Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring cleaning, or: stuff I should have said before now.

First, a big shout-out to the 814 people worldwide (yes, worldwide!) who downloaded Seized for free during the grand opening weekend promotion Friday and yesterday -- and an even bigger shout-out to those of you who paid money for a copy.  The free "sales" drove Seized to the #5 spot on's Contemporary Fantasy free book list on Friday.  I'm not going to claim bestsellerdom -- I can't in good conscience, since I was literally giving the book away -- but the interest is certainly heartening to this fledgling indie author.

Anyway, welcome to anyone new who has wandered here from a recent purchase of Seized.  And please, after you read the book, I'd appreciate it if you would go back to Amazon and post a review.  Reviews do drive future purchases to some extent (and that's as close as I'll come to getting on my knees and pleading...).  Thanks.

For those of you who missed the free event -- sorry about that.  I put the info out on Facebook and Twitter, which I was pretty sure covered everybody who comes here as well.  I promise to post here, as well, in advance of the next freebie day.

And for those waiting for a dead-tree edition of Seized:
  1. I spent some time last night formatting the paperback and uploaded it to CreateSpace.  Next, they have to let me know that the proof is ready for my review; then it takes about a week for them to send me the proof.  If it looks good -- and I have no reason to believe it won't -- I'll give CreateSpace the nod to publish it.  I will definitely post everywhere when that happens.
  2. Formatting a paperback is a lot more work than publishing an e-book.  Plus the paperback is way more expensive to buy, and I don't get nearly the profit from it.  (If I made the paperback $2.99, too, I wouldn't make any money at all from it.)  So I'd like to reiterate something I touched on last week:  even if you don't have a Kindle (or some other flavor of e-reader), you can still read e-books.  Amazon has free Kindle reading software for just about any platform you can think of -- click here to take a look.  I have the Kindle reader on both my iPhone and my PC, and it works like a charm.  You can resize the font (which is a big deal for us old farts).  And as I'm in the habit now of carrying my phone everywhere with me, I've always got something to read.  (I've also got a Nook reader and an iBooks reader on my phone.  The Nook reader -- and the Kindle probably does, too -- keeps track of where I am in the book, so that if I read on my phone on the way home and then pick up the Nook device later in the evening, I don't have to page ahead.  Amazing, huh? Sometimes, technology really does help us.)
  3. If you're after an autographed copy, you don't really need a hard-copy book.  There are a couple of ways to do it with an e-book.  Probably the least cumbersome is to go to and plug the author's name into the search box.  For example, if you type in "Lynne Cantwell", you'll pull up a page for all three of my books.  Each has a button below for requesting a Kindlegraph.  Click that, and away you go.  (A caveat: I think this only works for your Kindle books.)
One last thing:  I posted a couple of weeks ago about the Smashwords/PayPal dustup.  It looks as though Smashwords has been able to get PayPal to see reason, which is good news indeed.  But that doesn't mean the culture war is over.  Stay tuned....

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chickies, bunnies, and the end of time.

Seriously?  Nobody noticed that I snuck the cover for the new book into the slide show widget to the left?  Maybe I am talking to myself here....  ;)

I'm giving you a chance to redeem yourselves.  This here is the cover (isn't it awesome?) of the book that's coming out on Tuesday.  Yes, on the first day of spring.  It's my first-ever urban fantasy, and the first in a series of what will either be four or five books.  So I like the idea of releasing it on the spring equinox, which Neopagans call Ostara.

The spring equinox never coincides with Easter.  That's by design. The Council of Nicea decided in 325 C.E. that Easter would always fall on the first Sunday following the Paschal (Passover), or Ecclesiastical, full moon.  The Paschal full moon is the first one following March 20th (which was the date of the spring equinox in 325 C.E.).  The idea was to make sure that Easter always followed Passover on the church calendar, because Jesus' death and resurrection occurred after Passover.  But because the church fathers were estimating full moon dates, the Ecclesiastical date is sometimes a day or two off from the actual full moon.  Which is why, in some years, Easter is nearly at the end of April.  (Thanks to for this information.)

Luckily for Neopagans, our holidays don't vary nearly that much.  We always observe Ostara on the spring equinox -- which, this year, is 1:14 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, March 20. 

An Ostara observance looks a lot like your typical Easter observance.  We have the chicks and bunnies, and the eggs dyed pastel colors. That's because, just like the Christmas tree and the Yule log, chicks and bunnies started out as pagan symbols of the season and were co-opted (maybe tolerated is a better word) by the Church for its celebration of Christ's resurrection.  In any case, the symbolism hasn't changed.  At base, both Easter and Ostara are about new beginnings and fresh starts, about coming out of difficult times and into the light and warmth.

Maybe I should warn you, though, that Seized is not about light and warmth.  It's set at the winter solstice 2012, which, you may remember, is the date when the Mayan calendar (or one of them, anyway) is supposed to end.  Given that this is the first of four or five books, you might surmise that I'm not predicting the end of the world on that day.  And you would be right.  But in the world of this series, change is certainly coming....

Anyway, if all goes as planned, Seized will be available for the Kindle on Tuesday.  If you don't have a Kindle, all is not lost -- Amazon has free Kindle software available for many platforms, including PCs and smartphones.  (I've been reading Kindle books on my iPhone.  It's not as bad as it sounds.  No, really!)  I'll pull together a paperback version, too, if there's enough interest -- let me know. 

Happy spring!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Grad school learning, Part 2.

First this week, a little news.  (I love it when I have news to share!)

1.  SwanSong has been nominated for a Global E-book Award.  (Hence, the cool sticker you see on your right.)  Next, they pick finalists.  I don't know when the finalists are chosen, but there are only three nominees in my category (Speculative - Classic Fantasy) right now, and today's the deadline for submissions, so I'm feeling pretty hopeful that SwanSong will be a finalist. (There are approximately a blue billion nominees in the Speculative - Paranormal category.  Tell me again why my next book is an urban fantasy....)  Even if SwanSong doesn't win, it's pretty cool to be nominated.  At the very least, I hope to get a review or two out of the deal.

2.  This week, Greta Burroughs kindly posted a guest blog I wrote for her "Did You Know" feature.  It's about the genesis of both SwanSong and The Maidens' War, and about how I tend to think of them in tandem as my "heritage series".  Here's a link if you'd like to read it for yourself.

Okay, on to the meat of today's post, which first appeared, in a slightly different form, on Ritesh Kala's book blog a few weeks ago.  It's about an epiphany I had not long ago about literary fiction.

Call me slow ("Okay!  Lynne -- you're slow!"), but it did not occur to me for a long time that master’s programs in fiction writing are not interested in turning out writers who can make a living at writing.  They are focused on turning out writers who can turn out short stories that their fellow students, and their professors, like.  For one thing, short stories lend themselves much better to workshopping than novels do.  A student might be able to turn out a respectable first draft of a novel in a semester, but she cannot do it and also read and critique the novels of the other nine students in her class – not to mention keeping up with the work in her other classes and with whatever is going on at home.  So for workshops, short stories it is.  But the marketplace for short stories is miniscule compared to the amount of decent material students are turning out.  So many perfectly good stories will never be published.

For another thing, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, writing students and their professors consider themselves to be serious writers, and as such, they like to read serious fiction.  Oh, word play is fine, and maybe even humor, depending on the subject and how it’s handled.  But mostly, these serious writers want to read about people a lot like themselves – usually urban, mostly white, almost painfully introspective.  It’s okay for the characters to talk about sex, as long as they spend most of their time ruminating about it rather than doing it.  In fact, it’s almost better if nothing happens in the story at all.  The writer needs to set the scene, of course – otherwise the characters would have nothing plausible to trigger their ruminations.  But the characters are under no obligation to learn anything about themselves, or to behave any differently at the end of the story than they do at the beginning.  And in addition, everything must be as realistic as possible. 

Now, as you may have noticed, I write fantasy.  But fantasy was not what my classmates wanted to read, and when I tried to give it to them, they didn’t seem to know what to do with it.  At the same time, the professors praised the work of students who wrote realistic fiction, and had us read realistic fiction (except for a couple of works of magic realism, from which I concluded that the only difference between magic realism and fantasy is the foreign accent – but that's another blog post).  The message we all received was that realistic fiction – literary fiction – was the only kind worth writing; anybody who wrote anything else was a sellout and a hack.

Now, I knew that wasn’t true.  I had read enough speculative fiction to know that much of it was as well-crafted as any realistic novel, and it was fun to read, to boot.  But to please my fellow students and my professors, I tried writing realistic fiction anyway.  People seemed to like it, more or less, and I got good grades.  I thought, okay, maybe they’re right.  Maybe this is the best kind of writer to be.

So after graduation, I began sending stories to fiction magazines. That’s when I found out how small the marketplace for realistic fiction really is.  I began to understand why every realistic novel I’d ever read had a sentence in the author’s bio along the lines of, “[Name of author] teaches writing at [name of college].”  The only way these writers could make a living was to teach more students to write realistic fiction.

Over the next few years, I was able to put my unsatisfactory "realistic fiction" past behind me.  But then recently, a poet friend wrote something that made my brain go click (thanks, lucimay!).  What she said was this:  literary fiction is just another genre.  It’s realistic, the characters are introspective, and nothing much happens in terms of plot.  It’s just another formula, neither better nor worse than the formulas that drive mysteries and speculative fiction and all the other genres.  Oh sure, they try to convince everyone that they are the Only Serious Writers.  But they’re wrong:  every genre has literary-level writers, and even those who write realistic fiction can be hacks.

I've felt much better ever since.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A pause, while your correspondent mulls over PayPal.

First, in the news:  If you've been meaning to read SwanSong, I've got a deal for you.  As part of Read an Ebook Week this week, SwanSong is free at There's a link to the left, below my picture, that will take you to my Smashwords author page; from there, you can click to the SwanSong page.  Just remember to put in the coupon code from the SwanSong page when you check out.

Also, if all goes well, Seized: Book One of the Pipe Woman Chronicles will be seeing the light of day on or about the spring equinox (which is March 20th this year).  That's, like, two weeks from now.  (Note to self: Yikes!)

Now then.

I was going to run part two of my two-parter on grad school this week.  But then I got an e-mail from Smashwords (not that I'm special -- they sent the same one to all their authors and publishers) that I want to talk about instead.

Here's what's happened, in the words of Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords.  These are excerpts from the e-mail I received yesterday.

In case you haven't heard, about two weeks ago, PayPal contacted Smashwords and gave us a surprise ultimatum: Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account.

PayPal tells us that their crackdown is necessary so that they can remain in compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card associations.... [snip]

PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction. Regardless of how one views topics of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction. We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This is unfair, and it marks a slippery slope. We don't want credit card companies or financial institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read. Fiction is fantasy. It's not real. It's legal. [snip]

Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects women disproportionately. Women write a lot of the erotica, and they're also the primary consumers of erotica. They're also the primary consumers of mainstream romance, which could also come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies were to overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obscenity clauses (I think this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious consent be okay in mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If your write paranormal, can your were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that bestiality? The insanity needs to stop here. These are not questions an author, publisher or distributor of legal fiction should have to answer). 

The last part got my attention because (spoiler alert!) my next book has a character who can change into the shape of an animal.  I don't think any sane person would consider what I've written to be crossing the line into bestiality.  But then, no sane person would expect Rush Limbaugh to call a female law student a slut because she wanted her college health service to offer contraception.  Oh wait....

Personally, I think the bankers in this country have enough control over our lives already without dictating to a publisher what he can or can't publish.

Coker winds up by saying:
All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial services companies censoring books. Authors should have the freedom to publish legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want.

Right on, Mark.

Here's a little more information about the PayPal dispute.