Wednesday, July 28, 2010

L. K. BELOW: Why Shifters?

Last week, I spoke to you about the witches in my story, His Familiar Touch. Today, I'm going to talk about the shifters. 

For this story, the reason I chose shifters was simple: I wanted to explore the relationship between witches and familiars. In His Familiar Touch, Rikkita is unable to shift because she is a familiar. Until she finds her witch and touches his skin, she cannot use her full abilities—and she is effectively a cougar trapped in a human body. When she learns of this, she travels across San Jose on her search for her witch, and that is when she meets Derek, who takes it upon himself to educate her as to the witch-familiar relationship. 

For the first part of her life, Rikkita exists without powers. If after she touches her witch, she disappears to lead her own life, the witch would then have no powers. It is a symbiotic relationship that I tried to create between the two. Neither is whole without the other, and together, their powers are amplified. 

That is the primary reason I chose shifters in this case, but I have always been drawn to them. Why? I think it is because of their animalistic nature. While writing Rikkita, I certainly had fun using animal metaphors. She's very blunt, very direct, and she thinks in primal ways. But that's part of her charm. 

If you want to read His Familiar Touch to find out for yourself, you can find it in Paramourtal this August. Keep an eye on my blog, Twitter, or facebook page (links below) and I'll let you know when it's out!

L. K. Below blogs about her life, her works, and just about anything on her mind at You can find her on Twitter at @LBelowtheauthor or view her fan Facebook page here. Check out her debut paranormal romance story, His Familiar Touch, this August in Paramourtal!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

L. K. BELOW - Why Witches?

When Clara asked me to explain why I chose witches and shifters for my upcoming release, His Familiar Touch, I had to break it into two parts. So today, I'm going to talk about the witches aspect in my Love Potion series, and later on in the week, I'll explain my shifter motivations. 

I'll admit, my decision to use them here was because they benefited the story. That is usually my motivation for making a character who he or she is. But let me explain the benefits further. 

I like witches, because they are so versatile. You can do just about anything with them. See the future? Check. Make potions? Check. Peer into someone's thoughts? Check. Travel into the past or future? Check. More or less, anything you can think of, you can make happen. 

This series originally started with Tanja. While His Familiar Touch is the second story of the series, the first one, involving Tanja, isn't yet published. They can be read out of order. But back to Tanja. When I dreamt up the series, she was the main focus. In His Familiar Touch you don't meet her, although Rikkita does set foot in her shop, Tanja's Charms and Potions, the shop which started it all. 

When I thought of Tanja, I knew that she made love potions. That was her specialty. Why? Because she isn't a very powerful witch. In fact, by opening her shop, she is going against her family's wishes, and by marrying a powerless human, she is also going against the grain. But providing her potions to the public is how Tanja makes her place in the world. Eventually, she earns her family's grudging respect. The series revolves around the witching community of San Jose, and will prominently feature Tanja's shop. 

But why are witches so great? Well, unlike shifters, witches can have degrees of power. I can make Tanja something of an outcast among her clan because her powers aren't strong. With shifters or vampires, etc. this is different. The shifter can't half morph into a wolf. Or, while that might be possible, I personally doubt that I would be able to pull it off convincingly. 

My second reason, as stated above, is the versatility of witches. In my Love Potion series, they aren't limited to one power. Tanja can make potions. Derek, featured in His Familiar Touch can see the future. Other characters can see or summon spirits, cast illusions, and so on. For this series, I like witches because I can separate their powers into specialties. I can mould each specialty to fit the personality of the caster. I love the freedom, and I love the possibility.

Now, for those of you who have never heard of my story, His Familiar Touch is set to be released in Paramourtal this August. I'll speak more about it in the shifter aspect of this blog, but in the meantime, let me leave you with the blurb:

Rikkita Martinez has never been able to shift into her cougar form, isolating her from the werecougar community -- until she discovers that shifting might be possible, with the help of a witch. Setting out on a journey of discovery and desire, she meets Derek, a distracting and irresistible man who might just have exactly what she needs.

L. K. Below blogs about her life, her works, and just about anything on her mind at You can find her on Twitter at @LBelowtheauthor. Check out her debut paranormal romance story, His Familiar Touch, this August in Paramourtal!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Creating a Flawless Magic Scheme

Like I promised, this post is dedicated to helping you plot out a magic scheme. Let's start with the obvious question: Why do you need one?

Honestly, you might be able to get away with making it up as you go along...but that's a big MIGHT. There's a lot to be said for having internal consistency. Not to mention that once your readers become fanatical about your work, if they spot a mistake, they will tell the world about it—and that's a smutch you definitely don't want on your record. You will be much better off to spend half an hour creating a believable scheme for your magic. Not to mention that the scheme is half the fun of the book!

If you're thinking of including witches in your novel, you probably have a good idea of how you want them to be able to cast spells. If so, all you need to do is make sure you write down those rules somewhere and follow them! For those of you who are a little bit lost, here are some ideas:

-Spellbooks. Witches can only cast spells if they read the spell out of the spellbook (or memorize it). The book may or may not list the ingredients needed for the spell. The book may or may not be written in some ancient language. The spells may or may not rhyme. And the witch may or may not need a wand in order to cast them. But in this scheme, some sort of incantation is used. 

If you choose this one, be sure to write down all the spells you use in the book, and make them of varying complexity. It would make sense for the more complicated spells to produce the most drastic results, right?

-Ancient language. Or incantations that don't need spellbooks. If the character has a good grasp of the ancient language and all he or she needs to do is speak the right words to make the spell come to life, this is the scheme you want to use. But if using an ancient language, you need to make sure you know said language better than your reader—write down those words! Decide if the ancient language needs grammar or if the witch only needs to speak words associated with the outcome he or she desires.

-Runes. Whether your character needs to draw these runes in the air with a wand or on a hard surface with chalk, in order for a spell to be cast, certain runes need to be created by a witch. Often, the shape of the runes does not need to be mentioned in the novel. If you do, make sure to keep a log of which runes work for which spell. 

-Inner power. Many times, this is the magic scheme for the character. Witches have varying degrees of power, which means that the powerful ones are able to cast more powerful spells. However, if you decide to use this scheme, make sure that the magic your characters use takes a toll on them appropriate to the magnitude of the spell. 

-Sacrifice. As with blood mages or evil witches, sometimes they need to sacrifice something living in order to steal its life force for use in the spell. Often, this has no toll on the witch himself, but the price for the magic is taken out instead on a third party, the sacrifice. Sacrifices can be made of animals or of humans.

-Harnessing faeries or demons. Sometimes, the power of the witch is not to cast spells, but to call forth creatures such as faeries or demons and force them to perform spells on the witch's behalf. If so, make sure you know which faeries can do which spells, etc. and how long the witch is able to keep them in the mortal realm.

Of course, there are many ways other than these on which you can base your magic scheme. This is just a guideline, to prompt ideas of your own. The main thing is that magic takes a toll somehow. It must have a cost or your characters would be akin to gods (and trust me, there's a problem there). Lay down rules of what can and cannot be done through magic—for instance, reviving the dead. And most of all, have fun with it! 

Next week, I'll be welcoming L. K. Below back to the blog as she talks to you about her upcoming story, His Familiar Touch, and the witches she uses in it!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Witches, Part 4: Modern Witchcraft

Now I've come to the closing of my miniseries about witches. If anyone feels I have left anything out or if my information is flawed, feel free to comment below, or contact me at With that being said, let me introduce you to what I consider to be the four main parts of modern witchcraft:

1) Haitian Vodou or "Voodoo"

This religion is largely misunderstood, thanks to Hollywood. It is a religion largely associated with spirits. Many illnesses and afflictions are believed to be the possession of malignant spirits, and in order to cure the sick person, the spirit must be purged. More information on how to do this can be found here

Louisiana Voodoo is different from Haitian Vodou, although it was influenced by the latter. Information about Louisiana Voodoo can be found here. For the purposes of witchcraft, I'm going to focus on the spells. There are two main ones for Louisiana Voodoo: the "cure-all" and the Voodoo doll. The cure-all is a form of spell which provides a solution to all problems. While there are many different recipes for a cure-all, the one listed was as follows:

Mix jimson weed with sulphur and honey. Pour the mixture into a glass and rub that glass against a black cat. Then sip it slowly. 

A voodoo doll is also not what Hollywood portrays it to be. It is used to bless people, not curse them. Sticking pins into the doll was to pin pictures, etc. to the "person" symbolizing spirits which would influence that person's life. There were four different things which could be influenced in this manner: love, power and domination, luck and finance, and uncrossing (which I take to mean removing bad luck, a malignant spirit, or a curse on the person).

More information about Vodou can be found:

At the Wikipedia page

At New Orleans Mystic (.com)

At the Witches' Voice 

2) Hoodoo

Hoodoo is described as a "magiobotanical art," meaning that practitioners of hoodoo use plants and herbs in their spells. Not only are plants used, but often parts of animals and/or human urine, semen, or menstrual blood is used in these spells. A very comprehensive guide to hoodoo can be found here, or of course at the Wikipedia page.  The first contains not only an overview of hoodoo, but also a list of "spells."

3) Shamanism 

Shamans, also known as "Medicine Men" or "Witch Doctors" are very spiritual people who seek to cure others of ailments. These men are able to commune with spirits and control them. For instance, shamans are reputed to be able to cure anything from infertility in women (cured by finding the soul of the soon-to-be-born child) to curing a scarcity of hunted game (which is solved by finding the souls of the animals and releasing them from their hideouts). 

Shamans are also able to see visions, often influenced by the spiritual world, and some say they can use the spirits of animals in order to transform their bodies into these animals. This is potentially a seed for the shifter lore I will shortly be speaking of. 

Some useful sites on shamanism include:

The Wikipedia page

The Crystalinks site

Shamanism by Wyldkat

Sacred texts on Shamanism

The Reiki-Shamanism site (contains information on healing in Shamanism)

4) Wicca

Wicca is a very peaceful religion, focusing on "White" magic. A site on "Black" magic can be found here. White magic means that these spells should be used only for good, not for harm. One source even suggested that any spell cast for harm would rebound on the caster three times over (that's Karma for you!). 

Wicca worships a Goddess alongside God. Before casting a spell, they appeal to both deities for guidance. Some spells also ask for help from the elements (North, South, East, West, corresponding with Air, Water, Fire, and Earth). For more information about these elements or elementals, look here. These spells often use incense and candles, the colours/scents of which correspond to the flavour of the spell (white for purity, black for protection, etc. Take a look here for more information). While the spells often involve a sacrifice, killing animals takes no part of it. "Sacrifice" in those terms means giving up something you hold dear—for instance: a ring, a letter, etc. It has to be something that you would will miss, or the sacrifice is not strong and the spell will fail. After the ritual or spell is complete, you must return that sacrifice to the earth (bury it). 

For more information on Wicca, check out these sites:

The Wikipedia page

About the religion

A list of spells

If you're looking for information about the history of witches, try the Malleus Maleficarum by Montague Summers

For those of you still bouncing on the edge of your seats from the first part of this series, join me on Wednesday, when I'll be talking about creating a believable scheme for your magic.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Witches, Part 3: Tarot

Hello all! It is my great pride and pleasure to sit down with tarot expert and fellow author L. K. Below!

Lindsay: Well I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I'd be happy to help explain it to you.

Clara: So tell us a bit about the art. How easy is it to do?

Lindsay: Well that depends on how committed you are to it. Every tarot deck has 78 cards to it, each with its own separate meaning, which changes again if the card happens to be reversed. Not only does a reader have to learn the different meanings, but he or she also needs to learn how to read the cards in different positions—because the meanings of the cards are also dependent upon the surrounding cards. Fortunately, there are books (my recommended choice being It's All in the Cards by John Mangiapane) which help to decipher the meanings of the cards. 

Clara: Maybe I should go back to the beginning. What's the first thing we need to know about tarot?

Lindsay: Tarot is a form of divination. Like I said, there are 78 cards to a deck. The deck is divided between the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are the powerful cards, the "trump" cards, if you will. These are the cards that you commonly see in movies; The Hanged Man, The Devil, The Priestess. There are 22 of these cards, numbered from 0 (The Fool) to 21 (The World). 

The Minor Arcana resemble the deck of common playing cards. There are four suits: Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles. Each suit has 14 cards: an ace, the numbers 2-10, and then the "royal" cards—a page, a knight, a queen, and a king. What makes these royal cards different from the rest of the Minor Arcana is the way it can be interpreted. Like the other cards, it has a general meaning. However each of these cards also represents a person in the life of the Querent (the person the reading is for). This person can be a friend, family member, or it can even represent the Querent himself. 

Now, of course I am describing the Rider-Waite deck, which is the most common deck used. However, there are hundreds of decks available, each with different representations of the symbols in the original deck, and therefore each with different meanings. To learn them all would take longer than my lifetime, that's for sure! I hope you don't mind if I generalize and use the most popular deck. 

Clara: Not at all. Walk us through a typical reading.

Lindsay: There is no such thing as a "typical one." Each reading is tailored to the individual. 

To start, the Querent would have to think of a question. He or she would not tell me this question until the end, and only then if they desire. They can choose to keep it entirely to themselves. The question has to be specific—and not a frivolous one. If they sit at my table for advice on whether to dye their hair blue, I advise they patronize a hair salon instead. The question can be about themselves or about someone else. However, it does need to have a time frame. For instance, the Querent can't ask, "Will I die?" First of all, because the answer is yes (we all die), and secondly because it has no time frame. A proper question would be, "Will I die in the next two months?" And in fact, that is a lie. Because the second rule of asking a question in tarot is that the question be an open-ended one. Yes or no questions cannot be asked, because the cards don't spell out the answer like that. They describe scenarios, but they don't have mouths to ask questions. Examples of good questions are: "What will happen in my love life in the next two years?" "What opportunities does a career with this company hold for me?" or "How will the next two months change if I decide to move to such a place?" Once the Querent decides on a question, it is time to move on to the spread. 

There are many different spreads for a tarot reading. The depth of them depends on the number of cards used. The most common for public readings is the Celtic cross, which has 11 cards in it. The simplest is the 3-card spread depicting the past, present, and future. As with tarot decks, there are hundreds of different spreads. A good place to look them up is this website or

As soon as those factors are decided, the reader can move on to the reading. This begins by the Querent shuffling the cards as he or she thinks of their question. The reader never shuffles after the Querent has finished. Instead, he or she turns over the top cards as needed in the spread. From there, they have to interpret what they see, in order to answer the Querent's question. After I answer it to the best of my ability, I always give the Querent the option of telling me his or her question, so I can tailor the answer better. However, I never ask beforehand, in case knowing the question should cloud my eyes and instead of reading the cards, I would try to tell them what they want to hear. 

Clara: Is there anything else we should know about tarot?

Lindsay: It depends on who you ask. I have laid out the basics of the art. Other useful websites include the Wikipedia page and this website. 

Depending on who you talk to, you will get different answers on things such as why the cards work, etc. The most committed people will tell you never to insult your cards. By keeping them with you, they are attuned to you, and will show the truth, which according to some will be lessened if you insult them. To tell the truth, that is the reason I still use my first pack exclusively, even though I collect other tarot decks. Insults to the cards include frivolous questions by Querents (not to mention it's a waste of your time), and monopolizing the cards, or asking for money in return for the reading. 

I once read the most amazing historical novel by Anne Stuart involving tarot. It was called Prince of Swords. Unfortunately, I think it is out of print now, but if you can get your hands on it at a library or yard sale, I definitely recommend!

Clara: Well, Lindsay, thank you for agreeing to answer my questions on the subject. 

Lindsay: Thank you for having me.

Clara: You can find Lindsay's romantic fiction under the pen name L. K. Below. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter at @LBelowtheauthor

But before you go,  Lindsay, I have to ask: are the rumours true? Are you planning to write a book involving tarot?

Lindsay: Well, you heard right, but unfortunately, it won't be romance. The novel currently under way is for a young adult audience.

Clara: You know I had to ask. Thank you again for coming—and thank you to everyone who joined us!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Witches, Part 2: Inborn Abilities

Good morning and welcome to the second part of my mini-series on witches! (Yes, I'm very chipper for so early on a Sunday morning.) Today I'm going to speak a bit about inborn abilities, or what I like to call the subtler form of witchcraft. These are abilities such as ESP/clairvoyance, etc. which make up a part of what I like to call Magic Realism. These sorts of abilities are, in my opinion, a lot more believable to the reader than magic in which spells or incantations are used. A lot of spooky things happen in real life, and therefore believing that someone is just a little abnormal isn't such a stretch, if done properly. But let me get down to dissecting them.

1) Clairvoyance

This is such a broad term. After all, most forms of being psychic fall under this heading. However, let me dissect it further. Clairvoyance, I describe as: 

Clairvoyence: psychic ability, included but not limited to the following: seeing the future, seeing the past, aura sensing, and mediumship. 

Mediumship, I will speak of separately. As for the others, let me address them here. 

Seeing the future and/or past is often done in the same ways. It can be done through dreams, through "hunches" or gut feelings, or through visual or auditory hallucinations (visions) —which are sometimes triggered by touching objects and/or people, by overhearing bits of relevant conversation or being close to key people , or by nothing at all (and the latter are usually hailed with headaches, interrupting daily life). 

Aura sensing or aura reading is the ability to sense a person's energy, usually their moods. This can be done, again, through "hunches" or gut feelings. Or more commonly, it is done through visual effects. The clairvoyant can see these auras, meaning they take shape, colour, density, etc. Sometimes, the reader can also sense auras on recently dead bodies or auras which have rubbed off on other people. 

Here are some relevant websites in regards to clairvoyant abilities:

From the Spiritual Science Research Foundation


And of course, the Wikipedia page 

2) Mediumship

As most of you know from shows such as Ghost Whisperer  or Medium, mediumship is communing with the dead. This can be done through a Ouija board, through a séance (which, contrary to popular belief, is not possession by a spirit), or often seen in fiction, a medium is able to see or hear these spirits and relay their messages to the public. 

3) Astral Projection

While I have never read a romance featuring astral projection, I thought I might as well cover it, in case someone else would like to write one (and if so, I would definitely like to read it!). For those unaware, the astral planes are said to be the planes of existence that spirits sometimes go to after death, although with careful practice, humans are able to leave their corporeal bodies behind and explore these realms. 

There are seven layers to the astral plane. The lowest level is much like Earth as you would see it, although it is also said to be cluttered with thoughts, ideas, etc. made "physical" on that plane. The closer you get to the seventh, or highest level, the more these ideas and even buildings drop away, and you would see Earth as it would be without technology and houses. 

The key to astral projection is to leave your corporeal body asleep while you explore, but some sites caution that you do not allow anyone to touch your body. If so, you may not be able to return. 

Take a look at this fantastic site for more information on astral projection.

This coming Wednesday, it is my great pleasure to sit down with tarot expert and fellow author L. K. Below to pick her brain! I hope you'll join me then!


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Witches, Part 1

The easiest sort of witch for research is one that you create yourself. Yes, you do need a coherent scheme to your magic (and I'll get to that later), but in the meantime, you can choose to have magic behave any way you'd like it to. 

Is it generic? Or an aptitude that some people have but others don't? Or maybe the possibility exists within everyone. 

Is it done with runes, charms, incantations, or only with the power of the mind?

How did this magic come about? Were the witch hunts of long ago actual witch hunts? Did Merlin (or some other famous witch) exist?

These are all questions you will have to ask yourself when the time comes. My post summing up this short series on witches and witchcraft will help to nudge you in the right direction (if you don't already have some ideas floating around in your head) but in the meantime, why not take a look at some of the books of these popular authors:

No Rest for the Witches, Anthology (MaryJanice Davidson, Lori Handeland, Cheyenne McCray, Christine Warren)

Kresley Cole

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night

Cheyenne McCrayMagic series. 

Christine Warren 

Fur for All

Wolf at the Door

Happy reading!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Witches: Introduction

Diving back into my series about mythical creatures, in the next two weeks I will be covering witches and witchcraft. 

To start, I will be dividing this subject into three parts:

1) Witchcraft in fiction. Or, in other words, what you can do with it if you aren't trying to maintain a certain realism to that aspect of the story. 

2) Natural witchcraft. By this, I mean the sort of witches you might find at a psychic fair. In this post I will be covering clairvoyence, ESP, tarot cards, astrology and other forms of magic realism. 

3) Existing witchcraft. In this post, I will outline the forms of witchcraft known to the modern world. I'm talking Wicca, Voodoo, Hoodoo, Shamanism, etc. 

4) And to sum it all up, a post to help you create a good magic scheme for your book. 

Happy Independence Day to all of my American readers!


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Interview: Musician Mitchell Carrington

Hello and happy Canada Day to all you fellow Canadians! To any Americans reading this, happy early Independence Day! In honour of this Canadian celebration, I have the pleasure (and the connections, got to love those) of sitting down with Canadian born-and-bred musician Mitchell Carrington. 

If you'll recall, I mentioned him in passing during my post about writing to music. Thanks to my close friend L. K. Below, I was able to arrange an interview with the indie musician. For those of you who didn't catch my previous post, Mr. Carrington was the recent gem I discovered on my search for music which inspires stories. Unlike most of the artists on my list, Mr. Carrington creates music without accompanying words. While that may not be some people's cup of tea, to me (and I imagine many other writers), modern music such as his is a godsend. It allows books to blossom without becoming distracted by the words to your favourite song. 

But, I digress. Let's get on with the interview!

Clara: How long does it typically take to compose an album?

Mitchell: It all depends on the content of the album. My holiday album, An Instrumental Christmas, took me 4 full months to finish. The reason I was able to finish it so fast was because the content was already out there. I just had to rearrange everything and adapt it to my style and choice of instrumentation. Inner Space, on the other hand, took over 7 months to finish. Inner Space is packed with a lot of content.

Clara: Do you ever find yourself stuck at times? What do you do to keep the creative juices flowing?

Mitchell: Sometimes I am lucky and able to write a song in a matter of hours or days. For the most part, I find myself stuck somewhere. There's not really much to do when that happens. If I find myself stuck, I usually move on to a different song. Sometimes taking a break from a certain song will allow the creative juices to replenish. 

Clara: When you compose your songs, do you compose them to tell a story? Do you picture the story in your head as you go along?

Mitchell: Most of my songs tell a story. Some of those stories are fictional, some are not. When I was composing Inner Space, I certainly pictured the story in my head. It's a fictional story of space (space is one of my favourite themes in fiction).

Clara: Do you ever compose your songs to bring out a certain mood in your listeners? If so, do you find that more difficult than just letting your creativity run naturally?

Mitchell: In my EP, Our Final Hours, my composition style was focused on bringing out the emotion of the song. These emotions were mostly based on personal experiences at the time the songs were written. When I listen to these songs today, I can feel the emotions that I put into them, but I do not know if everyone else can. With the release of my Single, Close Your Eyes, and later with the release of Inner Space, I found that I focused a lot less on emotion and more on creativity. I'm quite happy with how my album turned out because of that.

Clara: A little birdy told me that you once tried your hand at fiction writing. How do you think composing music compares to writing fiction?

Mitchell: I remember writing a fictional story in elementary school. I even wrote a sequel. But I lost the story not long after, so all I have is a few memories of writing it. I also took a few stabs at fiction writing in high school, but composing music became dominant for me. Looking back, I see a lot of similarities between writing fiction and composing music. As with my story from elementary school, Inner Space focuses a lot on the creativity I had going on in my mind. If my fiction writing skills were better, I'd love to write a story about Inner Space. 

Clara: Any other creative tips or trades that you would like to share with us?

Mitchell: Set your goals high, set reasonable deadlines, and don't be afraid to take a break if you find yourself stuck. By setting your goals high, I find you can accomplish a lot, even if you don't reach those goals. 

Clara: Thank you, Mitchell, for joining us today. For those of you interested in his music, you can find it on iTunes and Amazon, or you can check out Mitchell's website for free samples! You can also read what L. K. Below has to say about his newest album.

Have a wonderful Canada Day, everyone!