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Denise D. Young

Stories of Magic & Moonlight

Simple Summer Pleasures

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Photo by Orientaly | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Summer is in full swing here in Virginia’s New River Valley. As I type, birds are singing in the twilight. The grass beneath my feet is soft and lush; the trees are bright green and filled with scampering squirrels and countless types of birds. Leo and I have been enjoying long walks in the park and on the nature trails we’re lucky enough to have right outside our back door. I’m growing herbs and squash in containers on our front porch, and the lemon balm, oregano, and basil are already taking off. Tonight I cooked stir-fry and added some of the sweet basil into the mix.

We live in a go-go-go society. Too often we miss the birdsong and squirrels because we’re focused on other things. Too often we forget to drink in the forest’s tranquility because we’re distracted by modern life. Too often we don’t savor the taste of fresh basil because something else is calling our attention away.

True contentment, I believe, is slowing down enough to enjoy these things. True contentment means embracing moments of stillness and the small moments of joy that are all around us—if only we’re paying attention.

So what did I do this week, aside from some container gardening and long walks? I wrote 3,612 words in Fates Entangled. I did a lot of refreshing of my social media presence. I’ve been more active on Facebook, tried a new Twitter chat, updated my cover images for Facebook and Twitter, and started planning some changes to this website for the launch of Spellfire’s Kiss, hopefully this autumn. I continued reading Courting Darkness by Yasmine Galenorn.

On the home front, hubby and I are talking more and more about saving up to buy or build a house in the country. He really wants to live in a yurt, so we’re researching that option. No definite plans yet—this is all just dreaming out loud. But it’s something that might be out there on the horizon. And long summer days and warm summer nights are the perfect time for such dreams.

What about you? What are your favorite summer pleasures?

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Exciting Changes

 

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Public Domain Stock Photo | Dreamstime.com

I’m excited to announce a couple changes coming in 2017. I don’t have an exact timeline yet, but I have a few developments that I’d like to share.

One, I hope to release my novel Spellfire’s Kiss this fall. It’s currently out with beta readers, but my goal is to release it sometime later this year. When will depend on how extensive the edits need to be and how quickly I can get a proofreader.

Two, I plan to launch my Patreon page sometime this year as well. I’ve written all of these short stories, poured lots of energy into them, and Patreon seems like a great way to share them. Patrons will get short stories full of magic and moonlight, and a host of yet-to-be-determined goodies.

Three, after leaving my author page on Facebook inactive for many months, I finally have a plan for it. I’ll be sharing brief excerpts of my works in progress. Some will be text, others will be videos of me reading from my WIPs. So if you’re interested, jump over and follow. And thank you in advance!

That’s all so far!

And now, a brief check-in:

I’ve written 2,376 words so far this week in Fates Entangled, which started out as a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood but is shifting into its own creature entirely, as is the nature of stories.

On the reading front, I’m still reading Courting Darkness by Yasmine Galenorn and The Goddess is in the Details by Deborah Blake. Courting Darkness is dark—at times, it’s been painful to keep reading because I’m so attached to these characters and man, are they suffering in this one. But the writing is beautiful, and I love the D’Artigo sisters and their friends and family so much.

Join the A Round of Words in 80 Days writing challenge. Visit the website or join us on Facebook. We’re a wonderful, supportive bunch!

And, if you’re interested, here’s the link to my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/denisedyoungwriter/

What about you? What changes are coming up for you as we enter summer? Any works to be released? Any other non-writing plans in the works?

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Embracing the Life of a Kitchen Witch

Recipe Book

This week has been all about going deeper into my spiritual life. I meditated, worked on my book of shadows, started a book of magical recipes, and spent time in nature, breathing in the scent of loamy soil, fresh-cut grass, and pine. For a long time I’ve walked an eclectic path as a Witch/Pagan, but this week I felt called to explore a more specific path—that of a Kitchen Witch. It works well with my belief that all aspects of our lives are magical—even the seemingly mundane tasks of chopping vegetables and scrubbing the counters are imbued with magic. I’m just beginning to tread the path of a Kitchen Witch. We will see what I find as I explore the magic of hearth and home.

As far as writing, this week I wrote 2,460 words in Bewitched by the Dragon. I’m still feeling this story out, so I might switch over to Fates Entangled for a few days. I think the former wants to be a trilogy, and I’m trying to listen and see what that story needs from me.

I’m currently reading two books, Courting Darkness, the tenth book in Yasmine Galenorn’s Otherworld series, and The Goddess is in the Details, a work of spiritual nonfiction by Deborah Blake.

Although my word count for the week wasn’t anything too grand, it was still a very creative week. I’ve embraced the path of a Kitchen Witch. I added three pages to my book of shadows and started another scrapbook, a collection of magical recipes. So, special recipes for the Sabbats and Esbats, etc., will go in that book. That way I don’t touch my regular book of shadows with greasy hands. This one (see photo above) is designed to be in the kitchen where the action is.

Mostly this week was about embracing the changing nature of life. I’m adjusting (slowly) to life without my cat Roo. I still have Tigger and Zander and my very crazy puppy, Leo, to keep me company, but Roo was my writing companion, and I miss her—which probably explains why sitting down to write was so hard this week. And I’m embracing changes on my spiritual path, and hubby and I are talking about how our life might change next year when he’s out of graduate school. Where we’ll live, etc. Will we stay in this area but move to a house in the country, some place with a fenced-in yard for Leo? Will we uproot our lives and explore a new region of the country? That’s life, full of change and possibility. Forward we go.

What about you? What changes have you encountered recently, and how have you dealt with them?

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Goodbye, Roo.

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Sweet Roo.

A lot has happened since my last check-in. On Sunday we said goodbye to our cat Roo, who’d been with us 15 years. We watched her grow from a feisty kitten who was always getting into one misadventure after another to a feisty old lady who kept the entire house in line. Goodbye, sweet Roo. We miss you.

On the writing/reading front I’ve been fairly productive. I read Amber Benson’s The Witches of Echo Park and loooved it. I immediately ordered the next two books in the series. It’s all about sisterhood and magic and was the perfect fit for this reader.

On the writing front, I penned a new short story, Intersection, and continued working on my novella Bewitched by the Dragon. This week I’ve written 1,457 words in Bewitched by the Dragon. I just got back a beta read on Intersection and hope to get that one revised soon.

I’ve reached a crossroads with my short stories. I had begun the process of submitting them to magazines, but then a Twitter chat (thanks, #StoryDam!) got me thinking that Patreon might be a better avenue for publishing my shorter fiction. Basically, patrons (in my case, readers), would pay a set amount per creation or per month. I’m genuinely thinking about giving it a go. Something to think about as I put the finishing touches on a few more of the shorter works I so love to write.

That’s it for this check-in. We’re trying to adjust to life without Roo, and I’m finding distraction in storytelling, both my own and others, immersing myself in worlds of magic and wonder.

What about you? Have you heard of Patreon or used it, either as a creator or a patron? Thoughts on this new model?

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Changing Directions

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

This week turned out to be a wonderfully productive week. I wrote 4,429 words in a new story, Bewitched by the Dragon, and wrote a 4,678-word short story, Upon the Witching Hour, a retelling of Cinderella (but with a twist). I also wrote and posted my first Insecure Writers Support Group post, and am finding IWSG to be a supportive community.

I paused a couple chapters into Bewitched by the Dragon, though, because something felt off. I felt like I was going in the wrong direction, and sometimes a couple days of distance and careful thought shows me where I went wrong, and I actually end up further ahead than I would’ve if I’d just charged through. It’s a big lesson I’ve learned on this path.

I realized that the problem was that the story itself is intended to be novella length, and for that to work the hero and heroine need to meet up in chapter one. As it was written, it took them several chapters to even meet—that’s several chapters where there’s no sexual tension, no romance developing. Plot-wise, that just doesn’t work.

Tonight the answer came to me. They need to meet up by the end of chapter one, and I figured out how to do that. There are still a ton of unanswered questions swirling around this story, involving character arcs and backstory and a host of other normal, first-draft issues. And I’m still torn between first and third person POV, as I mentioned in a previous post. But now that I’ve solved this first riddle, I can work on solving the others. Back to the page!

The next couple weeks I have two manuscript critiques to do, so those will be my main focus. I’d like to at least get the first three chapters of Bewitched by the Dragon rewritten, though. Later this month I can move forward with that. I still have to get to the next draft of Fates Entangled as well, but that probably won’t happen until June at the earliest.

What about you? Do you ever need to take a day or two away from a project for some brainstorming?

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#IWSG Post: Making Magic on the Page

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Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeI love being a fantasy writer. No matter how many stories I write, there’s always new terrain to explore. As a practicing Pagan, I also have the opportunity to weave threads of real magic into worlds of the fantastic.

One of the ways I do this is by incorporating the magic and symbolism of gemstones and plants into my stories. In Spellfire’s Kiss, for example, my characters cast a spell that uses five gemstones, four associated with each of the four elements (earth, water, fire, and air) and a fifth to symbolize spirit. In my Cabot Sisters series, the characters have a chalcedony pendant that symbolizes the water magic that runs in their family. In The Faerie Key, Lily uses black tourmaline, a crystal that’s said to have powerful protective qualities, in casting a protection spell.

Plants, including herbs and trees, also have elemental associations and magical or healing properties. Sage is dried and bundled and used for cleansing people’s auras and living spaces and for smudging magical tools such as athames and wands. Lavender has calming properties, and it’s an herb that I reference frequently in my stories. Willow trees are associated with poetry, oaks with royalty, and an ash tree is said to be Yggdrasil, the tree that connects the nine worlds in Norse mythology.

When it comes to magic, the possibilities are endless, and that’s why I know I’ll never get bored writing fantasy. There are always ways to incorporate the magic of the natural world into a fantasy story. By far the most interesting research I get to do for my stories involves magical symbolism. I research goddesses and gods, types of faeries and other magical creatures, symbolism of plants and stones, and so much more.

Being a fantasy writer allows me to draw from nature, my greatest inspiration, and to incorporate my Pagan faith into my work. A raven, messenger of Odin or the Morrighan. The songs of birds heralding the arrival of spring. The legend of a redcap or kelpie. The power of the goddess Brigid. Or simply the verdant green of summer leaves. This is the magic of my path—and the magic that can make a fantasy story shine.

Learn more about the Insecure Writers Support Group, visit fellow bloggers, or sign up here.

What about you? What’s the most interesting thing you get to research for your work?

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The Importance of Point of View

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As writers, we think a lot about point of view. Sometimes our genre dictates what POV we use, although even within a genre we can use our own creativity. Yasmine Galenorn writes paranormal romance that’s first person, unusual for the romance genre where third person is often used. YA often calls for first person, although third is also frequently employed.

I’m thinking about it this week for two reasons: one, I just started a new project, and two, I’m doing a read-through of a friend’s manuscript. Both have me thinking about genre expectations when it comes to POV. I started writing my story in first-person, present tense, rarely used in romance, and while I love writing in that POV and tense (I love the immediacy of it), I also realized when I added in the hero’s perspective that it got a little confusing. I might write the first chapter in both third and first and then seek out an opinion on which one works better. Ultimately, it’s about making sure readers don’t feel confused or jarred by point of view shifts, and jumping from POV to POV in a first-person story can be difficult.

We shall see what happens. Have you ever faced this dilemma? How did you decide?

A brief check-in:

This week I wrote 3,356 words in a new story (title pending). It’s paranormal romance—and there’s a dragon. Last week I finished the fifth draft of Spellfire’s Kiss and sent it off to beta readers, and I put the finishing touches on a short story and submitted it to a magazine. I’m also in the process of doing a read-through of a friend’s manuscript, so I’m trying to work my way through that story and give lots of feedback.

I’m currently reading Mugs and Monasteries by Cait O’Sullivan. It’s a short read, although a little confusing at times. I think it’s meant to be a little disorienting, but there were times where I felt like I’d missed something, only to realize that was just part of how the story was unfolding. Still, it’s a delightful journey into Ireland, and the characters drink lots of tea, so I can’t complain!

No major projects on the home front, just the usual tidying and baking and trying new recipes.

What have you been up to this week? I’d love to hear from you!

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Burning the Midnight Oil

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Photo by Wayne Zhou | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Last night I worked until 3 a.m. to finish my revision of Spellfire’s Kiss. The fifth draft is now in the hands of critique partners and awaits their feedback. Next up is revising my short story, The Forest’s Own, so I can start submitting that story to magazines.

As far as reading, last week I read Blood Wyne by Yasmine Galenorn, part of her Otherworld series, which I love. No surprise that I enjoyed this story as much as the others in the series. I’m continuing to read Little Women, which I set aside for a while, and I have a read-through of a friend’s romance manuscript to read as well, so most of my reading time will be dedicated to that.

On the home front, hubby and I took a car load of stuff to Goodwill, and I have four boxes of books that I’m donating to a library near my hometown. It’s a low-income area, and I know the books will be put to good use there. I finally finished painting the living room a rich, royal blue, and I’ve decluttered every room except my husband’s office. It’s definitely our biggest problem area—there’s a reason we saved it for last. We have a serious paper clutter problem that I’m looking for a way to address. I think with a better filing system and a more organized closet, we can get that room under control. I also planted some flower bulbs—irises and gladiolus—so hopefully come summer we have some new blooms in our flowerbed.

What about you? What projects have you been tackling lately? On the writing front? At home?

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Simple Living: What to Keep?

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As many of you know, one of my missions for 2017 is to drastically simplify my life. I’ve packed up boxes of stuff—extra dishes, knickknacks and picture frames, even books, and am working toward having a more streamlined home.

I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism, and I’ve read enough to know that I am not a minimalist. I want my home to feel cozy, and for me that means a few meaningful items here and there. It’s a balancing act, finding that place that is “enough.” Enough stuff. Enough books. Enough dishes. Enough artwork. Just enough.

I’m not sure how we know when we’ve reached that point. I’m learning simple living is more of a process than a destination. I’ve boxed up a lot of stuff and tucked it away in the attic. If I don’t miss it within the next six months, I’ll go ahead and donate it to a local thrift store.

We’re moving toward a simpler life. The arrival of spring helps with that. More time spent outdoors, going hiking or simply sitting outside with a notebook in my lap. Opening the windows and letting the birdsong and fresh air in. It’s a process. We’re getting there.

As far as writing, I’m making progress with Spellfire’s Kiss. I have cover art and some promotional materials made up; more on that in a few months. I’m 70 percent of the way through a read-through of the latest draft. My goal is to finish the read-through tonight and start working through my notes tonight or tomorrow. I’d like to get this story to my critique partners by early next week.

On the reading front, I’ve read 10 books out of 30 for the year. I just finished reading a book on simple living, Simple Living: 30 Days to Less Stuff and More Life, by Lorilee Lippincott. It was good, although a lot of the tips were things I’d already done. I’d recommend it if you’re just starting to simplify your life, but if you’re further along in your journey, it might just be a reminder more than fresh information. I’m currently reading Blood Wyne by Yasmine Galenorn, which is fantastic.

What about you? Are you interested in simple living? What is the hardest part for you? What have you decided to keep or not to keep? How are your writing and reading goals coming along?

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