What is there to look forward to?

aveda-kadavra

A couple weeks ago, Facebook offered to show me a video they’d made of my highlights for the last year. I was all, “Why would I want to revisit the shitshow that was 2016?”

No thank you.

Looking back over the last 12 months, it’s easier to find the lowlights than anything else. I mean, what can you say about the year Prince died? He started hitting big when I was a sophomore in college, and honestly, he was my 20s. Of all the celebrity deaths this year, he’s the only one who got me ugly crying.

prince

Another reason for tears was the death of my good friend and critique partner, Amanda. She was only 35, she was in the middle of writing at least a couple books, and damn it, I know in my bones she wasn’t done yet.

I still catch myself composing emails to her.

And then there’s the national and international political scene. It’s hard not to absolutely panic when I think about it. This presidential election has brought a me number of firsts. Until this November, I’d never called a senator. I’ve never felt compelled to speak up about what I believe in or to get involved with the political process.

I’ve never prayed so hard for my country as I have in the last month.

Yeah. 2016. Good times.

Not.

Even though I have to dig a little deeper to find the bright spots, 2016 wasn’t all bad. Irene and I self-published Vespers and the holiday novella/sequel Bonfire, and readers have been very supportive, which is awesome. The husband and I celebrated our 21st anniversary, and both our kids are becoming amazing young adults. After almost 20 years, my day job as a nurse practitioner is still satisfying.

Honestly, I have little to complain about.

And you know, there are a few things I’m looking forward to in 2017. Irene and I are already working on the next installment of our Hours of the Night series, and we’re hoping for a release date in late June or early July. The husband is planning another big and very cool home improvement project, which I’m excited about. And with a little perseverance, our oldest will graduate from high school this spring.

So yeah, there’s reason to hope that 2017 won’t be as bad as this year. New year, new beginning, blank slate, right? I’ve got family and good friends who support me, and an outlet for my creativity that continues to challenge me and force me to grow as a person and as a writer.

Just as important, as a cis/het, middle-class, white woman,  I’m protected from most immediate threats brought on by the change in our government. However, if things go crazy politically, I’ve got the means, the resources, and hell, the responsibility to help others fight back.

Every so often, I just need to remind myself how very, very lucky I am.

Cheers, mates. Here’s to a better 2017!

snow

 

Yuletide

So I’m not gonna lie; I had no idea what to write for today’s post. It’s probably the stress of waiting for next week to see what’s going to happen in the world. But. We’ve agreed not to get political on here, so that leave me wondering what the holly to write.

We’re ten days away from Christmas Eve, so I guess I should be talking about something holiday related, right?

This week I was very excited to join The Young Podawans on their episode talking about the various creepy Santa Claus’–giving a little extra time to my favorite: Krampus. If you’ve got time, I really hope you’ll check out the episode.

Speaking of Krampus, I have my own story featuring the grinning devil as the Big Bad. The third book in my Matilda Kavanagh Series: Yuletide. The story is episodic enough that, if you haven’t read the first two, I don’t think you’d be lost if you wanted to pick up a creepy and fun Christmastime read. It explores the crazy scene of the Krampus Los Angeles Fest while giving a moment to wonder what has become of the demigod. I also try to shed some light on some of our appropriated holiday traditions, so hopefully it’s entertaining and informative and funny and creepy all at once!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iBooks

yuletide

If you think you might want to pick it up, here’s a little taste featuring our favorite witch explaining the real tradition behind “kissing” under the mistletoe…

Copyright Shauna Granger 2014

“Something was happening behind the bank of registers, but I couldn’t tell what. I leaned forward to hear what they were tittering about, but then a man stepped in front of me, so close that he popped my bubble of personal space. He looked human enough in his tennis shoes, jeans, and grey Black Witch White Magic T-shirt. But looks were deceiving. His aura pulsed against mine so that my senses were filled with the feeling of open spaces, the scent of bark and grass, and the warmth of sunshine. But under all that was the push of primal, animalistic allure. Tree nymph.

I jerked back and hissed, “Toads!”

“Well,” he said, dragging the word out with a waggle of eyebrows. “What do you say to a little Yuletide cheer?” He leered at me, leaning in and giving his head a shake so that bells jingled overhead.

I looked up, feeling my face pull in a grimace as I eyed the mistletoe and bells attached to his Santa hat by a thin wire. “Oh good gods.” I leaned back, almost touching the guy in line behind me as I tried to put some space between me and the randy nymph.

“Whaddya say? Bet a pretty little witch like you could really renew my Christmas spirit.”

He winked at me, and I felt as though I was trapped in some sort of cheesy vaudeville act. Even the bouncy version of “Mr. Heatmiser” overhead added to the surreal moment. The nymph wiggled his hips to make the bells jingle again, and I knew he wasn’t asking for a kiss.

“Seriously? You think it’s okay to talk to women like that? Beat it, creep,” I said with a flick of my fingers, zapping him with a controlled flash of power.

It snapped at his face, making him yelp and jump back. A hand flew to his face as if I’d slapped him. I kinda wished I had.

“There are kids around here, for the love of frogs!” I pointed at the crying child and her mother, who was now sitting on the floor with her, defeated.

“Take it easy,” he said, all good humor gone from his face and voice. “Just a little joke.”

“Yeah, real funny.” I threatened him with another jolt of power, but he turned and ran before I could zap him. I heard a snicker behind me, and I looked over my shoulder to see a guy with just one small box in his hand.

“Sorry,” he said, putting up his empty hand in surrender. “But why did you say there were kids around? I know he was being gross, but it’s just a kiss.”

I eyed him for a moment, letting my aura touch his. He was just a human on the supernatural side of town. “It’s not, though.”

“How’s that?”

“Humans think it’s just a quick, innocent kiss, but really the tradition is a lot more…” I paused to think of the right word. “Uh, graphic, if you get my meaning.”

He furrowed his brow, so I lifted mine, giving him a pointed look. His eyes went wide and I knew he got what I meant.

“Wait, you mean…?”

“Down and dirty,” I said with a nod. “In front of people usually.”

“Whoa.”

“Right.” I bent over to pick up my items, seeing a register clearing.

I watched the guy’s eyes dart over to a display of joke mistletoe items. Some were innocent enough, like the cheesy Santa hat the nymph wore, but others were less discreet, like the ones that hooked onto a belt buckle so the mistletoe hung right in front of…

“Happy holidays!” I said, overly cheery, as I walked away from the dumbstruck human.”

The Weather Outside is Frightful…

Thames Frost Fair, 1683–84, by Thomas Wyke
Thames Frost Fair, 1683–84, by Thomas Wyke

It’s that time of year again. Grey skies, ice storms, hard freezes, frigid mornings and bitter nights. I’m not talking about the holidays—I’m talking about winter! The solstice is rapidly approaching, but for most of us, I think winter begins when the last of the colorful leaves has fallen and the world around us takes on the fragile white shell of frost.

I actually love winter (up to a point). I’m a January baby, and I always love it when nature celebrates my day with snow. As a kid, it was a point of pride any time the school district declared a snow day on my birthday. I’m fascinated by the crystalline structure of snowflakes, and any fairytale set in a snowy landscape has my riveted attention. Winter has a duality to it that I love: all at once, it’s beautiful and soft and barren and dangerous.

It is, beyond a doubt, a great time for stories.

When we were kids, we learned about the different types of conflict: man versus man, man versus self, man versus society, man versus technology, and man versus nature. Nowadays, we don’t read a lot of man versus nature. Tales set in the wilderness often morph into stories about finding the self in the landscape—journeys of self-discovery that happen only when we pare away the external things and find ourselves alone in the elements.

But the classic man versus nature story doesn’t involve the hipsterish, navel-gazing twist of really being a story about the self. (Though I suppose we could argue that most stories involve a conflict of man versus self, but that’s a topic for another blog post!) True conflict with nature strikes a note of fatalism and fear that can’t be recreated when writing exclusively about self-discovery.

When nature—particularly winter—marks us out for conflict, all we can hope to do is endure. We may discover new depths in our own character, but ultimately, the struggle is to fight back against nature using any tool at hand, including nature herself.

One such story that comes to mind for me is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A seven-month winter besieges the frontier town in South Dakota where the Ingalls family has settled, and they have to find ways to survive without regular sources of food and fuel. As the darkness deepens, Laura and her family must twist hay into sticks to burn in their stove, and they must make do with less and less food. Finally, Laura’s future husband and another young man venture out into the snow in search of wheat to keep the town alive. This was always one of my favorites of the Little House books, not just because of love the details of historical life, but also because it demonstrates the tenacity Laura and her family showed regularly, just trying to survive.

Another collection of wintry tales I adore is The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphries, a collection of short (even tiny) stories set during the moments the Thames has frozen. From glimpses of the frost fairs to the story of Queen Matilda’s escape across the Thames from her cousin Stephen, these stories give glimpses of the magic we humans can make when the winter threatens to freeze us alive.

What are your favorite wintry reads? 

Holidays Are For Reading

christmasbooksI was always a voracious reader. As a kid, most of my free time was spent reading. Picture books, chapter books, horse magazines, fairy tales; pretty much anything I could get my grubby little hands on. But as I got older, school and friends and extracurricular activities started taking up more of my free time, and my reading time was more and more often confined to bedtime and weekends (heavens forbid). And that’s when I discovered the magical time known as the winter holidays.

Just think–two glorious weeks empty of schoolwork and extracurriculars! Friends off to visit relatives or tied up with family obligations. Shorter days. The winter break was, for me, a series of long, beautiful hours just asking to be filled up with reading. Plus, for Christmas I was guaranteed a pile of new and exciting books just waiting to be cracked open and devoured.

In middle school, my grandmother sent me Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. I sat curled up on the sofa in front of a roaring fire for hours and hours and hours. I did not come up for air until I had read every wonderful word of that book, and when I finally dragged myself off the couch it was to insist that my mom drive me to the bookstore to buy the next two installments (The Goblet of Fire wouldn’t come out for two years yet.)

Even though I’m older and the winter holidays are no longer completely free of obligations, this time of year still provides a special opportunity to curl up and read. Some of my happiest memories involve Christmas lights, a cozy blanket, and a great book. No matter where in the world I am, or who I spend the holidays with, I can always count on ample opportunities to stick my nose firmly in my novel of choice  and keep it there until I choose.

I’ve devoured a lot of books in my life, but some of my favorite and most memorable reading experiences have happened over the holidays. The first Harry Potter book. Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell. I had my heart broken by The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. One Christmas, I even burned through both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. And those are not short books. 

In short, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas for me without a healthy dose of binge-reading. So if you’ve been busy with gifts and cooking and entertaining, maybe take a minute (or hour) to sit down with that book you’ve been meaning to read. Or check out my list of Favorite Holiday Reads from a few years ago if your TBR (To-Be-Read) list is looking a little thin! You deserve it.

Do you love reading over the holiday season? Do any books feature in special holiday memories? Share your thoughts below!

*This post originally appeared at LyraSelene.com

Doppelgängers

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Mirror, mirror

Picture this: you’re standing in front of the mirror, brushing your teeth. Your reflection stares placidly back. A whistle from the kitchen startles you–you turn to look into the kitchen, and you see the noise is just the kettle going off. You turn your gaze back to the mirror, and in that instant, out of the corner of your eye, you are certain that your reflection has not moved. You lock eyes with yourself, but your reflection seems suddenly wrong. Are your eyes really so dark? Your chin so sharp?

But no. You tell yourself you’re just being stupid. Of course that’s what your reflection looks like–it’s you, after all. Isn’t it?

Maybe. Or maybe it’s your doppelgänger.

Although the German word doppelgänger, translating literally to “double-goer,” is a relatively recent addition to the vernacular, the concept of an alter-ego or shadow self appears frequently in the mythology and folk-lore of many world cultures. Although a physical lookalike or double of the person in question, a doppelgänger often takes the role of a darker counterpart to the self. In many cultures, it is said that to catch a glimpse of one’s doppelgänger is a harbinger of bad luck, and potentially an omen of one’s own death.

How They Met Themselves, by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
How They Met Themselves,
by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

In ancient Egyptian mythology, the ka was a tangible “spirit double” possessing the same memories and feelings as the physical counterpart. In some myths, the shadow double could be manipulated to perform tasks or duties while acting as their physical counterpart. In Norse mythology, a vardøger was a spirit predecessor, a shadowy double preceding a living person in location or activity, resulting in witnesses seeing or hearing a person before they actually arrived. And in Celtic mythology, a fetch was an exact, spectral double of a person, whose appearance was ominous in nature, often foretelling a person’s imminent death. The fetch could also act as a psychopomp, stealing away the soul of their living double and transporting them to the realm of the dead.

The concept of a dark double appears frequently in literature and pop culture as well. Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “William Wilson” explores the idea of a doppelgängers with a reversal on the traditional “evil twin” story–one of the doubles is amoral and debauched, yet his wicked schemes are always being unmasked by his virtuous identical. Charlie Chaplin’s seminal film “The Great Dictator” also explores the idea of evil twins, where Chaplin plays both the good, simple barber and the megalomaniacal, Hitler-esque dictator. Even the modern show “The Vampire Diaries” has a doppelgänger story-line; Elena Gilbert’s vampire double Katerina is everything spice to Elena’s nice. Katerina is sexy where Elena is pretty, violent where Elena is gentle, and traitorous where Elena is loyal.

But why is the doppelgänger myth so prevalent in folklore and modern culture? What makes us so frightened of our shadowy doubles?

Myself, my shadow self
Myself, my shadow self

In Jungian psychology, the “shadow self” refers to the unconscious or less desirable aspects of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself. In other words, the shadow self is a vehicle and receptacle for our deepest secrets and darkest fears, living in the darkest corners of our souls. And, no matter how much we reject them, these dark doubles are ultimately our own worst selves reflected back at us.

Perhaps the myth of the doppelgänger arose from this sense of shadow and darkness lurking within everyone. We are our own evil twins, spectral doubles confined to one body. Perhaps that is why, when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a darkened mirror or a pane of glass, we feel unsettled, reverberating with the echoes of familiarity and yet, unfamiliarity.

Perhaps, in the end, we are all haunted by the ghosts of ourselves.

Do you have a favorite doppelgänger or evil twin story? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Books make awesome holiday gifts

This month has many, many holidays and that can be a bit overwhelming for people. So much to do while the time winds away and the pressure to get everyone a present builds while your budget dwindles.

The holidays are stressful.

Gift buying is stressful.

Books are awesome.

Physical books are great to give as gifts because you don’t need to find a box for them to fit in, you can just wrap ’em up and stick on a bow and it looks perfect.

Ebooks are awesome because you can gift these to friends and family easily:

Amazon
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Barnes and Noble

All you have to do is fill out the personalize form and BOOM! Gift done.

Amazon
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Barnes and Noble

And you know what? Because it takes less than a minute to gift an ebook, you can send it on the day of your holiday and it won’t look like you forgot to get the recipient a gift! Guilt begone!

And giving books, physical or ebook, is a great way to encourage people in your immediate circle to finally read that one book you’ve been dying to make them read. And it’s another way to get everyone something special, while getting them all the same thing without driving yourself crazy! Evil geniuses, yes.

So give a book, make your life a little easier and the holidays a little brighter. Books are awesome and more people should share them.

Speaking of awesome books, I have a new one out now, the sixth installment of The Matilda Kavanagh Novels! And if you gave the whole ebook series to a friend or family member, you could give them six books for less than $15! WHOA!

Maleficium1

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords | Kobo

Things I have to be Thankful for…

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Chez Rancourt, November 2015

So I grabbed the Thanksgiving week post because there’s a fair amount of activity going on in my writing life, but before I get to all that, I wanted to say – in public – how incredibly thankful I am for what my husband has accomplished. He’s a contractor, and after 17 years of living with a time-capsule 1940s kitchen, we have a new one!! A couple of the cabinets still need doors and there’s a little gingerbread still to be applied, but ready or not, we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this week. And I am SO EXCITED!!

IMG_3577
Range, or command post?

Photography has never been a particular skill of mine, but I hope you get the idea…lol…

I’m thankful for my new kitchen, and for the continued health of my husband and kids. I’m thankful that the puppy almost always pees outside, and that we’ve brokered a truce with the elderly cat who cannot abide the puppy. I’m thankful for my circle of friends, who always have my back, and I’m thankful for all the fantastic writers I know who read and critique and promote my work.

And I’m thankful for readers, because without you…well…

As I said earlier, things are going to be hopping for the next week or so. First up, my m/m novella The Secret of Obedience

Obedience teaser from banner
Release date 11/27/15

I’m running a refflecopter giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card. Jump HERE if you want to enter…and jump HERE to preorder.

Blurb

Opposites attract, but secrets divide…

Ronnie Durand is a country boy who transfers to the University of Washington after two years at Central. He’ll have to give up playing football, though finishing his education at a major university in Seattle–and being out and proud without having to look over his shoulder–makes the sacrifice worthwhile.

But finding friends at a huge school is tough, especially when the hottest guy Ronnie meets makes him doubt his own sanity.

Sang’s been on his own a long time. He’s only a couple steps away from living on the street, and he’s got dreams so big they don’t leave space for a steady boyfriend. Then he meets Ronnie, who just might be strong enough to break through his barriers….as long as Sang lets him in on one big secret.

Home for the Holidays_anthology cover
Release date 11/29/15
My second release this weekend is Home for the Holidays, an m/m anthology with stories by me, Jenna Kendrick, SJ Himes, Heather C Leigh, and Felice Stevens. All the money raised by this project will be donated to the Ali Forney Center, an organization that supports homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City. The preorders have been going well, so jump HERE to get a copy for yourself.
KingStud-hardest part-Teaser-3Drender

 

And THEN, because there’s not enough going on with two releases, King Stud will be on sale for $1.99 ALL NEXT WEEK (11/30 – 12/4). Bookmark this one, because it’s a great deal. Jump HERE for the Amazon page.

Blurb

Danielle’s got three months to make her grandmother’s rundown Craftsman house livable. Her game plan is to get in, get grubby, and get back home to L.A. She needs a carpenter, and her best friend’s younger brother is a good one. It’s hard to ignore the buffed body under Ryan’s paint-splattered sweatshirts, but her friend declares he’s off-limits so Danielle reluctantly agrees.

Ryan doesn’t have the cleanest record, anyway. His recently ex-ed girlfriend wants him back, and he has a reputation for brawling. He’s also had a crush on Danielle since he was a kid. Despite their nine-year age difference, he knows she’s worth pursuing.

Soon the paint under Danielle’s fingernails starts feeling more natural than the L.A. sunshine. She’ll have to navigate plumbing disasters, money problems, and one seriously cranky best friend to find something she hasn’t had before: a real home, and a man who loves her.

 

The_Santa_Drag_cover_art_final

And finally, my  holiday short story The Santa Drag will be FREE this weekend, 11/27 – 11/30. Bookmark this one too, because FREE!! Jump HERE for the book’s Amazon page.

Blurb

Things aren’t always what they seem, and this shopping mall Santa has a secret that only true love can reveal.

Mackenzie’s an out-of-work actress who takes a job as a shopping mall Santa to pay the rent. She fools everyone with her Santa drag, until the day Joe McBride walks into the mall. Joseph Timothy McBride – the real-life, got a soap opera gig and you saw him in Scream II actor. The only guy she ever really loved. Can Mack stay in character, or is it time to strip off the red coat and peel off the beard for good?

There’s lots going on, and this post got kinda long. Thanks so much for hanging in with me, and I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving! Before I go I want to give a quick shout-out to Shauna Granger, who keeps all of us SpellboundScribes on track with the schedule and the occasional timely reminder. Thanks Shauna!!! And now, I’m off to start cooking…

Cheers!

Liv