Grandkids and Greenhouses

Proposed Solar Greenhouse and Shed - by b.witzel

During a recent visit with our grandchildren, Bruce enlisted their help with the foundation for our new solar greenhouse.

Leveling up the foundation - Guenette photo

Bruce is happy to make use of Brit’s levelling skills.

Stuck in the mud - Guenette photo

Oh, oh – stuck in the mud.

Brit in the mud - Guenette photo

Oh, no – fell in the mud.

Greenhouse drilling - Guenette photo

Time to get Emma’s help with some drilling.

King of the mud pile - Guenette photo

Who’s the king of the mud hill?

Pouring concrete - Guenette photo

Emma’s pretty excited about helping with the concrete.

Emma pours concrete - Guenette photo

I know Bruce will be missing his talkative and lively helpers this week but he continues to make progress on his own.

Pony wall in place - b. witzel photo

Who loves a garden [or a grandkid] loves a greenhouse too. (William Cowper)

Country Living

Sunrise silouette from our deck - Bruce Witzel photo

Living in the pristine wilderness with the multi-hued evergreens banking up the mountain slopes and the breathtaking colours of a morning sunrise over a lake glistening and moving gently are joys beyond compare.

Unfortunately, it isn’t all gazing off into the beautiful and wild yonder. We have the occasional mundane thing to deal with. Uninvited guests show up now and then. Though these guests do serve as an important reminder that we are the ones to have taken up shop in their backyard and not vice versa, we still must deal with them.

A friend of mine used to call them wee critters to lessen the shudder factor. It does sound a bit nicer than vermin, for sure. I’m not averse to sharing the news that we are visited by mice now and then. Good grief, a much more famous author than I made word mileage writing about the joys he and his partner experienced while sharing bread crumbs in a country kitchen with a favourite mouse. Oh Timothy Findley, we miss you!

We aren’t quite so friendly with our mice. And that is all I’ll say about that!

Then, of course, there are the bugs. Today, we’re dealing with the Annual March of Ants through various parts of the cabin. Oh joy. I suspect a few of them are beating on huge drums and throwing batons in the air. There even may be a cartwheeler or two amongst them.

Don’t get me started on the family of squirrels that has taken up residence in part of our roof. They at least have a cuteness factor going for them. Every morning they scamper down the cedar shakes and hop, lickety-split across the deck. On their way to work, I suppose. Come evening, they repeat the trek in reverse. I have caught myself occasionally trying to capture their antics with my camera. Something I have yet to consider when it comes to mice or ants. Currently, there is peaceful co-existence. We accept the fact that part of our home has become a high-rise for squirrels. They can rest easy until the fateful day when Bruce gets up there to redo the roof. Then it will be back to the trees for them.

Country living – never a dull moment.

Banana Slug - Guenette photo

Hello there, Mr. Banana Slug. Hope you like your reflection.

Daffodil - Guenette photo

Writing Foibles and Personal Word Traps

Google images - binoculars

When the writing muse takes hold and my fingers start moving at lightning speed over the keyboard, I litter the pages with my personal word traps … combinations or single words that I dump into my writing at an alarming rate. I don’t see these repetitions going in and I don’t see them when I do multiple readings. As the perpetrator of these writing foibles, I am utterly blind to their existence.

You can only imagine my joy when I discovered the find function in Word. If you haven’t used this Word function magic – though I suspect I was the last in the world to discover it – you will see it on the upper right hand menu bar beside an icon of binoculars – so fitting!

I’m in the process of editing two novels right now. Yesterday, I plugged in the words – and then – to the find function and no less than one hundred and twenty incidents of using this troublesome combination came up. Another of my foibles is the word just. I sprinkle that word through my work the way a heavy-handed salt lover would dust a plate of fries. And once I get into the editing process, the word is as hard to spot as those individual grains of salt would be.

After going through the editing process with my first two novels and a book of short stories, I believed – quite naively – that I had learned my lesson. The problem words and combinations had been pointed out to be and I had set myself the task of rooting them out. Surely, I would now cease to write in this way. Alas, it is not to be. The find function continues to reveal my personal bug-a-boos.

Since I am probably the only writer guilty of such heavy usage of the find function to locate incidents of – and then, or just – I will share some of the other useful aspects of this word processor miracle. I have a notebook in which I’ve jotted down specific words that constantly trip me up. Things like – roommate is one word; full-time is hyphenated, halfway is one word. All I need do is plug in half way as two words and the find function will instantly alert me to all the times I’ve made this error. I also check my common typos – for example, Crate Lake instead of Crater Lake.

When we get to line-by-ling editing of anything I’ve written, my editor will be thrilled to learn that I have started a new section in my notebook entitled – Find function tasks before sending any portion of this manuscript for editing. The list is long but thankfully Word is fast.

I’ll leave you today with a small section of Chasing Down the Night – the third book in the Crater Lake Series, coming out in late spring of this year! Editor input made this passage smooth as a stone polished by the waves of millennium and nary a just or and then to be had.

Izzy stared out the window to the harbour. Sunshine danced above the surface of the choppy water and glinted off the metal of the boats jostling against the dock. The bright white bodies and yellow beaks of seagulls stood out against the clear blue sky as they swooped and set up a raucous cacophony of sound. Beyond the tightly-packed pleasure boats, the fishing fleet was coming in. Grey, hulking seiners lumbered past the breakwater towards the commercial wharf. Hemmed in by massive creosoted pilings, the wide structure dwarfed the vehicles and people that moved about on it like so many colourful playthings being pushed around on a toy room floor. The already noisy harbour was suddenly dominated by the roar of a seaplane. Wide pontoons skimmed the waves before the plane lifted into the air on wings buffeted to and fro by the wind.

Dock - Guenette photo

What’s in a Name?

Stained glass depiction of Salmon in Columbia River - Kootenay National Park Visitor Centre - Francis Guenette photo

So much to learn, so little time. As I edit the third and the plan the fourth novel in the Crater Lake series, I have come to the conclusion that naming characters has more to it than I realized at the start of my fiction writing days. Looking back, I have no idea how the characters in Disappearing in Plain Sight got their names. Where did Beulah come from? I have never met or heard of anyone named Beulah. The group of people who came to life in my first novel seemed to have arrived in my head with names.

I don’t necessarily advocate such an approach as I sit and ponder passages where I have Beulah, Bethany and Brigit at one table and Jeremy, Justin and Jesse all showing up in the same scene. I only wish my son had asked me sooner, “What is with all the names starting with B and J?” But the dye was cast, or the cast was cast … I was already into the second novel in the series and stuck with all the names from the first.

That doesn’t excuse Brigit, a character in the third novel, Chasing Down the Night. I definitely know better. But Brigit is Brigit and, strangely enough, she resists the urge to be called anything else and cares little that she must exist alongside of a Beulah and a Bethany.

I was shocked to realize, as I worked on the initial drafts of Maelstrom (my mother’s unpublished manuscript that I am making my own) that there were two characters named Chuck. Shocked, not because my mother had stepped into such a writer faux pas but because I was into a third draft of my reworked version before I noticed.

When making a conscious choice for a character’s name, I have resorted to strange rituals. Here’s a good one – I open up my twitter feed, scroll down and grab a first name and then scroll a bit further and grab a last name. I’ve deliberately chosen names I liked and names I didn’t like. I’ve plucked a last name from a family friend and a first name from the air. I’ve thumbed through the phone book – oh, come on now, you do so remember what a phone book is. I’ve checked out Google lists of common and uncommon surnames as well as popular girls and boys names by birth year.

If you are a fan of literary fiction (and, seriously, who isn’t? But we’ll put that debate aside for now) you’ll know that authors can put a great deal of thought and effort into naming characters. A reader can burrow down through layers and layers of meaning pondering a single character’s name. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m sure Joseph Conrad put some thought into giving names to Marlow and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. And if you come across a modern-day novel (or TV series) that has a character named Kurtz and one named Marlowe, rest assured, the writer plans for you to float down a metaphorical river that takes you into a heart of darkness.

Or perhaps he or she simply used the twitter feed method of character naming or thumbed through the phone book.

If you write and are willing, tell us one of your preferred methods of coming up with a character name. If you’re a reader, tell us what gets your goat when it comes to how authors name their characters.

First daffodil at Winter Harbour - Mar. 2, 2015 - bruce witzel photo

To Share or Not to Share?

Bruce Witzel photo

I’m guest posting over on the Alliance of Independent Authors Self-Publishing Advice Blog today. My topic is the sometimes tricky issue of sharing our manuscripts with the significant others in our lives.

Please pop over and check it out.  How to Share Your Manuscript with Your Partner.

Assisted Self-Publishing or Not–Final Thoughts

Gallery - Phoenix - Bruce Witzel photo

At the risk of being boring …. ah, well, I’ll take the chance. I’d like to share a couple of final thoughts on the whole re-release process for Disappearing in Plain Sight.

Reviews from the previous edition ….

I am pleased to report that all the wonderful four and five star reviews Disappearing in Plain Sight has received over the last two years have tagged along to the new edition and this has happened on all Amazon sites. The trick is to keep the exact title and author. As well, one must make no significant changes to the body of the work. I had worried that adding Crater Lake Series – Book One to the title might equal change but it didn’t. I was able to change publication date, ISBN and the publisher and still keep my precious reviews.

Like most things – the process was less painful than I anticipated ….

  • The assisted self-publisher threw up no roadblocks when it came to letting me go.
  • Preparing the final Word document/manuscript of Disappearing in Plain Sight for my e-formatter amounted to more than a few hours of work but I have some experience with what is required after having gone twice through the drill.
  • Obtaining an ISBN in Canada is easy and free.
  • When one has properly formatted mobi and ePub files, a cover than meets specifications and all other relevant information (ISBN, publisher name, book blurb, categories, tags, price) – putting the book up for sale on most sites is very quick.

Advantages of re-gaining control of the first book in the Crater Lake Series … Huge!

  • I was able to make it clear that Disappearing in Plain Sight is the first book of a series.
  • I included a sneak-peak preview of Chapter One of The Light Never Lies at the end of the e-book to push sales further down the line of the series.
  • I can now track sales hourly (if I was so crazy as to try!) on all books rather than having to wait a month after any sale to see how Disappearing in Plain Sight was doing.
  • I can set the price and I can change it if I so desire.
  • When the Crater Lake Series is complete, I will have the option to release all the books as a boxed set. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without control of the first book in the series.
  • My royalty is fifty cents more per e-book sale. That is significant on a product that sells for $3.99.

Work left to do ….

I am currently formatting for the softcover edition through CreateSpace. This is a time consuming task and I take it a bit at a time. We must redesign the cover to include the Huckleberry Haven Publishing logo and to indicate the book is part of the Crater Lake Series. I’m awaiting final approval to be entered into Smashwords Premium Catalogue which will mean the new edition of Disappearing in Plain Sight will be available for Nook readers and through the iTunes Store. A similar process is ongoing for entry into the Kobo Store. I’m slowly but surely rooting out non-working links to the old distribution channels on all social media sites and replacing them with the new links.

Final Word ….

Take the plunge. If you went the assisted self-publisher route and now feel the need to regain control – go for it. Hopefully, you’ll feel as I do at the end of the process – glad. And if you’re wavering about going it on your own or using an assisted self-publisher, I say take the leap over the cliff on your own. That way you won’t have to back track later.

Yosemite - Bruce Witzel photo