Sunday, January 28, 2018

Indie author since 1965.

Before Seized... before SwanSong... even before The Maidens' War... there was Susie and the Talking Doll.

I included the story of this little book in my author bio on Amazon, but I've never shared it here on the blog. Earlier today, someone in a Facebook authors' group shared a photo of the first book he ever wrote as a kid, and it reminded me of my own first book. What's more, I knew exactly where it was. Or rather, I thought I knew; it turned out to be in a box on the bottom of a stack of boxes in the farthest recesses of my most inaccessible closet. It's no longer in pristine condition -- the bottom part of the cover has been lost over the years -- but I think it looks pretty good for having been written on a cheap, unlined tablet of paper more than 50 years ago.

I got the idea from Kenneth Barnes, who sat in front of me in second grade. One day he brought in a book he'd written. I have no idea what it was about -- robots or something, I suppose. But I remember looking at his book and thinking, "I could do that." So I did.

If I were to write a blurb for Susie and the Talking Doll, it would go something like this: "Six-year-old Susie tells everyone she is going to get a talking doll for Christmas -- and she does! Patty has a ponytail and a dress just like Susie's, and not only does this doll talk, she has a mind of her own. Together, Susie and Patty go on amazing adventures, many of which involve doing the jerk to Beatles records."

I'm not kidding about them doing the jerk -- the '60s version, obviously, not the hip-hop one. If you're unfamiliar with the dance, here's a video from "American Bandstand" that shows how it's done. (I found a video on YouTube from just a couple of years ago in which some guy tried to teach it, but he misses the point. It's not just about waving your arms up and down. If you do it right, your back gets a little hitch in it on the downswing.)

Anyway, what's interesting to me now about this book is how well I did with the mechanics of it. I used quotation marks and other punctuation correctly, and nearly all the words are spelled right. We hadn't learned about paragraphs yet, however, so each chapter is one long paragraph.

I'm fascinated by my prescience about certain things. I put the table of contents in the back of the book. That's something indie authors sometimes do these days so that the downloadable sample isn't taken up by front matter, although the reason I did it here is because I forgot to leave a blank page for it between the cover and the first page of the story. Also, as you can see in the photo, I priced this book at $1.00 -- just a penny more than several of my, uh, newer titles.

I will not be republishing Susie and the Talking Doll. The story needs heavy editing -- for one thing, there's not much of a plot -- and I'd have to find an illustrator, as the original pictures just aren't up to professional standards. (Interestingly, my drawing style hasn't improved much over the intervening decades.)

But there you go -- my very first foray into publishing. It's almost like I was meant to be an indie author from the start. Thanks, Ken Barnes, wherever you are.


On a sad note: For the past several years, I've been involved with an anthology group under the auspices of Five59 Publishing and its founder, Alan Seeger. I'm sorry to report that Alan died last week at the age of 58.

Alan had significant health challenges -- he was a paraplegic due to an auto accident -- but he was always upbeat whenever I talked with him online. He was tireless in encouraging new writers, and our anthologies were the better for it.

The last book Alan published before his death was the paperback version of 13 Bites Vol. V. He also wrote a sci-fi trilogy, the first book of which is called Pinball and which I enjoyed quite a bit. In addition, he co-authored several other novels and published a collection of essays. You can find all his books, as well as the Five59 anthologies, on his Amazon author page.

With Alan's death, indie publishing has lost a loyal and eminently capable friend. R.I.P., Alan. We'll miss you.


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

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Road tripping.

DeeDee51 | CC0 | Pixabay

My topic last week, lake effect snow, was not by random chance. Nope, I was on the road. I drove across the frozen plain from DC to the Midwest, a trip that was supposed to be for business and pleasure, and ended up being mostly pleasure, except for the snow.

I know people who avoid long-distance driving at all costs. They're the type of person who would rather take a two-hour flight than spend four or so hours sitting behind the wheel. Of course, today there's no time savings in a two-hour flight -- not when you have to be at the airport two hours ahead of departure. Plus, at the airport, you can't come and go as you please -- not unless you're willing to go through security again -- and once on the plane, you can't change seats or stop for a bite whenever you want. But hey, if you'd rather hang in a metal tube in the sky than control your own destiny behind the wheel of a car, you do you.

Besides, I tend to get airsick.

I actually find long-distance driving relaxing. Which is not to say soporific, although that can be a problem. But seriously, there's an open road ahead of you and hours before you're expected anywhere. It's a great opportunity to turn off your brain and just be for a while.

I don't, of course, fully turn off my brain. Someone this week asked me what I do to occupy my mind while driving -- do I listen to audio books? Well, no. I'm actually not a big fan of audio books. Either I get lost in the story and miss my exit, or my thoughts drift away from the story and it's too hard to both drive and go back to the place in the story where I checked out.

No, I tend to talk to myself. Or I have conversations with people who aren't there. Or I put in a CD and sing at the top of my lungs; as a bonus, the extra oxygen from singing wakes me up when my eyelids have begun to droop.

The older I've gotten, though, the less fun long-distance driving has become. I have a touch of sciatica, which gets worse when I hold my gas-pedal foot in the same position for a period of time. (Note to self: The next car will have cruise control.)

And on this trip, the roads looked like this for too much of the drive:

yapennington | CC0 | Pixabay

I don't mind driving in snow, but it's been years since I've had to do the unplowed-highway-in-traffic dance. I did consider myself lucky in one respect, though -- I managed to dodge a lake-effect snowstorm that dumped ten inches on the area.

But I'm home now, where the high today was 56 degrees, and I don't intend to make any other road trips for at least a few months.

These moments of on-the-road blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lake effect snow.

Mareefe | CC0 | Pixabay
You thought I forgot about posting this week, didn't you? Of course I didn't forget. Today is a federal holiday here in the U.S. -- Martin Luther King Day -- and a lot of businesses are closed today. So even though it's Monday, it feels like Sunday. So it's like I'm posting on time, if you squint just right.

Okay, fine. The real story is that I have a bit of personal-life business to attend to this week, so I've driven from my home near DC to northern Indiana. Alert readers of hearth/myth will recall that I set Seasons of the Fool in this neck of the woods, and there are several scenes in that book that are set in the winter, and they involve snow. And today, true to form, I found myself driving through a couple of snowstorms to get here.

I explained this once before on this blog: I grew up on the eastern tip of Lake Michigan, 60 miles away from Chicago by land, 30 miles as the crow flies. The Chicago Loop is west-northwest of Michigan City's lakefront. In winter, storms typically sweep across the country from west, or north, to east. The wind blows across the lake and picks up moisture there, then dumps the moisture -- usually in the form of snow -- when it hits land on the east side. That's called lake effect snow, and the folks who live here get it all winter long.

I was commiserating with the locals about it earlier today. If Chicago gets two or three inches of snow out of a storm, the Indiana side of the lake gets a foot. Well, maybe six to eight inches. Although the difference hardly matters when you're shoveling the stuff. And you never quite know how much you're going to get -- it depends on how much snow the storm decides to dump on you.

The thing is, you get used to it. You get out your winter coat and boots in late October or early November, and you keep wearing them through March, or sometimes mid-April. The snow sticks around and gets dirty and ugly, and more snow falls on top of it. It piles up. You spend several months out of the year picking your way over snowbanks and hoping you don't get snow down your boots or your socks will be wet all day long. And of course you go to school, because the region gets too much snow for the schools to shut down every time a couple of inches is forecast.

It's been cold here this weekend, too. We had a cold snap in DC over New Year's, and I had to think back to how my mother used to dress me so I could stand on the corner and wait for the school bus without getting frostbite. As best I can recall, it involved a layer of underclothes, then a shirt or dress, tights, pants over the tights, socks over the tights with the pants legs tucked into them, a sweater, and shoes. Then came the winter coat, hat, mittens, and boots. Girls weren't allowed to wear pants to class when I was in elementary school, so when I got to my classroom, I had to shuck several layers -- coat, boots, sweater and pants -- before I could sit down at my desk.

When I got to junior high, the school board eased up a little bit; girls were then allowed to wear pants in class if the temperature was below freezing at 7:00 a.m. Something like that, anyway.

We didn't stay indoors all winter, either. We played outside a lot -- building snowmen and snow forts, and ice skating on the tennis court that the fire department flooded for the village every year.

It's been nearly 40 years since I lived in northern Indiana. Good thing I didn't completely block out the memory of those early years -- it's come in useful several times over the past few weeks. But I hope that when I get home, it's warmed up enough that I can shove the memory back in its hole for a good, long while.

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

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Women with agency and the fanboys whom they make uncomfortable.

First, a show of hands: Has everybody who intends to see The Last Jedi seen it already? It's been out now for several weeks, and...

Oh, fine.

***Warning: Spoilers! Turn back now if they would upset you.***

Are we good now? Okay.

There's been a fair bit of, um, consternation in the fandom over this movie, as there was over The Force Awakens. Certain male fans were dismissive of the plot of Episode VII -- it was derivative, they said. Too much like Episode IV (a.k.a. Star Wars for those of us who are old enough to have seen it when it was first released), in which a nobody, overly endowed with sensitivity to the Force, is dubbed the One Who Can Save Us All and is dragged into a galactic war. Except this time our savior is female.

So when The Last Jedi kept Rey as its protagonist and brought along a cast of multicolor and preponderantly female Good Guys, the True Fanboys (tm) complained even louder. The problem, though, as this post at Bitter Gertrude points out, is that the complaints about this movie are all over the block. "Derivative" makes a comeback, but a myriad of other criticisms tag along, many of which cancel each other out. The film wasn't funny, or it was too funny, or it was funny in the wrong ways. The plot is terrible, or the acting is terrible (really? Have these people not seen Episodes I-III?), or the pacing is terrible, or... something.

And Leia! How could she have saved herself from certain death in deep space? It's not like she could wield the Force herself or...anything... Oh, right. "There is another," Yoda says in Return of the Jedi -- another strong wielder of the Force than Luke, he means, and he ain't referring to Chewie.

But never mind that. Something is wrong with this movie. The True Fanboys (tm) are sure of it. They just can't quite put their finger on what it is.

It occurred to me while reading that Bitter Gertrude post that I've heard this song before. In fact, I've been hearing it since 2004 -- the year The Runes of the Earth, the first book in the Final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, was released.

As this third series opens, Covenant himself -- who has headlined the past six books -- is dead. He can't be the main character. Well, okay, he could be, but not plausibly. Not yet, anyway. Some other stuff has to happen first. So the author chooses Linden Avery, MD -- Covenant's lover in the Second Chronicles -- as the protagonist for the Last Chronicles.

Copyright by zorm |

That's Linden, in the crook of Frostheart Grueburn's elbow, helping the Giant fight off a skurj attack by wielding the Staff of Law.

Predictably, the fanboys didn't like it. Linden is whiny and indecisive. (Never mind that Covenant spent six books being cranky and indecisive. I guess cranky beats whiny?) She's too focused on her adoptive son (who's -- hello! -- missing). The book moves too slowly. It's too late in the series to bring in a whole new magical race that we've never met before. And so on. Some fans of the author even went so far as to start a conversation about how they would have written the book differently. (My response: You want to write a novel? Knock yourselves out. Let me know how it works out for you.)

But everything always came back to Linden. They just didn't like her. They wanted Covenant back.

Sure, part of it was that they'd grown to love Covenant. But just like with Rey and Leia and Rose Tico in The Last Jedi, part of it was that Linden wasn't male. And just like with today's True Star Wars Fanboys (tm), male fans of the Chronicles got really testy when I suggested to them that their reaction to Linden was gender-based.

My point, I guess, is that this discomfort with women in lead roles has been going on for a long time, and I think the only way it's going to change is if it keeps happening. At some point, women protagonists in traditionally-male roles in fantasy and sci-fi will become so commonplace that nobody will question it anymore. So kudos to Disney and the team behind this series of Star Wars movies. Keep doing what you're doing -- and may the Force be with you.

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