I'd been told it was better this way, and maybe that was true, but I missed his company.

"Melantha."

My head snapped up, I sucked in a breath, and found myself staring at Mr. Brown at the front of the room.

"Yes?" I answered, hoping I hadn't missed the question. We were supposed to be using this period to work on our independent study units, but as I looked around I saw that we'd arrived at the end of the class to the time when Mr. Brown tossed out a question that would be on the upcoming exam.

"Please explain Georges Vanier's contributions to World Wars I  and II."

I drew in a breath and tried to gather my thoughts. Sarcasm was the first to arrive. Gee, was that all? That was more like an essay question— not easily answered in a few sentences.

Mr. Brown continued, "And tell us why he is considered an important figure in Canadian history."

"Oh." That was considerably more difficult.

"We're waiting."

My mouth went dry and I started to tremble. Not everyone turned to stare at me, but it sure felt like it.

"Well, in World War I, George Vanier actively recruited for the Army, resulting in the creation of the 22nd Regiment. He then fought overseas, but was shot and lost his right leg. Instead of going home, he decided to stay in the military hospital near where his fellow soldiers were fighting. For some reason, this resulted in him earning some medals." The corners of my mouth tugged down. Who got medals for being in the hospital?

"You disagree with the awards for bravery?"

I shrugged. "I think it was kind of stupid of him to stay in harm's way, taking up a bed space someone else could use, and making others worry about protecting him when he could have gone home."

Without comment, Mr. Brown nodded. "And World War II?"

"In World War II, Vanier escaped Nazi-occupied France to return to Canada to become a commissioned commander in the Forces. He pleaded for the Prime Minister to accept refugees from war-torn Europe, though he was unsuccessful then."

"And after WWII?"

"He eventually won over the Prime Minister, and brought over hundreds of thousands of refugees from France. He went on to become the first French-Canadian Governor General. His mandate was national unity, sparking outrage from the Quebec separatists. He started many award programs, including the one for university football— the Vanier Cup."

Hands behind his back, Mr. Brown nodded again. "Maclean's magazine called Vanier the number one most influential Canadian of all time. Would you agree or disagree?"

I shrugged. "I guess I would agree. He managed to win over the Prime Minister and helped a lot of people."

Mr. Brown frowned. I'd just given him a boatload of information but froze on the opinion piece.

"Someone else? Hope. Agree or disagree?"

Hope stood up and gave an eloquent speech that both stated and supported her opinion.

"Perfect," Mr. Brown said.

I sighed with relief when the bell rang. I hoped we wouldn't have to give opinions on the exam. Facts, I could remember. But I hated having to give my opinion on something and defend it. Sometimes my feelings were hard to explain. Other times, I didn't have an opinion. This was history— all this stuff happened so long ago. It wasn't even relevant to what I was going through every day.

I jogged down the hallway to catch up with Savion. All this history junk gave me an idea.

"Hey," I said. He stopped and turned. I swallowed down my nerves and tried to breathe normally. No reason to be nervous, right?

"Um, I was wondering if you might be able to help me study for the history exam?" It was lame, but it was the best I could come up with.

Savion shrugged, shifting his backpack strap higher up on his shoulder. "You seem to have a good handle on things." He continued walking, and I followed, pushing through the crowded hallway.

Crap. I was hoping he would make this easier.

"Dates and things," I said, nodding my agreement. "But not the opinion-required stuff. You saw what happened."

"Oh, but that stuff is easy," Savion said with a wave of his hand. "Just pick an argument that goes with the facts you remember."

I seemed to be getting the brush off. "I just thought we could pose questions to each other—"

He stopped suddenly and I crashed into him. I stumbled back a few steps, mumbling apologies.

"That's a good idea," he said. He pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "But I have something to do tonight. Maybe another time."

"Oh. Okay." Startled, I blinked. Did I really just get turned down by Savion Lebrun? "But you're coming to spell lessons, right?"

"Tomorrow."

Confused, I watched as he disappeared into the crowd on his way to his next class. The bell rang out a warning, and I dashed away to biology.

#

Biology class didn't happen. Instead, we were all shuffled down to the gym to watch the school talent show. I'd forgotten all about it. Though this wasn't my first time attending an assembly, I'd never been to a talent show before. Such things didn't occur when I was homeschooled by my mother. So I wasn't really sure what to expect.

We crowded into the gym, most of us having to sit on the floor. The lucky ones who'd arrived early-- mostly seniors and their friends-- occupied the bleachers along the sidewall. I pushed along through the rows of people and plunked myself down next to Savion. As usual, he sat alone.

"So, how much talent do we have here at Sir John Sparrow?"

"I think you might be surprised," he said.

I didn't get to ask him more than that because the lights dimmed. Some grade nine kids made "woo" noises and giggled. A senior from the drama club stepped into the middle of the stage and the seniors in the audience broke out in applause and whistles. The talent show was underway.

There were singers and guitar players in single acts, duos and small groups. Not one of them was terrible. There was serious talent here.

A melancholy-filled pop tune began to play for the next act. A single spotlight followed a dancer around the stage. But to say she danced wasn't accurate. She embodied the emotions of the song. Her movements were strong, precise and professional. I could not take my eyes off her performance. By the time the song ended, tears formed in my eyes. The audience erupted into applause and took to their feet. I knew we had just witnessed something incredible.

"Wow," I said. "What is she doing wasting her time in high school when she can dance like that?"

Savion didn't answer. It was then that I noticed he wasn't applauding with the rest of us, but frowning as the dancer continued to bow and curtsey for the audience.

"Who is she?" I asked.

"Hope Novack," he said. "She's in our history class."

Right. The one who answered the opinion question when I couldn't. I barely recognized her up there on the stage.

"Has she always been this good? Why haven't I heard about her?" I was pretty sure she was in another of my classes. English. Just this morning the teacher praised her for getting perfect on the Shakespeare test.

Hope left the stage and the rest of the gym finally stopped applauding and sat down to watch the rest of the talent show, though after that performance the rest of the show could only be a total let down.

As the next act entered the stage-- a pair of juggling clowns-- Savion got up and slipped away. When he passed me, he promised to see me later at spell lessons. He left the gym via the doors closest to the stage, and I had no doubt in my mind he was going to find Hope.

I had a feeling I needed to keep spying on Savion, but now for a totally different reason.

###END of excerpt###

Interview with Madeline Freeman author of Crystal Magic

Madeline Freeman is the author of young adult urban fantasy with ten books to her name across four series. Crystal Magic is the first book in the Clearwater Witches series. What was your inspiration behind writing Crystal Magic? What prompted you to tell Krissa's story? I wrote the first draft of what would become Crystal Magic when I was about 13. In the original version, there were something like 9 or 10 girls with the name "Crystal" (all with different spellings). I liked the idea of these girls being drawn together because of their name, and I wanted the Krissa character to be different, and to have a connection to Clearwater she didn't quite understand. That original story is, as you can imagine, pretty terrible. It's full of in-jokes I had with friends at the time, and the plot was nothing like it is now. But the story never left me. Over the better part of the next two decades (Crystal Magic was published when I was 32), the characters and the idea would come back to me. I have notebooks and files filled with ideas about what should be kept (almost nothing) and what should happen instead. After my first series (The Naturals Trilogy) was completed, I needed something else to work on. My father never forgot my first "book" (then called The Crystal Society) and would bring it up every once in a while, so I figured why not give that old idea some new life.

Crystal Magic opens with Krissa at the principal's office. Were you ever called to the principal's office? I was never called to the principal's office as a student--not for anything bad. But I worked as a teacher for ten years and spent some time in the office environment during that time.

Your website says you love dinosaurs and outer space. Will either of these feature in a future book? Perhaps both in a science fiction or time travel story? I don't currently have any ideas for books involving dinosaurs or outer space, but that's not to say they'll never happen. I enjoy science fiction stories, and I like learning about science, but I'm not sure I could write a sci-fi book. But who knows what the future will hold?

How did you discover the urban fantasy genre? What made you want to write in the genre? I think I've always been drawn to the urban fantasy genre. I remember devouring LJ Smith's books (The Vampire Diaries, The Forbidden Game, The Secret Circle, etc.) back in middle- and high school. I think I like the genre because it's like the world we live in, only there's magic.  I was having a conversation with an author friend of mine (Mary Twomey) recently where we discussed writing in more realistic genres. The problem? Outside of fantasy, you have to use conventional methods to solve problems--or, as she put it, "I can't werewolf my way out of this." I like building the magical worlds and giving regular characters extraordinary powers. It's fun to see what they do with them.

How long does it take you to write the first draft? Do you pre-plot or pre-plan your characters before you start writing?  I've written drafts in as little as 15 (working) days. I've also had drafts that take more than a year. The more I write, the more I streamline my process. I used to come up with a premise and an ending before sitting down to write. That's when writing would take me forever. I've found I thrive with a thorough outline. I like knowing where my characters are headed. In a way, writing my outlines is like penning a mini first draft. I can identify plot issues and slow spots in the outline. That saves on rewrites later.

What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing? What is your favourite aspect of writing?  Sometimes the most difficult thing about writing is writing. I had to take some time off this summer due to injury, and even though I've been back to work for a month or so, my writing stamina isn't where it used to be. My favorite thing about writing is when the characters reveal to me something I didn't know. Sometimes this happens in the drafting process, but often it occurs in the middle of a scene. Something that wasn't quite right will click into place. It's like the characters poke me and say, "See?" It reminds me that the creative process is always active and evolving--no matter how prepared you think you are for it.

What resources would you recommend for writers? Susan Kaye Quinn's books The Indie Author Survival Guide and For Love or Money are full of great information. For plotting and outlining, I like Cathy Yardley's Rock Your Plot and Libbie Hawker's Take off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing. Chris Fox's Write Faster, Write Smarter series is also good.

Thank you so much for the interview, Madeline!

Crystal Magic is currently available for free. Try it!

Beta readers wanted

As I'm wrapping up edits of Hunting A Demon (Melantha #2), I'm looking for interested beta readers. If you'd like to read and offer me an opinion on the book, please let me know. Here's what it's about: When Melantha Caldwell suspects her friend and fellow spell-turner, Savion Lebrun, is following in his father's footsteps and becoming a black magic sorcerer, she decides to find out exactly what he's doing when he's not attending high school or magic lessons. What she discovers surprises her: he's spending time with another girl-- a ballet dancer named Hope, who has suddenly developed sleep walking and seizures.

Meanwhile, there's a strange sickness affecting spell-turners everywhere. First Gran is infected, then Savion, leaving Mel no choice but to trust the new spell-turner in town to help her figure out what's wrong with Hope. He calls himself Phoenix and he's much more than he seems, but he's willing to help Mel and teach her spell-turning while her tutor is honeymooning.

After Mel learns the truth about Phoenix and the real reason he's in town, she's not sure she can trust him. Then Mel realizes Hope has been possessed by a demon, she and Phoenix are the girl's only hope of getting it evicted, and if they don't work together, the demon will be free to carry out its own plan for the destruction of humankind— starting with the girl named Hope.

Books I read in July

Have you seen the new Goodreads homepage yet? What do you think? I'm not sure I like it. It seems narrower somehow? Half of my screen shows what I'm reading and stuff about my book lists and advertising, while the newsfeed is squashed into the other half of the screen. I find it annoying. I go there to read the newsfeed, get book recommendations, see what others are reading, and this new squashed up format is irritating on the eyes. It's like the designers forgot the reason people use Goodreads in the first place. Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 8.47.25 AM

Despite the problems of the new homepage, Goodreads tells me I finished 11 books in July. Well, that's not entirely true. I didn't finish all of them. I've decided life is way too short to finish books I don't like. Here's a quick look at what I liked:

 Fans of Cassandra Clare won't be disappointed. This story takes us into newish territory, as Clare gives us more about the group of Downworlders we haven't spent much time with: the faeries. In addition to Shadowhunter lore, Clare has done her research into faerie lore. I really liked how Clare worked in Poe's "Annabel Lee." And she's worked in another "impossible" romance. I'm really looking forward to seeing how she works this one out.

 I got in line at midnight to get this book. (I've never done that before. It was fun!) I spent the next morning reading it. It's a nice, quick read about grown-up Harry and one of his sons. As a parent of teenagers, I appreciated this story. There are some unanswered questions, and not a lot of time spent on some characters, but it's also not a Rowling book. Some of the dialogue is very on the nose, and that surprised me because otherwise the emotions are very complex. I wouldn't mind seeing the play, so I hope there will be a video recording.

 I wish I'd known about this book when I was twelve. I would have loved it. A fantasy with a strong heroine? I'm all about that. This is exactly the book I was looking for at twelve. Discovering it would have changed my life. There are problems with it-- I wanted Sophie to do more than clean house, although I understood she did so to earn her place in the castle and she did end up doing more, sort of. I guess I wanted her to have a stronger role and more development. I also wonder about Howl? How old is he? Is it appropriate for him to have feelings for a girl Sophie's age? And I felt that his feelings were all over the map, with a sudden change at the end. I think that could have been developed more. The end was a bit abrupt.

 A while ago I took an online course on drawing for beginners. In this course I watched videos, then completed assignments and sent them in for evaluation. This book is that course, but in a graphic novel format. There's a wonderful story here to enjoy if you don't want to learn to draw.

Writing Books

 This writing book was pretty good. I learned a few things, but mostly it was stuff I already know. (But I have been reading writing books for twenty years.)

I do love being able to track what I've read in Goodreads. In the days before Goodreads I tried to keep a running list in small notebooks, but just as with journalling and morning pages, I wasn't very good at keeping up with it.

Since Goodreads was purchased by Amazon, changes have been happening. I'm not entirely sure where these changes are going to lead-- certainly to more advertising-- so I'm keeping my eyes open to other services, like Reco by the people at Indigo. I've tried Shelfari and didn't like it.

How do you track your reading?

[clickbait poetry] Why summer is so unfair for people in the city, as explained by science

In which I take a clickbait headline and write a poem in response. I can’t promise it will be good poetry. This is a creativity exercise. Poetry uncensored. Feel free to add your own Clickbait Poetry in the comments. IMG_2100Why summer is so unfair for people in the city, as explained by science.

Why skies bleach the sun for people once frozen, as explained by time.

Why gravy slides off the plate for people on food stamps, as explained by rats.

Why poverty strikes the heart of people casting stones, as explained by kings.

Why stars shine so bright for people in the dark, as explained by life.

Why summer is so unfair for people who toil, as explained by sweat.

Headline from Unworthy: http://www.upworthy.com/why-summer-is-so-unfair-for-people-in-the-city-as-explained-by-science