Monday, October 27, 2014

Record Your Story, Part IV: Journal Prompts About Your Past

As I mentioned yesterday, no journal workshop would be complete without a list of prompts. They're a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and maybe think outside of the box.

In my mind, there are two kinds of journal topics: ones that focus on your present, and ones that focus on your past. I believe most writers follow one focus or the other in their journals. I encourage you to do both, but for those of you who like to write about your life thus far, here are some prompts to help.


How you met your spouse/how your parents met/how your spouse’ parents met/how your grandparents met
How your spouse proposed/how your father proposed/how your father-in-law proposed/how your grandpa proposed
Your earliest memory
Five good childhood memories
Your most embarrassing moment
Your birth stories (if you have kids)
How you converted to the gospel
Your most embarrassing moment
The story behind your name, your children’s names, and your spouse’s name
A good memory associated with each season (Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter).
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Describe one moment where you needed courage to do the right thing.
What is the farthest you’ve ever traveled?
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to deal with?
Describe the places you’ve lived.
If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
Describe one amazing experience you had.
Describe one spiritual experience you had.
Describe your first kiss.
What did you do on your first date with your spouse?
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
Describe some of the jobs you’ve had and whether or not you like them.
Describe what you did for each holiday this past year.
What were you like as a child? In high school? How are you different now?
What are some nicknames for yourself and your family members? How did they get them?
Describe one memory that makes you laugh.
What’s one story you love to tell people?
When you’re with your family (or your friends), what stories do they tell over and over?
What’s something you did that your family and friends tease you about?
What was it like for your mom when she gave birth to you?
What’s one memory your parents have of you as a baby?
Describe some of your family heirlooms, or some items you think will become heirlooms.
Write a summary of your life.
Write a summary of your parents’ lives.
Write about a time that you made a deliberate change for yourself. Write about what motivated you to make that change and how you think that change has affected your life.
Write about some of your scars and how you got them.
Have you ever been in a hospital? Had surgery? Broken a bone?
Describe one time when you were really frightened.
Describe where you were when 9-11 happened.
Describe some memories of your birthday.
Write a good memory you have with each of your parents.
Explain why you decided to date your spouse and why you decided to marry him.
Describe a major storm you and your family survived.
What was your favorite book as a child, or the first book you remember reading?
List some of the toys you remember having as a child.

List the friends you remember having at various stages of your life.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How to Tie the Head Wrap in My Book Cover

A few people have asked me how to tie the head wrap that the model uses in my book cover. I learned how to do it from the video below. It was actually pretty easy. The only downside is you need six yards of fabric!

The video was giving me trouble, so you'll have to copy and paste this link: 

During the Antebellum period in New Orleans, many African American women were mistresses to rich white men. The men would support them and their children, going so far as to buy them clothing and even a house.

Certain people got tired of seeing gorgeous African American women walking around town in fancy gowns and elaborate hair, so a law was passed in 1785 forcing them to wear head wraps called tignons. This was meant not only to lessen their beauty, but also to distinguish the white from the colored during a time when interbreeding made it hard to tell who had cafe au lait in their blood and who did not.

The African American women wore such decorative tignons that soon the head wraps were associated with beauty, and they continued to wear them long after the tignon law was revoked.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Record Your Story, Part III: Journal Prompts About Your Present

No journal workshop would be complete without a list of prompts. They're a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and maybe think outside of the box.

In my mind, there are two kinds of journal topics: ones that focus on your present, and ones that focus on your past. I believe most writers follow one focus or the other in their journals. I encourage you to do both, but for those of you who like to write about your experiences as they're happening, here are some prompts to help.


The layout of your house
Your dream house
List of your friends, what you like about them, how you met them
What your kids are up to this year
Your biggest accomplishment this year
Your biggest disappointment this year
What you love the most about all your family members
What you did today (or this week)
The last time you went out and did something fun, what did you do?
Your testimony
If you could be doing anything with your life right now, what would you be doing?
5 things that make you happy
10 things you’re grateful for
What is your church calling right now? What was your favorite church calling?
Who did you vote for last election and why?
How do you feel about the government?
What are some major political issues you worry about? How would you solve them?
5 major world events that happened this year (or last year)
How much things cost (your rent/mortgage, gas, a computer, a phone, a gallon of milk, etc.)
5 of your favorite books and why they had an impact on you
Your last Facebook post
Something you’re good at. (Everyone’s good at something.)
What do you do for fun?
5 of your family’s favorite meals.
What kind of clothes do you wear? What’s in style right now?
Describe your pets, if you have them.
What was your last vacation?
If you could tell your children only one thing, what would it be?
Which family member are you most like?
Describe a memorable date.
What’s something you feel very strongly about?
Describe one of your pet peeves.
If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Who’s someone you admire and why?
What makes you laugh the most?
What’s one of your quirks? What are your family members’ quirks?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If you could share a meal with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
What’s one thing you would never, ever do?
What’s your most prized possession?
What’s one thing about your culture you wish you could change?
If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
Describe the town you live in: How big is it? Are people there rich or poor? What do people do there for fun?
Where are you the happiest?
A quote you love and why you love it.

What’s the most important quality in a person?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Record Your Story, Part II: How to Keep a Journal

Welcome to Part II of my journal writing workshop! To read Part I on Reasons for Starting a Journal, click here.

Writing in a journal can be overwhelming. What do you write about? Where do you start? How do you come up with topics? This should help you get a clearer idea of how you want your journal to be.

What to Write About

Every journal has a focus, whether the writer realizes it or not. If you have a focus beforehand, it becomes much easier to get started. Here are some different journaling methods:

-         Emotions Journal: for getting out thoughts, dealing with feelings, processing things you’re going through.
-         Event Journal: Only write about the big things that happen in your life.
-         Daily Log: Write what you do each day, or write a prompt each day.
-         Yearly Log: Every January, write what your family did that year
-         Memoir: Tell the story of your life by writing about things that happened in the past instead of as they’re happening now.
-         Themed Journal: Write on a certain theme, like a gratitude journal, a mission journal, a spiritual journal, a vacation journal, an ideas journal, or a baby book.

Different Journal Mediums

Knowing what to write about is only part of the battle. You also need to figure out where to put those ideas and how you want to represent them.

-         Blank lined book
o   Feel free to add pictures and mementos!
-         Computer program, such as Microsoft Word
-         Blog
-         Scrapbook
o   Feel free to add words!
o   Be sure to label your photos so people know who’s in them
-         Pre-made scrapbook
-         Marked scriptures
-         Audio recording (you can get conversations that way)
-         Vlog or videos
-         Family journal – everyone contributes to it

How to Get Started

So you know what you want to write about and how you're going to write it. If you're still having problems getting started, these tips should help:

-         Decide the journal’s purpose:
o   The story you want to tell
o   The audience you’re writing to
-         Write your milestones (childhood, college, marriage, babies) now. NOW. You remember less every day.
-         Occasionally make lists instead of journal entries: favorites, pet peeves, books you’ve read, etc.
-         Write about politics and social issues. That will become history, and your children and grandchildren will love to hear what you thought about it.
-         Include details! Future generations will want to know what you ate, how you traveled, how much things cost, what movies you watched, what books you read, what school you went to. The details might be more interesting than the big stuff.
-         If you’re having trouble getting started, think of what you might post as a status update on Facebook and write it in the journal instead. Or, think about what you wish you knew about your grandparents and write about that for yourself.
-         Think of journaling as a process, not an end product. It’s okay if it seems bad or unfocused right now. You’ll find your way.
-         If you’re worried about not doing it “right” or “well,” just remember: anything is better than nothing.

-         Enjoy yourself! This is fun!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Finer Things Book Club: The Screwtape Letters

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis shares his views on sin versus happiness through a series of letters written by a demon. The demon writes the letters to his nephew, who is a novice and needs guidance in how to cause the damnation of a young man.

This book was published in 1942, yet it is shockingly relevant to our time. Lewis has this amazing capacity to tell you things in such a way that you realize you've always known it, but you've never actually thought about it. This book changed the way I look at many aspects of life, especially what makes people happy vs. what makes them unhappy.

Every Christian should read this book, but I'd recommend it to anyone, Christian or no. Even though the book is essentially about salvation through Christ, it is at the same time a poignant study of human nature.

My book group's discussion for this book was fantastic, but it was difficult to find any activities to go along with it. We had some food that was related to the theme, such as devil's food cake, angel food cake, and divinity. I made dirty rice because the book is about sin and sin makes you dirty. I don't know if people got the connection, but the rice was delicious.


What surprised you the most about Screwtape’s philosophies? (For me, it was his emphasis on separating the patient from reality, because if the patient saw the truth in all things, he would be Christian.)

What do you think C.S. Lewis would add to this book if it were republished today?

What quote really stood out to you?

What is the difference between the detachment of self that God seeks and the detachment from reality the devils seek?

In what ways do you think the pressures of the “ordinary” make you susceptible to diabolical influence?

Screwtape uses Christian churches as a tool for temptation. In your experience, do you see Christians fall into some of the same traps as the characters in this book?

Did his views on prayer change the way you will pray in the future?

Why would devils want us to be more preoccupied with the future than the present?

Screwtape says noise is the constant sound in heaven. Does Satan use noise as a means of drawing us away from God today?

What do you think is so dangerous about asking if an idea is relevant instead of asking if it’s true?

From both divine and diabolical perspectives, what is the value of a long life?

Did Screwtape’s view of death change how you look at death?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Record Your Story, Part I: Reasons for Keeping a Journal

I hosted a journal workshop at my church not to long ago, and it went so well that I thought I should share it with you here. It's going to be in four parts. Part I: Reasons for Starting a Journal, Part II: Different Kinds of Journaling, Part III: Journal Prompts that Focus on Your Present, and Part IV: Journal Prompts that Focus on You Past.

So without further ado, here's Part I of my journal workshop.

Reasons for Starting a Journal

I've always kept a journal just because I enjoy getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper. It wasn't until I read the journal of my great-great-great grandpa that I truly understood the amazing things a journal could do. 

William Butler was born in Scotland 1825 and immigrated to America because he had no financial prospects at home. After moving to the US, he met Orson Hyde, one of the original founders of the Mormon church, and traveled to Salt Lake City as one of the first pioneers. My family has been members ever since. 

After getting married, Brigham Young asked him to serve several missions in Europe. His mission was filled with miracles of curing illness and avoiding danger through the power of God. (I wish I had time to share them with you.)

At one point, his third wife (yes, I have many polygamous ancestors) and two of his children got attacked by a murderer with an axe. He hunted the man down, beat him within an inch of his life until the man begged for death, and shot him. (Welcome to my crazy family.) 

When he went home, his wife and one of his daughters was still alive, and his wife asked for a blessing. (In my religion, that is a special prayer to help people who are sick or troubled.) He blessed her even though she was on the brink of death and she miraculously recovered. They had two children after that, one of whom - Heber Close Butler - was my ancestor.

These are stories that everyone in my family knows. My family history has been done nearly up to the 14th century, but only a few of my ancestors kept journals, and those journals are still being read by their descendants. 

You might think that's all well and good for him, but we can't all have such interesting lives. If you think your descendants won't want to read your journal, think of this:

Anne Frank was a normal 13-year-old girl when she got a journal for her birthday. In one of her first entries, she wrote, “It’s an odd idea for someone life me to keep a diary, not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else – will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old school girl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I was to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried in my heart.”

She and her family went into hiding when the Nazis started taking Jews away from Holland, and she continued keeping a journal throughout her time there. The journal has sold millions of copies world-wide and it is one of the most poignant and influential books written in the 20th century.

The fact of the matter is, no one thinks they live in extraordinary times. You don’t know what your life has in store that people will want to read about. We all have something to say that people will treasure when we are gone.

That's my reason for keeping a journal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kickstarter: A Great Resource for Authors

The Historical Novel Society just posted an article I wrote about how Kickstarter works and why it's a good choice for authors. I'm so flattered they gave me the opportunity to write for them and to spread the word about my project.

To read the article, click here.

To view my Kickstarter campaign and to back my project, click here.

If you would like to host me on your blog or website, you can email me at teralynpilgrim at yahoo dot com.

Voodoo Queen Kickstarter Campaign has LANCHED

Finally, my campaign to raise funds for VOODOO QUEEN has launched on Kickstarter! I'm so excited to spread the word about my project and to see how much interest it gets. Click here to see my campaign page.

WHAT IS KICKSTARTER: It's a website where people back creative projects in exchange for rewards and for the good feeling of knowing they helped an artist in need. My campaign will help fund the research for my novel about Marie Laveau, I'm offering copies of the book when it comes out as well as jewelry, swag, voodoo dolls, and more.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Go on to Kickstarter, open an account, donate however much you want, and choose your reward. That's it! I also could use as many people as possible to spread the word, so if you'd like to help, you can post my project on social media. I will be forever grateful!


VOODOO QUEEN, a novel of the famous voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, is an epic trilogy of magic, secrets, love, death, and spiritual power. Think of it as a mix between Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND and Toni Morrison’s BELOVED.

Marie lives in a world where the heads of rebellious slaves are stuck on spikes, colored women live as concubines to white men, and improper medical treatment kills people by the hundreds. There’s so much Marie wants to change, but she’s just a poor colored girl abandoned by her parents – a nobody.

Then she discovers voodoo. The mystical energy she taps into makes her more powerful than she ever imagined. Soon her potent gifts make her the most feared and respected woman in New Orleans. 

Marie's strength is tested repeatedly by personal tragedy, but with the help of the spirits, her ancestors, and her unstable family, Marie empowers and heals New Orleans.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Excerpt #2 of VOODOO QUEEN

I'm posting a few excerpts of VOODOO QUEEN for my Kickstarter campaign that will launch October 1st. There's a link on the project page that will lead people here.

The section below is from the fourth chapter of the book. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy it!


Catherine and Marie walked several city blocks before they  approached a two-story house in the wealthy part of town. Catherine barely knocked on the door before it was flung open by a slim white woman. She was in a surprisingly formal green dress with a ruffled skirt and off-the-shoulder sleeves. Her hair was in perfect ringlets, but her face was tear-streaked. The woman quivered and wrung her hands. She made Marie think of a wounded butterfly: so delicate, so tragic, so in need of help.
Merci mille fois – thank you so much for coming,” she said to Marie, ignoring Catherine completely. This didn’t surprise either of them. People quite often treated Marie like she was in charge regardless of the circumstances. She had a magnetic presence that drew others to her.
“We were going to leave today,” she explained to Marie as she guided them through the rooms. “We have a home in Buluxy that we stay in during the summer. But then last night, he got sick. Why didn’t I leave sooner?” She held her face in her hands. Marie knew that if they couldn’t save the boy, those words – “we were going to leave today, why didn’t I leave sooner?” – would echo in her mind for the rest of her life.
Marie had never been in a house so fine, though she supposed Catherine had been in many during her days as a slave and a nurse. It was unfortunates she couldn’t see it in the daylight. The candlelight barely teased the leg of a pricey piece of furniture, the edge of a richly embroidered rug, the outline of a fine painting, the ledge above the courtyard, before it ran away and cast the images back into darkness.
“I heard colored women could work miracles with yellow fever,” said the mother, breathless with nervousness. “We need a miracle. I know it.” She guided them into a bedroom and pointed. “Just look at him.”
Marie could smell that this was a sickroom the moment she walked in. It had an unnatural stuffy heat and the acidic odor of sick. The orange light from the fireplace shone on a little boy shivering under a pile of blankets. She could only see his face, which was bright red with fever. The boy had long, dark eyelashes that touched his cheek. His abnormally long lashes were so sweet that Marie’s heart pulled toward him. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and absorb the sickness into her chest until he was clean and whole.
Catherine approached the bed and put an expert hand on the child’s forehead. The mother hovered over her, intent on her every move. His shivering was so strong, the pile of blankets shook and his black eyelashes quivered.
“Why is he so cold?” asked Marie. She tried not to sound alarmed for the mother’s sake.
“The fever steals all his warmth and makes him cold. That’s why it’s so hard to get him to sweat, even though it feels like he’s on fire. Here.” She took Marie’s hand and put it on the boy’s forehead. Marie was shocked that a human could produce such heat. Catherine kneeled by the bed and whispered to the child. “Open your eyes, mawn shou.[1] Come on.” His eye lashes lifted slowly. “There you go.” Catherine gently pulled his eye lid up and peered at him, then motioned for Marie to come do the same. Her eyes met with the child’s for a long moment. He was so innocent, so trusting.
Catherine leaned toward Marie and spoke softly so the mother couldn’t hear. “Do you see how his eyes are yellow? That’s one of the advanced stages of the disease. Only half of the people who reach this point survive. We have to act quickly.”
The mother was racked with sobs. She pleaded with Marie, “How bad is he? Will he be alright?”
Catherine, who was used to being overlooked whenever she was with Marie, asked her, “When was the last time he urinated?” The mother seemed confused, so she asked again, “When was the last time he urinated?”
“I don’t know. Today. Yes, today.”
Catherine looked relieved. The mother asked Marie, “Is that important?”
“Have you seen any blood?” Catherine continued. “From his vomit, nose, mouth, or eyes?”
The mention of such bleeding made the mother physically ill and she swayed as if she were about to faint. Catherine stood and calmly took the white woman’s hands. The mother was surprised by the sudden contact, but she didn’t flinch away. “I have treated many people before,” said Catherine. “We’ll do everything we can to heal him.”
The mother’s lips whimpered. Marie had never seen anyone so vulnerable and she wanted to soothe her like she would a child.
The mother looked back to Marie, still viewing her as the person in charge. “Do whatever it takes. I don’t care. Just heal him.” The words “whatever it takes” obviously meant “even if you have to use voodoo.”
“Sit down there and we’ll get to work.” The mother sat in a chair obediently, her eyes never leaving her boy. Catherine motioned for Marie to stand and they both crossed themselves and started to pray.
Marie suddenly felt a sense of dread and her eyes impulsively flashed to the door. Catherine asked, “What’s wrong? Is someone coming?”
Heavy footsteps thundered up the stairs. The sound itself was hostile and Marie braced herself to run, though there was nowhere to go. The door flung open and two men entered, one of them carrying a doctor’s briefcase. The other took in the two colored women and demanded, “What is this?”
The mother leaped from her chair and pleaded. “I know you wanted him to see a doctor, but everyone says colored women are better at nursing than doctors. I thought we could let them try.”
The doctor pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. The husband scoffed. “That’s superstitious nonsense. He is trained in medicine. These women are only going to chant incantations and charge you a fortune for it.” He waved Marie and Catherine away like two pesky flies.
The doctor was already unloading his case and rolling up his sleeves. Marie looked back to the boy with the burning face and the long lashes and planted her feet. Unless they let her treat the boy, they would have to carry her out.
Catherine gently placed her aging hand on Marie’s shoulder. “We need to go.”
Marie’s resolve crumbled. Her eyes begged Catherine to let her stay, but her grandmere very firmly guided her out of the room. Marie took one last look at the bed – the shivering boy, the mother holding his hand while the doctor examined him – before the father slammed the door closed.
From inside, they could hear the mother ask, “What are you going to do?”
“First, we must bathe him in cold water. Then we’ll purge him with a laxative and use leeches to draw out the bad blood.”
“No!” cried Marie. She spun around to run back into the room, but Catherine stood in her way. “Didn’t you hear what they’re going to do?” Marie asked incredulously. Blood was life giving; that’s why the spirits required blood sacrifices. Loss of blood brought death.
“I heard,” said Catherine calmly. “And the shock from the cold water will probably kill him.” Most people would have mistaken Catherine’s lack of passion for flippancy. Marie recognized it as resignation.
Catherine made for the stairway, assuming Marie would follow. In a back room, buckets of water were dumped into a tub. Marie saw in her mind the boy being lifted into the tub, his body covered in leeches, and she shut off the rest of the image because she didn’t want to see what it would put him through. Instead, her mind’s eye went to heads stuck on spikes, too high for her to reach.
Catherine realized Marie wasn’t coming with her and she turned around.

“I can’t move,” Marie explained. It was literally the truth. She couldn’t go into the room again because it would do more harm than good, and she couldn’t leave the boy when it meant allowing him to die. Her feet wouldn’t move one way or the other.
Catherine seemed to understand because she didn’t get angry and she didn’t ask any questions. She drew near to Marie and said, “A weaker person could be ripped apart by all that’s wrong in this world. But you and I are strong. We can walk out that door and not be destroyed by things we can’t change.”
Can’t change. There it was again. She was a poor little colored girl who couldn’t stop a white doctor from killing a boy. The only thing she could do was survive it. Marie realized something about herself that night; Catherine was a survivor, but she wasn’t. She was a fighter.
Marie might have stood there indefinitely if she hadn’t heard the slosh of water followed by the ear-piercing scream of the little boy. Within the screams were the mother’s comforting whispers telling the boy she was sorry, she knew it was cold, but it was to make him better and it would be over soon. Marie flew out of that house so quickly, she wasn’t even conscious of her feet. She stopped at the sidewalk, heaving heavy breaths. Part of her remained in that house with that boy, though. Marie wondered if she would ever have that part of herself back or if it would always be with him.

Catherine handed Marie the healing kit – it was her turn to carry it, Marie supposed – and guided her to their next house call.

Thanks for reading! Only one more day before the launch!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Excerpt #1 of VOODOO QUEEN

This is the prologue to my novel VOODOO QUEEN, a paranormal historical fiction about Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of 19th century New Orleans. Enjoy!


Catherine washed her hands in a blue porcelain bowl as her daughter groaned on the mahogany four-poster bed. The effort of the childbirth coupled with the stuffy night made sweat soak through the armpits of Marguerite’s nightgown. Catherine used a paper fan to give her face a little relief.
“Shouldn’t I send someone for Henri?” Catherine asked impatiently. Marguerite’s white lover and the father of her other two children only lived a few blocks away. It would take no time at all to bring him to her.
Marguerite snorted. “I told you, he doesn’t want anything to do with this. I’m getting tired of telling you.” A strong contraction took hold and she clenched her teeth against it, despite Catherine’s insistence that she needed to focus on breathing.
Catherine wanted to shake her daughter, but it wouldn’t do any good. This was not the first time Catherine was unhappy about Marguerite’s relationship with the rich white man who was twice her age. For Marguerite’s last two births Henri had paced in another room for hours, anxiously awaiting news of her progress. But those had been his children, and this child had no father.
Catherine glanced at how Marguerite’s fingers gripped the white sheets as another contraction took hold. This day ought to have been exciting for both of them, but Catherine could not muster up enthusiasm. Henri forgave his mistress’s infidelity, which wasn’t surprising, since her beauty made her one of the most desired mulattos in New Orleans. He could not forgive the baby for its mysterious origins. Marguerite spent most of her pregnancy at her mother’s house, and when the pregnancy was over, Catherine would have to raise the child herself.
So instead of being ecstatic about this birth, Catherine’s emotions were torn. She adored her grandchildren, but she was tired. Her forty-seven years had been strenuous. After decades of slavery, three masters, three children, and years working in the market selling calas and coffee until she was able to buy her freedom and finally a house, Catherine’s life was finally winding down. Her children were grown up and happy. All the money she earned, she got to keep instead of sharing with an owner. She answered to no one. It was not a good time in her life to raise another child.
A baby is coming into this world tonight, Catherine reminded herself, and that deserves celebration regardless of the circumstances.
Lightning flashed outside and cast sharp shadows in the room. It was followed a few seconds later by the dull rumble of thunder. Catherine brushed sticky strands of hair out of Marguerite’s face and dabbed at her forehead with a wet rag – an intimate gesture that was uncomfortable because they rarely touched. Even though Catherine had tried to ignore it all these years, the difference between her daughter’s coffee-with-milk-colored skin and the stark blackness of her own still made her sad. Despite their different colored skin, they had the same high cheekbones, narrow face, prominent lips, and thin eyes. Marguerite was undeniably her daughter.
For some reason, Catherine’s mind went back to a vision her mother had had in her behalf, one that she hadn’t thought about in years. In the vision, Catherine – a pure-bred African – raised a half-white child. That child became a woman teeming with power. The spirits did anything she asked. She could heal any ailment. Everyone she met rushed to do her bidding. Police ran from her, politicians trembled around her, and the weather changed for her.
They assumed the prophecy was about her daughter Marguerite, and this made the circumstances of her conception somewhat easier. But after years of disappointment and heartbreak from Marguerite, Catherine accepted that the vision meant nothing.
She felt Marguerite’s stomach to guess at the child’s weight – a trick her own mother had taught her. As soon as her fingertips touched Marguerite’s stomach, a shock like the lightning outside shot through her arm, jarring the joint in her shoulder. Static charge made the hair on her arms stick up straight.
Marguerite was breathing with such concentrated effort that she didn’t seem to notice Catherine’s gasp and abrupt withdrawal from the bed. Catherine stared in awed confusion at her fingers, her skin appearing yellow in the lamplight, then white-blue in the illuminating flash of lightning. She could taste a buzz in her mouth.
There was only one explanation for what had happened. This child had ashé.
The gift of ashé ran in their blood; her own grandmere was a voodoo priestess in Africa, and her mother taught Catherine much about serving the spirits. But the power emanating from Marguerite’s womb was exceptional.
 “I just want this to be over!” Marguerite screamed. Catherine flinched. Seeing her daughter struggle through this pain never got easier.
 “Tell me when you feel the need to push,” Catherine reminded her.
“I think it’ll be soon,” said Marguerite, hope shining through her frustration.
Outside a powerful gush of wind hit against the house, rattling window panes and throwing the front door open. It brought with it a wave of rain that shattered against the house and filled Catherine’s nostrils with the smell of warm water. In the backyard the chickens shrieked and madly flapped their wings as if a cat had attacked their pen. This was hurricane weather. Catherine ran to shut the front door to stop the rain and wind assaulting the hallway, though the wood floor was already soaked. The next crack of thunder was right on top of them as if it were hunting them down. The foundation of the house trembled under its force. A scream from Marguerite made Catherine run back into the bedroom and take her daughter’s hand. Her knuckles ground against each other under Marguerite’s desperate grip. The roar of rain and a new boom of thunder overpowered her daughter’s cry, but Catherine could see it in her face as light again burst into the room.
“Do you feel like it’s time?” Catherine asked.
Unable to speak, Marguerite bit her lip and nodded. Catherine lifted the gown up over her daughter’s knees to check. After five long hours of hard labor, Marguerite was finally ready to deliver.
Mother and daughter didn’t need to exchange words as Catherine helped her roll over to her hands and knees. Her body was weak from the long labor and Catherine had to use her full strength to push against her daughter’s naked, sweat-soaked back. Marguerite rested on her elbows and gripped a sheet tied to the headboard while Catherine situated herself on a stool at the foot of the bed.
Lightning struck again, illuminating Catherine’s view of the birth canal. Rays of electric power emanated from the child inside. Movement in the corner of Catherine’s eye distracted her just long enough to look up. In the feeble light of the lamp Catherine could see nothing but motion in the shadows near the ceiling. Catherine ignored it – she had to focus on her daughter – though she couldn’t ignore the feeling she was being watched.
“Push, honey, push!” she encouraged. Marguerite heaved out a guttural growl and her muscles contracted. Catherine moved the lamp so she could better see the edge of the baby’s head still wrapped in its mother’s flesh.
Another flash of lightning lit up the room and illuminated the source of the motion; on top of the armoire sat an enormous snake. The flash of light reflected in his round, black eyes. His head hung over the edge as he looked down on Marguerite’s labor. Thunder muffled Catherine’s shriek.
“Damballah!” Catherine cried. There was no mistaking this for an ordinary spotted black snake; this was Damballah, the ancient father of all life who arches across the sky like a snake. He was the greatest of all spirits, and he felt he needed to be present at this birth.
Marguerite’s cry overpowered even the thunder. Again, the lightning – which had increased in frequency – shed light on the emerging baby’s head as well as the flexing coils of the watchful snake.
“Keep pushing!” Catherine shouted. She had to focus – she couldn’t worry about Damballah just yet.

One last soul-clenching scream and Marguerite pushed a slick, dark little girl into Catherine’s arms. The moment she touched the child, the unmistakable zing of ashé filled her from arms to core with white heat. It felt as though she was touching a spiritual eternity her soul had always longed to enter. Then, just as quickly as it came, it was gone. Catherine felt nothing but the chunky-white and slick-red birth slime coating the baby’s swollen skin. The baby clenched her hands, scrunched her furious face, and pierced the room with her cry.

That's it for now... thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Cover Reveal" for Kickstarter

So, this isn't a real cover reveal -- you have to have a book published before you can reveal its cover -- but I needed something to use for my Kickstarter campaign, so voila! Here's my finished cover. 

I couldn't love it more!

Thank you to everyone who voted on their favorite image. I had no idea which one to pick, so your advice was very helpful.

Not only will I use this as a cover photo for the campaign; I'm also going to put it on swag as rewards for donating. Backers can get this image on a t-shirt, tote bag, mug, or poster. 

Only five days left before launch...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I Decided to Start a Kickstarter Campaign

I had a hard decision to make, but after a lot of thought, I've decided to start a Kickstarter campaign to help me write VOODOO QUEEN (my novel about Marie Laveau). It's going live October 1. I am nervous, but also incredibly excited!

What is Kickstarter? is a website dedicated to assisting creative projects: comics, films, games, designs, technology, or in my case, books. People post what their project is and how much money they need to get the project off the ground, and in exchange offer the backers various goodies. The backers then follow the progress of the creation until its completion. 

You might wonder why people would just donate their money out of the goodness of their hearts. I wondered that too, until I got on the site and looked around. Surprisingly, I got really excited about a lot of the projects and was eager to support the creators. It's fun to be a part of other people's work. 

Also, you get some pretty awesome goodies if you donate, so it's a great place to go on a shopping spree.

Why Kickstarter is Right For Me

Writing a historical fiction novel is expensive. I'd love to spend a week in New Orleans doing research and to buy all the books I need, and my inability to do so is hindering my work. 

For example, the architecture in New Orleans is completely different from what I'm used to, and it's hard to visualize just by reading about it. It's hard to understand voodoo ceremonies without going to at least a few of them. Interviewing priestesses and historians on the phone is not nearly as good as meeting them in person. Etc.

Why it was a Hard Decision

When I first had the idea to start a Kickstarter campaign, I hesitated. So many authors finish and publish their books without any financial help. Would people look down on me when I ask for money instead of doing it by myself? 

Eventually, I reasoned that every author is different, and every book is different. Raising funds through Kickstarter might not be right for everyone, but it's right for me.

How You Can Help

I need as much help as I can get! You can tell others about my project through Twitter, Facebook, email, Pinterest, Instagram, StumbleUpon, or by hosting me on your blog. Plus, if you donate only one dollar, you can get on a newsletter that will give you updates on my book's progress, so when it's available to buy, you'll be the first to know. 

Like I said, my campaign is going live October 1st. If you are interested in helping out (and I'd be eternally grateful if you are), let me know what you'd like to do either by commenting or via email. My email is teralynpilgrim at yahoo dot com.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Does anyone know how to get rid of spam comments?

I have had it up to here with spam comments on my blog! Does anyone know how to keep from getting them? I thought I had set it up so you have to type in a code to leave a comment, but it doesn't seem to be working. 

Another thing I hate is spam hits where you click on the link to see where a bunch of hits are coming from and it ends up being advertisements. Do other blogging sites have these problems?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pursuing Your Bad Ideas

We all have bad ideas. Most often we're completely ignorant when our ideas suck, but occasionally we're perfectly aware of it.

You already know I'm going to say to pursue your bad ideas anyway. It's easier said than done, though -- a fact I've recently had to learn when I came up with a bad idea.

The most obvious reason to pursue a bad idea is it might end up being a great idea. For instance, I'm a big fan of The Night Circus. In an interview with the author, Erin Morgenstern said she started writing it without knowing a lot of the "rules," such as not to write in second person, ever. Her use of second person is superb! The book would not be the same without it and I'm grateful no one was there to tell her it was a bad idea.

We could swap stories about bad ideas turned amazing all day long. What I want to say is that sometimes when an idea feels bad, we don't realize our minds are in the process of building something great that makes perfect sense. We just can't see it yet.

The best example I can think of is with my current novel VOODOO QUEEN. I originally had a mass of narrators (and finally narrowed it down to one, but that's a different story). When I tried to tell the story of Marie's grandmother, I kept wanting to tell it from her owner's point of view and not from her own.

That doesn't make sense. Why would we want to hear from a slave owner instead of the slave? He was a horrible person.

The story wouldn't come into my head any other way, so I wrote it how it wanted to be written. Months later when I decided to only have one narrator, a brilliant idea occurred to me that I must have known all along; the best way to tell the grandmother's story was through visions from people who had passed on. The slave owner -- who has always been madly in love with her -- tells Marie his story through dreams that reveal all of the grandmother's secrets. I didn't have to make any changes to the story because it was already written from the owner's point of view.

I've seen too many people come up with ideas that seem bad, so they try to "fix" them... which only makes the ideas worse. It's much better to let an idea unfold the way it wants to. Perhaps when you catch the vision of what your mind is trying to create, you'll step back and say, "Wow. That wasn't such a bad idea after all."

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Own Reproduction of the Temple of Vesta

My husband made me the best birthday present ever. Seriously. It's like the coolest thing ever owned in the history of owning things.

Using my research, we worked together on making a model of the temple of Vesta. Then he used his 3D printer to create it. We both painted it together, and voila! My very own absolutely perfect model of Vesta's temple. After spending so much time visualizing and writing about this building in my novel SACRED FIRE, it was amazing to hold in my hands exactly what I had imagined.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Favorite Baby Shower Gift: A Nursing Basket

A friend of mine gave me a brilliant idea for a baby shower gift. I made one for a shower yesterday and I liked doing it so much that I think I'm going to give these away at every shower I go to.

Basically, I got a basket and filled it with everything the new mother will need to start nursing. When I brought home my newborn, nursing was pretty much all I did or thought about. It's hard to figure out how often to nurse, how long, which side, is the baby getting what it needs. If that isn't enough, you also have to deal with the discomfort! Swollen breasts and chapped nipples. It gets better, but that first week is the worst!

The basket a good thing for the mother to have during the first few days when she's still recovering and can't go anywhere. She's also not likely to get the things in the basket from anyone else, or for herself. I'm a big breastfeeding advocate, too, so I like giving the mother some encouragement.

The biggest reason I like this gift, though, is it's for the mother and not the baby. I want the baby to have cute boots and pink tutus as much as anyone, but when I really care about the mother, it's nice to know I'm helping take care of her.

Here's a list of all the things you could put in the basket. My basket only included the first seven things (if you included everything, it would be a pretty big basket!).

  • Nipple cream. This is a must! I had no idea latching on would hurt so badly. Luckily it becomes more comfortable later, but for that first week, lanolin was a life saver.
  • Nursing cover. I could never nurse in public with just a blanket as cover. My baby likes to kick and squirm so much that I know she'd throw a blanket right off. A nursing cover straps around the neck or the arms. I don't go anywhere without mine.
  • Breast pads. These soak up any milk that leaks. I don't need them anymore, but when my milk first came in, I would often wake up at night in a puddle of milk. Every mother has had that awkward moment when they leak in public and have to hide a conspicuous wet spot on their shirt, and breast pads prevent that.
  • Milk bands. I used to latch hair clips on my bra to keep track of which side I nursed on last, but milk bands work better (and they look better in a basket). It's a rubber bracelet with numbers on it so you can keep track of not only what side you used last, but also what time you nursed and for how long.
  • Nipple shields. These are used when the baby has problems latching on, so hopefully the mother won't have to use them, but they supposedly help with sore nipples too.
  • Oatmeal. I don't know the science behind it, but mothers everywhere swear that oatmeal helps them produce more milk. I swear by it too... it really works!
  • Charts. Before my baby and I got a good rhythm going, I spent all my mental energy trying to keep track of all the times I nursed, how many diapers my baby had gone through, whether I needed it increase my supply, and so forth. The basket can include several print outs to make the mom's like easier: click herehere, and here to view the ones I used.
  • A water bottle. The best way to keep up a milk supply is to drink a lot of water.
  • A nursing book. La Leche League recommends The Womanly Art of Nursing, but there are many other books on nursing the mother might appreciate. 
  • Mother's Milk. It's a tea that's also supposed to boost milk supply.
  • A night-time nursing bra. I loved mine.
  • Nursing clothes. There are lots of clothes besides bras that make nursing easier, like night gowns, tanks, and shirts with stretchy collars.
  • Lactation cookies. A lot of people on Pinterest are pinning recipes for cookies that are supposed to increase supply. I've never tried them, but they'd be fun to give to someone.
  • Burp cloth. When my baby was still spitting up, I was constantly searching the room for a nearby burp cloth. You can never have enough of them!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Which Picture Should I Use for Kickstarter?

I've decided to start a Kickstarter campaign for VOODOO QUEEN. Research is expensive! I'm pretty excited about it. The campaign needs a killer cover photo to draw people in, plus I'm going to put the image on swag like t-shirts and mugs as prizes for people who donate, so I did a photo shoot with a friend of mine and a snake named Cali.

Now I need help from my readers! I narrowed down my favorites to six, and I need your help deciding which one to use. Let me know in the comments which is your favorite. I'm eager to see which you all like.

NOTE: We're going to edit out the green screen and add a picture of New Orleans, so please ignore the ugly background.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

How to Make a Simple Sea Cake

I love decorative cakes, but alas, my imagination exceeds my skill. I wanted to make an incredible cake for my daughter's Under the Sea birthday party, but I needed one that was easy enough for me not to mess up. Too often I find myself the day of an event frantically trying to put together an impossible cake.

This cake was not only simple, but it looked fantastic. It was exactly what I wanted! 

If you want to make a cake like this, all you need is:

  • 2 boxes of white cake mix.*
  • frosting
  • blue food coloring
  • white chocolate
  • small crock pot, a microwave, or a double broiler
  • shells candy mold
  • a spoon
  • vanilla wafers
*I've tried making cake from scratch, and honestly, it doesn't taste all that different from cake in a box. I only use the Pillsbury cake with pudding mixed in; of all the boxed cakes I've tried, that's my favorite.

First, I add blue food coloring to the batter. Don't add the egg yolks to the batter or it will turn green. Cook the batter in four cake pans (or two at a time). Stack three of them on top of one another with frosting in between the layers. Since this was a 1st birthday party, I cut two circles in the fourth to make a smash cake for the baby.

Mix food coloring into the frosting until you get a pretty light blue color and spread it over the top half of the cake. It's easiest to pipe the frosting onto the cake and then spread it with a spatula instead of using only the spatula; you'll pick up less crumbs that way. You'll still pick up crumbs, though, so add a second layer afterwards. 

Mix more blue food coloring into the rest of the frosting to get a darker color and spread on the bottom half of the cake. Using the back of a spoon, make waves in the frosting. When you get to where the different colors of blue meet, blend them in a little bit.

Next, fill a ziplock bag with vanilla wafers and crush them until they're super fine and they look like sand. Line the plate the cake is on with the "sand." You can also pour sand on the top of the cake, if you like.

To make the shells, melt some white chocolate. My preferred method is to put the chocolate in a crock pot on low. That way the chocolate is always at the right temperature and I don't have to worry about it seizing up, and since I had to fill the candy molds three times, I didn't have to reheat it or heat it in shifts.

You can get candy molds in most cake decorating sections of grocery and craft stores, and they're pretty cheap. I found mine in my cupboard the day before the party. I still don't know how they got there.

Once you've poured the melted chocolate into the molds and let them cool in the fridge for ten minutes, arrange them on the cake however you like.

That's it! So easy, right? I had a bunch of extra chocolates so I arranged them on the table, and I added a real shell we found in Tonga to the table because it matched so well.

She loved her sea cake!
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