Sunday, December 31, 2017

Living in liminal time.

Happy almost 2018! We're a few hours short of midnight here as I write this. Hoping to get it online before the world goes mad...

Alert hearth/myth readers know that I talk a lot about liminal spaces. This time at the holidays is such a space -- perhaps the only one that still gets a nod of recognition from modern society. I don't know about you guys, but I've had the sense multiple times over the past week that this time between Christmas and New Year's is sort of a throwaway week, that we're in a sort of holding pattern while we wait for life to start up again. Admittedly, my sense of "what's the point of this week?" might have been exacerbated by the fact that I went in to work at the day job every day -- one of the few at my workplace who did.

But these weeks between the solstice and the turn of the year have long been considered a time out of time. Early calendar calculations left a short stretch of days that didn't fit evenly into a month. The Romans used these days for their Saturnalia celebration -- which included the appointment of a mock king who ruled over the drinking and debauchery.

Christmas celebrations in medieval England included a similar figure, popularly known as the Lord of Misrule -- often a peasant who was elevated to the lofty position to oversee the drunken mayhem. There's some evidence that the idea of a Lord of Misrule began as a pagan custom and was later tolerated by the church to varying degrees.

In any case, nowadays the holidays pretty much end with New Year's Day. It's the last hurrah for the season of big parties (unless you count the Super Bowl, which used to be in January, but I digress), and the last chance, too, to take a breath and think about how things went for us in the past year and where we'd like for them to go in the year to come.

I read a blog post earlier today that suggests spending part of this evening meditating, envisioning how you'd like for the next year to look and what you'd like to see happen, both personally and in the world around you. The idea is that imagining a thing in detail is the first step in making it manifest. Personally, I think dreams require some work on the part of the dreamer before they are made manifest. The Universe sometimes operates on chance, it's true, but typically your overnight success has toiled in obscurity for years.

On the other hand, it can't hurt to have a vision of where you want to go. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go sit in a quiet spot for a few minutes, just as soon as I post this.

Happy 2018, everyone. May you manifest everything you desire, and may the new year be better to you and yours than the old year was.

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

Monday, December 25, 2017

"I believe," said Sage.

A few nights ago, on the eve of Yule, I read a new story live on Facebook. It's a Christmas story, more or less, and it stars Sage and Webb, those two crazy kids from the Pipe Woman's Legacy series. In case you missed it, here's the link.

Last time I tried linking a Facebook video on the blog directly, it didn't work -- so if you're not on Facebook, the link probably won't work. Just to cover all my bases, then, here's the text of the story. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and see you back here next Sunday to help me kick 2017 out the door.

Thirteen-year-old Sage Curtis sat stiffly in the back seat of her parents’ SUV, her arms crossed. “Tell me again why I have to go to this thing,” she said.

Her mother, who was driving, glanced in the rear-view mirror and shot Sage a look that would have made a god behave. “Because Aunt Shannon was kind enough to invite you,” she said.

Sage’s ten-year-old brother Webb turned toward her with a bounce. “Come on, Sage. It’ll be fun!” he said with a happy grin. “There will be cookies…”

“And about a million little kids.” Aunt Shannon had invited all of her nieces and nephews.
“Kerry’s coming,” Mom put in.

“She is?” Webb asked, his face lighting up. Kerry Hanrahan was Sage’s best friend. Webb adored her.

“Yes, Mother, she told me,” Sage said, ignoring Webb. “That’s the only redeeming thing about this whole stupid party.”

“Santa’s coming, too,” Webb said.

“Oh, for gods’ sake,” Sage snapped. “You know it’s just Uncle George in a red suit.”

“It might be the real Santa,” Webb said.

Sage stared at him. “You’re not serious. You don’t still believe in Santa, do you?”

Webb faced forward and pulled some string from a pocket of his pants.

“Mom,” Sage said, shocked out of her bored pose. “Do something!”

“What do you suggest?” Mom said, glancing in the rear-view mirror again. It looked like she was suppressing a smile.

“Talk to him!” Sage said. “He’s too old to believe in Santa!”

Webb shot her a sly smile and went on fiddling with the string in his hands.

“What are you making, Webster?” Mom asked.

There was that Trickster grin again. “It’s a secret,” he said.
Aunt Shannon’s house was already in an uproar when they arrived. “Thank the gods you’re here,”
Kerry said, her blond ringlets bobbing as she met Sage just inside the front door. “These rugrats have nearly tripped me three times already. Come on.” She grabbed Sage’s hand and led her through the throng, past the towering Christmas tree in the living room and into the brightly-lit kitchen.

“Oh, good,” Aunt Shannon said as she fussed over a tray of cookies. “You’re here. Where’s your mom?” Sage opened her mouth but didn’t get a chance to reply. “Would you girls please take care of the cider? It’s in the dining room. Paper cups are on the table.”

“Sure, Auntie, no problem,” Kerry said, pulling Sage through another door.

“Only fill the cups half-full!” Aunt Shannon called after them. “The kids will spill it otherwise.”

The dining room was relatively quiet. Kerry set the cups on a tray while Sage poured.

“So I found out something shocking today,” Sage said. “My brother still believes in Santa.”

“No way!”

Sage nodded. “Yes way. He was all excited in the car on our way over here.”

Kerry looked thoughtful. “Maybe he just identifies with the spirit of the holiday.”

As if on cue, Webb poked his head in the doorway. “There you are!” he crowed. “I have presents for you.” He presented them each with a small, misshapen packet of silvery paper with tape liberally applied. “Uncle George helped me wrap them.”

“I can see that,” Sage said dryly.

Kerry had pried the tape off one end of her gift and peered inside. “Oh,” she said faintly, and turned it over. Something finely woven of red and gold strands slid out onto her outstretched palm.

“It’s a hair holder thing,” Webb said as Kerry shook it out and tucked her hair inside it.

“You made this for me, didn’t you? I love it!” she said, hugging him. “Thank you, Webb!” She turned to Sage. “What did you get?”

Side-eyeing Webb, Sage unfolded an end and dumped her gift into her hand. Her “hair holder thing” glistened green and gold. As Kerry helped her stuff her straight black hair into it, she asked, “What does it do?”

“You’ll see,” Webb said, that Trickster grin back in place as he ducked out of the room.

Sage wanted to go after him...but it was too late. She was flying.

Flying! Soaring above rooftops. Higher than the trees. As high as the mountains!

Webb knew she hated flying. He was going to pay for this…

But she wasn’t flying under her own power. She was in a sleigh. Pulled by… reindeer?

Slowly, she turned. Sure enough, a fat man in a red suit stood behind her in the sleigh. His beard was as white as her great-grandfather’s hair. His smile was so bright, it rivaled the moonlight on the snow below. And he was definitely not Uncle George.

“Ho, ho, ho!” the man boomed. “Hello, Sage! Your brother has pulled quite a trick on you!”

“Yeah,” she said, scowling. “He’s a real joker.”

“My dear child,” the fat man said gently. “So scornful for one so young. But then you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.” He leaned toward her. “Tell me,” he said in a confidential tone. “What’s your fondest wish?”

 She swallowed hard. “To be normal,” she whispered. “I don’t want to shoot fire from my eyes. I don’t want to be able to fly. I don’t want to have to save the Earth.”

“I cannot give you that,” the fat man said sadly. “I can’t change who you are. But I can give you something better.”

“What?”

“Love,” he answered. “Joy. And hope.” He laid a gloved hand on the crown of her head. “Go in peace, Sage Curtis, and save us all.”
When she came back to herself, no time had passed. “Come on!” Kerry said. “I hear Uncle George!”

Hand in hand, the girls entered the living room, just as the front door opened. Uncle George, his ponytail peeking out from under his Santa hat, bellowed a hearty “Ho, ho, ho!” as he came in. Following him was a reindeer who winked deliberately at Sage.

She grinned. “Hi, Dad.” As he ambled past her, she looked out the open door. There, silhouetted against the moon, was a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, with a fat man holding the reins.

“Ho, ho, ho!” Uncle George said again.

And Sage whispered, “I believe.”
These moments of joyful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Last year's spiced nuts.

'Tis the season, as you've doubtless heard. I've spent the better part of this weekend in the kitchen, making all the cookies and treats I make every year -- including the spiced pecans I wrote about last year. Go check it out, if you missed it; I posted the recipe and everything.

As you can see, the recipe calls for a pound of nuts, but I always give so many away that we don't have a lot left over for us. So last year, I bought two pounds of nuts, fully intending to make a second batch in time for Yule. Or maybe New Year's. I forget which.

Now here is where I need to mention that I have developed a habit, honed by many years in journalism, of working best on deadline. That's one of the reasons I like NaNoWriMo -- it imposes a deadline on me, however arbitrary, to draft a novel in thirty days. As a corollary, I am the sort of person who wants to do the thing and be done with it -- and so the thing I'm doing had better have tangible results. Cleaning the house, for example, is not something I'm good at keeping up with; I don't see the point of dusting unless there's enough dust on the coffee table to write my name in it.

So I set deadlines for myself. Draft a novel in some random thirty-day period? I'm in. Cookies have to be delivered on Monday, before everyone leaves for the holidays? I'll be in the kitchen all weekend. But buy an extra pound of pecans with the intention of making them this week, or maybe next week? Yeah, not so much.

All year, I've been looking at those pecans in the pantry, fully intending to make them into spiced nuts. At one point I tried to get one of my daughters to make them. Didn't work. There those pecans continued to sit, silently judging me.

Last month, I even pulled out the recipe and sat it on the kitchen counter with the pecans on top, figuring I'd be annoyed enough by them being in the way to make them for Thanksgiving. Didn't happen.

Last year's nut on the left; this year's on the right.
Finally, this weekend, it was time once again to make holiday treats. I couldn't bring myself to give away last year's nuts as gifts, so I bought a pound of new pecans. But I couldn't just throw away last year's nuts! And I could hardly make the new ones before using up the old ones. So yesterday morning, on deadline, I made last year's pecans into spiced nuts, just for us. Then this morning, I made a batch of spiced nuts from the new pecans.

The two batches look the same, if you ask me. You can judge for yourself in the photo. And last year's nuts taste fine, I think.

The best part is that "make spiced nuts" is off my to-do list for another year. I can't tell you how relieved I am. Maybe now I can get around to dusting.

***
But first, I've got a little something planned for members of my Woo-Woo Team later this week. I'll be doing a live video in our closed Facebook group on Wednesday the 20th at 9:00pm Eastern time (or, y'know, thereabouts) with a new little story about Sage and Webb. I've been inspired by my daughter Kat, who sends her friends and fans holiday cards every year with a ficlet -- a story of less than 1,000 words -- enclosed. Rather than sending mine through the mail, you get to watch me read it.

You say you're not a member? I can fix that! Go to the Woo-Woo Team page here and ask to be let in. Even if you can't make the live broadcast, the video will be there for your viewing pleasure later.

(And yes, I've set myself a deadline so I will actually write the thing.)

Talk to you on Wednesday.

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The age gap (maybe) in attitudes toward sexual harassment.

surdumihail | Pixabay | CC0
It has ever been thus: Older folks say they can't understand why teens and twentysomethings like this or that, or believe this or that -- and the young folks think the oldsters are hopelessly behind the times. When I was a kid, the arguments were mostly over hair ("long-haired hippie commie fags!!!") and music ("it's all just noise!!!"). The generations also fought over the Vietnam War, which the World War II vets expected the kids to fight in without complaint, and to which the kids replied, "Hell no, we won't go!"

Today, the topics have changed a little, but now the Baby Boomers are the old farts, and it's the Millennials who think we're hopelessly out of date.

Take this article from Mashable that came across my Facebook feed earlier today: "Women over 50 see sexual harassment very differently than millennials". Judging by the author's photo, she's a young woman, maybe in her late 20s or early 30s. She's also based in the UK, which may or may not have anything to do with the thesis of her article, in which she claims women over the age of 50 are much more forgiving of men's behavior than younger women are.

The author's sample size is admittedly small; it appears she mostly talked to friends of her mother's in rural England. And she may be making more of this than it deserves. The article cites a British government study of attitudes, which found, among other things: "Wolf-whistling proved to be the most divisive behaviour, with 74 percent of 18-24 year olds, and 59 percent of 25-39 year olds considering it inappropriate. But, four in 10 women over 55 say wolf-whistling is acceptable, and 27 percent even said it was flattering." So 60 percent of women over 55 think wolf whistles are unacceptable -- roughly the same as the 25-to-39-year-old respondents. That's not exactly a groundswell of support for whistlers.

But the author is right that the attitude is out there. Just as some men are having trouble parsing this brave new world, where it turns out behaviors they thought were flirtatious aren't, some women -- mostly older -- are more willing to cut men some slack. I'm thinking of the flap over the holiday duet "Baby It's Cold Outside." To modern ears, it sounds like the man is trying to persuade the woman to have sex with him, and when she sings, "What's in this drink?" it sounds like a precursor to date rape. In the '40s when the song first came out, though, the reading was very different; the song's defenders say the woman was trying to figure out a way to stay and have a drink with the guy without ruining her reputation. Personally, I think if a holiday ditty needs to be accompanied by a short course on How Times Have Changed, it's probably time to retire it. But maybe that's me.

A number of holiday movies haven't exactly stood the test of time, either. My all-time favorite Christmas movie is "White Christmas" -- even though when I watch it now, it makes me wince. All the showgirls are dumb blondes, and the point of the plot is to get everybody married off. At least Rosemary Clooney stands up to Bing Crosby, I guess, even though (spoiler alert!) it turns out it's all a big misunderstanding.

In any case, I think if you're going to set a cut-off age for women who have more lenient attitudes toward male behavior, then 50 isn't old enough. A whole lot of women in their 50s today have been working their whole adult lives, and are very clear about what constitutes sexual harassment. Even 60 is too low. Maybe 65 or 70.

Some folks are wondering whether we won't swing too far in the opposite direction, to the point where touching a member of the opposite sex in any way could be construed as harassment. That's all-or-nothing thinking, and worries along those lines generally turn out to be overblown.

I agree that these are uncertain times. However, things have been bad for women for a very long time. There's that old saying that power corrupts, and men -- generally white men -- have been in control of our society for decades. Now women are emboldened to stand up for themselves and expect their complaints to be taken seriously. It's not just about getting married anymore. And men who have believed wolf whistles -- or worse -- were the best way to get a girl's attention are going to have to clean up their acts.

***
Sorry about the problem with the photos last week. Now that I'm home, I've fixed those broken links. You're welcome.

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


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Finding wonder.

I guess I hit a nerve last week with my post on forgiveness, although in the end I'm not sure whether it was my nerve or everyone else's. In any case, I'm going with a less fraught topic (I hope!) this week.

I turn 60 this coming week, which means I'm nearing the end of my second Saturn return. In astrology, your Saturn return is the year or years in which Saturn returns to the astrological sign it was in when you were born. It happens every 30 years, more or less. So most of us will get two Saturn returns in a lifetime, and some of us lucky humans will be graced with a third.

As I understand it, if you didn't solve some of the stuff you were supposed to work on during your first Saturn return, that stuff comes back to smack you upside the head and force you to deal with it during your second. Knowing that, I can see it's no accident that I wrote the Transcendence books this year.

Anyway, it occurred to me the other day that one thing that's been missing from my life lately is a sense of joy and wonder. Particularly when you've been doing the same thing for as long as I have, it's easy to fall into the habit of trudging from one workaday care to the next, without finding joy in any of it. So this week, I am in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a sort of birthday-week retreat. And on the plane out here, I found myself wishing for a little wonder.

After I checked into the hotel yesterday, I strolled down to the central plaza, as one does when in Santa Fe, in search of dinner. What I found -- as you can see -- was wonder. So much wonder that I went back tonight. Enjoy.


All photos copyright Lynne Cantwell


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


Sunday, November 26, 2017

On forgiveness.

I'm just going to come right out and say it: I do not get this idea that we should all forgive the people who have wronged us.

Before I go any further, I guess I should remind y'all that my thoughts -- on this topic as well as on many others -- do not mirror the traditional Judeo-Christian mindset. I'm Pagan. Pagans don't believe in original sin, and we don't believe we have inherently fallen short of perfection. Or rather, we know we're not perfect -- we're all human, and humans aren't perfect. But we don't feel the need to beat ourselves up over it.

John Beckett, who blogs at Patheos Pagan, wrote a post this week about what redemption means to Pagans. He covers the points above (better than I could, to be honest), and goes on to talk about the Pagan concept of repentance and forgiveness. Basically, repentance involves not just apologizing, but being sincere about it -- no excuses and no qualifiers. You need to acknowledge that you've hurt the other person, whether intentionally or not, and that you're sorry for what you did. And then you need to fix it, to the extent possible. That's how you redeem yourself. That's how you regain your honor.

By the same token, if you've hurt someone, that person does not owe you forgiveness. They may choose to forgive you or they may not. They may never get over being hurt. And they don't have to forgive you, no matter how desperately you need it or how much you think you deserve it.

Contrast that with the popular idea that we should all forgive those who have transgressed against us, regardless of whether the transgressor is sorry, or has apologized, or intends to ever try to make it right. Refusing to forgive, we're told, cedes real estate in our heads to this person. We'd feel better, we're told, if we just let it go. We don't have to forget the transgression, but we do need to forgive the person who committed it. The transgressor doesn't even need to know what we're going through; for example, we can write them a letter and not send it.

I'm sorry, but what the actual fuck? How does this solve anything?

I agree that holding a grudge is unhealthy. Anger held for too long turns to bitterness, and bitterness will poison your outlook on life. And by the same token, seeking revenge is an exercise in stupidity.

But if some creep has hurt you, you're supposed to give him a pass? And that will make you feel better? How does that work, exactly?

I suspect this is resonating with me because of all the women, and some men, who have been coming forward lately to say they were sexually harassed and/or abused by powerful men. As some of you know, I've spent my life dealing with the fallout from emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of a family member. Should we all just forgive our abusers? Just to, you know, regain that real estate in our brains? How has that worked out for women in general over the past several centuries?

The rest of y'all can go on forgiving willy-nilly if you want. As for me, I forgive only the people who deserve it. That's how I keep my honor.

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Here comes Advent -- and it's gonna be expensive.


Today, I spent $150 on an Advent calendar.

Not the mittens. I made those several years ago -- knitted them out of 100% acrylic yarn that I happened to have on hand. Those tiny mittens will still be around when the sun goes supernova. And they were cheap!

No, the thing I bought today is a cleverly-packaged knitting project called a Craftvent Calendar. The box has 24 drawers, and each drawer holds a thing I will need to create a knitted shawl: needles, notions, yarn, and the directions. I'm hoping the directions are in drawer number 1 -- although since the project is billed as a knit-along, the pattern will probably be parceled out in chunks over the course of the month.

The thing is, I have no business buying an Advent calendar of any sort. I'm Neopagan, as you may recall, and Advent calendars are a Christian thing. The practice began among Lutherans in the 19th century, according to Wikipedia, and the idea was to mark the passage of time between the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and the day itself. The first commercial Advent calendars, though, marked the days from December 1 to Christmas Eve. They were cardboard and had little numbered doors that you opened each day to see a scene; the door number 24 would reveal either Jesus in the manger or Santa Claus.

Since then, the idea has morphed. Mutated. Grown into a monster. Oh sure, you can still get the cardboard variety, as well as the kind with a little piece of not-very-good chocolate behind each door. But there's more -- oh, so much more!

For less than $50, you can get a Lego Advent calendar -- and as every parent who has ever stepped on a Lego knows, they are the gift that keeps on giving. But adults have lots of less painful options. For example, the Body Shop sells an Advent calendar for $105 that features not only cosmetics, but "a feel-good action to complete every day" and, inexplicably, a bunny-eared headband. On a more serious note, Anthropologie offers a box of 24 little bottles of personal care products for $170. And booze sellers have also gotten in on the act. The Master of Malt website has been selling a Very Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar (in walnut or ebony -- your choice) for upwards of $11,000. I say "has been" because, alas, they are sold out.

It's gotten so bad that clergy in the U.K. are warning about the dangers of consumerism -- not just on Christmas, but while counting the days leading up to the Big Day, too.

I feel like Exhibit A. We observe Yule, which falls on the winter solstice, anywhere from the 20th to the 22nd of December. Traditional Advent calendars overshoot our holiday. In fact, I made the mittens so that we could easily adjust the countdown for the year in question.

But after the mini-tour of excess I just undertook to write this post, I'm feeling better about that Craftvent Calendar. I'd rather have a new shawl in January than a bunny-eared headband anyhow.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Why my dad hated All in the Family.

I ran across an article on Politico today called, "Why Won't TV Show People Who Aren't Rich?" You may have seen it, too, when I shared it on Facebook earlier today (although probably not -- thanks for the lame organic reach, Facebook). The upshot of the article is that shows like ABC's "The Middle" -- which features a middle-class family and which is now in its final season -- are few and far between. The author of the piece, Joanna Weiss, goes on to lament that so few TV shows feature middle-class families these days. She says it's particularly sad because the gulf between haves and have-nots in this country is widening by the day.

Weiss says it would be useful for TV to feature more characters who live on the economic edge because it would help us "coastal elites" understand what the folks in the middle of the country are going through. But there's no guarantee people would watch it -- and I'm not just talking about folks on the coast.

The top-rated show in the 1970s was "All in the Family." Produced by Norman Lear, its main characters were middle-class -- maybe even working-class. Archie Bunker was the old-fashioned, Republican, opinionated patriarch; his wife Edith was a homemaker and kind of dim; their daughter Gloria was the apple of her parents' eye, and then she married a long-haired liberal named Mike Stivic. Lear himself is a liberal, and his political leanings were obvious. Archie and Edith were played for laughs. Archie regularly gave Mike a hard time -- his favorite nickname for him was "Meathead" -- but it was pretty clear that Mike's ideas weren't all that terrible and that Archie was objecting simply because he didn't like the source.

My father had a lot in common with Archie Bunker -- he was a working-class Republican and not very well educated -- and he wouldn't watch the show. He didn't like it, he said. He didn't think it was funny. To almost everyone else in America, "All in the Family" was a microcosm of what was going on in the country in the '70s: the old, conservative guard being upstaged by long-haired youngsters. It allowed us to laugh at ourselves. But I think for my father, it felt like people were laughing at him.

Entertainment allows us to escape from our daily cares. TV shows today feature the rich, or at least the financially secure, for a number of reasons, but chief among them is ratings. These shows draw a lot of eyeballs precisely, I think, because they offer financially unstable Americans an escape from their problems. The respite doesn't last, of course, but the fact that the shows only make viewers more miserable in the long run doesn't matter to TV producers. They're only in it for the money.

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

That post-conference high.

I came home with a reading list...
It happens to me every November. I leave town for a writing conference for a few days, and come home all fired up about writing more books and, uh, somewhat less than fired up about returning to real life.

You're hearing from me a day late this week because last night -- or more accurately, very early this morning -- I came home from three days at the 20 Books to 50K conference in Las Vegas. It was my first time in Vegas, and it was both more and less than I expected it to be. But I'll leave the impressions of my trip for another time. Tonight I'd like to talk a little bit about what this conference is all about, and why I skipped this year's World Fantasy Convention to attend.

The conference name is somewhat self-explanatory: the idea is that if you write books in a popular genre and market them properly, you can expect to be making $50,000 a year by the time you've published 20 books. As someone who has just released her 18th book, I found the concept intriguing.

And as an indie author, I was getting less and less out of attending the World Fantasy Convention. It's a meetup for professionals, mostly, who either are chasing a contract with a traditional publisher or who already have one. So while the panels are often interesting and give me food for thought for my own writing, the emphasis behind the scenes is on schmoozing with editors and agents, neither of which -- as an indie -- I'm interested in.

Anyway. I didn't go into the 50 Books conference knowing much beyond what I explained above. What I was hoping for was a blueprint for how the indies who are making money at their craft got where they are. While I didn't get a straightforward answer, as the weekend progressed I got closer to the Big Picture.

First, you need to publish a lot of books each year, and for that you need to write fast. There were several presentations on methods for outlining a book, because it's quicker to write a story when you know where you're going with it. You also need to create characters who readers will fall in love with and want to read more about. Then your cover needs to fit in with others in your genre, your blurb needs to be well crafted, and your book itself needs to be professionally edited.

Next, you need to market it well, and for most authors these days, that means shelling out for advertising. There were several presentations on developing advertising campaigns for both Facebook and Amazon (and I bought books on those subjects written by Michael Cooper and Brian Meeks, two of the presenters at the conference). Another presentation talked about the strategy of doing a rapid release: you release four books, one each week, for four weeks straight. That takes an enormous amount of planning ahead, both for advertising buys and for writing time. But with four titles out at once, they work together to boost you up the sales lists at Amazon -- and the more books you sell, the more money you make.

Some of these concepts were new to me, but some are things we've been talking about at Indies Unlimited for years. (K.S. Brooks and I literally cheered when one of the presenters said his first question about any book cover is how it looks in thumbnail size.)

To sum up, organizers Craig Martell and Michael Anderle did a bang-up job pulling the conference together. And I'm going to be doing a lot of thinking over the next few weeks about how best to deploy some of these strategies next year. Stay tuned...

***
Just before I left for Vegas, I pushed the "publish" button on Maggie at Moonrise. With that, the Transcendence trilogy is complete. I'll pull together an omnibus version pretty soon, but in the meantime, enjoy the new book -- and thanks in advance to those of you who have already bought a copy. You're my new best friends.

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Contest winners, and happy Day of the Dead!

Thanks to everybody who entered the Rafflecopter for Maggie at Moonrise. We'll get to the announcement of the winners in a minute, but first I wanted to talk about what inspired me to include so many Day of the Dead-themed prizes. I mean, of course it's coming up this week, and Maggie does go to Mexico in this book. But I really like the spirit (pun possibly intended) behind the holiday.

That noted reference work, Wikipedia, says Día de los Muertos -- or more properly, Día de Muertos -- originates in an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. Then it began in early August and lasted an entire month. But it was strictly a central and southern Mexican thing for hundreds of years. Día de los Muertos wasn't celebrated at all in northern Mexico until the 20th century, as Native cultures there had different traditions. Since the Mexican government made it a national holiday in the 1960s, though, it has spread throughout the country and around the world. It's even on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Today, the Day of the Dead is a three-day festival, wrapping in the Catholic observance of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. At mexicansugarskull.com, it says: "[Indigenous Mexicans] believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them."

Old Town San Diego, 2011 | Lynne Cantwell
Families honor their dead by building ofrendas, or altars, at home. The ofrendas feature candles, marigolds, crepe paper decorations, sugar skulls, and photos of their deceased relatives. They leave toys and candy on the altar for spirits of children, and cigarettes and booze for adults. They also leave food on the altar, including pan de muerto, or bread for the dead. On November 2nd, everybody goes to the graveyard to have a picnic. There's music and card-playing, and folks clean their relatives' graves and reminisce about them. It's family-centered and fun.

Contrast that with Halloween, which was originally designed not to celebrate the dead, but to keep them from haunting the living. Although the idea behind the Day of the Dead is to keep the ancestors happy so the family's luck won't turn. So maybe they're not that different, after all.

Speaking of luck, here are the winners from the Maggie at Moonrise launch giveaway:

Great Goddess pillow cover and $10 Amazon gift card: Illume Eltanin
Sugar skull silicone mold: Will Griesmer
Sugar skull tiny trays (5 winners): Sharon Starns, Ashly Haraf, Amanda Whitley, Shirley Shepherd, Brian Lepak

Congrats, everyone! I'll contact you by email about mailing your prizes to you. Thanks to everyone for playing.

***
Maggie at Moonrise will indeed be released for Kindle this week, on Wednesday, November 2nd. I'm hoping to have the paperback out at the same time, but it may be next week. I'll keep you posted.

If you'd like a preview of Maggie's road trip, I've posted photos of her stops on a Pinterest board. Go here to see 'em: https://www.pinterest.com/lynnecantwell/maggies-road-trip/

***
These moments of festive blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Happy Halloween! ¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Great Goddess! It's a giveaway!

Thomas Aleto | CC 2.0 | commons.wikimedia.org
The greatest joy for me of falling down a research rabbit hole is learning new stuff. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I didn't know much of anything about the ancient city of Teotihuacán, near Mexico City, until I started doing research for Maggie at Moonrise -- and I knew less than nothing about the Teotihuacano pantheon, even though it's the basis for some Aztec beliefs.

Discoveries are ongoing at Teotihuacán (just as they are at Cahokia and any number of other ancient sites around the world). Of course, historically, most archaeologists were male. So it may not come as a surprise to you that until a few decades back, the accepted wisdom was that the Teotihuacanos' top deity was male -- a storm god nicknamed Tlaloc, the Aztecs' name for their rain god. Then in 1974 or so, a couple of researchers noticed that quite a few images of this god wore a skirt. In short order, pre-Tlaloc was deposed as the top dog, and the Great Goddess assumed Her rightful place at the head of the Teotihuacán pantheon.

The Great Goddess is both a Creator and a Destroyer. As you can see above, in this photo of a recreation of a mural at Tepantitla, the Great Goddess sports a headdress from which the Tree of Life grows. She is linked to jaguars, owls -- in this mural She's wearing an owl mask -- and spiders. In some depictions, She has spider-like mouthparts; here you can see the spiders dangling from the tree on Her head. She gives the gift of water, which cascades from Her hands in this photo. But She's also linked to darkness and the underworld (owls and spiders live in the dark), as well as to war. And She's sometimes called the Spider Woman of Teotihuacán, linking Her to the Spider Woman of the Navajo.

You've probably figured out by now that the Great Goddess shows up in Maggie at Moonrise. Yes, that's the cover on the right. I'm confident that I'll have this book out by November 1st, so I thought I'd get a little excitement going by doing another giveaway.

One of the prizes is a pillow cover that depicts the Great Goddess of Teotihuacán. The cover fits a 16" x 16" pillow. In case you don't have one, I'm throwing in a $10 Amazon giftcard so you can buy one yourself (or, heck, whatever you want).

The other prizes are Day-of-the-Dead-themed, as it's a Mexican holiday and we're coming up on it. There's a silicon sugar-skull mold, which I guess you could use for candy or mini-muffins -- I've used mine for ice cubes -- and some small sugar-skull trays, one to a winner. Each tray is about 2" x 3". They're labeled as not safe for food use, but you could put a tealight on it. Or a little bar of soap. Or whatever.

So that's it: One contest, seven winners. The contest runs until 6pm Sunday, October 29 -- but enter now, so you don't forget. The hearth/myth rules still stand:

1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
2. Winners of previous contests may win again.
3. There will be a winner. I am getting this stuff out of my house, one way or the other.
4. As always, the judge's decision is arbitrary, capricious, and final.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gone hiking.



As I mentioned last week, hearth/myth is taking this week off. See you back here next week -- same bat time, same bat channel. (Oooh -- was that a Halloween reference? Come back next week and find out!)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Curmudgeon's Corner: English is hard.

jmawork | flickr.com | CC 2.0
A couple of days ago, I was sitting in a fast-casual restaurant about a block from the White House, having lunch with my daughter Amy, when I happened to notice the way the restaurant's hours of operation were written on the front door.

"10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday," it said.

I took it calmly. But two days later, I'm still annoyed.

You see, there's everyday and then there's every day. They mean different things. Everyday is a synonym for common or ordinary. It's used as a modifier: An everyday occurrence, for example. Or: The party was not formal, so she wore her everyday shoes.

Every day, on the other hand, means the same thing as daily. For example: This restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. every day.

Of course, I complained about it on Facebook when I got back to work. And someone tried to pass it off as the fault of Twitter, everyday having one less character. But I'm pretty sure I've seen the mistake for longer than Twitter has been a thing.

Personally, I believe we can blame it, at least partially, on a charming educational practice that was popular some years back that was supposed to encourage kids to write without bogging them down with rules. These little kids were told to write words any way however they sounded, or however they thought they were spelled. But rules in writing have a point. The idea of written communication -- of any communication -- is to get your point across to others. Whimsical spelling and grammar aren't going to help the other person understand what you're saying. (And eventually the kids had to learn the rules anyway -- why not start them out right, so they don't have to unlearn bad habits?)

Granted, losing a space between every and day is not that big a deal. I mean, I understood what the sign was trying to say. But the words mean different things. Sure, we could just make everyday the standard and have it mean both things, and maybe that's where the language is headed, but I'd appreciate it if we could try not to hasten it along.

And while I'm on my soapbox: What has happened to the past tense in this country? I keep hearing about how football players kneeled during the national anthem. The word is knelt, isn't it? She knelt before the casket? He knelt before the queen to be knighted?

Now that I'm looking into it, Grammar Girl said back in 2013 that knelt ws giving way to kneeled, and it's happening more quickly in the U.S. than in the U.K. Maybe it's finished making the transition over the past four years, in the most sneaking, dirty, underhanded way...

Hmm. Maybe I need a vacation.

In fact, I believe I'll take one. Here's your formal notice that hearth/myth will be on hiatus next week, while my editors and I retreat to the mountains of southern West Virginia. When I'm back on the 22nd, I hope to have publishing news about Maggie at Moonrise -- and maybe another contest, while we're at it.

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These moments of everyday blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell -- who was not kneeling at the time.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

CBS milks the Star Trek cash cow.

I'm almost never an early adopter, but I booted cable TV as soon as I could. At one point, we had a service whose name I won't mention (but whose initials are Cox Cable) that would periodically send us a letter that said, "Good news! We always strive to bring you the best in cable programming, so we're happy to tell you that we've added one/two/three new channels to your cable lineup! Of course, extra services cost money, so we are raising your rates by a dollar a month..." The new channels were almost never anything I was interested in, either. Thanks for nothing.

I always wished that I could fully customize my cable subscription so that I was paying only for the channels I wanted to watch: local channels, PBS, CNN, the Weather Channel, maybe a couple of movie channels, and that would pretty much be it.

Yeah, well, be careful what you wish for. The future is here, and it's not nearly as cost-effective as I thought it would be.

Last week, we started watching CBS's newest entry in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek: Discovery. By the time we got around to it, the first two episodes (of 15) were already out. It's a good show so far -- not in the same league as Gene Roddenberry's original shows, with their optimistic and altruistic worldview, but good. The main character is Michael Burnham, a human woman who was raised on Vulcan, rises in Starfleet to the position of First Officer, and then gets court-martialed for mutiny.

What interests me here is how CBS is handling the show: Only the first episode was shown on the over-the-air network. To see the remaining 14 episodes, you have to sign up for CBS All Access, the network's three-year-old streaming service. You get the first week free, but then it's $5.99 per month if you don't mind seeing a few commercials, or $9.99 per month if you want your programming commercial-free.

Say you're a confirmed Trekkie and you couldn't wait to see this new Star Trek show. So you watched the first show for free -- and it's basically part one of two. It ends on a cliffhanger. So you signed up for the free week of streaming, because why wouldn't you want to see how the cliffhanger turns out? But when you watched the second episode, you discovered the first two shows are Michael Burnham's backstory, and the real story doesn't get going until episode three. So now you're in for either six bucks or ten for at least one month, and probably four in order to watch the whole series.

It's an interesting marketing approach, and seems designed mainly to drive viewers to All Access. CBS isn't making many fans with this programming decision, but it seems to be working: the initial showing of episode 2 gave All Access its best day ever. It's unclear whether fans will continue to pay for exclusive content like this, when they're already shelling out for Netflix, Hulu, and other on-demand channels. For viewers who prefer to binge-watch TV seasons, it may not play well. But for those of us who grew up with old-style over-the-air TV, waiting a week to see a new episode feels very familiar. And there's one saving grace with streaming: You'll never miss the first five minutes of your show.

I just wish it didn't cost so much.

***
Remember last week, when I said I might be done with the first draft of Maggie at Moonrise by tonight? Well, I made it. In fact, I finished the first draft last night. It's about 57,000 words, which is a little bit longer than the previous two books in the series, and the tone is lighter than the other two books. I'm hopeful for a release around the end of October, but don't quote me.

***
These moments of TV-inspired blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Engage!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Down the research rabbit hole we go.

One of these days, I'm going to finish the research for a book before I start writing the first draft. I used to be really good at that. Not so much any more.

One problem is that I'm starting to run out of locations I've lived in. Even places I've visited and liked well enough to set a story there are getting thin on the ground. So I have to rely more on research for details about the places where I want to set the story. Take the book I'm writing now -- Maggie at Moonrise

By the way, I need to clarify something. I've been calling this third book of the Transcendence trilogy Maggie in Moonlight, and I realized the other day that's wrong. My original concept was to show, with the titles, something of the progress Maggie makes in her journey from a woman with a lot of baggage to someone who's capable of renewing the Earth. At Moonrise fits the concept better -- and it's actually the title I intended to use to start with. So henceforth, Book 3 shall be known as Maggie at Moonrise.

Anyway, I knew that in this book, Maggie was going to need to hit the road to see two of her children: Emily, who lives in the Los Angeles area; and Tim, who lives in Mexico City. The trouble is that I have very little acquaintance with either locale. I've been in L.A. exactly twice. The first time, I was in high school and on vacation with my parents. We drove up from San Diego and stayed in an RV park that had orange trees at every campsite -- pretty exotic for a family from Indiana. It wasn't until the next day -- a Sunday -- that I realized we'd stayed across the freeway from Disneyland, and moreover, my father didn't intend to stop there. He wanted to get through L.A. as quickly as possible, and on a Sunday morning when traffic would be light. But c'mon, Disneyland!

My father's been dead for more than 30 years, and yes, I'm still holding this against him.

My second trip to L.A. was when my friend Kim lived in near Santa Barbara. Unfamiliar with L.A. sprawl as I was, I assumed that if I flew into LAX on a Friday, she could come and pick me up, drive back to her place, and we'd have a lovely weekend before she drove me back to catch my flight home on Sunday. Yeah, no. It turned out out it's three hours one-way from her house to LAX, and she was not willing to spend twelve hours on the road in the space of three days. So we got a hotel room near the airport, did the Getty Museum, and went to Redondo Beach. She still gives me a hard time about my 36-hour trip to L.A.

Anyway, I basically had no idea about where anything was in L.A., so I put out a call for information on Facebook. Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions and set me straight on my misconceptions.

Mexico City was another challenge. I minored in Spanish as an undergrad, but I was more interested in Spain at the time -- so although I knew bits and pieces about Mexico, there was a lot I didn't know. In addition, ancient Native cultures are a big thing in this series, and while I'd learned something about the Aztec pantheon to flesh out the character of Jack Rivers in the Pipe Woman Chronicles, I'm reaching farther back for Maggie's story -- to Teotihuacán.

Creative Commons
Like ancient sites around the world, from Stonehenge to Cahokia to the Newark Earthworks, no one knows who built Teotihuacán. Construction on the pyramids began around 200 BCE, and eventually the city was home to 125,000 people. It was sacked and burned around 550 CE, and abandoned about a hundred years after that. Centuries later, when the Aztecs stumbled across the ruins, they considered Teotihuacán sacred -- maybe built by giants. They adopted many of the gods and their imagery from the site and incorporated them into their own bloody religion.

Teotihuacán is now a national archaeological site -- and as at Cahokia, new discoveries are still being made there today. And now that I've done so much reading about Teotihuacán, I'm putting it on my bucket list. But unlike Maggie, I am not even thinking of driving there.

***
Speaking of Maggie at Moonrise, I'm making good progress on the first draft. I'm about 45,000 words in. This one is likely to be a tad longer than my usual 50,000 words -- I have about four important scenes left to write. But I'm still hopeful that I'll have it done by the first or second of October. Maybe by this time next week, I'll be able to call it done. 

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

How the Equifax debacle reminds me of traditional publishing.

gagnonm1993 | Pixabay

Y'all already know my brain makes weird connections, so I'm not gonna apologize for this post.

By now, I'm sure you've heard about the Equifax hack (sorry about the paywall). The credit bureau -- one of three that aggregate consumers' credit histories so that businesses can deem us worthy of a new loan -- was hacked earlier this year, sometime between mid-may and the end of June. The breach was not announced, however, until last week (giving two of the company's top executives plenty of time to unload some of their stock, but I digress). The hackers gained access to confidential information belonging to 143 million Americans -- including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, and birth dates. They also lifted credit card information belonging to about 200,000 consumers. Several hundred thousand people in the UK are also affected by the breach.

The hackers got in by exploiting a security flaw in an open-source software package called Apache Struts. The manufacturer had released a patch for in March, but Equifax hadn't bothered to install it. Two of the company's executives -- the chief information officer and chief security officer -- are already gone.

When people got upset about it, Equifax's reaction was not exactly helpful. For starters, their handy-dandy "how to check if the hack exposed your security info" site asked for more security info than people commonly have to hand over to anybody. Coming from a company that had already proven itself incapable of keeping consumer information secure, the request seemed clueless at best. Then, for those affected, Equifax generously offered a year of free credit monitoring -- and were happy to take the opportunity to offer the paid version to everyone else.

This lack of concern for consumers has been annoying for years, but the hack has raised it to DEFCON 1. It's particularly galling that we, as consumers, have almost no control over the information these companies have on us. We can't even choose whether to do business with a particular credit bureau -- or with none of them.

But Equifax's point of view is understandable if you squint just right. We're not the customers of any credit bureau. The businesses that buy our credit reports from them are their customers. We're the content. We're the data.

So what's the connection to publishing, you ask? Well, readers have always considered ourselves consumers of books. So we could be excused for thinking we were the publishing industry's ultimate customers. After all, publishers want to put out books we want to read, right? So that makes us the most important player in the transaction, right?

Um, no. Publishers don't sell their books to us -- they sell them to bookstores. Now, bookstores do sell to readers. But the big stores don't see us as individuals. I mean, Amazon sends me an email (or two! or three!) every day with things they think I might be interested in buying, but it's all computerized. It's not like friendly Mr. Bookseller down the street, who would set aside a copy of an author's new book because we had a lovely conversation about the last one by that author. It's Amazon's algorithm telling Amazon's email client to suggest a bunch of stuff to me because I'd searched for something similar on the web.

Bookstores are the publishers' clients. Readers are the data.

Like the Wicked Witch of the West once said, "Oh, what a world! What a world!"

***
In case you missed it, I've been featured by Fiona Mcvie at Author Interviews. I haven't done an interview in quite a while, and this one was fun. Thanks again to Fiona for hosting me.

Work on Maggie in Moonlight continues apace, although not as quickly as I'd hoped. I keep falling down research rabbit holes (more on that next week). However, I'm still on track to finish the first draft by the end of this month, although that may slop over into the following weekend. Stay tuned!

***

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hats off to intrepid journalists.

I've had my head down in the first draft of Maggie in Moonlight all weekend (which is at just about 22,000 words right now, thanks for asking), while most of the United States has been watching the progress of Hurricane Irma, our second major hurricane this year. Irma follows Harvey, which caused massive damage to southeast Texas just a couple of weeks ago. Still mostly offstage is Hurricane Jose, which forecasters now say will probably meander off the East Coast for most of this week.

At the same time as these storms are drawing a bead on the southeastern United States, much of the West is either battling wildfires or coughing from their smoke.

As often happens, many folks are fighting their anxiety with gallows humor, liberally laced with references to the End Times. I spoke to a friend in Michigan the other day. She was saying how her state looks like a pretty good place to live right now, and I said, "Don't get complacent. You guys are on deck for the boils."

Among those who employ gallows humor are journalists, because they're so often in the thick of things, and sometimes humor is the only thing that will get you through a horrific event. I remembered earlier today that I wrote about a news network's hurricane coverage in Undertow, the middle book in the Land, Sea, Sky trilogy. This book is one of my favorites. So in lieu of a post, I'm presenting to you the planning meeting where Tess Showalter, investigative reporter for the New America News Network, volunteers to help cover Hurricane Hubert in 2023.

***
The air in the newsroom felt even more frantic than usual. More people than just the standard weekend crew were bustling around. Every so often, someone would stop and stare at the monitors at the producer’s desk; then they would walk away, shaking their heads.

Tess made her way around the desk to see the monitor. One look, and she knew exactly what was making everyone pop-eyed.

“Is that the hurricane?” she asked, even though she knew the answer.

“Oh, hi, Tess!” said Schuyler, who had stopped next to her. “Yep, that’s Hurricane Hubert.”

“Somebody drew that thing, right?” she said. “It can’t be real.” The ring of clouds was very nearly a perfect circle, with what appeared to be a small, round hole in the center.

“Oh, it’s real, all right,” the producer on duty said. “It’s the biggest storm to hit the U.S. since Katrina in ‘05. Or will be, if it makes landfall here.”

“Do we know where it’s headed yet?” Schuyler asked.

One of the writers popped her head up over the console. “It’s still pretty far out to sea. NOAA says it looks like it’s heading for the Caribbean right now. But it could always turn and make a run up the coast.”

The producer punched up a graphic from the NOAA website. “Here’s one scenario.”

Tess gasped. “We’re right in its path.”

“Nah,” Schuyler said. “If it makes landfall south of here, it’ll break up a lot before it gets to D.C. We’d get a ton of wind and rain, but nothing like the lashing those poor suckers at landfall will get.” He glanced at the producer. “Have we sent any crews out yet?”

The man hooked a thumb down the hall. “Ash and Antonia are setting it up now.”

Tess and Schuyler traded a look, and took off together for Antonia’s office.

“Tess!” Antonia called as soon as she spied them through her open door. “I’m glad you’re here. I was just about to call you at home. Hello, Schuyler.”

“Hiya, boss lady,” Schuyler said, perching on an end table. Seats were at a premium; Gil, Antonia’s producer, and Ashton, the newsroom manager, had commandeered the guest chairs, and all the unit producers were crowded onto the couch. Tess took a seat on the arm of the couch next to her producer, Tracie.

Ashton was running down a list of personnel on his tablet. “As far as stringers are concerned, I’ve contacted Boz Jaegers in Houston and Ebony Jackson in New Orleans.” At Antonia’s nod, he went on, “And on the Atlantic side, we’ve lined up somebody in Charleston.”

“The same one we had last time?” Gil asked. “Fred Michaels? He was good.”

“He was,” Ashton agreed. “We need to think about bringing him on board permanently, if he’s as good this time.” He looked at Antonia.

“Noted,” she said. “Let’s see how he does, and then I’ll see if there’s room in the budget. What about Florida?”

“I want to send Heela Shahin to Miami and Stu Levinson to Jacksonville,” Ashton said. He nodded to their respective producers. “That should cover the Atlantic side of the state, if Hubert takes a right turn. And if not, they can both get across to the gulf side pretty quickly.”

“So Heela in Miami, Stu in Jacksonville, Fred Michaels in Charleston….” Antonia was ticking them off on her fingers. “We need somebody at Hatteras.”

“Jeff Donohoe,” Ashton said, as if it were obvious. His suggestion met with groans of approval. The joke was that if there was a street sign in the path of a hurricane anywhere on the East Coast, you could count on Jeff to do a live shot hanging from it sideways.

Antonia’s lips twitched. “Of course,” she said dryly. “I don’t know what possessed me to ask. And in Virginia Beach?”

“We’ll go,” Tess said. In response, Morrigan’s crows raised a ruckus in her head. Ashton simply shrugged and typed her name in.

Antonia shot her a what the hell? look. Tess gave her what she hoped was an I’ll tell you later look.

A few minutes later, the meeting broke up. “I’ll go and see about travel arrangements for us,” Tracie said. “Hotel rooms ought to be easy to get. They’ll have a bunch of cancellations as soon as people get a load of the weather forecast.”

“I hope you guys aren’t mad that I volunteered us,” Tess said.

“Are you kidding?” Schuyler crowed. “You picked the best possible place. Hurricanes almost never come ashore at Virginia Beach. If they get that far north, they do a right turn at Cape Hatteras and head out to sea. We’re getting a vacation on the network’s dime.”

“Yeah, well, don’t pack your boogie board,” Tess said. “I have an ulterior motive for picking Virginia Beach.”

“Oh?” asked Tracie.

“Darrell called last night,” she said. “Quinn is in Virginia Beach. And something is definitely going down.”

“Spectacular!” Schuyler said with a happy grin. “We get a big story either way!”

“That sounds promising,” Antonia said as she came up behind them.

“Wait’ll you hear!” Schuyler said.

Tess rolled her eyes. “Come on in,” she said to her boss, and led the way into their office.

Antonia’s reaction was more muted than Schuyler’s, but just as enthusiastic. “Go get ‘em,” she said, grinning from ear to ear.

Tess grinned back. Don’t worry, Darrell. The cavalry’s coming.

***
Tess, Schuyler, and Tracie end up getting more hurricane than they bargained for -- although Tess never actually gets to cover the storm's landfall, because... 

Ohhh no. I'm not going to give away the story. You can buy it and read it yourself here. Or buy the whole series here

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

Sunday, September 3, 2017

We have winners! and a knitting post.

First off, thanks to everybody who participated in the giveaway for the launch of Maggie on the Cusp. I've emailed all the winners, so check your inbox -- and don't forget to send me your street address if I don't have it yet (you know who you are).

I got a ton of good ideas for Maggie's road trip. In case you were curious (because I was), here's how the vote broke down:

Serpent Mound, Ohio: 3 votes
California: 2 votes
Cahokia: 1 vote
Mexico City: 1 vote

And for the "tell me where to send her" option, I received votes for the following destinations:

Bear's Ears National Monument, Utah
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona (Spider Rock)
Witch Mountain (see below)
Mackinac Island, Michigan (a.k.a. Turtle Island by the Ojibwe Indians)
Sedona, Arizona
Pacific Northwest

Witch Mountain sounds intriguing, but I'm going to need more info. I found a reference on this page to a Witch of Cedar Mountain, in Georgia. Maybe that's what the contestant was thinking of.

In any case, the suggestions are all awesome and much appreciated. And the timing couldn't be better -- I'm about 7,500 words into Maggie in Moonlight and she'll be hitting the road pretty soon. I may not get Maggie to all of these spots, but I'll definitely keep them in mind when I'm location scouting for future books. Thanks again, everyone!

And I keep forgetting to mention that Maggie on the Cusp is just 99 cents right now at Amazon -- as is the first book in the series, Maggie in the Dark. I'm going to leave the first book at a buck, but the price for book 2 will go up on Tuesday -- so if you don't have a copy yet, now's the time.

***
And now to the knitting portion of this post.

You may recall that I was working on a very cool shawl called a Fire Dragon Wing, but I was running out of yarn. Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that the maker of Lemonade Shop yarn did send me another skein -- yay! And the project is finished -- yay!



The bad news is that the colors aren't a very good match. Here's a shot of the part of the shawl with yarn from both skeins. The red from the new skein is pink and the orange is MIA.

But hey, it's done, and I'll wear it, and it's all good.

And I have moved on to another project. This one is called the Main Street Shawl. It's constructed very much like the Eden Prairie, which is still my favorite thing I've knitted. Here's what I have done so far. The lighting is bad in the top left corner of the photo, so I'll tell you that the square that looks maroon is a deep rose, and the triangle that looks black is actually purple.

My next step is to pick up stitches along the inside edges of the big V where the white yarn is sitting, knit a few rows of black for a border, and then fill in the empty space with the white yarn. Then I'll pick up stitches along the left side of the rainbow strip, do a black border, and knit a big chunk using the lavender yarn. Then I'll pick up and knit a black border around the whole shebang and it'll be done.

This one, I have plenty of yarn for. As long as I don't run out of black...

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Big Maggie Giveaway.

First, let me say that here at hearth/myth, our hearts go out to the folks in the path of Hurricane Harvey. For those of us who are too far away to help in person, the Red Cross is taking donations of both money and units of blood. You can give online, and look up the location of a blood drive near you, at redcross.org.

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Seems like a bad day for frivolity, but Maggie Muir Brandt -- the main character in the Transcendence trilogy -- has had experiences that are anything but frivolous over the course of the first two books. In Maggie in the Dark, her ex-mother-in-law practically ordered her to Rockville, Maryland, to help her recover from cancer surgery because the woman was so horrible that no one else would come. In Maggie on the Cusp, our heroine is back home in Indiana, but her mother seems to be losing her grip on reality and her brother wants Mom's house. To make things right for everyone involved, Maggie has to expose family secrets and navigate her own emotional minefield. And as a reward, she gets to renew the Earth. Which, to be honest, doesn't sound like much of a prize.

So in the final book of the trilogy, Maggie in Moonlight, she gets to hit the road.

I haven't started writing Book 3 yet, but I have a rough outline, and there are a few places Maggie is going to have to visit in order to move the plot along. But other than that, her itinerary is up for grabs. So I'm appealing to you guys: What should Maggie not miss on her road trip? She's going to be in an RV, so let's keep it to continental North America. Click the road trip question in the Rafflecopter below, and leave your suggestions in the comments.

Of course, contests offer prizes, and we have a few (photos in the Rafflecopter below):

  • A commemorative Canadian quarter featuring Mishepeshu, the Underwater Panther, in its original packaging. (The Mishepeshu on this coin seems much nicer than the one in the Transcendence books.)
  • A turtle hand puppet from IKEA for your favorite kid. Or for you. No judging here, no sir.
  • Five lucky people will win a deluxe Maggie in the Dark bookmark, each adorned with a festive ribbon and a removable turtle charm hand-beaded by Yrs Trly.
So that's seven prizes total. Which means I need at least seven entrants. So step up, y'all.

The contest will run for a week, until 6pm Eastern Daylight Time next Sunday, September 3rd. But don't wait to enter. The prizes aren't going to get any better (trust me -- this is all I got).


The standard hearth/myth contest rules apply, and they are as obnoxious as always:

1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
2. Winners of previous contests may win again.
3. There will be a winner. I am getting this stuff out of my house, one way or the other.
4. As always, the judge's decision is arbitrary, capricious, and final.

Thanks for playing, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Maggie's on the cusp at last.

Yes, that's right -- Maggie on the Cusp: Transcendence Book 2 is out at long last.

I strive to publish three novels a year: the first in March or April; the second in May or June; and the third around the middle to the end of November. As you know, the first book in the Transcendence trilogy, Maggie in the Dark, came out in March. This one should have been out in late May or early June -- but it wasn't.

For starters, the themes in this book are tough. Maggie's mother is losing her memory, and it's happening very fast. And then, too, Maggie is being forced to deal with her brother Sandy, who has verbally abused her for as long as she can remember.

We hear a lot about physical abuse -- primarily, I think, because it's so obvious. If someone regularly roughs you up, you're going to have bruises and broken bones. The damage from sexual abuse may be less obvious. Psychological -- verbal and emotional -- abuse often accompanies these physical acts. But it can stand alone, too. Gaslighting is one form of psychological abuse; bullying is another. And the wounds from any sort of abuse run deep.

Here's how Maggie describes her relationship with her brother:
I know a lot of people are rotten to their siblings when they’re all kids, but as they mature, they grow closer. Well, Sandy never grew out of it. I was always the dumb kid sister. His greatest joy, when we were kids, was to tease me until I cried; among his greatest joys as an adult was to find something to needle me about until I exploded. When I was a teenager, it was my hair or my weight; then, later, it was my marriage. “Why did you marry a guy named Eugene?” he would ask, laughing derisively. “What a stupid name. And he’s such a poser. For God’s sake, Maggie, couldn’t you find somebody normal to screw around with? And what the hell were you thinking, letting him knock you up? Don’t you know anything?” 
Given Sandy’s opinion of my husband – which, it galled me to admit later, wasn’t far wrong – but anyway, you would think my brother would have been thrilled to learn that I was divorcing Gene. But no, that was my fault, too. “So you’re just gonna give up? Marriage is supposed to be ‘til death do you part, Maggie. Did you miss that part when you said your vows? Or maybe Jews don’t believe in that sort of thing. Is that it?”
I’d grown up enough by then that I refused to let him see me cry when his barbs sunk to the bone. I would sit there and take it, poker-faced, with my nails digging into my palms, until eventually he would give up and go away. But I internalized the abuse. His comments became the nagging soundtrack in my head – the voice that told me it wasn’t worth going back to finish college, that I might as well work at the casino with the other high school graduates who’d never made it out of our little town, because after all the things I’d screwed up in my life, that was all I deserved. 
Abuse doesn’t always leave a visible mark.
Maggie needs to get on with the business of renewing the earth, the task Granny -- who's the human avatar of the Shawnee creator spirit Kokumthena -- handed her in Maggie in the Dark. But she needs to settle her personal relationships first. And that means resolving her conflict with Sandy -- and with their mother, too.

Anyway, you can click here for the Kindle version. The paperback was just approved; if you absolutely can't wait to order one, it's available from CreateSpace here. Otherwise, it'll be available from Amazon and other major online booksellers in a few days.

I hope I haven't put you off from reading the book -- it's not all grimdark. And I'm planning to inject a little fun with a contest here next week. Stay tuned...

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


Sunday, August 13, 2017

What would Naomi do?

eric1513 | 123RF.com
Like most of you, I've spent the last 48 hours alternately outraged and horrified by what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend.

To catch you up: Three people died and 26 were injured in connection with a protest conceived by alt-right groups to protest the Charlottesville city council's plans to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. One of the dead is Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was attending a counter-protest when a car plowed into the group. The driver, 20-year-old James Alex Fisher Jr. from Maumee, Ohio, is being held on charges of second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and hit-and-run. The Justice Department is investigating and may file additional charges against Fisher. His high school history teacher says Fisher was enamored with Nazis even then.

The other two dead were Virginia State Troopers whose helicopter crashed on landing in a wooded area not far from downtown. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Reaction to the events has been almost unanimously against the neo-Nazis, white nationalists, KKK members, and fellow travelers who conceived of the event. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have condemned the groups' actions. About the only people who have spoken out in support of these groups, in fact, are other white supremacists.

And then there's President Trump, whose remarks could most charitably be described as noncommittal. Instead of condemning the march's organizers, he spoke against "the egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides."

He also tweeted condolences to the family of the dead woman and "best regards to all of those injured."

"Charlottesville sad!" he said in another tweet.

I keep saying I'm not going to turn this into a political blog, but that guy in the White House, who has at least a couple of white nationalists on staff, keeps testing my resolve.

However, I will forbear. Instead, I'll risk turning this post into a shameless plug for my own books by dreaming aloud about how the characters in the Pipe Woman Chronicles universe would react.

As it happens, the Land, Sea, Sky trilogy -- which is part of that universe -- is set in DC, mostly, and not too far in the future. Thanks to the return of the gods to Earth some years before, a powerful coalition of military, industrial, and legislative leaders has been watching its power slip away. The co-conspirators are organizing what they believe to be a foolproof plan to defeat the gods and put themselves on top again. (You may see a parallel here with the white nationalists who would like to claw back majority control of the United States by staging protests like the one in Charlottesville.)

The good guys in Land, Sea, Sky include Sue Killeen, who works as a project manager for a nonprofit called Earth in Balance; Tess Showalter, an investigative reporter for the New World News Network; Darrell Warren, a Potawatomi healer turned Navy SEAL; and their gods. All the gods, actually. And I included cameo appearances by some of the main characters from the original series: Naomi Witherspoon Curtis, Joseph Curtis, and their children, Sage and Webb.

Any of the humans would give the alt-right a run for their money. But I'd especially love to give Naomi a crack at them. Her special talent is pushing people to do the right thing, and she would have a field day with the boys of the alt-right. And in the White House, too. If Naomi could get hold of President Trump, his tweets would sound very different. Believe me.

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