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, October 19, 2014

Catfish, anyone?

We'll get to our top story in a moment. But first, the news!

The Land Sea Sky Trilogy is free through tomorrow at Amazon. Thanks to everybody who has downloaded it already -- you're all my new best friends. And a note to those who don't have a Kindle: if you'd like to read the series, drop me an email or leave a comment here at the blog, and I'll do my best to fix you up.

Also, watch this space next week for some very interesting news about Seasons of the Fool. I'd tell you now, but...well...aieee...no. No. Next week. Come back then.

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Since becoming an indie author, I have learned many new things. One of them is a new definition for catfish.

Back when I lived in Huntington, WV, the only kind of catfish I knew about was the kind that lives deep in rivers and streams. They eat the junk on the bottoms of such waterways (which is not always the healthiest stuff -- hence, the term bottom-feeder). Catfish also taste good, or so I've been told. I don't think I've ever tried one.

Anyway, thanks to the advent of teh intarwebz, catfishing has taken on a whole new definition. According to the Urban Dictionary: "A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they're not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances." Or, apparently, to post book reviews.

This is not to be confused with an internet troll, who purposely posts incendiary statements to get people riled up. And it's also not the same as a stalker, which is defined, in internet terms, pretty much the way it is in real life.

I'm making the distinction among these terms for a reason. This week, an article popped up in the book section at The Guardian by a trad-pubbed YA author named Kathleen Hale. In her article, Hale admits to stalking a reader who left her a one-star review. At first, she simply checked her Twitter feed obsessively for tweets from the woman. But eventually Hale went so far as to contact the woman repeatedly by phone, and even -- creeper alert! -- traveled to her house to confront her. (The confrontation apparently didn't happen; no one answered the door, so Hale left a book on her doorstep. The book was Anna Quindlen's A Short Guide to a Happy Life, a copy of which, Hale said, she just happened to have in her purse.)

The story takes a side trip to "Stop the Goodreads Bullies" Land. Hale says she landed on their list of Badly Behaving Authors simply by writing about tough subjects in her book. But she also makes an oblique reference to having responded to the one-star review, and to being attacked online thereafter. She appears to use this as justification for her subsequent behavior.

I was not involved in any way, shape, or form with any of this; I am simply an outside observer who is coming to the whole thing very late in the game. But these, for me, are the takeaway points:

1. Reviews are for readers. Reviewers are (ideally) giving their honest opinion of the book. Some readers look at the one-star ratings first, because the reviewer's deal-breaker might be a deal-maker for the reader. As the author, yes, it sucks to get a one-star review. But the smart author either reads them, takes any honest criticism to heart, and uses it to do better next time; or doesn't read them at all. The last thing an author should do is respond to a bad review. (In fact, I make a point of not responding to reviews at all. It's not that I don't love the good ones -- I do! and I'm grateful for them! -- but I just think it's best to leave the reviewers to their reviewing and to keep my mouth shut.)

2. Using an alias online is not a crime. In some instances, it's necessary -- just as it's prudent for some authors to use a pen name. The use of an alias doesn't make you a catfish, even if you use that alias to post pictures of pets you don't actually own and vacations you haven't actually taken.

3. Stalking is never okay. No justification for it will ever pass muster.

4. Maybe I'm cynical. But it occurs to me that Hale writes fiction -- dark comedy, according to the blurb for her novel -- and so there's an outside chance that she meant for her tale to be darkly humorous, and perhaps not completely factual.

Moreover, her article appeared just as we're beginning the run-up to the big holiday book-buying season. Coincidence?

I really hope that's what's behind this -- that it's either an attempt at humor that fell flat, or a bald grab for eyeballs for Hale and her book. Because the only other alternative I can think of is that the author has some personal issues. And if that's the case, then I hope her publisher is getting her some help.

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

WFC dreaming, or: the weekend I was nearly famous.

We'll get to our post in a moment. But first, the news:

  • The Land, Sea, Sky Trilogy is now live at Amazon. This omnibus edition includes a new author's note and the first chapter of Seized, just in case readers get to the end of the book and want to know why Antonia treats Naomi like a rock star. If you enjoyed the Land, Sea, Sky books -- or if you have been meaning to get around to reading them -- now's your chance. And not that I'm encouraging anyone to wait...but starting this Thursday, the omnibus will be on sale for 99 cents. I hope you'll check it out, and tell all your friends, too.
  • The fractal jaguar is having his moment in the sun this weekend. The book trailer for Fissured is featured at Indies Unlimited today. Click through if you haven't seen it -- or, heck, if you'd like to see it again.
  • I received an e-mail this week from the organizers of this year's World Fantasy Convention, notifying me that "A Man's Got to Do What a Man's Got to Do" has been selected for inclusion in Unconventional Fantasy: A Celebration of Forty Years of the World Fantasy Convention. The anthology will be recorded on a thumb drive and given to everyone who attends the convention next month. I happen to know that a whole bunch of my fantasy-author heroes also have pieces in this anthology, so I am fairly giddy about being included. 
Which segues nicely into this week's post, in which I reprise (with a tweak or two) a thing I wrote for Indies Unlimited a few weeks ago.

***
I don’t mean to brag, but I had 850 people show up at my first book signing.
Okay, they might have been there to see Gene Wolfe, or Stephen R. Donaldson, or Elizabeth Bear, or Peter Straub, or Patricia McKillip, or…well, you get the idea. But I was there, too!
“There” was the 2010 World Fantasy Convention, in Columbus, Ohio. This annual convention travels to various venues around the world – last year’s was in Brighton, England – and is geared toward speculative fiction in general and fantasy in particular. Membership is capped at 850, and many of the attendees are authors, agents, and editors.
Watchers with SRD in 2010.
I went with some friends from Kevinswatch, and we all went because Donaldson was going to be there. But one of the questions on the sign-up form was, “Are you an author?” This was right after Calderwood Books had published The Maidens' War, so I checked “yes” and put in the Calderwood Books website since I hadn't really started blogging yet. Not only did the WFC organizers believe me, but they put me on a panel. And they let me sign books with the big guys on Friday night.
I've mentioned the mass autographing session here at hearth/myth before. It's a World Fantasy Convention tradition, and it’s pretty crazy. They set up long tables in a ballroom-sized conference room, and they give you a table tent with your name on it. Seating is first-come, first-served, and the lines to get a popular author to sign books can be long. When Neil Gaiman was an honoree in San Diego in 2011, the line to see him wrapped around the ballroom. There were, in fact, so many people in line that he couldn't get to everybody; the convention organizers had to set up a second signing later in the weekend just for him.
Then there are the dealers, who set up outside the room with crates of unsigned books and send runners with stacks of books into the autographing session. The runners stand in the lines, get the books signed, and bring them back to the dealers – who, of course, charge more for autographed books.
There was no line in front of my table, alas, and none of the runners had The Maidens' War in their stack. But my friends gathered around my table, had me sign their copies, and chatted as if I was an actual somebody. One of my buddies even took my picture as I signed his book. I caught at least one passer-by eyeing my table tent to try to figure out who the author was who had attracted such a crowd.
It was really hard to go back to the day job the following Monday, let me tell you.

I'm not expecting such a rousing success this year. For one thing, I won't be a starry-eyed newbie. Well, okay -- I'll still be starry-eyed (I mean, jeez, Guy Gavriel Kay is a guest of honor!), but at least I won't be a newbie. Still, I'm looking forward to this year's shindig. For one thing, my travel and hotel costs will be minimal, as it's happening ten minutes from my house. For another, I get to be in an anthology with Donaldson. "Nearly famous," indeed!

***
This post originally appeared in a slightly different form at Indies Unlimited.
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These moments of nearly famous blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tapestry.

First, the news:
* Boo! Volume Two is out! I'm honored to be included, as some of my favorite indie authors also have stories in this anthology. Revenge of the Remora is my first-ever vampire story, so please be gentle with me. (It turns out that you can read my whole story via the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon -- but I hope you'll consider buying the book anyhow, because the other 12 stories in the collection are terrific.)
* Humongous thanks to those of you who voted for my covers in the 2014 BookGoodies Cover Contest. I was very excited to learn that Annealed won a Judge's Choice Award. Feel free to head over and take a look at the winners -- there were some beautiful covers in this year's contest.

***
I must have had flash fiction (and knitting) on the brain this afternoon. Before I dove into editing Seasons of the Fool, I found myself dashing off a little something. It may end up in the short story collection I've been mulling over, or it may not. 

Anyway, here it is. I'm calling it Tapestry.

Pschemp via wikimedia commons



This is supposed to be fun.

She stared, disconsolate, at the more-or-less even stitches pooling in her lap. This was her first attempt at knitting a garment. She intended to make something she could wear to work, so she had chosen smooth, black yarn in a fine gauge. The clerk in the yarn shop had persuaded her to pick a simple pattern; “elegant,” the woman had called it, with a bit of interesting detail at the neckline that the clerk assured her would be well within her capabilities as a beginning knitter. 

But she was nowhere near the neckline yet. Not even close. Oh, the bottom ribbing had been kind of interesting (*knit, purl, repeat from *) but she had completed that ages ago. Now she was into what a more accomplished friend called the boring torso: nothing but knit stitches, around and around, seemingly forever.

The pattern called for twenty-one inches of boring torso.

She measured her knitting again. Still just five inches! How could that be? She was sure she had done at least two rounds since the last time she measured. Shouldn’t she have gained a quarter-inch, at least?

She’d picked black because she wore a lot of black. She wanted to look professional at work. Professional, yet sophisticated. Elegant. 

That shop clerk must have had her pegged in about half a second.

She’d never get to twenty-one inches. She’d stab herself in the eye first. Or maybe she’d go back to the shop and stab that clerk in the eye. Now there was an idea with promise.

She wrinkled her nose and cast about for a less violent form of salvation. Her eyes landed on a bag of yarn in the corner, and lit up.

In her first flush of enthusiasm over her new hobby, she had gone a little crazy at her local yarn shop. Colors, textures, weights had meant nothing to her; she had just picked out any yarn that spoke to her. One skein each. Not nearly enough of anything to make anything from.

But she was pretty sure they would all go with black.

She set her project aside and dumped the bag’s contents on the floor: sapphire blue, rich purple, loamy greenish-brown, vibrant fuschia. A rusty orange-red that had reminded her of autumn leaves. Turquoise as brilliant as a summer sky. 

She greeted the riot of color like an old friend, stroking each skein against her cheek as she sorted them into piles. Choosing five skeins that she thought looked amazing together, she gave the rest a loving pat as she laid them gently back in the bag.

Then she ripped her boring torso back to the ribbing and began again. The resulting sweater might not turn out to be elegant, or even professional. But damn it, it was going to be fun.

*** 
Have a fun week, everybody.

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

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My own Fool's Journey (writing edition).

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been talking about various aspects of my new book, Seasons of the Fool. And in an aside a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that at one point, I embarked on my own Fool's Journey via a series of meditations with the Major Arcana of the Tarot, and that's what convinced me to start writing seriously.

I remembered that comment earlier this week, when my IU pal Laurie Boris talked about her own journey as a writer on her blog. Her post was sparked by a couple of questions Kim Emerson posted in the MasterKoda group on Facebook: Where were you as a writer ten years ago? How about five years ago?

Those questions had made me think, as well. (They made me do math, too -- darn it, Kim!) And I realized how far I've come in the past ten years. So let's set the Wayback Machine to 2004, Sherman....

Ten years ago, I was a single mom with two kids in high school. I had the same day job I have right now -- legal secretary at a big law firm in Washington, DC -- and way more education than anyone should ever need: a journalism degree, a creative writing degree, and a paralegal certificate. And I wasn't using any of it. I'd bailed on broadcast journalism five or six years before. The business had changed a lot since I'd started in it, to the point where there was less of an emphasis on news that mattered and more on news that would boost the ratings. And neither the crazy work hours nor the every-two-years-like-clockwork layoffs were conducive to raising kids.

I wasn't writing any fiction in 2004, either. Right after grad school, I'd tried marketing some of my short stories to various magazines and literary journals, but I didn't get any takers. In hindsight, I can see that the business was in transition (and still is, come to that); mass-market magazines had pretty much stopped publishing fiction, many smaller journals were succumbing to financial pressures, and e-zines weren't a thing yet. It had gotten to the point where your best option for getting published was to show up at writing seminars and schmooze with editors and agents, so they'd recognize your name when you sent them your work. And I had neither the budget nor the time for that sort of thing (see "single mom," above).

But by 2009, things were very different. I'd had two short stories published by Calderwood Press and was putting the finishing touches on The Maidens' War, which Calderwood published later that year. What had happened in the interim?

For one thing, my kids were both away at college, which freed up a lot of my time. For another, we published the Kevinswatch anthologies in 2006-07; for the first time in years, I was writing fiction again -- and I was writing fantasy, instead of trying to shoehorn my style into realistic fiction. I met Joy Calderwood at the Watch. E-publishing was becoming a thing. And I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2008.

I was beginning to think maybe I ought to do more writing. But it wasn't until I did the Fool's Journey exercise that I committed to it. You see, I'd always been under the impression that you couldn't make a living as a fiction writer. I kept thinking I needed something else to pay the bills. And too, I wanted to "pay it forward" -- to provide some way to help others write, too. So I thought maybe I'd start a writer's retreat B&B, or some kind of office-space-with-daycare facility, or something.

But when I posed the question to the Universe, the answer that came back was that I was supposed to be writing. The Universe wanted me to be a writer. All this other stuff was just a distraction.

So I began to concentrate on writing. Now I've got ten novels published, and another one in the slot. And as for paying it forward, I'm doing that by writing for Indies Unlimited. Funny how things work out, isn't it?

Where do I see myself five years from now, in 2019? If the Universe is kind to me, I'll be making a living from my books; I'll have another 15 novels published then, at my current pace. And in any event, I'll be eligible for early retirement at the end of that year. So one way or another, I'll be on the verge of writing full-time. No fooling.

Where were you ten years ago? And where do you see yourself in five years?

***
This week, I'll be putting the finishing touches on a Land, Sea, Sky omnibus. And come to think of it, it's probably time for another newsletter. Stay tuned....

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