Sunday, August 25, 2013

Confession: I was a Monkees fan before the Monkees were cool.

Warning: I'm dating myself in this post.

I went to see the Monkees in concert this summer.  For me, it was an exercise in nostalgia.  See, I had not yet turned nine when "The Monkees" first debuted on NBC-TV in September 1966.  Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were actors hired to play a rock group trying to make it big but never quite succeeding -- on the show, at least.  In real life, of course, they were the new hotness, with a hit TV show on Monday nights and record albums that included songs written by the likes of Neil Diamond and Carole King.

But at first, the producers wouldn't let them play their own instruments -- even though Mike and Peter had both been professional musicians pre-Monkees.  By the time they were ready to produce their third album, "Headquarters," however, they won the battle to write their own material, play their own instruments, and generally take control of their own musical destiny.

But by then, the rock establishment had dismissed the Monkees as hacks. They were dubbed "the Prefab Four" because the TV show was developed specifically to cash in on the popularity of the Beatles and their first two movies.

So you have to understand that for a long time during my formative years, the Monkees simply were not cool.  Being a Monkees fan in the late '60s and early '70s -- particularly after the show went off the air in '68 and the group mostly fell apart -- was akin to being a fan of 'N Sync or One Direction today. It was considered to be a teenybopper thing, something you'd grow out of. So eventually I got rid of their albums -- even my mono copy of "Headquarters," the first record album I ever bought -- and consigned my appreciation for their work to my childish taste back then.

The guys in DC (stolen from
Fast-forward to the spring of this year, when I happened to see that the Monkees (sans Davy, sadly) would be in town for a concert in July.  I figured, what the heck. I'm over 50 now, which allows me to be eccentric, instead of just weird; I'm allowed to revel in my second childhood, if I like.  I downloaded the LiveNation app so I could buy a ticket before they went on sale to the general public.  And then I forgot about it until about a week before the show.

I expected the Warner Theatre to be packed with gray-haired ladies, and there were many in the audience. But I was surprised to see a bunch of younger people in the crowd, too.  I'd forgotten about the show's MTV run, you see.  And then I mentioned in passing in a Facebook group or two that I'd seen the Monkees in concert, and I was surprised again, because the reaction I got was...respect. Turns out that their music has stood the test of time -- and not just the Carole King and Neil Diamond tunes, but the ones the guys wrote themselves, too.

Weeks after the concert, inexplicably, I got an earworm of the chorus of "The Door into Summer", so I looked up the lyrics online. Turns out the Monkees were doing protest songs! Look at the first verse:
With his fool's gold stacked up all around him
From a killing in the market on the war
The children left King Midas there, as they found him
In his counting house where nothing counts but more
If that's not about Vietnam (not to mention every US war since), I don't know what is. Take that, 'N Sync. Let's see how relevant you guys are in 45 years.

Here's the whole song live, in Long Beach, CA.  See if you think it's stood the test of time.

I almost forgot: the flash fiction page is up at And the first Land, Sea, Sky short story will be out at Amazon on Wednesday. Keep an eye peeled on Facebook and Twitter for the link.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

hearth/myth is two!

Birthday Comments

~Magickal Graphics~
 Happy bloggiversary to me,
Happy bloggiversary to me!

Is it "bloggiversary" or "bloggoversary"? Hmm...pretty sure the Oxford Dictionary hasn't picked this one up yet.

Regardless, hearth/myth turned two on Friday.  The photo seems appropriate for a two-year-old, don't you think?

It is customary (as in: this is what I did last year) to take stock of where we are today, compared to where we were a year ago.  So: this week last year, I was about to unleash Fissured upon an unsuspecting public, and I hadn't even begun writing Tapped yet.

Today, of course, all five books of the Pipe Women Chronicles have been released, and I'm starting work on the next series in Naomi's universe -- Land, Sea, Sky. Here's a fun fact about the Pipe Woman Chronicles: During the free promotions I ran for the books this summer, Tapped blew all the others out of the water with 4,249 downloads worldwide. Next was Seized with 1,936 downloads; then Annealed (1,685), Fissured (1,453)  and Gravid (1,372).  If you assume the download numbers are based in large part on cover appeal, you can extrapolate that glowy wolves beat out flaming birds, and white buffalo are the least appealing.
I'm still on the staff at Indies Unlimited, and my work has been featured in a couple of their publications this year -- including the terrific First Chapters, which, if you haven't picked up a copy yet, you should.  I've also started doing LynneQuisitions, my interviews of big and biggish names in indie publishing, which is a lot of fun and lets me pretend to be a reporter again.

Alas, the Indie Exchange has morphed yet again, and I have lost track of it.  But I've been kicking up my involvement with BookGoodies. Look for more on that over the next few months.

In the awards department, Seized got a little attention from both Big Al's Books and Pals Reader's Choice Awards and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  And I picked up a couple of wins in the weekly flash fiction contests at Indies Unlimited.  I'm planning to devote a page at the new website to my flash fiction entries, so that they don't get lost in the shuffle.
And -- how could I forget? -- I started Rursday Reads in January.  I've had at least one author get excited to be a Rursday -- go figure!

For the coming year: Look for a Pipe Woman Chronicles omnibus e-book by Yule, as well as (fingers crossed!) the first book in the Land, Sea, Sky series. Past that, who knows? I guess we'll all find out together, won't we?

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

The art of letting go.

The thing about being Pagan is that you're always aware that things are changing.  Nothing is ever static; nothing ever stays the same.  It's easy to see when you look at the Wheel of the Year, with its progression of the seasons, one following another.  Even when you're at the top, you know the wheel will turn and you'll soon be on the down side.  The weather is great at the summer solstice -- but the longest day of the year is bittersweet, because you know the following days will be progressively shorter. 

Of course, in the depths of winter, the turning Wheel is reassuring. When the weather is bitter cold and the days are shortest, you know that soon spring will come again.

We passed Lughnasa on the Wheel not long ago.  I've talked about it here before -- it's the Festival of the First Harvest.  The wheat crop is coming in, and so are pitted fruits -- peaches, plums, nectarines.  The early Anglo-Saxons would use the new wheat to bake bread to take to church for blessing, hence the alternate name for the day: Lammas, a corruption of hlaf-mass, or loaf-mass.

So it's a joyful time. But it can also be melancholy, if you let it be. The sun is setting a little earlier now, and it's apparent that summer is winding down. In our modern world, the biggest end-of-summer marker, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, is the beginning of the new school year. When I was a kid, our first day of school was always the day after Labor Day, which is always the first Monday in September -- but with school systems playing around with their calendars these days, a post-Labor Day start is practically unheard of now. Most schools begin in mid- to late August.  And I talked to someone this weekend whose kids went back to school on August 1st.

New beginnings are always exciting, and of course we look forward to them. But the start of something new almost always means that something old is ending at the same time. It's easy to forget about the old thing in our rush -- easy to forget to give the old thing its due.

I've spent the summer promoting the five Pipe Woman Chronicles books, with each book taking its turn at going free on Amazon.  The final promotion, for Annealed, ended yesterday (and by the way, thanks to the thousands of people who downloaded a copy!). And while these books aren't going anywhere, I'm turning my thoughts now to the new thing -- the next series in Naomi's universe.  It's bittersweet to say goodbye, for now, to the characters in the Pipe Woman Chronicles -- so one way I'm easing the pain, so to speak, is by fleshing out some new characters by imagining where they were when the Big Mediation in Annealed occurred, how they learned about it, and what it will mean for them. It's safe to say that in all three cases, their lives will be very different because of the mediation.

I'm planning to introduce each of these characters to you in a short story, one per month. I'm aiming to release the first one before the end of August, with the next two coming in successive months thereafter.  And with any luck, by the end of November I'll have the first full novel ready to go.

So I'm letting go of the Pipe Woman Chronicles, while looking forward to Land, Sea, Sky. I'll let you know more in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your summer.  Fall will be here before you know it.

This moment of bloggy melancholy has been brought to you, as a public service, by .

Monday, August 5, 2013

How trad publishing is like broadcast news.

Yes, all right, I'm posting a day late this week. I was out of town last week, attempting to wrap up some stuff at my mother's old house (which I may blog about at some point, once I can write about it without needing to throttle someone -- look for that post in about twenty years, I think); with stop-and-go traffic, my daughter Kitty and I didn't get home until 10:00 last night. And I still had laundry to do. So the blog post got pushed to today.  Sorry about that.

To help us all calm down, here's a picture I took on one of our first days at my mom's house. People tend to think of Indiana as nothing but corn and cows -- okay, and the Indy 500 -- but a sliver of the northwestern corner of the state has frontage on Lake Michigan, and that's the part of Indiana that I'm from.  Kitty and I took a break from sorting stuff at Mom's one night and walked down to the lake to see the sunset. I got this shot with the camera on my phone as the sun was just touching the water.

Some folks are getting amazing shots from the lakefront near the Michigan City lighthouse of buildings in the Chicago Loop. (Chicago is 35 miles from Michigan City if you go straight across the lake.) Alas, either it was too hazy or my camera wasn't good enough -- we could see the buildings as shadows on the horizon, but I couldn't get them in a shot.  Ah well.

Anyway...calm thoughts and cleansing breaths.  And then we can get all riled up again.

Last week, I wrote about how many women of a certain age are going the indie author route, and speculated as to why that was so. Kathryn Treat asked me in the comments what my own reasons were for going indie at this time of my life, and as my response to her lengthened, I realized I ought to just do a post on it.

To understand my reasoning, it helps to know a little bit about the business of broadcasting.  And the first thing you need to know is that almost nobody you hear or see on your local news broadcast is getting a fabulous salary.  The money is concentrated in the hands of the owners (which today probably consists of the shareholders of a large corporation), the sales staff, and a few stars.  In radio, that usually means the guys you hear during morning and afternoon drive-time, which are the most lucrative dayparts for advertising sales.  In TV news, it would likely be the anchors.  Behind these folks are the reporters, editors, producers, videographers and writers, as well as office staffers who never make it on the air, and trust me when I say that they are not making much. During salary negotiations for my current day job as a legal secretary at a big DC law firm, HR asked me how much I'd made when I worked as a tape editor at Mutual/NBC Radio News. I screwed up my courage and was honest with them, even though I was worried they would refuse to match it.  Not only did they match it, but on my first anniversary I received a 13 percent raise -- to bring me up to the market average for legal secretaries. Yes, that's right, folks! You can make more as a secretary than you can in the glamorous world of network radio.

The word "glamorous" is key.  Station owners are able to keep salaries low because of the coolness factor of working in broadcasting. In essence, you're getting paid partly in prestige. And if you complain about the size of your paycheck, management may well remind you that if you no longer want your job, there are hundreds of people out there who would take it in a heartbeat -- because it's so cool to work in radio.

Contrast that, if you will, with the world of traditional publishing.  Who's making all the money? The stockholders, of course, and the C-level managers (CEO, CFO, etc.), and the big stars who get lucky and sell tons of books.  But midlist authors are equivalent to the reporters, videographers and writers in a broadcast newsroom: they provide the bulk of the content, but they're getting paid partly in prestige.  And just like in broadcasting, traditional publishers have a slush pile full of eager wannabes to pick from when a midlist author gets cranky about her pathetic royalty checks.

Once I figured that out, my interest in chasing a traditional publishing contract waned rapidly.

And too, my kids are grown, and I'm about six years from early retirement.  I have the time now to write, and many of the skills (it turns out) to make a go of self-publishing.  And so here we are.

Before I stop, I'm pleased to announce that the first chapter of Seized is included in First Chapters.  This book is a compilation of the first chapters of 22 books by indie authors.  Some of us are bestsellers, some are award winners, and all of us have been Indies Unlimited minions at one time or another. 

Several of the books represented here have been Rursday Reads. If you've been wondering whether to give one a try, now's your chance to check out a meatier sample than you would get with the "look inside" feature.  And it's only 99 cents. Such a deal!

One more thing: Annealed goes free at Amazon this week from Thursday through Saturday. If you haven't yet collected the set, now might be a good time. Just sayin'.

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