Sunday, June 29, 2014

What I did on my summer vacation (fangirl squee!).

Me, asking Donaldson his opinion of indie publishing.
I may have mentioned once or twice that my all-time favorite fantasy series is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson. I read the first three books when I was in my 20s, just a few years after they were published. A college friend recommended them to me, but it wasn't until after I had graduated that I ran across them at the library, checked them out, and was hooked. The main character, Thomas Covenant, is an anti-hero: a cynical leper who finds himself plopped down in a wondrous land where he is cured of his disease, amidst people who believe he is some kind of hero. He fights the temptation to believe it's real, all the while pondering whether his own actions matter in a place he may have invented in his own head.

Those first three books redefined the genre of epic fantasy, which up until then had consisted of Tolkien's work and not much else. Donaldson followed up a few years later with the second three books of the Chronicles. He put off writing the final four-volume set until about twelve years ago; the final Covenant book, The Last Dark, came out last fall. In between, Donaldson wrote a high fantasy duology called Mordant's Need; the Gap cycle, a five-book sci-fi series; a couple of short story collections; and, as Reed Stephens, three mystery novels. (The mysteries, including a new fourth book, were republished under his real name a few years ago.)

In 2000 or so, not long after I started at my current day job, I ran a web search for information on the Chronicles. Donaldson didn't have a website (he does now), but I found a couple of fan sites. One of them was Kevinswatch, and among its features was a discussion board on the EZ Board platform. I joined more or less immediately. A couple of years later, when the EZ Board ads became too annoying, a member in New Zealand offered us space on his server, and that's where the Watch has been ever since. Over the past decade and a half, more than 3500 people from all over the world have joined the Watch, including Donaldson's webmaster, his beta readers, and the camera operator for the hilarious public-access TV show "Fantasy Bedtime Hour" (you can watch the episodes here -- Donaldson appears in three). The board has grown as well, expanding from the original Chronicles discussion threads to include separate forums for food, history, literature of all types (Donaldson fans, it turns out, are quite the well-read bunch), fan art, music, sports, writing, politics, philosophy, and games, including our own role-playing games. (And I've probably left something out.) In short, it's a community. Watchers have been known to remark that the Watch is one of the nicest places on the internet. Even our political forum is less rough-and-tumble than others of that ilk (or so I've been told).

It's entirely possible that had I never joined the Watch, I would not be a published author today. In 2006 and 2007, we created three anthologies of our own work. When our editor, Joy Calderwood, set up Calderwood Books, she asked me for the reprint rights to two of my stories from those anthologies. Then she published The Maidens' War in 2010. Thanks again, Joy, for believing in me.

One of our members lives in Albuquerque, where Donaldson also lives. In 2004, Danlo offered to host a sort of mini-convention at his house for whoever could make it, with the big draw being dinner with The Author. I missed the first Elohimfest, but I've made all the others, as well as a couple of regional gatherings. Many Watchers are now among my closest real-life friends.

Last weekend, we gathered in Albuquerque for Elohimfest 4. Nearly 40 Watchers from across the US and around the world (Australia, Ireland, the UK and Finland) attended. And on Saturday night, during the Q&A, I finally got up the nerve to ask Donaldson what he thought of indie publishing.

Maybe it was the venue, or the fact that I've now met him several times. But his response was much less dismissive than comments I've seen from many other traditionally-published authors. I can't give you a direct quote -- the video isn't up at his site yet, and I was too distracted to take notes -- but he recognized the sorry state of corporate-owned trad publishing, and he said indies and on-demand publishing might well save the industry.

Bless you, sir, for your kind comments, and for your books, and for being the catalyst behind the creation of the Watch. 

Edited to add a link to fellow Watcher Rob Hope's take on E-fest, just so y'all know I'm not the only person who waxes rhapsodic about the Watch.

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A brief hearth/myth hiatus.

Apologies for the lack of notice, guys. A lot was going on last weekend, and so I forgot to tell you that I would be taking this week off. As you read this, I'm in New Mexico for what is likely to be the final Elohimfest, given that Stephen R. Donaldson published the final book in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever last fall.

However, you may rest assured that I will be back here next Sunday as usual, and then will be able to give you a full report on the 'Fest.

So until June 29th, happy reading!

This brief moment of vacationing blogginess has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Remembering Dad.

First off, I want to thank everybody who came to my Facebook party yesterday in honor of the launch of Scorched Earth this past Tuesday. Everybody seemed to have a good time, and I gave away all the prizes, which makes it a successful event in my book.

Congrats to the winners of the Rafflecopter here on the blog. Vi Pieske won the $25 Amazon gift card, and Shelly Hammond and J.r. Barker each won a $5 gift card. Ladies, I hope you enjoy them.

I admit that I was curious about what the contest entrants wanted me to do for my next project. The majority told me to take the summer off -- aww, thanks, you guys! Next most popular was a new series with new characters; then a short story collection; and finally, a book about Naomi's kids. I don't know whether I'll follow the advice to the letter, but I do appreciate knowing what my readers are interested in. So thank you.

And yes, Scorched Earth is out! It's available in paperback and for the Kindle at Amazon, and in multiple formats at Smashwords. It's also been shipped to B&, Kobo, and iBooks. So if those are your ebook-buying platforms of choice, you should be able to get it there shortly. Big thanks to everyone who has already bought a copy. You're my new best friends.

Today is Father's Day: the day when we give our fathers ties they'll never wear and change our Facebook pictures to a snapshot of dear old Dad.

My father, John Cantwell, died in 1984 at the age of 69. He was the oldest of five kids. His own father died when he was nine years old; my father had to drop out of school in the fifth grade and get a job to help support the family. Sounds crazy now, but this was in the 1920s, and attitudes about child labor were different then.

Dad apprenticed to a tailor first, and then he got into what was then the hot, new field of auto mechanics. He worked as a mechanic until he retired at the age of 65. And like many young men in the '40s, he served in the Army Air Corps motor pool in World War II -- Belgium, Germany, Iceland. Most of his war stories revolved around goofy stuff he did with his buddies; like most vets of that era, he never talked about the battles he had been in.
US troops crossing the bridge in 1945

But he did admit to one thing. Whenever the movie "The Bridge at Remagen" came on TV, Dad would say he was among the soldiers who crossed the bridge (which is actually the Ludendorff Bridge) just days before it fell.

In 1994 or '95, when I was in grad school, I wrote this factoid into a story that I dedicated to my father. When I workshopped the story, both my professor and another student informed me that the battle over the bridge had actually happened in World War I. I got angry and said, "If you guys want to argue with a guy who was there, be my guest. My father wouldn't have lied about it." They shook their heads sadly at me (well, actually, the professor smirked -- he was kind of a jerk) and we moved on. But I don't mind admitting that the dispute stuck in my craw.
See? It's just to the right of the Battle of the Bulge.

Years later, the National World War II Memorial opened here in Washington. A few months later, I walked through the memorial with friends. And there, chiseled into the granite on the Atlantic side of the memorial, was a list of battles that had occurred during the war -- among them, Remagen Bridge.

I felt vindicated -- both for myself and for my dad.

So Dad, here's my gift to you on this Father's Day. As usual, you were right.

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

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Scorched Earth is coming. Now what?

As promised, the final installment in the Land, Sea, Sky trilogy, Scorched Earth, will hit virtual bookshelves sometime mid-week. I'm aiming for Wednesday, June 11th, but it might be a little sooner than that, depending on how quickly Amazon and Smashwords can process the file. I'm still putting the finishing touches on the manuscript, but I fully intend to upload the e-book files before I go to bed tonight.

As part of the celebration for finishing the series, I'm throwing a little party on Facebook. Consider this your invitation to stop by on Saturday, June 14th, between 1:00pm and 3:00pm Eastern time. Just like with the party for the Undertow launch, we'll have some games and music, and there will be prizes. A whole bunch of my indie author friends have given me copies of their books to give away -- I'll be previewing them on the event page all week -- and I have some other prizes lined up, too. Hope you can join us.

Of course, I couldn't leave my blog readers out. So you will see below a Rafflecopter for a $25 Amazon gift card and two $5 Amazon gift cards.

You will notice that one of the entries is a poll question. You see, I'm not the kind of writer who has a drawer full of writing prompts. Instead, I start one book and pursue it to completion, and then cast around for something else to write about. I used to feel like I was doing it wrong. But then I found out Stephen R. Donaldson, who's been writing novels for a lot longer than I have, is the same way. If the system works for him, I decided, it can't be all bad.

But here's the thing: once I pull the trigger on this book, I will need something else to work on. This is why I like writing series -- I don't have that floundering feeling when I finish a book because I've always got the next one teed up. Unless, that is, it's the final book.

I wouldn't be dithering now, but my editor asked me the other day whether I was interested in doing Camp NaNo with her in July. I hadn't planned on it, but if I can come up with an idea before July 1st, why not? 

I have come up with a couple of not-even-half-formed ideas. I could write about Naomi's kids, Sage and Webb, but I'd like for them to get a little older first. I could also do something else with Tess, Sue, and Darrell; originally, I'd planned to be done with them after these three books, but they are all moving on to new chapters in their lives at the end of Scorched Earth and Darrell's new gig, at least, could be pretty interesting. I could also write a completely new fantasy series that I've just started thinking about. Or I could try writing a novel of magic realism; I don't have any more to go on than that at this point, but heck, Seized began as a challenge to myself to write an urban fantasy, and you see where that's gotten us.

Or I could take the rest of the summer off.

Anyway, feel free to give me your opinion. Vote in the poll and/or leave me a comment below. Thanks, and good luck!

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.
4. As always, the judge's decisions are arbitrary, capricious, and final.

P.S. As promised, the Kindle edition of Summer Dreams is now available at Amazon for 99 cents. Just as with 13 Bites, we're giving all the proceeds to children's literacy programs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Meet the new knitting chair.

I know, I know: you guys have been on the edge of your seats since last Sunday, wondering about the verdict on the new knitting chair. ("Edge of your seats" -- heh. I see what I did there.)

Anyway, and without further ado, here's the chair in its new habitat. It's in exactly the same place in the living room as the old chair; my daughter Kitty took this from the opposite side, I guess so she could show off how it swivels.

The delivery process went off with a minimum of complications, and the chair itself is just as comfy as the one I tried in the store. I'm very pleased so far. The real key will be how it holds up, but of course we won't know that for some time yet.

The rest of the week has been a mixed bag of this and that. I started a Google Community for Indies Unlimited last week so I could write a how-to post about the process of creating one. It was easy, so since I was on a roll, I went ahead and made my own fan page at Google Plus. Feel free to head over and put my page in your one of your circles, if you're on G+. There's a widget in the sidebar that will get you there, too.

I'm looking for alternatives to Facebook that don't arbitrarily limit the number of people your posts are shown to. I'm not yet ready to give up on the Book of Faces -- too many people still go there. But a lot of indie authors -- and other small business owners, too -- are frustrated with the site. Here we've got hundreds of likes on our pages, yet only a tiny fraction of our followers see a post unless we pay Facebook for an ad. Anyway, G+ is one of the places I'm evaluating. We'll see how it goes.

Now that I've got that off my chest, let's move on.

June is going to be a rockin' and rollin' month here at hearth/myth. I've received Scorched Earth back from my editor, and it looks like we're on track for release around June 11th. The book trailer was posted at YouTube last night. You can go there to watch it, or you can see it right here:

I'm planning another Facebook party to celebrate the release of Scorched Earth, since we had so much fun last time. Save the date, if you would, for Saturday, June 14th, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. I'll have more info about the party next week.

And if that's not enough: Two of my stories have been accepted into the newest BookGoodies Authors' anthology. It'll be called Summer Dreams, and once again, all proceeds will be going to charity. Our editor released the cover today. That's it over on the left.

Neither of my stories in this book is set in the Pipe Woman Chronicles universe -- they are completely new. In "The Door into Summer," I tried my hand at magic realism. You'll have to let me know whether I hit the mark.

If all goes as planned, Summer Dreams will drop for the Kindle next Sunday, June 8th.

We've also begun planning for our second Halloween anthology, to be called 13 Bites, Vol. 2. More on that as we get closer to October. I'm not sure what I'll be writing yet for that book, but I'm thinking Nanabush might get up to some mischief. We'll see.

And thanks to those of you who downloaded The Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus when it was featured at Free Kindle Books & Tips yesterday. I hope you enjoy it!

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