Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tarot Stories: Keeping Secrets

Doing research for the tarot-reading scene in my book was easy. My source lives with me! I’ve asked my husband, John, to stop by my blog and tell us a little about the tarot.

Hi there…
My name is John, and I’m a professional tarot card reader. It’s a labor of love for me, and I really enjoy helping people. My wife has graciously allowed me the opportunity to guest blog for her.  Thanks, Jen!

I’ve been reading cards for almost 21 years now, and I’ve had a professional practice—which means that I take money for readings—for nearly 6 years. I read at a fantastic metaphysical shop in Northern Virginia, 13 Magickal Moons in Occoquan, VA, and I’m blessed to have a devoted, loyal clientele.

Anyway, while I enjoy my work immensely, I have some very interesting tales from reading cards that you may find interesting, funny, or both, with some advice if you ever consult me or another psychic. Please note: All of my readings are confidential, so I will never reveal any names or enough information for you to figure out who the client is. Any tarot reader worth your time and money will also have a code of ethics that includes a confidentiality clause.

Speaking of confidentiality…

Keeping Secrets

What you say to me at my table stays with me. But if you bring someone with you, you are giving that person permission to hear everything. Many people choose to bring a friend—for support, to help them remember a reading, because it’s a bonding experience, etc.—but be careful who you choose.

I am often hired to do “tarot parties” for all kinds of different occasions. The first time I read at a bridal shower, I asked the mother of the bride where she wanted me to read. She led me into the middle of the living room. She requested that everyone who was being read do so in public so everyone could be a part of the readings. Of course, I’m thinking this is NOT a good idea, but it’s her house and her call. I guess guests could have declined, but she had thrown down the gauntlet and I don’t think anyone wanted to back down. Ego can be a powerful motivator.

Please understand when you pick up those cards, you never know where they might take you. And as my wife will tell you, I’m not a shy person. You see where I am going with this.

The Maid of Honor was up first, and right away I see her current relationship in the center of the layout as “The Lovers.” Apparently her boyfriend was very…well, quite satisfying in a physical way, to put not too fine a point on it.

Okay, so I’m the only man in this room filled with women and while I’m rarely at a loss for words, I’m trying to get the message across and not be too crude. So after a second or two, I come up with, “He’s really good, isn’t he?”

“Oooooh, YEAH!!!” she screams, and every woman in the place starts howling with laughter and approval. Whew! That was a close one.

The event went extremely well, but the moral of this story is that you should be careful about having a reading in front of others. A tarot reading is a private event for your ears only unless you choose to have others listen or share your reading with other people. If you do, pick someone who knows how to keep your secrets.

If you ever are a guest at an event where people want you to have a reading in a public forum like this one and you are uncomfortable with the idea, ask to be read in another room or at another time. And if you have a reader or psychic to your event, private readings are usually the way to go.

Please come over and take a look at my blog, and if you find it interesting I hope you’ll follow me. If you’d like to know more about me—I’m a Scorpio so I know curiosity!—you can check out my website. I would be honored to read for you, and hope you’ll consider me if you’d like some insight. 

Thanks for stopping by today, John! Make sure you check out his blog, Metaphysical Meanderings.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Borders Closing - What does it mean for the publishing industry and the readers?

The upcoming closing of Borders has me, to quote John Cage from Ally McBeal, “fraught.” I never dreamed that such a massive book chain could cease to exist. Poof! Now where will I go to fill my shopping basket with books while I drink a chai?

I know this doesn’t signal the end of the brick and mortar bookstores, but in my area, Borders is the most convenient one for me. Sure, there’s a Barnes & Noble, but it’s farther, out of the way, and in an area I don’t often find myself. I will inevitably end up going there, but probably less frequently. I suspect some people will find themselves in a similar situation.

I read that the last time Borders showed a profit was in 2006.* Is the public buying fewer books – especially here in the States amid the financial crisis – or are they buying from other vendors? Certainly Amazon has to have impacted Borders’ bottom line as well as the rise in ebook sales, which accounts for 9% of all book sales.*

Now I suppose the big question is how is the closing of Borders going to impact the publishing industry? Borders accounted for about 15% of book sales in North America last year.* It remains to be seen whether those buyers will turn to other local stores, an online retailer, ebook downloads, or simply read less, especially if they no longer have a bookstore close to where they live.

As for me, I could never read less, and I can practically hear a bunch of you die-hard readers shouting the same thing. The casual reader though… will they buy only the bestsellers because that’s what they’ll find at the grocery store, Wal-Mart, or the price clubs? That’s fine – keep buying books any way you can, people! – but I suspect it will become more difficult to discover new writers unless the reader goes out of the way to do so.

What do you think? How will Borders’ closing impact you?

* I found these statistics in articles on the internet, and I’m taking the posters’ word for their accuracy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Winners of BlogFest 2011

Thank you everyone who entered my BlogFest 2011 giveaway! It’s been great getting to know a little more about all of you. And I have to tell you… you’re all a bit odd… in a good way! I say this knowing that it takes one to know one. You’re all so unique and interesting and downright quirky that you’d probably make a great character in a book. Hmmm… that gives me ideas for a future contest!

In any case, there was such a great turnout that I’m giving away 5 digital copies of Magick Charm to the following winners, chosen using


Congratulations! And for anyone who reads Magick Charm, I'd love to hear from you. Send me an email and/or post an Amazon or goodreads review. I'd really appreciate it! 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

BlogFest 2011

7/18 - This contest is now closed. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and entered!

Hello and welcome to my BlogFest 2011 guests! If you’re dropping in for the first time, let me tell you a little about myself. I write books with romance, a bit of magick, plenty of humor, and quirky characters.

Rachel, the heroine in the book I’m currently writing, is the most colorful character I’ve ever created. She’s into ghost hunting, drives a barely-running classic Gremlin, believes she has “twintuition”– the special psychic bond between twins, dumped her last boyfriend over a ferret named Nostradamus, dresses like she’s the love child of Stevie Nicks and Marilyn Manson, and is a vegetarian. She’s a lot of fun to write!

Everyone has their own quirks, though perhaps not so many as Rachel! A few things most people don’t know about me:
  • I’ve seen ghosts (but not in the Haley Joel Osment way!).
  • I spent 7 years as a vegetarian, but gave up because bacon makes me weak.
  • I worked as a molecular biologist, Mary Kay saleswoman, and in the fraud department of a bank before becoming a writer.
  • I’ve been a practicing Wiccan for almost 20 years. Although tempted, I have never turned anyone into a toad.
  • My favorite musician has always been Prince, even through his unpronounceable symbol years.
  • I’m 1/8th Chippewa. My dad used to joke that my Native American name is "bird who flies backward with broken wing."
  • Shark Week is my favorite time of year. When I was 4, I rooted for the shark in Jaws. 

For BlogFest 2011, I’m giving away an electronic copy of my book, Magick Charm, where you can meet Rachel for the first time. Here’s how to enter:
  1. Follow my blog, either through Google Friend Connect, Networked Blogs, or email subscription.
  2. Leave me a comment below telling me one quirky thing about yourself.
  3. Include your email so I can contact you if you win.

Want to increase your chances? You get an extra entry for each of the following:
  1. Like Magick Charm on Facebook.
  2. Follow me on Twitter.
  3. Tweet: #Enter to #win #BlogFest2011 @AuthorJenWells
  4. Add Magick Charm to your to-read shelf on goodreads. 

The more entries I receive, the more copies of my book I will give away!

Hop to the next blogs on the list:

Look for a list of all participating blogs at A Journey of Books, and be sure to check out the BlogFest 2011 tracking site for extra chances to win fun prizes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pants vs. Plot and ROW80 Check-In

After much red ink, I finished the first round of scribbling and notes on my book. Here’s a pic as an example of the work I’ve done so far:

Next step: I need to make all of my changes in the Word file. Some of this is easy, some not so much. The rewording, removing of overused words, and fixing spelling and grammar isn’t so bad. The challenge is going to be filling in the spots where I wrote something to myself like “fill in Elizabeth’s backstory here,” and “figure out why this happens.” Nothing sucks more than a plot hole.

I’m planning to start with the easy stuff and work my way up to the bigger challenges. The more I read over the MS, the more familiar I become with what needs fixing. I’m also brainstorming new scenes, so by the time I’m ready to write them, I’m hoping to have a good grasp on exactly what is going to happen in them.

In general, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I prefer to write the first draft by the seat of my pants. I don’t have more than a vague idea of where the story is going. It’s fun to see what is going to happen as I write. It’s impossible to avoid plotting my way through edits though. Maybe that’s why I find editing more challenging – because it’s not exactly natural for me. Still, it’s going well so far.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Advice from Janet and Steve – Books on Writing

In between the fiction books I love to read, I try to squeeze time here and there for a non-fiction book or two. When I’m editing, like I am now, I pull out a few books for tips. Tonight, I grabbed How I Write by Janet Evanovich and On Writing by Stephen King. These are two of my favorite authors, and I love their distinct voices.

Janet first. I flipped to the chapter “Revising and Editing.” She gives a great rewriting checklist that I think is especially helpful. A couple of these items are some that I’m finding I have to revisit in my book: “Is the villain strong enough to give the main characters a true challenge?” “Is it clear what the main characters want and what are their motivations?” “Have you edited out words that have no function?” My villain isn’t nearly as vicious as she could be, I haven’t yet introduced one of the main characters, and I’m hacking through the forest of unnecessary words: really, very, just, that, etc.

Stephen King is also full of fantastic advice I’m taking to heart. One of my favorite pieces of wisdom is the Rewrite Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%.  I’m tossing quite a bit from the rough draft, from those unnecessary words to sometimes full pages of things that just don’t work.

I also find myself stumbling a bit on the backstory. This book is a sequel, and I have to bring the reader up to speed on some topics. S.K. says “(a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick with the parts that are, and don’t get carried away with the rest.” I’m doing my best to trim the excess and leave only the info that directly impacts the storyline in this book.

But I am making progress! And I’m pretty pleased with it so far. I started with a printed out copy of the book and a red pen. I’ve made notes and changes for 15 of 24 chapters. It’s clear, though, that when I translate my notes from the written pages to my Word document, I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s a little daunting, but I’m encouraged by how the book is shaping up so far.

I think I have just enough time to edit another chapter before bed, so I will sign off here. Happy writing, ROW80-ers!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Two Great Vampire Books - The Becoming and Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein

The Becoming and Blood Drive are the first two novels in the Anna Strong Chronicles. The seventh book is slated for release in August. I love when I find a great author who has a series - especially when I discover them after a number of the books have already been released. It means I can devour them all back to back and not suffer through the wait between novels!

The Becoming (Anna Strong Chronicles, #1)The Becoming by Jeanne C. Stein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bounty hunter Anna Strong got more than she bargained for when trying to bring in her skip, Donaldson.  He attacked Anna, turning her into a vampire during the violent assault.  An elder vampire, Avery, helps Anna discover her own growing powers and her place within a secret underworld of influential vampires.  But vampire hunters infiltrate her personal life, violating her home and threatening her safety and that of her friends.  Anna must use her supernatural abilities and the help of her mysterious new allies to set things right.

Mysterious characters and ingenious plot twists abound in this novel that clearly stands out from the crowd in the vampire genre. Urban fantasy fans will love Jeanne Stein's fresh voice in this powerful opening book of this series.

Blood Drive (Anna Strong Chronicles, #2)Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bounty-hunter-turned-vampire Anna Strong returns in this sequel to The Becoming as she clings to the normalcy her mortal family and friends offer her.  A threat to a niece she never knew existed brings Anna’s ferocious vampire nature to the surface in her family’s defense. 

She wallows through the distasteful world of prostitution and pornography to catch the men who threaten her niece, Trish.  Anna must use her supernatural abilities and the help of the secret underworld of influential paranormal allies to set things right even while she remains unsure of who she can trust.

The first person present voice lends a gripping immediacy to the story.  Stein’s sleek writing style and creative plot twists ensure a fantastic, fast-paced read. The books in this series can be read alone or savored together.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: A Witch's Lament / Thursday 13: Novels Set in Salem

A Witch's LamentA Witch's Lament by Catherine Anne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Blurb:
When Skye Temple buys a historic house in Salem, Massachusetts, the witch capital of the world, she ignites events that began centuries ago during the witch trials. Salem's bloody history unfolds with her discovery of ancestral diaries, the murders of local girls, and her attraction to Jerome Phips.

A local police officer, Jerome has returned to Salem vowing to uncover the truth of his mother's disappearance during a ritual gone wrong 30 years ago. His suspicion of Skye and her family's history keeps tension between them high.

Burdened with the birth-task of the Goods to keep an ancient knife protected, Skye gains a new understanding of her powers, while the need to avenge his mother's death drives Jerome. Past and present collide in a final ritual between evil, love and honor.

I’m a sucker for stories about Salem. I love the town, and it makes such a rich backdrop for a paranormal book. The author makes great use of the setting, winding in elements of Salem’s violent history alongside the modern commercial aspects of the town.

The story itself is fast-paced and filled with magickal twists and turns. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I look forward to reading Collins’ next book!

Thursday 13: Novels Set in Salem
  1. A Witch’s Lament by Catherine Anne Collins
  2. A Witch’s Legacy by Catherine Anne Collins
  3. I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde
  4. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
  5. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  6. The Last Witchfinder by Jennet Stearne
  7. Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
  8. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
  9. The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
  10. The Crucible by Arthur Miller (okay, it’s a play, not a novel)
  11. The Afflicted Girls by Suzy Witten
  12. Susannah Morrow by Megan Chance
  13. Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Updates and ROW80 Day 3 Check-In

I’ve been busy over the last few days! I’ve been working on a new blog project with Sam from 13 Magickal Moons, and I’m happy to announce that the Ask-A-Witch blog went live yesterday! It’s a place on the web where your spiritual and magickal questions will be answered by practicing Witches. We have a list of questions that we’re working on answering for you, so please keep checking in if you sent a request.

This past weekend, I joined a read-a-thon that Back of the Book Reviews was hosting. It was a blast, and I finished off several new books that I can recommend. I’ll post a couple of reviews later this week!


ROW80: I started a new writing challenge in an attempt to finish my latest re-write. I have to admit, I was procrastinating about opening the rough copy of the book. As much as I like the story, right now it’s a mess and I was dreading wading through it all. But I pulled out my printed copy of the beast last night and started whacking away at it with a red felt-tip. The pages I’ve worked on so far are now so red they look like they’ve been sitting on the floor of Eric’s dungeon! I have to admit, though, perhaps the story isn’t quite as messy as I thought.

I will sign off here and get back to work! Good luck, ROW80-ers!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Writing Goals

In the spirit of shared insanity, I have decided once again to join a writing challenge. Every year for the past five, I’ve done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – write 50k words in the 30 days of November) and met my goal each time save one – and that’s only because I didn’t set my time zone correctly on the website. It makes November crazy, but always productive!

I recently discovered another writing challenge site, called A Round of Words in 80 Days. In this one, you set your own goals to complete within 80 days. Sounds a little less hectic than NaNo! I do well with deadlines, so I figure I’ll give this a try.

Anyone who’s been asking me when my next book will come out has heard me say that it is written, but unedited. Every time I get into editing it, I get frustrated because it’s not going to be so much an edit as a compete rewrite. Especially after my recent trip to New Orleans. There are so many things I want to incorporate from that trip into my next book, that a rewrite really is necessary.

So here’s my goal for the next 80 days: Finish the rewrite of Free Spirit. I’m not going to say it’ll be completely edited by then, but I’d like it to be in pretty decent shape with only some cleaning up and polishing to do before I send it in to the folks at Crescent Moon Press.

I have to make this goal! And here’s why: I have another book that I’m working on that is due to the publisher in less than a year. I’d really like to complete my sequel before I get any farther into that book though. Also, I want to be able to answer people’s questions about a sequel with a date! And the only way to do that is to get it into my editors’ hands.

I’m very excited that my husband, John, already jumped into the challenge with me. We may not have a very clean house for the next 2 and a half months, but I think writing a couple of books is a fair trade!

The 3rd round of ROW80 just began July 4th – who wants to join me? Yes, Sam and Amy, I’m talking to you!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Skyrockets in Flight Blog Hop and Giveaway

Happy Independence Day!

Lush Book Reviews
Few things say July 4th to me like cookouts, fireworks, and Jaws. Jaws is my favorite movie! What could be better than Peter Benchley's story, Spielberg's filmmaking, and sharks? For me, it's the quintessential summer film!

"Martin, it's all psychological. You yell barracuda, everybody says, 'Huh? What?' You yell shark, we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July."

What’s your favorite summer movie? Tell me in a comment below and click one of the follow buttons on the right for the chance to win an electronic copy of my book, Magick Charm!

Sorry - the contest is over!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: Hybrid by Brian O'Grady

HybridHybrid by Brian O'Grady

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a science geek, so O’Grady had me with the cover, which depicts winding DNA strands. But this book is more than just genetics, a killer virus, and a race against time! The human element in this story is strong, with the quirky main characters having well-developed back-stories that blend together into a compelling narrative. There’s plenty of action and suspense here too.

One thing that I particularly appreciated was the scientific discussion of the virus itself. It shouldn’t be surprising that O’Grady is able to give a thorough description of the medicine behind it since he’s a neurosurgeon!

I got lost a couple of times among the plethora of characters and subplots, but overall, this was an entertaining story. I give it between 3.5 and 4 stars.

View all my reviews