Guest Blog: Marie-Claude Bourque

We have a guest today. Please welcome Marie-Claude Bourque.


MCB Marie is a French Canadian living in Seattle, former scientist and fitness professional, now mom-at-home to two boys. She writes dark paranormal and urban fantasy. The manuscript that finaled in the American Title V contest is titled Ancient Whispers. Set in modern Rhode Island and inspired by the poem Evangeline by Longfellow, it is filled with sorcerers, dark mages, alchemists and Celtic priestesses.

When the characters of my story ANCIENT WHISPERS decided they were to be sorcerers, alchemists and practice witchcraft as ancient Celtic priestesses in modern time, I was stumped. Where do I start? How do I write all this magic and how do I make it coherent. After trying to fill the brilliant world building questionnaire at SFWA, I had to pause and think. Write what you know….Okay, I can do that. I’m a former Dungeons and Dragons geek, a physicist and have been studying Pagan witchcraft and Zen Buddhism for a long time. So let’s see where that leads me? Oracle

Most people are familiar with magic as wizardry: Harry Potter and Dumbledore, Gandalf in The Lord of the Ring, even Samantha in Bewitched. And also for D&D geeks, wizard Raistlin Majere in the Weiz & Hickman, Dragonlance Chronicles series. They all use spell casting types of magic. Using a wand or not, chanting incantations that have been studied and practiced over a long time, using talismans, powders, herbs and crushed flowers, reading scrolls that destroyed themselves once used.

The writer’s imagination is limitless here, but things have to be kept logical. Rules have to be obeyed and the wizard need a certain weakness or it will make for a very boring story. RaistlinI just love how the character Raistlin become weaker and weaker physically as he becomes a stronger and stronger wizard and thus has to rely on his strapping twin brother for help. And what of Harry Potter who navigates the angst of a growing boy while trying to learn magic from scratch. Would he be less endearing if didn’t have all these normal muggle problems?

So what if you want to try writing wizardry and don’t know where to start? Well, you can start having fun by generating some unusual spells and artifacts names. Seventh Sanctum has a comprehensive series of magic generators, from spell casting to dark rituals and magical items. And if you want to get into serious magic research, you can take a full seven-year degree in Wizardry at The Grey School of Wizardry for about $50.00 a year. I was as lucky to take an excellent course on Falconry by one of their faculty member: fantasy author Eva Gordon. Or you can also choose to get inspired by looking through manuals of role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, or anything else you may be more familiar with.

I have used the “k” here in spelling ritual magic, but let it be known that a variety of Pagan scholars prefer to simply spell it “magic” when referring to witchcraft rituals and I personally also prefer simple spelling.

Now how can we use ritual magic in writing? A book that showcases ritual magic well is Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (think of Igraine’s fire ritual to enter Uther ‘s mind and warn him he will be murdered). The movie The Craft also portrays ritual magic realistically (for example the cord binding ritual to prevent witch leader Nancy from doing anymore magic). Ritual Magic resembles a prayer. It uses rituals and tools to call deities that will make things happen or simply empower the witch or priest/priestess to achieve things in their life, a “cleric” in the D&D world. The rituals I describe in ANCIENT WHISPERS are spiritual journeys where my heroine performs realistic Pagan witchcraft ritual to encounter the triple goddess to learn more about herself and also to heal a love one and eventually raise a protection shield during a large magical battle. It is both a self discovery and a tool of magic.

To portray realistic rituals, it is important to know that Wicca, which has a comprehensive series of set rituals, rules and tools such as the Wiccan Rede, Threefold Law, Pentagram, Book of Shadows and Athame, is a new religion. Any modern witch pretending to have this knowledge past down from her great-great-grand mother is perpetuating a myth that has been debunked by historians. See for example historian Ronald Hutton: The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft and the site Wicca for the rest of us.

That said, if we are writing fiction, we can invent what we want and all is fair game. A lot of neo-paganism is based on ancient religions such as Celtic and Greek Mythology, as seen in all the different traditions. For a list of traditions, try Pagan Traditions at, the largest Pagan forums on the net.

To describe ritual magic here would be too long, but I recommend as a start a book by Pagan author Christopher Penczack: The Mystic Foundation: Understanding and Exploring the Magical Universe. He goes to describe all sort of ritual magic, Pagan, Wiccan, Druidic, Shamanic and more. Most of these traditions follow the wheel of the year, loosely based on Celtic Mythology. As my story span over nine months, I found myself using the book Celebrate the Earth: A Year of Holidays in the Pagan Tradition, by Salem-based witch Laurie Cabot, mostly for her celebrations suggestions, such as what to eat at Yule and how to decorate at Samhain.

And if you need just a little more, you can join me as a student of Sharon Gunn for her online class Druids: The Ancient Priesthood of the Celts starting Nov 1st through the Celtic Heart Romance Writers.

How on heart can you use Zen to showcase magic? Well, I find this interesting. How can you explain psychic abilities? Buddhists see themselves as being one with the world and the world being one with them. As Buddhist peace activist and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book The Sun My Heart, we are all interconnected. So how can a wizard/psychic/sorcerer use this? By completely letting go of his conception of self and becoming one with the matter he tries to manipulate or the person he is trying to read.

I have used this in WHISPERS where I show my hero first being so joined with elements around him, that he becomes one with them, he becomes one with the water molecules around him, with each gas of the atmosphere, he feels the pull of gravity clearly, the tides pulling on the ocean, on the earth mantle. And only when he can completely come out of his own self, can he enter the mind of the villain and reads his dark thoughts.

And to think at the molecule level got me to look further. What if our wizard/psychic/sorcerer can now act at the quantum level, alter quarks, small bundles of energy inside the nucleus of atoms, or even further, alter the string of energy waves that essentially creates quarks (for more on this check out the book by Brian Greene: The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory.

Now you’re going wooah, where is she going with that? Well there is so much we don’t know and I’ll spare you the physics lecture and encourage you to watch the movie What the BLEEP do we know!? It is hilarious and poses some real question on how we communicate as human beings and perhaps may give you some inspiration for cool psychics!

And if we are on the subject of science, I cannot ignore the topic of Alchemy. Is it science, magic, or spirituality? You decide and check alchemy rituals and history and alchemy spirituality.

All that said, today is a very important day for Pagans: Samhain, the beginning of the new year, the day when the veil is thin between the word and the underworld, the day when the departed are honored.

So bright Samhain blessings everyone. It’s time for me to take my boys trick-or-treat for Halloween. Hope they meet all sorts of magical beings tonight!

What kind of magic do you like?

Marie-Claude Bourque

Five alive

I have winners, folks. Get me your full name and address via email and ye shall partake in the bounty called free books.


Erin (#10)
Dawn M (#12)
Darby Lohrding (#17)
MaryKate (#20)
Has (#21)

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the counters, you know I’m almost done with the Sekrit Project. If all goes according to plan, the draft will be completed today. That leaves the remainder of the week for revisions, and then I’m on vacation for a week. Yay!

Nine Layers of Sky

NLoS “Liz Williams may be one of the most sheerly evocative writers working in SF today, and in Nine Layers of Sky she brings the landscape of modern-day Central Asia into sharp focus. Its paradoxes are vividly portrayed, in all their beauty and corresponding ugliness.” From Science Fiction Book Reviews

“It’s rare to find a novel that is lyrical and simultaneously races at a breakneck pace. More than a page turner, Nine Layers of Sky is a breath-taking achievement. It binds myth, reality, and their aching need for each other in new and beautiful, if sometimes brutal ways.” From

The Blurb:

A former Soviet rocket scientist, Elena Irinovna now cleans office buildings–until she crosses paths with Ilya Muromyets. A remnant of Russia’s glorious and fabled past, Ilya is an eight-hundred-year-old hero turned heroin addict, dreaming of a death that never comes. They are brought together by a strange artifact Elena has found, which offers a glimpse into another dimension, creating a dangerous breach in a world Elena only thought she knew…

Ilya is no stranger to the unexplained. He’s been hired by a mysterious organization to track down the artifact. But nothing prepares him for what it offers–or for a woman like Elena. Fighting their own inner demons as well as those from across the breach, Ilya and Elena embark on a harrowing trip between nations and worlds. And for the first time the man of myth and the woman of science discover that they have a dream to defend–and even die for…

I am ravished by this book in the most delicious sense. It begins like the ocean, lapping inexorably against the shore, but as the tide rises, you are completely swept away, buffeted and far from home. I fell in love with the characters, even as they fell in love with each other.

Masterful. Reading NINE LAYERS OF SKY is like a long sleep, one stitched of other people’s dreams. The prose is dense, but beautiful. The mythos is incomparable. I recommend this book for readers with eclectic tastes or those who love SF/F with a romantic element. Pure romance readers may not adore this as much as I did, even though there is a powerful love story threaded throughout.

You guys know the drill. When I fall in love with a book, I want to tell the world. I loved this book so much that one copy won’t do. I’m giving out FIVE (5) copies of this. If you’d like to try this one, shout it out in comments. You can search inside here and read a sample.

As usual, I’ll wrap this up whenever I feel like it. So get your names in.

A winner and some rambling.

Cathy M (#7), you won!

You asked for a copy of DRIVEN by Eve Kenin, so I’ll make it happen. Just email me your address, and I’ll hook you up.

In other news, I wrapped up my first revision on SKIN GAME. Now I’m going to wrap up the draft of my Sekrit Project. Yay! After that, I’ll take some time off before writing my proposal for SKIN TIGHT and wading into KILLBOX. Of the nine books I sold last year, I now only have three left to write. How’s that for productivity? *fist punch in the air*

Speaking of productivity, I have a theory to unleash. Less than two years ago, for me, 3K a day was hard. It would take me all day, like a complete work day, to get that written. I worked on it all day, and at the end, I’d have sweated out 3K. It left me tired with no more writing juice left in me. Then due to some poor planning and general stupidity which I won’t detail here, I wound up having to bump it up to 5K for a period of two weeks. That left me feeling brain damaged. It was awful.

But the longer I disciplined myself, the longer I wrote 3K a day every week day, the less I slacked, the easier it became. Now I can bang out 3K in three hours. 3K no longer seems challenging to me. Around the time I leaped this hurdle, I began a collaboration. Yes, I have a writing partner — and she’s AWESOME. You’ll get more info on this project when the time comes. Right now you don’t need those details for me to make my point.

See, I’ve never been good at multitasking when it comes to writing. I write one book at a time, period. I have never been able to split my brain to be that many different people, and SKIN GAME had me writing in four points of view. That’s already way more than I do for Jax or Corine. So I was already taxed in that regard. Write another book at the same time? Forget it. Impossible.

Or is it? In between DOUBLEBLIND and starting SKIN GAME I took a week off. During that time, I started working devotedly on my Sekrit Project because I desperately needed to write something for love, rediscovering my joy in the process. Then when it was time to get back to work, I couldn’t bear to make myself abandon this other project.

Sooo… I was placed in the position of writing two books at once. During the day, I would write my 3K on SKIN GAME. In the evening, I would write 2K on this other book. Sometimes even more than that. Suddenly I went from 3K a day as my goal to 5K, 7K, even 8K. And you know what? I was okay. I didn’t have that terrible weariness or that exhaustion I’d had before when I thought 3K was my limit.

Now one book is done. The other book is nearly done. And I’ve done that in less than six weeks. I’m pretty fucking proud of myself.

Which makes me think… maybe our limits are self-imposed. We say, “I can’t”, and then we don’t. We don’t. I present to you that writing is like working out. You can strengthen yourself by training every day, and eventually you can do more than you thought you could if you practice, if you strive, if you’re diligent and you believe in yourself. So here’s to breaking through that mental wall.

How have you challenged yourself today?

I Love Your Blog

Hey, I just got an award! Lauren Dane awarded me this. Love Your BlogThank you! That means she likes popping in to see what I’m rambling about. I feel a little guilty about accepting this right now because my blog has been a little boring lately, with me living in my manuscripts. But I’ll do better, I swear! It goes without saying that I’d tag Lauren right back because I check her blog regularly, but I’ll come up with seven new awesome bloggers.

Here are the directions for this award:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog. Check. It’s in this post.
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you. Check. I linked to Lauren Dane above.
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs. Hooboy, this’ll be fun.
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog. No problem. I have the technology.
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs! It’ll do me some good to do some bloghopping.

These are listed in no particular order…

1)Carrie Lofty
2)Jeri Smith-Ready
4)Lurv a la Mode
5)Larissa Ione
6)Katiebabs / Kristie J

Now I’m off to leave some comments!

Dance monkey says… Ya terminé

Dance monkey That’s right, people.

Check out the silver beauty of that counter on the left. I’m done! I finished SKIN GAME. On Monday, I’ll get started on revisions. I’m soooooooooo happy. I stuck to my schedule of 3K a day, weekends off, every step of the way, and six weeks later, I have a sweet draft weighing in over 95K. The final polished book is supposed to be 100K, and I generally add at least 5K in revisions, so we’re good.

Come party with me and you could win a book by Nalini Singh, Eve Kenin, Meljean Brook, Lauren Dane, or Anya Bast. Yes, you get to pick the title from their backlist.

Winner announced next week, whenever I feel like it. So who knows how long you have to enter? If you want a book, shout it out in comments. Look at their sites and tell me what book you’d pick.

Edit for Rosie!

I’ve completed the playlist. I’ll be tinkering with it to make sure the songs are in order by chapter. They mostly are, but I haven’t doublechecked with the manuscript yet. I’ll do that next week as part of the minutiae of revisions. I don’t have the patience right now. Enjoy the songs! Let me know if you find any new faves in there.

It would be cool if you listened to this when you read SKIN GAME so you can share my experience.

Oh, and if you’re interested in applying to be a beta reader, click here.

The Chosen Sin

A steam-dream from Anya Bast released this week. What a hot cover. *fans self*

“Daria is a special forces agent with one obsession: to wreak vengeance on the vampire who nearly destroyed her. But to succeed, she must become something she detests: a vampire. Her fate rests upon Alejandro Martinez, a sexy vampire with whom she once shared an unforgettable night of scorching passion.

Now, while Daria struggles against her newfound bloodlust, the two must slip into the shadows to bring a monster to justiceaeven as their desire threatens to consume them.”

I just might be giving away a copy of this one next week.

And now I’m off for the weekend. Have a great one!