Sunday, April 5, 2020

Coronavirus crafting: Mask day...after day.

So now that the Centers for Disease Control have finally admitted that homemade masks can help stop the spread of COVID-19 (not because they're any good at filtering the air you're breathing, but because they stop your own droplets at the source), mask making is the new DIY craft. And of course I had to get in on it.

Lots of patterns were floating around the internet even before the CDC released its recommendation. As I understand it, the key in homemade mask design is to find the sweet spot between no filtration protection to speak of and not being able to breathe at all. It appears the middle ground consists of two layers of closely-woven fabric like quilting cotton and an inner, stiffer layer. Shop towels are apparently the gold standard for that inner layer, but interfacing also works.

Today, the Washington Post published a pattern for a fabric mask that was developed by an assistant professor at Parsons School of Design. (Go ahead and click -- it's not behind a paywall.) As I looked over the materials list this morning, I realized I had everything here at home. Moreover, I could go the directions one better -- instead of hemming the outside edge and zigzagging all over the place, I could cut out the pieces with my rotary cutter's pinking blade and use some leftover interfacing that's fusible on both sides. Cut out the pieces, fuse them with the iron, stitch the darts and the elastic casings (the designer calls them tunnels), thread the elastic through the casings and tie the ends -- poof, done. Shouldn't take more than a couple of hours.

Oh haha. If I'd made just one mask, it would have only taken a couple of hours. But I decided to make five. Why? Because that's how many I could make with my spiffy interfacing.

I started early this afternoon. It is now almost 11pm and I am not done yet. Oh, the masks are all sewn -- here's photographic proof. (The mask at top left was my prototype. I realized I'd laid out the fabric the wrong way after I cut it out. Whoops.)

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

The problem I'm running into is getting them to stay on. For one thing, I didn't find out 'til I watched the tutorial video that you're supposed to cut the 14" of elastic in half and make loops that go around your ears. So I tried it -- and the elastic loops wouldn't stay put. I think the earpieces of my glasses are getting in the way. Either each piece of elastic is going to have to be longer or I'm going to have to make tie ends that I can tie at the back of my head.

Maybe I'll play with it some more after I'm done posting this.

Things sure have changed, haven't they? As my daughter Amy said the other day, if you'd worn a mask to Target two weeks ago, you'd have been followed around by a cop. Now, other shoppers give you dirty looks if you're not wearing one.

We are living in strange times indeed.

The good news for you guys is that the final version of Beach Magic has been uploaded to Amazon, and we are locked and loaded for release this coming Thursday, April 9th.

Even better news: I've dropped the price to 99 cents. If you already ordered a copy, it's all good -- you'll only be charged 99 cents on Thursday. In fact, every book in the series is now just 99 cents. (And they're all short. So if you buy the first three books now, you should be up to speed by Thursday when the new book comes out.)

And better news yet: The paperback version may go live earlier -- possibly as early as tomorrow. Keep an eye on my Facebook page. I'll announce it there.

These moments of masked blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Keep your social distance! Wear a mask! Wash your hands!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Book news for your self-isolation.

This will be a short post, although jam-packed with news -- the pleasant kind, I hope. And it's been updated with links to the new book -- see below.

Item: As promised, Book 3 in the Elemental Keys reboot, Gecko Magic, dropped on Thursday. I really like this cover. (Yes, of course there's a joke about the gecko in the book. Did you even have to ask?)

The book is currently priced at $3.99, although I'll be knocking it down to 99 cents here shortly, because...

Item: Beach Magic is going up for pre-order. Yes! At long last, Raney's story will be coming to an end.

Here's the cover. I weighed several options for the sort of mischief Tiger should get into for the cover of this book, and decided at last that she'd be the kind of cat who would be attracted to a Fiery Portal of Doom.

She also doesn't appear to mind getting her paws wet, which is fairly unusual for a cat. But she's unusual in lots of other ways, too.

Gecko Magic ends in Colorado, where there are, of course, no ocean beaches. So given there's a beach on the cover of this book, you might have deduced that it jumps from one location to another. You would be correct. The gang will end up at Raney's beach house in Malibu -- but that's not their final stop. And that's all I'll say about that.

Beach Magic is the final book in the Elemental Keys tetralogy. The list price will be $3.99 and it will be available April 9th. If you pre-order it for your Kindle, it'll automatically download on the release day, which is pretty freaking cool. 

I know you guys have been waiting an extra-long time for this book. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your patience. And I hope you decide the end to Raney's story has been worth waiting for.

These moments of book bloggy excitement have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Hang in there! Wash your hands! Stay home and read!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Isolation tales.

I was originally going to call this post "Quarantine tales," but that's a misnomer. We are not in quarantine here at La Casa Cantwell. Nobody's sick so far. But we'd like to keep it that way, so we're practicing self-isolation.

CongerDesign | Pixabay | CC0
So far, not too bad. Kitty, Amy, and I have been home together for ten days, with only a few trips out into the world, and nobody's snapped yet. But then we've had practice. As Amy observed, who knew that cruise we took in August and September, when the three of us shared a stateroom, would be a dry run for this? Our apartment gives us significantly more room than the stateroom did, and here we have individual bedrooms with doors we can shut. But on the cruise, we had the run of the ship, plus someone cooked every meal for us. So there are pros and cons.

Then again, none of us was trying to work while on the cruise. Amy and I have been working remotely at our respective jobs for the past week. I really, really, really like working remotely. The things that are lacking in a work-from-home setup are the same things that have been driving me crazy at work: phones ringing incessantly; people holding conference calls with their doors open; people forwarding me emails with numerous documents attached and asking me to print the documents. (One day, pre-pandemic, I printed more than 80 documents. Needless to say, I didn't get much else done that day.) Not to mention my new 30-second commute is a real time-saver.

The one drawback is exercise. I am one of those folks who hates exercising as an end in itself; I would rather work walking into my day. But I'm no longer walking from the bus stop to the train and from the train to the office, and I'm not walking half a block to heat up my lunch in the next building these days, either. So I'm going to have to steel myself to take a walk every day, just for the sake of it.

I did get out and take a walk yesterday. The experience was a little disconcerting, especially when I ended up at the drug store. There I was in one aisle, and at the other end was a man with his little daughter. He and I eyed each other warily, judging how to manage staying the recommended six feet from one another if the kid made a break for it. I solved the problem by ducking out of my end of the aisle.

Eventually we'll stop eyeing each other warily, I know. But it's going to be weird in the interim.

Thanks to those who picked up a copy of River Magic this past week!

On Thursday, I made good on my promise to publish book 2 with its new title and cover. It's now called Bog Magic. Here's the new cover:

By the way, I took the photo at the ruins of Tullaherin Church in County Kilkenny, Ireland. I stopped there with a friend in 2016 while on the way to find the Long Cantwell. This is the place I had in mind when I wrote the book -- besides the 10th century ruins, the site also features an ogham stone. No bog next door, though, and no Good Neighbors that we noticed.

The coronavirus reading project continues! Look for book 3, Gecko Magic, to drop this Thursday, March 26th.

These moments of housebound blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay home! And wash your hands!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Reading options for your coronavirus cabin fever.

What a difference a couple of weeks makes. When I blogged about Mercury retrograde and the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 two weeks ago, the situation was a lot more uncertain. Now, health officials are telling people to stay home. Schools are closed, professional sports leagues have suspended their seasons, and lots of entertainment events have been either postponed or canceled outright. Social distancing is one new buzzword, and flattening the curve is another. The idea is to keep everybody from being sick at the same time, because too many cases requiring hospitalization would overwhelm our healthcare system and lead to a situation like Italy's, where they're in danger of running out of intensive care beds. The country reported 368 new deaths from the virus today.

As I type this, the Centers for Disease Control has recommended canceling gatherings of 50 or more people (not counting schools and businesses, inexplicably) for the next two weeks.

This is a serious situation. But of course there are opportunists out there like this clown: He and his brother cleaned out the stocks of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes from the shelves of every store in several counties, and then sold the stuff online at a stiff markup. Ah, capitalism. But now he's being investigated for price gouging. And he has donated all the stock he couldn't sell (because Amazon and eBay cracked down) -- including nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer -- to churches in Tennessee and Kentucky.

We at hearth/myth would never stoop to that sort of crass commercialism. But we sympathize with those who will be stuck at home with very little to do for next several weeks, and so I have discounted the price of the Kindle version of the Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus to just 99 cents starting tomorrow through the end of the month. That's about 20 cents per book. Even if you've read them all, maybe it's time for a re-read?

In addition, I'm rebooting the Elemental Keys series with new covers and titles. The book that used to be called Rivers Run is now entitled River Magic. It was released this week and it's just $2.99. Isn't the new cover spiffy?

The rest of the series is getting similar cover treatment, and the new versions will be coming out directly. And when I say directly, I mean directly. Book 2, which used to be Treacherous Ground but is now Bog Magic, will be out this week. Book 3, formerly Molten Trail and now Gecko Magic, follows next week. And Book 4, which nobody's read except my editor and me, will be out April 9th.

I may do a preorder for the final book. If so, I'll let you know.

So now you're all set with reading material for the next few weeks, right? And I'll be busy getting the new versions of the Elemental Keys books ready to go. We'll get through this together.

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