Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year!

Scared everybody off with that New Agey post last week, huh?

Never mind.  2012 is almost over and 2013 is less than 36 hours away.  Soon I'll have a whole new year in which to post crazy stuff and make everybody wonder.

This year has been pretty spectacular, and my thanks go out to all of you for making it so.  As well you know, I've published three books, ramped up my participation at the Indie Exchange, and joined Indies Unlimited as a contributing author. More importantly, I've sold some some books and gained a few fans. I'm grateful to all of you for my success so far.

I've got a few tricks up my sleeve for 2013.  Gravid should be out in early spring, with Annealed to follow a few months later, assuming all goes well.  That will wrap up the Pipe Woman Chronicles, and force me to come up with an idea for a whole new series.  Aieee....  No idea what I'll do next, sorry.  Maybe some short stories.  Dunno yet.  I'll figure it out when the time comes.  I'm putting off thinking about it so that I don't get sidetracked from finishing Gravid and Annealed -- and nobody wants that, right?  Didn't think so.

Also, starting next week, I'm going to be instituting a new feature on the blog called "Rursday Reads."  I've been reading mostly indie books this year, but I haven't had time to post reviews around the web for months.  I figure if I review one book a week, I can whittle down my tottering pile of Books I Ought to Review within a few months -- and then we'll see where we are at that point.  I'll set up a separate tab for the reviews, and they'll go up on Thursdays.  Why the odd spelling, you ask?  Well, back when I was in junior high, Michigan City Area Schools turned our class scheduling over to a computer.  The schedule forms had a single-letter designation for each day of the week.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday got the first letter of the word, but for some unknown reason, "R" was picked to designate Thursday.  Hence, Rursday.  And "Rursday Reads" has a nice alliterative thing going for it.  So there you go.

To be clear, I don't intend to turn this into a review blog, and I am NOT accepting books for review.  (Don't go looking for submission guidelines, guys -- there aren't any.)  I'm just trying to kick myself in the butt to get reviews of these books posted -- and, at the same time, give some love to my fellow indies who deserve it.

So those are my writing goals for 2013: finish the Pipe Woman Chronicles, write something else in the second half of the year, post some book reviews here on the blog, keep up with my regular posts all over the place and -- oh yeah, I'm starting another blog tour right after New Year's Day.  It's called the Orangeberry Big Bang Tour.  I don't have a complete schedule yet, but I'll post it on the Tour Dates tab once I get it.

Happy 2013!  Enjoy your celebrations, stay safe, and see you next year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

We're sorry. Your regularly scheduled apocalypse will not occur at this time.

First things first:  Thanks to everybody who made this last week a success!  Allison Bruning had a health issue, so my post that was supposed to go up on her blog on the 20th didn't happen 'til yesterday.  But everything else went off like clockwork, which is pretty amazing.  I hope you enjoyed all the blog posts, as well as the quotes and the contests here.

Congrats to Viola Pieske, who won the $25 Amazon gift card and the "I Survived the End of the World" key chain!  I'll get that in the mail to you directly.

Thanks again to everybody for playing!

***
We're well past the winter solstice now, and it looks like we're still here.  Of course, in Naomi's alternate universe, things are just getting started.  But I digress....

Or maybe not.

The apocalypse watchers appeared to split into two camps.  There were the ones who relied on a little iffy science and a lot of credulous what-ifs, and posited that a galactic superwave or a shift of the Earth's poles -- or something equally dire -- would cause the world to blow up.  Clearly, none of that happened.

But the other folks -- including, interestingly enough, actual Mayans (yes, they still exist -- they live in the mountains of Central America) -- believe that what happened on the 21st was the end of the old era and the start of a new one.  Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, isn't Mayan, but he is a member of an indigenous South American tribe. In September, he made a speech about the solstice to the United Nations about the winter solstice.  Here's what he said:
According to the Mayan calendar the 21 of December is the end of the non-time and the beginning of time. It is the end of the Macha and the beginning of the Pacha, the end of selfishness and the beginning of brotherhood, it is the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism – 21 of December this year. The scientists know very well that this marks the end of an anthropocentric life and the beginning of a bio-centric life. It is the end of hatred and the beginning of love, the end of lies and beginning of truth. It is the end of sadness and the beginning of happiness, it is the end of division and the beginning of unity, and this is a theme to be developed. That is why we invite all of you, those of you who bet on mankind: we invite those who want to share their experiences for the benefit of mankind.
Whatever you might think about Morales -- including where he found his scientists and what he means by "collectivism" -- I think it's hard to discount the sentiment he expressed.  Wouldn't it be great if we really were heading into an era of "the end of hatred and the beginning of love...the end of sadness and the beginning of happiness"?

On this post-apocalyptic Sunday night, two days before Christmas, I wish you the beginning of happiness and love.  Happy holidays, everyone.

***
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Winter Solstice Advent Countdown, week 3 and final.

"I want you to understand one thing," Drew said. "If you take away nothing else from this trip, you should remember this."

"I'm listening," I said.

"It's true that the white men were gunning for the Indians.  They didn't understand us, they saw us as a threat, and they wanted nothing more than to eradicate us.  And so maybe if it hadn't been Wounded Knee, it would have been something else.  But it was this.  It was  Wounded Knee."  We had reached the edge of the parking lot by then.  He turned to me, his eyes riveted to mine. "And in point of fact, none of it would have happened if we hadn't believed in a prophet who told us Indians that better days were coming."

The comparison couldn't have been clearer if he'd hit me over the head with a tomahawk.

-- From Tapped

Here at La Casa Cantwell, it's starting to look a lot like Yule is actually coming.  I spent all day baking, so the house smells terrific.  (Five kinds of cookies, if you must know, plus peppermint bark and spiced nuts.)  The tree is up and decorated, and there are even a few presents under it with my name on them.
I can't help feeling sad, though, for the families in Connecticut whose kids won't be unwrapping presents this year, or ever again.  My heart goes out to all those who've lost someone in this tragedy.

Anyway, a lot is happening this week, in both Naomi's world and mine.  Please take a gander at the "Tour Dates" tab, which has been updated with my stops this coming week in connection with the Orangeberry Virtual Book Expo.  In addition, I've got three very special stops planned.  On Thursday, Allison Bruning's virtual cruise ship visits Naomi's apartment.  Then on Friday, the Indie Exchange has the Pipe Woman Chronicles as part of our Christmas Advent feature, *and* last but by no means least, the Cabin Goddess is letting me do another Fourth-Wall Friday, which I'm very excited about because it's a great feature and a lot of fun to do.

These last three events are important because you can get more entries in this week's contest if you comment at any one of those places.  The prizes this week are a $25 Amazon gift certificate and a key chain that says, "I survived the end of the world, December 21, 2012."  The picture below is about life-size -- the keychain is two inches in diameter -- but the real thing is a little more colorful.

One more piece of business before I go back to making cookies:  Congrats to Charles Ray, who won last week's contest!  Charles, I've sent you an e-mail; if you don't see it, please check your spam folder.  

Good luck, everybody,  Happy Yule, and see you on the other side of 12/21/12.

The Rules (sorry, gotta have 'em):

  1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
  2. Winners from my previous contest may win again.  However, winners from previous weeks in *this* contest may not win *this* contest again.
  3. If there is no winner one week, the prize(s) will be added to the following week's contest.  I am getting this stuff out of my house, one way or the other.
  4. As always, the judge's decisions are arbitrary, capricious, and final.

 ***
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter Solstice Advent Countdown, Week 2.

I pulled my beret out of the coat pocket where I'd shoved it that morning and perched it on my head at what I hoped was a perky angle, using my reflection in a shop window as a guide. As I adjusted my hat, I noticed a man leaning against the building on the opposite side of the street.  That struck me as odd -- he wasn't one of our regular street people, and we were in the middle of the block, nowhere near a bus stop. I turned to get a better look at him, but he was gone. Must have ducked into the building. But I knew he hadn't time while I turned around. Maybe he was finishing a cigarette when I noticed him. Except that he hadn't been smoking.
I shrugged mentally and continued on. I'd gone about another block when an owl suddenly swooped past me, hooting. Startled, I grabbed onto my hat and stepped back. The owl hooted again, flew another hundred yards or so down the street, and then veered up and into the darkness.
"Okay, things are getting just a little too weird around here," I said aloud, and then clapped my gloved hand over my mouth.
-- From Seized
Tapped is off to a good start! It's now available just about everywhere in both e-book and paperback, including at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and the Apple iBooks store, in addition to Amazon and Smashwords.  Thanks to those who have purchased it so far; you're all my new best friends.  And again, if you liked the book, please go back where you bought it and leave a review.  Indie authors' sales tend to live and die by the reviews they receive. Thanks in advance!

In addition, Tapped is one of the books featured at the Orangeberry Virtual Book Expo for the next couple of weeks.  I've got some blog stops scheduled this week in connection with the expo. Check the Tour Dates tab for more info.

One other housekeeping thing: Smashwords asked me to take down the preview for Gravid because it wasn't a complete book.  So I've moved it here to the blog.  The same caveats as before (re spoilers, etc.) apply.

Now then: Congratulations and a round of applause, please, for Chuck Myers, who wins last week's contest for the Cosmic Coyote pin. Way to go, Chuck! 

As I said, the prizes will be getting a little bigger as time goes on. This week, we have a $10 Amazon gift card (I know -- ho-hum, right?) and a way cool two-inch-wide pin featuring the fractal owl from the cover of Seized.  I had a limited number of these made to hand out at the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto last month, and this is the last one. (Except for mine, which nobody can have, muahaha!)

The rules follow and the place to enter is below.  Good luck, everybody! 

The Rules (sorry, gotta have 'em):

  1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
  2. Winners from my previous contest may win again.  However, winners from previous weeks in *this* contest may not win *this* contest again.
  3. If there is no winner one week, the prize(s) will be added to the following week's contest.  I am getting this stuff out of my house, one way or the other.
  4. As always, the judge's decisions are arbitrary, capricious, and final.

***
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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Winter Solstice Advent Countdown, Week 1.

Joseph howled. He shed his jeans jacket and shirt. And then he changed.
He had always shielded me from seeing him shift. I mean, I had seen him do it in his battle with Loki in the time-out-of-time. But those were spirit shifts, if you will; no actual human body was involved. Body parts just sort of melted and reformed there.
But here in the real world, it was real, and it looked painful.
-- from Fissured
It's release day for Tapped!  The e-book with the glowy wolf on the cover is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in all kinds of formats from Smashwords.*  (The paperback, with the same cool cover, will go on sale sometime this week.)

In celebration of the new book -- and because, as you know, this year's winter solstice is a Very Big Deal in the Pipe Woman Chronicles -- I'm going to run a contest every week for the next three weeks.  The prizes will get bigger as the month goes on, with a grand prize in the final week.  (Not to say the Cosmic Coyote pin isn't cool. By the way, the pin looks huge in the box below, but in real life, it's two inches square.)

Um, well, I don't know what else to say here.  Hope you enjoy Tapped (and if you do, please go back to where you bought it and leave me a review -- thanks, you rock!), check out the contest rules below, and good luck!

* Alert readers of the Smashwords version of Tapped will find a link at the very end of the book to the first two chapters of Gravid: Book Four of the Pipe Woman Chronicles.  I'm providing these chapters with some misgivings.  First, Gravid was my NaNo project this year, so this is only a first draft and may change (a little or a lot!) by the time the book is published in the spring. Second, there is a major Tapped spoiler, right up front, that I could not take out.  Sooo...if you should decide to read the sneak peek on Smashwords before you read Tapped, don't come crying to me that it ruined Tapped for you.  Okay?  Okay.  Just so we're clear.

The Rules (sorry, gotta have 'em):
  1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
  2. Winners from my previous contest may win again.  However, winners from previous weeks in *this* contest may not win *this* contest again.
  3. If there is no winner one week, the prize(s) will be added to the following week's contest.  I am getting this stuff out of my house, one way or the other.
  4. As always, the judge's decisions are arbitrary, capricious, and final.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

***
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Everybody, meet Simon "Random Penguin" Schuster. You can call him "Scummy."

It's rare that I do a midweek post, but this couldn't wait 'til Sunday.

Simon & Schuster has announced a deal with Author Solutions to set up a "self-publishing" company they're calling Archway Publishing.  You may remember that Author Solutions is a vanity press with a lousy reputation.  I've written about it before, here and here.

I could go into all the myriad ways why it would be a supremely bad idea to do business with Archway Publishing.  But I don't have to, because David Gaughran has done it for us.  Here's his blog post on the announcement.  It's a wonder and a marvel.  I recommend it highly.

Please, please, please, for the love of the gods -- if you've ever thought about publishing your own work, stay away from these guys.  I'd hate to see any of my readers lose thousands of dollars to these shysters masquerading as legitimate publishers.

Thanks.

***
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Monday, November 26, 2012

The NaNo hangover, or: I had a great title for this post, but I can't remember what it was.


Yes, that's right.  After all my dithering, less than a month ago, over whether to participate in NaNoWriMo this year at all, I have won.  In the wee hours of this morning, I dumped the first draft of Book 4 of the Pipe Woman Chronicles into the Validator at nanowrimo.org, and NaNo stuck a fork in me and called me done.  (You guys remind me of this next October, when I'm dithering over doing NaNo again, okay? Thanks.)

Fun Facts to Know and Tell:  At 52,760 words, the first draft of Gravid is ten words longer than that of Tapped, 630 words longer than Fissured's first draft, and 110 words longer than Seized was at this stage.  In other words, I'm scarily consistent.  (Whoa.  I had no idea.)

I'd also like to point out that I started late this year.  I wrote a little bit of the novel while I was in Toronto, but I didn't really get going on it 'til the 5th.  So really, that's 50,000 words in 20 days.  (I just want to kick myself.  If I'd gotten serious about writing fiction when I was in my twenties, I could have a backlist as long as Joyce Carol Oates's.)

But all the late nights are telling on me.  I'm feeling stupid-sleepy right now, as if I might fall face-first into my keyboard at any moment.  I write a word or two, and then my brain goes walkabout; eventually, my eyes refocus on the monitor and I go, "Oh, yeah, I'm supposed to be doing something.  What is it?  Oh, yeah -- Facebook!"

But I really do want to finish this post, because I have news other than just NaNo.  Yes!  Now that I have cleared the decks, I am about to embark on the final round of edits to Tapped.  Which means uploading will commence this weekend, and the book should be available for purchase shortly thereafter.  (I think I've said this on Facebook already.  But maybe not.  Gods know what I've been saying lately, as short on sleep as...uh...was I doing something?  Wait, I was.  Was it important?  Wait....)

In addition:  As all good Americans know, Thanksgiving means Yule/Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa/Festivus is not far off.  And Yule, as all good Neopagans know, falls on the winter solstice (which, this year, is December 21st).  Now, this particular winter solstice is important for a couple of reasons:  yeah, yeah, that Mayan calendar thing; but more importantly, it's a significant date in the Pipe Woman Chronicles.  Plus, I'll have a new book out. 

So I'm going to start a Winter Solstice Advent Countdown event.  For the next three weeks, there will be a new contest each week with prizes, but I promise not to ask you write anything this time (because that worked so well last time...).

So that's the news.  Tapped will be available sometime next week (don't worry, I'll let you know when); and the Winter Solstice Advent Countdown starts Sunday, Dec. 2nd.

Now I'm going to bed.  Oh, wait -- there was a vote for moar kittehs.  Here you go. 

Please welcome the Lady Morgana to the blog.  But please don't applaud -- the poor thing startles easily.  She has rejoined us at Casa Cantwell for the winter, to help keep Mr. Wommy occupied so that he doesn't drive me crazy.  These two grew up together but have lived apart for several years, so they are currently renegotiating their personal space.  It's going pretty well -- there has only been one night when the hissing/spitting/yowling jolted me out of bed. So far.

(Why is there packing tape on the bar stool, you ask?  Why, that's because Mr. Wommy considers it the ideal scratching post.  The things I do for my grandkittehs....)

Now I'm going to bed.  No, really.

Wait.  Was I doing something...?

***
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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012, or: Gratitude with an Attitude.

My weekly news feature has been sadly neglected of late; I apologize for that, but I've been concentrating on writing (Tapped and Book 4) and editing (Tapped), so promotion has gotten shoved to the side a little bit. Well, that's about to end.

For one thing, as of today, we are just about 30 days shy of the date of the first scene in Seized:  the night Brock proposes to Naomi.  That means the Winter Solstice and White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman's first appearance to Naomi are fast approaching, too.  I'm planning to mark the occasion with a little celebration.  You'll notice the decorations are already going up -- the banner up top and the countdown clock (roll your cursor over the countdown clock -- it's kinda fun, once or twice).  I've got several guest blog slots lined up, some of which are listed on the Tour Dates page.  And I'm planning a contest.  ("Ooooh!  Aaaah!")  More details to come next week on all of that, but in the meantime, get ready, and tell your friends and neighbors.

Speaking of redecorating, I keep forgetting to mention this:  Tucked away on the Buy My Books tab is a link at the top of the page to "Lynne's Book Emporium on Amazon.com."  There you will find, besides links to my own books, links to most of the books I've been using as reference works for the Pipe Woman Chronicles.  If you enjoy perusing bibliographies and "suggestions for further reading" lists, feel free to take a look.


In addition, I should mention that I did more at WFC in Toronto than just attend one panel.  I did a reading, sold two books (yay!), met some local knitters (yes, that's right -- I met two knitters who live in northern Virginia while at a writers' conference in Canada), and people-watched.  One of the panels I attended was the Patty and Mike Show, where Patricia Briggs (who writes the Mercy Thompson books and the Alpha and Omega series) and her husband held forth for an hour or so.  I got a t-shirt, too.



The Friday night mass autographing session is always a great place to spot writerly celebrities.  I was pretty much stuck in my own little corner all night.  But as I was leaving, I happened to turn around and notice Patrick Rothfuss sitting by the door.  If you've ever wondered what the guy who writes the Kingkiller Chronicle looks like, take a gander over to your left.






Moving on from convention news, I should mention that I've got a cat again, if only for a limited time.  Tom, a.k.a. Tommy Wommy, a.k.a. Mr. Wommy, a.k.a. The Wommy Man, is once again in residence, due to a quirk in my older daughter's housing situation.  Here he is, in all his adorable glory. You can easily see why he merits multiple nicknames.  (I should just convert this to a blog featuring pictures of Mr. Wommy, shouldn't I?  That would drive up page views, I bet....)

Finally, I'm feeling much better about my NaNoWriMo totals after this weekend.  As of right now, I have written a little more than 35,000 words of Book 4 and feel confident that I will finish it well before the end of the month.  Which is good, because I will need to do final edits and formatting on Tapped then.  Whew.

Anyway, enough about all that.  This Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the US, and one of our hoary traditions (besides watching huge balloons float down NY streets on TV and eating ourselves sick) is to list things we give thanks for.  So here you go, my list of Five Things I Am Grateful For This Thanksgiving.  (I could come up with more, but this post is already pretty long, and I'm sure y'all have things to do.)

  1. Friends and family, of course.
  2. My fans.  I'm especially grateful for those who fit the description for both #1 and #2.
  3. My day job, which allows me to live comfortably while pursuing my dream of being a full-time novelist.
  4. The ability to write the books I want to write and to publish them.  Indie publishing for the win!
  5. My colleagues at Indies Unlimited and the Indie Exchange, who, besides being available at a moment's notice to commiserate and cheer each other on, are just plain fun to hang out with.
And a Bonus Thing I Am Grateful For This Thanksgiving:

NaNo is almost over!

Have a great Turkey Day, everyone.

***
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Monday, November 12, 2012

What a difference a year makes.



Nowhere, I submit, is the upheaval in the publishing world more apparent than at writing conventions.  At last year’s World Fantasy Convention in San Diego, I attended a panel during which an agent (or maybe she was an editor) made some disparaging remarks about self-publishing, and a few audience members stood up and respectfully explained to her why she was wrong.

Fast-forward to 2012.  This year’s World Fantasy Convention, in Toronto last weekend, featured a whole panel discussion about e-publishing.  

One end of the dais seemed to be spewing dinosaur breath.  The former editor-in-chief of Del Ray (Random House’s speculative fiction imprint), Betsy Mitchell, complained that her business is drying up; she said indie novelists aren’t willing to pay $3,500 for the kind of top-notch professional editing job she can offer.  (I wondered whether it had ever occurred to her that the vast majority of indies simply can’t afford her.)  Next to her sat Robert Runté, an acquisitions editor for a small Canadian press, who called the indie trend of using beta readers “editing by crowdsourcing.”  He also said he used to write reviews of speculative fiction novels for money – but “that job is gone.”  Who’s taking up the reviewing slack?  Bloggers, said Emily Craven (although apparently she doesn’t review books on her own blog).  

The panel agreed that 99-cent e-books devalue the author’s hard work, although there was some support for a 99-cent price point for the first novel in a series.  Craven suggested a reasonable price for an e-book would be half the price of a paperback edition.  Leslie said most e-books published directly through Kobo’s Writing Life list for $2.99 to $5.99, while Smashwords authors tend to undervalue their work; prices for Smashwords titles sold at the Kobo Store average from 99 cents to $1.99.  

Ah, Smashwords.  Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld.com said, “Friends don’t let friends use Smashwords.”  He went on to explain that the site’s automated Meatgrinder conversion software “doesn’t always work as well as it should.”

The panelists also warned indies away from making their own cover art.  One suggested using a site such as bibliocrunch.com, where you can list your project and your budget, and artists (and editors, too) can then bid for your business.  Still, they advised, it’s best to ask for samples and references before hiring an artist or editor for your book.

In terms of the market for science fiction and fantasy, the panelists said Amazon accounts for somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of sales, with the rest more or less evenly split among the other sellers.  Leslie also said only about twenty percent of self-published authors make money from their books.  But then, that’s not all that different from the way traditional publishing works.

I could have wished for more on the nuts-and-bolts of indie publishing.  Heck, I would have liked to see more indie authors and book bloggers on the panel.  Ah, well.  Maybe next year.

This article first appeared at IndiesUnlimited.com on Nov. 9, 2012.

***
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Late update (sorry!).

I'm a day late and short on time for my weekly blog post.  Sorry about that.  When I was supposed to be posting here, I was driving home from Toronto and the World Fantasy Convention.  I'm relying on you guys:  the next time I blithely suggest that driving to Toronto for the weekend would be doable, please remind me that it takes 12 hours, no matter what Mapquest and Google Maps promise, and tell me not to do it.

Ahem.  Anyway.

We weathered Hurricane Sandy just fine, without even losing power.  But my heart goes out to friends and others in the New York/New Jersey area who have lost so much from the storm.  I hope the power comes back on and life gets back to some semblance of normality as soon as possible.

The Toronto trip has put me way behind on NaNoWriMo, as I knew it would -- but I did get in a couple of writing sessions (although the second was cut very short by a bout of food poisoning -- it's okay, I'm fine now).  So I am only, by my calculations, about 5,000 words behind where I should be today (ack!!).  Hoping to catch up by the time I go to bed tonight.  Although I also need to unpack, do laundry and clean the house.  I did have a lot of time to think about book 4 while driving, which is all to the good.

A full convention report will have to wait 'til next week, when I'm not behind the NaNo 8-ball.  But I had a great time (despite having to talk to Ralph on the big white telephone), and I even sold a couple of books.  I will tell you, as a sort of teaser for next week, that the publishing industry's take on indies has changed markedly since last year's convention. Let's just say I was smelling a lot of dinosaur breath this year....

Have a great week, everybody.

***
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

If it's Samhain, it must be Frankenstorming.

Yeah, yeah, we all knew this would happen.  I've caved to the peer pressure and have committed to doing NaNoWriMo again this year.  Look me up there if you want to be my writing buddy -- my name is aliantha.  (Bonus points for non-Watchers who get the reference.)

And also, if you're doing NaNo, I did the aforementioned podcast interview with the nice ladies at Bookgoodies.net on Thursday, as scheduled.  We talked about how to write 50,000 words in a month without losing your mind.  There's a link on the Radio Appearances page already, but I'll put it below, too.

In preparation for being swamped for the month of November, I've been doing a little prep work ahead of the publication of Tapped.  There's a new book trailer on the Book Trailers tab.  Also, if you scroll waaaaay down to the bottom of the page, you'll see a little graphic that reminds us all that the end of the Mayan calendar -- and, more importantly, the time frame for the events in Seized -- are fast approaching.

Speaking of being swamped, we here at La Casa de Cantwell are beginning to feel the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which is supposed to come ashore north of DC sometime tomorrow.  The hurricane is setting up a little ménage à trois with a nor'easter and a high pressure front, which together are forcing Sandy inland at a somewhat unusual place.  The rain started here around 4:00 this afternoon, and we're expecting it to continue, with the added delight of 70 m.p.h. wind gusts and sustained winds of 30-40 m.p.h., for much of tomorrow and Tuesday.  I fully expect my power to go out once the wind kicks up, so I'll be collecting flashlights and candles from their hiding places presently.  (One nice thing about being Pagan -- I'm usually fully stocked with candles....)

But that's not my biggest worry.  No, my biggest worry is driving up to Toronto on Thursday for the World Fantasy Convention.  This storm is supposed to cause snow in the Appalachians through western Maryland and western Pennsylvania; naturally, I was planning to drive through there.  My hope is that if the storm dumps on them Tuesday, by Thursday at least the main roads will be cleared.  We'll see how it goes.

And as a friend claims I used to say, "If you're not in crisis, you're dead."  (I don't remember ever saying it, but it's a good line, so I don't mind taking credit for it.)

I'm sure there's other stuff I wanted to talk about tonight, but the storm's kind of muddled my head....  Oh, here's the link for the NaNo tips podcast.  Just click on the icon and away you go.  The whole thing is about ten minutes long.



That's all I got tonight.  Gonna go dig out the candle lantern now.  Stay safe and dry, and happy Samhain/Halloween!

***
These moments of bloggy anxiety have been brought to you, as a public service, by .

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NaNo or No?

So it has come to this, my annual dilemma:  Should I participate in National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, which I often shorten further to NaNo) this year or not?

The pros:  As alert readers of this blog know, this would be my fourth NaNo.  My earlier NaNos were in 2008, 2009, and 2011.  Each time, I won -- that is, I reached the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.  And each time, I got a publishable book out of it (The Maidens' War in '08, SwanSong in '09, and Seized last year.)  I have an idea teed up, too -- book four of "The Pipe Woman Chronicles" -- and I've even got an outline-ish thing written for it already.  I've got to write the book anyway, and November is as good a time as any.  So why not just commit?

Of course, there are also the usual and customary, all-purpose pros: NaNo is a great experience for anyone who has ever said to him- or herself, "I've got this great idea for a book."  It's also perfect for anyone who gets bogged down in revising while writing the first draft, because there just isn't enough time in 30 days for those kinds of shenanigans.  It's a first draft!  It's supposed to stink!  Just keep writing!

If you think writing is too solitary, NaNo volunteers have organized a bunch of events throughout the month, at which you can sit in a room and tap away at your keyboard with a bunch of other people who are tapping away at their keyboards.  (I mean, I don't get the attraction, personally.  But a lot of other people do.)  For instant socializing gratification, there are message boards on the NaNo site and Facebook groups galore.  If you'd rather work alone, that's okay, too -- you never have to see another human, and you really only have to go to the website twice: once to sign up, and once to dump your manuscript into NaNo's official word counting device so you can collect your swag.

The cons:  No rule exists that says I have to do NaNo every year; you will note that I sat out 2010, and the world did not end thereby.  Also, I'm going to lose four days at the very beginning of the month for World Fantasy Convention; I might get to squeeze in a little writing in Toronto, but it certainly won't amount to 6,668 words.  I've begun NaNo with a deficit before and it's not a lot of fun.  Besides, I've already won three times -- what else have I got to prove?  And to be honest, I'm still kind of in recovery mode after powering through the first draft of Tapped in about three weeks in late August and early September.  And if Tapped is going to be published in early December, I'm going to have to spend some time in November getting it ready to go.

The hedge:  But I don't have to win, do I?  I can write as much of the fourth book as possible during November, and if I don't get to 50,000 words by the 30th, oh well, at least I'll be farther along on it than I would have been otherwise.  And I've proven with Tapped that I can write 50,000 words in less than 30 days, so it's entirely possible that I could win NaNo this year, even with all the other distractions.  Plus I don't have to drive anywhere for Thanksgiving this year, so I'll have most of that four-day weekend to catch up.

I don't have to win.  Do I?  Or do I?

***
News:  Speaking of NaNo, the BookGoodies podcast interview was postponed to this week, due to the host coming down with strep throat.  I had strep back in my radio days, so I was totally sympathetic.  The new date is this Thursday, October 25th.  I'll post the particulars on my Facebook page.

I thought it was time to do a little housekeeping around here.  I moved all the book trailers to their own tab.  You will also note, if you scroll waaaaaaay down to the bottom of the page, I've added a link to Preditors & Editors -- a great website for checking out whether the agent, editing service, etc., you're about to do business with is legit.

And I've now got my very own Pinterest page.  My boards ain't works of art, but feel free to use the link to the left and check them out.

***
These moments of bloggy indecision have been brought to you, as a public service, by .

Sunday, October 14, 2012

All praise to the Google!

http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2009/10/21
My desktop computer is in the shop, so I'm writing this post on my netbook computer with the teeny-tiny 10-inch screen.  At least I was able to plug my desktop's keyboard and mouse into the netbook, so it's not as alien a setup as it might be otherwise.  But still, I'm getting a crick in my neck from the unaccustomed screen position. And I can't watch videos on this underpowered machine.  Not that I watch a lot of videos anyway, but it's the idea that I can't that's bothering me.

Why am I whining about all of this?  (Kudos to you if you've stuck around thus far.  Your whining threshold must be pretty high!)  It's because this inconvenience has reminded me again of how much teh intarwebz have invaded my life.

I have a desktop computer at work; at home, I have my own desktop computer, as well as a netbook, a Nook Tablet, and an iPhone.  An information search about any question, no matter how low-priority the answer, is at my fingertips for 98 percent of my waking hours (it would be 100 percent, but sometimes I can't get a signal on my phone) and even for a portion of my sleeping hours.  (I've been awakened more than once by a chime from my phone, telling me somebody just mentioned me on Twitter.)

Before we went to Europe, though, my friend Kim and I checked into the cost of an international data roaming plan, and quickly concluded it would be more fiscally responsible just to turn data reception off for the duration of the trip.  It was a good idea in theory -- but in practice, oh, was it painful.  At least once a day, one of us would come up with some question in the course of conversation that the other couldn't answer.  The "I don't know" response was always accompanied by a disgusted, "But if we had data, we could look it up!"

Mark my words:  Someday the pre-intarwebz days will be known as the New Dark Ages.  It was a time when we lived in ignorance and fear.  A time when a search for answers involved delving into actual books made of actual paper (the horror!) and perusing digests, indices, tables of contents, and other arcane documents, in hopes one of them would point you to a book that actually contained the information you sought.  A time when librarians held vast power.  A time when we posed questions, such as, "Who won the Oscar for best cinematography in 1963?" and almost invariably got this response: "Huh.  I dunno."

You kids don't know how good you have it.  All praise to the Google!

***
Now that that's out of my system, I have some actual news.

1.  This Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, I'll be doing a podcast for BookGoodies on winning at NaNoWriMo.  You do know about NaNoWriMo, don't you?  If you've ever said to yourself, "I oughta write a book," you really should consider participating.  Anyway, I don't have particulars yet about when the podcast will be available. (It's probably on my other computer....)  I'll post the info to my Facebook page when I find out.
2.  As of this past week, I am now a weekly contributor to Indies Unlimited.  The Evil Mastermind has promised me a gruel upgrade as compensation for my extra duties. I'll let you know how it goes.
3.  The program for World Fantasy Convention 2012 is out, and I'm in it!  I'll be doing a reading on Friday morning, Nov. 2.  I also plan to participate in the mass autographing session that night.  If by some happenstance, you'll be in Toronto for the convention, please look for me.
4.  Oh, and by the way, the first draft of Tapped: Book Three of the Pipe Woman Chronicles is complete.  We're moving up the publication schedule to take advantage of the Christmas shopping season, so look for the book at your favorite online retailer starting in early December.

***
I'm , and I approve this blog post. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Indie Unlimited Oasis.



It was sometime in April. I was parched and past sweating, crossing the vast indie publishing desert on my virtual hands and knees, when a message appeared before me. Maybe it was on Twitter; maybe it was on Facebook. In any case, it didn’t look like a mirage – although who can say, really, with mirages? What criteria can you use, except your own senses? And I knew from experience that sensory input is not to be trusted in such a situation; until you get on top of a mirage, it looks solid enough. 

My heat-addled brain drifted back to the summer days of my childhood, driving with my parents along an endless ribbon of highway. With a child’s naivete, I believed in the puddles of water on the road before us, perfectly reflecting the sky above. Alas, as we reached them, they shimmered into nothingness. Baffled, I turned to my parents. “Where did the puddle go?” I asked, and they told me it had been a mirage.

So you never know, I told myself now. This message could be another of those mirages so common to the indie desert: a come-on for a contest with a steep entrance fee in the fine print*; or a guest post that disappears into the ether with the blog’s makeover; or any one of a number of other opportunities that appear marvelous on the surface, but that evaporate when you get too close.

I dithered. The merciless sun climbed higher in the sky. At length, I decided it was either pursue or perish. With my last bit of strength, I clicked the link – and discovered the oasis that is Indies Unlimited. 

It was not a mirage! It was real, and solid, and packed with useful information and advice. I wandered through the posts in amazement. Whole new worlds opened before me – like-fests and book promos and Animoto. 

And the people seemed to appreciate my input, even when I admitted I had no interest in Pinterest. And they were funny. 

So when the Evil Mastermind offered me free gruel if I’d stay, well, my answer was easy. Head back out into that trackless desert – that barren waste – alone? I think not.

*Fine print: This might be a slight over-dramatization of my experience. Your mileage may vary. Offer good only on the planet Earth. Do not operate motor vehicle with windshield shade in place. Happy birthday, Indies Unlimited!
 

A version of this article first appeared on Indies Unlimited on October 2, 2012.

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I'm , and I approve this blog post. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stalking Šárka.

It was a beautiful morning in Prague, and I was on a mission: to find Vyšehrad, reputed to be the ancestral home of the Czech Přemyslid dynasty -- as well as the ancient stomping grounds of Ctirad, whom the maiden Šárka may or may not have tricked on Vlasta's orders. (If you've read The Maidens' War, most of this should sound familiar to you. If you haven't read it -- why not?)

I dragged my friend Kim away from a scheduled tour of the Jewish quarter to accompany me. I bribed her by agreeing we could go by taxi.  It was either that or Prague public transit -- Vyšehrad was too far from our hotel to walk -- and she mistrusted my ability to get us there without getting us lost.

Of course, the castle itself is long gone, thanks to the vicissitudes of war and time.  But a lot of the fortress wall still exists.  And rumor had it that somewhere on the grounds could be found a statue depicting the fateful meeting of Šárka and Ctirad.

The taxi driver dropped us at the entrance and we started off, with no real clue where we were going.  Finally, after a walk along the river path brought us back to our entrance point, I broke out my guidebook map, and realized we had turned off the main road too soon.  Another block, a left turn, and the spires of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul came into view.

As we meandered past the cemetery, I spotted some large statues in a park across the street from the church.  Could it be...?

It was!  There was Šárka, the rope that had bound her still trailing across her shoulders; there was gallant Ctirad, supporting the supposedly stricken maiden; and in his hand was the hunting horn that, together with a jug of mead, had been placed just out of her reach to torment her.

"So where's the jug?" Kim asked me.  We circled the statue, and there it was, behind Our Hero.  (It's in shadow, behind his left foot.)
Across from the star-crossed pair, we found a statue by the same sculptor of Queen Libuše and her plowman husband, Přemysl.  In the legend, as well as in my novel, Libuše's death sets in motion the events that lead to the Maidens' War.
I guess Libuše is supposed to be announcing her famous vision of a great city that would be built on this spot someday.  She was right about that: Prague is indeed a great city.  Two days wasn't nearly enough time to see it all.

Later, after a stroll through the cemetery, I did drag Kim onto the Prague Metro, and we found our next destination, the Alfons Mucha Museum, without too much trouble. (Kim, trying to get out of the Metro station:  "Where's Vychod? I can't find it on the map!" Me: "It won't be on the map. 'Vychod' means 'exit'."  At last, my Czech classes were good for something....)

Our vacation went on (eight countries in 14 days!), but I had achieved my goal: I had stalked Šárka in Prague, and I had found her.  The rest, for me, was gravy. 

Well, maybe goulash.  That stuff is yummy.

***
I'm , and I approve this blog post.