Down the Garden Path: The Story of My Christmas Cactus.

This is my Christmas Cactus, and it has a unique backstory of how it arrived in this country.

Last summer, my husband did a side job, (he works in construction), and the owner of a house he was working on had this beautiful bushy Christmas Cactus. Hubby and I love plants of all kinds. We used to have fifty-two houseplants in our apartment when we first got married, so naturally he started talking about it to the homeowner. According to the owner, this cactus came to Canada after WW2. A male relative was fighting in Italy during WW2 and either found the plant there and brought back a piece, or was given a piece by a villager. The soldier tucked it carefully into his uniform and there it stayed. When the soldier returned, he potted up the piece and it’s been growing ever since.

The owner asked if Hubby wanted a piece, and of course he said yes! I was a little concerned at first. I’ve had Christmas Cacti before and they never seem to last, and as this little piece sat in a glass of water to root that fear came back. This little plant, part of a seventy-six year old plant had an incredible story, and I wanted to be able to tell people about it. It took a while; it’s a stubborn plant, but it rooted. Now this small cutting is thriving and I can hardly wait to see what colour the flowers will be. I’m keeping it on the kitchen table. It likes it there, so hopefully this holiday season we’ll have a beautiful centerpiece for our dinner.  

Five things Every Writer Should Know: Social Media.

I want to continue with the discussion from a few Mondays ago about social media.

The ‘experts’ state writers are to spend a certain amount of time blogging, tweeting and Facebooking about our book(s), and that it has to be ‘organic’, especially when it comes to Twitter. Problem is, the majority of writers have other things to do during the day, myself included. Goals like this can be a little hard to obtain, but it can be accomplished if you have a solid understanding of exactly what social media is.

Social media is the umbrella term used for online programs that connect people. World-wide there are roughly 15 or so popular platforms (depending on region), that encompass three forms of media; print, video, and picture. While many writers think social media is a pain, it is a necessary evil for this industry, but it can go a little easier if you understand a few things.

So here we go; five things writers should know about social media.

  1. It doesn’t have to be time consuming. 

Did you know you can schedule your posts on a majority of platforms? Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook have options that allow you to schedule, which means you can write out a pile of posts to schedule, which allows you to be consistent with your activity. This is a wonderful tool for writers and should be used all the time and takes some pressure off.

  • Post don’t have to be long. 

 I read an article years ago which stated that the perfect blog post length is around three-hundred words. This is mainly for blog posts, as Twitter already has a character limit. The shorter post are easier on the reader, who may subscribe to dozens of blogs and only a short time to read through them all. I keep mine between three to five hundred words (this one ended up being close to 700) depending on the topic, but it’s a good thought to keep in mind for other platforms as well. I consider short posts a lesson in creativity. Trying to convey what you want to say in as few as possible is a skill on its own.

  • Only do the platforms that you are comfortable with.

There are at least a dozen social media sites on the internet and each has its pros and cons, so do some research before you make an account. What is it you want to do? What kind of content do you want to create? More importantly, how much time are you willing to put into it. Video platforms are time consuming and require a modest amount of money for equipment or programs, while blogging sites are the easiest and require very little in the way of creating content other than writing.

  • There are rules.

Yes, whether you like it or not, there are etiquette rules for social media. Remember, just because you delete something online, doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Think about what you want the world to see. The link below will take you to a site that can explain it better than I ever can.  

https://www.moneycrashers.com/social-media-etiquette-tips-personal-business/

  • Have fun!

I can’t stress this point hard enough. More than once I’ve stopped doing something online because it became more of a chore than something I looked forward to doing. Hence the reason I haven’t blogged a lot in the last few years. All these platforms are great to connect to people, but they do require some of your time to maintain. You have to want to do it, and have fun while you’re doing it. If it starts to lose it’s appeal or you just don’t feel like doing it anymore, that’s fine. Give yourself a break from it. As a writer, social media is important. Authors need a way to get the word out about new releases, and these platforms are the only way to do it, especially for new writers. This is why I suggested in #3 to only work with a few to start with.

There you have it; five things every writer should know about social media. Join me next week when I take a deeper look at blogs.

Have fun, and stay safe.

The Crystal Realm: Metaphysical Metals.

I want to take a break from crystals on this post and write about metals. As you all know, I love crystals. I, like million around the globe, believe strongly that they have an effect on the human body, but did you know that metal also has an effect? Just like crystals, metals interact with our personal energy field in much the same way. This is why jewelry can be a powerful talisman as it harnesses both the properties of the stone and the metal.

Like crystals, each type of metal has its associations with colour, positive/negative, planet, etc. One of the best books I’ve found on the subject is Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic. His book is my go-to for any information on crystals and metal; with only sixteen entries but it covers a wide range of elements. Some, I’ve never even heard of, but like a lot of his books, the information is very detailed and in-depth.

From the book, he writes;

‘Metals have been used for thousands of years as tools for hunting and cooking, and they’ve also been used for spiritual connections as well. In ancient times, metals were seen as ‘the flesh of the gods and goddesses’, the bones of the Earth.’**.  

One of the uses for crystals is in jewelry, and as all are made with metal, combining them to work with a specific stone can amplify the energy for both. There’s not a bad combination of crystal to metal that I can think of, but you would be wise to choose a metal/crystal combination that are more compatible, for example;

Silver is often the metal of choice for jewelry with a moonstone. They are connected to the moon, and many pieces of Wiccan jewelry for full moon ritual consist of both. Silver and moonstone are also receptive, which means they draw energy toward them. Wiccans wear silver/moonstone jewelry during ritual to connect or receive energy from the Goddess and the moon.

Another popular combination is gold and diamond. Both have projective energy and are ruled by the sun. It’s interesting to note that the magical lore of a diamond doesn’t list love as an attribute (rose quartz is the love stone), but it’s thought that diamonds ensure fidelity, so a man giving his love a diamond ring could signify that the wearer is the only one for them.

Below is a list of the metals Mr. Cunningham has outlined in his book.

Antimony – projective, ruled by the Sun, element of fire. (Caution; Highly toxic)

Boji Stones – projective, ruled by Mars, element of fire & Akasha

Brass – projective, ruled by the Sun, element of fire.

Copper – receptive, ruled by Venus, element of water.

Gold – projective, ruled by the Sun, element of fire.

Iron – projective, ruled by Mars, element of fire.

Lead – receptive, ruled by Saturn, element of earth.

Lodestone – receptive, ruled by Venus, element of water.

Mercury – projective & receptive, ruled by Mercury, element of water, earth, air.

Meteorite – projective, ruled by the universe, element of Akasha, fire.

Pyrite – projective, ruled by Mars, element of fire.

Silver – receptive, ruled by the Moon, element of water.

Steel – projective, ruled by Mars, element of fire.

Tin – projective, ruled by Jupitor, element of air.

I highly recommend picking up Cunningham’s book for more information on metal and the magical properties associated with each. The appendix in the back has six chapters that detail all correspondence to not only the metals but the stones as well. This book is a must have for beginners learning about crystals.

Blessed be, and stay safe.

A Wiccan Journey: Outdoor Ritual vs. Indoor Ritual.

The title is a bit misleading. I’m not going to compare to see which is better, rather the opposite. I want to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each, and ways to overcome the disadvantages (if possible).

It only makes sense that outdoor rites be the norm, but if you live in a northern countries where there’s extreme weather during the winter, that might be easier said than done. In Canada, our cold weather (that includes snow) usually starts in December, and doesn’t really let up until April. Sometimes March if I’m lucky. That’s not too bad. It means I have seven months of possible outside rituals, weather permitting, of course.

I love outside rituals. There’s something calming about being outside at night. When we lived in the country, it was perfect. The only thing I heard were the wonderful sounds of night; leaves in the trees, the occasion animal, and maybe a stray car off in the distance. It has to be the most peaceful setting to conduct a ritual. Outdoor rites are simple to set up and require no cleansing of the space beforehand. This is the biggest advantage I can think of with outdoor rites. I have four stones that I’ve painted and have symbols of the elements on them. I place them on the ground facing the right direction, have a candle for each, some incense, earth, water, and a flame and that’s it. Once, I got really creative and gathered up sticks from around the house and placed them as the circle.

Now I live in the city, so the noise from traffic can interfere, which is why I tend to do them later on in the evening or closer to midnight. Being in the city also means your neighbours are closer. During the warmer weather, a few of our neighbours stay out longer, and more than once I’ve done ritual with them still messing around in their backyards. It’s difficult to focus when they’re playing music, laughing and talking, not to mention I’m keenly aware that they are there so it’s not as private as I’d like it to be. I had to really concentrate to keep my focus as I keep thinking they were watching me through their privacy fencing.

Indoor rites allows me to burn more candles and not have to worry about them blowing out or being knocked over. A room full of candle light sets an incredibly calm atmosphere and helps me to focus. I can also play music at a soothing level to add to the rite. It also gives me the privacy and quiet that I want. Well, until I’m visited by a cat. Once, my son came downstairs to get something to drink and interrupt. I let him know ahead of time now.

During the colder months, I go out and chant to the full moon, and then go back inside and do ritual. It’s a nice way to still connect with the outdoors without freezing. Inside, I use my altar and I set up a sacred circle. The rite takes a little longer because of the circle casting, but as I’m inside, I don’t have the elements to contend with. They’re also the task of cleansing a head of time. This can be as time consuming as you want. I’ve scrubbed down my whole work area with water that’s had vervain soaking in it. Now I just smudge.

Whether you prefer indoor or outdoor rites, the most important thing is to make it fun and personal to you. Sometimes, when I’ve had a busy day, I just stand outside with a white candle, chant for a few verses, say a prayer and that’s it. There are a lot of guides as to how you can do a ritual, and you don’t have to do exactly how they instruct. Pick and choose what you like. Make it as easy or complex as you wish.

Blessed Be, and stay safe.

Random Question.

Just because I need a filler post and can’t think of anything else to blog about, I decided to answer random questions from an online site I found. WordPress used to do them and I think they’re fun.

Do you have an app on your phone that you use, even though you hate it?

Yeah, my Fitbit app, only because I check it CONSTANTLY!

Hubby got me a Fitbit a few years back because I was right into counting steps, and all that fun stuff, not to mention I can no longer read an analog clock (seriously), so I figured this would be the whole two birds, one stone thing, but I have become obsessed with it. Checking it several times an hour; how many steps, heart-rate, resting heart-rate, logging food, calories, water, how was my sleep? Deep sleep, REM sleep, light sleep? They added a few more features too. Mind-fullness, tracking how many days I’ve exercised. Granted, it’s all for a good cause and keeping track of this stuff makes me more mind-full of what I’m doing, or not doing. Still, the fact that I’ve fallen into the habit of checking it so much is why I hate it. Is it enough to make me stop? Nope. It’s going to be one of those love/hate things for as long as it works.

Food in the time of Covid.

This last year has been interesting, to say the least, but one thing I wasn’t planning on, was all the cooking I’d be doing. I think that came as a shock to a lot of people too. Suddenly, here we are, locked in our homes for weeks at a time, trying to keep sane, and like a lot of others, I found that cooking did take some of the edge off.

We got a few weeks subscription to HelloFresh, and it was great! Twice a week they’d send us stuff and I had a blast putting it all together. Not to mention that I had my son’s extra culinary knife set so I got to play with those as well. We only did the subscription for a couple weeks. It’s nice, but it’s damn expensive, and it opened me up to doing more home cooking than I was before. I started experimenting with spices and sauces, added herbs to things I normally wouldn’t, and took the time to really prepare a meal. My mom got me the biggest bottle of Worcestershire sauce I’ve ever seen. I love it too and I put that shit on everything.

The fact everyone was making bread I find hilarious, and my own attempt at making as sourdough starter failed brilliantly, but it wasn’t just bread. I discovered that I really like to cook, and not just whip stuff together or throw a pre-made dinner into the oven, but actually spend time preparing a meal. It’s become a lost art; like knitting.

Because of this, I’ve pulled back from the prepared meals. I get a few for my son on the days that I’ll be working late, but most of the time, I’ll cook from scratch, and I can’t wait until the garden is growing. Nothing tastes better than food you’ve grown yourself.

How were your Covid meals? Did you jump on the bread bandwagon?

Stay safe.

Of Writers and Prose: Social Media for Authors.

I can hear you all groaning from here.

Social media; the bane of every writers existence, but one of those things that we all need to do, whether we like it or not.

I wrote this post based on my experiences over the last decade with many social media platforms new and old. Whether or not it’s scientific, I don’t know, but this is the conclusion that I’ve come to. Take it or leave it, it’s up to you.

Social media keeps us ‘seen’ in the publishing/writing world, the one thing that all writers need in order to sell our books. Now, don’t get me wrong, Facebook and Twitter and all the others DON’T sell books, but keeping ourselves visible whether by posting those cute cat photos, retweeting someone’s book promotion, or making that quick video about absolutely nothing, keeps us engaged with our audience and in the end, it’s that engagement we need.

Why do we need it? Because, my friends, THAT is what sells books.

When you retweet another writer’s book promo, publish a blog entry, or make that cute video, you’re creating/manipulating the algorithms that all these sites use. Have you ever noticed when you watch something on YouTube, and suddenly there’s are a pile more videos just like the one you watched? That’s the algorithm working. Content IS the key to algorithms. It’s the reason the majority of how-to sites for social media specifically state that you should post on a regular basis? Because you’re creating the algorithm that will allow a potential audience to find you.

When someone clicks on your social media site, more of your content will appear on whatever platform they are using. If you post regularly, even as little as once every two weeks, you are actively engaging with the platform and it will recommend your site and more of your content. Don’t believe me? Click on a YouTube video and see how many more of the same type show up on your feed. (I’m using Youtube as an example because that’s the one that moves the fastest.) Click one video on say ghost pictures, and Youtube will list a dozen or more other channels with ghost pictures, or more content from the channel you watched.

That’s the algorithm in action. That’s what you need to harness.

Each platform is different and it takes a bit of time to figure out how each one works. TicTok is similar to YouTube with its algorithm, but I think Facebook is the slowest. Twitter goes by who you already follow, so the key is finding the followers, but that’s a topic for another post.

Engagement is the key, not just you putting out content, but you engaging with others, and it doesn’t have to be for hours at a time either, but you need to identify what works best for your and that includes how much time you’re willing to give. Remember, it’s called ‘social’ for a reason, and yeah, I can still hear you all groaning.

Writing Update: March 2021

2020 took a toll on my writing, and it seems 2021 is going to be a little easier on me. Our second lockdown ended half way through February and it felt great to get back to work, but my writing suffered for the first few weeks. I really didn’t work on anything until the beginning of March, and then it wasn’t the 2k that I’d been doing during 2nd Lockdown. At least I was writing, and two other stories started poking at me again.

So let’s begin:

Eva and Skye’s Magical Hair Solution

As I’m back at work, I’ve dropped my writing goal to 1,000 again. With blogging and other things, I don’t have the extra time to add more than that to the project. I’ve also been adding plot ideas for a second book. I want to have four books for this series, and I do have a rough idea of where they’re going to go. This first one will be light, but it’ll get darker as the story goes forward.

Word count – 63,000 of 89,000.

Pangea

This is a semi-new project and that’s the working title. I’ve mentioned before that I grew bored with my Gutterchild story (and then someone used that name for their published book), and working on the story with Scrivener did renew some interest, and I’ve been looking at this one again. I like the overall plot, but there are some details that need to be changed. I had originally wanted several books for this series, but right now I just want to get the first draft out. This won’t be the same plot as Gutterchild, and I’m still debating if I should move forward with it or mesh in a new one. I like the new idea too. I’m just not sure if I can sustain it for more than one book.

Zombie Plague

Another story that’s been poking at me again. After Nightfire rejected it *sadface* I didn’t send it out again. Life got complicated again (holiday season) and between being exhausted from work and the talk of a second lockdown (which happened), this story was the last thing on my mind. One good thing about being in a pandemic, I now know how the government-all three levels, along with the population at large, would handle a world-wide outbreak. Now that I have real-world experience, I want to include that into the novel, which means a minor revision. There are also a few things I want to take out and put into the second book, which already has a first draft. Looks like I’ll have a lot to do once I finish the first draft of EVA AND SKYE.

Take care and stay safe.

The Crystal Realm: Crystals for Aries.

Welcome to the month of Aries bitches!

The Aries energy is powerful. We are the FIRE energy. We are the WARRIER energy. We’re feisty, independent and trailblazers. We’re full of ideas and half the time we don’t know where to begin so we try to do it all at once. Our birthstone is the diamond. Hardest natural substance on the planet, and if you’ve ever argued with an Aries, you’ll get a taste of that, but having all that energy isn’t always a good thing and with all the qualities imbued to an Aries, there is a negative side to it all, so here are a few crystals for my fellow Aries to help them navigate those erratic waves.

Aquamarine – Aries are all about fire but sometimes that’s not a good thing. Aquamarine is a WATER stone and can help calm some of those fiery impulses.

Black onyx – This is a good stone to help us find balance in our lives.

Clear quartz – this stone can be used in conjunction with other stones. Everyone should have at least one clear quartz in their collection.

Garnet – This protection stone is the ultimate stone for an Aries. It can enhance the natural energies of our sign.  

Red jasper – This stone can temper our minds and let us think clearly, especially when our natural reaction is to do now, think later.

Apart from the Aquamarine and quartz, there’s a colour pattern here-red and black. Two colours that are associated with the Root Chakra, and the primal energies of our bodies. If you’re meditating with one of these stones, use a spicy (patchouli, clove) incense or woody (pine, cedar, bamboo).

These are just a few stones that I found while researching. The link below has several more that help with other aspects of the Aries nature.

Aries Crystals

Five things Every Writer Should Know. Period.

I’ve been writing for a solid twelve years, and I’ve hung around the writing community for about fifteen. A lot has happened in those years, and no matter how many things come and go, they always stay the same. Every year, new writers enter the writing world and are bombarded with things they should do, shouldn’t do, maybe should do – well, you get the picture. I’m here to tell you, with all the experience and knowledge I’ve gained in the last ten years, or more, there are five things that every writer should know. Now some of this is just common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to restate them every now and then.

  • Writing fads come and go.

Remember that vampire craze a few years back? Remember how everyone was writing about them and you couldn’t swing a rope of garlic without hitting a book that had vampires? Just replace vampires with werewolves, zombies, witches, ghosts, and it can feel like the publishing world is getting a bit crowded with the paranormal, but don’t fret. What comes around goes around, and if you have a paranormal novel with any of the above and you feel it won’t be seen, wait a few years. These tropes never go out of style and there’s a reason there are so many-because they’re popular and have a very large following. Keep writing that book, and when it’s done, do your research. If you feel the time isn’t right put it away and wait for a time when it is.

  • Never compare yourself to another writer

This should be a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. All writers have that internal voice that nags at them and tells them they’re not as talented as (insert author here), or why aren’t your books or your career doing as well as (?). I’ve fallen victim to it myself several times and it’s a real pain in the ass to ignore too, but you have to. You have to tell that little voice to fuck right off. Negativity like that can damage your creative energy. Once you start thinking you’re not as good as so-in-so, you begin a spiral that eventually pulls you away from the passion you have for not just your story, but for writing in general.

  • Agents talk to each other.

Yes, they do. Frequently. They talk to each other and about all sorts of things too; stories about how well their clients are doing, upcoming novels they’re really excited about, and authors who have decided to be assholes and harass or belittle them.  If you harass an agent, you can damn well bet that other agents will not only know about it, but be keeping an eye out for anything you send.  Agents get hundreds of emails per day and the last thing they need is some writer giving them a hard time because that agent passed on their manuscript. I follow several agents and at least once a year I see posts from them about some wanna-be author taking their rejection personally. Please, be an adult about this. If an agent (or editor, for that matter) passes on your manuscript, yes it hurts, but it’s not the end of the world and not worth being labeled. Yes, you heard me right. You’ve marked yourself right from the beginning as being hard to work with, and trust me, NO ONE wants to work with that asshole.

  • Writing is HARD.

A decade or so, when self-publishing soared into popularity, everyone decided to write a book. Nothing wrong with that, but some soon learned that being an author isn’t easy, and neither is telling a good story. I get it. Writing is hard, but the difference between a writer and an author is how you handle that hardship. A new writer may look at other writers/authors and see how effortlessly they accomplish word goals, or publishing goals, or handle promotional work, etc, but I’m going to tell you that each and every writer has struggled with all of these at one time or another. The reason it looks so easy, is because they understand the nature of the beast. Writing is more than just telling a story, and promoting is more than just putting up a link to your novel. This is a business and it has to be treated like one. Learn as much as you can about your craft and everything that comes with it. The writing community is very supportive. Hook up with like-minded people, because the information they can give you is priceless.

  • How-To Books are Guidelines

This goes along with #4. Writing books are a wonderful place to start for the new writer. Hell, even seasoned writers can gain new insight into their writing with them. I have a few myself, but I’m well aware that what has worked for the authors might not work for me. In those instances, I tweak their information to work in my situation. For example, there’s a popular advice that states you should read for 4 hours a day and write for 4 hours a day, every day. I don’t have that luxury and neither do many of my writing friends, but I didn’t dismiss this advice. Maybe I can’t write or read 4 hours a day, but I can write for 30 minutes every other day. The fact is, I’m writing. I’m creating a writing habit that will help me move forward with my stories, and guide me through those days when putting words down is difficult.

So there you have it; 5 Things Every Writer Should Know. Period.

Take care and stay safe.

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