#ROW80 check-ins, mash-ups, writing updates

#ROW80 Sunday check-in and a round-up of posts to inspire a year of writing

ROW80LogocopyThis week’s word count: 2,545. That amounts to two out of three scenes in chapter two of my WIP, “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.” So, I didn’t quite meet my goal of finishing a chapter this week. But I did some plotting work that should help make this draft more cohesive than my first drafts in the past, so I’m okay with not having a knockout word count this week.

I’m almost halfway through Roz Morris’ “Nail Your Novel.” That book is also helping me plot my current WIP, so I don’t get stuck halfway through. I didn’t finish reading chapter two in Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World,” so I’ll add that to my plate for the upcoming week.

I spent a decent amount of time this week getting reacquainted with Twitter and the WANATribe website, posted three blog posts, and jumped in as a last-minute ROW80 Round 1 sponsor. I also joined the Romance Writers of America Online Chapter, so I’m excited about where things are headed for 2014. It will be great to be interacting with fellow writers online, learning about their projects, and encouraging them as a #ROW80 sponsor.

We’re almost halfway through the first month of the New Year, and most of us spent part of this week trying to survive the brutal cold that made “polar vortex” a household term.

If you need some inspiration for staying on track with this year’s goals, look no further than this round-up of posts from across the Webz:

What about you? How are your goals for 2014 progressing?

magic, spirituality, symbolism

Exploring the Elements, part 4: Air and Balancing the 4 Elements

This is the fourth and final post in my series on the four elements. Previous posts covered earth, water, and fire.

Photo by Rebecca Barray in WANA Commons

A single kingfisher’s feather floats to the ground. A hawk circles, its sharp eye searching the ground below for prey. The smoke of incense dances toward the sky. A foggy morning gives way to a summer day, complete with a clear, blue sky stretching on toward the heavens. Each day is framed by the splendors of sunrises and sunsets.

The element of air is linked to communication, intellection, new beginnings, and creativity. Air signs are often “ideas people,” fascinated by the future or possibilities. People who are strongly connected to the air element are often creative, practicing some form of art, whether their medium is cooking, writing, painting, or a musical instrument. Because air is associated with sound, communication is also a key component of this element. But because air is ever-shifting and constantly changing, it can also be associated with a lack of being grounded (“pie in the sky” thinking), daydreaming, or flightiness. Someone with too much of the air element in their life can seem disconnected from reality, full of ideas but lacking a practical plan to complete them.

What do you picture when you think of air? I imagine curtains wafting in a fresh spring breeze, clothing drying on the line, a bird soaring to impossible heights, and humans’ fascination with flight. Finding a bird’s feather, whether belonging to a turkey or a blue jay, can set our imagination going. In fact, I often use feathers to represent the air element when I do magic work.

Air brings in freshness to complement earth’s stability. It fuels fire’s passions. It rounds out water’s undercurrents of emotion with the ability to communicate and express those emotions. If you need “a breath of fresh air” in your life–whether it’s a relationship, a project, or your day-to-day comings and goings–consider bringing in air symbols to your surroundings. This can be a piece of jewelry (an air gemstone or a pendant featuring a bird, feather, or wings), a wall painted an air color, or an object associated with this element. Whether we need inspiration or are seeking to articulate an idea or vision, air allows us to accept change more readily and express ourselves more easily.

Balancing the 4 elements to bring harmony into our lives

Most importantly, the four elements are all about balance. When our lives have too much earth, stagnation takes root. We resist the change that is as natural to our lives as the cycle of seasons. Too much fire leads to aggression. Too much water makes us overly sensitive or emotional. Too much air brings us too many ideas and not enough follow-through–we’re all thought, but no action. Every room should have some representation of each element. If one element is lacking, imbalance and disharmony often follow. That’s why, on every magical altar, each element is represented and honored.

For example, as a Sagittarius, I have the passion of a fire sign. Because there’s a lot of air influence in this sign, I’m also very creative and intellectual. But sometimes I need more water to temper my pursuit of my goals with a sense of harmony and emotional balance; water can “cool off” the sense of urgency or impatience with which fire signs often grapple. The earth element is essential because it allows me to ground my air-and-fire-inspired goals with a practical plan and to nurture this body that I often take for granted.

What, if any, elements are lacking in your life? Which element do you need to draw in more?

Associations with the air element:

Photo accessed at stock.xchng

Cardinal direction: East
Season: Spring
Zodiac signs: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Colors: sky blue, violet, yellow
Gemstones: lapis lazuli, sapphire, topaz
Herbs and spices: lavender, marjoram, mint, parsley, sage
Plants: clover, elder, maple, pine
Fantasy creatures: angels, fairies, sylphs
Altar items: feathers, incense, wand

For more great information about the four elements, check out these wonderful sources:

“Celtic Magic” by D.J. Conway. Llewellyn Publications.
“Herb Magic for Beginners” by Ellen Dugan. Llewellyn Publications.
“Feng Shui Home” by Gill Hale, Stella Martin, and Josephine De Winter. Barnes & Noble Books.
“True Magick,” Amber K, Llewellyn Publications.

magic, spirituality, symbolism

Exploring the Elements, part 2: Water

In the first post of this series, we discussed the nurturing qualities of the earth element. In today’s post, we’re talking about water.

Water, governed by the moon and the goddess Venus, is generally associated with emotions, love, and spirituality. People who are water signs can be moody and emotional, but also sensitive, generous, and compassionate. In dreams, bodies of water are said to symbolize the unconscious mind, and the state of the water represents the dreamer’s psyche. Cloudy or muddy water represents a lack of understanding of unconscious desires and urges or being overwhelmed by negative emotions, whereas clear waters reflect that the dreamer is in touch with his/her innermost desires or fears and is in a receptive state of mind.

image accessed at stock xchng

Water can be a clear, still pond or a wild, raging river. It is a dynamic element, in contrast to earth, which can leave a sense of being “rooted in place.” Just as earth provides a nurturing sense of stability, water is also healing, but in this case, in the sense of cleansing. Water can soothe wounds, washing away negative energy. In nature, storms can be intense and powerful, but also cleanse the atmosphere (take a moment to imagine the cool, refreshing scent of a forest after an intense rainstorm).

Water energy is necessary in every home. It provides a feeling of love and connection and helps to add a sense of movement in places where there can be stagnation. Water represents purification and receptive, feminine energy. Consider adding a mirror (a water symbol) to a corner or an object made of glass (another water symbol) to spaces that could use more water energy. Beautiful symbols of water energy abound. Consider using a glass dolphin statue as a paperweight or adding a bowl of seashells to balance out a room.

Do you ever feel like you need more of the water element in your daily routine? If so, how do you welcome water energy into your life?

Associations with the water element:

image accessed at stock xchng

Cardinal direction: West
Season: Autumn
Zodiac signs: Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio
Colors: aqua, blue, silver, white
Gemstones: aquamarine, moonstone, pearls
Herbs and spices: chamomile, feverfew, thyme, vanilla, yarrow
Plants: birch, elder, lotus flowers/water lilies, seaweed, roses, rushes, violets, willow
Fantasy creatures: nymphs, mermaids, undines
Altar items: chalice, bowl, or cauldron filled with water; glass objects; mirror; seashells

For more great information about the four elements, check out these wonderful sources:

“Celtic Magic” by D.J. Conway. Llewellyn Publications.
“Herb Magic for Beginners” by Ellen Dugan. Llewellyn Publications.
“Feng Shui Home” by Gill Hale, Stella Martin, and Josephine De Winter. Barnes & Noble Books.
“True Magick” by Amber K. Llewellyn Publications.

creativity, spirituality

Exploring the Elements, part 1: Earth

(This article is part one of a four-part series exploring the four elements–earth, water, fire, and air–and their common associations with plants and herbs, gemstones, colors, emotions, and the cardinal directions.)

In many Western, nature-based spiritual paths, there are four elements–earth, water, fire, and air–with the fifth (the top point of the pentacle) being spirit. Regardless of our personal spiritual path, many of us can use some additional earth energy in our lives.

The element of earth is associated with soil, plantlife, growth, fertility, and stability. Think of phrases like “down to earth.” People who are earth signs are practical, stable, and grounded in reality.They may also fall victims to inertia, having a tendency to like routines, an extension of the stability of this element. Earth also represents a sense of resolve; while earth signs can be stubborn, the upside is that they are often steadfast and stand their ground.

photo by Emmie Mears in WANA Commons.

Just as the rich soil can nourish a beautiful forest, an ample amount of earth energy in our lives can provide the fertile, nourishing ground we all need to flourish. Earth energy is healing energy, helping us stay strong in our physical selves.

Too much earth energy can lead to a sense of stagnation and dullness, like a dusty room closed off too long from the fresh air. Earth needs the wind to rattle the oak tree’s branches; it needs the cleansing energy of a storm or the warm radiance of the sun.

Call on this element if you want to cultivate a sense of stability in your life or if you want to tap into the healing potential of the earth or to “nourish” a part of your life or an aspect of yourself. Earth energy can be useful in helping us to establish routines, nurture a project, or give our creative lives a sense of structure and focus. If we’re having trouble sticking to our routines or bringing a “seed” of an idea into fruition, a little earth energy can be helpful. Strongly rooted in physicality, earth energy is also useful in spells associated with health, protection, and prosperity.

Below is a list of common associations with this element. Even if you’re not doing spells or meditations, you can use this symbolism in your stories. If you’d like to bring more earth energy into your life, you can surround yourself with colors or scents associated with the element of earth.

Associations with the earth element:

photo by Rebecca Barray in WANA Commons

Cardinal direction: North
Season: winter
Zodiac signs: Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo
Colors: black, brown, green, sometimes yellow
Gemstones: emerald, aventurine, pyrite, onyx
Herbs and spices: vervain, mugwort
Plants: ferns, barley, ivy, oak, oats, wheat, tulips, honeysuckle
Fantasy creatures: gnomes, dwarves, and trolls
Objects: pentacle, rocks and gemstones, salt

For more information about the four elements, check out these wonderful sources:

dose of inspiration, paranormal romance, the writer's journey

Magic and the word: Why I write paranormal and fantasy

Every day that I sit down to write, I find myself swept up in the magic. The sheer act of writing is magic in itself; the same energy that flows through me when I read tarot cards or weave a spell also takes over when I conjure a story.

And every word that I write, every character I meet, every story I tell, I know that the magic belongs. I am meant to write paranormal and fantasy fiction. Whether it’s faeries or ghosts, urban or earthy, I know that the magic that weaves itself into my stories is a part of me. It belongs in my life and in the lives of my characters.

I’ve always believe in possibilities. As a child, I was fascinated by witches and wizards, ghosts and goblins, wee folk and nature spirits. Nature hummed with more songs than the birds could tell, more energy than a swollen spring creek could carry. That was the first magic I ever knew. Soon, that magic would find its way to my stories—whether they were the stories of warrior princesses, lost unicorns, or witches who’d newly discovered their powers. In my childhood, everything from a dusty book or painting found in the attic to the spiritual energy of the forest to an old abandoned building in the city seemed full of potential stories. And that hasn’t changed. Stories continue to pop out of the woodwork. And every time, magic plays a role.

As a kid, I was fascinated by witches. Not the Wicked Witch of the West cackling kind, but the wise woman, oracle in the woods sort of witches—wise women who heard the earth, who lived close to nature and listened to its sorrows and songs, who understood the ways of plants, animals, and stars.

In college, I found my way to a nature-based spiritual path and realized that my fascination with those cottage-dwelling wise women wasn’t solely reserved for my fiction. Understanding the sacred symbolism of plants, trees, crystals, and animals can be a part of our everyday lives. Today, I surround myself with items that bring to mind the beauty of nature and of spirit and the potential of magic in our lives.

My stories don’t necessarily reflect my own magical practice. My characters can read thoughts, teleport, or have visions of the past or future. Their magic is part of the story, of the worlds I’ve created and discovered in my fiction. I have several friends who write magical realism and incorporate subtle elements of the fantastic into their characters’ stories without entering realms that echo the medieval-esque fantasy of Tolkien, Le Guin, or World of Warcraft, or the urban/paranormal bent of Kelley Armstrong or Yasmine Galenorn.

In each story I write, every word is wrapped up in magic. The fairy tales and folk tales I soaked up in my youth infuse my fiction. The magic of my real life inspires and is inspired by the magic of my worlds.

My soul is fed by the magic I believed in and discovered as a child and by the magic I discover each day—whether outside my window in the rain, birdsongs, or mystery of the trees; or in the windows to other worlds my stories open…

The curtains dance madly, thrashing in the wind. Outside the window, rain pours and storm howls. A wild witch with knowledge of stars and shadows awaits us, stirring her cauldron, ready to share secrets and inspiration if only we’re willing to drink her dark brew. Like the brew of Cerridwen’s cauldron, each drop is pure, undiluted poetry, the gift of the bard.

Writers venture into the stormy night on a quest for stories. Every story, paranormal or not, hums with Cerridwen’s magic. If you write about magic, what inspires you? Why do you write about the paranormal or the fantastic?


Upcoming contest: I’m celebrating the magic of the fall season with my upcoming “Autumn Reads” contest. Join me on my WordPress blog starting on Friday, Sept. 23, to kick off the season and enter the contest for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.


Witchin’ in the Kitchen:

Sometimes, kitchen magic is born out of necessity. While in my daydreams (which are many), I live in a city with a new-age scene the size of San Francisco and can find any old herb or magical ingredient at the drop of a hat (Mugwort? Sure, no problem. Frankincense? Oh, just let me pop over to the shop down the street!)

Snap back to reality: I live in a small college town in a beautiful part of the country. A girl just can’t buy incense in this town, which is probably why I stock up on incense and essential oils like a squirrel gathering acorns for a long winter whenever I get the chance. I might be a new-age girl, but this isn’t a new-age town. And so my journey into kitchen witchcraft begins.

Let’s face it, we’re blessed with a lot of perks that are thoroughly 21st century. Online bulk suppliers of herbal goods (Mountain Rose Herbs is a personal fave.) and three-hour drives down the interstate to bigger cities weren’t an option long ago. So, I’d infer–feel free to slap me ;)—that, for centuries, magic-workers worked with what they had (often known as hedge-witchery). Gathering moss in the woods, snipping some rosemary from the garden, and allowing the kitchen knife used to cut last night’s potatoes to serve as the sabbat athame might be a far cry from high magic but were most likely a reality for magic practitioners throughout the ages. And since every witch has his/her own style, born of personal preference and circumstance, I’ve found my way to kitchen witchin’. This blog entry shares some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up on the way.

The magic of herbs makes for a wonderful read whether you plan on practicing some magic on your own or if you’re cooking up a spell for a character. For characters, it’s fun to pull out all of the stops and call upon those rare plants and incenses that give a book that otherworldly quality. But it’s also fun to see what our magical beings can brew with a bit of cinnamon or allspice!

Books like those mentioned below[i] are full of practical spells and magic-workings that don’t call for an extensive Internet shopping spree (‘cuz I told my husband I’d stop those…). What I love about kitchen witchin’ is that I can grab some cinnamon or basil from the cupboard and, Voila!, magic is in the air. Magic is in everything, from the farthest land to the closest cabinet. Spices from India or the backyard each contain their own correspondences and have uses for magic.

What I love about kitchen witchin’ is that I can grab some cinnamon or basil from the cupboard and, Voila!, magic is in the air. Magic is in everything, from the farthest land to the closest cabinet. Spices from India or the backyard each contain their own correspondences and have uses for magic.
Here are a few favorites from my own kitchen.


The Magic and the Writing

Like the old chicken-or-the-egg conundrum, sometimes I don’t know which came first: the magic or the writing. Was the magic born of storytelling, or did the storytelling spring forth from the soil of spirit, from the earth and ground where I first found a deeper self?

Once, there was a small knoll that served as a bridge; as my brother and I crept up the gentle slope, we’d peer down the low but steep sides, wondering if the troll would emerge to exact its payment. Fallen trees made the walls of castles, and patches of briar and thorn hinted of dungeons perfect for villains. In such a world, knights and wizards and warriors were possible, and a deep magic stirred. Many days, that world meant more to me than a world of school buses and math problems. I was on to something—telling stories, but only to myself.

As I grew older and the world grew harder (yes, harder than it should have been, but that’s a different story), I made a mythology for this world of magic and tales. Mythology of seasons, of goddess and god whose love enveloped me like the scent of ferns. Grapevines and oaks, maples and beech trees, foot trails of deer and songs of birds, their world of mystery called me. The wind carried their silent voices. “Ask questions; find answers beyond words. Struggle for words; find they fall away. Walk deeper, deeper into us; find your true self.”

That’s where the stories were born. That’s where the goddess daughter, child of earth, star-gazer, moon-watcher, one whose blood hums with poetry and story, that’s where she found herself, her calling. It was a place of unquestioning truth, acceptance, and quiet guidance. I walked out beyond the words, to the edge of the world of humans, into the wild. An untamed part of me walks there often, and that belief in magic is what pulls me to the page and allows me to speak. Walking out beyond the words, I found the words. Speaking in an enchanted language, I weave the myth and the magic, the fae and the mundane, and deeper truth emerges from the quiet soul.

So, in the world of magic, I find the stories.The world of spirit is the birthplace of all art, which tells the stories alive, breathing, but hidden and formless in the everyday: in cups of tea and sidewalk cracks, in rumpled sheets and messy hair, in shadows and sunlight, behind eyes haunted or laughing.

Feeling the swell of the stories and poems is easy; they have a gorgeous, vibrant energy that sets me on edge—a wonderful, dazzling desire, like a longing to hold the stars or see the sunrise. Tapping into that deep energy is what gives me the strength, the courage, and honesty to transform those stories into words on the page.

Yet part of me still wonders whether I would hear the haunting melody of magic that runs through all things if the stories didn’t call me there. Did the magic of language draw me toward this deeper magic? Which did I find first? Since I’ve known the joy of both, perhaps that’s a stone best left unturned.

So song of love and sorrow, song of night and day, I call to you; you call to me. I thank thee. Blessed be.