Sunday, March 29, 2020

Book news for your self-isolation.

This will be a short post, although jam-packed with news -- the pleasant kind, I hope. And it's been updated with links to the new book -- see below.

Item: As promised, Book 3 in the Elemental Keys reboot, Gecko Magic, dropped on Thursday. I really like this cover. (Yes, of course there's a joke about the gecko in the book. Did you even have to ask?)

The book is currently priced at $3.99, although I'll be knocking it down to 99 cents here shortly, because...

Item: Beach Magic is going up for pre-order. Yes! At long last, Raney's story will be coming to an end.

Here's the cover. I weighed several options for the sort of mischief Tiger should get into for the cover of this book, and decided at last that she'd be the kind of cat who would be attracted to a Fiery Portal of Doom.

She also doesn't appear to mind getting her paws wet, which is fairly unusual for a cat. But she's unusual in lots of other ways, too.

Gecko Magic ends in Colorado, where there are, of course, no ocean beaches. So given there's a beach on the cover of this book, you might have deduced that it jumps from one location to another. You would be correct. The gang will end up at Raney's beach house in Malibu -- but that's not their final stop. And that's all I'll say about that.

Beach Magic is the final book in the Elemental Keys tetralogy. The list price will be $3.99 and it will be available April 9th. If you pre-order it for your Kindle, it'll automatically download on the release day, which is pretty freaking cool. 

I know you guys have been waiting an extra-long time for this book. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your patience. And I hope you decide the end to Raney's story has been worth waiting for.

These moments of book bloggy excitement have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Hang in there! Wash your hands! Stay home and read!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Isolation tales.

I was originally going to call this post "Quarantine tales," but that's a misnomer. We are not in quarantine here at La Casa Cantwell. Nobody's sick so far. But we'd like to keep it that way, so we're practicing self-isolation.

CongerDesign | Pixabay | CC0
So far, not too bad. Kitty, Amy, and I have been home together for ten days, with only a few trips out into the world, and nobody's snapped yet. But then we've had practice. As Amy observed, who knew that cruise we took in August and September, when the three of us shared a stateroom, would be a dry run for this? Our apartment gives us significantly more room than the stateroom did, and here we have individual bedrooms with doors we can shut. But on the cruise, we had the run of the ship, plus someone cooked every meal for us. So there are pros and cons.

Then again, none of us was trying to work while on the cruise. Amy and I have been working remotely at our respective jobs for the past week. I really, really, really like working remotely. The things that are lacking in a work-from-home setup are the same things that have been driving me crazy at work: phones ringing incessantly; people holding conference calls with their doors open; people forwarding me emails with numerous documents attached and asking me to print the documents. (One day, pre-pandemic, I printed more than 80 documents. Needless to say, I didn't get much else done that day.) Not to mention my new 30-second commute is a real time-saver.

The one drawback is exercise. I am one of those folks who hates exercising as an end in itself; I would rather work walking into my day. But I'm no longer walking from the bus stop to the train and from the train to the office, and I'm not walking half a block to heat up my lunch in the next building these days, either. So I'm going to have to steel myself to take a walk every day, just for the sake of it.

I did get out and take a walk yesterday. The experience was a little disconcerting, especially when I ended up at the drug store. There I was in one aisle, and at the other end was a man with his little daughter. He and I eyed each other warily, judging how to manage staying the recommended six feet from one another if the kid made a break for it. I solved the problem by ducking out of my end of the aisle.

Eventually we'll stop eyeing each other warily, I know. But it's going to be weird in the interim.

Thanks to those who picked up a copy of River Magic this past week!

On Thursday, I made good on my promise to publish book 2 with its new title and cover. It's now called Bog Magic. Here's the new cover:

By the way, I took the photo at the ruins of Tullaherin Church in County Kilkenny, Ireland. I stopped there with a friend in 2016 while on the way to find the Long Cantwell. This is the place I had in mind when I wrote the book -- besides the 10th century ruins, the site also features an ogham stone. No bog next door, though, and no Good Neighbors that we noticed.

The coronavirus reading project continues! Look for book 3, Gecko Magic, to drop this Thursday, March 26th.

These moments of housebound blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay home! And wash your hands!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Reading options for your coronavirus cabin fever.

What a difference a couple of weeks makes. When I blogged about Mercury retrograde and the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 two weeks ago, the situation was a lot more uncertain. Now, health officials are telling people to stay home. Schools are closed, professional sports leagues have suspended their seasons, and lots of entertainment events have been either postponed or canceled outright. Social distancing is one new buzzword, and flattening the curve is another. The idea is to keep everybody from being sick at the same time, because too many cases requiring hospitalization would overwhelm our healthcare system and lead to a situation like Italy's, where they're in danger of running out of intensive care beds. The country reported 368 new deaths from the virus today.

As I type this, the Centers for Disease Control has recommended canceling gatherings of 50 or more people (not counting schools and businesses, inexplicably) for the next two weeks.

This is a serious situation. But of course there are opportunists out there like this clown: He and his brother cleaned out the stocks of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes from the shelves of every store in several counties, and then sold the stuff online at a stiff markup. Ah, capitalism. But now he's being investigated for price gouging. And he has donated all the stock he couldn't sell (because Amazon and eBay cracked down) -- including nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer -- to churches in Tennessee and Kentucky.

We at hearth/myth would never stoop to that sort of crass commercialism. But we sympathize with those who will be stuck at home with very little to do for next several weeks, and so I have discounted the price of the Kindle version of the Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus to just 99 cents starting tomorrow through the end of the month. That's about 20 cents per book. Even if you've read them all, maybe it's time for a re-read?

In addition, I'm rebooting the Elemental Keys series with new covers and titles. The book that used to be called Rivers Run is now entitled River Magic. It was released this week and it's just $2.99. Isn't the new cover spiffy?

The rest of the series is getting similar cover treatment, and the new versions will be coming out directly. And when I say directly, I mean directly. Book 2, which used to be Treacherous Ground but is now Bog Magic, will be out this week. Book 3, formerly Molten Trail and now Gecko Magic, follows next week. And Book 4, which nobody's read except my editor and me, will be out April 9th.

I may do a preorder for the final book. If so, I'll let you know.

So now you're all set with reading material for the next few weeks, right? And I'll be busy getting the new versions of the Elemental Keys books ready to go. We'll get through this together.

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

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Ada Lovelace, countess and calculating woman.

I am apparently five years behind the rest of the world in learning about the world's first computer programmer. The bicentennial of the birth of the Honourable Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, was celebrated in 2015 -- but I'd never heard much about her until tonight, when I attended a performance of Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson. 

On the off-chance you'd never heard of her either, I thought Lovelace would make a good subject for a post on this International Women's Day.

By Emgravey - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Ada was the daughter of Lord Byron, Romantic poet and notorious rake. Her parents split when Ada was five weeks old, and her mother raised her, insisting that she be educated in serious subjects like mathematics, in an effort to keep her from developing any of her father's defects of character.

In 1833, seventeen-year-old Ada was introduced by one of her tutors to Charles Babbage. At the time, Babbage was developing a difference engine -- a machine designed to take the drudgery out of some mathematical calculations. Here, Gunderson's play takes some liberties; the playwright suggests the story of Ada and Babbage is one of unrequited love as well as mutual admiration. A lot of their correspondence survives, and apparently there's nothing in any of the letters they exchanged that indicates they were anything more than friends with a mutual love of higher math.

Babbage's difference engine was never built; the British government pulled its funding when the project never progressed to more than a model. Babbage was bitter about the decision, but eventually he came up with an idea for an even grander machine: an analytical engine, to be programmed by punch cards, the same way rug weavers programmed their looms. He delivered a paper on this marvelous device in Turin in 1840, and it was published -- in Frence. By then, Ada had married William King, the first Earl of Lovelace, and borne him three children. She offered to translate the paper from French into English, and add some explanatory notes of her own. Her notes ran three times as long as his paper, and contained what is considered to be the first computer program. 

The whole thing was set to be published -- but then Babbage insisted on including an introduction he had written anonymously. The introduction criticized the British government for pulling the funding on his difference engine. Ada refused, realizing the public would blame her for it -- and she won. The work was published without the introduction.

At that point, Ada offered to oversee the construction of their grand project. Her proposal would have put her in charge, with Babbage as chief technical officer. At first he turned her down flat. But then he came around.

Sadly, the analytical engine was never built, either. Ada developed cancer (Wikipedia says it was uterine cancer, a 2015 article in Wired says it was cervical cancer) and died in 1852 at the age of 36 -- the same age at which her father died. She'd had a troubled relationship with her mother and requested that she be buried alongside her father in Nottingham, England. And she made Babbage the executor of her will.

While Babbage and Ada were never lovers, requited or un-, their relationship was a boon to the development of computers. Happy International Women's Day, Ada, and thanks for your vision.

These moments of zero-and-one blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Beware of planets moving backward.

I'm sure you've heard about the coronavirus that has migrated from a market in Wuhan, China, around the world in just a couple of months. According to the World Health Organization, if you're infected with COVID-19, your most likely symptoms will be fever, tiredness, and a dry cough. Some people with the virus also have a runny nose and maybe diarrhea. Some get no symptoms at all. But 1 in 6 people -- often the elderly or people with other medical issues -- will develop difficulty breathing, and about 2% of those who are infected die. That's worse than the death rate from the flu. Only about one-tenth of a percent of Americans who come down with the flu die each year.

The WHO says it's believed COVID-19 spreads not through the air, but from contact with respiratory droplets from the cough or sneeze of someone who's infected. But because the virus has a long incubation period, and because at least some folks who have it might never have any symptoms, just staying clear of someone who's coughing or sneezing isn't a sure cure for staying healthy. First and foremost, the WHO says, wash your hands. And keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.

But of course rumors are rampant in any developing situation (and the current administration in the US isn't helping, but I digress). Even though the virus doesn't spread by air, sales of masks have gone through the roof. And China's reports on the progress of fighting the disease at the source of the outbreak have been compared to propaganda.

Enough Chinese workers are sick that it's impacting the country's manufacturing sector -- and that's impacting our stock market. At market close on Friday, stocks were down more than 10% from their peak. Wall Street gurus call that a "correction." If they continue the slide to 20% of their peak, it's then called a "bear market." A "crash" is a one-time event -- the current situation doesn't qualify. And it's way too soon to know whether this downturn will result in a recession, let alone a depression. Still, it's tough to watch your retirement account lose value, particularly when you're getting close to your target date.

Stocks tanking...a mystery illness ramping up...a big presidential election coming up... Why, it's enough to make you wonder whether the world's gone mad.

It hasn't. Yet. But it didn't surprise me when I realized all this was coming to a head during Mercury retrograde.

Because of the way other planets' orbits appear to us on Earth, it sometimes looks like a planet is moving backward in the sky. Mecury has the shortest revolution around the sun, so Earth passes it several times a year. Because of that, we have several Mercury retrograde periods every year. The current one started February 17th and will end March 10th, give or take a day for your local time zone.

Mercury is the Roman god of travel, commerce, and communication, among other things. And as you'd expect, the lore says all of those things can be affected during a retrograde period. Communications, both personal and business, can be problematic. Some folks have trouble making decisions -- or making good decisions -- during these times. It's common advice to avoid signing any contracts or while Mercury is retrograde.

Of course, miscommunications can happen any time, and some people don't need the stars' help to make bad decisions. And lots of folks will simply laugh at the idea that the motion of the planets could have anything to do with what happens to humans on Earth.

I hope they're right. Because we have two more Mercury retrogrades coming up in 2020, and the last one will start October 14 and end November 3 -- also known as election day.

These cheerful moments of star-crossed blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. For the love of the gods, people, wash your hands!