My book display.
Cathy Hester Seckman joined me on Saturday!
Some of my handspun yarn Gathered Scarves on display on Friday.
Yes, more of George. This is early August 2018, at the St. Vitus BIG Festival. And George is about to discover MEATBALLS!
On July 1, 2019, seven Lawrence County parishes became one new parish: Holy Spirit. So the 2019 St. Vitus Festival became the Holy Spirit Festival. On November 22nd & 23rd, the St. Vitus School Christmas Festival will be held at a new location: the Parish Center, corner of North & Beaver Streets, Downtown New Castle. It's now called the Holy Spirit Parish Christmas Festival, but St. Vitus School will have their famous meatballs, and I will take some home to George.
I will be one of the vendors at the Festival, selling and signing my books, and Cathy Seckman will be joining me on Saturday. That's also the day of the big Holiday Parade to open New Castle's Christmas Season. See you there! And who knows, maybe you'll see George too!
I will be signing my books there Friday, November 22nd and Saturday, November 23rd, in the Parish Center, corner of North & Beaver Streets, downtown New Castle, PA. St. Vitus School has just announced that they will be selling their fantastic cavatelli & meatballs at the Festival, Take Out or Eat In. This is very good news, because my boy George LOVES those meatballs! The St. Vitus Parish Festival was the first place I took him after I brought him home July 21, 2018--the Festival started August 4th. And George had his first meatball!
This is George. George Arthur Harry Romeo. George is an English Shepherd, AKA the Farm Collie. A non AKC breed as the Border Collie used to be. I got George a year ago July, after my last rough coat white collie, Misty, passed. Can't believe I waited this long to tell you about him! (And it's thanks to Judith Sutherland, columnist for Farm & Dairy, that I know about English Shepherds--she has written about many of her dogs in her column, and I knew I had to seek one out.)
George for the patron saint of England, Arthur because, well, Arthur!, Harry for my grandfather, and Romeo was his litter name. George was bred in Ohio by Martins of Dry Creek. He was the last of 8 to go to a new home. His dad is a black & tan, his mom is a black and white. My George is an urban farm dog, and doing great! He goes to the Farmer's Market regularly, and moved a flock of Canada geese out of there without losing a single feather. In fact, he did not even bark, and I'm not sure he saw the geese--we exited the car and the geese put their heads down and quick-marched to the creek. What a dog!
In my mom's attic. I made this in the mid 1970s. A Stuffed Unicorn!
By way of saying, I will be signing Thistledown at the Holy Spirit Parish Christmas Festival, Friday, November 22nd and Saturday, November 23rd in The Parish Center, corner of North & Beaver Streets, in the heart of downtown New Castle, PA.
The Christmas Craft Show is in support of St. Vitus School. The Pierogies for sale are made by the parish pinchers. The Nut Roll Sale is by Women of Faith. Local author Cathy Hester Seckman plans to join me on Saturday. She will have Ohio Day Trips with her. I'll have all of my books, but especially Thistledown, the story of an orphaned unicorn.
On Saturday, September 29th, I’ll be signing The Wind-Witch at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark in Kirtland, Ohio (Just outside of Chardon) as a vendor at the Wool Jamboree and Antique Tractor Show. Odd place for a book signing? Well, remember that Druyan is both a spinner and a weaver. And any excuse to spend time at the Farmpark is fine by me! It used to be an Arabian horse farm, and they have horses, border collies—and sheep! And fleeces to sell!
When I was writing Druyan’s story, though, it was a different world. I made my first drop spindle from a crochet hook and part of a wooden stacking toy. My first fiber was hair from our German Shepherd. Then some wool from a sheep named Hildy, a gift from a classmate in a pottery class. There was no on-line shopping to put all the world’s fiber at my fingertips—most wool went straight to the Wool Pool. When I managed to buy two fleeces—one white, one dark gray—I had no idea how to clean or store them, so moths got both.
I heard about a spinner’s festival. Bought a proper drop spindle, a set of wool carding combs, and half a Corriedale fleece, labeled “ewe, just had twins.” Discovered the Otter Creek Store, and Handwoven Magazine, and began to learn the ways of fiber. Did a lot of dyeing, using onion skins and walnut hulls and so forth. And sometimes I was given fleece. It’s hard to say no, even when you know the sheep were sheared because they got into burrs and the shearer refused to have anything to do with the fleece. And they were lamb-production sheep anyway, so the fiber was short. But it was wool! And as on-line platforms such as Etsy came into being, I could try small bags of better fleece—which I thought was enough for my needs.
I had finally joined the Canfield Ohio Spinners’ Guild. We were invited to the Wool Festival at the Metroparks Farmpark—if your name was on a guild list, there was no admission fee! There were vendors. There was a whole tent of Farmpark fleeces—I heard the “special” ones went the night before, vendors getting first choice as a perk, but everything they had left was special to me. I bought Jacob, Scottish Blackface, Cheviot, Shetland. I was in hog heaven.
One of those fleeces was labeled “Jake, Jacob wether.” (A wether is a neutered sheep.) I never wanted to spin anything else—I dyed Jake’s fleece with Rit Evening Blue and spun in sparkles from Buffalo Snow. I dyed Jake with Kool-Aid. But Pete, the Jacob ram Jake was a babysitter/companion for had nice fleece too. I met both these boys, even helped shear Pete once at the demo—one clip, just so I could say I did it! Then I picked up a huge fleece marked “finn” which turned out to be from Chevy, Pete’s successor as a ram. Over 12 pounds, super long staple, spins like a dream. My choice for Spinzilla, last year and this.
Now, what sort of sheep would Druyan run at Splaine Garth? At the time, I knew so little of sheep, I barely thought about it. As I reflect now, I suspect she’d be into Romneys. After all, Splaine Garth is a marsh!
The Wind-Witch returns to print and e-books!
Warp and weft must cross, or there’s no cloth…
The orderly threads of Druyan’s life are dyed the colors of duty and obedience: to father, mother, family, husband, custom. So she does not whistle up the wind, though she knows she has the gift. So she pretends that Valadan is only an old black horse, not the fabled Warhorse of Esdragon her grandfather Leith rode. She marries a farmer, and weaves fine cloth from the wool of his sheep.
Now a wild thread intrudes into the tapestry of Druyan’s quiet life: raiders from across the Great Sea, pillaging the towns of the Duchy of Esdragon, make her a widow. One raider, captive, offers the chance to save all she holds dear—her farm at Splaine Garth and the lives on it, her freedom from forced re-marriage, the land of Esdragon itself. But Kellis is a tangled thread of secrets, guilt and enchantment, not to be trusted.
Druyan has spent her life doing what others said was right. Now, obedience may cost dear. Storm winds will come to her call—but will she dare what she must, to save Esdragon?
This is the book that made the Long List for the Tiptree Award, in 1993. I only heard about that late in 2017, when someone googled me and mentioned it offhandedly. At the time it first came out, there was no social media, and few reviews of genre books. I knew it got at least five printings, but I really had no idea whether anyone was reading it, liked it. It still went out of print, despite having the best cover art of any of my Del Rey books—I saw the original Don Maitz painting in the World Fantasy Art Show, and was appropriately blown away. It’s the book I’d be happiest to live in, myself.
I really didn’t think I was doing anything unusual—or Tiptree-worthy—when I created Druyan. I have always had female characters who respond strongly to being told what to do: Elisena in Wizard’s Destiny simply lifts her chin, and Tristan steps back to watch the show from a safe distance. Lowise in Thistledown cries “No!” and runs away. Kess in The Prince of Ill Luck will cry “No!” and hand you your head. I was very intentional about following up Kessallia with a woman who would have driven Kess absolutely crazy. Druyan, as youngest daughter to her father’s succession of three wives, has always had endless people with the right to order her behavior: father, mother, all of her older brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, husband. “You can’t have that horse.” “Women don’t whistle up a wind.” “Don’t open that root cellar.” “Don’t trust strangers.” Druyan is used to backing down, to saying “yes” when she means “no.” And then…I put her back against the wall. I made her…not Esdragon’s last hope—but the rider of the Warhorse of Esdragon. And I watched with delight to see when she’d finally be forced to say “No!”
I had to recreate a digital file of a book done originally on my IBM Selectric, preparing for the novel’s re-release, and some of the editing is wondering why I didn’t choose this word over that…well, what’s effortless and endless and undo-able on a computer was another thing entirely on a typewritten manuscript. Sometimes it was more. For instance: I could tell that when I wrote The Wind Witch, I had only woven on my Better Homes & Gardens 18” rigid heddle loom, as I had not yet purchased my floor loom, a vintage Union 36 carpet loom. (I call her Penelope, after my favorite mythical weaver. Which makes the rigid heddle, which travels easily, Odysseus, of course.) So I gave Druyan a loom I had seen in the Otter Creek Store, but had certsinly not woven on.
Now, I have much more weaving experience, and any weaving in this book is informed by that. My Union loom is pine or possibly maple. Druyan’s is cherry, and has eight harnesses where my Union has two. That’s why she can weave fancy patterns I can only describe. She has a small wheel for spinning flax and a Walking Wheel for wool-spinning, besides her drop spindles.
I have never actually spun on a wheel, but my drop spindling is worlds beyond what it was in the 1990s. I am a veteran of two Spinzillas now, and have gone from ¾ of a mile spun and plied the first year to a mile and a quarter—the Derby distance—in 2017s week of handspinning. Since discovering the Lake MetroParks FarmPark in Chardon, Ohio, I’ve had access to fleeces of all sorts, which I process and dye and spin. I love spinning Jacob wool, and a Cheviot-cross that’s a new ram for the FarmPark flock. (I just purchased Chevvy's 2018 fleece--all 10.5 pounds of it!)
Remember fidget spinners? Well, my fidget spinner makes yarn!
Well, I get that Amazon’s algorithms don’t know they’re pitching my own book to me when they make recommendations based on what I’ve searched. I buy all of my e-books as soon as I bring them up, and the algorithm doesn’t know I’m the author. But here’s what Amazon doesn’t know: this time I was searching my own book because of this:
You see that? This time, Amazon is telling all potential customers that said book is not available for them to purchase. Sure, it’s probably only on some devices. But that a product shows up as unpurchaseable on any device is appalling. And it’s a horrible business model.
Now, I print trade paperbacks through Amazon Createspace so I’ll have physical copies for book signings and author fairs. I don’t expect massive on-line sales. But I have enabled all the distribution channels—including Amazon—and I’ve enabled the feature that allows customers who buy the paperback to get the e-book at a steep discount. That’s assuming a customer is able to purchase the paperback.
I reached out to Createspace Support, and made them aware of what I was seeing. I wish I could say they expressed concern. Or a desire to correct the issue. Or even acknowledged that there was an issue. I wish.
What sells books? Great writing? An eye-catching cover? Savvy marketing? Search Engine Optimization? Personal appearances?
Any and all. And all can be scuttled in a heartbeat by the device a customer shops with. Who knew?
A fellow writer e-mailed me the other night—she wanted to buy one of my trade paperbacks, and it was showing up as “unavailable.” I use Createspace for the trade paperback, and the books are produced to order, so I was puzzled. I whipped out my Kindle Fire tablet, and sure enough, most of my titles were “unavailable” in trade paperback. Not all, but about half.
I immediately logged on to Createspace, and verified that the titles were live, and the distribution channels included Amazon.com. I needed copies of The Ring of Allaire, so I ordered some. Then I contacted Createspace Support to see what insight they might have.
Support promised to get back to me in one to two business days. (Obviously I am valuable to them. I am an author. I supply them with books. Without authors, they have no product to sell. They’d be reduced to peddling editing and cover creation services.)
While I waited, I plied my laptop to look up my books on Amazon.com. No title was “unavailable.” But to find the trade paperbacks, I might have to click under the Kindle version, where it lists other formats, and click that paperback.
I’d already told my friend about a local shop that had a copy of the book she wanted, but I also relayed the information I’d just gleaned. In a bit under 24 hours, I heard from Createspace Support. They had checked my book, and it was available. Well, that’s such a relief! People can buy my book.
Assuming, that is, that they can find it. And if they’re using a tablet, they may not be able to. (For all I know, that applies to apps too.) When you’re using a tablet, the trade paperback appears to be “unavailable.” And I don’t know about you, but that would stop me cold, as a shopper. Shopping should be easy, not hard. That’s how you get sales.
How many sales might this issue cost an author? No way to know that I can see. Createspace seems unaware of the issue. Haven’t asked Kindle.
Kindle, Createspace and Fire tablets are all bits of Amazon.com. Be nice if they played well together, wouldn’t it? If they don’t, it pretty much defeats any marketing an author might do.
In celebration of Spinzilla, which starts the first week of October, a brief Tristan story with a strong hand-spinning element in it.
The King of Calandra mounted, and settled gently into the saddle. He gathered the crimson-dyed leather reins, and the horse danced under him, eager.
Which way do we go today? Valadan’s eyes sparked garnet and gold.
“If we make for the coast, and follow the shore, do you think we could find Am Islin?” Tristan asked the Warhorse.
The Frozen Sea is frozen no longer. But Valadan set off from Crogen on the instant, and no arrow’s flight was swifter, nor more direct. The countryside, grassland and forest, farmland and water-meadows, fell away behind his heels, until at last he stood upon a tall cliff, sea-breezes stirring his black mane. There was not a drop of sweat on his ebony hide.
Tristan craned over his shoulder, looking down the cliff. “There’s a wide beach, looks as if it runs for leagues. Let’s see if there’s a way down.”
They galloped between sand and surf, with sea birds crying over their heads. And all at once, Tristan spied out a dark speck on the sand ahead of them. Not a tower, no, perhaps a rock, tumbled from the cliffs above. There might be others. He slowed Valadan a touch, then a touch more. They were at a walk when they came up to the woman seated on a lump of smooth white stone at the tide-line. Tristan dismounted and closed the last few yards on his own feet.
“Well met, Lady,” he said to Welslin Amberesdaughter. He wondered if he ought to bow, or drop to his knees, or if there was some more complex reverence properly made to her in days long past. She was spinning thread as she sat there, on a hand-spindle such as Elisena used—but there was no wool in sight, no flax, no reeled silk. Trying to watch closely dizzied him, but it seemed to Tristan that the foam of the waves gathered to her hands, and the sand of the beach swirled up to meet it, and became an endless thread which then flowed off of the spindle once more to lie in shining hanks by her slippered feet.
“I wanted…to thank you, Lady, and Magister Ambere, for your help. The quest is achieved.”
Welslin turned her head to her left. The wind played with her red hair, toyed with the ropes of pearls braided through it, and made a few sea-bird feathers flutter. “We know.”
Tristan looked where she did, and saw a mountain peak in Channadran, a living feather of smoke rising from it. And at its side, a smaller plume—as if the mountain had a child. Not even a hawk had such sight as to see so far into Channadran from the coast, but Tristan knew the truth of what he beheld.
“You have our thanks, as well,” Welslin said, her voice like the rush of waves against the beach, the beach where once a goddess’s heart had been washed ashore, and found, and in the end carried home.
“I thought to find the tower,” Tristan heard himself say. It had stood sentinel, impossible to miss.
“No,” Welslin Amberesdaughter said. She was swinging her spindle as she twirled it, side to side and round and round. Tristan’s sight blurred, and he felt as if he might at any moment topple onto his long nose in the sand.
“No,” he heard her say. “I waited here, for you. Seek not the tower.”
The gulls cried, the wind whistled, the waves sighed regular as a heartbeat. Tristan remembered the stairway, twisting up the tower, as the thread was twisted on the spindle.
Whose thread was she spinning? Tristan wondered. Whose life? He opened his eyes, seeking a clue in the thread or in her flawless face…
There were skeins of white foam on the pale gold sand. The sea was the color of Allaire’s eyes. A smooth rock crouched on the sand, the waves and foam just lapping at it. There was nothing more. No spindle. No woman.
The tide was turning. He and Valadan must go back, plainly the whole beach was within the sea’s reach.
Tristan turned. Something flickered at the edge of his sight. A twist of wind-spun, wind-blown silk was caught on the unicorn buckle that fastened his belt. All the colors of his world were in it.
Tristan waited for it to dissolve back into sea-foam and sand. When it did not, he coiled the hank of silk carefully, and tucked it into the pouch of magic stones that hung always from his belt.
Then he mounted, and rode back to Crogen.
Writer of epic fantasy with a wry twist. Fond of horses, dogs, cats, canaries, falcons and draft cider. Dedicated multi-tasker, I also paint with chalk pastels.