Sunday, October 17, 2021

Jerry's loose, or: The Atherton Vampire is available now.

 Remember when I said last week that I was setting myself an arbitrary deadline for releasing The Atherton Vampire? And that it would be out this coming Thursday?

Strike that. It's available now at Amazon. Here's the cover so that you know what you're looking for.


I've set the price for the Kindle edition at 99 cents and will leave it there through at least the end of this month. 

I'm not planning to release paperback editions for this series, but I could be persuaded to change my mind. If you're interested in a paperback, let me know.

***

The series is set in Atherton, a fictional town on the fictional Cabell River. Jerry's grandfather founded the town; he chose this site on the Cabell (it's pronounced CAB-ull, not ka-BELL) for his river barge factory and essentially built the town to support the factory. (The remains of the factory figure prominently in the plot for this book.) 

I had a model in mind for the town of Atherton: Huntington, West Virginia. I lived in Huntington for a few years in the early '80s, back when I was a radio news reporter. Like Atherton, Huntington was named for its founder: railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington. He decided the area would be the perfect location for the western terminus of his Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railway, so he bought some land and incorporated the city of Huntington in 1871. Unlike Jerry's grandfather, though, Huntington the railroad man moved on from his namesake city. He became one of the four rich guys who chipped in to build the Central Pacific Railroad -- part of the transcontinental railroad. (There I was, watching a Great Courses course on the American West not long ago, and lo and behold, who should pop up in the lecture about the transcontinental railroad but Collis P. Huntington. Small world, huh?)

The eastern terminus of the C&O was Richmond, VA, but Huntington later extended the line to Hampton Roads, VA. He was also instrumental in building Newport News Shipbuilding. As it happens, my next job after I left Huntington was in Hampton Roads. Who knew I was following in the footsteps of Collis P.?

Anyway, today's Huntington stretches for about fourteen miles along the Ohio River. It's the county seat for Cabell County, and its metro area includes Ashland, KY, and Ironton, OH.

In the series, the Atherton mansion sits on a bluff overlooking the town, the river, and the old shipyard. There's no view equivalent to that in Huntington, although the hills rise behind the town pretty fast. Situated up there is the Huntington Museum of Art, which is a decent museum for its size. I toured it with former Second Lady Joan Mondale when she was in town, stumping for her husband Walter the year he ran for the Democratic nomination for president. She invited reporters along on her tour of a visiting exhibition from the Armand Hammer Collection (speaking of wealthy industrialists). I liked one of the paintings so well -- Salome Dancing Before Herod by Gustave Moreau, a massive work of art -- that I bought a poster of it, had it framed, and hung onto it for many years.

Which has nothing to do with The Atherton Vampire, to be honest, unless I can work in a mention of John the Baptist's head on a platter later in the series. Hmm. Putting a pin in that idea.

***

Anyway, The Atherton Vampire is available now for Kindle for just 99 cents. Enjoy!

***

These moments of bloggy reminiscence have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Cooking with carbon steel.

For the past several years, I've been having eggs every morning for breakfast. (My doctor says my cholesterol level is just fine, thanks.) (I have theories about the fixation doctors and dieticians have on cholesterol, but that's a whole 'nother post.) I've also been a fan of nonstick pans ever since I bought my first set of cookware. So every day for the past several years, I've cooked my eggs in a nonstick skillet. And every year or so, I'd have to buy a new skillet because the nonstick finish would go hooey.

To be clear, I don't mistreat my nonstick pans -- I never use metal utensils on them -- but the finish only stays nice for a year or so, regardless. And once you can see it getting pitted and scratched, you kind of don't want to use it anymore, because how much of that stuff is getting into your food, right?

So a few months ago, when the frying pan I bought last year started to show signs of wear, I asked Mama Google if there was another alternative. "Carbon steel!" she said. "It's it's an alloy of steel and iron! It's lighter than cast iron and there's no chemical coating!" She then showed me a number of blog posts that rated the best carbon steel frying pans. Some were cheap, some were pricey, and I couldn't really tell what made one better than another. 

I dithered. Then I got sick of dithering and dropped the whole idea for a while. Finally, I went to a place at the mall and bought the brand they had in stock: A Ballarini Professionale 3000. (The link will take you to Amazon but you won't make me any money for buying a pan there; I don't do affiliate links.)

Photo stolen from Amazon.

The next step was to season the pan. I've never owned any cast iron, so this was a new thing for me. The pan came with instructions for seasoning, but the translation didn't seem to be the greatest, so back I went to Mama Google. Once again, there was tons of advice. The first instruction was always to scrub off the manufacturer's coating, which keeps the pan from rusting 'til you bring it home. But after that, things started to diverge: Coat it with oil, inside and out -- the handle, too -- but different people recommended different types of oils (canola, grapeseed, vegetable). And then came the actual technique: Heat the pan on top of your stove, but it's going to smoke like crazy! Or cook a mixture of oil, salt, and the peels from two potatoes in it! Or put it upside down in the oven at 450 degrees -- no, 400 -- no, 500 degrees -- and let it bake for an hour -- no, two hours! Then let it sit in the oven 'til it cools, and ta-da! It's done! Except you'll need to redo it several times in order to build up that patina so it's really nonstick.

And to clean it, don't ever soak it -- just scrape off the food residue with a wooden utensil and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. No washing with soap. Well, maybe use a little water, but then heat the empty pan over a burner again 'til you're sure it's dry. Then oil it again to protect it from rust. Unless you use it a lot, in which case you can skip oiling it.

The process seemed daunting. But I looked up smoke points for oils, settled on vegetable oil as my seasoner of choice, and picked the oven method. Set it at 425 degrees, if I recall correctly. Left it in there for two hours for good measure, then allowed it to cool for another two hours. When it came out, it looked gorgeous, all evenly dark like it was supposed to look.

I used it several times. And then I made chickpea and spinach stew in it, forgetting one of the other rules of cooking with carbon steel: if you put anything acidic in it -- like oh, say, sherry vinegar -- it'll take the patina right off.

The solution, it turns out, is to keep using the pan in order to build the patina back up. It took about a week of daily use. This morning, I made fried eggs in it. Even with the patchy finish along the sides, the eggs turned out beautifully and they didn't stick at all.

Lynne Cantwell 2021

I'm really starting to like this pan. I might even buy another one.

 ***

I'm going to have to give myself an arbitrary deadline for getting the Atherton Vampire books out or it will never happen. So let's say the first Atherton Vampire book will go live on Kindle next Thursday, October 21st, just in time for your Samhain/Halloween reading pleasure. The second book has to stay exclusive to Kindle Vella until late November, so I'll aim for a release for that one just before Thanksgiving (the American one, I mean, and happy Thanksgiving today to my Canadian friends!). That will allow me to write the third book during NaNoWriMo and release it just before Yule. 

***

These moments of bloggy seasoning have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Ah, festival season.

Probably the thing I've missed the most over the past year and a half of this pandemic is outdoor festivals. Yarn festivals in particular, of course, but really any gathering in the fresh air where participating crafters offer their items for sale in booths. It's fun to walk around and see everything.

I hit the jackpot this weekend: the annual harvest festival at El Rancho de los Golondrinas in Santa Fe and the Taos Wool Festival in Taos. If I'd been paying attention, I would have gone to one yesterday and the other one today. Alas, I wasn't paying attention, so I ended up doing both today. 

Lynne Cantwell 2021

El Rancho de los Golondrinas (which means "the ranch of the swallows") used to be a stop on the Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Now it's a living history museum. This was their 40th annual harvest festival, and it featured all kinds of craft demonstrations. But mostly, I took pictures of the animals.

At the sorghum mill, the interpreter mentioned that they had planned to make sorghum syrup but they'd run into several issues -- among them, recalcitrant burros for running the press. By the time I saw the critters later, they were okay with posing for photos.

Lynne Cantwell 2021

The burros live at the ranch, and so do these Churro sheep. The breed is descended from Churra sheep brought to the New World from Spain by the conquistadores. It's a popular breed around here -- the Navajo raise them, among others. They're prized these days for their soft woolly undercoat, which museum volunteers spin, dye, and weave into blankets and other items.

Lynne Cantwell 2021

Not far from the burros was a portable corral for a few alpacas. Some kids were trying to pet them, but the alpacas seemed more interested in their feed bags. 

Lynne Cantwell 2021

If there are sheep and alpacas, there must be yarn. And there was some yarn for sale from vendors at the museum, but I didn't pull out my magic plastic card 'til I got to Taos. The wool festival there is nothing like Maryland Sheep and Wool, which takes up a huge county fairground, but I managed to put a dent in my bank account anyway. No photos from Taos -- I was too busy petting the yarn. But I wish I'd gotten a shot of the gentleman who was leading around a yak on a leash. He -- the yak, not his owner -- was about five months old and looked a lot like a cow.

What was a yak doing at a fiber festival? Like sheep and alpacas, yak fur can be made into yarn. Their undercoat feels like cashmere, or so Mama Google tells me. It's pricey, of course, so I'm not in a hurry to buy any. Maybe next year. Or not.

***
These moments of bloggy critter stories have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed! 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

It's Banned Books Week.


Today is the first day of this year's Banned Books Week. The event is sponsored by a coalition of groups, including the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers Association, the Association of University Presses, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, PEN America, and the People for the American Way Foundation.

This year's slogan is: "Books Unite Us -- Censorship Divides Us." The organizers are sponsoring a whole bunch of events this week, many of them virtual; if you're not Zoomed out yet, you can check out the list here.

So which books are we talking about? The ALA put out a list earlier this year of the top 10 most-often-challenged books of 2020. Here they are, with title, author(s), and a short description of the reason why people didn't want them in their library.

  1. George by Alex Gino. LGBTQIA+ content and conflicting with a religious viewpoint.
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. "Selective storytelling incidents" and "does not encompass racism among all people." Also folks didn't like Kendi's public comments.
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Profanity, drug use, alcoholism, and containing anti-police views and "divisive topics".
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Rape, profanity, contained a political viewpoint, and was biased against male students.
  5. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Profanity and sexual references.
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. "Divisive language" and was thought to promote anti-police views.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Racial slurs and its perception of the Black experience.
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Racial slurs and racial stereotypes.
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Sexually explicit and contains child sexual abuse.
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Profanity and was thought to promote an anti-police message.
You might have noted a theme here: Seven of the ten books are about race or an "anti-police message" -- which is to say the challenges might be the result of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, although To Kill a Mockingbird and The Bluest Eye are perennials on the list. 

And these are just the top 10. In all, more than 270 books were challenged last year, and while there was an increase in requests to ban books about minority issues, the biggest reason people wanted certain books gone was LGBTQIA+ content.

Every year I say I'm going to read more banned books, and every year I realize I've only read a couple of the books on the list. For example, I've yet to pick up Sherman Alexie's book, even though it has been on the list more than once over the past several years, and I'm kicking myself because he is hilarious. So on the Kindle it goes -- along with George, which I just found out is about a girl who was born a boy. Hoo boy, no wonder the prudes want it banned. Looking forward to reading that one!

Happy reading!

***

These moments of subversive blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Gratuitous kitty photos.

I owe y'all a blog post, since it's Sunday and all. But I don't have much to say tonight, and I'm sure you'd rather just look at pictures of my new kitty anyhow.

So here's Tigger, a.k.a. Tigs, a.k.a. the Tiggenator. He's just shy of four years old and still pretty playful. He's settling in okay; I only caught him hiding on top of the kitchen cabinets for the first few days. Today, I clipped his front claws for the first time. He wasn't happy about it -- there was a lot of growling and complaining -- but I didn't end up bleeding, so I'm calling it a win. And he got treats afterward for Being Such a Good Boy, so maybe he'll let me do it again sometime.

Here he is, trying to be a loaf cat. He needs a little more practice -- gotta get that tail tucked up under him.

Lynne Cantwell 2021
He is much better at helping me knit. Well, actually, what he's good at is keeping me from knitting. Here he's lying on my pattern with his head pillowed on the project itself.
Lynne Cantwell 2021
I bought a tall cat condo so he could see out the living room windows (and also to encourage him to quit jumping up on top of the kitchen cabinets, as if that would work). He was a little leery of that top level, but a spritz of catnip spray took care of his reluctance. 
Lynne Cantwell 2021
And finally, here he is, being his snuggly and adorable self.
Lynne Cantwell 2021

That's it. That's my life right now. Have a great week.

***

These moments of unbelievably adorable blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Autumn is coming, and I couldn't be happier.

This weekend was the Fiesta de Santa Fe: a celebration of my adopted hometown's creation myth, if you will. Last weekend's annual burning of Zozobra -- Old Man Gloom, a giant marionette stuffed with memories and things that people would just as soon get rid of -- sort of cleared the decks of bad stuff so that everyone could celebrate the Fiesta with a light heart. 

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2021

The Fiesta itself is a three-day fair centered on the historic plaza. There are food stalls, craft booths, dance performances, and music by local bands. There's also a pageant associated with the event: one local man with Hispanic heritage is cast as Don Diego de Vargas, the general who led Spanish troops (including more than a few Mexicans, but anyway) to the "peaceful" reoccupation of Santa Fe in 1692 (twelve years after the Pueblo Indians ran the Spanish out). A local woman with Hispanic heritage is chosen to be La Reina -- the Queen. And a Native Princess is chosen from amongst the nearby Pueblo Indians. Part of the story involves parading a statue of Mary, dubbed La Conquistadora, to and from the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Fe.

I guess there's usually more than one parade, but the parades were canceled this year due to the pandemic. Last year, the whole Fiesta was canceled; Zozobra burned in 2020, but I didn't realize it was supposed to be the kickoff event for the Fiesta until this year.

Anyway, my point is that Fiesta feels kind of like a New Year's celebration: leaving all the bad stuff behind in the old year and starting the new year with a party. In fact, I read a quote somewhere this past week from a longtime Santa Fe resident who said she feels that way -- that Fiesta is the city's own New Year.

For me, September has been a month for fresh starts nearly all my life. The new school year always started right after Labor Day. And way back when, the TV networks' new seasons began in September, too. The air would turn crisp and the leaves would don brilliant colors before they dropped. I loved it. Autumn is still my favorite season.

Which creates a bit of a conundrum for me as a Pagan, because a whole lot of us think of Samhain -- Halloween -- as the start of the new year.

The Wheel of the Year is based on the Iron Age agricultural cycle in the British Isles. That's always been troubling in North America because almost nowhere here has a comparable climate. Lughnasadh, in early August, is known as the First Harvest, which is a bit of a head-scratcher for those of us who have been picking tomatoes and berries all summer. And Imbolc, in early February, is supposed to be a dairy festival, when ewes give birth and their milk comes in -- but the weather is too harsh in our northern states to even hint at spring then. Snowdrops blooming? When the snow is still a couple of feet deep? Yeah, no. And the disconnection will only get worse with climate change. 

About the only things that do equate are the solstices and equinoxes. Daylight hours still begin to increase at the winter solstice and begin to decrease again at the summer solstice, and the spring and autumn equinoxes are still the points of balance, when the day is half light and half dark.

For those of us who aren't beach lovers or who live in places where summer is miserably hot and sticky, the cooler weather that autumn brings is a blessing. And too, some of us simply love the dark.

Druid priest John Beckett has made a persuasive argument for celebrating the autumn equinox as "the triumph of the dark." Instead of being sad that the light is fading, he suggests looking forward to the dark half of the year and the advantages that darkness brings. 

Since fall is my favorite season anyway, I'm on board. My "gloom" of the past year has already gone up in smoke with Zozobra. Come September 22nd, I'll smile as I  observe the sunset and be glad that the season is turning at last.

***

These moments of celebratory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, September 5, 2021

And the Summer Reading Challenge winners are...

 

Illustration 174468593 © Kornetka | Dreamstime.com

And that's a wrap on the hearth/myth 2021 Summer Reading Challenge. Thanks to all who entered, and congrats to the rest of you who found new books to read by consulting our curated list. 

The grand prize winner of a signed copy of The Payoff is Tom Dent. The winners of the Pipe Woman Chronicles mugs, in no particular order, are: Tabitha Ormiston-Smith, Meredith Townsend DeVoe, Smoky Zeidel, Melody Stiles, and Vickie Koehler Averhoff. Congrats! I'll be contacting each of you to get details on how to get your prize to you.

That contest took a very long time from start to finish. Thanks to everyone for hanging in there.

As for my total? 72 books. I wouldn't have won my own contest! I knew I should have tried harder...

***

So I've just tonight uploaded the final few episodes of The Atherton Vampire 2: Out of the Coffin. They will be dropping on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on Kindle Vella through October 22nd. 

In addition, every episode of the first Atherton Vampire novella is available on Kindle Vella right now.

I'll be releasing them both next month as regular Kindle ebooks, in time for your Halloween reading pleasure. There will be at least one more Atherton Vampire book -- book 2 ends on a sort of cliffhanger and I am going to have to resolve that if I want to sleep at night. Details on all of that, including preorder info, will be coming shortly. Stay tuned, as they say on TV.

***

That's it for tonight. I have other stuff to say, but it's too serious in tone for this particular post.

Besides, I've been at the computer for hours and I need to go hang out with my new kitty, Tigger, who I adopted from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter just yesterday. Here he is, a little high on catnip. No doubt you'll be seeing more of him in the weeks to come. 

Lynne Cantwell 2021

***

These moments of winning blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Summer Reading Challenge is wrapping up.

 

copyright Lynne Cantwell 2021
This is it, y'all. The final week of the hearth/myth 2021 Summer Reading Challenge has begun. And I have a confession to make. 

See the books in the photo? Well, the three books plus a Kindle. Anyway, they represent two things: The hardback copy of The Payoff is the grand prize for the person who has read the most books on our list; the others are books I fully intended to read this summer and never got around to.

I don't know about you, but ever since all this business with the pandemic started, I've had a really hard time concentrating for long enough to get much reading done. But when I compiled the the list of books that's the basis for the contest, I had such great plans. I'd already read a ton of the books on the list, and so many of the others looked really good. Surely I'd be able to dive in and knock off a bunch of them in short order. Right?

Yeah. Not so much. 

I started one and bailed. Then I read a couple of books that aren't on the list at all (what was I thinking?). I picked up one from the list that took me way too long to get through (I blame packing and moving for that), but I did finish it at last. Then I spent way too much time on Facebook. Then finally, last week, I knocked off one. Today, I started another, and I can tell I'll have that one done by the end of the week, no problem. But the books in the pile in the photo? I'll get to 'em. Just not by Saturday.

All of which is to say that if you, too, had good intentions to make headway on our list, but got sidetracked for some reason, don't feel bad. I'm right there with ya.

When you're toting up the books you've read, if you're pretty sure you'll finish the one you're working on by Saturday, go ahead and count it. You have my permission. I mean, I intend to do the same thing.

And if you're certain that you're not going to finish any more books by next weekend, that's okay, too. Go ahead and send me your tally now -- no shame, no blame. We've all had a rough year, after all.

*** 

If it's not clear from the foregoing: I'm accepting contest entries as of now. 

There are several ways to get your final tally to me: email me at lynne.cantwell@hearth-myth.com; leave a comment below; or I'll even take your total in a comment on Twitter or in a Woo-Woo Team post on Facebook. (Those last two weren't in the official rules to start with, but they are now.)

One more time, here's the list. Send me your totals by Saturday! I'll post the winners (and my own total) here on the blog next Sunday. Thanks! 

***

A couple of housekeeping issues: The final episode of The Atherton Vampire dropped on Kindle Vella on Friday, so if you're the sort of person who puts off reading a book 'til it's finished, go for it. In addition, the first three episodes of The Atherton Vampire II: Out of the Coffin will be released tomorrow. Sales of the first book haven't exactly beensmokin' hot. So while I intend to write a third book in the series, it won't be released on Vella; instead, all three will be available in Kindle editions before the end of October. Stay tuned for more on that.

bejotrus | Deposit Photos
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this month marks the tenth bloggiversary of hearth/myth. Yes, that's right -- I published my first post in this space on August 16, 2011. "I'm going to aim for a post a week," I said back then. "Let's see how long it lasts." Well, now we know: ten years and counting. Good job, me! This calls for balloons, and maybe even a cake!

Should I shoot for fifteen years next? How about twenty? Let's just see how long it lasts!

***

These moments of celebratory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Submit your contest entries by Saturday, September 4th! And of course: Get vaxxed!

 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

In which our Summer Reading Challenge beats NPR.

The move went fine last weekend, thanks for asking. Even the dresser delivery guys were late in perfect proportion to how late we were running with the rest of the move.

Now, of course, comes the unpacking and whatnot. A lot of that "whatnot" seems to consist of buying furniture to replace all the built-ins I had at the other place, including dresser drawers and bookshelf space. In addition, I've had to buy some things that came with the old apartment, chiefly a mattress and box spring, as well as a table and chairs for the dining room. All the new stuff is either already here, or ordered and on the way, except for two things (and why do I get the feeling I'll be saying "I just need two more things" for the next several years?). Now I just have to wait for everything to get here.

In the meantime, summer's on the wane, and with it, our hearth/myth 2021 Summer Reading Challenge. We all have until Saturday, September 4th, to read another book (or books!) on the list. That's less than two weeks away, guys. 

Our list is pretty darned comprehensive, so I was feeling rather smug when I read an NPR article this week called, We Picked Our Favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books 10 Years Ago. Here Are Some We Missed. Why smug, you ask? Because of the seven additions to their list, our list has four (and I've read all four of them -- go me!): Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler; Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany; The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell; and Grass by Sheri S. Tepper. Take that, NPR!

The remaining three they wish they'd included are: Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh; Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey; and We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. I haven't read any of these, even though I've always heard great things about Cherryh and Lackey. (I've read some Lackey, just not any of the Valdemar books.) But I figure I have about two weeks to rectify my oversight, right? I started Foreigner the other day, and so far it's good. 

I'm also trying to figure out how my ridiculously well-read friends and I missed the Zamyatin altogether. And miss it, we did; it was published in 1924. Anyway, it's on my radar now. Hopefully someone will pick it up and let me know whether it's worth adding to the list for next year.

I won't keep you any longer, as I know we all have reading to do. I just wanted to make sure y'all remembered about the contest. Here's the link to the list and the rules again. Good luck!

***

These moments of reading-ready blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, August 15, 2021

A moving vacation.

 A reminder that I'm taking this week off because I'm moving into the condo. See you back here next week -- and in the meantime, don't forget about the summer reading challenge! It ends September 4th!



Sunday, August 8, 2021

Brace yourselves: it's another knitting and crafting post.

My apartment is in an uproar right now. The movers are coming in less than a week and I'm running out of places to put the boxes I've packed. So how about a knitting post?

The last time we chatted, it was in March and I was dressing up Flora. I've done a few other crafty things since then. Here we go.

First: I decided I needed to clean up the clutter on my desk. This desk has several drawers (and what's with the desks they make without drawers these days, anyway? Where are you supposed to put all your stuff?) but I had a bunch of little containers on my desktop, as well as two cups full of pens and scissors and things like that. The clutter was making me a teensy bit crazy. So I bought an unfinished box and decided to stain and varnish it, rather than paint it. I asked Mama Google about staining and she said you could use instant coffee. Well, I had some packets of instant Starbucks that were about to expire anyway, so that's what I used. It turned out okay. And now the top of my desk is a little bit less cluttered (although right now there's a pile of papers that need to be filed. Gonna do that tonight, I swears it.)

Lynne Cantwell 2021
I also decided to spin up some of the roving I've picked up here and there over the past few years. This stuff is Falkland wool and it came in a rolag, which is what you get when you put a bunch of dyed fiber on a blending board, mix it up, and roll it off into a tubular shape. These turned into lovely yarn. I have no earthly idea what I'll do with it -- it's not enough to make anything with. But it was fun.
Lynne Cantwell 2021
Less fun to spin is the silk top that my daughter Amy gave me a few years ago. Silk is more slippery than wool and it's been a challenge to keep it from breaking. I spun up part of it and put the rest aside. I might get back to it eventually. Or not.

Now, about the knitting. In the spring, I took a virtual class on brioche knitting from here in Santa Fe through fibre space in Alexandria, VA. I'd never done brioche before. It's, um, challenging. If you make a mistake, you're almost better off frogging the whole thing and starting over. There was one more issue: the cowl called for three coordinating colors of yarn. I had leftover yarn from another project and wanted to use it as one of the three colors, but that meant picking the other two while looking at photos of my options online. I was only kind of successful. But it's done, and now I have even more yarn left over, so I might eventually make a hat to go with the cowl.

Lynne Cantwell 2021
Next up: a pair of socks from this sock yarn I bought about a billion years ago and finally got tired of looking at in my stash. 
Lynne Cantwell 2021
The socks were sort of a palate cleanser after this next project. 

At one point this spring, I totally lost my mind and bought a shawl kit from an ad I saw on Facebook. The yarn was a nightmare to work with and some of the pattern directions were confusing, so I won't be doing that again. The result is stunning, though, so I guess all the cursing I did was worth it. I'm calling it my Sunrise shawl.

Lynne Cantwell 2021
If I have a Sunrise, then I need a Moon to go with it, right? As it happens, the Moon shawl is what I'm working on right now. I've included the cover of the instructions so you can see how it's supposed to look when it's done. 
Lynne Cantwell 2021
This pattern is a different nightmare. Like the Eden Prairie shawl, this designer is using a dark color to separate the sections of the shawl; unlike the Eden Prairie, which sensibly used garter stitch for everything, this pattern calls for knitting each section in stockinette with an I-cord bind-off, and then picking up stitches along the edge of the I-cord to start the next section. I'm currently about half done with binding off the 399 stitches of the third section. If you're not a knitter but that sounds like a lot of stitches, you're absolutely right. I have two more sections to knit, then an I-cord bindoff around the whole shawl, and I get to use duplicate stitch to make those cute little moon phases along the border. I keep thinking I'm making progress on this thing, and then I look ahead to the next section and despair. But eventually it will be done, I swears it. Just not before the movers come on Saturday.

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Which reminds me: I'm going to take next week off from the blog due to the move. See you back here on the 22nd.

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Which reminds me of something else: Our summer reading challenge is heading into the final few weeks. Check out the list and the prizes at the link, and good luck!

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These moments of crafty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, August 1, 2021

When the First Harvest includes the final straw.

Bigstock
 Blessed Lughnasa, everyone!

I've written about this cross-quarter day on the Pagan Wheel of the Year several times over the years. The Irish god Lugh decreed that this day would be observed in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu, who died from exhaustion after plowing all of Ireland's fields for planting. But Lughnasa was never meant to be a solemn memorial; instead, Lugh ordered that it become a harvest festival, including many games. 

So here we are today, beginning the 17th month of coping with COVID-19. This was supposed to be the summer of reopenings. We were supposed to have beaten this thing back so that as long as you were vaccinated, your life could just about go back to normal. And then the Delta variant happened. 

I could blog about how the unvaccinated have ruined the summer for everyone else (in fact, I kind of did, about a month ago). But Lughnasa is a harvest festival, and as alert hearth/myth readers know, Pagans tend to be all about improving themselves. So could we be reaping, as individuals, at this First Harvest?

One day, a couple of months back, I found myself wanting to cry for no reason. Life was actually going fine for me at that point; I should have been relaxed and enjoying life, but instead I had this desire to, you know, sit down and have a good cry. So I started shopping for a new place to live. That's how I found the condo I'm moving into in a couple of weeks. But I recognized that house-hunting is a lousy long-term strategy for coping with the blues. I made a mental note to sit down with myself, once the dust cleared, and figure out what was going on.

Then a couple of days ago, I saw a thing on Facebook -- a tweet string from @gwensnyderphl, who I don't follow on Twitter -- and shared it. You can click here and read her tweets for yourself, but here's what she said in the first couple of tweets: "You just went through 1.5 years of a profound ongoing threat to your health/wellbeing/life, social isolation, aggressive disinformation, political turmoil, and financial uncertainty. OF COURSE you are not functioning at your peak. OF COURSE you are stressed out, burned out, unproductive, disconnected, anxious, depressed, exhausted, aching, and/or sad. YOU ARE TRAUMATIZED. This is what trauma does to the human mind, to the human body, to human relationships." And she went on to say that we shouldn't feel pressured into going back to normal, just like that: "Give yourself permission to not be okay."

That was my light bulb moment. Of course I felt like crying, as soon as I had a minute to catch my breath. The reaction I thought was weird and inexplicable was completely understandable. We've been through hell. We thought we were out of it, but now we're not. It's exhausting. 

Anyway, as I said, I shared the string of tweets, and immediately somebody piped up in the comments and said, basically, "Not everybody's exhausted. We're doing just fine here." 

I mean, there's one in every crowd, right? 

The thing is, trauma's impact -- on the body and on the psyche -- is cumulative. You may be the sort of person who can live through one horrible thing after another and weather it all okay, but then one day, you may have one more horrible thing happen and you snap. It might even be a tiny horrible thing, but it still becomes the straw that broke the camel's back.

You can keep pushing yourself, ignoring the burden you're carrying until you break -- until you die from exhaustion, as Tailtiu did. Or you can acknowledge the burden and cut yourself some slack, as Simone Biles did this past week at the Tokyo Olympics. She bumbled a vault and realized she was at a breaking point. So she has pulled out of the other events she was scheduled to compete in, except one (she's still undecided about the balance beam, which is coming up on Tuesday). She has taken a lot of heat for her decision, much of it from people who appear to believe she owes her country a bunch of gold medals, no matter what the effort costs her personally. But she's also had a lot of support, and it's coming from those of us who have also reached our breaking point this year.

Good for her for recognizing she needed to take care of herself first. If the rest of us could do the same, we'd have a very respectable First Harvest this year.

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These moments of bloggy unburdening have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed! And have a good cry whenever you think you need one.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Lord of Cries.

 I may have mentioned that this summer is shaping up to be a summer of vampires. The Atherton Vampire is live now at Amazon and on the Kindle app for iOS devices in the United States, and many thanks to those of you who have taken a look at Jerry's story so far. In addition, I'm in the midst of writing the second novella in the series. And last weekend, I saw the world premiere of The Lord of Cries, an opera based partly on Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula, at the Santa Fe Opera.

I'm not a massive opera fan, but I've seen a number of them over the years. This one intrigued me not only because of the subject matter, but because librettist Mark Adamo has written a mashup of Stoker's story with that of  The Bacchae, a tragedy written by Euripedes that had its own premiere in 405 BCE. Adamo has been quoted as saying he was intrigued by Dracula's status as an outsider in Victorian London, which seemed to him to  correspond pretty neatly with Dionysus's status in The Bacchae

For those of you who haven't read the play, I'll recap: Dionysus is the Greek god of wine and wine-making, revelry, and religious ecstasy. His father was Zeus; his mother, Semele, was mortal. The kingdom of Thebes, under the rule of King Penthius, has forsworn his worship -- supposedly because he's not really a god due to his mixed parentage, but really because all the women in the kingdom, who are dubbed the Bacchae, are following him into hedonism. Dionysus wants Thebes to recognize him as a god, so he appears before Penthius as a stranger who supports the god's claim. Alas, Penthius cannot be swayed, so Dionysus decides to teach him a lesson -- one that leads to Penthius's destruction.

To get the Dracula tale to fit the bones of The Bacchae, Adamo made some key changes. He rolled Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra into a single character: Lucy Harker, wife of Jonathan Harker. In the novel, Jonathan comes back from Dracula's castle with his mind intact, but in the opera, he has been driven mad with, y'know, lust and stuff by Dracula's three vampire women. Also in the novel, Van Helsing is the main vampire hunter -- but here he's demoted to assisting John Seward, the head of Carfax Asylum and (because reasons) the de facto mayor of London. Seward is determined to do his duty and save London from Dracula, and that means denying his passion for Lucy. We discover that Lucy is also crazy about John, but she must do her duty and tend to her husband -- who, by the way, was driven insane because of the warring desires within his own soul. 

Into all this drama strides Dionysus in the guise of Dracula himself. He intends to wake up Victorian Londoners to the dangers of denying their baser instincts and desires in the service of "doing good", because that way, literally, lies madness. Neither Seward nor Lucy will abandon what they perceive as their duty, and so they are destroyed.

A lot has been made over the years of Stoker's setting for his novel. The Victorian era seethed with sexual repression, and literary critics have long seen Dracula as a target for fear and disgust because he challenged Victorian notions of propriety.

Of course, Adamo uses that. But what interests me, as a modern-day Pagan, is the vehicle he chooses for the message: a pagan god. In our present era, in which conservatives are fighting to repress social progress of all sorts, it's heartening to hear someone say that the pagans had it right.

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These moments of bloggy ecstasy and ruin have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Destiny vs. Tricksters.

First things first: At long last, The Atherton Vampire is out! Go here to find Jerry's story. The first ten episodes are live right now; Episode 11 drops next Monday, July 26th, and new episodes will be released every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through the end of August. Enjoy!

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Xochicalco | Deposit Photos
Speaking of episodic fiction: All six of the episodes of the Marvel Classic Universe's newest TV show, Loki, have been released on Disney Plus. (I would have used a graphic with scenes from the show, but I didn't want to get a letter from Disney's lawyers about copyright infringement.) 

I am going to do my best to avoid spoilers (but no guarantees!), as the final episode just dropped Wednesday and a lot of people probably haven't seen it yet. Here's the show's premise, as laid out by the first couple of episodes: Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, does something that changes the original timeline in the Avengers movies, thereby running afoul of an organization that calls itself the Timeline Variance Authority, or TVA for short. The purpose of the TVA is to prune people who create offshoots of the "sacred timeline." As we all know (from reading the Pipe Woman Chronicles books, if nothing else), Loki is a Trickster. So of course there are a bunch of Loki "variants" that have done stuff that would change the timeline, and they have been pruned. The MCU's original Loki is spared by a TVA agent named Mobius, played by Owen Wilson. Then our Loki runs into a renegade version of himself who escaped from the TVA. This Loki is female; she calls herself Sylvie. And hijinks ensue.

Am I in spoiler trouble yet? Oh well. Onward!

Reviews of the show have been split. Folks who were fans of the comic books were generally disgruntled; they saw who the Big Bad Guy would turn out to be a mile away and/or they're unhappy with the depiction of Loki's character, including one reviewer who wanted more of an emphasis on Loki's gender fluidity. (Even in Norse mythology, Loki had the ability to morph into a female -- and without benefit of having to create a new timeline.) Some folks thought it was lazy storytelling for Loki to take a liking to another version of himself. (Yeah, yeah, spoiler, I know. But I rolled my eyes when I read this. He's a narcissist -- of course he'd fall for himself!)

Folks who never read the comic books have generally been charmed by the show, although -- like me -- they're annoyed that the writers couldn't have wrapped up something in the first six episodes. Episode 6 ends with a giant cliffhanger and the second season probably won't start airing for another year and a half. 

Anyway, there's a big philosophical question underlying the structure of the series, and I don't think it's much of a spoiler to point it out. What the TVA is doing, essentially, is putting the kibosh on free will. Somebody has assumed the mantle of God, decreeing which events fall within the sacred timeline. Does that mean everything that happens is predetermined? What does that mean for free will?

Clearly, in the MCU everything is predetermined by the writers. But I think every fiction author has had a character go rogue on them. Sometimes they'll do what you want them to do, but not for the reason you thought. But sometimes they just flat-out refuse to follow your outline (assuming you have one) and then you're left scrambling to get everything to turn out the way it needs to.

In real life, though, the battle between free will and predestination gets murkier. And it's a big argument among Christians -- do we make our own decisions, or are our lives preordained? In other words, has God written the whole script ahead of time? And if so, can we change our destinies? Is it worth even trying?

As a Pagan, I don't worry about any of this. There's no Creator God in my personal pantheon, so there's no one available to write the script. I tend to think more in terms of people behaving in predictable ways. That means free will is a given. We have the ability to change our ways and hopefully create a different life, a different outcome. It's difficult -- but there's no doubt in my mind that it can be done.

Regardless of my personal beliefs, though, I enjoyed this first season of Loki and I cannot wait for season two.

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These moments of Tricky blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The vampire is (nearly) loose.

Are y'all tired of me talking about The Atherton Vampire yet? If so, sorry -- I'm doing it again.

But this time, I have excellent news. Amazon announced a few days ago that Kindle Vella will launch this coming week. And Jerry's tale is in the queue and ready to go. If you're in the US, and if you have a Kindle app on your phone or iPad, try this: Open that Kindle app, go to the search function, and type in "atherton vampire" (yes, in quotes; no, it doesn't need to be capitalized). You should get a result that looks like this (although the resolution should be better):


Clicking the link gets you an error message right now. But sometime this week, I'm told, it'll work. And then Jerry Atherton will be released upon an unsuspecting public, muahahahaha.

Well, you won't be unsuspecting because I've told you about it. 

Oh, you know what I mean.

Anyway, I'm making outstanding progress on the second Atherton Vampire story for Vella. My goal is to write one episode per day for Camp NaNo this month; today I'm at almost 17,000 words. So I should be able to start publishing episodes of the second story as soon as all of the episodes of the first story have been released. 

It also means the first Atherton Vampire story will be published as a regular Kindle ebook around the fall equinox in September, with the second story released as an ebook just before Halloween.

All this, and I've started a part-time job, too. I'm working for the New Mexico Legislature as a legal proofreader again, but the hours are a lot more forgiving right now than they were during the legislature's session last winter. Which it looks like I will be doing again this coming winter. Which is good, actually, because I'm buying a condo and the extra money will come in handy.

To be honest, a lot has been happening lately. And the rest of this summer is going to be busy, too. This is how retirement is supposed to work, right?

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I hope you haven't forgotten about the hearth/myth Summer Reading Challenge. There's still plenty of time to increase the number of books on our list that you've read. You can find the list and the rules here. Good luck, and happy reading!

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These moments of anticipatory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy not-COVID-freedom day.

Gerd Altmann | Pixabay

On Thursday, New Mexico officially lifted all COVID-19-related restrictions. Stores and restaurants are back up to full occupancy, attendants are no longer wiping down the handles of shopping carts at the grocery store, and a whole lot of people have abandoned their masks.

We got here not by ignoring the virus, as other states have done, but by pushing vaccinations hard. As of early last week, 71% of eligible New Mexicans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 62% of those eligible were fully vaccinated. The numbers across the state are not even, of course; we have a lot of rural land, as well as our share of anti-vaxxers. Just 29.9% of eligible folks in Roosevelt County are fully vaccinated, compared with 82.6% in Los Alamos County. (I live in Santa Fe County, where the full vaccination rate is 69.5%. The statewide dashboard is here.)

I've been out and about a bit over the past week, and it appears that stores and restaurants here are now defaulting to the CDC guidelines: If you're fully vaccinated, you don't need to mask up. That's true even in regard to the variants; all three of the vaccines approved for use in the United States are effective against the delta variant, which is the one causing the most trouble right now. In fact, virtually all of the people dying of COVID-19 in the US right now are unvaccinated. The Associated Press story I just linked to observes that if everybody eligible for the vaccine would just get the shot, deaths from the virus would be virtually zero.

And yet we still have a sizable percentage of people that haven't gotten a shot. The percentage varies from state to state; the states with the worst vaccination rates are mostly in the South. Holding the bottom spot is Mississippi, with just 38.3% of its adults fully vaccinated.  

I feel terrible for my friends who live in states that haven't pushed vaccines as hard as New Mexico has. Here we are, 16 months into this pandemic, and too many fully vaccinated Americans are still scared to leave their homes. But now it's not because of the virus running rampant, but because you don't know whether the unmasked person next to you at the grocery store is fully vaccinated or just living in denial.

Today we're celebrating the 245th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence -- yet in a lot of ways, and despite the cheerleading from Washington, this virus is still holding America hostage. I wish we could reach herd immunity without losing too many more people to COVID-19, but I don't see how we can. The unvaccinated are in for a terrible fall and winter. And to be honest, I can't feel sorry for them anymore.

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More Atherton Vampire news: Of course as soon as I said that Amazon's rules required Kindle Vella stories to be exclusive to that platform, the Zon went and changed the rules. Now they're going to allow authors to publish episodes in a single volume 30 days after their Kindle Vella release. That means I'll be able to publish The Atherton Vampire as a regular old ebook in oh, say, late September or early October. The exact date will depend on when Kindle Vella goes live. I'll keep you posted.

In addition, The Atherton Vampire 2 is progressing nicely. I started the first draft Thursday, the first day of the July Camp NaNo session, and I'm already 5,000 words in. If I stick to 25 episodes for this story, too, and if I write an episode a day, I'll have the whole thing drafted well before the end of July. 

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These moments of independent blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

A moment of serendipity.

Sometimes a scene just comes together. 
Lynne Cantwell | 2021

Earlier this week, Big Al's Books and Pals re-ran a review of Spider's Lifeline, the third book in my Pipe Woman's Legacy series, which came out in 2016. It was a moment of serendipity for me, as I'd been thinking about the book just a few days before. And that reminded me of a moment of serendipity that occurred while I was writing the fourth and final book, Turtle's Weir

You may have heard the term "Easter egg" in relation to movies. An Easter egg is a scene in which the filmmakers have included an inside joke, or a moment that makes a reference that only diehard fans would understand. Here's an example of one that occurred in Raiders of the Lost Ark: Hieroglyphs cover the walls of the room where Indiana Jones finds the Ark of the Covenant -- and among those hieroglyphs are drawings of R2D2 and C3PO, two of the most beloved droids in the Star Wars movies. It makes sense when you realize George Lucas both invented the Star Wars saga and co-wrote the story on which the Indiana Jones movies were based, and Harrison Ford starred in both movie franchises.

Writers include Easter eggs, too. Often, it's intentional, but sometimes the moments write themselves. The latter was the case in Webb's half of the Pipe Woman's Legacy

There's a scene in Spider's Lifeline in which Webb and his mother, Naomi Witherspoon Curtis, attend a reception hosted by former President Brock Holt and his wife, Antonia Greco, in honor of an Icelandic princess named Ingrid. Brock and Antonia's sons, Rex and Roman, are also there. Roman is a free spirit -- a musician who is as much of a Trickster as is Webb himself. There's a moment where Webb goes to the bar to get himself and his mother something to drink. Roman joins him there, and while they're chatting, Naomi shakes hands with the princess and then drops to the floor.

Antonia and I reached her at the same time. I helped her to a sitting position as Antonia clucked over her and called for her husband to get their physician. Cameras clicked again; I expected we’d be the top story on tonight’s news.

“No doctors,” Mom said crossly. “I’m fine. I just took a tumble, that’s all – it happens when you’re old. Thank you, Roman.” She took her drink from his hand and sipped.

“Yeah, thanks, buddy,” I said, accepting my own from him.

“I’m here to help,” he said, in a more serious tone than I’d ever heard him use before. “Remember that.”

What caused Roman to turn serious right then? I had no idea at the time.

But then in Turtle's Weir, Webb made a return trip to the moment via time travel get a better view of what had happened, and Roman's reaction became a little clearer.

As Webb-in-the-timeline broke from the bar to scramble toward Mom, I glanced around the room. Ingrid watched what she had wrought with satisfaction in her eye. But then she glanced up from the tableau on the rug at me – not Webb-in-the-timeline, but me, Webb-the-observer. Her eyebrows shot up and her mouth dropped open. Then her forehead creased in anger.

I covered my own shock with a jaunty little wave. Then, as I got ready to spring up out of the timeline, I noticed someone else in the room was watching me: Roman Holt. He was crouched next to me on the floor, holding my drink and Mom’s. And of the three of us – Roman, Ingrid, and me – he was the only one who didn’t look surprised that I was there.

In real life, right after he’d handed us our drinks, he’d told me, I’m here to help. Remember that. The comment had seemed to come from out of the blue at the time. Now, at least, I had a little context.

I gave him a shrug and a grin, and got out of there.

Thanks, Webb, for clearing that up for all of us. And thanks to Big Al and the pals for the reprise review.

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I'd like to say I've made progress on the second Atherton Vampire story this week, but I'd be lying. Real-life events have sucked up much of my focus for the past few days. But serendipity strikes again! The next session of Camp NaNo starts Thursday. So all I have to do is draft an outline for the story by then. Piece of cake.

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These moments of bloggy serendipity have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A big week in the skies above.

Cue the fanfare: We have a launch date (kinda sorta) for Kindle Vella. It will debut sometime in mid to late July -- next month, in other words -- and The Atherton Vampire will be available for your reading pleasure on your iOS device (or from Amazon's website) then. 

Once you've raced through the first ten episodes, there will be three new episodes per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

I'm so excited. I can't wait for y'all to meet Jerry and the gang.

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Yurumi | Deposit Photos

There I was, scrolling through the Father's Day posts on Facebook earlier today and noticing that several folks had posted about the summer solstice. "Y'all are a day early," I said aloud. "Litha is tomorrow." I knew that, see, because every year when I get a new wall calendar, I mark the dates for the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarter days. And my calendar clearly says the solstice is tomorrow. 

But then I looked up the time the solstice actually occurs, and guess what? For North America, it's tonight. Time zones are stupid.

I'm doubly annoyed because I've booked a session in a salt cave, and I set it up for tomorrow because I thought it was the solstice. I've never done halotherapy before. To be honest, I'd never heard of it until I picked up a flyer about our local salt cave. Here's how it works: a machine pulverizes salt and aerosolizes it in a very dry room; then you sit in the room and breathe in the salt air for a certain period of time. It's supposed to be good for everything from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder to allergies to depression. I don't really expect it to improve my allergies and I don't have any of those other things, but I figure sitting for forty-five minutes in a room in the dark ought to be good for something, salty air or no. I'll report back.

The equinox isn't the only big celestial event this week; the full moon is Thursday and Mercury retrograde ends Tuesday. I will be very glad to see Mercury go direct -- I've been champing at the bit for the past several weeks, itching to make some changes here at home and waiting for things to get moving so those changes could happen. I'm not saying Mercury retrograde has caused the delays, but I'm pretty sure it hasn't helped.

In any case, it feels like things are breaking free here, including in relation to the virus. Our governor announced Friday that New Mexico has fully vaccinated 60 percent of the population, ages 16 and up, and that means all COVID-related restrictions will be lifted July 1st. Some businesses may still require people to mask up indoors, and of course the CDC guidelines haven't changed. Variants are still a concern. And for unvaccinated folks, infection rates are still as awful as they have been all along. But to this fully vaccinated individual, it feels like liberation.

Here's hoping the rest of the world will soon feel the same way.

Happy solstice! Blessed Litha!

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These moments of anticipatory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Comfort movies: a listicle.

Quick update, first, on The Atherton Vampire: I've had quite a productive weekend. I wrote episodes 22 and 23 yesterday, and episodes 24 and 25 today. That means the first draft of the whole novella is done. I wasn't wrong about the length -- it has come out to 40,800 words -- but I was wrong about the lengths of each episode; almost as soon as I said none had gone over 2,000 words, I wrote one that was 2,500 words. A couple of subsequent episodes also top 2k words. So sue me.

Anyway, I still haven't heard a launch date for Kindle Vella. At least my whole story is drafted and will be ready for upload, whenever Amazon rolls it out.

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At some point this week, I saw someone share a list on social media of what they termed "comfort movies." It's the same idea as comfort food -- it's a thing you turn to, again and again, when the world has been a little too much. So comfort movies would be those you've seen several times and would watch again in a heartbeat, because you love them so much.

I don't own a ton of DVDs. I only buy the ones I know I'll watch again. So it was easy for me to suss out a listicle of my comfort movies: Just catalog what's in the DVD drawer. It turns out that I do own a few movies that I would only rewatch when I'm in a certain mood. But for comfort flicks, you cannot go wrong with the following list -- or at least I can't.

Devon Breen | Pixabay | CC0
My Comfort Movies (in alphabetical order) (feel free to let me know yours):

The Avengers: The Marvel series, not the Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg TV series. Not that there's anything wrong with Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. I loved this movie for the dialogue, which is full of snappy comebacks. Thor's deadpan delivery of "he's adopted" always gets a laugh from me.

Bells Are Ringing: I love me some old musicals, especially if they're also screwball comedies. I can take or leave Dean Martin, to be honest, but Judy Holliday's rendition of "I'm Going Back" is a showstopper. (The link is to the song on the cast album; I couldn't find a clip from the movie itself. Do yourself a favor and rent this flick.)

The Blues Brothers: This movie has so many great moments, it's impossible to name them all; I'd actually forgotten about the scene where Carrie Fisher pulls a rocket launcher on John Belushi until the last time I saw it. Plus it's set in Chicago, one of my favorite cities. And the Nazis get what they deserve.

The Big Lebowski: Jeff Bridges turns in a bravura performance. That rug really did pull the room together. And I can't help it: I love it every time John Goodman tells Steve Buscemi to "shut the fuck up, Donny!"

Continental Divide: I doubt you've heard of it. John Belushi plays Ernie Souchak, a hard-charging newspaper guy in Chicago (the character was modeled after Mike Royko) who needs to lay low from a crime syndicate for a while. So his editor sends him to Colorado to interview Nell Porter (Blair Brown), a wildlife researcher who lives in a cabin on top of a mountain. It's a fish-out-of-water rom-com - Souchak is a city guy who hates the great outdoors, and Nell just generally hates people, but reporters most of all. The ending is completely ridiculous and so much fun.

Fargo: The Coen brothers have done some weird movies, but this one hits all the right notes for me. Here's my favorite line: When Frances McDormand sees William H. Macy driving away while she's standing in his office, waiting to talk to him, she says, "Oh, for Pete's sake!"  It's such a wholesome thing for a character in a crime drama to say. 

Gigi: This was my all-time favorite movie for years and years. Then I grew up and realized what Madame Alvarez was training Gigi to be. Still, the music is great, and the scene where Gaston realizes he's in love with Gigi is so much fun to watch. Plus Gigi goes against Aunt Alicia's wishes and refuses to be Gaston's courtesan, so yay 1950s feminism?

Guardians of the Galaxy: Another Marvel Studios entry. Goofy goings-on in space as the Star-Lord tries to gain himself a reputation. Groot's sacrifice will tear your heart out, but the closing credits kind of make up for it. Plus the soundtrack is amazing -- I actually bought that before I bought the DVD.

Indiana Jones: Any of of them except for Temple of Doom; somebody needed to give Kate Capshaw something to do other than scream at the top of her lungs. I recently saw that Harrison Ford's donning the fedora and bullwhip for a fifth movie in the franchise, but supposedly he'll be digitally younger-fied in at least some scenes. I'm not sure how I feel about that. The new movie's due out next summer.

Jane Eyre: Charlotte Bronte's novel was my favorite book from eighth grade until I discovered the Thomas Covenant series. This novel has had a ton of film adaptations, but I think the 2011 version, with Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester, is the best. Wasikowska gives Jane an almost otherworldly air. (I never could warm up to George C. Scott as Rochester. Whose bright idea was that, anyway?)

Little Shop of Horrors: A sci-fi musical mashup with a carnivorous plant and a sadistic dentist -- what's not to like? (My kids' high school did this as their musical one year. My daughter Amy got to keep one of the Audrey props -- the hand puppet, not the ginormous beast.)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail: I also love Life of Brian, but this one wins for being such a great send-up of the Middle Ages. And who can forget the killer rabbit? Or the Knights who say "Ni"? Or the Frenchman who hurls insults off his castle wall? Or the "bring out your dead!" scene? I'd better stop now or we'll be here all night.

Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen just keeps having her day. This novel has also been adapted about a bazillion times, from Hollywood to Bollywood. I know Colin Firth is the sentimental favorite for Darcy, but my favorite version is the 2004 film with Winona Ryder. When she first glimpses Darcy's estate -- and realizes what she's lost by turning down his marriage proposal -- her reaction is priceless. (I couldn't find a clip. Just watch the movie -- it'll be along.)

The Princess Bride: This is another film with too many great scenes to list, from "As you wish" to "My name is Inigo Montoya..." to "Have fun storming the castle!" and on and on. By the way, if you haven't read the novel the movie is based on, you should -- it's fun and charming in a wholly different way.

Romancing the Stone: I was a confirmed Kathleen Turner fan after seeing this movie the first time. It's so much fun that I found I could even forgive Michael Douglas for mispronouncing Cartagena throughout the entire movie. (The sequel is terrible - don't bother.)

Star Wars: And by that I mean the 1977 film that's now known as Episode IV - A New Hope. The special effects are old hat now, but they were mind-blowing at the time. And George Lucas let his actors have fun in the first three films, unlike in Episodes I to III where he seemed determined to saddle everybody with Performances with Serious Import (other than Jar Jar Binks, about whom the less said, the better).

Thor: Ragnarok: Marvel Studios again. This one is a buddy movie with Thor and the Hulk as the buddies. The dialogue shines in this one, too. Plus we get to see an actual Valkyrie -- how cool is that?

Young Frankenstein: Mel Brooks has made some outstanding movies and at least one clunker (History of the World, Part I). I know a lot of people consider Blazing Saddles to be his masterpiece, but I prefer this one -- not just because I like horror better than Westerns, but because of all the hilarious scenes. And that's just a small sample. 

White Christmas: I know, I know. It's extremely dated with its stereotypical airheaded showgirls and stuff. But the dance scenes are still stunning, and the title song gets me every time. 

Y'know, I finished drafting a book today. I think I might watch a movie tonight.

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These moments of comforting cinematic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!