Sunday, December 29, 2013

Come on, 2014.

Miscellaneous New Year Comments

Magickal Graphics

Is it just me, or does it feel like I take stock a lot?

Between the blogoversary and New Year's and various Pagan holidays, it seems like I'm always setting goals, looking forward, looking back, evaluating, reevaluating....

I guess it's a useful exercise to keep looking at where I'm going and where I've been. It does get frustrating, though, when I see goals carried over from list to list, from year to year, with little or no progress on them. I'm sure I'm not the only person who does it. "Lose weight" and its corollaries ("get fit," "start exercising," "eat healthier food," etc.) are a perennial for me, as I'm sure they are for others. Financial resolutions/goals/what-have-you are ever-popular, too.

Jim Devitt posted a goal development checklist at Indies Unlimited about a week ago (between his own manic cookie baking and manic gift-wrapping, I guess) that puts a slightly different spin on the project. I finally had time to catch my breath the other day and write down my answers. Number 4 on his list -- three things you need to stop doing in 2014 -- seemed to be an eye-opener for many of those who commented on his post. It's not that it's difficult to list the things you need to quit doing; that's the easy part. The hard part is to actually quit doing them. One of my three things in this category is to quit reading books on marketing without actually following the advice. It's so easy to let those pearls of wisdom just slide past my eyes and then keep doing the same dumb things I've been doing all along. If I'm going to take the time to read the books, I ought to be taking notes, at least. We'll see how that goes. Tune in here again this time next year.

When it comes to writing and publication, my goals for 2014 look very similar to my 2013 goals. I want to finish Undertow and get it ready for publication around the spring equinox, and then I want to write Scorched Earth and get that out the door before the summer solstice. And then I need to figure out what to do in the back half of the year. I'm planning one more series in the Pipe Woman Chronicles universe -- another trilogy, probably, with a grown-up Sage as the main character -- although I don't know whether I'll be ready to start it this year. I may write another stand-alone novel instead. I've been thinking of trying my hand at magic realism. Or I may try Susanna Lakin's strategy and write a book in a hot-selling genre. I don't know about you, but pulling down $3,000 a month from one book sounds like decent money to me.

I would definitely like to tweak my yearly writing-and-publication schedule so that I'm not trying to sell a new release in the same month that I'm writing the first draft of another book. Last month was just too stressful for me. If it means I have to skip NaNoWriMo from here on out, so be it. I can do Camp NaNo in April instead. Or make my own NoWriMo in whatever month I choose, which is what I've been doing for one book a year anyway.

Overall, I'm still on the seven-year retirement plan, and publishing three novels a year seems to be a reasonable pace for me. If I keep that up, and assuming the story ideas keep flowing as they have so far, I could have another 18 novels out there by the time I turn 62. That would bring me to 26 published novels -- a decent body of work. And just think of all the time I'll have on my hands after I retire to write more!

Speaking of marketing, I'm taking Crosswind on tour from January 8th through the 17th. Here's the tour schedule if you'd like to follow along; I'll also post it on the "Tour Dates" tab. Plans are afoot for a giveaway featuring signed Crosswind paperbacks and a Navajo-made dream pillow. More to come, as they say....

These moments of New Year blogginess were brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

R.I.P., Larry Lujack.

I was going to do a "happy holidays" post this week, or maybe a year-in-review post. And then I heard Larry Lujack died.

Apologies to those of you who have never worked in radio and/or those of you who didn't grow up listening to Chicago top-40 radio in the 1960s and '70s. You have no idea who I'm talking about. But stick around anyway -- I promise it will be fun.

Lujack, a.k.a. Superjock, a.k.a. your charming and delightful ol' Uncle Lar, spent a large part of his career bouncing back and forth between two Chicago radio stations: WLS -- a 50,000-watt cookin' mother of a top-40 radio station, back in the day -- and WCFL. He was the afternoon disc jockey at top-rated WLS when he left for 'CFL the first time, and on his first show for 'CFL, he promised to "make this turkey fly!" Which he then proceeded to do -- 'CFL's ratings went through the roof during Lujack's tenure. WLS later lured him back with the promise of a morning drive-time slot (typically the most lucrative daypart for both the station and the jock).

It was there that Lujack created his "Animal Stories" feature with Tommy Edwards. Lujack wanted to spice up the daily farm reports (and rightfully so -- there are only so many days in a row that you can read barrow-and-gilt prices on the air without wanting to hurt something), so he began to add odd news stories about animals. Edwards' show followed Lujack's, so he would be in the studio getting ready for his show when Lujack did his bit, and he'd join in. Eventually it became a thing. Here's a sample:

The thing about Uncle Lar is that, unlike shock jocks like Howard Stern, he never went too far. The innuendo would be there, but it was never gross or graphic. He'd just start sniggering and let you fill in the blanks yourself.

Lujack could be controversial. I used to have an aircheck of him reading a poem called "But You Didn't" (this is the text, more or less) that led into Edwin Starr's recording of "War," but goodness knows where it got to. The poem is an ode to a soldier who died in Vietnam, and the whole thing was a powerful anti-war statement.

Lujack's brand of personality-driven radio is a far cry from what you hear now, with jocks reading nothing but pre-approved copy between songs, if they're allowed to say anything at all. He was best known for "Animal Stories," but he had other regular bits, too: his "Cheap, Trashy Show Biz Rumors" and his "Clunk Letter of the Day" (which started out as the "Crank Letter of the Day," but morphed when he got more dumb letters than crabby ones) were always entertaining, if not downright hilarious.

I can credit -- or blame -- Larry Lujack for one other thing: my career in radio. My brother was in broadcasting, so I knew it was possible for mere mortals to make a living at it (more or less). But Lujack always made it sound like fun. That, more than anything else, is what probably sold me on going into radio.

Lujack died of esophageal cancer last week at the age of 73. Rest in peace, Uncle Lar.

Superjock would be the first to understand the need to break for a commercial, and so I'm not going to apologize for including a plug in this post for the Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus. The Kindle Countdown is still underway, so there's still time to get the whole series at a special price. Don't wait 'til the last minute, though -- it's back to list price on Christmas Eve.

Happy Yule, merry Christmas, happy Kwanzaa, happy Festivus, and a very belated happy Hanukkah, everyone.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's the beats, Daddy-o.

It's been a bit hectic around here lately. Besides all the usual holiday prep, my editor is visiting for the weekend. Among other things, we're kicking around ideas for projects for the coming year. One of the projects under discussion is an editing service. We're using, as a springboard for the discussion, David Antrobus's recent terrific series of Indies Unlimited posts about hiring an editor and about editorial pricing. If you're looking for an editor (and if you have a book to publish, you had damn well better be) or if you're thinking of hanging out your shingle as an editor, I highly recommend that you check them out.

In my own book news, I'm scheduled for an interview at Lucy Pireel's blog on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, in honor of the first anniversary of the start of the events in Seized, the Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus goes on a special Kindle Countdown sale at and The regular price for the five-book set on is $8.99, but on Wednesday, the price goes down to $3.99. Friends and neighbors, that's less than a dollar a book. The price will gradually rise over the course of the following week, until on Christmas Eve, it'll be back to $8.99. The UK pricing is similar -- starting at 99 pence on Wednesday and going up to the regular price of £5.61 on Christmas Eve. It's going to be an amazing, dirt-cheap deal for somebody. Please let your friends know! Thanks!

One comment I often get from other writers is, "How do you write your books so fast?" To which I usually do sort of an awkward shuffle (which looks really awkward online, let me tell you) and say something lame like, "I write short books." Which is true, to a point.

But mainly, my technique is to draft what I've taken to calling a rough outline-ish thing. I talked about it briefly in my pre-NaNoWriMo post this year. Basically, it's a paragraph per chapter, more or less, about what I plan to accomplish in that chapter. It doesn't include every twist or nuance, mainly because I don't always know what form each twist or nuance will take until I sit down and write the scene. But it does give me a rough road map to follow. And it's hugely useful for battling writer's block; when I sit down for a writing session, I can look back at the last page or so that I wrote the day before, glance over my outline-ish thing, and know immediately where I need to start writing today.

Turns out there's an official term for what I do: "story beats." I discovered the term while reading a post on David Gaughran's blog earlier this month. He talked to the authors of Write. Publish. Repeat., by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. And it turns out that they use my system for drafting an outline before they start writing their fiction pieces. They find it helps them divide the labor in their multi-author works. But it also helps them stay on task and on target:

Stephen King says in On Writing that he thinks plotting is clumsy and anathema to creation. Overall, we tend to agree. Some books — often fast-paced thrillers — suffer from a mechanical style of progression, where everything is really convenient because it has to be lest the structure crumbles. But we also think, for us at least, that having some idea of where the story will eventually go is absolutely required to avoid a meandering narrative. Stories should be tight and focused, even if they’re quiet pieces without serious action. Beats will help that. We don’t think Stephen King would object to the idea of beats (not that we need to impress him) because they’re not rigid. You think you’re going here, but if you end up there? Ain’t no thang.
We write our beats with the idea that we’re predicting what will happen rather than requiring it to. Sometimes we guess right, and sometimes we guess wrong.
If you guess wrong but still feel that something must happen, this is where the “pantsing” part takes over, and you deviate from beats on the fly. Here’s the rule: You’re allowed to manipulate the environment, but not the character.
In other words, if you need for your character to be in New Orleans in order to set up the next chapter, you can't have your character do something out of, well, character, to get there. For example, your broke but moral-high-ground protagonist can't rob a bank to get the money for a plane ticket.

Anyway, if your writing is bogging down, you might try writing some story beats and see whether they help you get your story moving again.

These moments of bloggy beats are brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Knitting sprints.

I'm beginning to realize that I attack every big task the same way I cope with National Novel Writing Month.

As alert readers of this blog know, NaNoWriMo participants aim to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. The recommended way to do it -- both to get yourself in the habit of writing regularly and to keep from falling hopelessly behind (or perceiving that you've fallen hopelessly behind) -- is to write 1,667 words a day, give or take. However, that hardly ever works out for me. Either I write way more per day than I need and finish well before the month-end deadline, or I take several days off during the week and then write like the wind on the weekends. So for me, NaNoWriMo is less like a marathon and more like a sprint, or series of sprints.

Now, however, NaNo is over and Yule is looming. That gives me thirteen days, as of today, to finish all the holiday knitting. Aieee.

I don't want to give anything away, in case the various recipients are reading this post. But I spent a lot of this weekend sprinting through those knitting projects, and I can report that I've made good progress. The projects for the book club members are done, and I've put a significant dent in the shawl I'm making for my daughter Kat. I can talk about it here because it's not a surprise -- she told me which pattern she wanted me to use and has been watching me knit it for her. It's the Dragonwheel, which I posted about here earlier this year. The one I made for myself turned out really well. I guess I never shared a picture of it, so I'll rectify that right now. I've been calling it my "Dragonblood."

Kat picked out a green-and-brown variegated yarn for her Dragonwheel. The color is called "Mushroom Hunting." Isn't that a great name?

In addition to all that, I'm working on two projects for myself. I mentioned the blue blazer several weeks back; I've finished the back for it. I'm also making a Spectra, which is a shawl or scarf designed by Stephen West. Here's a picture of Mr. West with his version (I'm sure the picture is copyrighted and I hope he doesn't sue me for using it here...). Mine will have a slightly lighter gray for the edging, but instead of being an intelligent person and buying a single skein of self-striping yarn for the inset colors, I had to buy four different little skeins of yarn. There are 87 inset panels in the original; to make it even (because the gods know it must be even...), I'm going to do 88 panels, or 22 of each color. I started working on the final color this weekend. With any luck, I'll finish the whole thing by New Year's. And then I can pick up the blazer project again.

And edit Undertow.

And maybe I'll start another shawl. My daughter Amy is leading a knit-along for the Celestarium shawl at the local yarn shop where she works. It's a circular shawl that features a map of the night sky, with the positions of the constellations marked with beads. Cool idea, huh? I might just have to make one of my own.

In case you missed it, Crosswind is making the rounds of the blogosphere. The book has already received great reviews from Big Al's Books and Pals and at Now is Gone, and I'm thrilled beyond words about that. 

In addition, it's featured this weekend at Terri Giuliano Long's blog as a stop on her USA Literary Road Trip. And I got to break the fourth wall (it's a theater term) and have coffee with Sue, Tess and Darrell in a post at Kriss Morton's Cabin Goddess blog.

This week, Crosswind is featured at Indies Unlimited on Monday -- hey, that's tomorrow! -- and at Girl Who Reads on Wednesday. I'll post the links at the usual places.

I guess I'll do some more knitting. Have a great week, everyone.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ahh, December. How I love thee so.
I thought I'd start decorating for the holidays a little early this year, since November was such a rough month. But hey, the good news is that the first draft of Undertow is done! Whoo hoo! I finished the book with a day to spare for winning NaNoWriMo. The first draft clocks in at about 51,000 words, which is somewhat shorter than Crosswind. But I expect to revise the first chapter, and I will probably add another scene or two at the end.

The Crosswind kickoff was a great success, and now I get to start flogging the book in earnest. ("Flogging" is a good thing in this context, in case you were wondering.) Tomorrow, I'll be hosting the MasterKoda Cyber Monday Bash on Facebook from 7:00pm until 8:00pm Eastern time, and I've got some cool prizes lined up. I ran down to the National Museum of the American Indian this afternoon to pick up some things from their gift shop, and I just might be giving away one or two of them tomorrow.

On Friday, the Cabin Goddess has me back for a Fourth-Wall Friday. On December 11th, I'll be at Girl Who Reads for her Writer Wednesday feature. And on December 17th, Lucy Pireel will be asking me some pointed questions on her blog. Who knows? We might even talk about the book.  And if that's not enough, I'll be doing a blog tour in January, after the holidays.

All this, and Yule preparation, too! Aieee....

When it came to holiday prep, I used to be the most irritatingly organized person in the world. This was before marriage and children, mind you. But I used to be that annoying person who began her Christmas shopping in September when the holiday catalogs started hitting the mailbox. I'd have everybody's gifts ordered by mid-October, so that all the shipments would arrive at my house by mid-November. That would give me time to wrap them and have them shipped out right after Thanksgiving. Then I'd spend the first week of December writing my Christmas cards. I always had those in the mail before my birthday (which, if you're playing along, is December 7th). I was then able to enjoy my birthday, and the rest of the holiday season, guilt-free and stress-free.

You can stop hating me now. I am not that woman anymore.

I mean, the cards are out. But that's only because our family tradition now is to sit down after Thanksgiving dinner and have a grand signing/stuffing/sealing/stickering session. We do it then because that's the only time I can be assured that everybody will be gathered in the same place long enough. And of course, I'm one of those insufferable people who sends a holiday letter inside the card. Which, if you're playing along, means I had to pull together the cards and the address labels and design, write, and print the annual letter at the same time as I was writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. You want to know why I love December? Because NaNoWriMo is over!

We will not even begin to discuss the state of my holiday shopping list. Suffice it to say that I thought I could get away with getting everybody on the list a gift card -- until I saw my daughters' wish lists. And then I remembered that I really ought to get stuff for the knitting/quilting group (I am ashamed to admit that I skipped last December's meeting because I hadn't bought them anything), and that I had fully intended to knit a little something for each of the women in my book club.

And, oh yeah, I need to bake cookies.

Yule is Saturday, December 21st, this year. I've got just under three weeks to pull it all together. But hey, that ought to be a piece of cake, right? If I can write a novel in a month, I can do anything!

Right. I think I'd better go and do some knitting now....

These moments of rah-rah blogginess are brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Land, Sea, Sky: the blog posts, vol. 4.

I have three bits of business to get out of the way first:

1. Crosswind is here! It's now available as an e-book at Amazon and Smashwords, and as a paperback through CreateSpace. I expect the Smashwords edition to migrate to Kobo, B&N, and other retailers shortly, if it hasn't already. And I just noticed the paperback is up at Amazon! It should be available from other retailers within the next couple of weeks.

2. I'm making good progress on Undertow, my NaNo novel and the second book in the "Land, Sea, Sky" trilogy. I was at 42,205 when I went to bed last night. That's not quite as far along as I'd like to be right now, but I'm still ahead of the curve, and the last 8K is definitely doable before the 30th. But I tell you what: Doing NaNo in the same month as a book launch has been pretty darned stressful. I'll be glad when November is over -- as long as I win NaNo, that is....

3. Don't forget about the big Master Koda Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion coming up next weekend on Facebook. I'll be hosting on Cyber Monday (December 2nd) from 7pm until 9pm Eastern time, and I've got some fun stuff planned. But the best part for you guys is that the authors participating in the event are marking down some of their books to 99 cents for the weekend. You can click here to get to the event page on Facebook. Hope to see you there.

I promised to wrap up my "Land, Sea, Sky" posts this week by explaining the structure of the series. That's not all that complicated, so I thought I'd throw in a few Fun Facts to Know and Tell, too.

When I first started thinking about a follow-on series to the Pipe Woman Chronicles, I knew one thing for sure: the Morrigan was going to be in it. I don't know why, other than the fact that She is generally perceived to be one of the darker goddesses in the Celtic pantheon, and I expected this series to be a little less lighthearted than the Pipe Woman Chronicles (if you can call Naomi's story lighthearted).

Anyway. Once I'd settled that, then I realized three books would be the perfect size for the series. The Celts, like a lot of Indo-European cultures, considered 3 to be a sacred number. A whole bunch of Celtic sayings follow a "three things" formula. Here are three examples:
  • Three words of counsel: know thy power, know thy wisdom, know thy time.
  • Three candles that illume every darkness: truth, nature, and knowledge. 
  • Three things it is best to leave alone: a strange dog, a sudden flood, and one wise in their own eyes.
Too, many Indo-European cultures developed a belief that the Universe has three realms. For the Celts, the three realms were -- wait for it -- Land, Sea, and Sky. They held these three so sacred that they would swear oaths upon them:
If I break this oath, may the sky fall down and crush me, may the earth open and swallow me, and may the sea rise up and drown me. (link)
On top of all that, the Morrigan is a triune goddess, comprised of Badb, her warlike aspect; Macha; and Anann, her Earth aspect, after whom twin hills in County Killarney, Ireland, are named the Paps of Anu.

Having gotten this far, it made sense (to me, if no one else) to have each book in the trilogy dedicated to one of the sacred realms. And it also made sense to have three main characters, with each sort of representing one of the three realms.

That's why I've been saying cryptic stuff like, "I consider Crosswind to be Tess's book." Crosswind is the Sky book -- hence the wind turbine on the cover -- and it's Tess's book because she is a journalist, and communication is related strongly to the element of Air. Also, the book is set in and around Washington, DC, which, as we all know, is chock-full of hot air.

Undertow is the Sea book, and it's Darrell's book both because he is a sailor, and because Water has always been important to the Potawatomi way of life. And not just for fishing: the Ojibwe, another Anishinaabe people, still harvest wild rice by rowing their canoes into a stand of the plants and beating them until the seeds fall into the canoe. The plot of Undertow takes place in Hampton Roads, VA -- mostly Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The "roads" in the name Hampton Roads refer to the Elizabeth, Nansemond, and James rivers, which join there before emptying into the Chesapeake Bay.

Which leaves Sue, the realm of Land, and Scorched Earth. Sue is the Right Hand of the Earth goddess Gaia -- 'nuff said. (To be honest, I haven't gotten much farther than that with the planning for this book. When I figure it out, I'll let you know -- how's that?)

Okay, so, Fun Fact to Know and Tell #1: We used to live in the townhouse where Sue, Tess, and Darrell live. It's in Alexandria, VA, in a complex called Brookville Townhomes, which is bordered on the south by Holmes Run Park. In one scene in Crosswind, Sue walks over to the park to sit by the creek and do some thinking. Here's a photo of the creek that my daughter Amy took. It was taken downstream from Sue's vantage point, but it should give you an idea of the setting. Amy took lots of pictures of Holmes Run when she was in high school, and I've got a few of them on a Pinterest board here.

Fun Fact #2: We lived in two different townhouses in Brookville; for this series, I put the kitchen (and its pass-through) from one into the other one. The teeny-tiny bedroom that Darrell rejects? That was my room. But one detail I did not change was the infestation of spider crickets in the basement.

And Fun Fact #3: The Potawatomi own and operate several casinos. One of them is in New Buffalo, MI, which is about 15 minutes from the house where I grew up.

So there you go. Hope you like the series. I think I'll go now and try to knock out a few more words on Undertow.  Happy Thanksgiving!

These bloggy Fun Facts to Know and Tell have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Land, Sea, Sky: The blog posts, Vol. 3.

Welcome to any of you who are stopping by following my five-week free promotion for the Pipe Woman Chronicles! I gave away hundreds of e-books each week, and so it stands to reason that at least a few of those folks have read the books and are here for the first time. So, hi. I hope I don't bore you.

A mess of publishing notes: Over at Amazon, you can now find an omnibus e-book of all five of the Pipe Woman Chronicles. If you missed one, or if you think someone on your holiday list would enjoy the series, I hope you'll think about picking up a copy. There won't be a paperback version of the omnibus, mainly because it would be about 500 pages long and I would have to charge at least 18 bucks to break even.

I intend to sell the omnibus exclusively at Amazon for now. But I'll be putting the individual books back up at other retailers by the end of this month.

Also, I've gathered together the three "Land, Sea, Sky" prequels into an anthology, which went live at Amazon this morning.

And speaking of "Land, Sea, Sky" -- drum roll, please -- Crosswind will be out at Amazon and Smashwords this Wednesday, November 20th.

So this week, I'm supposed to talk about Sue Killeen, our third and final main character in "Land, Sea, Sky."

On the day of the Second Coming, Sue was a senior in high school. She and her best buds, Heather and Moira, skipped school that day to go to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The three of them grew up together in Fairfax County, Virginia -- not far from where I live now -- and Rehoboth is only a few hours away.

Anyway, Heather has always been the ringleader for their little clique, and Sue has always felt like the ugly, awkward one, as she's taller and stockier than her friends. But during that day at the beach, the girls stop at a New Age shop, and Sue has a Tarot reading that indicates she will be important to the Earth goddess Gaia. With that, the balance of power in the group shifts, and the friendships don't survive the young women's transition to college in the fall.

Fast-forward ten years. At 28, Sue is coming into her own as the Right Hand of Gaia. She has become comfortable in her Wiccan religion and can do some pretty unusual magic. And she is indispensable at her job as a project manager for a nonprofit called Earth in Balance.  But she has never reconciled the feeling that she's awkward and less than pretty. It doesn't help that Tess, whom Sue met in college, is tiny and adorable, and is on TV, and has guys falling at her feet all the time. Tess -- who has her own problems with intimacy (see my post from two weeks ago) -- ignores those guys. And then sometimes the guys come to Sue for commiseration and advice about how to get Tess to notice them, which makes Sue feel like she's always sloppy seconds.

You would think that by now, five or six years after finishing college and moving on, she would have gotten over this feeling of always being second best. Alas, she and Tess got an apartment together with another friend right after graduation, and even though Sue and Tess no longer run in the same circles, Sue still sends out the sort of desperate vibe that guys run from.

The thing is that the gods want Sue, Tess, and Darrell to become a team -- and if Sue's self-esteem issues keep her endlessly jealous of Tess, it's not going to happen. In Crosswind, Sue gets a bit of a wake-up call about her behavior. In Undertow, which I'm writing now, she'll get an external boost to her self-esteem. But in Scorched Earth, which I consider to be Sue's book, she's going to have to figure out how to believe in herself.

Next week, I'll talk about the structure of the series, and why I'm calling it "Land, Sea, Sky."

Speaking of Undertow, it's coming along. My goal for this weekend was 35,000 words, which I reached last night. I'm now at the point where I'm hoping that I have enough plot left for the final 15,000 words. Don't worry -- I had the same freakout at the same point when I wrote the first draft for Crosswind and it all worked out fine.

One more thing: Don't forget that the really big Master Koda Black Friday/Cyber Monday Bash is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 29 through Monday, Dec. 2. Thirty-five authors will be offering their e=books that weekend for 99 cents. The party starts on the Facebook event page on Black Friday, but we're prepping now, so do stop by. It would be a shame if you missed this event. Just sayin'.

These moments of Earthy blogginess are brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Land, Sea, Sky: the blog posts, vol. 2.

First off, I need to alert you guys to a fabulous opportunity (no, really, it's going to be fabulous!) coming up Thanksgiving weekend. It's the Master Koda Black Friday/Cyber Monday Bash, November 29th through December 2nd. Thirty-five authors (including Yrs Trly) will lower the prices on their participating books on Amazon to 99 cents that weekend. You can click here to see the list of books and authors. I've put Seized and my new book, Crosswind, into the mix.

Plus there will be a Facebook party all weekend, with games and prizes. The top prize is a Kindle Fire HD. Please feel free to stop by! Here's the link to the Facebook party page, where we're already chatting and getting things ready. I'll be anchoring the event together with K.R. Hughes on Cyber Monday, Dec. 2nd, from 7pm until 9pm EST. We'd love to see you there.

So this week, I thought I'd introduce you to Darrell Warren -- or more precisely, Navy Lt. Darrell Warren. On the day of the Second Coming at the end of Annealed, Darrell had just left on a fishing trip near his home in southwestern Michigan. He wanted to celebrate getting his first real job -- as a nursing assistant in an elder care facility. He had also recently been accepted as a fourth-level midew, or medicine man, for the Potawatomi Indian band he is part of -- which meant, among other things, that he could lead ceremonies on his own. And with his financial future assured, he planned to move out of his parents' house and marry his girlfriend, Ruthie.

But while on the trip, Nanabush -- the Ojibwe culture hero -- led Darrell to the otherworldly plain where Naomi had recently concluded the big mediation. There, Nanabush told Darrell that his life needed to do a 180-degree turn, because the god needed for him to become a warrior. Darrell considered himself to be a peaceful man; the thought of joining the military was anathema to him. Still, he swallowed his personal desires and did what the god told him to do. But it left him angry.

As Crosswind opens, Darrell is a changed man -- a 30-year-old hardened warrior who has left his past as a healer and magic practitioner far behind. He has seen action with his Special Ops unit in Syria, including a notorious friendly-fire incident in Al-Laqbah in which most of his men were killed. Ruthie, whom he did marry, couldn't handle either the changes in him or the long separations required of Navy spouses; she has divorced him and gone back to Michigan.

The thing is, Nanabush never meant for Darrell to stop being a midew. He knew Darrell would need to be both a warrior and a medicine man in order to accomplish the goals of the gods. So Darrell's main job in this series is to reawaken his magical side and integrate the two parts of his being. That means, for starters, learning to channel the anger that he has used as a defense for the past ten years. He begins that process in Crosswind. Then in Undertow, which I think of as Darrell's book, he will have to learn how to set aside his anger and feel other, deeper emotions again. It's only then that his true healing will take place.

If Crosswind is Tess's book and Undertow is Darrell's, then the final book, Scorched Earth, must belong to Sue. I'll give you an introduction to her next week. And then the following week, the last full weekend of NaNaWriMo, I'll tell you about the structure of the series and why I picked the name "Land, Sea, Sky."

And speaking of NaNo, it's time for me to wrap this up and get back to the first draft of Undertow. Oh, wait -- before I go, a reminder that this coming Wednesday through Friday, Annealed will be free at Amazon. Tell your friends!

These moments of fabulous free book blogginess are brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Land, Sea, Sky: the blog posts, vol. 1.

Alert readers of this blog will have noticed that November -- a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month -- has begun. A couple of weeks ago, I declared my intent to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year, which means I'm churning out a lot of words on a fairly regular basis this month.

And too, the first book in the new series, Crosswind, is due to hit virtual shelves near you on November 20th. So I'll be kicking out some promotional stuff preparatory to the blog tour in December.

In short, I've got a lot of writing to do.

But I don't want to give the blog short shrift. So, since my head is full of the NaNo novel anyway, I thought I'd spend November talking about the structure of the series and a little something about the main characters. If you've read the prequel short stories (a vanishingly small population, if sales are any indication), then you've met their younger selves already. This will be a chance for me to talk about how they've changed in the intervening ten years.

Let's start with Tess Showalter. She's a complicated individual, and someone who has never really thought about how her background has shaped her. She grew up in Kansas on her family's farm. Her father fought back hard against Big Agriculture, holding out against all their attempts to buy his property, until Big Ag, in the form of a multinational corporation called MegaAgriCorp, sues him for violating their seed patents. The settlement allowed the Showalters to keep their land, but placed so many restrictions on their operation that their farming days were virtually over. (I may or may not have ripped this part of the plot from the headlines.) In addition, the settlement prohibited Tess's parents from speaking out about MegaAgriCorp in any way. Tess was a minor, and argued that the settlement didn't mention her, and so she should be able to say what all of them were thinking. Even as a kid, she knew that what this corporation had done to her family was wrong and that they ought to be stopped. But her father, in an overabundance of concern for her safety, forbade her from speaking out.

This was probably not the first time Tess had received a mixed message from her father. Parents, after all, are human beings, and prone to contradiction. But this one stuck with her, and did a lot to shape her as an adult. And too, the day her father silenced her was the day Morrigan came into her life. Tess stumbled across her at the creek on their property, and there, the goddess offered to hurt someone on Tess's behalf. All Tess had to do was choose: either the officials at MegaAgriCorp, or her father. Young Tess, bless her heart, was scared to death of Morrigan and didn't want to be responsible for hurting anyone. So she ran.

So when a TV news guy suggested to her on the day of the Second Coming that journalism might be a very interesting career for her, she bit. It would give her a ringside seat to history, she would be able to tell the Truth (just not about MegaAgriCorp), and she wouldn't have to make any life-or-death decisions.

In Crosswind, Tess is 27 years old. Antonia Greco offers her a job as an investigative reporter on her cable TV talk show, and she takes it. (That's not really a spoiler; the job offer comes in the first chapter.) It's a dream job, but her fight to the top of her profession has hurt her in some ways. For one thing, she's still a spectator. For another, she has lost her moral center along the way -- she's been smart enough not to get involved with anything like drugs or porn, but certain ethical nuances escape her. And too, she has sacrificed her personal life, and is telling herself that it's because of the job. It's not. It's because she learned early in life that interpersonal relationships are messy and fraught with misunderstandings, and she was never given the tools to cope. It's just been easier for her to build a fortress of ice and hide inside it.

And she remains scared to death of Morrigan, who is still pestering her to break down that fortress and make a choice already.

I think of Crosswind as Tess's book, and so you may rest assured that she will be confronting her problems during the course of the story. But Sue and Darrell also have roles to play. Next week, I'll talk about Darrell. It's his book, Undertow, that I'm writing for NaNo.

Speaking of Crosswind, I finished the video trailer this week. There's a link on the "Book Trailers" tab if you'd like to take a look.

I think that's it. Back to my lonely writer's garret now, to pump out another thousand words or so. I'm aiming for 10,000 by the end of this weekend, which is only a few short hours away. Wish me luck....

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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Kobo kerfuffle: my take.

Things are calming down in the IndieAuthorLand again, so maybe now I can talk about the most recent dust-up between indies and their sales platform providers without anybody lashing out at me.

It all started about three weeks ago, give or take a day, when an online magazine in the UK published a list of pornographic novels available for sale on Amazon. The mag followed up with a couple more articles that indicated other retailers were selling this smut, too. (I won't post a link to the magazine; I'm not interested in promoting this stuff.) Then the BBC ran with the story. In the ensuing backlash, a few retailers went overboard. WH Smith, a stationers' in the UK, shut down its entire website and promised not to reopen until all of its ebook titles were inspected and the offensive material was removed. WH Smith gets its ebook titles from Kobo; while Kobo runs its own self-publishing platform, Kobo Writing Life, it receives a large percentage of the self-published books in its catalog from Smashwords and Draft2Digital.

As a result of WH Smith's action, Kobo blocked access by UK customers to all of its self-published materials and initiated a review of all of its titles.  Those titles are coming back online now.

Amazon, too, pulled down a number of its potentially offensive titles. Apparently, some authors have had quite a fight on their hands while trying to get their work reinstated for sale there.

The whole thing generated a fair amount of heat but not a lot of light. In retrospect, it appears the online magazine made some unfair assumptions about the offensive material; for one thing, IndieReader says, many of the offensive titles weren't indie books at all:
The article portrayed the problem as (mostly self-pubbed) erotica and then featured books published primarily by internet marketers, not authors. Authors can easily spot these 'marketeers' because they study the erotica book listings in the course of their market research.... Internet marketers routinely outsource story production to third world countries and are known to publish hundreds of stories at a time. The quality is low, the covers are in-your-face graphic and the titles are keyword stuffed to the point that even Google gags on all the search terms. It's not an issue of genre, but a business model used by some marketers to extract profit with no concern for quality.
In addition, some of the books targeted by the article that are, in fact, self-pubbed aren't smutty at all.

A bigger issue is the difference in regulation of pornography among the US, Canada, and the UK. The US has an almost-anything-goes attitude toward porn, while UK lacks the kind of First Amendment protection that the US has, and the government there has plans to crack down on material it deems objectionable and keep it from being distributed to computers in the UK at all.

Still another issue, as I understand it, is that Kobo doesn't offer the same kind of tagging system that Amazon does. (Smashwords, for one, allows authors to tag their work to aid customers using the search function -- but Kobo doesn't put those tags in their listings.) And some authors of erotica reportedly misuse the tagging system, to the point where kids looking for books about, say, Daddy or babysitters can come across porn in their search results.

Of course, indies have complained about all being tarred by the same brush -- while books like 50 Shades of Gray never got pulled. Indies also had plenty of complaints about their First Amendment rights being violated, along with the requisite hair-pulling and clothing-rending about how this is the beginning of the end for us and will give (pick an online retailer) the excuse it's been looking for to quit carrying books by any indie author. (Never mind that Amazon, Kobo, and B&N all have their own self-publishing platforms -- so it ought to occur to anyone who takes two seconds to think about it that they aren't going to bail on indie books.)

I neither read nor write erotica, and I have no intent to ever start. However, I support people's right to publish anything they please, no matter how offensive. That said, though, erotica authors have to realize from the outset that they run the risk of their work never being carried by a major retailer. Just because the First Amendment allows you to say anything you want, it doesn't mean you ought to -- nor does it force a company to carry your work. Especially if that company is in a different country that has different anti-porn laws. If you want to make sure Amazon or somebody doesn't purge your work in the next round of oh-my-Gawd-no-porn-allowed!! insanity, tone it down.

And can we please take off the hair shirt already? Amazon, Kobo, and B&N have too much invested in their indie publishing platforms to discontinue them any time soon. No, indie publishing is here to stay.

But it would behoove Kobo, I think, to work on instituting tags for search terms. And it would help everybody if every indie author tagged their work honestly.

Thanks to the few, the proud, who picked up copies of Fissured last week during its free days. This week, Tapped will be available for free starting Wednesday.

Also, in case you missed it, my Indies Unlimited pal Melissa Bowersock interviewed me on her blog this week. And I think I forgot to mention (bad author!) that another IU pal, Lois Lewandowski, let me play on her blog a couple of weeks back -- and even let me post a recipe for chocolate mint meringue cookies (gluten free and stupid easy! Even I can make them!). Enjoy!


This moment of news-like blogginess has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

The first flaw in Kernel Mag’s anti-porn campaign? The article portrayed the problem as (mostly self-pubbed) erotica and then featured books published primarily by internet marketers, not authors. Authors can easily spot these ‘marketeers’ because they study the erotica book listings in the course of their market research, an expertise that no media outlet has developed.
Internet marketers routinely outsource story production to third world countries and are known to publish hundreds of stories at a time. The quality is low, the covers are in-your-face graphic and the titles are keyword stuffed to the point that even Google gags on all the search terms. It’s not an issue of genre, but a business model used by some marketers to extract profit with no concern for quality.
- See more at:
The first flaw in Kernel Mag’s anti-porn campaign? The article portrayed the problem as (mostly self-pubbed) erotica and then featured books published primarily by internet marketers, not authors. Authors can easily spot these ‘marketeers’ because they study the erotica book listings in the course of their market research, an expertise that no media outlet has developed.
Internet marketers routinely outsource story production to third world countries and are known to publish hundreds of stories at a time. The quality is low, the covers are in-your-face graphic and the titles are keyword stuffed to the point that even Google gags on all the search terms. It’s not an issue of genre, but a business model used by some marketers to extract profit with no concern for quality.
- See more at:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NaNoWriMo again, again, again, again.

As I alluded to in my post last week, yes, I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year.

What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? Why, you must be new here -- welcome! I'll explain. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, a grassroots event in which participants (sometimes referred to as WriMos, although not by me) pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That's 1,667 words a day, more or less.

No, I'm not that good at doing division in my head. It's just that I've done this event so many times that the word count is engraved on my brain. This will, in fact, be my fifth NaNoWriMo -- not counting the Camp NaNoWriMo that I did earlier this year -- and not to brag, but I've won every time I've entered.

So what I can I tell you about NaNo that I didn't say in last year's post, or in the mini-plug for NaNo the year before that? Hmm. How about if we talk about not winning NaNo? Because every year, a whole lot of people start NaNo with a boatload of enthusiasm and the best of intentions -- and every year, a fair number of them quit partway through the month.

Why do people quit? I've heard a number of reasons (and thanks to Kat and Amy for helping me round them up). I'll list them below, and then I'll talk about ways that I've avoided having each reason derail me.

  • I don't have time to write every day. So don't. I usually do try to write every day, but sometimes life demands that you take a day off.  Even if you write only a page or two, instead of the six or so you need to do to stay on track, you're doing more writing than you would have done without NaNo. If it's a consistent problem, do what the gym rats do: schedule writing time into your day, either by getting up earlier or staying up later. Or skip having lunch with your friends and use that time to write. Unlike with a workday gym break, you won't need a shower afterward.
  • I didn't write for several days, and now I'm too far behind to ever catch up. Here is my dirty little NaNo secret: I am often several days behind. There have even been a couple of NaNos that I started at a deficit because I was out of town for the first few days of the month. The way I catch up is by writing a little bit more every day thereafter -- so maybe 2,000 words a day instead of 1,667 -- and/or doing a writing blitz with a 5,000- to 7,000-word day the following weekend.  Also, I've said it before and I'll say it again: for Americans, Thanksgiving weekend can be a NaNo godsend. You can send the family out to the mall on Black Friday and spend your whole day writing.
  • I ran out of story. Pantsers, I believe, come in two varieties: anarchists who are constitutionally unable to write an outline and stick to it, and newbies who don't realize that not every writer is a pantser. Just to be clear, I am a plotter, and my kind is legion. I always write an outline before I start a book. It's not a very detailed outline -- it often includes multiple instances of "I'll figure that out when I get there" -- but I have a pretty good idea of where I need to be at the end of each chapter so that I can be at X when the book is done. If you're stuck for where your story's going next, stop and write yourself a brief outline for the rest of your book, and include your outline in your word count. (You wrote it in November for the book, didn't you?) Alternately, you can introduce a new character, or write in some random event, just to get things going again. But don't dismiss the idea of outlining your book before you start; you might find that it works really well for you.
  • I got bogged down with doing research. Unless I need a quick answer (for instance: what's the name of the street on the western side of the National Museum of the American Indian?), I don't do much research at all while I'm writing a first draft. Not only can I get caught up in cascading web pages, but there's always the temptation to click over to Facebook or Twitter to see what's new. I'm told there are nifty programs out there that will shut down your Internet access for a period of time. But my personal policy is to just avoid opening the browser. Instead, I put in a string of question marks or asterisks -- something that will be easy to find-and-replace later -- and just keep writing. I've also been known to put a word in brackets, if the synonym is eluding me, rather than get caught up in a search.
  • I just can't stop myself from editing as I go. My dear, NaNo was made for you. The tyranny of the daily word count is designed to be enough to keep you from doing extensive editing, if you will let it. Typically, I will read over my last couple of pages, just so I know where to start from -- but all I do is read. I don't touch much of anything. If you're unable to keep from fiddling, stop your writing session in the middle of a sentence.Then it's easy to pick up and keep going the next day.
  • All my friends are way ahead of me. Ah, peer pressure. Listen, the only number that counts in NaNo is 50,000, and the only date that counts is November 30th. If your writing buddies' word counts discourage you, don't check their progress. Or find a group that writes at your pace and buddy up with them. NaNo is only a group activity if you let it be. During November, I go to the NaNo site to plug in my new word count and watch the videos, and that's pretty much it. If I do check my buddies' word counts, the thing that most upsets me is a number that hasn't budged in several days, because usually I find out later that the person has quit. I'm always sad when that happens. I want everybody to win NaNo.

Last year, I dithered over whether to do NaNo again. I'd just finished writing Tapped on an accelerated schedule a couple of months before, and was feeling some first-draft burnout. In the end, I convinced myself to give it a try, as I was going to have to write Gravid anyway; if I didn't get started on it in November, I would have had to write the book the following month, while also baking holiday cookies and generally gearing up for Yule. This year, I'm in more or less the same place -- I finished drafting Crosswind in September and am editing it while preparing for this next book. But I've been excited about Undertow ever since I conceived of the idea for this series. So this year, I'm looking forward to NaNo. Come on, November!

Thanks to those of you who downloaded Seized during its free days last week. This week, Fissured will be free at Amazon from Wednesday through Saturday. And also this week, I'm releasing the final "Land, Sea, Sky" prequel, "Prophecy". It should be out on Wednesday, too. As always, I'll let you know when it's live.

Oh, and if you want to be my NaNo buddy, click here and add me as a buddy. I promise to add you back.

These moments of helpful NaNoWriMo blogginess are brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bits and bites.

It's been a scattered sort of day here, so this post is liable to be a little disjointed. Here's what's going on:

  • 13 Bites launched today, October 13th! And Yrs Trly has two stories in it. Well, one and a smidge. The full story is called "A Man's Gotta Do What a Man's Gotta Do," and it's a Pipe Woman Chronicles prequel featuring Joseph and George; the smidge is a flash fiction piece I wrote for a prompt at Indies Unlimited not long ago. In all, we have 13 stories (hence, 13 "bites") from 10 authors, all of whom are members of the BookGoodies Authors' Group on Facebook. BookGoodies is turning into a pretty rad site for both authors and readers; we recently surpassed 1,000 author interviews on the site, and we have a chat board where we talk about all sorts of book-related stuff. Anyway, this anthology was the brainchild of Alan Seeger, who proposed the project, volunteered to be our editor, and has done a bang-up job. Joseph Picard did the cover art, and he also has a story in the book. We'll have a paperback version eventually, but the Kindle edition is available right now on Amazon for $2.99. We're donating all proceeds to children's literacy programs around the world. It was a neat project to be involved in -- I got to make some new friends, we may all find new readers, and as a bonus, we'll be helping kids learn to read. And, oh yeah, we have a website for the book, too:
  • I spent all day yesterday with my head down in my computer, tinkering with Crosswind. And I'm happy to say that when I was done playing around with it, I felt it was ready to send off to my editor and beta reader. So the e-mail went out early this morning. Whoo hoo! If all goes well (i.e., if they don't send it back and tell me it stinks), it should be available sometime around November 20th. We'll have a cover reveal here presently....
  • In addition, the final "bridge" short story will be out next week. I expect "Prophecy" will be available around the 23rd or so, but I'll let everybody know in the usual social media places when it's up and running.
  • Leading up to Crosswind's release, I'm going to do another round of free days for the five Pipe Woman Chronicles books. It will start this Wednesday, October 16th, with Seized being free Wednesday through Saturday. Next week it'll be Fissured's turn; then Tapped will be free during Halloween week; then Gravid; and then Annealed. Please let your friends and neighbors know!
  • I guess it's good that I'm getting all this out of the way this week, because NaNoWriMo starts in a couple of weeks. Aieee.... My project this year is the first draft of the second book in the Land, Sea, Sky trilogy, which will be called Undertow.
I think that's it for now... Oh, wait! There is one other thing. My daughter Kat entered this week's flash fiction contest at Indies Unlimited. You can read her entry here. Voting commences Wednesday, but don't worry -- I'll give you a heads-up.

Have a great week, everyone.

This moment of bloggy disconnect has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The button stash.

This is only about half the stash.
The other day, I began thinking about knitting a new jacket for myself. I have the pattern picked out, and I bought the yarn last spring. (It's Jean Frost's Boyfriend Jacket and Glenfiddich Wool worsted weight in a purplish blue, if you care.) But I hadn't yet looked in the button stash to see if I had anything suitable. So I pulled out the drawer and went spelunking.

The vast majority of buttons in my stash came from my mother. She was an inveterate sewer and crocheter, but an indifferent knitter. When I sorted through her things after she died five years ago, I found several storage boxes full of fabric, zippers and bias tape in a range of colors and lengths, a couple of shoeboxes full of thread, and buttons out the wazoo. (I also found half-worked projects, including crocheted doilies using hooks so small that I'd go blind trying to complete them, and a knitted cable cardigan that she'd abandoned in the midst of the boring torso. I sympathized. Then I tossed the whole thing -- for a number of reasons, not least of which was that the pattern was missing. I might have been able to puzzle it out, but it just wasn't worth it.)

The state of Mom's button stash, when I found it, speaks volumes about who she was. For one thing, all of the stuff in this picture was dumped into a drawer in her sewing machine cabinet. She had strung together some of those that matched (sometimes on thread, sometimes on twist-ties), but there are plenty more sets that she didn't match up. Maybe she gave up.

You might notice that some of the buttons in the picture above (particularly the big brown one in the center at the very bottom) look as if they'd been used. That's because they had. Both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression, and when money was scarce, they learned to reuse. Mom was not above pulling the buttons off of a worn-out piece of clothing before throwing it away.  The thing is, she collected them way faster than she reused them -- hence the massive stash.

Sometimes, too, I think Mom had a bit of magpie in her. Even with this collection at home, she would buy cards of new buttons if the price was right, or if she liked them. Also in the stash are five or six cards, three buttons to a card, of 1/2" brown buttons with a sort of candy-striped brown-and-white rim. They're cute -- I used some of them on a baby sweater awhile back -- but what would have possessed her to buy fifteen of them? An adult-sized shirt only takes six or seven.

There's history in here, too, of various kinds. I've found mother-of-pearl buttons still on their cards, Bakelite plastic buttons, cards of buttons from the '60s priced at 29 cents (those days are long gone....). And too, sometimes I'll come across a lone button left over from an outfit Mom made for me (and wish she had scavenged them when I outgrew the outfit because they were cute!).

I should sort through the whole stash at some point and get rid of the stuff I know I'll never use: the basic white dress shirt buttons, the gray ones from my father's work uniforms, and the random other fasteners that got mixed in over the years. I should do that. I should.

But for now, I'll keep spelunking. I did come up with candidates for this jacket in several different styles, but I decided to wait on a final choice until the project is done. Who knows? Maybe none of them will work, and I'll have to go to the fabric store. I suspect I may have a little magpie in me, too.

In case you missed my Facebook post, I'm pretty excited that I'll have two pieces in the upcoming BookGoodies fiction anthology. One is a Pipe Woman Chronicles prequel starring Joseph and George. The name of the book is 13 Bites and it should hit Amazon next Sunday, October 13th. I'll have more info (including, with any luck, a buy link) next week.

Oh! And happy second blogiversary to Indies Unlimited, and many happy returns of the day! To mark the toddlerhood of our li'l nuclear-powered deathstar superblog, I saved the cake from the hearth/myth blogiversary in August. It's only a little stale.

Seriously, I am honored to be a part of such a talented and knowledgeable group of authors and bloggers. That they're also a lot of fun to hang out with is...well, it's icing on the cake. Happy anniversary to Stephen Hise, K.S. Brooks, and the rest of the gang.

This moment of button-spelunking blogginess has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Post mortem: Banned Books Week 2013.

From the organizers, as tweaked by Kriss Morton.

Yesterday was the final day of this year's Banned Books Week. In my usual timely manner, I'm late to the party. My justification for talking about it now is that, like most observances of this sort, we should be vigilant about the suppression of books, and the ideas in them, all year long.

And not only because I fully expect the Pipe Woman Chronicles will make the list one of these days, if I ever get famous enough.

Look at any list of banned books, in any given year, and you'll find entries from the sublime to the ridiculous.Take the 2012 list. I mean, okay, Fifty Shades of S&M makes sense. Right? But Toni Morrison's Beloved won a Pulitzer, for gods' sake, and Morrison herself won the Nobel for literature in 1992. And what's the deal with Captain Underpants, anyway? [A pause while I go googling...] Hmm, okay, I get it now. It's subversive -- the kids disobey authority. Never mind that our nation was founded by a bunch of guys who disobeyed authority.

But I digress. ran a series of blog posts about banned books this week, and one of them talked about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. Like many sci-fi and fantasy novels that tackle religion, Pullman sets his series in what amounts to an alternate universe. The "evil overlords" are represented by Mrs. Coulter, but it's clear that what Pullman is really jabbing at is organized religion -- a point that was not lost on the Catholic League when "The Golden Compass," the movie version of the first book, was released in 2007. The group mounted a protest against the books, saying they were "written to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism."

Pullman more or less copped to the charge in an interview with the Guardian after he won a major British literary prize, the Whitbread, in 2002. In it, he said:
The original impulses of the great religious geniuses -- with whom I include Jesus -- were, as often as not, something that all of us would benefit from studying and living by. The churches and priesthoods would benefit more than most, but they dare not.... [I]n my view, belief in God seems to be a very good excuse, on the part of those who claim to believe, for doing many wicked things that they wouldn't feel justified in doing without such a belief.
(That's not far too afield from where the Pipe Woman Chronicles end up. Alas, my series lacks Pullman's subtlety. But I digress again.)

The fight against book banning, and in favor of free speech, has been going on pretty much forever, and no one expects it to end any time soon. Whenever an author -- whether it be Dav Pilkey (who wrote the Captain Underpants books) or Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale) or Philip Pullman or Toni Morrison -- tweaks the nose of someone in authority, authority is going to try to silence that author. That's why the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the first amendment: to protect those who dare to speak truth to power.

Thanks to those of you who took advantage of the free days this week and downloaded the first two Land, Sea, Sky stories. Please stick around -- there's more to come. The third story, "Prophecy," will go live next month, and the first draft of Crosswind is officially in the can.  I've got a Pinterest board set up already, too, for the gods and goddesses in the new series. Why, yes, September has been a busy month...

These moments of unbanned blogginess are brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tweet test: the results.

Last week, you may remember, I rambled on for a while about how my Twitter feed was filling up with "buy my book" tweets and retweets, and suggested maybe we should all quit doing it, inasmuch as it alienates followers and doesn't sell books.

After reading some of the comments to that post, I decided to try a little test. Last Wednesday, I released the second of three Land, Sea, Sky short stories, Change of Plans. So on Thursday, I programmed HootSuite to promote the book by sending out one tweet an hour, from midnight to midnight -- 24 tweets in all.

Here's a screen shot of what my Twitter profile looked like that day. I'll spare you the repetition of all 24 tweets. (This isn't the most egregious use of Twitter I've ever heard of; I read about one self-pubbed author who programmed tweets to go out every 15 minutes.)

Granted that it's not the most cogently-written tweet ever, and #PipeWomanChronicles and #LandSeaSky aren't exactly trending hashtags (although not for lack on trying on my part, at least in the case of the Pipe Woman Chronicles). And it's a short story, which tends not to sell as well. And I offered it for 99 cents, not for free. But if Twitter were a viable advertising platform, you'd think I'd get some action out of my tweet blitz, wouldn't you?

Do you want to know how many copies of Change of Plans I sold on Thursday? Exactly one. And that sale may be attributable to my posting the link on the Thrifty Thursday feature at Indies Unlimited the same day, forgetting momentarily that I was doing the Twitter test. (In my defense, I hadn't had any coffee yet.)

I also should have checked whether I lost any followers because of my wall-to-wall Twitnoise. Alas, I forgot to note my pre- and post-test follower numbers -- and anyway, that, too, might have been skewed by a Twitter follow-fest we did at IU last week. (No, I'm not doing another tweet barrage to find out for sure.) I do have one anecdotal report, however: one of my daughter Kat's friends, who also follows me, asked Kat what was going on. Upon learning that it was a test, she told Kat that if it hadn't been, she would have unfollowed me.

If you need more evidence, this rant came to my attention today.  In it, a gentleman opines about how self-published authors are "destroying literature" (the maroon's words, not mine) by publishing unvetted dreck and -- wait for it -- clogging up social media with "buy my book" posts and tweets. (Apparently there's a #buymybook hashtag. I don't know why that surprised me.)

I hear you: "So if I can't use social media for advertising my book, what's it good for?" My friends, you can find the answer in the word "social". Don't just shout at people; aim to start a conversation. It's not hard! Here's what you do:
  1. Set up your Twitter profile properly. K.S. Brooks posted a tutorial last year at IU about how to get both your website's or blog's URL and your Amazon Author Page URL into your profile. Read her post here. Then go to your Twitter profile and fix it. Do it now, while you're thinking about it. Go ahead -- I'll wait.
  2. Back already? See, that didn't take long. Now make a quick list of things in your book that you could tweet about. The Pipe Woman Chronicles were rife with stuff I could work into tweets: the locales (Denver, the Pine Ridge Reservation), the people (Native Americans), the events, and the gods. A secondary theme of Fissured is hydraulic fracturing, so I sometimes post about that. Last week, I shared a link to a re-imagining of many of the Yoruba gods and goddesses, because Oya sends a human representative to the Big Mediation in Annealed. Your book is a standard romance? Then tweet about romance. Your book's a thriller? Tweet about real-life events that inspired you or that remind you of your plot.
  3. In addition to that, I'll tweet links to writing-related blog posts that I've found interesting. And occasionally, I'll post* random stuff that made me laugh.
So how does this sell books? If a follower thinks you're sufficiently interesting and/or entertaining, they will check out your profile to learn more about you. And I don't know about you, but I almost always click through to a person's profile before I follow them on Twitter. And -- hey presto! -- now your profile sports a link to your Amazon Author Page, so people can go there and look at your work. And precisely because you haven't been hitting them over the head with "buy my book" links, they're more likely to buy one of your books -- and tell their friends and followers what a great writer you are, on top of being entertaining, and maybe then those people will buy one of your books. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You don't think it works that way? Tell it to Hugh Howey. Wool got to be a bestseller by word of mouth. You've got nothing to lose by giving it a try.

*Dirty little secret: I have my Facebook fan page linked to my Twitter feed, so anything I post on my fan page goes automatically to Twitter.

In other news: The first draft of Crosswind should be done tomorrow -- huzzah! That means the book is on track for a late November release.

Thanks very much to those who've purchased Change of Plans! And please watch your spam filter e-mail inbox (I have no illusions here!) this week for an extremely belated newsletter.

Happy Mabon, everyone.

This is a test of the hearth/myth blog by Lynne Cantwell. This is ONLY a test. Do not adjust your set.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reducing Twitnoise: A modest proposal. | Creative Commons
I hope I don't get myself drummed out of the indie author corps for this post.

I dislike Twitter. There, I said it. And yet, it ought to be a natural for me, because broadcast news requires short sentences of 10 or 20 words, in subject-verb-object order. I'm used to conveying ideas in quick bites that are easily understood by a distracted listener.

Moreover, a reasonably-sized slice of my broadcasting career was devoted to writing "bumpers" -- one-line promos about the next story or stories that are designed to pique your interest so that you stick around through the commercials.

So I should be gravitating to Twitter. But I hate it. Why? Because I feel like every time I'm there, somewhere around 87% of my tweet stream consists of people trying to sell me something. Oh, it's not all blatant "buy my book" tweets; often it's people retweeting other people's "buy my book" tweets.  To make matters worse (for me), there are a number of apps that will not only filter out the dreck from your own feed, but will allow you to schedule your "buy my book" tweets, as well as "buy this other guy's book" tweets, as often as you want, all day long, for weeks into the future.

If you, too, are an indie author, you probably already know this. And you've probably been petitioned, cajoled, and/or coerced into either sending your own advertising tweets or retweeting somebody else's. Right?

Here's what bothers me. See, I'm not a public relations professional: I'm not paid specifically to sell other people's stuff for them. Mind you, P.R. is an honorable profession -- it's just not what I get paid to do. I'm an author. And as an author, I believe (maybe wrongly!) that I have a reputation to uphold. I want readers and other indies to associate my name with a certain level of quality. And so if I'm recommending that someone click on a link I've posted on Facebook or tweeted on Twitter, I want them to know that I've vetted the material at the link, and I think it will be worth my followers' time to check out.

So when somebody hands me a list of tweets from people I met five minutes ago and says, "Here, tweet these, and then we'll all tweet one for you," I resist. I haven't read any books by any of these people; I don't know whether I can recommend them or not.

I had someone tell me this week, "It's just a retweet. People will know you haven't read the book."  Really? I'm sending out a tweet under my name, with my picture on it, and people won't think it's a personal recommendation?

Do we have any figures on whether "buy my/his/her book" tweets actually sell books? Any proof that this tactic does anything other than annoy people with Twitnoise (a word I just coined -- do you like it?)? If so, please let me know and I will reconsider my prejudice against the practice.

But if it annoys people *and* it doesn't sell any books, why do we keep doing it?

Speaking of self-promotion (and yes, I get the irony): Coming out this week will be the second of the "Land, Sea, Sky" prologue stories. In "Where Were You When?" last month, I introduced you to Tess Showalter, who's on the verge of becoming a journalist ("Gee, Murgatroyd, I wonder where Lynne got that idea from?"); this month, in "Change of Plans," our main character is Darrell Warren, a nice guy whose life is about to do a 180-degree turn courtesy of a certain rabbit-eared god. I hope you'll check out both of them on Amazon.

Also, I'm making good progress on Crosswind, the first LSS novel. The first draft passed 40,000 words early this morning -- whoo hoo! I'm hoping to finish it by this time next weekend, but that's probably too optimistic. We'll see, though.

This moment of cranky Twitter blogginess is brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ghosts in the machine, and other stuff.

Alert readers of my Facebook page will know that work has begun on the first draft of Crosswind, Book One of Land, Sea, Sky. I'm now up to almost 25,000 words, after a good 5,000-word day yesterday. The first LSS short story -- "Where Were You When?" -- came out a couple of weeks ago.  I'm thinking I'll release the second one, which is called "Change of Plans," right around the fall equinox; the third, "Prophecy," will be out in mid- to late October.

Anyway, progress has been made on the new book -- which made for an interesting morning today, when I booted up the computer and noticed my usual background was gone. Then I noticed a bunch of my desktop icons were gone. And then I tried to open my e-mail program and found all my e-mails were gone. And all my bookmarks were gone from Firefox, too. Aieee.... I spent some time doing damage control instead of writing, and then I shut the computer down and went to book club. When I got back tonight, I restarted the beast -- and everything's back where was last night: icons, e-mails, bookmarks, all fixed.

I have absolutely no idea what happened. One of life's little mysteries, I guess.  The good news is that I didn't lose any of my data files -- which means I still have all 25,000-ish words of Crosswind. Whew.

In less personal news, the Apple price-fixing case is over -- at least until Apple files an appeal. This past week, US District Judge Denise Cote handed down Apple's sentence: the company cannot enter into so-called "most favored nation" agreements with any publishers; and it is prohibited from sharing a publisher's information with a competitor, including information about promotions and pricing. The court will set up a compliance monitor to make sure Apple is toeing the line. Interestingly enough, the decision applies only to e-books; Apple's strategies in relation to music and apps were not affected. Judge Cote said she didn't want to stifle innovation in those markets.

Thanks to this whole mess, you probably received an e-mail this week from your favorite e-book retailer, outlining the terms of your refund(s) due from the publishers who were charged with price-fixing along with Apple, but which settled rather than go to trial. According to the e-mails I received, it looks like Amazon and Nook will credit your refund to your account, while Sony will send out checks. I haven't bought any e-books from Kobo, so I didn't get an e-mail from them. If you did, please leave a note in the comments; I'm interested to know what all the affected retailers are doing. I also didn't receive an e-mail from iBooks, but maybe they're waiting for the trial to conclude before they begin setting up any refund machinery.

Speaking of Amazon, it has recently instituted a program called MatchBook. If you've ever bought a hard-copy book from Amazon since it was founded in 1995, you can now buy the ebook version for no more than $2.99. Sounds like a great deal if you're interested in digitizing your whole library, right? The problem is that very few trad publishers are taking part -- according to Digital Book World, only HarperCollins has signed up thus far. Amazon's publishing imprints are playing, of course. And so is Kindle Direct Publishing, which is the platform indies use to get their books onto Amazon, so I've enrolled SwanSong and the Pipe Woman Chronicles in MatchBook. I expect I'll do the same for the LSS novels.

The vast majority of my sales are e-books, so I don't expect to see huge financial rewards from the MatchBook program. But hey, if you bought a paperback of any of my novels and you're thinking of getting a Kindle, it's nice to know that the e-books won't cost you a fortune.

This moment of calm-after-the-panic blogginess is brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

One-book wonders.

image copyright most likely held by the 20th Century Fox
from Wikipedia
In the music business, to continue the theme of last week's post (and to attempt a clever segue), a term became popular in the '60s to describe bands that had just one good song in them. They were known as "one-hit wonders." If you've ever seen the movie "That Thing You Do!" with Tom Hanks, you'll get the significance of this term. Hanks played a music promoter in the wake of the British invasion in the 1960s. His job was to find garage bands with a marketable sound, and give them a record contract.

The Oneders -- whose name Hanks's character changed to the Wonders because nobody could figure out how to pronounce the original -- were signed on the strength of their song "That Thing You Do!" They toured the state fair circuit, playing to screaming fans, with Hanks's character orchestrating their every move.  But when it came time to record another song, the band fell apart -- and the promoter went on to find the next potential big thing.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, perhaps inadvertently, tapped into this idea in a blog post this week. She was attempting to explain the difference she saw between writers who want to make a living at fiction writing, and those whose aim is mainly to tick "get published" off their bucket list. That's probably more flippant a description than those writers deserve, which is likely why Rusch had so much trouble coming up with a term for them.  "Hobbyist writer" doesn't cover it, any more than "amateur" would; after all, these writers do sometimes make money from their novels.  And many of them are perfectly adequate writers who pay attention to their craft. Sometimes they have ideas for two books, or even more than two books. But one thing delineates them from the career writer: they are focused on the goal of having their book accepted by a traditional publisher. They want to see their work on a bookstore shelf. They want to be able to hold their book in their own two hands and see their name on the cover. They want to be published

Rusch dubs these folks "one-book writers."

Sometimes, she says, a one-book writer believes it's impossible to make a living at writing. Sometimes it's that the writer has other interests he or she would rather pursue. In any case, she says, the vast majority of the writers she has met over the course of her career have met this definition.

By contrast, she says, career writers view the business of writing very differently:
The career writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living—a good living—from writing those books. Her goals are twofold: to have books in print, yes, but more than that. This writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information.
She’s not in it for accolades or wealth, although those are nice side benefits. She’s not in it to get tenure or to show her literary bona fides. She needs to make the rent and do so while pursuing a non-traditional career. That takes planning and foresight, and an ability to roll with the punches.
- See more at:
The career writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living -- a good living -- from writing those books. Her goals are twofold: to have books in print, yes, but more than that. This writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information.

She's not in it for accolades or wealth, although those are nice side benefits. She's not in it to get tenure or to show her literary bona fides. She needs to make the rent and do so while pursuing a non-traditional career. That takes planning and foresight, and an ability to roll with the punches.
I realized, while reading this description, that I've been straddling the fence for quite a while. I've said here before that I'm on a seven-year plan, and that I hope to make enough money from my writing to retire before that seven years is up.  Now I realize that at some point in this journey, if I'm serious about making a living from my writing, I'm going to have to give up the day job. I'm not there financially -- yet. But it's time for me to start planning for that day.

Another observation Rusch makes is that most of the writing advice you find on the web is aimed at the one-book writer. It's either for people starting out in the writing business, or for people who are seeking that elusive contract. They want to tick "published author" off their bucket list. And they want to do it "legitimately," in the time-honored manner, with a "real" contract from a "real publisher."

These people, Rusch implies, will never be happy as indies.  Because they've been led to believe (often by other one-book writers!) that it's impossible to make a living as a writer, they don't expect to. So the idea of learning to publish and market their own work doesn't make any sense to them, even if they could make a living at it. The concept of living off their writing income seems crass or vulgar. If their work doesn't sell, it simply means the public doesn't understand them -- not that either: a) their work stinks, to put it bluntly, or b) they don't know how to find their readers and market their work to them, and they won't bother to learn.

I know it's possible to make a living from one's writing; I did it for 20 years. But I confess that I've been buying into the idea that one can't make a living from writing fiction unless you're extremely lucky, the way J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are lucky. But you know what? Maybe all it takes to make a living at writing fiction is to have a lot of books for sale, and to market the hell out of them.

So I'm spending this Labor Day weekend making a dent in the word count for Crosswind, the first "Land, Sea, Sky" book, and I'm going to be packaging some of my other work in different ways for the upcoming holidays. It's nearing the end of Year One of the Grand Seven-Year Plan, and I'm going to start putting stuff out there and seeing what sells.

These moments of bloggy determination are brought to you, as a public service, by .
The career writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living—a good living—from writing those books. Her goals are twofold: to have books in print, yes, but more than that. This writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information.
She’s not in it for accolades or wealth, although those are nice side benefits. She’s not in it to get tenure or to show her literary bona fides. She needs to make the rent and do so while pursuing a non-traditional career. That takes planning and foresight, and an ability to roll with the punches.
- See more at:
The career writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living—a good living—from writing those books. Her goals are twofold: to have books in print, yes, but more than that. This writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information.
She’s not in it for accolades or wealth, although those are nice side benefits. She’s not in it to get tenure or to show her literary bona fides. She needs to make the rent and do so while pursuing a non-traditional career. That takes planning and foresight, and an ability to roll with the punches.
- See more at: