Sunday, May 25, 2014

We have a winner! and: The knitting chair odyssey.

First off this week, congrats to Melissa Bowersock, who won the contest for Sage's birthday last week! Melissa, I'll get the stuff to you shortly. To everybody else, thanks very much for entering.

Second, thanks very much to the new Pipe Woman Chronicles fans (at least, I hope they'll be fans once they read the books...) who bought the omnibus at the very special price of 99 cents this weekend. The sale is still on for another few hours, so if you've been meaning to blow a buck on the whole series, or to tell someone else to get a copy, now's the time. And thank you in advance.

The chair, complete with my WIP.
When the Universe speaks to you, you might as well just pay attention and get it over with.

This is my knitting chair. It has a long and storied history with our family, starting in 1998, when I bought it for $10 at a thrift store in Denver, Colorado. It was then upholstered in a gold-and-black chenille fabric -- not my first choice, but the seat was comfortable and the bones were in good shape, and I didn't have the cash at the time to be overly picky.

It moved back to DC with us and eventually settled in our basement. (Yes, it's the same basement that Darrell remodels in Crosswind.) The basement was damp, of course, and then it flooded during one bad rainstorm. The upholstery was already wearing out, and now it smelled of mildew. So I looked into getting it reupholstered into something I could stand to have in the living room. First, I thought I'd tackle the job myself. After I read up on it, I decided against it. For one thing, buying the tools would have cost as much as the fabric; for another, pulling the fabric taut apparently requires a fair amount of upper body strength, which I ain't got.

So instead, I contracted with a furniture restoration guy to replace the stuffing and re-cover the chair. Something like $800 later, I had a comfy chair that looked great in my Southwest-and-denim living room. (Yes, I blew $800 on a $10 chair from the thrift store. That's how comfy it is.) I put an Ott lamp next to it and it became my knitting chair. I've logged a lot of hours in that chair, on one project or another.

The big reupholstering occurred in 2008 -- just six years ago. So I was dismayed last week to notice a big frayed spot on the front edge of the chair. (See it on the right-hand side in the pic?) Not having a spare $800 for another reupholstering job, I covered the seat with a pillow slip and set about looking for a less expensive solution. In other words, a new chair.

I started a Pinterest board for my favorites (here it is, if you're interested). One of them is a bonded-leather tub chair that swivels; I was intrigued by the concept, but not sure whether it would be comfy. Plus it was one of the more expensive options, and freight delivery further jacks up the price.

I decided to go with the blue wingback, even though it wasn't perfect. So this afternoon, I got in the car and headed for World Market...and drove right past it while daydreaming. Ah, well, I needed to go to Trader Joe's anyway; I figured I'd go there first, and stop at World Market on the way home. So I got what I needed at TJ's...and found myself following someone else into the furniture store next door.

Now, I'd been avoiding regular furniture stores. The merchandise is usually scaled for a mini-mansion, not an apartment. And the sales guys drive me nuts: "Hi! Can I help you find something? What are you looking for? What style? Sure you don't need a sectional? I can give you a sweet deal on a whole living room suite...." I mean, I know they get paid on commission and they're just doing their jobs. I don't fault them for that. I would just rather tour their selection in peace.

But it was almost as if I were being prodded to go into this store. So I did, against my better judgment. And just inside the door was a bonded-leather, swiveling tub chair, for half the price of the one on my Pinterest page. And it was comfy!

Needless to say, I bought it. It'll be delivered Thursday. I'll post a picture next week.

This moment of Universal blogginess has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Happy birthday, Sage!

(Spoiler alert: If you haven't yet read the entire Pipe Woman Chronicles, this promotion will give away part of the ending. Sorry about that. But c'mon, Annealed's been out for a year -- there's gotta be a statute of limitations on this kind of thing.)

It was a girl, of course, and we named her Sage -- both for the herb, and for the wisdom we all hoped she would develop as she grew up in this brave, new world we had all midwived into being.
-- from Annealed

One year ago this past week, in the Pipe Woman Chronicles universe, Naomi Witherspoon Curtis forged a truce among the pagan pantheons and Jehovah. And then she gave birth to Sage.

There's a party going on in the Curtises' cabin outside of Golden, Colorado, this weekend for Sage's first birthday, and here at hearth/myth, we're celebrating, too. Starting this Wednesday, The Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus will be on sale at for just 99 cents. It's a great opportunity to pick up all five books at an amazingly low price -- less than 20 cents a book! -- and with a snazzy new cover, yet (that's it over on the left). The sale will run through next Sunday.

Don't forget that Amazon offers Kindle reader apps for just about every electronic platform on the face of the planet -- PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, and I've probably missed some. Click here to check it out.

In addition, I've created a party favor of sorts for one lucky hearth/myth reader. It's a collection of five Safari Ltd. animal figurines, one for each of the original Pipe Woman Chronicles covers. I had to make some compromises -- the Gravid buffalo is brown, not white (feel free to paint it yourself...), and I had to settle for a leopard instead of a jaguar for Fissured. But I found a great horned owl for Seized, a gray wolf for Tapped, and a baby phoenix for Annealed. Here's the set:

In case you're not into toys, I'm throwing in a $10 Amazon gift card, too.

The contest runs through next Saturday, May 24th, at 11:59pm Eastern time. The entry form is below, and it's on the Giveaway tab on my Facebook page, too. Good luck!

The rules (sorry, gotta have 'em):

1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
2. Winners from my previous contests may win again.
3. Someone will win. I bought these figurines months ago and am getting them out of my house now, one way or the other.
4. As always, the judge's decisions are arbitrary, capricious, and final.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Remembering Mom.

Today is Mother's Day, in case it had escaped your notice.

My own mother has been gone for six years now; she died just a few weeks after her 93rd birthday. For perhaps ten years before her death, she had been sliding into dementia -- not Alzheimer's, just your garden-variety can't-remember-stuff. Still, until her death, she lived in the same house in Northern Indiana where I grew up. She even kept driving until she turned 90 (mainly because there's no bus service in our neighborhood). My brother, Lawrence, who lives in Chicago, took on the bulk of the responsibility for keeping Mom and the house going -- and kudos to Lar for that, as I am a 13-hour drive away.

At some point during the final years of Mom's life, I began keeping a journal. It may never see the light of day in its entirety, for various reasons. But here's one snippet for you on this Mother's Day.

The setup is this: Mom had gone to the DMV to get her driver's license renewed. She failed the eye exam, though, and then she couldn't find her old license, claiming the DMV took it. My brother convinced me to drive out to Indiana for Easter, help her get her license renewed, and get her eyes checked. I couldn't get her an eye appointment on Good Friday, so Lar insisted that I take her back to DC with me. Once she got her eyes checked, I was to put her on a plane back to Chicago. Lar would then pick her up at O'Hare and drive her the two hours back to her house.

Sounds like a setup for a slapstick routine, right? It gets worse.


The last day of Mom's visit was on a weekend. We got up early and had breakfast, then got in the car and drove to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. I parked the car in the short-term garage, grabbed her suitcase, and began walking toward the terminal. Mom asked me to slow down.  I was mildly frustrated by her lack of progress by the time we got across the bridge to the terminal, and was beginning to worry that we’d miss the boarding call; spotting a wheelchair, I said, “Sit down, Ma.  I’ll give you a ride.”  We made fine progress after that, although Mom kept saying, “I never thought I’d get to the point….”

That wheelchair was a stroke of inspiration. Because of it, the security guards allowed me to go to the gate with Mom.  They did confiscate my penknife, which I’d forgotten to take off my keychain and leave in the car. I sweet-talked them into holding onto it for me until after Mom’s plane left.

It was at about this point that one of the screeners called out, “Does anyone have any weights in his bag?”  Nobody said anything.  He tried again.  “How about a bottle of Listerine?  Does anyone have a bottle of Listerine in his bag?”

“Oh, that’s mine,” Mom said.

“You brought a whole bottle of Listerine with you?” I asked her.  “You couldn’t bring just a sample size?”

“Ma’am, we’ll have to open your suitcase and take a look inside,” the screener told her.

“Okay, sure,” Mom said.

“Listerine bottles sometimes look like dumbbells on the x-ray,” he explained.  Sure enough, they found nothing in Mom’s suitcase that would be fatal to anything but oral bacteria.  We headed through the doorway and were immediately at the gate.

“Okay, Mom,” I told her as we waited for the boarding call, “the gate attendant is going to ask you a series of questions about whether your luggage has been under your control at all times, whether anyone has given you anything to take on board the plane – stuff like that.  Tell them no.  I mean, you have to answer them honestly, but tell them no.”

“Okay,” she said.

“I can’t answer for you,” I said.

“Okay,” she repeated.

“And for God's sake, don’t joke about having a bomb,” I said, laughing a little.  “After 9/11, they really don’t think that sort of thing is funny anymore.”

“Okay,” she said, laughing, “I won’t say anything about a bomb.”

Finally, the gate attendant announced that the plane was boarding.  I wheeled Mom up to the gate.

The attendant rattled off the usual questions, very fast.  I looked at Mom, silently urging her to answer.  Mom looked at me, expecting me to answer for her.  Oh, shit, I thought.  I rolled my eyes in exasperation at the gate attendant, who said to me quietly, “She’ll have to be searched.”

“I know,” I said with a sigh.  So I rolled Mom over to the table where the secondary searches were taking place.  

For the second time in less than half an hour, the security guards went through Mom’s suitcase.  “There’s no bomb in there,” Mom said, then clapped her hand over her mouth.

“Mom!” I hissed, thinking, Jesus Christ!  Fortunately, the guard had his back to us and didn’t hear her – otherwise we might still to this day be in a padded room at the airport, explaining ourselves to the FBI.   

Finished with her suitcase, the guard got Mom out of the wheelchair and ran the wand over her; she checked out fine, of course. One of the flight attendants escorted her onto the plane as I waved goodbye.  Relieved to be out of there, I collected my penknife from the security guard outside the gate and headed home.

Later that day, I called Mom to see whether everything had gone smoothly on the O’Hare end.

“Hi, Mom, it’s me,” I said when she answered her phone.  “How was your flight?”

"What flight?" she asked. "Lawrence drove me home."

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who has ever been a mom or who has ever had a mom. And here's hoping that your day has been one to remember.

These moments of memorable blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Effective Frequency, or: Why dollars spent on ads almost never equal sales revenues.

I can’t count the number of times I have heard indies talk about getting a return on their investment when it comes to advertising. Most people consider an ad successful only if they make more money from sales of their books than the ad cost them.

It’s undeniably great when that happens. But that’s not what marketing is for. Marketing is not for selling stuff – at least, not directly. It’s for making your brand so familiar to consumers that they will decide they need whatever it is you’re selling.

A single ad does not familiarity make. There’s an old chestnut in the the marketing business that it takes seven contacts with a prospective customer before you will see any results. In general, someone needs to see your novel seven times before they’ll decide to buy. The technical term for this is effective frequency.
There’s actually some dispute whether the “seven times” rule is still true. Thanks to the intertubes, we’re so overwhelmed with marketing messages nowadays that it probably takes even more impressions to, uh, make an impression. One blog post I read while preparing this article suggests the new number is 13. Although big numbers aren’t new; back in 1885, a guy named Thomas Smith wrote a book called Successful Advertising in which he claimed it takes 20 views of an ad before it makes a dent:
  • The first time people look at any given ad, they don't even see it.
  • The second time, they don't notice it.
  • The third time, they are aware that it is there.
  • The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they've seen it somewhere before.
  • The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
  • The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
  • The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
  • The eighth time, they start to think, "Here's that confounded ad again."
  • The ninth time, they start to wonder if they're missing out on something.
  • The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they've tried it.
  • The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
  • The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
  • The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
  • The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
  • The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can't afford to buy it.
  • The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
  • The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
  • The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
  • The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
  • The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.
Personally, I think Mr. Smith went a little overboard. But I thought his most interesting point was number 10: asking friends and neighbors what they’ve heard. Word-of-mouth is the single most successful marketing you can get. And how do you get word-of-mouth recommendations? Why, from putting your name in front of prospective customers seven (or 13 or 20) times.
And even then, you have to get lucky. If luck didn’t play a part in it – if it was all about just throwing cash at advertising – then every book traditional publishers have ever advertised as the next bestseller would have been one. And we all know how that has worked out for them.

(Originally published at Indies Unlimited and reprinted here in the author's hope -- likely in vain -- that indie authors who see it again will get the message.)

These frequent moments of effective blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell (who is repeating her name here in an effort to help search engines remember it!).