Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Grumpy Cat calendar caper.

Who knew a brain fart would turn out to be so expensive?

Several weeks ago, while my daughters and I were killing time in a card shop after dinner out, Amy stopped in front of a section of Grumpy Cat merchandise and said, "Ooh! There's a Grumpy Cat page-a-day calendar! You could get me one of those for Yule!"

A quick bit of back story, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past couple of years: Grumpy Cat, whose real-life name is Tardar Sauce, is a sweet little kitty with a permanently cranky expression. Her debut -- a photo with the single-word caption, "NO" -- went viral. It spawned lots more picture memes (many of them with hurtful captions -- I guess some people can't help but be jerks) and got her humans a book contract and a movie deal. Reports that she made $100 million last year are apparently exaggerated, though.

Back to the card store, and my daughter telling me she wanted a Grumpy Cat calendar. I expect I said okay. I mean, I probably did. And then I forgot all about it. I'm old, okay? If it's not written on my to-do list -- or sitting in my email queue at the day job -- I tend to...SQUIRREL!

Come Yule morning, as we finished opening our gifts, Amy said, "Hey, I didn't get a calendar."

"Did you want one?" I asked. And she proceeded to remind me about the Grumpy Cat calendar. "Oh, right," I said faintly. And then I perked up. "Not a problem. I'll just go back to the card store tomorrow and get one."

Of course, they were out.

So was Barnes & Noble. So was Amazon had them -- all from third-party sellers, starting at $39.99 plus $3.99 shipping.

You got it. Scalpers had moved into the Grumpy Cat page-a-day calendar market.

My older daughter, Kat, suggested I try eBay. Lo and behold, somebody there had one for sale. I bid $20 and was immediately outbid. I increased my bid to $23 and moved into the lead. Go me! But the auction had another day to run, and I figured I'd be outbid again before it was over. So I went back to the Zon and bought the $39.99 calendar.

Keep in mind, the list price on this thing is 15 bucks.

You already know what happened, right? I won the auction -- after the one I bought from Amazon had already shipped.

So Amy's got her calendar, and now I have an extra. Anybody want to buy it from me? I hear it's quite the collector's item.

My heartfelt thanks to everybody who bought a copy of the Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus while it was on sale for 99 cents last week. And thanks, too, to the hundreds of readers who have already downloaded Seasons of the Fool since it went free on Friday. I hope y'all enjoy. And welcome to hearth/myth!

Seasons of the Fool is still free through Tuesday, December 30th, so if you haven't yet grabbed a copy, you've got time. Not a lot of time, mind you. Better run over to the Zon and get it now, before you forget....

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bringing in the Yule.
Happy Yule! Today is the winter solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere -- the shortest day of the year. I thought you might like a glimpse of how Elsie and Thea, those nice older ladies from Seasons of the Fool, celebrate the holidays.

When Elsie heard the car pull up in the driveway, her eyes widened in guilty surprise. Quickly, she stowed what she had been working on under the farthest corner of her loom.

And not a moment too soon. The front door of the cottage sprang open, letting in Thea, a Colorado blue spruce, and a few snowflakes. The taller woman briskly shut the door behind her and began to remove her hat.

"What a lovely tree," Elsie said.

Thea paused in the act of unbuttoning her coat. "I thought you were going to get the decorations out of the closet."

"I was, dear," Elsie said, turning pink. "I was. But I got sidetracked."

"Well," Thea said, softening, "we need the stand, at least."

"Yes, of course!" The plump woman shot of her seat at the loom and bustled through the hallway door. In a moment, Thea could hear her banging around in the closet. She smiled fondly as Elsie returned, triumphant, brandishing the tree stand. "Here it is!"

"Right in front of the window, I think," Thea said. "Don't you, dear?"

"I do." And the two ladies set about wrestling the tree into the stand.

"Oh, it's perfect," Thea said, clapping her gloved hands together, as she stepped back. "Come and see, Else."

"I would if I could get up," said Elsie from the floor. Both ladies chuckled as Thea gave Elsie a hand. "I might be getting too old for this," Elsie said in chagrin as she regained her feet.

"Nonsense," said Thea, and hugged her.

"It is a lovely tree," Elsie said again, leaning her head on Thea's shoulder.

Thea laughed softly. "It would be even lovelier with the lights and decorations, don't you think, dear?"

It was Elsie's turn to laugh. "Be right back," she said, and went to fetch them from the closet.

While she was gone, Thea deftly extricated a tiny box from the inside pocket of her coat and slid it behind a chair. "What got you so distracted, anyway?" she called to Elsie.

"Now, Thea," chided Elsie as she returned with a stack of boxes. "You know better than to ask such questions this close to Yule." She dropped the boxes on the footstool and began opening them: old-fashioned glass balls, hand-crocheted snowflakes, and the lights. Thea took one end of the strand of lights, and together they began to decorate the tree.

At last, it was done. Thea plugged in the lights and stepped back. The ladies leaned against each other, admiring their handiwork. "Happy Yule, Elsie," said Thea.

"Happy Yule, dear," Elsie said, and kissed her.

Baking is another of the ladies' holiday traditions, and kolaches (in Czech, kolačky) are Elsie's specialty. My own mother used to make them with a yeast dough. But Elsie uses a cream cheese dough -- and as it happens, her recipe is the same one I cut out of the Chicago Tribune many years ago.

3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup flour
1/16 teaspoon nutmeg
Fillings of your choice (see below)
Powdered sugar

Cream together the cream cheese and butter; work in the flour and nutmeg. Shape the dough into a roll about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to bake the cookies, slice the dough into rounds about 1/4-inch thick and place on a cookie sheet. Spoon a small amount of filling in the center of each slice. You can either fold two opposite edges of each slice together in the center, or leave as is. Bake for 10 minutes at  400 degrees. When slightly cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about three dozen cookies.

For the filling: You may be able to find Solo brand canned filling in the baking aisle of your supermarket. The poppyseed and apricot are my personal favorites. If you can't find them, you could make one or more of these fillings (the cheese filling is excellent), or just use fruit preserves.

Two quick notes: The Pipe Woman Chronicles was featured today at Kindle Books & Tips -- it's just 99 cents at Amazon through Saturday. And from Friday the 26th through Tuesday the 30th, Seasons of the Fool will be free at Amazon. Happy holidays, everyone.

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Street team news! And Native nativities.

We're getting ready for Yule here at La Casa Cantwell. The tree is up, the gifts are (mostly) bought, and the cookie baking leviathan is cresting the hill and picking up steam on the downhill run. (Which is to say that I made three batches of cookies this weekend.)

But I've also taken a few minutes to get the Woo-Woo Team up and running. I've set up a Facebook group, which you can join by clicking here. I've got the group permissions set to "closed", which means that you'll be able to see that it exists, but your friends won't be able to see what we're posting unless they join. (Muahaha....) Ideally, my team members will read my books and post reviews of them. But really, I'm thinking of the group as just one more tool to help you guys find out about my newest work. And team members will get perks now and then. And maybe we'll create a little community along the way. It's been known to happen.

If you've got a blog, feel free to grab the team badge, too. Hope you'll join us!

I was poking around on teh intarwebz the other day (probably in lieu of something I should have been doing instead -- the circumstances are a little hazy now) and ran across some photos of Native American nativity sets.

Now I know you guys realize that Native Americans don't all live in tipis and aren't all godless heathens. But apparently a lot of people don't know that. And folks are sometimes surprised to learn that many Native Americans are Christian, even if they also honor the spirits that are important to their tribe.

The Native nativities come out of the tradition of the storyteller figurine, which Pueblo artists were making as early as the 1870s. By the early 1960s, Cochiti potters including Helen Cordero were making "singing ladies" or "singing mothers": a woman with her mouth open in song, as children clung to her. Cordero was commissioned in 1964 to make a male figure in a similar pose. She called it a storyteller. Artists from other tribes took the idea and ran with it. Today, you can find storyteller figurines just about anywhere that sells Native American-style pottery; in fact, I have one that I hang on the tree every year.

Anyway, given that Christianity is as widespread among Native Americans as it is among the general population, it's not surprising that potters make nativity sets. And some of them go for big money. The Field Museum in Chicago is selling one on its website right now for $585.

But it's not just the price tags that struck me about these nativity sets. It's that all the major figures have their mouths open. They're all singing. They're all telling the story of Jesus' birth.

I bought my storyteller ornament because of the obvious-to-me connection -- I'm a mother and I tell stories. But now that I've seen these nativity sets, I wonder whether it's supposed to be Mary with the baby Jesus. And here I am, a Pagan, putting it on my Yule tree. Ah well -- it doesn't matter. There are many, many routes to Spirit, after all, and plenty for all of us to sing about.

These moments of bloggy storytelling have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Knitting silliness, or: why I don't have an Etsy shop.

It's my birthday, so I'll talk about knitting if I want to.

Neither the Lady Morgana nor this shawl will be available on Etsy any time soon.
I was poking around a yarn shop the other day when I overheard a conversation that I could relate to. Another customer was chatting with one of the clerks about how, when she wears something she's knitted for herself, people will not only compliment her, but they often want to know whether she ever makes things for other people. You know, for money.

The same thing has happened to me. In fact, one of my friends has suggested more than once that I start an Etsy shop for my knitting.

To be clear: I don't have an Etsy shop, nor do I ever plan to start one. It's not because I have anything against Etsy; I don't. But in my case, I don't see the cons outweighing the pros.

The biggest issue is cost. You can buy inexpensive yarn at a craft store, but I learned pretty quickly that stuff you make with cheap yarn Nowadays, I buy yarn at local yarn shops, and at shows like Maryland Sheep and Wool. I don't typically go overboard and buy really expensive yarn (except for that qiviut blend I bought in Alaska -- but hey, I was in Alaska!), but even nice sock yarn can cost $20 per skein. And shawls, for example, take two skeins or more. For a women's sweater, you can easily drop more than $100 on a good wool yarn. And that's just the yarn -- it doesn't count needles or buttons or other supplies. Or my time. A sweater can take 40 hours or more to make. Let's say I'm charging $8/hour, which would be crazy cheap. But even at eight bucks an hour, that's $320. Would you pay $420 for a sweater? I didn't think so.

And knitting-to-order would suck all the fun out of it. Early in my knitting journey, I read a book about the women who knitted the first Fair Isle sweaters. They were turning out one of those beautiful sweaters a week. One a week! With fine yarn on skinny needles! That's a miserable production schedule. Just thinking about it makes my hands hurt.

Finally, I would lose control of the process. As it is now, I pick the patterns and the yarn colors that appeal to me. But if I took orders, other people would be picking that stuff. And in the past, whenever I have offered to make something for someone, they usually say they want it in black. Let me tell you something: I have knitted with black yarn. It's boring. It can also be frustrating -- the stitches are difficult to see if I'm knitting in low light. I swear that the next time someone asks me to knit something for them in black, I am going to drag that person into a yarn store and force them to pick a different color. It's not like they don't make yarn in every freaking color of the rainbow.

So yeah. No Etsy shop for me. I make more money writing novels than I ever would at knitting -- and the raw materials are significantly cheaper.

A couple of bits of business before I close for this week:
  • As alert hearth/myth readers know, Seasons of the Fool's release date is this coming Tuesday, December 9th. The offer I posted last week still stands: I'll send you a copy of the book now, plus gift you a Kindle copy of the book when it's released, plus send you a signed copy of the paperback, if you'll promise to post a review of it when you're done. I've had some people take me up on the offer already -- thank you! :) 
  • The street team is still in development. Holiday prep, family stuff, and my birthday all sucked up my time this week. Sorry. But the good news is that you still have time to let me know if you want to be in on the ground floor. I did come up with a name for it, though: Lynne's Woo-Woo Team. What do you think? I guess we'll need a secret handshake or a decoder ring or something. You guys work on that and get back to me.
  • Oh, right -- Winter Tales is out! It's an anthology brought to you by the Five59 Publishing, the same folks who do the 13 Bites books. This new collection contains stories centered around the winter holidays, and it includes two short stories by Yours Truly. Hope you like 'em.
These moments of entrepreneurial blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's happening with Seasons.

This is a good news/bad news kind of post.

The bad news is that Amazon did not choose Seasons of the Fool for its Kindle Press program. So no $1,500 advance for me. Sad day, right?

But the good news is that it means I can now do anything I want with the book. So: Hey presto! It's available for pre-order at If you're in the UK, it's also available for pre-order at Amazon UK. And if you're anywhere else in the world, just plug "Seasons of the Fool" into the search bar in your respective Amazon store and you should come up with the book. The new cover looks like this:

The book will be released Tuesday, December 9th. But if you'd like a copy sooner, I'm prepared to make you a deal. If you're willing to post a review of Seasons as soon as you've read it, send me an e-mail at and I'll send you a copy of the e-book right now.

The "Look Inside" feature won't be available at Amazon 'til the 9th. But if you'd like to take a look sooner, I've posted an extended sample at Wattpad that includes both the text from the Kindle Scout excerpt and the part I read at the World Fantasy Convention last month.

The other takeaway for me from the Kindle Scout experience is that I need to develop a street team. I'm going to start a closed group at Facebook for that sometime in the next few days. If you're interested, contact me -- drop me a comment here, or message me on Facebook, or send me an e-mail at the address above -- and I'll make sure you're added to the team.

One other thing: We have a winner in the giveaway! Congrats to Becky Walters, who wins the Kindle Fire HD6. Becky, I'll get that off to you within the next day or so. And thanks to everybody who entered.

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seasons: Going to the beach in Michiana.

Julia had finished her blissful dip in the lake and had stretched out on her towel to dry off. The water was cool, even in August, and the hot sun felt good on her body. In a few moments, the breeze had begun to lull her to sleep.
As she dozed, she became aware that the noise level nearby had shot up. But it was only when a young voice cried out, “Julia!” that she realized she knew the people responsible for all the racket.
-- from Seasons of the Fool

Summer is, hands down, the best season in Michiana.

Our house has never had air conditioning. It gets humid, sure, but usually it's stifling only for a couple of weeks in July and August. Other than that, the temperatures stay pretty reasonable, thanks primarily to the tree canopy that keeps the direct sun off the roof.

Even so, the house would get warm inside in the summer. My mother had kind of a crazy system for regulating the indoor temperature. She always woke up early anyway, and when she got up -- when the house was still filled with cool night air -- she would close the windows almost all the way. Then she'd run fans to keep the air circulating. Between all that and the tree canopy, the temperature inside the house stayed almost tolerable until mid-afternoon or so -- at which point the outside temperature would begin to drop, so Mom would open the windows again.

Her system never worked for me. As a night person, I always get up too late. By the time I've rolled out of bed, it's already starting to warm up outside. My own system involves turning on the fans full blast and hoping for the best. And if it's really awful, I'll go to the lake for a swim.

I took the photo up top last summer at Stop 39, the beach that's closest to our house. About those stops: My parents told me there used to be a bus that ran along Lake Shore Drive from Michigan City, Indiana, to New Buffalo, Michigan. But at some point, a storm washed out a chunk of the road. So now Lake Shore Drive only goes to Stop 41 and there's no bus service at all to my old neighborhood.

Anyway, I never knew how spoiled I was, growing up with a beach so close by, until I went swimming in the Atlantic for the first time. To me, as a kid, a crowded beach was one where seven or eight families had their groups of towels laid out; it was never so bad that you were jockeying for enough real estate to put down a single towel, the way it can be at the ocean. Of course, the beaches in our neighborhood have no parking nearby, so it's just the locals. That cuts down on the crowding quite a bit.

I played a little fast and loose with the facts in Seasons of the Fool when I gave Dave a summer job as a lifeguard. It's been decades since any of the villages in Michiana have hired any. Which is kind of surprising, and dangerous, because riptides do happen in Lake Michigan. We learned as kids not to go in the water when a rip current is present -- but not everybody knows that, or knows that if you get caught in one, you should swim along with the current and eventually it will take you to shore. (That's your public service announcement for today. You're welcome.)

All good things must come to an end -- including summer, and this series of blog posts, and the Kindle Scout nomination period for Seasons of the Fool. We've got just another couple of days for folks to vote for the book. If you want a free copy, now's your chance to get in line for one -- and if you know someone else who would enjoy it, please let them know to click here and vote!

I'll keep everybody posted on the outcome via Facebook and Twitter. (Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed....)

The Rafflecopter will wrap up at the same time as the Kindle Scout nominations do -- so now's the time to enter. Up for grabs is a Kindle Fire HD6 in your choice of color. Rafflecopter doesn't play well with Internet Exploder, so if you're having trouble with the form, try it in another browser (either Firefox or Chrome or something). Good luck! And please tell your friends!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Seasons: Spring in Michiana.

With a sigh, Julia picked up her spade again and went back to turning over the soil in the flower bed. The conversation with Ms. Thea had brought reality back to her with a vengeance. Maybe physical labor would keep her from wondering yet again why she hadn’t heard from Dave since that text he’d sent, promising her that he would call.
She doubted it would work, but she couldn't think of an alternative.
-- from Seasons of the Fool

I feel like I've been talking about snow and cold weather a lot in this series of posts. Apologies in advance, because I'm going to do it today, too. It's just that it stays cold a lot longer in Michiana than it does in DC, where I live now. In fact, I used to have a sweatshirt that said, "Indiana -- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Winter, Winter," with a cartoon of three guys up to their noses in snow.

Cute, but SO not happening.
I remember paging through the Sears circular in the Sunday paper and pining for the short-sleeved dresses and pastel spring coats featured there for Easter wear. My mother would laugh at me, because she knew there was no possible way it would be warm enough for me to wear any of them.

But spring does come eventually, even to northern Indiana, and even if it's not nearly as colorful as it is in other parts of the country.

What I'd have seen, if I'd been really tall.
I was stunned during my freshman year of college when the trees on campus -- cherry, dogwood, ornamental pear -- exploded in blossoms. At home, our tulip trees would bloom, but they were so tall that we couldn't see the flowers. And one of my friends had a dogwood tree in her yard, which bloomed, of course. But one isolated tree just doesn't have the same impact as an entire campus full of pink and white.

That first spring in Bloomington, I dashed outside with my camera at my very first opportunity. While I was snapping photos like mad, I ran into a high school friend who was doing the same thing. We shared our wonder and amazement. But a further surprise awaited me: the trees kept blooming. For weeks. This was unprecedented. Back home, the end of winter was characterized mostly by dirty snow and mud, with an occasional daffodil. I began to get an inkling of why people looked forward to spring.

I've now lived on the East Coast longer than I did in Michiana. But every spring, when the trees here bloom and the landscape explodes in color, I'm still a little bit surprised.

The trailer is up for Seasons of the Fool. I think it turned out really well, if I do say so myself. You can go here to watch it, or click below. I've also posted it on my "Book Trailers" page.

And please don't forget to post your nomination for the book at Kindle Scout. Nominations close Wednesday, Nov. 26 -- which coincidentally is the last day you can enter the contest for the Kindle Fire HD6. The entry form is below. If you have trouble with it, try using a different browser than Internet Exploder.

Good luck! And tell your friends! I'd love it if we could make this book Hot and Trending all the way through the 26th!
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These moments of flowery blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Seasons: Winter in Michiana.

Julia glanced out the window. It was snowing so hard now that she couldn’t see the trees at the back of her property. She went to another window, trying and failing to see the Stareks’ house across the street. She thought maybe she could see a glimmer from Ms. Thea and Ms. Elsie’s through the murk, and wondered how the ladies were getting on. Then she thought of Dave – although really, she hadn’t stopped thinking about him since running into him at the store.
She picked up her phone and texted him: You OK?
-- from Seasons of the Fool

I've lived here in DC so long that sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live again in a place where it snows.

Oh, DC gets snow. Sometimes we get a pretty good-sized snowfall. Some years, we even get a lot of snow. But those winters are a far cry from the winters of my childhood.

Michigan City lighthouse (Russell Sekeet |
The school bus would pick up the kids in my neighborhood and then take Lake Shore Drive west, through Duneland Beach and Long Beach. Through the bus window, we got to see Lake Michigan in all of its moods: calm, with few waves; stormy, with high surf; and frozen.

And we almost always went to school, regardless of the weather. Here in the mid-Atlantic, if there's a couple of inches of snow in the forecast, the powers-that-be will give the kids a day off -- even if the snow hasn't started falling yet. It's faintly ludicrous. I mean, I get that part of the problem is logistical. a lot of kids have both parents working these days, and if school is going to be canceled, the parents need to know in time to arrange for somebody to stay home with them. But the other issue is that DC doesn't know how to handle an honest-to-goodness snowfall. Instead of sending the plows out as the storm is underway -- which is what happens north of here -- the highway departments around DC will wait 'til the storm is over, and only then begin digging us out.

To be fair, where I grew up, we got a lot more practice -- particularly on our side of the lake, where we would often be treated to the winter phenomenon known as lake-effect snow. Here's how it works: when the wind blows out of the northwest, it picks up moisture as it blows across the lake. The moisture-laden air cools as it moves over the land, the water in the air condenses, and it snows. A lot.

Here's a satellite picture of Lake Michigan so you can see how that works in practice. The area circled in blue is Chicago, more or less. See how you can see the ground on that side of the lake? Yeah. Now look where the red circle is. See how it's all white there? That's Michiana.

I wrote a lake-effect snowstorm into Seasons of the Fool, just to make the book as authentic as possible. However, I did not include the other fixture of winter life in Indiana: high school basketball.

For the uninitiated, basketball is almost as big a deal in Indiana as high school football is in Texas. For many, many years, Michigan City had just one high school -- Elston Senior High -- and the whole town would get behind the team every winter and cheer them on to victory. We even won the state championship in 1966. I was in third grade that year, and I still remember the signs at my elementary school in support of our Elston Red Devils.

By the time I got to high school, we had a second school in town: Rogers, whose mascot was the Raiders. (I wanted them to be the Rogers Ramjets, but nobody ever listens to me.) Unfortunately, splitting the student population also split our roundball talent. Elston still routinely won sectionals -- our longest streak was 24 years in a row, from 1952 to 1975 -- but we'd often get knocked out at regionals by one of the South Bend teams. However, in 1975 -- my senior year of high school -- Elston made it all the way to semi-state before losing to Lebanon. We were devastated, of course.

But I got over it the following year, when I was a freshman at Indiana University. The Hoosiers brought home the NCAA championship in 1976.

Like I said, basketball is a big deal in Indiana.

Back to the present day. I had a great time this weekend at the World Fantasy Convention here in DC. I met lots of cool people, did a reading for the new book, and came home with a bulging satchel of brand-new books. Rest assured that a number of them will be Rursdays eventually.

Next Saturday, I'll be gallivanting again -- this time to New York City for the Self-Publishing Book Expo.

As you know, Seasons of the Fool is up for nomination at Kindle Scout through Wednesday, Nov. 26th. And as a thank-you to you guys for putting up with me this month, I'm running a contest to give away a Kindle HD6. If you win, I'll even let you pick the color. The entry form is below; if it doesn't work for you, try using a different browser than Internet Explorer.

Good luck! And tell your friends!
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These moments of wintry blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Seasons: Halloween in Michiana.

“Maybe this isn’t a good idea,” Ms. Thea murmured behind her. “It’s so close to Samhain. The veil is already thinning.”
“Maybe it’s the best idea,” Ms. Elsie replied quietly.
The conviction in her voice gave Julia the courage to step into the labyrinth.
At the moment her toes touched the path inside the ropes, everything changed.
- from Seasons of the Fool

As (I hope!) you know by now, Seasons of the Fool is up for nomination at Kindle Scout. The nomination period for my book closes Wednesday, Nov. 26th, which gives us four Sundays between now and then. Four Sunday blog posts...four seasons...I'm sensing a theme here....

Darron Birgenhaier |
We've established that I'm old, right? When I was growing up in Michiana, trick-or-treating was an actual thing. We would get dressed up in our costumes and traipse around to the neighbors and hold out our little buckets or bags, and they would give us candy. It wasn't until I was a little older that people started getting spooked by stories of razor blades in apples and the like. And then came the stories about crazy, trippy people handing out drugs instead of candy, and, well, that's when most parents instituted the practice of checking over one's haul and tossing out anything that wasn't wrapped.

Urban myths die hard. Just last week, I opened a bag of miniature Milky Way bars and found one that had missed the wrapper machine at the factory. I debated whether to throw it out. But it was in a factory-sealed bag and it didn't look like anyone had injected anything into it, so I ate it. So far, I'm still here.

The thing I remember most about trick-or-treating in Michiana was it was cold. Late October near Lake Michigan is not for the faint of heart. Tweet: Late October near Lake Michigan is not for the faint of heart. My mother used to buy my Halloween costume a size bigger than normal, because it was pretty much guaranteed that I'd have to wear my winter coat under it. And yes, sometimes we would already have snow by Halloween; I remember stepping over snowbanks to get to people's doors.

I have a confession to make, and it's in relation to this: A few days ago, advice columnist Prudence posted a letter from a woman who complained that poor kids were getting all her good candy. "Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children," the sniffy woman said. "We already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services."

Prudie, bless her, shut her down. "Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate," she said. I wanted to stand up and cheer, because I was one of those 99-percent kids who would go trick-or-treating in better neighborhoods to get better candy. I mean, come on -- it's common sense. Who wouldn't rather get a bunch of candy bars than a bagful of Smarties? Tweet: I was one of those kids who went to better neighborhoods to get better candy. Who wouldn't rather get candy bars than Smarties?

Ms. Cranky One-Percenter, I have the perfect solution for you. Next year, band together with your neighbors and get everybody to agree to hand out nothing but Necco wafers and Laffy Taffy. I guarantee that the following Halloween, your neighborhood will be a ghost town for real.

Partly to take my mind off the Kindle Scout thing, I'll be out and about this month. Next weekend, I'm attending the World Fantasy Convention. I'm doing a reading (from Seasons, natch) on Saturday the 8th at 3:30pm. If you're planning to attend WFC this year, I hope you'll stop by.

The following Saturday, which would be Nov. 15th, I'll be in New York to attend the Self-Publishing Book Expo. I'm not speaking or reading, but I'm looking forward to sitting in on some panels and learning some new stuff.

And as a thank-you to you guys for putting up with me this month, I'm running a contest to give away a Kindle HD6. If you win, I'll even let you pick the color. The entry form is below; if it doesn't work for you, try using a different browser than Internet Explorer.

Thank you, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

These moments of bloggy nostalgia have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Scouting Seasons.

Here's the big news I promised you last week: Seasons of the Fool is one of the first books accepted into Amazon's Kindle Scout program. And I'm asking for your help.

First, let me explain what Kindle Scout is, as it's brand new. Amazon is accepting never-before-published manuscripts for this program. It's posting the cover, description, and an excerpt for each book for one month only.

Readers will have the chance to peruse the offerings and nominate their favorites. You can have up to three favorites at a time. But it's not a one-time thing; Amazon intends to post new books to the program all year 'round. When the month is up for one of your favorites, that slot will open up so you can nominate another book. You can click here for more reader info for Kindle Scout.

But what's the point? Well, books that do really well will be picked up by Amazon's new Kindle Press. The author gets a $1,500 advance and a five-year contract.

So what I'm hoping you will do tomorrow -- the link won't be live until then -- is go to the Kindle Scout page for Seasons of the Fool and use one of your nominations for my book. If Seasons is accepted by Kindle Press, you would get one of the first copies free. I'm going to send a reminder email tomorrow to the folks on my mailing list, so if you're not on the list yet but you'd like a reminder, you can click here to sign up. Or you can use the "No spam. No, really" form at the top of the column to the left -- they both go to the same place. And I'll also be posting reminders in the usual places (Facebook, Twitter, G+) throughout the month.

To further entice you, here's a little more about the book:


A Fool's journey begins with a single step...

Julia has fled Chicago for her grandparents’ old cottage–a refuge from her failed marriage. But she may have to testify against her husband, who defrauded his wealthy investors. And she’s falling for David, an old friend trapped in his own troubled marriage. 

Seeking guidance, Julia finds a labyrinth in the woods–and the elderly women who own it have their own reasons for wanting her to walk it. 

What Julia learns in the labyrinth could change all their lives, if only she would take it to heart.


Thanks so much in advance for your help.

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Catfish, anyone?

We'll get to our top story in a moment. But first, the news!

The Land Sea Sky Trilogy is free through tomorrow at Amazon. Thanks to everybody who has downloaded it already -- you're all my new best friends. And a note to those who don't have a Kindle: if you'd like to read the series, drop me an email or leave a comment here at the blog, and I'll do my best to fix you up.

Also, watch this space next week for some very interesting news about Seasons of the Fool. I'd tell you now, No. Next week. Come back then.

Since becoming an indie author, I have learned many new things. One of them is a new definition for catfish.

Back when I lived in Huntington, WV, the only kind of catfish I knew about was the kind that lives deep in rivers and streams. They eat the junk on the bottoms of such waterways (which is not always the healthiest stuff -- hence, the term bottom-feeder). Catfish also taste good, or so I've been told. I don't think I've ever tried one.

Anyway, thanks to the advent of teh intarwebz, catfishing has taken on a whole new definition. According to the Urban Dictionary: "A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they're not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances." Or, apparently, to post book reviews.

This is not to be confused with an internet troll, who purposely posts incendiary statements to get people riled up. And it's also not the same as a stalker, which is defined, in internet terms, pretty much the way it is in real life.

I'm making the distinction among these terms for a reason. This week, an article popped up in the book section at The Guardian by a trad-pubbed YA author named Kathleen Hale. In her article, Hale admits to stalking a reader who left her a one-star review. At first, she simply checked her Twitter feed obsessively for tweets from the woman. But eventually Hale went so far as to contact the woman repeatedly by phone, and even -- creeper alert! -- traveled to her house to confront her. (The confrontation apparently didn't happen; no one answered the door, so Hale left a book on her doorstep. The book was Anna Quindlen's A Short Guide to a Happy Life, a copy of which, Hale said, she just happened to have in her purse.)

The story takes a side trip to "Stop the Goodreads Bullies" Land. Hale says she landed on their list of Badly Behaving Authors simply by writing about tough subjects in her book. But she also makes an oblique reference to having responded to the one-star review, and to being attacked online thereafter. She appears to use this as justification for her subsequent behavior.

I was not involved in any way, shape, or form with any of this; I am simply an outside observer who is coming to the whole thing very late in the game. But these, for me, are the takeaway points:

1. Reviews are for readers. Reviewers are (ideally) giving their honest opinion of the book. Some readers look at the one-star ratings first, because the reviewer's deal-breaker might be a deal-maker for the reader. As the author, yes, it sucks to get a one-star review. But the smart author either reads them, takes any honest criticism to heart, and uses it to do better next time; or doesn't read them at all. The last thing an author should do is respond to a bad review. (In fact, I make a point of not responding to reviews at all. It's not that I don't love the good ones -- I do! and I'm grateful for them! -- but I just think it's best to leave the reviewers to their reviewing and to keep my mouth shut.)

2. Using an alias online is not a crime. In some instances, it's necessary -- just as it's prudent for some authors to use a pen name. The use of an alias doesn't make you a catfish, even if you use that alias to post pictures of pets you don't actually own and vacations you haven't actually taken.

3. Stalking is never okay. No justification for it will ever pass muster.

4. Maybe I'm cynical. But it occurs to me that Hale writes fiction -- dark comedy, according to the blurb for her novel -- and so there's an outside chance that she meant for her tale to be darkly humorous, and perhaps not completely factual.

Moreover, her article appeared just as we're beginning the run-up to the big holiday book-buying season. Coincidence?

I really hope that's what's behind this -- that it's either an attempt at humor that fell flat, or a bald grab for eyeballs for Hale and her book. Because the only other alternative I can think of is that the author has some personal issues. And if that's the case, then I hope her publisher is getting her some help.

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

WFC dreaming, or: the weekend I was nearly famous.

We'll get to our post in a moment. But first, the news:

  • The Land, Sea, Sky Trilogy is now live at Amazon. This omnibus edition includes a new author's note and the first chapter of Seized, just in case readers get to the end of the book and want to know why Antonia treats Naomi like a rock star. If you enjoyed the Land, Sea, Sky books -- or if you have been meaning to get around to reading them -- now's your chance. And not that I'm encouraging anyone to wait...but starting this Thursday, the omnibus will be on sale for 99 cents. I hope you'll check it out, and tell all your friends, too.
  • The fractal jaguar is having his moment in the sun this weekend. The book trailer for Fissured is featured at Indies Unlimited today. Click through if you haven't seen it -- or, heck, if you'd like to see it again.
  • I received an e-mail this week from the organizers of this year's World Fantasy Convention, notifying me that "A Man's Got to Do What a Man's Got to Do" has been selected for inclusion in Unconventional Fantasy: A Celebration of Forty Years of the World Fantasy Convention. The anthology will be recorded on a thumb drive and given to everyone who attends the convention next month. I happen to know that a whole bunch of my fantasy-author heroes also have pieces in this anthology, so I am fairly giddy about being included. 
Which segues nicely into this week's post, in which I reprise (with a tweak or two) a thing I wrote for Indies Unlimited a few weeks ago.

I don’t mean to brag, but I had 850 people show up at my first book signing.
Okay, they might have been there to see Gene Wolfe, or Stephen R. Donaldson, or Elizabeth Bear, or Peter Straub, or Patricia McKillip, or…well, you get the idea. But I was there, too!
“There” was the 2010 World Fantasy Convention, in Columbus, Ohio. This annual convention travels to various venues around the world – last year’s was in Brighton, England – and is geared toward speculative fiction in general and fantasy in particular. Membership is capped at 850, and many of the attendees are authors, agents, and editors.
Watchers with SRD in 2010.
I went with some friends from Kevinswatch, and we all went because Donaldson was going to be there. But one of the questions on the sign-up form was, “Are you an author?” This was right after Calderwood Books had published The Maidens' War, so I checked “yes” and put in the Calderwood Books website since I hadn't really started blogging yet. Not only did the WFC organizers believe me, but they put me on a panel. And they let me sign books with the big guys on Friday night.
I've mentioned the mass autographing session here at hearth/myth before. It's a World Fantasy Convention tradition, and it’s pretty crazy. They set up long tables in a ballroom-sized conference room, and they give you a table tent with your name on it. Seating is first-come, first-served, and the lines to get a popular author to sign books can be long. When Neil Gaiman was an honoree in San Diego in 2011, the line to see him wrapped around the ballroom. There were, in fact, so many people in line that he couldn't get to everybody; the convention organizers had to set up a second signing later in the weekend just for him.
Then there are the dealers, who set up outside the room with crates of unsigned books and send runners with stacks of books into the autographing session. The runners stand in the lines, get the books signed, and bring them back to the dealers – who, of course, charge more for autographed books.
There was no line in front of my table, alas, and none of the runners had The Maidens' War in their stack. But my friends gathered around my table, had me sign their copies, and chatted as if I was an actual somebody. One of my buddies even took my picture as I signed his book. I caught at least one passer-by eyeing my table tent to try to figure out who the author was who had attracted such a crowd.
It was really hard to go back to the day job the following Monday, let me tell you.

I'm not expecting such a rousing success this year. For one thing, I won't be a starry-eyed newbie. Well, okay -- I'll still be starry-eyed (I mean, jeez, Guy Gavriel Kay is a guest of honor!), but at least I won't be a newbie. Still, I'm looking forward to this year's shindig. For one thing, my travel and hotel costs will be minimal, as it's happening ten minutes from my house. For another, I get to be in an anthology with Donaldson. "Nearly famous," indeed!

This post originally appeared in a slightly different form at Indies Unlimited.
These moments of nearly famous blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


First, the news:
* Boo! Volume Two is out! I'm honored to be included, as some of my favorite indie authors also have stories in this anthology. Revenge of the Remora is my first-ever vampire story, so please be gentle with me. (It turns out that you can read my whole story via the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon -- but I hope you'll consider buying the book anyhow, because the other 12 stories in the collection are terrific.)
* Humongous thanks to those of you who voted for my covers in the 2014 BookGoodies Cover Contest. I was very excited to learn that Annealed won a Judge's Choice Award. Feel free to head over and take a look at the winners -- there were some beautiful covers in this year's contest.

I must have had flash fiction (and knitting) on the brain this afternoon. Before I dove into editing Seasons of the Fool, I found myself dashing off a little something. It may end up in the short story collection I've been mulling over, or it may not. 

Anyway, here it is. I'm calling it Tapestry.

Pschemp via wikimedia commons

This is supposed to be fun.

She stared, disconsolate, at the more-or-less even stitches pooling in her lap. This was her first attempt at knitting a garment. She intended to make something she could wear to work, so she had chosen smooth, black yarn in a fine gauge. The clerk in the yarn shop had persuaded her to pick a simple pattern; “elegant,” the woman had called it, with a bit of interesting detail at the neckline that the clerk assured her would be well within her capabilities as a beginning knitter. 

But she was nowhere near the neckline yet. Not even close. Oh, the bottom ribbing had been kind of interesting (*knit, purl, repeat from *) but she had completed that ages ago. Now she was into what a more accomplished friend called the boring torso: nothing but knit stitches, around and around, seemingly forever.

The pattern called for twenty-one inches of boring torso.

She measured her knitting again. Still just five inches! How could that be? She was sure she had done at least two rounds since the last time she measured. Shouldn’t she have gained a quarter-inch, at least?

She’d picked black because she wore a lot of black. She wanted to look professional at work. Professional, yet sophisticated. Elegant. 

That shop clerk must have had her pegged in about half a second.

She’d never get to twenty-one inches. She’d stab herself in the eye first. Or maybe she’d go back to the shop and stab that clerk in the eye. Now there was an idea with promise.

She wrinkled her nose and cast about for a less violent form of salvation. Her eyes landed on a bag of yarn in the corner, and lit up.

In her first flush of enthusiasm over her new hobby, she had gone a little crazy at her local yarn shop. Colors, textures, weights had meant nothing to her; she had just picked out any yarn that spoke to her. One skein each. Not nearly enough of anything to make anything from.

But she was pretty sure they would all go with black.

She set her project aside and dumped the bag’s contents on the floor: sapphire blue, rich purple, loamy greenish-brown, vibrant fuschia. A rusty orange-red that had reminded her of autumn leaves. Turquoise as brilliant as a summer sky. 

She greeted the riot of color like an old friend, stroking each skein against her cheek as she sorted them into piles. Choosing five skeins that she thought looked amazing together, she gave the rest a loving pat as she laid them gently back in the bag.

Then she ripped her boring torso back to the ribbing and began again. The resulting sweater might not turn out to be elegant, or even professional. But damn it, it was going to be fun.

Have a fun week, everybody.

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