Monday, October 21, 2019

Pausing for autumn.


It's finally beginning to feel like fall here in DC. Summer seemed to extend into October, and it was a bit of a shock when our first true autumn temperatures arrived. Sixty degrees Farenheit is really quite pleasant, but it feels cold when it was 90 degrees just a couple of weeks before.

Still, the leaves are only beginning to turn here, and due to a moderate late-season drought, I suspect they won't be very showy, unlike the photo above. I wish I could say I took it, but alas, I bought it from a stock photo site.

I'm writing this on Monday night because the girls and I spent a long weekend at one of our favorite places -- Pipestem Resort State Park in West Virginia. They, too, have been suffering from a moderate drought, so their fall colors aren't as dramatic as I was hoping for. Still, I had some time to read, and to sit on the porch and knit, and listen to the river rushing by.

I did get one photo I liked a lot. It will probably look lousy on your screen -- I had to zoom allll the way in with the iPhone -- but here it is anyway. The vaguely bird-shaped thing on the branch is a crow, who kindly posed for me while I took the photo from several hundred feet away. Eh, let's call it an impressionistic shot.

copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
I'm determined to enjoy the next couple of weeks of relative peace and quiet before NaNo starts. Thanks, by the way, to those of you who had suggestions for my Tool of Ultimate Destruction. I'm still pondering, but all of your ideas are helpful.

And big thanks to those of you who have bought a copy of Molten Trail -- I hope it doesn't disappoint.

So that's it for now. I'm going back to enjoying my autumn respite. Talk to you next Sunday as usual.

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

Sunday, October 13, 2019

What's your Tool of Ultimate Destruction?



It's been a busy week at La Casa Cantwell. The e-book edition of Molten Trail, the third book in the Elemental Keys series, went live at Amazon on Wednesday. You can find the US version here. The paperback edition went live the following day -- you can find that here. The Zon hasn't yet linked the two, so you won't yet be able to find them on a single page. (Their FAQ says it could take from 48 hours to a week. Rest assured that I will be shooting off an email on Thursday if it's not done by then. Ah, the joys of indie authordom and all the little niggly bits you have to follow up on...)

Not only that, but I've drafted the outline for the fourth book (working title: Elemental Keys Book 4) and am just waiting for November 1 to roll around so I can start writing it.

Earlier this month, I created a graphic containing all of my book-length works (except for Live Simply in the City, about which the less said, the better). According to this, Molten Trail is my 24th book. (Which means the book that wraps up the series will be my 25th. I'm going to have to do some rearranging on those shelves.)


So there's a plot device called a MacGuffin. It's a thing that's there for the author to hang the plot on. In the classic film The Maltese Falcon, the MacGuffin is a falcon statue. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, each of the Infinity Stones serves as a MacGuffin at various times. The Holy Grail has been the MacGuffin in countless stories, from Arthurian legend to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In the Elemental Keys series, our heroes are searching for several MacGuffins -- four Keys that together will fit a lock that will open a door behind which is a Tool of Ultimate Destruction. The T.O.U.D. is, of course, the ultimate MacGuffin.

Can I be candid? I haven't quite yet figured out what form the T.O.U.D. will take. Oh, I have some vague ideas, but I haven't settled on anything yet. So I thought I'd take suggestions. If you were going to create a T.O.U.D., what would it be like? What would it do? Post your suggestions in the comments.

I'm not going to do a Rafflecopter. Instead, I will send the person who comes up with the suggestion I like best a $10 (or the equivalent value in your home currency) Amazon gift card. If none of the entries please me, I'll be keeping my $10, so get your thinking caps on. Suggestions that target one or more politicians will be disqualified (we can't make this too easy, now, can we?).

Good luck! I'm looking forward to reading your suggestions.

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

Sunday, October 6, 2019

What's a Pagan, anyhow?

I spent the day at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, which is always a good time. As usual, one of the first booths I visited was the one operated by Dancing Pig Pottery. The owner is a local potter who makes items popular with the RennFest and Pagan crowd. We've bought several of her pieces over the years, including serving bowls with the eight sabbats of the Pagan Wheel of the Year around the rim. Here's one of mine.
Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
While I was there today, I overheard one woman ask her friend, "What's that word?" She was pointing to the word Samhain on one of the bowls. Clearly the friend had no idea, so I piped up and told her. 

Then she asked, "What does it mean?" So I stumbled through a definition. I told her it was the name of the Celtic holiday that corresponds to Halloween. The women nodded politely and went their way. And I went mine, knowing that I hadn't done justice to the term. Because Samhain is the Irish word adopted by Pagans -- but not all Pagans -- as the name for the sabbat (feast day or holiday) that falls at the end of October. 

It's the "not all Pagans" part that makes things difficult. 

Someone asked me several weeks ago to explain the difference between, say, Paganism and Wicca. Greater mortals than I have tried to explain the Pagan movement and have walked away humbled. But let me take a whack at it.

Okay. So Paganism or Neopaganism is the big-tent name for a group of religions that...well, that don't have a whole lot in common, to be honest. Most of them are polytheistic. Some used to claim they were direct descendents of ancient little-p pagan religions that were stamped out across Europe by Christianity, but that idea has been debunked. Many are considered to be nature religions, believing the Earth and everything on it to be sacred and basing their holidays on the seasonal turns of the calendar -- hence, the Wheel of the Year. But there's no common liturgy and no single god or pantheon that every Pagan worships. 

The vast majority of folks come into Paganism through Wicca, mainly because it's the best known. Thanks to Halloween and Hollywood, people can get their minds around the concept of a witch pretty easily. But there are denominations, if you will, within Wicca. Some work with the Great Goddess, some with the Goddess and the Horned God, some with the Roman goddess Diana, and so on. Regardless, they all call themselves Wiccans and together they constitute the biggest group under the big tent of Paganism. Their commonality is belief in a Mother Goddess and that all of nature is sacred. (I'm a little nervous about making that declaration. Somebody's bound to come along and tell me about a Wiccan coven that doesn't worship any deity at all.)

Another is Druidry, which draws its inspiration and many of its beliefs from the priestly caste in ancient Celtic society. There are a number of Druidic organizations, including the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, founded in the UK in 1964; and Ár nDraíocht Féin or ADF, founded in the US in 1983. If any Pagan group ever succeeds in making the sort of Pagan religion that comes complete with brick-and-mortar buildings and a liturgy, my money is on the Druids.

A third is heathenry, or Germanic Paganism, which uses the Norse myths as a framework for its belief system. A host of smaller groups fall under this heading, including Asatru in North America. Some so-called heathen groups have been accused of being fronts for white supremacists, but certainly not all heathens are.

Wikipedia lists a number of smaller divisions within the big tent: eco-Pagans, who are often involved in Earth activism; the New Age folks, who may or may not be polytheistic; Reconstructionists, who try to make their worship as close to that of their pagan ancestors as possible (leaving out human sacrifice and other grisly bits); and so on. I'd say a lot of folks practice within these smaller groups as well as in one or more of the bigger ones. The Wikipedia article also mentions CUUPS, a group within the Unitarian Universalist Church that welcomes Pagans of all sorts.

And then there are eclectic Pagans -- the fence-sitters like me. Our beliefs don't align closely with any one group. Instead, eclectic Pagans dip in and out of several traditions, taking ideas that resonate with them and leaving the rest.

So that's how it works, kind of. I could also mention that Wicca was named the fastest-growing religion in America* in 2014, with an estimated 1.5 million "members" (which scares the pants off some folks). Or we could talk about why people are turning away from Christianity to Paganism (and to atheism, for that matter). But let's leave it here for now. Let me know if you have questions.

*The fastest-growing religion in the world is Islam. It's also the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity.

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These moments of eclectic Pagan blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell, who puts a lot of Pagan gods and goddesses in her novels for some reason.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

I need a nap.

What a difference a week makes, huh? Last Sunday, we were just beginning to hear about the existence of a whistleblower complaint against President Trump. The Washington Post broke the story about the complaint on Wednesday, September 18th. Then everybody in the media got busy adding details. By the time Tuesday afternoon rolled around, enough information had come to light that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi officially dubbed the ongoing committee investigations into Trump an impeachment investigation.

Impeachment. Boy, that word brings back memories -- none of them good.

I was in high school in Indiana when the Watergate hearings were underway. I remember walking into classrooms where the teacher had requisitioned a TV so he or she could watch the hearings during passing periods. President Nixon resigned in August 1974, just two weeks after the House of Representatives returned articles of impeachment against him. He never went to trial in the Senate. And then of course President Ford pardoned him, thereby dooming his own election chances but ensuring Nixon would never face prison for his crimes, either.

Then in late 1998, President Clinton was impeached. I have to tell you that '98 was a blur for me; that was the year I took family leave to spend the summer with my mother while she recuperated from cancer surgery. Then at the end of that summer, I was laid off from Mutual/NBC Radio News. So I spent the denouement of the Clinton saga -- the House referring the articles of impeachment and the Senate trial that ended in acquittal -- in Denver, where I was earning a paralegal certificate. I'd sometimes cast an eye at the headlines in the local paper, but to be honest, I was just as glad to be out of the fray.

Now it's Trump's turn. It's already the craziest impeachment story ever, and I have no doubt it will get worse.

Sometimes, when a big story breaks, old newshounds will ask each other whether we wish we were still part of it all. News people are adrenaline junkies. It's a rush to know something consequential before anyone else does and to be the person who tells the world. So when something big happens, "Do you miss it?" we ask one another. "Do you wish you were still doing news?"

Honestly? For this one, I'm just as happy to sit on the sidelines. Ever since Tuesday, the media has gone into overdrive. Keeping up with the headlines is like drinking from a firehose. It's been less than a week, and I'm already exhausted. And I'm only posting stuff to Facebook.

Delyth Williams | Pixabay | CC0

No, today's news business is for the young. Like, for instance, Andrew Howard of Arizona State University, who got the scoop that the US Special Envoy for Ukraine was resigning as a result of being named in connection with the impeachment inquiry. Kudos to him for recognizing he had a big story and for going with it.

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These moments of impeachy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. (If enough people buy my books, I'll never have to go back into news again. Thanks!)