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.