Hoodoo to Get Your Love

February 12, 2018 Musings 2 Comments

When I was in my twenties, all my co-workers went to a grandmotherly European woman in the billing department to have their palms read. Somewhat superstitious, the idea made me nervous, so I put it off. But peer pressure and curiosity won and I eventually placed my hand in hers. She studied my palm, and said,

“You have a broken love line. You see here?”

She traced the line with her fingertip,

“It’s broken in two places.”

She gave me a full reading yet I remember nothing else. How could I? A broken love line was a curse.

But I’m not alone. There are many of us card carrying members of the broken love line club. In my fictional work-in-progress, I wrote of this group:

Unrequited love, long courtships ending badly, unfaithful marriage beds, or sweet marriages that had soured, scalding hot couplings that cooled and froze, scandalous affairs resulting in broken hearts where much was ventured, and all was lost; they had experienced it all.

Perhaps because I live and write in Savannah, where Hoodoo root work is practiced, I found myself researching the topic and my fictional characters are drawn to low country conjuring.

It’s that time of year and if you find yourself distracted by images of candlelit dinners, chocolates and roses, don’t fret. There’s a hoodoo spell for what ails you. My Valentine to you is Dr. Michael White’s I’m Gonna Hoodoo to Get Your Love.

The Moon, Hoodoo, and Me

January 19, 2018 Musings

For years I lived on a houseboat, tethered to a dock, that rose and fell with the tide in Richardson Bay. When the tide went out we called it mud time and when the saltwater returned the houseboat lifted and gently rocked us. The movement was so slight it was almost imperceptible. Living in the water, one becomes acutely aware of the moon and its cycles.

After moving to Savannah, one night, leading up to my brother’s death, I found myself planting a fig tree beneath the moon. It was an activity that could have waited until morning, but I had an overwhelming need to turn the earth and get dirt under my nails while the moon crested overhead.

There are better photographs of the moon than the one I’ve posted, but, I chose it because its reality was stunning. We were driving at night in Maine and had to stop the car so I could take a photo of the double moon; the one in the sky and the one reflected in the water.

As women, we experience that powerful connection to the moon and its cycles.

As a writer, the moon often appears in my work. Yes, it creates an atmosphere, but often it does more; bearing witness to magic that occurs, to character arcs, and sometimes it stimulates the timing of events.

Hoodoo came to Savannah and the low country when slaves were brought here, and it’s still practiced today. Because hoodoo plays a part in my fiction, I’ve researched the role of the moon. Practitioners of hoodoo are clear that many aspects of moon spells that we may be familiar with from movies and books are not hoodoo. Instead, many practices relating to the moon are derived from paganism and European witchcraft.

The role of the moon in hoodoo relates to power and timing. Full moons elicit the most power, so if you want to work a spell, or set an intention, the best time to do so is during a full moon.

However, for hexes and curses, there are those who say a dark moon — that time when there is no visible moon — is best.

But when a spell is being worked by the most powerful root worker or conjurer, their power supersedes any moon phase. As a writer of fiction, I appreciate having this leeway.

Does the moon effect you, and if so, how?


God Bless Us, Every One!

December 23, 2017 Musings

If you’re in the mood for a literary yuletide experience, listen to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol read by favorite author Neil Gaiman.

I’ve had the pleasure of being in the audience when Neil Gaiman reads his own work. Hearing him read Dickens is an unexpected delight.

Listening to this New York Public Library podcast late at night by candlelight is a tradition around my house. Pour yourself some mulled wine and join me.

Critique Groups and Beta Readers: Writing as a Not-So-Solitary Pursuit

November 24, 2017 Musings

When I first began writing, I would never read my work aloud in class. I lacked confidence in my abilities, but I also lacked confidence in the process of having one’s work critiqued. My overarching fear was that I would receive unflattering feedback and it would be the catalyst that would cause me to stop writing.

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
― Virginia WoolfA Room of One’s Own

The need to write was overwhelming and so I cultivated the discipline; I read books on writing and attended classes, and I took time to sit on a daily basis and write. I had a full-time job, a husband, and an adolescent. And I didn’t have a room of my own; the computer was set-up in a small kitchen that flowed into the room where the television was playing. Still, I sat and wrote.

Attending classes was helpful because I was surrounded by like-minded people. And yet, my self-censoring mechanism was so strong, I felt I needed to protect my work from myself, from the possibility of tearing it up, throwing it away, or worse, quitting. Whenever writers were invited to read I quietly tucked my work away and grew mute.

I can track my willingness to read my work aloud to when I began considering representation. If I was going to pursue publishing, I would need the confidence that comes with a thicker skin.

Shortly after moving to Savannah I began attending the Peacock Guild Writers Salon held at Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home.

The group meets once a month and members pass around our double-spaced pages and read. Then we sit and listen as our work is critiqued. There’s value in the uncontrolled variables in the group; fiction writers, non-fiction writers, age, gender, race. Published writers, writers who are considering publishing, writers who have no intention of publishing. A wide-ranging mix of interests are represented and in that mix I hope to receive the kind of critique information that will help me further revise my work.

By reading, we receive an immediate reaction. Are our words landing the way we intended? Does a sentence run-on too long? Are there cliched phrases? Do the readers understand what the protagonist wants? Are they confused? Intrigued? Along with passing out my pages, sometimes I include a handout listing any questions I have.

After reading, we thank the group, collect our pages, and walk out into Flannery’s neighborhood. Conversation shifts from our writing to what’s happening that week in Savannah.

I like to go home and make any quick revisions to my work-in-progress that night, or the following morning, while reader’s comments are fresh in my mind.

I also work with two beta readers.

One is a talented young writer who writes memoir-style essays. We send each other our pages a couple days in advance and then we meet once a week to critique. She’s very good at asking me questions and with those questions comes clarity. I also learn what aspects of that week’s chapter intrigue her the most. After we meet I work on revisions while her comments are fresh. By meeting once a week we are forced to stick to an aggressive writing schedule.

My other beta reader is a published author with a strong background in Hollywood screenplay writing. In the past, he has sent his work for my critique. He lives in California so all communication occurs electronically and by phone. I recently sent him the first draft one-hundred pages of my novel.

What did I learn that I hadn’t learned from the other critiques? Because he read roughly one-third of the novel he was able to comment effectively on the pacing of my story. His remarks are not as easily incorporated and I have found myself studying and revising my outline because the changes are on a structural level and surgery is required.

After all the comments, all the notes, all the discussion, it does come back to that solitary experience of sitting quietly, tapping the keyboard, and watching sentences, paragraphs, and chapters accumulate on the screen. The act of writing is a solitary pursuit…until the process of gaining insight from others reactions begins again.







The Rules of Magic

October 9, 2017 Musings

Remember driving to your favorite bookstore and arriving at midnight? All the little Hermiones with wands, and Harrys with lightening shaped scars, up past their bedtimes, giddy with excitement as we bought the latest Harry Potter release?

I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to my daughter but then she matured and slipped away to read subsequent books in the privacy of her room.

“Be quick about it,” I would say, secretly yearning for the days when we’d snuggle into bed and read together. “I’ve been waiting all year for this.”

I’ve been waiting for Alice Hoffman’s new novel, The Rules of Magic since turning the final page of Practical Magic back in 1995. Every now and then I pick up my copy of Practical Magic and re-read evocative, exquisite passages:

Gillian’s favorite thing in the world to do was lie on the velvet-cushioned window seat, up on the landing, where the drapes were made of damask and a portrait of Maria Owens, who had built the house so long ago, collected dust in a corner. That’s where she could be found on summer afternoons, so relaxed and languid that moths would land on her, mistaking her for a cushion, and proceed to make tiny holes in her T-shirts and jeans.

Oh, dear. Now that I’ve begun I might just transcribe the entire book…anyway, I’ve been longing to revisit the Owens women.

Contemplating the release of Rules of Magic brought back memories of every Harry Potter release. Why not celebrate one of my favorite books prior to its prequel’s release?

So I donned my witchiest regalia and set off at midnight for one of Savannah’s finest bookstores, E. Shaver, Booksellers. People were out, and because it’s Savannah, no one gave me a second glance.

As you can see, I brought my cauldron and broom.

And worked a few spells.

But the best I could conjure was that E. Shaver, Booksellers is holding a copy for me.

So I will be out front when they open tomorrow, October 10th, the official release date. Afterwards, I will retire to my velvet cushioned window seat, with my treasured copy of Rules of Magic, so relaxed and languid that moths might land on me.