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, 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:

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 |
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

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 | | 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.

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!