Monday, October 5, 2009

Enchanted Realms - Welcome Guest Author Sue-Ellen Welfonder & Enter To Win!

I bet you’re thinking this is about Celtic legend and myth? After all, I’m here because of my latest Scottish medieval romance, A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009. Anyone familiar with my books knows that I enjoy weaving enchantment into them. There’s even a meddlesome crone, Devorgilla, who is a recurring character and always has a spell or charm at the ready. She even has a little red fox named Somerled who assists her in all things magical.

Scotland, too, can be called enchanting. I’ll not argue that.

With its Hebridean setting, A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009) has one of the most spectacular backdrops I’ve ever written. The hero’s windswept home, MacConacher’s Isle, is definitely an enchanted place.

So you aren’t far from the truth if you guessed that a guest blog titled “Enchanted Realms” would be about something mystical.

It is, actually.

Although, the enchanted realm I mean is a writer’s office. But that, too, isn’t quite the right description because not all of us write in a real, stone-and-mortar work environment. I do. And I love my office dearly. But some of us create in a corner of some other room, space constraints and personal circumstances depending. Some write on laptops while sitting on the sofa. Or in a garden or – gads! – ensconced in a crowded cafĂ©. I even have a friend who used to slip away to her car on her lunch breaks, working there.

With so many books on the shelves – and more appearing every month – you can be guaranteed that there are writers writing somewhere, every day.

Here’s a look at my office.

And here’s a look at why I write all my books perched on the edge of my chair. Needless to say, my little dog shares my chair always. Sometimes, when he falls asleep, he nudges me until I really am sitting on only about an inch and half of space.

No matter. Dog lovers will understand why I don’t have the heart to disturb him. What counts is that this is my writing place. It’s impossible to work without one.

And wherever that somewhere might be, I think it’s a safe bet to say that to the individual writer, that somewhere is an enchanted place. It has to be. Because if it isn’t the writer won’t be able to slip away from the real world and disappear into the story.

Every writer needs an enchanted realm.

Wherever we craft our stories, we have to be able to walk through a magical door and immerse ourselves in the world of our work-in-progress. So I want to talk about how we get that door to glide open and then fall quietly shut behind us, locking us inside our special writing zone.

I do it with rituals.

One or two little things that help me banish everything but The Book from my mind. These signals alert my subconscious that I’ve stepped through the magical door and am now in my enchanted realm, ready to work.

Candles and scented oils (I love reed diffusers) are high on my list of writing rituals. As I do my best work after midnight, the candle glow adds much-appreciated atmosphere. The reed diffusers give off a subtle fragrance that makes my work area seem extra-special.

I also enjoy listening to music (no lyrics, please) to help set the mood. Classical music is my favorite choice, with Mendelssohn’s incredible overture, The Hebrides, having accompanied me through the writing of so many books. Celtic music (again, without words) is also inspiring. And I also love the evocative, transporting melodies of many New Age-y instrumentals.

The rest of the world needs to be absolutely quiet and still. I would call myself a mild-mannered person, but if the local landscape crews dare waltz by anywhere near my office windows when I’m trying to work, I have moments when I can easily imagine someone exploding into a mindless, red murderous haze of fury.

These leaf-blowing brigades can transform me into a fire-breathing she-dragon in quick time. Even my best, most soothing writerly rituals can’t compete with a leaf blower.

So when these fiends appear – which so often happens to be just then when I am busiest and really, really, really need to concentrate – I abandon my office and either take my dog for a walk or ride my bicycle.

Here’s a favorite bit of my dog-walking-and-cycle route.

Getting out and about banishes my leaf-blower-induced temper and also clears my mind. Some of my best writing ideas come to me when I am walking my dog or cycling. The physical exercise does me good, too. But that – writers and fitness - is a topic for a different blog.This one is about writers and the rituals we use to find our way into the writing zone.

One other thing I often do to jumpstart a work session is consult a sweet little tome called Juwelen der Weisheit. That’s german for “Jewels of Wisdom.” It’s a tiny book that fits easily into the palm of my hand. The book is filled with inspirational quotes and was a gift from a very dear friend who lives in Munich. I keep the book on my desk. Sometimes I’ll just hold it, close my eyes, and then open the book and read the saying that my ‘heart’ has chosen. It’s amazing how often the quote will be exactly what I needed to hear.

A while ago, I was feeling discouraged and opened the book to this quote: “If we think of failure, it will come to us. If we’re undecided, we’ll not move forward. We must simply choose our path and follow it.” That’s a rough translation from the German, but you can see how well the saying applied to a time when I was stumbling.

I don’t know if my German girlfriend cast a spell over this little tome or if the magic comes from the book or maybe even someplace deep inside myself. Whatever it is, I often find the exact motivation I need in the book’s pages.

If I don’t feel like working, I grab the book. Without fail, I open it to a saying that gets me going.

If something blindsides me and I pick up that book – lo! – I only have to peek inside to find just the words I needed to feel better again.

To me, this little book is magic. It’s definitely become one of my writing rituals.
You’ll see my characters using rituals of their own in A Highlander’s Temptation . I don’t like to give spoilers, so I won’t mention them specifically. But you can bet that you’ll see Arabella MacKenzie, the heroine, trying out a special ritual or two. And you’ll definitely catch her hero, Darroc MacConacher, busy at a very poignant daily habit of his own.

Devorgilla, the recurring crone mentioned above, is always good for a ritual. As a spell-caster extraordinaire, she’s a real master at such things. She has her hands full in A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009), but she’s indomitable and never tires of working her special magic. You might even catch Arabella’s mother, Linnet, going about her own unique daily rituals when you accompany her into her beloved herbarium and see her at work there. That scene, which includes Arabella’s father, Duncan MacKenzie, hero of my first book, Devil In A Kilt (GCP, July 2001), was lots of fun to write and is also an example of how a few very simple things can help us start our days in a good way.

I don’t know about you, but I love anything that helps me keep life positive.

It’s so important for writers to protect our work.

I mean, of course, keeping our heads clear and untroubled and being able to find our way into the writing zone again and again and again until the deadline is met and the book is finished and on its way to our editors.

Writing rituals help us do that. I know my own work for me.

So what about you? Do you have any special tricks that help you ready yourself for your work day? If you do, I’d love to hear them.

If anyone knows of a ‘ritual’ powerful enough to block the noise of leaf blowers, you’re my hero. But somehow, I doubt even old Devorgilla could win against the noise caused by landscaping crews.

So forget that and just tell me: how do you get to your enchanted realm?

Meet the real Somerled (Devorgilla’s little red fox), read an excerpt, and see setting photos of A Highlander’s Temptation (GCP, Oct. 2009) at my website:

Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win 1 of 5 copies of a Highlander's Temptation! I'll pick 5 winners randomly and announce them on Thursday Oct. 8th. This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only.


  1. Thanks Sue-Ellen!

    I have my rituals as well - love the candle lighting. I also always have hot chocolate while I write. Something so soothing about it.

    I do have my music - I like to pick based on the mood of the writing I need to do.

    Love the photo of your little guy!

  2. If there is one thing I need to start the day then it is to walk the dogs; get some fresh wind and preferably some sunshine on my face and generally just the blood pumping. It stems from my childhood/teenage years as I always cycled to my school early in the morning. I'm a person who wakes up very slowly but as soon as I was riding my bike in the Dutch weather I was instantly awake by the cold or the early rising of the sun or the rain :)

    (Regarding the giveaway; I'm not a US resident)

  3. Hi Ladies - I'm just looking in to say hello...

    Cheeky Girl - Thank you so much for being a part of this blog tour. The essay looks beautiful - as does your blog, I love the pink - and I appreciate you presenting it so nicely. Thank you!

    Candles are special, I agree. Wonderful mood setters. Hot chocolate sounds divine, too. Great idea. It -is- soothing, oh yes.

    Music ... yes, it's a big help to find music that suits the mood of what you're working on. Absolutely.

    And thanks for the kind words about my little guy. I'll tell him. He loves attention and praise.

    Leontine - Thanks so much for looking in here. Your days sound ideal. Walking the dogs, a brisk wind, and cycling in all weathers. I've always loved seeing all the bicycles in the Netherlands. I love to cycle so much, too. You're right - it's so energizing and wonderful.

    Re the giveaway, I am so sorry you can't be included. This blog tour -and the giveaways- was arranged by my publisher and the US and Canada only rule is theirs.

    I hope you saw that there are two blogs where you can enter? I'm not sure I can post them here? But there are two and they'll ship privately to anywhere. I believe they are still open.

    Also ... if you joined my mailing list, you'd be able to win ARCs and books, too. I do special giveaways throughout the year for my mailing list readers only and I will post prizes anywhere on the planet. I lived in Europe myself for many years, so I understand the difficulty of getting US romances. I never exclude anyone in my private giveaways.

    So! That got long-winded...

    Everyone else - Good luck in the drawing and have fun today! I'll look in again later.

  4. My rituals:

    In the morning, I must hit the snooze button at least 2 times. I will set it early just to get to hit the snooze button. Also, I have to cuddle with my puppy for at least 10 minutes or so.

    In the afternoon, I must call my Mom. Every day. Rain or Shine.

    And, before bed, I have to feed my fish. They are small rituals, but it makes life consistent in this chaotic world.

  5. I love your office. I love the blue curtains, I am sure they help make the room perfect for writing. I am a candle fanatic!! Since my DH has retired, there is not much of a routine we follow. We sleep in (along with the dog), get up and have a bite of breakfast,feed the animals, then do our chores during the day (most are not really chores:). We walk in the evening usually!!

  6. No need to enter me, Cheeky. I'm dropping in to say it's great to meet you. Thanks for the e-mmail; I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

  7. Music gets me moving in the morning, gotta have it. If something is loud and distracting, I will put the earbuds in and crank the music up loud!

  8. The book looks awesome and I love SCotland! It's such a wonderful setting!

  9. Hiya S-E! Thanks for sharing your rituals and photos with us. Em is adorable and you have a wonderfully serene office to work in and a great path to walk/cycle. Congrats to you as always! :-) Daphne

  10. I have a morning ritual of coming in to the office, getting my coffee and then checking out wither the news on CNN or any blogs that I want to stay up on. Once I do that for about an 1hr I am good to focus the rest of the day.

  11. I change out of my work clothes into comfy pajamas. Make a cup of hot chocolate and climb into bed with a good book.

  12. It is so interesting to learn about an author's rituals when writing. I have often wondered about such things. The room, the candles, reed diffusers (I agree, they are awesome) and the cute dog seem just right.

    I have read several reviews and I am looking forward to reading this book.

    Good luck with the leaf blowers. ;)

  13. Ah, cute dog. Nice to read your rituals. Sounds an interesting book. Now I'll go rake leaves.

  14. Hi Ladies - I'm just checking back in. It's lovely to see more of you in here....

    Gina - Aren't snooze buttons wonderful? You sound like my kind of person. When I worked for the airlines and -had to- get up early, I would also set the alarm early for the same reason. Cuddling your puppy ... oh, yeah. Puppy cuddles are good for the soul. It's lovely that you stay in close touch with you mom. The fish are something else we have in common - I love watching them.

    Excellent rituals. I love everything that soothes and closes out the chaotic world.

    Judy - I'm so glad you like my office. I love it, too. And you're right, it does help me write. It's my haven and I always find peace here. The blue is called 'Songbird Blue' and was the closest I could find to the blue of the Scottish Saltire.

    Glad you love candles. They add so much, don't they? Your days (and evenings) sound wonderful. Walks are always so enjoyable and good for you. And having a dog, too. Well, dogs make life perfect. Thanks so much for sharing your rituals.

    Susan Helene Gottfried - Lovely to see you again and thanks so much for posting the mention on your site. I looked and see that your Win A Book blog is fantastic. I'm sure readers love the site. It looks fun and a really great opportunity for book lovers.

    Stacy - You made me smile. Music does get you going in the morning, you're right. But the ear bud comment is what really made me smile. In my flyings years, those little gems were my salvation. Hotel walls are thin and I won't publicly say the kinds of noises that so often disturbed my sleep on layovers. But I will say thank goodness for ear buds. I never flew without them.

    Jeanette8042 - Thanks so much for looking in here. I know you love Scotland and am keeping my fingers crossed for you in the drawing. I hope you'll enjoy the book.

    Daphne - Bless you for popping in here, old friend. I'm glad you like my office. That photo just shows a bit. It's filled with walls of research books and all kinds of mementoes from Scotland. Em is the best, though. When he hops up on my chair, I'm ready to get writing... Just came in from a walk/cycle now now, btw. There are lovely trails all around here, yes.

    I'll be back in a beat, Ladies. I don't want this to get too long.

  15. I'm still laughing about you sharing your chair. I recently got a new computer chair and one of my cats (14 yrs. old) has decided it's his and many days I'm perched on the very end of it lol.
    My two favorite words are Scotland and medieval when it comes to books :)

  16. Back again, Ladies...

    Dyockman - I like your morning ritual. Very much, in fact. Sounds like a great way to stay abreast of world news and then move on with your own day. And morning coffee is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Thanks so much for posting.

    CrystalGB - I just LOVE this! What a perfect way to treat yourself. This was my life when I flew - when the other crew members hit the hotel disco, I'd most often head for my room, order room service, take a bubble bath, and then curl up in bed with a good book. I even used to keep packets of hot chocolate in my crew luggage. Your ritual is my kind of night. Bliss!

    Heatherzilla - I've told you before ... I adore your tagline. It's so cute. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you. And I'm delighted you're interested in reading the book. I hope you'll enjoy it. My dog - he's my entire world, that little guy. When he's happy, my life is good.

    The leaf blowers. Gah!! I really do hate them. I had my heroine hate them, too, in an Allie Mackay book, Highlander In Her Dreams. Anyone who knows me surely read those bits and laughed, because they'd know I was grinning like a demon writing how pesky those things are.

    Sheila Deeth - Thanks for your good words about my little dog. He's asleep just now - and, as usual, I'm typing this while sitting on about a half inch of chair space - but he'll appreciate the compliment when he's awake again.

    You made me laugh about raking your leaves. Hah!! Seriously, when I lived in Munich, I had a lot of garden leaves to tend in Autumn and I always used a rake. What is the point of leaf blowers anyway? They just blow everything up in the air to then re-settle elsewhere? It just drifts down somewhere else. That seems so silly and pointless to me. And the noise ... aggggh!!!

    Seriously, if it were do-able financially, I would pay every landscaping firm in my neighborhood to only use rakes when they are within hearing distance of my house. I'd pay them extra to do their work the old-fashioned way. I hate those things that much.

    Ah, well, now everyone knows my dark side. I hate leaf blowers and see them as the evil devil-fiends of the earth. Yikes!

    I'm off to make a fresh pot of tea, Ladies. I'll drop in again later. Thanks so much for looking in here today. I appreciate it.

    Good luck in the drawing and have fun!

  17. Hi Catslady! - I saw you when I posted the above message, so I'm saying hello before I go make my tea...

    Yeah, fellow animal lovers always understand about such things. Your chair-claiming cat made me me grin ear-to-ear, too. Pets do like to stake their claims to a place, don't they? And we love them so much we sit happily perched on a chair edge or squished into a sofa corner because seeing them so happy and content is what it's all about. Thanks so much for looking in here. I love hearing from animal lovers.

    And I love this, too....

    "My two favorite words are Scotland and medieval when it comes to books :)"

    That's my idea of a good read, too! I hope you'll enjoy this book. Good luck in the drawing. And please cuddle your cat for me.

    Ladies - I'm off to make my tea now. I'll check back in later.

    Good luck all around!

  18. To get my day started I have to check my emails etc. and play with my dog for a bit. This book sounds great! I love Scottish historicals.
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  19. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I love the sound of your German "tome".
    Hmmm - I'm trying to think if I have a ritual... other than grabbing a book if I am heading to the rest room! LOL.
    I can appreciate the dog pushing you off the seat! Mine will not sit behind me - she wants in the lap attention! And if I don't stop to give that to her she just keeps scratching at my leg or the chair arm!
    My DH does our leaf blowing - I try to go to a room far away!
    The book sounds wonderful!

  20. enter me plz! i've heard about this all over the place!

    haleymathiot at yahoo dot com

  21. This looks really good! I have been trying to win it on other sites and have not had any luck! Maybe this will be my chance! Thanks!

  22. Hello, Sue-Ellen! I visited your website again, and started drifting off to Scotland. I will keep checking your site until I see it all! You certainly have put your heart and soul into expressing your love of all things Scottish! May your biscuit jar always be filled with shortbread! gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  23. Hi Ladies - I'm just looking in again so that no one is missed....

    Through the Haze / Raelena - Good to see you here. Emails in the morning are as addictive as coffee. Toss in quality time with your dog and this is a great way to begin the day.

    I'm so glad you love Scottish books. I hope you'll enjoy this one.

    Martha E - You're very welcome. I'm delighted to be here. I don't get on the Internet often, so this blog tour is a rare treat for me. I've been having so much getting to meet readers every day.

    The little German book is precious, yes. Not only are the sayings wonderful, the teeny "tome" is also beautifully crafted. It even has its own little 'box-sleeve' that it slips into when you're finished with it. It truly is a gem.

    Grabbing a book to take into the bathroom with you sounds like fun. That's true reading dedication.

    And I LOVED hearing about your dog wanting lap attention. That's so sweet, bless her. She's a smart girl to keep scratching your leg or arm chair when you stop paying attention. Too funny. They don't need words, do they? They're so good at letting us know exactly what they want or think. Please give her some loving from me tonight.

    Ha ha to running away from the leaf blower. As said in my essay, I'm a very mild mannered person. I don't do loud voices, don't use profanity, and try always to be polite. But if I ever come face to face with whoever invented leaf blowers, I can't be responsible for my actions!

    I hope you'll enjoy the book.

    Haleyknitz - Good luck in the drawing! It's lovely to see readers interested in this book. I hope you'll like it.

    Bekki1820cb - I'm asking dear old Devorgilla to cast some of her Highland magic in your direction tonight. Maybe this blog will be your lucky one. I hope so!

    Virginia C - Ha ha. You always make me smile. I hope you're looking through both of my websites. Both have stunning Scotland pix. I'm so glad you're enjoying them. And you're right. I do pour my heart and soul into these books and the websites. They are my love letters to Scotland, really. I LOVE the shortbread-filled biscuit jar. That would be heaven. Not too good for the hips, but bliss for the tastebuds. M'mmmm....

    Ladies - Thank you so much for looking in here. It's been a wonderful time. I'll check back in tomorrow morning so I can say hello to anyone else who might pop in.

    Cheeky Girl - Thanks so much for everything. I appreciate it. And you really presented my essay in such a lovely way. Thank you!

    Good luck, all. And don't forget... dream of the Highlands!

  24. There are so many things I loved about this post I don't know where to start! As a dog lover and one who starts with a 1/3 of the bed and is only on a 1/5 of it my morning, I loved seeing your cutie dog!
    I also loved the quote enough to write it down. I've got a problem with indecision.
    It's nice to see authors who write after midnight. I'm a late night gal myself.
    Love historical romances and would love to win a copy of this one. Thanks for the opportunity.
    stacybooks at yahoo

  25. Music is the basis of most rituals for me. Whether it's getting up in the morning, getting dressed to go out for an evening, driving in the car, or relaxing in the evening, music is an essential part of my day. One of the first things I do when I get home is to turn on the radio. The type of music varies, but it is always there!

    rocket_kay at hotmail dot com

  26. Hi Ladies - I'm just looking in again to say hello. It's so nice to see a few more of you in here....

    Stacybuckeye - Thank you so much for your good words about the essay. It's definitely one of my favorites. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, the quote is a good one. The entire little book is filled with such gems.

    Oh, my! ... I LOVED your dog vs bed space comment. I know dog lovers everywhere will be smiling and nodding with you. That's such a classical dog trait: stealing bed space. And, of course, we let them. Always. Every night! Ha ha.

    And you're a night owl, too, I see. I think most writers are larks, going by what I know of my writing friends. But there are a few dyed-in-the-wool owls like us, for sure.

    I'm so glad you enjoy historical romance. Everyone so often says the genre is either dead or dying. I've never believed that and never will. It's true that, currently, vamps and demons and erotica seem to rule. But I know from my reader base that there are still lots of readers who love and appreciate historicals. I love them, too. Obviously. Thanks so much for looking in and good luck. I hope you'll enjoy the book.

    Lisa N. - I love how music fills your life. It's wonderful to surround yourself with music that inspires you. Like scents, music has the power to whisk you where you want to be. Whether it's back to a special time or place, or simply into the desired mindset. Music is magical, for sure.

    Thanks so much, Ladies. I appreciate your visits and am wishing you all best of luck in the drawing!



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