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.

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.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Writing episodic fiction for my new guy.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to put in a plug for our Summer Reading Challenge. It's been going on for just over a month and I've read, uh, one new-to-me book on the list. Oh, wait -- actually I'm still reading it. Whoops. I have another one queued, though. 

Anyway, I can't win any of the prizes. But you can! Hop on over to the link, check the list, and get cracking. The contest ends September 4th.


copyright Lynne Cantwell 2021
So here's my new guy. His name is Jerome Reed Atherton, a.k.a. The Atherton Vampire -- Jerry to his friends. Looks like a charmer, doesn't he? I'm writing his story now for Kindle Vella, a new platform that Amazon is developing.

We don't have a launch date yet for the platform, although one blog has speculated it will be sometime this month or next. What we do know is that Amazon is aiming Kindle Vella at people who read on their phones or other mobile devices, and it will work a little differently than a regular Kindle ebook. For one thing, the story will be doled out in episodes of between 600 and 5,000 words apiece. For another, readers won't be able to purchase the whole story at once, the way they do with an ebook; instead, they'll buy virtual tokens, and then use those to buy the episodes. The episodes are priced by length, with one token worth 100 words -- so an episode that's 1,200 words long would cost a reader 12 tokens. As usual with these sorts of things, the more tokens you buy at once, the cheaper they will be. 

Don't take the prices for tokens at that link above as gospel; Amazon hasn't finalized them yet. But using that chart as a rough example: it looks like Jerry's story is going to end up being about 40,000 words long. The first three episodes of every story will be free; in Jerry's case, that's about 2,500 words lopped off the total, so you'd be paying for 37,500 words. The whole shebang would cost you 375 tokens, or (according to that chart that hasn't been finalized yet) between three and four bucks.

Another thing that isn't super clear is how much authors are going to be paid. We'll get 50% of what readers spend on each episode, but the formula has variables that include the price a reader paid for their tokens and the fee charged by the sales platform. That's not as good a deal as the 70% royalty that authors get for ebooks, but it's not nothing. And it's a way to reach a whole new readership. Assuming this thing takes off.

And assuming people like Jerry's story well enough to keep reading it. That creates a bit of a challenge in terms of structuring the story. I'm keeping my episodes on the shorter side; none has hit even 2,000 words yet, which is shorter than the chapters I write for my novels. And each episode needs to end with something that will compel the reader to buy the next episode -- a cliffhanger, say, or a surprise of some sort. I'm thinking I'll end up with 25 episodes. That's a lot of cliffhangers.

I'm not allowed to publish a Kindle Vella story as a regular Kindle novel unless I unpublish it from Vella first. So we'll see how it goes. If Jerry doesn't get many fans to bite (sorry not sorry), I'll pull the story from the new platform and publish it as a regular ebook. Either way, I think Jerry's story has legs, as we used to say in journalism; I have a whole bunch of ideas for sequels. 

I'll let you know when Kindle Vella launches and how things go from there. Or as they used to say on TV, stay tuned for our next exciting episode!


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