Sunday, August 30, 2015

Our West Virginia vacation, and hey! Another contest!

Most of us, I suspect, have a place or two in the world that we revisit over and over again. Either its natural beauty speaks to us, or we associate it with good times, or both.

Alert readers of hearth/myth know Colorado is one of those places for me. Another one is Pipestem Resort State Park in southern West Virginia. I even set my first book, The Maidens' War, there. And that's where my daughter Kat and I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago.

The first time I went to Pipestem, I was in my twenties and working in the news department of WKEE-FM in Huntington, WV ("KEE 100 FM -- it's a monster!"). The West Virginia Associated Press Broadcasters Association held its annual meeting at Pipestem for a couple of years running. Every time we went, my co-workers and I would talk about how beautiful it was, and how we wanted to go back in the summertime when everything was open -- including the lodge at the bottom of the Bluestone River Gorge, the one where the only way in or out is by riding the 3,600-foot-long aerial tram. It's a steep trip -- you gain about 1,100 feet in elevation from bottom to top.

Try hauling a suitcase across that.
To be fair, there's a trail, too. But you wouldn't want to haul your luggage down the trail. It's five-and-a-quarter miles long, downhill all the way, and you have to ford the river at the end of it to get to the lodge. Better to pack light and take your stuff down on the tram.

Anyway, some years later, when Kat and Amy were small, I remembered Pipestem. It's only about a four-hour drive from DC and the rates were extremely reasonable. Plus back then, the park threw in some nice perks for lodge guests: free admission to the pools, free tennis, and free mini-golf. Not to mention the free tram rides for guests staying at the lodge down in the gorge. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but free is my favorite price. Plus at the time, I was pretty much broke. So we stayed at the lodge, ate lunches out of a cooler and dinners at the snack bar, did all the free stuff, and had a great time.

I've lost track of how many times we've been back since then. Once, we got a cottage and brought Suzu along. Another time, I dropped the kids off at college and went by myself; I hiked every day, including the five-mile downhill run with the walk across the river at the end, and drafted the outline for The Maidens' War.

The tram stop at Mountain Creek Lodge.
This most recent trip wasn't anything that momentous -- which, after the year I've had so far, was perfect. Kat went with me -- Amy had to work -- and all we did was read books, sit on our balcony, and ride the tram up to get lunch at the other lodge. Very restful.

You're waiting for the contest part, aren't you? Okay. It's easy. I'm not even going to do an annoying Rafflecopter this time.

The Maidens' War gets no love at all. It's my first book, published by a small press, and nobody ever reads it. The poor thing has only one review on Amazon. So I'm offering a free Kindle copy to the first five people who ask for one.

Also, I picked up two fun Pipestem souvenirs while we were there earlier this month. If you post a review of the book at Amazon, send me a message (email or Facebook or here on the blog -- wherever) and I will send you one of them. But you have to be one of the first two people to post a review.

Got it? Okay. In sum:

  • Free Kindle copy of The Maidens' War to the first 5 people who ask.
  • Pipestem tchotchke for the first 2 people who post a review at Amazon.
While you're deciding whether to play, here's a video of one of our tram rides this year. Flora, fauna, a view of part of that five-mile downhill trail, and massive rattly noises as our tram car goes over the support towers. Enjoy! And good luck!

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

We have a winner and Webb has a birthday!

First things first: Congrats to Chelsea Lawson, who won my bloggiversary contest! I let Rafflecopter pick the winning entry -- which is a good thing, because they were all so awesome that I would have had to give each of you a prize.

Chelsea picked July 18th because, she says, Webb was conceived on Halloween, thereby giving him the connection to spiders. My astrological resources say this would make his sun sign Cancer -- sensitive and emotional, and very attached to home and family.

In addition, Taurus and Cancer are compatible as friends -- which bodes well for Sage and Webb to continue being friends all their lives, once they get past the annoying-sibling stage.

This certainly takes a load off my mind. Thanks to everyone who entered. Webb and I really appreciate it.

Now I'm going go and get all philosophical on you. Sorry in advance.

This graphic came across my Facebook newsfeed this week. It looks to me like the PostSecret page shared it originally, but as with many things social-media-related, who can tell for sure? In the same vein, the quote in the graphic is attributed to Buddha -- but like Abraham Lincoln says, just because you saw it on the intarwebz doesn't make it true.

According to Bodhipaksa, a Buddhist monk who blogs at, the quote is actually from Jack Kornfield's Buddha's Little Instruction Book -- which, according to Bodhipaksa, is not so much quotes from Buddha as it is Kornfield's re-interpretation of some Buddhist teachings.

He goes on to say that the same sentiment turns up in one of Carlos Castaneda's books, Journey to Ixtlan -- which might be why it rang a bell with me, as I read a bunch of Castaneda's books, once upon a time.

In any case, Bodhipaksa says the quote strikes him as a "deepity" -- something that sounds profound but, when you look deeper, ends up being trivial to nonsensical.

I dunno about that. If you read the sentence as saying we don't have as much time as we think we do, well, yeah, okay. That's a big duh. We often find that we don't have enough time to catch the bus, or to do the laundry, or to pursue our dreams -- big stuff and small stuff, we never seem to have enough time to get it all done.

But the quote seemed to me to be tweaking a mindset that a lot of us have, that someday, one of these days, we'll get around to all those big plans. We have a tendency to put off certain things that are important to us because we're sure we'll have time later. Right? Life is long, after all. We'll do it after the kids go off to college, or after we retire.

As I get closer to retirement age myself, I've been noticing a disturbing pattern: women who have worked in office jobs for decades are dying just a few years after they retire. Maybe two or three years after. Relatively few make it to a ripe, old age, and the ones who are living longest seem to be those who go into retirement with a reason to get up in the morning. I've read research fairly recently that seems to bear this out.

I'm not about to argue with a Buddhist monk about the profundity of a misquote I found on Facebook. But I figure it's not a bad idea to be reminded occasionally not to put off the important stuff.

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

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Happy birthday, hearth/myth!

I had a little time on my hands before we left for West Virginia. Can you tell?

Well, the blog is four years old as of today. I thought it was time to spiff things up a little. So I gave hearth/myth a makeover for a bloggiversary present.

But of course, the best birthday parties involve gifts -- and not just for the birthday boy girl blog, but for the guests, too. You know, like a door prize. Or if we're going to be truly classy, a schwag bag.

I'm fresh out of fancy totes and million-dollar watches, but I did manage to put aside $10 for an Amazon gift card, as well as a set of paperbacks of the Pipe Woman's Legacy duology, which of course I will sign for the lucky winner. All you have to do is help me figure out when Webb's birthday is.

See, when I was plotting Annealed, the final book in the Pipe Woman Chronicles, I had to know when Sage would make her appearance. She had to be born at pretty much the same time as Naomi was brokering the power-sharing agreement between Jehovah and the pagan pantheons. That put her birth in the general vicinity of May 2013. I also knew that I wanted Sage to be born on the Taurus/Gemini cusp. Gemini would make her creative and adaptable, while Taurus would make her grounded, but stubborn. After looking at the calendar and what I needed to accomplish between the end of Tapped and the mediation, I settled on May 15, 2013, as the date of Sage's arrival. And it fits her, doesn't it? Sage is creative, forthright, pretty well grounded for somebody who's been told since birth that she's slated to save the world -- and stubborn as the day is long.

Then, when I was planning Scorched Earth and realized Tess would need a lawyer, I decided to bring Naomi and her family to Washington for a visit. And I didn't want Sage to be an only child; a kid with a pedigree like hers needed a younger brother to annoy her. Hence, Webb.

The events in the Pipe Woman's Legacy books occur primarily in the fall of Sage's junior year of college, which makes her 20 years old. Webb is a senior in high school, which makes him 18. There's no discussion of a birthday celebration for him in either book, so his natal day cannot be any time from late August through early December. He's crafty in multiple ways -- he's a Trickster, allied with Iktomi, and of course his superpower is knitting and other types of fiber art. He knows the future. And he's extremely loyal.

So your task, should you choose to accept it (and I hope you will!), is to assign Webb a birthday. Post your suggestion someplace where I can see it -- in the comments below, ideally, but I'll accept suggestions at Facebook and Twitter, too, as long as you also enter the Rafflecopter.

Now, I know y'all will be tempted to give Webb your own birthday, or your brother's or whoever, but that's not going to cut it unless you can back it up with a reason. So: not just "it's my birthday!" but "Webb reminds me of So-and-so because (s)he knits/loves spiders/is very loyal, and So-and-so's birthday is this date." Or you could do some astrological-type research. Or whatever.

I know that's a lot of parameters, but you've got a week to work on it. Contest closes next Sunday, August 23rd. Good luck!

The usual and customary hearth/myth giveaway rules apply, to wit:

1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
2. Winners of previous contests may win again.
3. There will be a winner. I am getting these books out of my house, one way or the other.
4. As always, the judge's decision is arbitrary, capricious, and final.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

These happy bloggiversary moments have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Headin' for the hills.

As I said last week, hearth/myth is taking a break today. Go read a book! Preferably one of mine, of course. But if you're all caught up on my work, head over to Rursday Reads -- you're sure to find a book (or several!) there that you will enjoy.

See you back here on Sunday, August 16th, for a special celebration.

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

Sunday, August 2, 2015

First harvest's in.

Yesterday was Lughnasa, one of the big Neopagan holidays. Legend has it that August 1st was set aside by Lugh Lámhfhada (or Lugh of the Long Hand) as a day to honor His foster mother, Tailtiu. There were to be games and feasting to mark the occasion. In addition, the festival celebrates the first harvest: wheat and other grains, as well as the first apples.

Lugh is an interesting fellow. His father was Cian, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann -- in other words, the ancient Irish gods -- and His mother was Ethniu, daughter of a Fomorian chieftain named Balor. He was sent out to foster with Tailtiu, who was of the Fir Bolg -- and that rounds out the three tribes or ethnic groups that were vying for control of Ireland at that time.

When Lugh first came to Tara, the seat of the high kings of Ireland, the guard at the gate wouldn't let Him in. Our multi-talented hero offered his services, one after the other, to the gatekeeper, as recounted by Lady Gregory in Gods and Fighting Men. (Tara is spelled Teamhair in the original, but I'm using the modern spelling. Also, grammer nerds, please excuse the lack of paragraph breaks between speakers -- it's the original text, not me!)
"What are you skilled in?" said the door-keeper; "for no one without an art comes into Tara." "Question me," said Lugh; "I am a carpenter." "We do not want you; we have a carpenter ourselves, Luchtar, son of Luachaid." "Then I am a smith." "We have a smith ourselves, Colum Cuaillemech of the Three New Ways." "Then I am a champion." "That is no use to us; we have a champion before, Ogma, brother to the king." "Question me again," he said; "I am a harper." "That is no use to us; we have a harper ourselves, Abhean, son of Bicelmos, that the Men of the Three Gods brought from the hills." "I am a poet," he said then, "and a teller of tales." "That is no use to us; we have a teller of tales ourselves, Erc, son of Ethaman." "And I am a magician." "That is no use to us; we have plenty of magicians and people of power." "I am a physician," he said. "That is no use; we have Diancecht for our physician." "Let me be a cup-bearer," he said. "We do not want you; we have nine cup-bearers ourselves. "I am a good worker in brass." "We have a worker in brass ourselves, that is Credne Cerd."
Finally, Lugh said, "Go and ask the king if he has any one man that can do all these things, and if he has, I will not ask to come into Tara." So the guard went in and delivered the message to Nuada, who suggested that the guard try Lugh at chess. When Lugh won every game, Nuada relented at last and let Him in. Later, Lugh became high king himself and ruled for forty years -- and fulfilled a prophecy by killing Balor, His grandfather, in battle.

Lugh is sometimes referred to as the Irish sun god, but He's not. Belenus, or maybe the Dagda, hold that honor. No, Lugh is the god of light -- as well as the patron of all the other things He told that gatekeeper He was good at: smithcraft, music, poetry and storytelling, medicine, and all the rest.

When men came at last to Ireland, the Tuatha took their royal court and retreated "under the hill" -- and Lugh of the Long Hand, the god who could do anything, shrunk in both stature and importance. Today, He's known as the leprechaun.

Neopagans celebrate Lughnasa -- or as it's also known, Lammas -- by baking bread or oatcakes, and by taking stock of their own personal harvests. Alert readers of hearth/myth know that my own harvest this year is spotty: I haven't yet made a permanent move to Colorado, but I've finished the ten-book Pipe Woman Chronicles cycle with the publication of Dragon's Web and Firebird's Snare this spring. I'm planning one more book before I let Naomi and her family alone for a while, but it won't be a novel. Instead, it will be a companion volume to the series, consisting of information on each of the gods and goddesses who have appeared in the story. (This post gives you a taste of what readers might find in such a book.)

Aside from that, I'm planning to write one more novel this year. It will probably be magic realism, although I don't know the plot yet. Or any of the characters. But I've never let that stop me before -- why stop now?

A blessed Lughnasa to you all! Next week, hearth/myth will be on hiatus; I'm going to West Virginia to unplug for a few days. See you here in two weeks!

These moments of multi-talented blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell