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, December 14, 2014

Street team news! And Native nativities.

We're getting ready for Yule here at La Casa Cantwell. The tree is up, the gifts are (mostly) bought, and the cookie baking leviathan is cresting the hill and picking up steam on the downhill run. (Which is to say that I made three batches of cookies this weekend.)

But I've also taken a few minutes to get the Woo-Woo Team up and running. I've set up a Facebook group, which you can join by clicking here. I've got the group permissions set to "closed", which means that you'll be able to see that it exists, but your friends won't be able to see what we're posting unless they join. (Muahaha....) Ideally, my team members will read my books and post reviews of them. But really, I'm thinking of the group as just one more tool to help you guys find out about my newest work. And team members will get perks now and then. And maybe we'll create a little community along the way. It's been known to happen.

If you've got a blog, feel free to grab the team badge, too. Hope you'll join us!

I was poking around on teh intarwebz the other day (probably in lieu of something I should have been doing instead -- the circumstances are a little hazy now) and ran across some photos of Native American nativity sets.

Now I know you guys realize that Native Americans don't all live in tipis and aren't all godless heathens. But apparently a lot of people don't know that. And folks are sometimes surprised to learn that many Native Americans are Christian, even if they also honor the spirits that are important to their tribe.

The Native nativities come out of the tradition of the storyteller figurine, which Pueblo artists were making as early as the 1870s. By the early 1960s, Cochiti potters including Helen Cordero were making "singing ladies" or "singing mothers": a woman with her mouth open in song, as children clung to her. Cordero was commissioned in 1964 to make a male figure in a similar pose. She called it a storyteller. Artists from other tribes took the idea and ran with it. Today, you can find storyteller figurines just about anywhere that sells Native American-style pottery; in fact, I have one that I hang on the tree every year.

Anyway, given that Christianity is as widespread among Native Americans as it is among the general population, it's not surprising that potters make nativity sets. And some of them go for big money. The Field Museum in Chicago is selling one on its website right now for $585.

But it's not just the price tags that struck me about these nativity sets. It's that all the major figures have their mouths open. They're all singing. They're all telling the story of Jesus' birth.

I bought my storyteller ornament because of the obvious-to-me connection -- I'm a mother and I tell stories. But now that I've seen these nativity sets, I wonder whether it's supposed to be Mary with the baby Jesus. And here I am, a Pagan, putting it on my Yule tree. Ah well -- it doesn't matter. There are many, many routes to Spirit, after all, and plenty for all of us to sing about.

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

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Knitting silliness, or: why I don't have an Etsy shop.

It's my birthday, so I'll talk about knitting if I want to.

Neither the Lady Morgana nor this shawl will be available on Etsy any time soon.
I was poking around a yarn shop the other day when I overheard a conversation that I could relate to. Another customer was chatting with one of the clerks about how, when she wears something she's knitted for herself, people will not only compliment her, but they often want to know whether she ever makes things for other people. You know, for money.

The same thing has happened to me. In fact, one of my friends has suggested more than once that I start an Etsy shop for my knitting.

To be clear: I don't have an Etsy shop, nor do I ever plan to start one. It's not because I have anything against Etsy; I don't. But in my case, I don't see the cons outweighing the pros.

The biggest issue is cost. You can buy inexpensive yarn at a craft store, but I learned pretty quickly that stuff you make with cheap yarn looks...well...cheap. Nowadays, I buy yarn at local yarn shops, and at shows like Maryland Sheep and Wool. I don't typically go overboard and buy really expensive yarn (except for that qiviut blend I bought in Alaska -- but hey, I was in Alaska!), but even nice sock yarn can cost $20 per skein. And shawls, for example, take two skeins or more. For a women's sweater, you can easily drop more than $100 on a good wool yarn. And that's just the yarn -- it doesn't count needles or buttons or other supplies. Or my time. A sweater can take 40 hours or more to make. Let's say I'm charging $8/hour, which would be crazy cheap. But even at eight bucks an hour, that's $320. Would you pay $420 for a sweater? I didn't think so.

And knitting-to-order would suck all the fun out of it. Early in my knitting journey, I read a book about the women who knitted the first Fair Isle sweaters. They were turning out one of those beautiful sweaters a week. One a week! With fine yarn on skinny needles! That's a miserable production schedule. Just thinking about it makes my hands hurt.

Finally, I would lose control of the process. As it is now, I pick the patterns and the yarn colors that appeal to me. But if I took orders, other people would be picking that stuff. And in the past, whenever I have offered to make something for someone, they usually say they want it in black. Let me tell you something: I have knitted with black yarn. It's boring. It can also be frustrating -- the stitches are difficult to see if I'm knitting in low light. I swear that the next time someone asks me to knit something for them in black, I am going to drag that person into a yarn store and force them to pick a different color. It's not like they don't make yarn in every freaking color of the rainbow.

So yeah. No Etsy shop for me. I make more money writing novels than I ever would at knitting -- and the raw materials are significantly cheaper.

A couple of bits of business before I close for this week:
  • As alert hearth/myth readers know, Seasons of the Fool's release date is this coming Tuesday, December 9th. The offer I posted last week still stands: I'll send you a copy of the book now, plus gift you a Kindle copy of the book when it's released, plus send you a signed copy of the paperback, if you'll promise to post a review of it when you're done. I've had some people take me up on the offer already -- thank you! :) 
  • The street team is still in development. Holiday prep, family stuff, and my birthday all sucked up my time this week. Sorry. But the good news is that you still have time to let me know if you want to be in on the ground floor. I did come up with a name for it, though: Lynne's Woo-Woo Team. What do you think? I guess we'll need a secret handshake or a decoder ring or something. You guys work on that and get back to me.
  • Oh, right -- Winter Tales is out! It's an anthology brought to you by the Five59 Publishing, the same folks who do the 13 Bites books. This new collection contains stories centered around the winter holidays, and it includes two short stories by Yours Truly. Hope you like 'em.
These moments of entrepreneurial blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Monday, December 1, 2014

What's happening with Seasons.

This is a good news/bad news kind of post.

The bad news is that Amazon did not choose Seasons of the Fool for its Kindle Press program. So no $1,500 advance for me. Sad day, right?

But the good news is that it means I can now do anything I want with the book. So: Hey presto! It's available for pre-order at Amazon.com. If you're in the UK, it's also available for pre-order at Amazon UK. And if you're anywhere else in the world, just plug "Seasons of the Fool" into the search bar in your respective Amazon store and you should come up with the book. The new cover looks like this:

The book will be released Tuesday, December 9th. But if you'd like a copy sooner, I'm prepared to make you a deal. If you're willing to post a review of Seasons as soon as you've read it, send me an e-mail at lynne.cantwell7@gmail.com and I'll send you a copy of the e-book right now.

The "Look Inside" feature won't be available at Amazon 'til the 9th. But if you'd like to take a look sooner, I've posted an extended sample at Wattpad that includes both the text from the Kindle Scout excerpt and the part I read at the World Fantasy Convention last month.

The other takeaway for me from the Kindle Scout experience is that I need to develop a street team. I'm going to start a closed group at Facebook for that sometime in the next few days. If you're interested, contact me -- drop me a comment here, or message me on Facebook, or send me an e-mail at the address above -- and I'll make sure you're added to the team.

One other thing: We have a winner in the giveaway! Congrats to Becky Walters, who wins the Kindle Fire HD6. Becky, I'll get that off to you within the next day or so. And thanks to everybody who entered.

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seasons: Going to the beach in Michiana.

Julia had finished her blissful dip in the lake and had stretched out on her towel to dry off. The water was cool, even in August, and the hot sun felt good on her body. In a few moments, the breeze had begun to lull her to sleep.
As she dozed, she became aware that the noise level nearby had shot up. But it was only when a young voice cried out, “Julia!” that she realized she knew the people responsible for all the racket.
-- from Seasons of the Fool

Summer is, hands down, the best season in Michiana.

Our house has never had air conditioning. It gets humid, sure, but usually it's stifling only for a couple of weeks in July and August. Other than that, the temperatures stay pretty reasonable, thanks primarily to the tree canopy that keeps the direct sun off the roof.

Even so, the house would get warm inside in the summer. My mother had kind of a crazy system for regulating the indoor temperature. She always woke up early anyway, and when she got up -- when the house was still filled with cool night air -- she would close the windows almost all the way. Then she'd run fans to keep the air circulating. Between all that and the tree canopy, the temperature inside the house stayed almost tolerable until mid-afternoon or so -- at which point the outside temperature would begin to drop, so Mom would open the windows again.

Her system never worked for me. As a night person, I always get up too late. By the time I've rolled out of bed, it's already starting to warm up outside. My own system involves turning on the fans full blast and hoping for the best. And if it's really awful, I'll go to the lake for a swim.

I took the photo up top last summer at Stop 39, the beach that's closest to our house. About those stops: My parents told me there used to be a bus that ran along Lake Shore Drive from Michigan City, Indiana, to New Buffalo, Michigan. But at some point, a storm washed out a chunk of the road. So now Lake Shore Drive only goes to Stop 41 and there's no bus service at all to my old neighborhood.

Anyway, I never knew how spoiled I was, growing up with a beach so close by, until I went swimming in the Atlantic for the first time. To me, as a kid, a crowded beach was one where seven or eight families had their groups of towels laid out; it was never so bad that you were jockeying for enough real estate to put down a single towel, the way it can be at the ocean. Of course, the beaches in our neighborhood have no parking nearby, so it's just the locals. That cuts down on the crowding quite a bit.

I played a little fast and loose with the facts in Seasons of the Fool when I gave Dave a summer job as a lifeguard. It's been decades since any of the villages in Michiana have hired any. Which is kind of surprising, and dangerous, because riptides do happen in Lake Michigan. We learned as kids not to go in the water when a rip current is present -- but not everybody knows that, or knows that if you get caught in one, you should swim along with the current and eventually it will take you to shore. (That's your public service announcement for today. You're welcome.)

All good things must come to an end -- including summer, and this series of blog posts, and the Kindle Scout nomination period for Seasons of the Fool. We've got just another couple of days for folks to vote for the book. If you want a free copy, now's your chance to get in line for one -- and if you know someone else who would enjoy it, please let them know to click here and vote!

I'll keep everybody posted on the outcome via Facebook and Twitter. (Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed....)

The Rafflecopter will wrap up at the same time as the Kindle Scout nominations do -- so now's the time to enter. Up for grabs is a Kindle Fire HD6 in your choice of color. Rafflecopter doesn't play well with Internet Exploder, so if you're having trouble with the form, try it in another browser (either Firefox or Chrome or something). Good luck! And please tell your friends!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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