Sunday, December 26, 2021

A Seasons new year.

I promised y'all a twofer for holiday ficlets this year, didn't I? 

Last week I posted the Pipe Woman's Legacy and Elemental Keys mashup. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

I said I'd do one for Seasons of the Fool this week. It turns out that I did a ficlet for Seasons last year. I went back and re-read it -- and despaired, kind of. It was so hopeful. We we banking so much on the vaccines letting us return to our normal lives -- or I was, at least. But here we are, with variants come and gone (the original virus and beta) and one virulent variant (delta) now being supplanted by an even scarier one. 

I don't know that I can muster as much hope as I did last year. But I'm going to take a crack at it, because I promised I would. Here we go.

Julia looked out the window of Dave's summer house in Michiana -- or rather, hers and Dave's since their marriage. It was New Year's Eve, but she wasn't feeling very festive. She had hoped for snow, but there wasn't any -- just some icy patches along the side of the road. The woods looked wan, devoid of their customary winter blanket.

Her grandparents' cottage -- the house where she'd grown up -- was dark. She and Dave had agreed that it made better sense to gather in the larger house this year. The whole family would be here tonight. They needed more space to spread out. 

Well, everybody would be here except for Randi. Her college suitemate had tested positive at the end of finals week, so Randi was spending most of her winter break quarantined at home in Chicago. Rich was fine, but his high school would be doing remote learning again starting next week. Little Raylee was still going to school for now. At least she was finally vaccinated. When she got her first shot, Julia had been the one to cry -- with relief.

Ed Starek had refused to get the shot; the virus claimed him in September. Now his house was up for sale.

The only lights she could see were in Ms. Elsie and Ms. Thea's windows. She glanced down at the two COVID test kits she held.

Dave came up behind her and put his arms around her. "I thought you were leaving," he said.

She leaned back against him. "I was." She weighed the test kits in her hand. "Do you think they'll do it?"

He chuckled. "That's the fourth time you've asked me. Just go. You won't know 'til you've asked them."

"I know." She sighed. "Let me get my coat."

Down the street she trudged, test kits in her pocket and mask firmly in place. She knocked on the door. "Just a minute," Ms. Thea called, the door muffling her voice. After a moment, the latch clicked and the door opened. "Julia," Ms. Thea said, her eyes smiling above her mask. "It's so nice to see you."

"I've missed you both so much," Julia blurted, her own eyes filling with tears.

"There, there, dear. Come in." Ms. Thea opened the door wider. 

"Are you sure?" she said, even she stepped inside.

"If you don't stay long, it's fine. They're saying fifteen minutes now, aren't they?" Ms. Thea gave her a hug and shut the door. "Else, look who's here."

"Oh, Julia," said Ms. Elsie, emerging from the kitchen. She donned a mask in a hurry and enveloped Julia in a hug.

Julia cried into her shoulder for a moment as Ms. Thea patted her back. Then she stepped away. "Well, about that fifteen minutes. Dave and I wondered whether you'd like to come over tonight for a little while. It'll be just the family. Randi's quarantining at home, but Rich and Raylee are here. And Tim and Jen are coming."

"Oh," Ms. Thea said, looking at Ms. Elsie.

"The only thing is that you'd need to do this first," Julia said, fumbling in her pocket for the test kits. She held them out. "I'm sorry. But we're having everyone do it."

The ladies smiled. "Put those back in your pocket," Ms. Elsie said. "We've already tested ourselves so we could go to the senior center tonight. They're moving up the clock so we can toast the New Year at eight!" 

"But I'd rather be with you and your family," Ms. Thea confided. 

"So would I," Ms. Elsie said. "It'll be a lot more fun than drinking sparkling cider with a bunch of old people."

Julia laughed. "I'm so glad you're coming."

Ms. Elsie said, "The cards were right, weren't they, Thea?"

Ms. Thea nodded. "Yes, indeed. The Tower is still falling, but the Wheel of Fortune is ever turning. We'll just have to be careful."

"That's the ticket," Ms. Elsie agreed. "We'll see you tonight, Julia."

Lynne Cantwell 2021

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

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Solstice sunrise; and Jerry's story concludes (for now).

'Tis the season for gifts, and I have two for you today. 

Gift #1: The final book (for now) in the Atherton Vampire series is out. 

The Atherton Vampire III: Midnight Creeps is just 99 cents until January 6th. And if you've been waiting for the whole trilogy before starting to read, well, all three books are priced at 99 cents apiece. Enjoy!

Gift #2: The winter solstice ficlet has become a hearth/myth tradition. (A ficlet, if you're just joining us, is a very short story of between 750 and 1,000 words.)

My head's been full of vampires for most of this year, and vampires don't really lend themselves to winter sunrises and hot chocolate. Plus Callie and Jerry's story has just barely gotten to Halloween. It seems a little premature to give them a winter ficlet this year.

So a couple of days ago, I asked folks on Facebook which series I should set this year's ficlet in. There were several votes for the Pipe Woman Chronicles and zero for The Elemental Keys. Surprisingly, the write-in vote for Seasons of the Fool was strong. 

So here's what I'm going to do: This year, y'all will get a twofer -- the Pipe Woman Chronicles (with a couple of special guests) today, and Seasons next Sunday. Happy holidays!

"This was a brilliant idea, little brother," I groused. We stood, in the dark, just inside the entrance to Newgrange, the Neolithic chamber tomb. It was two days before the winter solstice. And I could tell a thick cloud cover would obscure the sunrise.

"C'mon, Sage," said my husband Rafe. Our daughter Kerry slept in his arms, her head pillowed on his shoulder. "Cut the guy some slack."

I glared at him. "But we came here for nothing," I said. "First Webb drags us all the way to Ireland with this cockamamie story about getting in ahead of the crowds. Then he gets me to talk Cerridwen into arranging the admittance for us – which I did. And it's going to be too cloudy to see!" I glanced at my niece, Sora, staring at me with huge eyes. She held Webb's forefinger with one hand and her mother Hilary's forefinger with the other. Their son George slept in a sling on Hilary's chest. Both kids shared their mother’s Asian features and their father’s dark brown curls.

"Don't be a jerk, Sage," Webb said. "Maybe it'll clear up."

I raised my eyebrows in a passable imitation of Mom's skeptical look.

"Let's just go inside," Hilary said. "The kids are getting cold." So in we tramped, Rafe leading the way down the narrow passage with the flashlight on his phone.

Webb halted for a moment and pointed up. "See there, Sora?" he said. "The sun's gonna come in through that box above the doorway and light up this whole hallway, all the way to the back wall."

"If the clouds miraculously part," I said.

"Oh, ye of little faith," Webb chided. Sometimes I hate that know-it-all confidence of his.

As we approached the back of the tomb, Hilary slowed. "Is someone else here?"

I could hear it, too – voices, whispering in one of the side tombs. "Hello?" I called. 

The voices ceased. Then two heads poked out from the doorway to the side tomb. "Oh," the woman said faintly. She was tiny – short and willowy – and wore her ginger hair in a ponytail. Her face looked familiar somehow.

The man was also short, but stocky, with brown hair and a bushy beard. He stepped into the main chamber, blocking our way. "You’re trespassing," he declared. "By whose authority are you here?"

"Cerridwen's," I said. "The goddess Cerridwen gave us leave to come."

He guffawed. "Cerridwen? She’s not even Irish!" 

"She’s Celtic," I argued. “That's close enough."

"It's not," the man said. "Begone."

Rafe's forehead furrowed. "Who the hell are you to kick us out?"

Webb moved next to my husband and touched his arm. "That's Collum Barth," my brother said in an undertone. "And that's Raney Meadows with him." 

"That's why you looked so familiar!" I said. These two were Elementals. They and two companions had saved the Earth – and turned the world Technicolor in the process. Kerry had been enchanted. "We all loved the movie about your adventures."

"Yes, well, who the hell are you to have gotten Cerridwen's leave to be here?" Collum demanded.

"Webb Curtis," said my brother, reaching out to shake Collum's hand. "My wife Hilary." She nodded and smiled. "My brother-in-law Rafe Orloff. And that's my sister Sage." He gave them a lopsided grin. "I guess we're all kind of in the same business."

Raney's mouth dropped open. She elbowed Collum. "Don't be a jerk. You know who these people are, right?"

"Yeah, but Da said we'd be the only ones here," said Collum. He turned to us. "Sorry."

"It's fine," I said. "It's not like it matters. None of us are going to see anything – it's too cloudy."

My niece sidled up to Raney. "I'm Sora," she said with a bright smile. "I'm four."

Raney grinned down at her. "Hi, Sora. Do you know Barney's theme song?"

"You two can sing anything you want, as long as it's not Baby Shark," I said.

"I can make the sun come out," Sora told Raney. "We just have to have a party!"

Kerry raised her sleepy head from Rafe's shoulder. "That's not how it works," she said.

"Yes, it is!" Sora insisted. She tugged on Kerry’s foot. "Come on!" 

"All right." Kerry squirmed until Rafe put her down. Together the girls raced back to the tomb entrance and began to sing.

Webb turned an inquiring gaze on Hilary. "It's my fault," she admitted. "I told them a legend the other day about Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess. The gods tricked Her into leaving Her cave by throwing a party."

I looked at Rafe. "It's roughly analogous," he said. 

"It'll never work," Collum scoffed. "A Shinto goddess in Ireland?"

"We've seen weirder things," I said, and led the way to where the kids were now yelling at the top of their lungs. By the grace of the gods, they were not singing Baby Shark, so I joined in. One by one, the others did the same.

A golden glow descended from the sky and landed before us, resolving into the form of Amaterasu. She wore a flowing white kimono and a radiant smile. "Who calls Me to this rainy land?" She asked.

The little girls clapped. "We want to see the sun inside!" Sora cried. She pointed to the roof box. "You have to shine in there so we can see!"

"Very well," the goddess said. She raised both hands and directed a stream of light through the roof box. The little girls cheered again and pelted inside. "Mommy!" Sora yelled. "Come see! It's beautiful!"

Hilary bowed to the goddess. "Thank You."

"It was the least I could do for the child," She said. "She will be a bright spot when it's needed most."

Webb and Hilary stared at each other. "Here we go again," he said with a laugh. 

The glowing chamber was just as impressive as Webb had said it would be. I hate it when he's right.

Screenshot of 2020 winter solstice sunrise at Newgrange

Once again this year, Ireland's Office of Public Works will sponsor a live webcast of the winter solstice sunrise at Newgrange. They'll do it for three straight mornings, starting tonight US time (it's at 8:45am Monday the 20th UTC, which is 3:45am Eastern time, 2:45am Central, 1:45am Mountain, and 12:45am Pacific -- so yeah, overnight tonight for those of us in the US). Details at the link. The hour is early for the US and it may be cloudy all three days -- but when it works, it's glorious.

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

Sunday, December 12, 2021

An RIP kind of weekend.

losw | Deposit Photos
Today I heard that Anne Rice had passed away due to complications from a stroke. Rice was the mistress of big, glitzy vampire novels in the 1970s and '80s. I read Interview with the Vampire when it first came out and loved it. (There's a chapter in the second Atherton Vampire novel called, "Interview with the Atherton Vampire." I bet you can guess where I got that title from.) I went on to read many of her other books, including several with the vampire Lestat as the main character. I admit that I kind of went off her work when she had a vampire -- I think it was Lestat -- suck the menstrual blood from a used tampon. But her work added much to the modern-day vampire mythos. As somebody who has been writing her own vampire books, I appreciate everything she has contributed to the genre.

And then a couple of days ago, I learned that Michael Nesmith, one of the Monkees, died of heart failure. I've mentioned a few times here on the blog that the Monkees were my favorite group when I was a kid. For a long time, it was embarrassing to admit -- but then something weird happened: somehow, when no one was looking, the group gained respect. Nobody cared anymore that they'd been called the Prefab 4; fans simply appreciated their music, and they way they'd stood up to the producers of their TV show and their records and demanded that they be allowed to be an actual band. It was Mike who put his fist through a wall in frustration over the way Don Kirschner treated them, and who galvanized his fellow Monkees to write and perform their own songs. And it was Mike who went on to win the first-ever Video of the Year Grammy. He also was executive producer for Repo Man and several other movies.

Mike mostly stayed away from the various Monkees reunion tours, but in recent years he seemed to have become reconciled to, and even develop a fondness for, that part of his past. Just a few weeks ago, he and Micky Dolenz completed a tour billed as "The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show" -- a tour that had been delayed by Mike's quadruple-bypass heart surgery in 2018 and then by COVID. I've read a few interviews of Mike's friends over the past few days. They say the tour did him a lot of good -- that he died knowing the fans loved him. 

In 2016, after Davy died but while Peter was still alive, the Monkees put out a well-received album of new material called Good Times! "Me and Magdalena" -- with Mike singing lead and Micky singing harmony --- is one of my favorite songs from the album. Enjoy.


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

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The news story that just keeps getting sketchier.

WikimediaImages | Pixabay

I've seen plenty of news stories go from farce to tragedy over the years, but it's unusual for one to go from tragedy to farce.

I'm talking about the Crumbley family of Oxford, MI -- James, Jennifer, and their 15-year-old son Ethan. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about Ethan being charged with murder, attempted murder, and terrorism causing death in connection with the shooting deaths of four of his classmates, and the wounding of five other students and a teacher, at Oxford High School on Tuesday. School shootings happen with distressing frequency in the United States, but this one stands out because the authorities are holding Ethan's parents accountable for giving him the gun in the first place. It's clear from social media posts that his parents bought the weapon -- a .9mm Sig Sauer handgun -- for him as an early Christmas present. Ethan calls it "my new beauty" in one post. And they did this even though Ethan was having trouble in school -- drawing a graphic image of a gunshot victim and searching for ammunition on his cell phone in class. (After the ammo search, his mother texted him and said she wasn't mad at him -- he just needed to learn not to get caught.)

On Tuesday morning, Ethan's parents were called to the school and were told to get him into counseling within 48 hours -- but they didn't take him home from school. Later that same day, the boy committed the shooting.

His mother texted him, "Don't do it," after he already had.

All of this is a tragedy -- no doubt about it. But here's where it turns to farce. Because the the Oakland County prosecutor decided to charge the parents with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for not keeping the gun away from their son -- and instead of showing up to their arraignment, they ran, even as their attorneys claimed they would turn themselves in. James and Jennifer pulled $4,000 out of an ATM and holed up in a Detroit warehouse that belongs to an acquaintance. Authorities suspect the couple planned to cross into Canada (yes, that's right -- leaving their son behind in jail). Someone nearby saw Jennifer and the cops closed in. The couple finally made it to their arraignment -- yesterday, after they'd been taken into custody. Reports indicate Jennifer Crumbley sobbed as she entered her plea.

But wait -- there's more. The Crumbleys used to live in Florida, where James Crumbley had a son and daughter from previous relationships. An ex-girlfriend told reporters that Jennifer is "a monster" and James is "a piece of shit." According to this ex-girlfriend, Michelle Cobb, James was making a six-figure income, but she had a hard time getting him to pay child support for the son he had with her. 

So from all reports, the Crumbleys are quite the family. All three of them are now being held in jail, in isolation from the general jail population and from each other. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told reporters yesterday all three were sullen -- and none had shown remorse. If convicted, Ethan could face life in prison; his parents, 15 years in prison each.

I don't know whether this says more about modern-day America or about this particular dysfunctional family. What I do know is 28 people have been killed in shootings on school grounds in the United States this year, and 86 more were injured. I know for sure that anyone calling for help as loudly as Ethan Crumbley was should never be given access to a gun. That's the real tragedy.


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

Sunday, November 28, 2021

OMG, omicron.

First: Thanks to all who have bought a copy of the Atherton Vampire books 1 and 2. I'm grateful for your support and I hope you enjoy them. 

I didn't think I would be able to finish the third book in the series by the end of this month. But yesterday I stayed home all day, in case of a bad reaction to the COVID booster that I received on Friday (pretty much all I had was a sore arm, thank the gods), and wrote almost 8,500 words. With another 2,200 or so written earlier today, I'm at 38,250 for the book -- just 1,750 from my goal. 

The book will end up a little longer than that, though. I have two more episodes outlined and these later episodes are running about 2,000 words each. But the point is that I might just manage to finish the book in the next two days, after all. I won't win NaNo -- I never signed up and this book isn't going to be 50,000 words anyway. But when I get to The End, I'll still call it a win.


Starshaker | Deposit Photos
So the big news on Thursday, while we Americans were gorging ourselves on turkey and pumpkin pie, came out of South Africa: a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified. It's been dubbed omicron (they skipped a couple of Greek letters because reasons) and it exhibits a number of variations in its spike protein, which is the thing that the virus uses to hook onto human cells and infect them. 

I'm confident that I'm not the only person who heard the news and immediately thought, "Oh no, not again." I had visions of a forced return to the bad old days -- the early days of the virus, nearly two years ago now, when society virtually shut down because we had no idea what we were up against.

The good news is that science knows a lot more about this virus today than it did two years ago. Plus we have vaccines now, as well as treatments -- monoclonal antibodies and antiviral drugs -- that we didn't know would work against the virus back then.

But epidemiologists are calling this variant "concerning." Although they're saying we shouldn't panic. 

(I'm taking my information from this background article on the omicron variant from the Washington Post.) 

It's still very early days, but what doctors in South Africa are seeing is what we've been seeing generally with cases of COVID over the past several months: the people hit hardest are those who haven't been vaccinated. Some breakthrough cases are occurring among the vaccinated, but generally speaking, those cases have been mild. So the smartest way to protect yourself is still to get the jab. South Africa's vaccination rate is very low, largely due to vaccines being unavailable there. In fact, a company in South Africa is working hard to replicate the Moderna vaccine (with zero help from Moderna -- it says it needs to protect its intellectual property) so it can be manufactured and distributed to both South Africans and developing nations generally. 

Here's another thing: Remember the beta variant? It was concerning, too, at first, but it turned out that it didn't easily spread from person to person -- or at least not as easily as the delta variant, which is the one causing all the trouble in the United States right now.

Whether out of concern or panic, several other nations almost immediately enacted travel bans on people from a number of African nations. That feels to me like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. The omicron variant is already turning up in non-African countries -- including a case in Belgium of a woman who traveled there from Egypt via Turkey. 

In short, I think we should stay calm, keep an eye out for this variant turning up here in the States -- because it's inevitable that it will -- and otherwise keep doing what we're doing: masking up, social distancing, and getting vaccinated.


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

Sunday, November 21, 2021

A bad guy who wants to do good.

I was hoping to have exciting news for y'all on the Atherton Vampire front. Alas, I got going on editing and uploading the second book later than I'd planned. So I can't give you a link to the ebook edition of The Atherton Vampire: Out of the Coffin just yet. However, unless something totally awful happens, it should be live tomorrow. I'll post the news when I get it, including in the Woo-Woo Team group on Facebook. (What do you mean, you're not a member yet? Click the link and join!)

Here's the cover, anyway, so you know what to look for at Amazon when the book goes live:

I was also kind of hoping to give you an awesome report on progress for the third book, but I didn't write anything yesterday and I've been too tied up with prepping book 2 to do any writing yet today. That's next on my list after I finish this post. And by the time I go to bed tonight, I'm hoping to be pretty close to 25,000 words.


I've been talking a lot about Good vs. Evil for the past couple of weeks -- and it's not just because I'm writing a series about a bad guy who wants to do good (and probably for all the wrong reasons). Although come to think of it, that's not a bad place to start.

Jerry Atherton was a good guy, if somewhat naive, before he was turned. I'm not giving away too much to say that he had a privileged but troubled childhood and fell for the wrong woman. Now he's undead -- a freak who exists on blood and who cannot stand the light of day. In other words, he's Evil. 

At the end of book 1, Callie Dailey suggests that he could rehabilitate his image by becoming "the bad guy who does good." The idea appeals to him. Who wouldn't want to be redeemed after such a massive fall from grace?

But here's the thing: Capital-G Good, like Capital-E Evil, is defined by society, and in the case of Western civilization, those definitions are built on the framework of Christianity. Pure Evil is apparently attainable; start a discussion on this topic and witness how quickly Hitler's name comes up. (I don't know what happened to the internet rule that whoever first mentions Nazis automatically loses the argument, but it seems to have gone by the wayside.)

But is it possible to be purely Good? It seems like as soon as popular opinion anoints a saint, somebody discovers they have feet of clay. It happened to Mother Teresa in 2007

The epitome of Good is God. Of course we can't be God; ergo, we cannot be perfectly Good. We are human, and therefore imperfect, because we are not God. Right? But how Good is good enough?

I believe this idea that humans are necessarily imperfect has run amuck. We've all known exemplary people who beat themselves up because of imperfections they perceive in themselves. They worry that they're not trying hard enough. They question themselves and their behavior. They wonder whether they're not Bad, deep down.

And on the other side, we've all known folks who refuse to question their attitudes and beliefs -- to the point of denying reality outright -- because they're scared of finding out how imperfect, and therefore Bad, they actually are. 

None of this strikes me as mentally healthy. But our society is built on this framework. It's not enough to be "good enough"; we must strive for perfection, which isn't attainable because we're inherently imperfect. But if we don't strive to be perfect, then we're Bad.

And before you know it, we're not only judging ourselves as Bad, but we're comparing ourselves to other people and judging them to be more Bad than we are. From there, it's a short step to judging others whose skin color or native language is different from our own -- and deciding they're less than human.

I reject this framework. I reject the idea that humans are inherently imperfect. I reject the idea that we are inherently flawed. We are, period. And we all deserve kindness and respect. Including from ourselves.

Jerry Atherton, vampire, isn't ever going to be able to become Good. But he can be good enough. And so can we.


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

Sunday, November 14, 2021

More on why I don't believe in Good vs. Evil.

A couple of weeks ago, I said I'd probably write a post on why I don't believe in Good vs. Evil. I listed one reason for my belief in that post (you can read it at the link): it's that Evil is defined by the observer, not the actor. The people that society perceives as Evil never think they are. They believe their cause is right and just. And sometimes later on, society comes around to their point of view.

I saw an ad for this Christmas ornament yesterday, and it reminded me of another reason why I don't believe Evil is a real thing. I hope Hallmark doesn't sue me -- I lifted this photo from their website. It's one of this year's Keepsake Ornaments from their Disney Villain line. The bad guy depicted here is from the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in the original 1940 movie Fantasia. Hallmark is calling him Chernabog.

I was much younger when I saw the movie. While I remember the scene, I had no idea what the character's name was until I saw this ornament for sale. 

Even if I'd known this guy's name, it wouldn't have meant anything to me back then. Now it does, though, because in the intervening years, I've done some reading on Slavic mythology. 

Chernobog -- that's the correct spelling of his name, or anyway it's one of the correct spellings (Disney got it right when they released their own Fantasia ornament) -- is reputedly the Slavic god of darkness. His name literally means "black god." He's usually paired with Belobog, whose name literally means "white god." And it's a pretty good bet that real, actual Slavic pagans never worshipped either one of them.

The only account of Chernobog and Belobog comes from a German scholar named Helmold in the 12th century, several hundred years after Christianity had come to the Slavic lands. Helmold casts Belobog (who he never actually names) as the Good Guy and Chernobog as the Bad Guy -- concepts that were foreign to the ancient Slavs. Sure, there were dualities in Slavic belief; perhaps the best known of these is the annual archetypal battle between Perun, the thunder god, and Veles, the god of the underworld. Veles rules the dark half of the year, you see, and Perun rules the light half, and there's a big fight every year when they switch off. But Veles isn't a bad guy; he's also the god of forests and cattle. He's not Evil, any more than Perun is Good. Those concepts were imposed on the Slavs by Christianity and its insistence on the Good/Evil dichotomy.

It's pretty well accepted today that the villainous Chernobog comes from that same wellspring. The Slavs didn't have a devil in their mythology, so the Christian conquerors had to impose one on them.

This may be the biggest reason why I don't believe in capital-E Evil -- even moreso than the spectrum of behaviors I talked about a couple of weeks ago. Half of my lineage comes from a people whose original belief system didn't have devils or demons. Tricksters, sure -- but devils? Creatures that were purely evil? Not 'til Christian missionaries showed them what it was (ahem).

Other ancient belief systems also lacked the Good/Evil dichotomy. But at this point, we'll never know how widespread that lack was; Christianity did its best to smother these "incorrect" ways of viewing the world, and in the case of the Slavic lands, what the Christians didn't eliminate, the Soviets did.

Anyway, as tempting as it would be to have a Slavic god on my Yule tree, I'm probably going to pass on the "Chernabog" ornament. I might re-watch Fantasia, though, just to see him in action. Plus the music is really cool.

Oh, what the heck. Here's the scene.


Not-Na-No report: I'm closing in on 15,000 words on the first draft of the third Atherton Vampire book. I'm not keeping track as avidly as I do when I'm actually doing NaNo, but I think I've written pretty much every day this past week. I probably won't finish book 3 by the end of November, but I won't miss my just-before-Christmas deadline for publication. 

In the meantime, the second Atherton Vampire novel will be out of its exclusive period with Kindle Vella a week from today, so the ebook version will definitely be out before Thanksgiving. Let's call it November 24th for the release for book 2. I'll post here when it's live, and I'll send a newsletter, too.


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

Sunday, November 7, 2021

It's No-No-November.

Let's stipulate that I spend way too much time on Facebook and get that out of the way upfront. 

I usually enjoy looking at the memories that Facebook shows me each day, but the crop these past few days has been bittersweet. It's convention season, you see -- the two big writing conventions I've been in the habit of attending over the past ten years are always scheduled for late October or early November. Today's memories include a photo of the mass autographing event at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention in DC; a photo of the freebies table at the 2015 World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY; and some photos my pal KS Brooks took of me in Las Vegas when we attended the 20 Books to 50K convention there in 2017.

Checking my somewhat faulty memory and my contemporaneous blog posts, it appears that 20 Books to 50K event in 2017 was the last convention I attended. I'm not quite sure what happened in 2018. I believe I intended to go to 20 Books to 50K again in 2019, but ended up rolling my membership over to 2020. We all know what happened -- or more accurately, everything that didn't happen -- in 2020. When the 2020 event was canceled, I rolled my membership over again, to this year. 

This year, I'm not going. I'll be there as a virtual attendee instead. And I probably won't attend many of the virtual sessions.
IzelPhotography | Deposit Photos

I have reasons: 
  1. The convention is on the Strip this year, which is more expensive than where we were before. 
  2. I'm not a fan of Vegas; lots of people love it there, but I'm not one of them. (I don't really like amusement parks, either, for similar reasons.) 
  3. I'm working for the New Mexico legislature as a proofreader again this year, and I started full-time two weeks ago. I would have had to take the week off without pay to attend this year's convention. Plus my supervisor was really leery about my going to Vegas for a week and catching who-knows-what while I was there; she was ecstatic when I told her I'd decided not to go.
  4. That who-knows-what thing. Santa Fe has been a safe place to ride out the pandemic; Vegas, once it reopened, was definitely not safe. It may be better there now, but the thought of going out amongst the Great Unmasked and Quite Possibly Unvaxxed was just too unnerving for me. 
  5. November is also NaNoWriMo, and I always end up missing a few days at the beginning of the month for a convention and then spending virtually all of Thanksgiving weekend writing. 
Of course, I'm not technically doing NaNo this month, either. I'm up to 5,378 words on The Atherton Vampire 3, but there were a few days last week when I didn't write. I think I'll still be able to get the book done by the end of this month, although it doesn't matter if I'm a few days late because I'm not actually doing NaNo.

The bottom line is that I've said no to a number of things this month that I typically say yes to. No writing convention, no NaNo. It's No-No-November.

To be honest, I'm been rethinking this writing gig for a while now. I've been at it for more than ten years; I've written and published upwards of 25 books; I've made a little money; and I've earned a little respect from some of my fellow indie authors. I'm not sure what else I have to prove. 

When I was in my early 20s, I wrote a list of life's goals; then I spent the next 40 years pursuing them. I've reached each and every one of those goals, including this one: "Become a published author." The goal wasn't to make a living from my writing (and anyhow I did that as a journalist for 20 years). It also wasn't to write a bestseller. It was to get published. And I've done that.

Years ago, I took backpacking training for Girl Scout leaders. I was so out of shape that I had a hard time slogging along the trail with my heavy pack on my back. I kind of whimpered at every little rise we climbed. (Yeah, I know -- pathetic.) But the lodge at the end of the trail had an ice cream parlor, and I just kept thinking about rewarding myself with ice cream when the hike was done. It became my goal -- if I could finish the hike without dying, I could have ice cream! But when the hike was over, I forgot to get the ice cream -- and I wasn't mad when I remembered it later. For me, reaching the goal was the important thing. The reward was beside the point.

I'm going through the same kind of thing now with writing. I wanted so badly to retire and get out of DC that I promised myself that when I finally did, I would live the life of an author -- writing every day and promoting the heck out of my work and all that stuff. Then in the fullness of time, I retired and left DC. And what I'm discovering now, a year into retirement, is that maybe I don't want to be a full-time writer, after all. The writing life was like that ice cream I'd promised myself on the trail: it was the reward. But my goal was always to get out of DC. And from where I'm sitting, the reward is looking like a whole lot of work -- probably more than this retiree is interested in pursuing.

I expect I'll still keep writing. I'll definitely publish The Atherton Vampire 2 as an ebook this month and The Atherton Vampire 3 next month, as planned. But after that? I don't know. We'll see how it goes.

These moments of goal-reviewing blogginess has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Samhain musings.


bigdan | Deposit Photos

Blessed Samhain! Happy Halloween!

Here's a reminder that Jerry Atherton requests the pleasure of your company this Halloween. The Atherton Vampire is featured at Book Doggy today -- and it's still just 99 cents. 


For the past few days, I've been watching some of the Dracula movies I've missed over the years. The 1977 BBC production with Louis Jourdan was...not good. Jourdan didn't do either menacing or sexy very well. 

Somehow I missed Frank Langella's Dracula when it came out in 1979. It was appropriately scary, and more overtly sexy than the original novel by Bram Stoker. I didn't like Langella's pop-eyed stare, but everything else was good.

The third movie I watched was Mel Brooks' take on the story. A couple of people have told me that it's their favorite, and I can see why -- Leslie Nielsen is a better Dracula than I expected him to be, and Brooks himself is hilarious as Van Helsing. 

But the common element of all these books is Stoker's original story. And it hasn't aged well. For starters, there's the obvious sexism -- both Mina and Lucy are victims (no matter which one Drac targets first, and why do screenwriters feel the need to swap them? Or combine them into one character? But I digress), and it's up to the manly men to save them. Just as in Stoker's novel, the women in these movies have no agency. At least in The Lord of Cries, the opera I saw this summer, Lucy actively chose her destiny. She made a lousy choice -- it wrecked her life as well as those of everyone around her -- but still, it was hers to make and she made it.

The other thing that bothered me about the legend, particularly in the BBC version, is its reliance on that old dichotomy of Good vs. Evil. This probably deserves a post of its own; maybe I'll get to it later this month. But I don't believe there is such a thing as capital-E Evil -- or capital-G Good, for that matter. Briefly, it's because the bad guys never think of themselves as bad. They always have what they believe is a good reason for what they do. Maybe they're mentally ill, or maybe they've just talked themselves into believing that what they plan to do is justified -- or someone else has talked them into believing it. 

The January 6th insurrectionists are the most glaring example of the latter; a number of them have asked the court for mercy, saying they believed former President Trump when he claimed the election was stolen from him and that they were convinced they were righting a grave wrong by invading the Capitol. (Now, whether you believe Trump himself is Evil or a narcissistic sociopath or just the sorest loser ever is a separate thing, and not where I want to go in this post. For this example, let's just stick to the mindset of the insurrectionists.)

My point is this: Even those we perceive as Evil usually have one or two good qualities, and those we perceive as Good often turn out to have bad qualities. Nobody is perfectly Good or perfectly Evil -- except in myth. And by "myth" I mean the stories that underpin religious beliefs of all stripes, even those of the Christian faith. One of the things that bugged me about the BBC production was that the Catholic Church had the power, through the crucifix and communion wafers, to combat Dracula. Interestingly, though, those talismans couldn't kill a vampire -- only sunlight or a stake through the heart could do one in. If the Church was so powerful, why did the cross merely scorch the vampires? Why couldn't it utterly defeat them? And why was that final power left to Nature, via a plain wooden stake or the light of the sun?

In the Dracula stories, the vampires are capital-E Evil and the church is capital-G Good. But in reality, we know the church isn't capital-G Good: witness the modern-day revelations about pedophile priests, to say nothing of the Inquisition. Farther back, we can see the cunning the church used to convert pagans to the new Christian religion, such as absorbing Samhain into a three-day church festival honoring the saints and the dead when the peasants refused to give up their end-of-harvest fire festivals. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I guess.

I suppose you can make the argument that the Church is made up of humans, and humans are imperfect by nature. I acknowledge that humans have flaws, but I don't believe we are fatally flawed. 

And keep in mind that it was the ancient pagans who knew how to handle a vampire -- and their solutions actually worked.


I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year, but I'm not signing up for the official event. Here's why.

Alert hearth/myth readers know that the goal of the November event is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Unlike the Camp NaNo events, you can't set your own goal in November -- the 50,000-word thing is immutable. And my project for this month is the third Atherton Vampire book, which I know isn't going to be that long because the others have been in the 40,000-word range and I'm aiming to keep this one in the same ballpark. Besides, I've won NaNo every time I've entered; I have nothing to prove by signing up this year and setting myself up for failure thereby. So I will be keeping y'all apprised this month of my word totals, week by week, and I'll share the cover for the third book when it's ready. But I'm not going to do the official event.


These moments of hallowed blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. And a reminder that COVID-19 is scarier than any vampire -- so get vaxxed!

Monday, October 25, 2021

I don't care whether you read my books.

First, an apology is in order. You may have noticed that this is Monday night. And as y'all know, I always post on Sunday nights. I have no good excuse for not posting last night -- I stayed out too late, hanging out with friends, and didn't adequately plan ahead of time. I'll try not to do it again. Too often, anyway.


I might be losing it. I was cruising Twitter a few days ago, as one does, and I could swear I saw somebody mention something about some authors -- or maybe it was just one author -- who had complained about people who buy their books but never read them. 

Twitter isn't organized -- hashtags were literally invented by users so they could find and aggregate tweets on specific topics -- and while I have a vague idea of whose tweet it was that I saw in response to the original tweet, I can't find any evidence of it. Nor can I think of a hashtag that would cover it. And my Google-fu is failing me, too.

Anyway, let's just pretend this actually happened -- that some clueless author actually complained on Twitter that people were buying their book(s) but not reading it/them. And let me state further that I don't care whether you read my books.

Tigs says you should buy and read the hooman lady's books.
Lynne Cantwell | 2021
I might feel differently if I wrote nonfiction books full of original ideas and earth-shattering truths that would be a huge benefit to society, and published them because I needed the world to understand them so we could all live together in peace and harmony forever, and then...crickets.

But I don't write nonfiction (very often). I write fiction. Specifically, fantasy. More specifically, urban fantasy, and sometimes magic realism. Now, there are fiction writers who use their work to sell a particular philosophy or point of view (Ayn Rand comes to mind). But I'm not one of them. I write stories I would like to read myself. Moreover, even when I've stuck in an intriguing idea or several, I'm not so egotistical as to think everyone must read my priceless pearls of prose. 

The bottom line is I'm here to entertain myself, and by extension, my readers. If you want to buy my books and let them sit on your Kindle unread, I'm okay with that. I get paid either way.

And you can't judge people's motivations for not immediately reading every book they buy. One reader told me the other day that she's probably going to wait to read The Atherton Vampire until the other two books come out, so she can get the whole story at once. I respect that.

Oh, hey, I need to put in a plug for The Atherton Vampire, which is just 99 cents at Amazon through at least the end of this month. Here's the cover again: 

Okay, back on topic. 

I get that some writers have sweated bricks over their books, possibly for years, and it feels like a slap in the face when folks don't or won't read them. But then I think back on my twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and all the priceless pearls of prose I wrote for myself and others -- all of which have no doubt been bulk-erased long since -- and I just have to shrug. 

I write books now. Once you, Dear Reader, have bought them, it's out of my hands. Read them or not, as you choose. As long as you buy them, I'm good.


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

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 |

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; 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!