Sunday, May 26, 2013

Yet another Annealed contest.

In case you were living under a rock and/or didn't get the e-mail (see the example over on the right -- yes, Amazon actually sent an  e-mail like this to some people, and thanks to Laurie Boris for the screenshot!), Annealed was launched on an unsuspecting public this past Wednesday.  My little corner of the Twitterverse and blogosphere lit up with people posting the release info and Rafflecopter contest form.  I'm very grateful to all of them for their help in getting the word out.

The prize for the launch contest (which, by the way, you can still enter if you like) is a copy of each of the five Pipe Woman Chronicles books and an Amazon gift card.  Now that's all well and good if you haven't already read the books.  But I figure that most of you reading this blog post have read the first four books and are basically just here to find out about Annealed.  So I've got a different contest for you.

In Tapped, Naomi and Shannon visit a gift shop in Pine Ridge, and while they're there, Naomi browses the selection of dreamcatchers and thinks about getting one for the baby.  So what I have for you is a Navajo-made dreamcatcher which looks very much like the one in the picture on the left.  I purchased it from the Southwest Indian Foundation, a charity which offers a lot of help to poor Native Americans in the U.S. Southwest.

I knew that it was the Ojibwe who started the tradition of the dreamcatcher, but what I didn't realize (until I saw it on this website)  was that the Lakota adopted the tradition, and that the two tribes see the function of the dreamcatcher differently.  The idea in both cases is to hang the device over the place where you sleep.  The Ojibwe believe that bad dreams will be trapped in the webbing, like bugs caught in a spider's web, while the good dreams will make it to the sleeper by fitting through the tiny hole in the middle.  The Lakota believe that the dreamcatcher ensnares the good dreams, which then slide down the feathers to the sleeper underneath.

This particular dreamcatcher has a turquoise bead strung on the webbing.  It represents the spider who spun the web.

Of course, now the dreamcatcher is sort of a pan-Indian thing.  This one, as I said, is Navajo made.  An interesting side note about Native American crafts: the U.S. government regulates them.  The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 prohibits anyone but a member of a federally-recognized tribe from claiming that their products are authentic Native-American-made items.

Anyhow, this is a much nicer dreamcatcher than the one I made from a kit.  Plus I'm throwing in an Amazon gift card.  I'm out of pocket next week, so I'm going to let this run 'til Friday, June 7th. The contest form is below -- you know the drill by now.  (Note: If you have trouble getting the form to work for you, try using a browser other than Internet Explorer.)

Sweet dreams, everybody.  And I hope you enjoy reading Annealed.

The Rules (sorry, gotta have 'em):

  1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
  2. Winners from my previous contests may win again.
  3. Someone will win.  I am getting this stuff out of my house, one way or the other.
  4. As always, the judge's decisions are arbitrary, capricious, and final.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Annealed release!

Release Day Blitz for the 5th and Final Book in The Pipe Woman Chronicles by Lynne Cantwell

Naomi Witherspoon lives in interesting times. At the winter solstice, she was Seized by a Native American goddess to mediate a power-sharing agreement between all the pagan gods and goddesses and the Christian God. Then, as her relationship with her new boyfriend Fissured, she Tapped a wellspring of strength – her Native American heritage.
Now, Gravid and due any day, she must conduct the mediation of her life. Will she succeed? Or will it all go up in smoke?
The answers to these questions, and more, can be found in Annealed, the final installment in the Pipe Woman Chronicles, an urban fantasy series by Lynne Cantwell.

It began at the winter solstice

And it ends


PWC5 - Annealed

It’s zero hour…
Naomi has just two weeks to find a new home for Joseph's grandfather. The old Ute shaman is fighting for his life against a mysterious injection of toxin he received at the hands of the Norse Trickster god Loki. If Naomi is to defeat Loki once and for all, she must learn what it is he seeks under the old man's wickiup.
She has just one week before she must mediate between the Earth's pagan gods and goddesses and the Christian God. If her efforts fail, all of humankind will suffer the consequences.
And her baby is due any day.
In this, the fifth and final book of the Pipe Woman Chronicles, Naomi is in a race against the clock to balance the demands of her body, her family, and her friends – and she must do it while the whole world is watching.
A taste of chapter 10:

Jehovah sighed. "White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman, I concede that much of what You have said here is true. Humanity wrestles still with its baser impulses, even as it reaches for the pinnacle of its potential. Math, the sciences, engineering. I never thought they would figure out fractal theory." He chuckled. "I love My children dearly. Soon they will reach the stars. They are ever a surprise and a delight to Me."

Lynne Cantwell's take on the excerpt:

"Naomi has finally reached the Big Mediation -- the one between the Christian God and all the pagan gods and goddesses that the whole series has been driving toward. In this scene, White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman has just outlined all the ways humanity has trashed God's Creation: ruining the environment, using Scripture as an excuse to treat other human races like animals, and so on. God acknowledges all of that. But it's also clear that He takes great delight in what He has created -- and He has a sense of humor, too."

Click here to hear Lynne's interview at The Bookcast!

Book bloggers -- want to join the tour?  Go here to sign up! 

Everybody else -- keep reading, because we have a contest!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Another feminist post, sorry. Well, actually, I'm not.

The most interesting stuff I saw on Facebook this week (besides numerous pictures posted by George Takei...) was about what we teach our daughters to value.

On one hand, we had the brouhaha over Disney's reboot of Merida, the main character from the movie "Brave".  In making her over to fit into the Disney Princess pantheon, the powers-that-be put her in an off-the-shoulder number, replaced her bow and arrow with a tartan sash positioned to emphasize her hips, put rouge on her face, and redrew her crazy mass of curls.  Instead of looking like a young girl on the cusp of womanhood and fighting it tooth-and-claw, as she did in the movie, the Disney Princess Merida looked several years older and much more comfortable with being a hot chick.

The backlash was immediate.  Mothers complained about the sexualization of the character.  Even the original director of "Brave" got into the act; Brenda Chapman said she conceived of Merida, and her strength and independence, as a "love letter" to her own 13-year-old daughter.

After an anti-makeover petition on garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures (it's just shy of 226,000 as of this writing), Disney quietly yanked the picture from its website.  But my guess is that it hasn't canceled any orders for those Princess Merida toys now in production overseas. And I'm betting we'll see them on store shelves this holiday season.

As all this was brewing, a friend posted a link on Facebook to this website, where Texas photographer Jaime Moore posted a photo shoot she did of her daughter on the little girl's fifth birthday.  But instead of going all pink and frilly, Moore dressed and posed her daughter to match portraits of women who were more famous for their brains: Susan B. Anthony, Jane Goodall, and others. I encourage you to click through and take a look at the gallery.  I found it positively uplifting.

This all sparked a discussion with my own daughters, who are both in their twenties.  We wondered what it would be like if Disney offered a set of figurines of their Princess characters, but in their pre-princess outfits.  Belle could wear the blue-and-white ensemble she spends most of her movie in, Mulan could wear her soldier's uniform, Sleeping Beauty could go back to being a peasant girl named Rose, and Ariel could...well, okay, the seashell bra has always been problematic.  But I think Disney might be pleasantly surprised at how well such a set would do. After all, it's the potential of these heroines that little girls really relate to -- not that they became princesses, but that they were ordinary girls once.  That's what really gives us all hope, isn't it?  That we, too, can start out ordinary and still be successful?

Speaking of makeovers, the challenge is still on: send me your frilly and/or hot-and-sexy cover reboot for any of the Pipe Woman Chronicles.  I'll post my favorites.

We're at T-minus 3 days and counting for the launch of Annealed on Wednesday, May 22nd.  On release day, I'll be Bill Thompson's guest at the Bookcast; I'll post the link far and wide when it's live.  I've got some other cool stuff in the works, too, including a contest.  More info on that shortly.  It's gonna be a busy week!

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Annealed cover reveal, and "girly" book covers.

First:  today is Mother's Day in the United States.  So happy Mother's Day to all the moms of whatever stripe.

Second:  Yesterday I sent my very first e-mail newsletter.  That's right -- I'm not a direct mail virgin any more!  In it, I revealed the cover for Annealed, the fifth and final Pipe Woman Chronicles book.  For those of you who aren't on the mailing list yet (and why aren't you?), here you go:
I've also finished the trailer for Annealed (it's been a busy weekend!).  You can see it on the Book Trailers tab.  I had a good time playing with the features in my video editing software; some of them worked better than others, but hey, it keeps me off the streets.

I'm going to do another contest for this book release, too.  More info next week.

The rest of this post is going to be a bit of a rant.

One of the things that set me off was an article in The Nation by Deborah Copaken Kogan entitled, "My So-Called 'Post-Feminist' Life in Arts and Letters."  In it, Kogan talks about how her latest novel has been nominated for Britain's Women's Prize for Fiction.  You may have heard of the Booker Prize, Britain's big-name prize for novelists. The women's prize was started because all of the nominees for the 1991 Booker were men.

That was over twenty years ago.  There are still two prizes.  In this so-called "post-feminist" world, women still have separate-but-equal prizes.

And then I saw this post by Alexandra Petri on -- "Fix the girly book covers!"  Petri's posts are usually meant to be humorous, but this one is spot-on, and it references one of Kogan's points: books written by women are typically not taken seriously by the writing establishment.  Trad-pubbed authors have little to no say over the titles of their books, the cover art, or the marketing category they're slotted into.

Petri links to Maureen Johnson's post at about a project she started on Twitter that came to be called "Coverflip."  The idea was for people to take the cover of any book and re-imagine it as if written by someone who was either of the opposite sex or "genderqueer" (Johnson's term, not mine).  The results are funny as well as eye-opening; go here and scroll down the page to see the slideshow.

As entertaining as all this is, it masks an ugly truth: the prevailing wisdom in publishing is that both men and women read books written by men, but only women will read books written by women.  But women make up the vast majority of readers.  So trad publishers try to appeal to the perceived market by giving books frothy titles in cursive fonts on candy-colored cover art -- or, alternately, shirtless men with six-pack abs.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, the marketplace and all that.  But one consequence is that it marginalizes women writers who write serious books, so that their work isn't taken quite so seriously.  And I'm not convinced that it's not intentional.

I shudder to think what the Pipe Woman Chronicles covers would look like if a trad publisher had gotten hold of them.  Shirtless Indian with six-pack abs!  Oh baby!  Feel free to try your hand at a girly cover for any of the Pipe Woman Chronicles books, if you like. I'll post my favorite.

Anyway.  Just consider me a voice in the wilderness, crying out that it's not yet a post-feminist world out there.  Not by a long shot.  Not until big literary prizes treat men and women alike.  And a word of advice to Kogan, and to any other trad-pubbed woman who's not being taken seriously by her publisher:  Go indie.

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wherein we discuss magic realism, or: busted.

Here Comes the Flood - Rob Gonsalves
This is what happens when I shoot off my mouth.  I should know better by now.

On Friday, I wrote a little post for Indies Unlimited that was based a creative writing professor's takedown of another creative writing professor's comments about the current crop of creative writing students.

You with me so far?  Okay. To proceed, then:  The author of the original article was dismayed that his students don't read much in the way of contemporary literary fiction.  (Contemporary as in "written and published today," not necessarily as in "the setting of the story is the present day.")  The author of the article I mentioned in my IU post said that was a rotten idea.  He said basically that writers are a dime a dozen these days (and that is different from any other time in history how, exactly? But I digress...), and that creative writing programs are so successful in bringing lousy writers up to competency that it's natural for some of these barely competent writers to get published.  (My response to that is that if the gatekeepers are doing their jobs, then shouldn't the barely competent be rejected in favor of the extremely competent with some regularity?  But I digress again....)

Anyway, his point is that current literary fiction is banal at best, and not very good at worst -- and that writing students would be better off reading the best of any genre, not just the allegedly hoity-toity stuff.

Now that was a statement I could wrap a blog post around.  And so I did.  But then in that post, I made the mistake of referencing my famous rant about how magic realism is nothing but fantasy with an accent.

Karen Wyld, who is Aborigine and who writes magic realism, quite rightly took me to task for it.  Her post on her own blog in defense of magic realism is here.  It's terrific.  You should click through and read it.  But basically, she says (and I hope I don't get myself in trouble again for paraphrasing...) that magic realism grew out of the storytelling tradition, and that the genre was created by the dispossessed, or their descendants, as a way of explaining to others what they could not explain in any other way.  The magic in magic realism is intended to bring the reader into the writer's world, to let the reader feel what the writer feels about his or her lost land and way of life.

She's right, of course.  One need only think about books like Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate or Toni Morrison's Beloved, or anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and see how the magical events in these stories are there to evoke an emotional response in the reader.

But my original point was that the best fantasy writers do the same thing.  It's certainly true that a lot of them use magic simply as gee-whiz window dressing.  But the really good ones use it as a device to develop the characters' personalities and to underline their flaws -- and to evoke thereby a specific emotional response in the reader.  I keep going back to Stephen R. Donaldson because he's one of my favorite authors -- but he's one of my favorites because he's so damn good at this kind of thing.  Terisa Morgan surrounds herself with mirrors in order to convince herself that she's real; then a magic mirror becomes her portal to adventure and allows her to conquer her fear.  Thomas Covenant, stripped of everything that means anything to him, is brought to the Land, where he has unimaginable power that he never asked for and cannot bring himself to trust; he struggles to find a way to use this newfound power without betraying himself.

When I was in grad school, this frustrated me.  Any fantasy novel was dismissed as crap because, you know, it had magic in it.  But if a foreign author wrote a book that had magic in it, well, then, we can call it magic realism and it's okay to read -- the magic is there to explain why us white folks should feel bad about conquering these other cultures.  So it's not really magic -- it's a literary device.  It's allegory.  Or something.

It's insulting, is what it is: insulting to writers of both magic realism and serious fantasy.  Good writing is good writing, period.  Why we have to shove it into little labeled boxes and turn our noses up at one while lauding another escapes me.

Anyway, to be clear: magic realism isn't just fantasy with an accent.  But fantasy isn't dreck by definition, either.

In other news, and speaking of fantasy and Stephen R. Donaldson, I hope you saw my interview at John Pythyon's blog earlier this week.  It was a ton of fun to do, and I think it turned out really well.

And you may have already heard that I sent off Annealed to my editor last night.  Yay for progress!

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