A blog about the hearths we come from and those we make for ourselves; the myths we create, both cultural and personal; and the stories I write about them.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Seasons: Spring in Michiana.


With a sigh, Julia picked up her spade again and went back to turning over the soil in the flower bed. The conversation with Ms. Thea had brought reality back to her with a vengeance. Maybe physical labor would keep her from wondering yet again why she hadn’t heard from Dave since that text he’d sent, promising her that he would call.
She doubted it would work, but she couldn't think of an alternative.
-- from Seasons of the Fool

I feel like I've been talking about snow and cold weather a lot in this series of posts. Apologies in advance, because I'm going to do it today, too. It's just that it stays cold a lot longer in Michiana than it does in DC, where I live now. In fact, I used to have a sweatshirt that said, "Indiana -- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Winter, Winter," with a cartoon of three guys up to their noses in snow.

Cute, but SO not happening.
I remember paging through the Sears circular in the Sunday paper and pining for the short-sleeved dresses and pastel spring coats featured there for Easter wear. My mother would laugh at me, because she knew there was no possible way it would be warm enough for me to wear any of them.

But spring does come eventually, even to northern Indiana, and even if it's not nearly as colorful as it is in other parts of the country.

What I'd have seen, if I'd been really tall.
I was stunned during my freshman year of college when the trees on campus -- cherry, dogwood, ornamental pear -- exploded in blossoms. At home, our tulip trees would bloom, but they were so tall that we couldn't see the flowers. And one of my friends had a dogwood tree in her yard, which bloomed, of course. But one isolated tree just doesn't have the same impact as an entire campus full of pink and white.

That first spring in Bloomington, I dashed outside with my camera at my very first opportunity. While I was snapping photos like mad, I ran into a high school friend who was doing the same thing. We shared our wonder and amazement. But a further surprise awaited me: the trees kept blooming. For weeks. This was unprecedented. Back home, the end of winter was characterized mostly by dirty snow and mud, with an occasional daffodil. I began to get an inkling of why people looked forward to spring.

I've now lived on the East Coast longer than I did in Michiana. But every spring, when the trees here bloom and the landscape explodes in color, I'm still a little bit surprised.

***
The trailer is up for Seasons of the Fool. I think it turned out really well, if I do say so myself. You can go here to watch it, or click below. I've also posted it on my "Book Trailers" page.

And please don't forget to post your nomination for the book at Kindle Scout. Nominations close Wednesday, Nov. 26 -- which coincidentally is the last day you can enter the contest for the Kindle Fire HD6. The entry form is below. If you have trouble with it, try using a different browser than Internet Exploder.

Good luck! And tell your friends! I'd love it if we could make this book Hot and Trending all the way through the 26th!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Seasons: Winter in Michiana.

Julia glanced out the window. It was snowing so hard now that she couldn’t see the trees at the back of her property. She went to another window, trying and failing to see the Stareks’ house across the street. She thought maybe she could see a glimmer from Ms. Thea and Ms. Elsie’s through the murk, and wondered how the ladies were getting on. Then she thought of Dave – although really, she hadn’t stopped thinking about him since running into him at the store.
She picked up her phone and texted him: You OK?
-- from Seasons of the Fool

I've lived here in DC so long that sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live again in a place where it snows.

Oh, DC gets snow. Sometimes we get a pretty good-sized snowfall. Some years, we even get a lot of snow. But those winters are a far cry from the winters of my childhood.

Michigan City lighthouse (Russell Sekeet | flickr.com)
The school bus would pick up the kids in my neighborhood and then take Lake Shore Drive west, through Duneland Beach and Long Beach. Through the bus window, we got to see Lake Michigan in all of its moods: calm, with few waves; stormy, with high surf; and frozen.

And we almost always went to school, regardless of the weather. Here in the mid-Atlantic, if there's a couple of inches of snow in the forecast, the powers-that-be will give the kids a day off -- even if the snow hasn't started falling yet. It's faintly ludicrous. I mean, I get that part of the problem is logistical. a lot of kids have both parents working these days, and if school is going to be canceled, the parents need to know in time to arrange for somebody to stay home with them. But the other issue is that DC doesn't know how to handle an honest-to-goodness snowfall. Instead of sending the plows out as the storm is underway -- which is what happens north of here -- the highway departments around DC will wait 'til the storm is over, and only then begin digging us out.


To be fair, where I grew up, we got a lot more practice -- particularly on our side of the lake, where we would often be treated to the winter phenomenon known as lake-effect snow. Here's how it works: when the wind blows out of the northwest, it picks up moisture as it blows across the lake. The moisture-laden air cools as it moves over the land, the water in the air condenses, and it snows. A lot.

Here's a satellite picture of Lake Michigan so you can see how that works in practice. The area circled in blue is Chicago, more or less. See how you can see the ground on that side of the lake? Yeah. Now look where the red circle is. See how it's all white there? That's Michiana.

I wrote a lake-effect snowstorm into Seasons of the Fool, just to make the book as authentic as possible. However, I did not include the other fixture of winter life in Indiana: high school basketball.

For the uninitiated, basketball is almost as big a deal in Indiana as high school football is in Texas. For many, many years, Michigan City had just one high school -- Elston Senior High -- and the whole town would get behind the team every winter and cheer them on to victory. We even won the state championship in 1966. I was in third grade that year, and I still remember the signs at my elementary school in support of our Elston Red Devils.

By the time I got to high school, we had a second school in town: Rogers, whose mascot was the Raiders. (I wanted them to be the Rogers Ramjets, but nobody ever listens to me.) Unfortunately, splitting the student population also split our roundball talent. Elston still routinely won sectionals -- our longest streak was 24 years in a row, from 1952 to 1975 -- but we'd often get knocked out at regionals by one of the South Bend teams. However, in 1975 -- my senior year of high school -- Elston made it all the way to semi-state before losing to Lebanon. We were devastated, of course.

But I got over it the following year, when I was a freshman at Indiana University. The Hoosiers brought home the NCAA championship in 1976.

Like I said, basketball is a big deal in Indiana.

***
Back to the present day. I had a great time this weekend at the World Fantasy Convention here in DC. I met lots of cool people, did a reading for the new book, and came home with a bulging satchel of brand-new books. Rest assured that a number of them will be Rursdays eventually.

Next Saturday, I'll be gallivanting again -- this time to New York City for the Self-Publishing Book Expo.

As you know, Seasons of the Fool is up for nomination at Kindle Scout through Wednesday, Nov. 26th. And as a thank-you to you guys for putting up with me this month, I'm running a contest to give away a Kindle HD6. If you win, I'll even let you pick the color. The entry form is below; if it doesn't work for you, try using a different browser than Internet Explorer.

Good luck! And tell your friends!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Seasons: Halloween in Michiana.

“Maybe this isn’t a good idea,” Ms. Thea murmured behind her. “It’s so close to Samhain. The veil is already thinning.”
“Maybe it’s the best idea,” Ms. Elsie replied quietly.
The conviction in her voice gave Julia the courage to step into the labyrinth.
At the moment her toes touched the path inside the ropes, everything changed.
- from Seasons of the Fool

As (I hope!) you know by now, Seasons of the Fool is up for nomination at Kindle Scout. The nomination period for my book closes Wednesday, Nov. 26th, which gives us four Sundays between now and then. Four Sunday blog posts...four seasons...I'm sensing a theme here....

Darron Birgenhaier | flickr.com
We've established that I'm old, right? When I was growing up in Michiana, trick-or-treating was an actual thing. We would get dressed up in our costumes and traipse around to the neighbors and hold out our little buckets or bags, and they would give us candy. It wasn't until I was a little older that people started getting spooked by stories of razor blades in apples and the like. And then came the stories about crazy, trippy people handing out drugs instead of candy, and, well, that's when most parents instituted the practice of checking over one's haul and tossing out anything that wasn't wrapped.

Urban myths die hard. Just last week, I opened a bag of miniature Milky Way bars and found one that had missed the wrapper machine at the factory. I debated whether to throw it out. But it was in a factory-sealed bag and it didn't look like anyone had injected anything into it, so I ate it. So far, I'm still here.

The thing I remember most about trick-or-treating in Michiana was it was cold. Late October near Lake Michigan is not for the faint of heart. Tweet: Late October near Lake Michigan is not for the faint of heart. http://ctt.ec/a6F55+ My mother used to buy my Halloween costume a size bigger than normal, because it was pretty much guaranteed that I'd have to wear my winter coat under it. And yes, sometimes we would already have snow by Halloween; I remember stepping over snowbanks to get to people's doors.

I have a confession to make, and it's in relation to this: A few days ago, advice columnist Prudence posted a letter from a woman who complained that poor kids were getting all her good candy. "Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children," the sniffy woman said. "We already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services."

Prudie, bless her, shut her down. "Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate," she said. I wanted to stand up and cheer, because I was one of those 99-percent kids who would go trick-or-treating in better neighborhoods to get better candy. I mean, come on -- it's common sense. Who wouldn't rather get a bunch of candy bars than a bagful of Smarties? Tweet: I was one of those kids who went to better neighborhoods to get better candy. Who wouldn't rather get candy bars than Smarties? http://ctt.ec/69kdd+

Ms. Cranky One-Percenter, I have the perfect solution for you. Next year, band together with your neighbors and get everybody to agree to hand out nothing but Necco wafers and Laffy Taffy. I guarantee that the following Halloween, your neighborhood will be a ghost town for real.

***
Partly to take my mind off the Kindle Scout thing, I'll be out and about this month. Next weekend, I'm attending the World Fantasy Convention. I'm doing a reading (from Seasons, natch) on Saturday the 8th at 3:30pm. If you're planning to attend WFC this year, I hope you'll stop by.

The following Saturday, which would be Nov. 15th, I'll be in New York to attend the Self-Publishing Book Expo. I'm not speaking or reading, but I'm looking forward to sitting in on some panels and learning some new stuff.

And as a thank-you to you guys for putting up with me this month, I'm running a contest to give away a Kindle HD6. If you win, I'll even let you pick the color. The entry form is below; if it doesn't work for you, try using a different browser than Internet Explorer.

Thank you, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Scouting Seasons.

Here's the big news I promised you last week: Seasons of the Fool is one of the first books accepted into Amazon's Kindle Scout program. And I'm asking for your help.

First, let me explain what Kindle Scout is, as it's brand new. Amazon is accepting never-before-published manuscripts for this program. It's posting the cover, description, and an excerpt for each book for one month only.

Readers will have the chance to peruse the offerings and nominate their favorites. You can have up to three favorites at a time. But it's not a one-time thing; Amazon intends to post new books to the program all year 'round. When the month is up for one of your favorites, that slot will open up so you can nominate another book. You can click here for more reader info for Kindle Scout.

But what's the point? Well, books that do really well will be picked up by Amazon's new Kindle Press. The author gets a $1,500 advance and a five-year contract.

So what I'm hoping you will do tomorrow -- the link won't be live until then -- is go to the Kindle Scout page for Seasons of the Fool and use one of your nominations for my book. If Seasons is accepted by Kindle Press, you would get one of the first copies free. I'm going to send a reminder email tomorrow to the folks on my mailing list, so if you're not on the list yet but you'd like a reminder, you can click here to sign up. Or you can use the "No spam. No, really" form at the top of the column to the left -- they both go to the same place. And I'll also be posting reminders in the usual places (Facebook, Twitter, G+) throughout the month.

To further entice you, here's a little more about the book:

~~~

A Fool's journey begins with a single step...

Julia has fled Chicago for her grandparents’ old cottage–a refuge from her failed marriage. But she may have to testify against her husband, who defrauded his wealthy investors. And she’s falling for David, an old friend trapped in his own troubled marriage. 

Seeking guidance, Julia finds a labyrinth in the woods–and the elderly women who own it have their own reasons for wanting her to walk it. 

What Julia learns in the labyrinth could change all their lives, if only she would take it to heart.

~~~

Thanks so much in advance for your help.

***
This moment of bloggy entreaty has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.