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

Please welcome Jess Granger: guest blogger

Hey readers, I have a special treat for you today. One of Laura’s clients has agreed to chat a bit with y’all. Jess Granger writes sexy futuristics. Give her a warm welcome!

Hello everyone,

Thank you so much for inviting me to blog today, Ann. I’m thrilled to be here.

I love Disneyland. I don’t know what it is about that place that gets to me so much, but I love it. As a writer, I think a lot about the power of imagination, and Disney had it in spades. Tomorrowland was my favorite place as a child. I remember stepping off the monorail. The sunlight would beat down on the crisp white lines of the buildings and glint of the metal sculptures and railings. I would ride down the escalator without any stairs, fascinated by the strangeness of it, and feeling like I really was in the future. Then I’d run straight for Space Mountain with Dad while Mom took my little brother on the People Mover. I remember feeling like I was on a real spaceship as I inched along the futuristic halls of Space Mountain. The endless pattern of blue rubber circles under my feet always felt spongy and strange. And when I reached that spot in line where you could peek into the dark shadows of the ride and hear the rush of the coaster, my heart would pound out of my ears.

But then I grew up. I remember going to Disneyland as a teenager and young adult. Suddenly I could see Tomorrowland with new eyes, and it made me sad. The white buildings always looked faded somehow, bleak and hot. The rounded curves of the buildings didn’t seem like a vision of the future, so much as a trip back to a 50’s cartoon. I still ran for Space Mountain, but the circles under my feet seemed tired somehow, and silly. Would spaceships really have rubber floors? Disney’s vision of the future turned into a time capsule. It became a letter written about dreams of the future opened decades later to find those dreams vastly different from reality.

I was thrilled when Tomorrowland received a makeover. Ironically what saved Tomorrowland was not a look to the future, but a vision of the past.

When I go to Tomorrowland now, the buildings have been decorated with fun Martian looking rock formations. The clean lines of the buildings are broken up with retro aesthetic features taken straight from the covers of classic science-fiction novels. Tiny children spin an enormous rock sphere in a water fountain near the entrance to my beloved Space Mountain. I feel like a kid in the middle of a fantastic space adventure novel . Instead of taking the future seriously, Disneyland did what Disney did best, they immersed Tomorrowland in the fantasy of classic Science Fiction.

Science Fiction takes the great hopes, fears and dreams of the human spirit, but instead of using magic or legend to express them, it uses our own potential. Science Fiction asks us, what is possible? What are the limits of our own innovation? What is out there? And what will it teach us?

Tomorrowland makes me dream again, just like I did when I was a girl. I think Disney would be proud.

Jess Granger is a debut author for Berkley Sensation. Her novel, Beyond the Rain will be in bookstores August ’09. Visit for news about her upcoming release, and check out The Butterfly Blog at

Editor’s note: They’re making a movie out of this, starring Johnny Depp. Can lightning strike twice like it did with Pirates?

Guest blog – Pepper Espinoza

We’re playing musical blogs today. I have a guest here, and you can find me over at Jaci Burton’s place. Come on by, there will be prizes, just as there’s prizes here.

Hello. I’m the Jamie half of Jamie Craig, often simply known as Pepper. The other half is writer Vivien Dean. We often divide up editing/promo/blog responsibilities, and today, it’s my turn to blog.

In June of 2006, I visited Vivien at her home in California. She lives near San Francisco, and we spent nearly a week with her, so there were plenty of things to see and plenty of time to do it. We could have gone to the beach, to Fisherman’s Wharf, to Alcatraz. We could have gone on a day trip to the wine country. We could have bought expensive souvenirs and ate clam chowder from sourdough bread bowls. We could have done all those things and more, but I wasn’t in California to see the sights (besides I’ve seen them all anyway). I was in California to write.

That June we had already finished one novel, and if I remember correctly, it was still in the editing stages (that novel, by the way, is Chasing Silver, which we sold to Juno Books). We were still writing, but nothing we intended to sell. We were just playing — literally, we were working together in a role-playing game. So why was this vacation to California worth mentioning at all? Because it was there I mentioned the character that would become Ashley Edwards, and we cooked up the plot that would eventually become Craving Kismet.

Craving Kismet has the distinction of being the second novel we wrote together, and we finished it sometime in August 2006. I suggested we submit to Samhain, as I already had one book published there, and I really liked the publisher. Vivien agreed, and it was on its way! So even though it is our seventh release in 2007, it is still the perfect example of what our early work looked like. In a lot of ways, Craving Kismet was a training book. We knew we could write together. We even knew we could write a book together. But maybe Chasing Silver had been a fluke? Maybe we weren’t as awesome as we think we were? Because, hey, writing novels is supposed to be hard work, and yet, this whole process has been very, very easy for us.

Craving Kismet is a story about fantasies, about finding the right person at the wrong time, and even in the wrong place. Jenny Rohm is engaged to a man she’s known since high school. And her fiance, Bryan, is a good man. They have a good life. They have a good future between them. But Jenny doesn’t realize that “good enough” can only last so long until she meets Ashley Edwards, a man with severe commitment issues. He describes himself as the cliched asshole, married to his job. He doesn’t know he’s missing anything until he meets Jenny.

My favorite thing about this book is Ashley and Jenny’s chemistry. They’re good together, and they know it from almost the moment they meet. Here is a never before posted excerpt to show you what I mean.

“I left home pretty early this morning. You coming in was the first break I’d had since seven.”

“I didn’t wake up until nine.” He peeled the foil away from his taco. “It’s my first day off in years,” he added defensively.

She watched him, curious, as her practiced fingers unwrapped her food. “What’s the point of all the perks if you don’t get to enjoy them?”

Ashley hissed and brought his finger to his lips, sucking a hot dollop of refried beans from his skin. “I’ll be able to take advantage of the perks eventually. Maybe.” He waved his hand and smiled at her. “I think the real point of the perks is the quality of status symbol. It’s a sign of power to have money and time at your disposal and never use it. That’s what I tell myself anyway.”

Her eyes were drawn to the path of his hand, the way he popped his finger into his mouth so casually, the purse of his lips around it. She had to consciously will herself to stop when he addressed her, though the image of what else he could do with his mouth had already sped up her pulse.

“Well, I’m glad that I can contribute to your imminent corruption.” She held up her taco in a mock-toast. “To being a slacker, if only for a day.”

“Or the hour,” Ashley said, checking his watch. “Unless you want to contribute to my corruption for the rest of the afternoon.”

She took a bite of her taco. “I thought you said to take you home.”

“Actually,” he pointed out, pouring the thin salsa over his food, “you said you would take me home.”

Frowning, Jenny had to swallow before responding. “Would you rather I took you someplace else?”

Ashley looked at her a long moment, his eyes thoughtful. She shifted, unnerved by the intensity of his gaze. Before she said anything, he smiled and shook his head. “No. How’s your food?”

“Good. It’s always good here.” As if to prove her point, she took another bite, hoping that it would encourage him to try his. It didn’t. He seemed too busy watching her eat. “It’s better when it’s hot, you know,” she commented around a mouthful.

“I wouldn’t want to burn my mouth.” But he picked up the taco and took a healthy bite. She watched for his reaction and was rewarded with a close-mouthed smile. He sipped from his large cup of Coke and nodded. “It is good.”

“Like I would steer you wrong. I can’t get Bryan to come down here and try it. I took it home for dinner once, and he accidentally took a bite of mine instead of his and spent the next half hour drinking ice water and swearing at me.”

Ashley quirked his eyebrow. “You like it hot?”

She grinned. “Let’s say I like it with flavor. Besides, Mexican really isn’t Bryan’s thing. He’s more Sunday roast than chicken enchiladas.”

Ashley nodded. “A meat and potatoes sort of guy? Doesn’t really go in for anything…out of the ordinary?”

“Nope. He’s a nine to five, always sleeps on his back, plan everything out ahead of time on a spreadsheet, kind of guy.” It dawned on Jenny as she picked up her drink how she was painting Bryan, and she hastened to add, “Which is probably a good thing because somebody has to keep me from going off half-cocked all the time, right?”

“It’s good to have a stabilizing influence in your life,” Ashley agreed. “If that’s the sort of thing you need.” The corner of his mouth lifted as he said the latter, like he was daring her to disagree.

Truth be told, some of Bryan’s more staid tendencies had a way of driving her crazy, but Jenny loved him and put up with them the same way he put up with her occasional need to go a little nuts. It worked for them. They had worked that way for as long as they had known each other. But she didn’t need Ashley to know she sometimes wished it were different.

“So…” she dove back into her food, ready to change the subject, “…you don’t take Vera for long drives on the beach, you work obscene hours in hopes of someday being able to take advantage of the perks, and I can’t even get you to commit to a game of beach volleyball. Is there anything Ashley Edwards does for fun?”

“Seduce innocent maidens.”

She snorted. He had actually said it with a straight face. Well, as straight as Ashley ever got. The devilish twinkle in his eye made Jenny wonder if he was trying to get a visible rise from her. But she knew how to play his game. As long as she ignored the way her thighs clenched together beneath the table.

“And you actually have time for that? Or do you have a ten-step how-to guide you follow to get their attention?”

“Ten steps?” Ashley scoffed. “It’s nothing so elaborate. First, I buy her dinner. Then if we hit it off and I don’t mind the idea of spending more time with the young lady, I serenade her.”

Her brows shot up. “You sing?” He might as well have told her he walked on hot coals bringing them breakfast in bed. “And they don’t see through your ploy?”

Ashley smiled at her question. “Nobody’s seen through it yet. Or, if they do, they choose to ignore it.”

“Because you’re that good.”

“Yes, I am,” he agreed, as though challenging her to deny it.

Heat crept up the back of her neck. Jenny didn’t know if he was talking about the singing or the seducing, but she did recognize her desire to reach across the table, grab his shirtfront and drag him back to her mouth was beginning to usurp her common sense. One taste. So that she could know. She had to suck down a long draught of her Diet Coke in order to stop herself from doing it.

So that’s Ash and Jenny. You can find out more information about the book at at our website. Also, we’ll be posting a free never-before-seen chapter to the story soon in our Extras section.

Have you ever indulged in a fantasy about somebody you know you shouldn’t want? Post and tell us about it.

Susan wins a copy of “Liaisons in Jubilee” and Cathy wins a copy of “Craving Kismet.”

Email me at [email protected]!

Guest-blogging / reader survey

For September and October, I’m throwing my blog open to anyone who wants a platform. If you have something to say and you need a place to say it, email me at ann.aguirre at

You can use my blog to pimp your new releases. You can use my blog to bitch about a series that has gone into the toilet. You can use my blog to talk about global warming.

I’m also interested in hearing from readers. I’d like to pick your brains.

In other words…

Click here to take my quick reader survey.