The Antique Anatomy Tarot: First Impressions

Some of my favorite cards from The Antique Anatomy Tarot by Claire Goodchild. Photo by me.

I rarely buy tarot cards. I’m…picky. I usually prefer working with my ogham or other oracle cards, but sometimes a deck cries out to me and demands attention. So when I saw The Antique Anatomy Tarot by Claire Goodchild (@blackandthemoon), I thought about it for a few days then decided to treat myself.

The cards arrived yesterday in a sturdy case with an equally beautiful guidebook. I’m still acquainting myself with them, but I will tell you…this exquisite deck is blunt. I mean…would you expect any less from cards featuring medical equipment? I wish the guidebook gave more info about the flowers, but they’re mostly there for color symbolism it seems. Same with the specific uses of the equipment portrayed.

My intrigue may surprise some of you, but I have a very casual interest in such things thanks to a trip to the Mütter Museum years ago and the fact that my late grandmother was a nurse during World War 2.  I also have a fondness for the art style found in Victorian-era naturalist notebooks, so I’m drooling over all the dissected hands and flowers.

If you’re also drawn to such aesthetics, I invite you to order through the aforementioned museum. While I can’t travel and visit right now, I’m glad I was able to support them in some small way.

Fancy a Cup of Tea with Lacey and Cian? A Hearth Magic Giveaway!

My second novel, Hearth Magic, will be available in e-book and paperback February 2nd through Shadow Spark Publishing! To celebrate this novel of romance, redemption, and kitchen magic, I thought it would be fun to give away some goodies!

One lucky winner (from the US or Canada) will receive:

  • A signed paperback of Hearth Magic
  • Lacey and Cian bookmarks featuring art by Immabunni
  • A beautiful tea giftset I am purchasing from my friends at The Magick Apothecary!

Owned and operated by my friend Seth–a witch, psychic, and licensed herbalist–The Magick Apothecary is one of Northern NY’s newest metaphysical stores. Formerly known as the Tarot Cafe, Seth blends science and magic to create potions for one and all. I’m a huge fan of these three romantic blends, so I hope you enjoy them, too! They would all pair well with my #witchlit novels.

This tea set will include the following tarot-inspired blends:

The Lovers Potion – a unique blend of cinnamon and hibiscus flowers.

The High Priestess – a yummy blend of Assam black tea and lavender flowers.

The Empress – a beautifully balanced blend of Assam black tea and rose flowers.

What’s Hearth Magic About?

After the events of RIVER MAGIC, Cian O’Connor and Anthony Russo must grapple with their relationship to the land, the spirit realm, and each other. One man wants to support Lacey and protect her from another otherworldly maelstrom. The other needs her help as he confronts an angry presence in his home so he can move on with a new lover.

Are Cian and Anthony’s lives more entwined than they ever imagined?

“The medium, the conservationist, and the poacher, all drawn together by a cord of fate.”

A new Rituals of Rock Bay tale featuring kitchen magic, romance, redemption, and the spiritual bonds that link us.

To enter, simply provide your email address here. You’ll receive extra entries if you complete the other prompts. I’d love it if you would follow me, my publisher, and The Magick Apothecary on social media! The giveaway closes on February 3rd at 12:AM, so be sure to enter!

This giveaway is not affiliated with WordPress, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. No purchase necessary. Open only to US and Canadian residents. Book and tea set will ship separately. Please provide a valid email address. Winner must be willing to provide a valid mailing address. I am not responsible for lost or stolen packages.

Time to Inhale and Exhale Deeply

I had to schedule my relaxation to make sure I adhere to it. Yet here I am writing in my blog. LOL Photo by M. A. Phillips

Yesterday, after a long week with several ups and downs, I submitted my third manuscript to my publisher for developmental edits.

I’m expecting my first round of revisions in two weeks. In the meantime, I have no other pressing deadlines aside from interviews and promoting my upcoming book, HEARTH MAGIC. I have no other contracted books or stories to write or edit. It’s been months of nearly non-stop work and sacrifice. I mean that literally. My dream was always to become a published author, so I put in the magical and practical work to get there, and my lady delivered not one, but three contracts to me. I’ve dedicated so much of this project to her, and it’s been very worthwhile, but my goodness…I needed a rest.

My family needs me to rest.

I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself at the moment. I inherited my work ethic from my late grandfather, a fellow writer, and he was always laboring on something until his death. Yet I need to force myself to pause and renew. To inhale and exhale deeply without worrying that I’m wasting precious time that could be spent outlining, drafting, revising, proofreading…

I need some time to reconnect with the spirituality that initially inspired my books. Spirit allies cry out for more attention and urge me to turn inward for introspection. My work on book three is far from done, but without another contracted title in the wings, I can catch my breath, spend some more time with my family, catch up on housework, and refuel for the next project. (I also need to organize a virtual Imbolc for my grove!)

Whatever those future writing projects become, they are brewing. I already started a skeletal outline for something, and I may give into temptation and play with it next week. I need a break, but I still adore writing, and I really enjoy crafting stories about Pagans and other magically-inclined people in our world. RIVER MAGIC resonated with people. I hope my other novels do the same.

For now, I’m inhaling and exhaling deeply.

Hearth Magic Cover Reveal and Blurb!

I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog because I’ve been a writing, revising, and editing machine these past few months! My debut novel, River Magic, released on Samhain, but I couldn’t sit around celebrating too long! I had to dive back into the thick of things to get its sequel ready for you!

Hearth Magic came to me while I was still working through River Magic. Without spoiling its predecessor too much, I knew I wanted book 2 to focus on redemption and further explore the concept of found family. I also wanted to dive deeper into the implications of the mermaid and how the reality of the spirit world impacts other characters. Rest assured, there will be more Cian and Lacey and more with the Druid grove. I know many of you are still reading River Magic, so let’s just say there’s a very special sort of ritual at the end of the sequel.

Without further ado, here’s the glorious cover for Hearth Magic! Read on for the blurb and some teasers.


The e-book cover of Hearth Magic surrounded by various magical and whimsical items as explained below in the key.

The cover in all her glory! Much gratitude to the artists, Jess and Chad Moon of Shadow Spark Publishing. They created an oil painting look with a blend of rosehip tea, sparking incense, and flame for a genuine touch of kitchen magic!

Hearth Magic Blurb

After the events of River Magic, Cian O’Connor and Anthony Russo must grapple with their relationship to the land, the spirit realm, and each other. One man wants to support Lacey and protect her from another otherworldly maelstrom. The other needs her help as he confronts an angry presence in his home so he can move on with a new lover.

Are Cian and Anthony’s lives more entwined than they ever imagined?
 

“The medium, the conservationist, and the poacher, all drawn together by a cord of fate.”

A new Rituals of Rock Bay tale featuring kitchen magic, romance, redemption, and the spiritual bonds that link us.
 

Pre-order the e-book of Hearth Magic on January 2nd, 2021! The paperback and e-book will be available via Shadow Spark Publishing on February 2nd. Happy early Imbolc, my lovely readers!


To further entice you, here’s a key to everything in my first image:

I enjoy doing book layouts for my Instagram, and try to pack as much meaning behind them as possible. Everything here has something to do with the plot and themes of Hearth Magic.

  1. Gnome – They’re awesome, aren’t they?
  2. My late great grandmother’s old tea ball
  3. A Brigid cross, a symbol of the Irish goddess
  4. A glass bottle for potions, like herbal syrups
  5. A cookie-cutter passed down to me from my great-great grandmother
  6. A tiny beeswax taper candle
  7. A small cast iron cauldron from my mother’s old toy stove. I use this on my altar to hold candles, incense, or spent matches.
  8. Dried thyme grown from my own garden
  9. An assortment of dried herbs I use in blending tea or incense – star anise, juniper berries, and rose hips
  10. Amethyst

I will share more soon, including pre-order links, snippets, character art, and other goodies! If you haven’t already, but sure you subscribe to my newsletter, From the Desk of the Ditzy Druid, to get the latest on my writing!

As always, thanks so much for your support! I’m looking forward to sharing more magical realism featuring authentic modern Pagans and folk magic from Upstate NY in 2021!

The River on a Cold, Rainy December Day

While out grabbing some last minute groceries before a massive snow storm, I stopped by Alexandria Bay to say hello to the river. I wanted to show you how I imagine the water looking in my book River Magic when Lacey falls in one cold, December day. The St. Lawrence is not frozen over yet, and it’s not as cold as it will get as winter advances. Of course, falling in this time of year would not be comfortable, but people endure far worse when they voluntarily jump in for the annual Polar Bear dip in February.

I’m still not used to sharing videos, so please forgive me if I sound awkward as I share a few of the landmarks, including one Lacey and Cian admire during a Mother’s Day brunch. I’m delighted that so many out-of-state readers are intrigued with the river enough to want to visit one day! Let me know if there are any specific locations you’d like to see more of. With travel restricted, I’m happy to bring the river to you!

Thanks again to everyone for reading and sharing your feedback! In a few days, I’ll reveal the cover for the sequel – Hearth Magic!

River Magic on Tour! (Virtually)

May I offer you a whimsical diversion from all the stress of 2020? Perhaps you’d like to join me on a virtual book tour with Storytellers on Tour this week! It’s a socially distanced celebration of my novel River Magic!

As you can see from the schedule above, there will be several amazing stops along the way! I want to thank everyone who signed up to participate and show some love to my debut novel! I can’t tell you how much that means to me!

You’ll definitely want to stop by Whispers & Wonder today for the kickoff!

This book immediately piqued my interest, and not only for the promise of a wonderful coming-of-age tale, but I’m excited to read a story that highlights paganism written by a pagan herself. 

JUSTINE BERGMAN 

In addition to sharing River Magic’s cover art, blurb, and some character designs, she’s also featuring my first foray on Youtube as an author! Yes, that’s right. I recorded myself reading an excerpt of chapter one. I hope you enjoy hearing some of it!

Several people have asked how to get autographed copies of River Magic. Well, I’m giving away three for free (US and Canada only)! Check out the giveaway at the bottom here. If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you already have two entries! Just input your username into those fields. Don’t forget to follow the other bloggers and bookstagrammers for wonderful content!

Thanks for joining me on my book tour!

River Magic: a Love Letter to my Pagan Community

My debut novel, River Magic, is available in e-book and paperback today! (Photo from Image Apothecary)

Blessed Samhain!

River Magic, my debut novel featuring modern Pagans and a friends-to-lovers romance, is officially available today! I can now say I’m a published novelist.

Wow. That’s something I’ve been striving toward since I was very young. It’s been a long journey of self-doubt, drafting, revising, wading into the publishing industry, reclaiming my dreams, then manifesting them through hard work and magic.

Of course, I’ve also had a ton of support from my family, friends, and, yes, my Pagan community.

River Magic started as a completely different story–a completely different genre–about six years ago. It didn’t feel right, so I paused and asked myself, “What is the story I need to tell?” It was around this time I began reading books by Alice Hoffman and discovered the genre of magical realism. I realized that I wanted, needed, to tell a story about contemporary Pagans. There had to be magic, ritual, and spirits as we generally perceive them, and there had to be romance. The main character, Lacey, finds her spiritual home in modern Druidry, and introduces it to one of her oldest friends.

(Did I mention it’s a friends-to-lovers story as well?)

As I wrote, I reflected a lot on the experience of becoming Pagan. I listened to others. I continue to do that and distill it in my fiction to reflect some of our reality, our challenges, and triumphs–especially as Pagans in Upstate NY.

As I neared publication and reread my story without the intent to edit, I realized…this book is like a love letter to the Pagan community I know.

Today is Samhain, but we are currently experiencing an upswing in the pandemic. I have not celebrated with my grove, in person, for nearly a year due to weather and health issues last winter, then Covid-19. I miss them to the point where it aches. Rereading River Magic reminded me of the many wonderful Pagans I’ve encountered over the years who guided and inspired me. No one character is based on a single person I know, but their influence came through in the supportive, inclusive, safe environments Lacey belongs to.

It’s not that the Pagan circles I’ve experienced are perfect. My own grove certainly has room to improve! I have (and will continue) to explore some of that in the series. Lacey, like me, is lucky to have the people and places she has. Not everyone finds this. I want to show what’s possible.

And I miss it so much. I miss the rising energy as we sing together. I miss the power of creating a communal offering then solemnly watching it burn as we stand around the bonfire. I miss the laughter and tears, the trust, the communal learning, and the potlucks. My gods, the potlucks… More than anything, I miss the ability to share space with others and feel comfortable and understood–deeply, understood–without awkward explanations. I miss just being with my extended, spiritual family.

If you bought a copy of River Magic: thank you so much. Truly. I’m touched by your support. I hope you enjoy it! If you are a Pagan reader, I hope it wraps you up in a cozy, familiar cloak. If you’re not, may you gain some insight into the Pagans in your life. (Just remember we’re a very diverse bunch and I couldn’t possibly represent all of us!)

You can order River Magic as an e-book or paperback from Shadow Spark Publishing. For those who don’t live in Upstate NY but want an autographed edition, you can buy one here, or (if you live in the US or Canada), enter a giveaway facilitated by author Dan Fitzgerald! The link is at the end of his interview with me. Enter soon! The giveaway closes at midnight tonight.

My Review of “Paganism for Beginners” by Althaea Sebastiani

A photo of the book amidst various magical allies: homegrown herbs, a beeswax candle, a freshwater mussel, a painted stone, yellow thread, rocks and minerals gifted to me, a bell, a deer jaw, a tiny Brigid cross, an acorn, and small athame. Photo by M. A. Phillips

Paganism for Beginners: The Complete Guide to Nature-Based Spirituality for Every Seeker is a much-needed addition to Earth-based spiritual literature. While there are other books on this topic, prolific author Althaea Sebastiani has breathed new life into the genre of “Pagan 101.”

Bright and colorful, the text is a joy to hold and see. I initially purchased the e-book, but was lucky to win a hard copy! I’m extremely glad I did because I will hand this to my daughter when she becomes a teenager (should she want that). The average English-speaking adolescent should understand the straightforward but friendly content. (For any struggling readers, there is a newly released audiobook!)

As a broad introduction for beginners, Sebastiani’s book is naturally light on specifics for each tradition, but she provides enough basics to place a seeker on the right path. She is forthright that Paganism is varied, so readers are encouraged to research the specifics. The author paints a general picture, providing a framework and base vocabulary of holidays, tools, and techniques. Defining Paganism is a daunting task, but Sebastiani skillfully weaves the common threads together into a delightful welcome mat.

Truly, the book is welcoming. When I said this is a much-needed text, I meant it. One of Paganism for Beginners‘ strengths is the emphasis on inclusivity, anti-racism, and respect for living cultures and the spirits. It is a common theme in much of Althaea Sebastiani’s growing collection of work. To place this message directly in view of beginners is critical.

While the seasoned practitioner may not find much new or surprising, I believe it’s a valuable read all the same. Revisiting the basics is reaffirming, and now I can honestly and emphatically recommend the book to all newcomers.

You can order a copy for yourself through the author’s website here. While there, check out her other publications and courses.

River Magic: Cover Reveal and Pre-Order!

Tada! Isn’t she beautiful? I’m delighted with what the Shadow Spark Publishing team created. They even wove some actual river magic into the cover using images of the St. Lawrence River over some mysterious silver scales. 

River Magic: A Rituals of Rock Bay Novel by M. A. Phillips

Budding clairvoyant Lacey Moran seeks to understand her dreams and find her life’s purpose along the St. Lawrence River. If only her visions of silver arms and Cian O’Connor’s blue eyes were easier to understand! The pieces begin coming together when she encounters a mermaid in the river, joins a group of Druids, and opens herself to romance with an old friend.  

Can Lacey overcome her doubts, or is she in over her head?


River Magic is an adult magical realism novel set in the beautiful 1000 Islands region of Upstate NY, featuring contemporary Pagans and a friends-to-lovers romance.


You can pre-order the e-book now through Shadow Sparks Publishing! The paperback and e-book will release on October 31st! (It is currently on Amazon but will become available through other platforms soon.)

Finding Balance

Leaves on moss and mud from the Crooked Creek Preserve. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

The Autumn Equinox occurs at 9:30 AM tomorrow where I live, but, truthfully, Autumn has been settling in the North Country since Lúnasa concluded. The trees have been shifting for weeks. (We take this very seriously in New York State. We even have a map to help us determine the best times to view “peak foliage”!) Goldenrod and asters resumed the mantle previously held by Queen Anne’s lace and black eyed Susans. The apples on my neighbor’s tree have been blushing since August.

School begins in early September. That, along with the environmental transformation, is always one of the biggest signals to Summer’s end in my eyes. And my goodness, what a transition that has been…

The Equinoxes are, astronomically, about balance. The amount of daylight and darkness is equal (more or less). Once we cross the threshold, we begin the steady march toward the longest night of the Winter Solstice.

I’ve been considering balance a lot these days, especially how to balance my career (the big pay check) with my new passion job (being an author). What’s more, sometimes I worry that I spend more time doing those things than practicing my Druidry! It helps when I pause and consider how my Druidry, and all the values it espouses, weave into my other roles.

Druidry is my foundation. It roots and guides me. All my other obligations and hobbies are my branches. My spiritual practice feeds the branches, providing the nourishment and structure for them to flourish. Occasionally, I have to drop a few branches, but that only strengthens the health of the overall tree–me!

So when I feel spiritually dethatched, “out of balance,” if you will, I return to my roots. What do the virtues show me? How does the lore relate to what I’m working through? How am I serving the deities and the land? How am I honoring my ancestors? Considering these helps me realign.

My Autumn Equinox looks very different from those of previous years, but time outside to reflect and celebrate the season is a constant for me. I hope you are able to reach down into your roots and nourish your various branches so that you remain a strong and steady tree. Blessed Equinox!