Maelstrom–An Exercise in Collaborative Writing

Our inmost souls encircled - Bruce Witzel photo

Perhaps I should have signed up for NaNoWriMo this year. My work-in-progress, a collaboration with my dead mother’s unpublished novel – Maelstrom – has taken off. Over the last week I have written 4000 to 5000 words a day. This morning I woke up knowing I’d have to pace myself if I’m not to run out of steam before the end.

I am currently twenty-nine chapters in and sitting at 133,000 words. My detailed outline says I’ll wrap it all up in forty chapters and hopefully come in under 150,000 words. Remember – this is my first draft of the collaborative work! There will be much trimming and refining to go before this book sees the light of day. But it has already waited, hidden away in boxes and shunted from pillar to post, for decades. Another year on the drawing board won’t hurt.

Trumpeter Swans - Charles Brandt

The way in which the process of writing this draft has evolved may be of interest to some. It fascinates me. This is how it has gone, so far.

First step: I did a detailed read through of the 2500 plus pages of what my mother had written, making notes as I went – my immediate reactions, frustrations, moments of poignancy, alternate storylines, and parts of the manuscript that I believe should never see the light of day.

Second step: I created a tentative outline.

Third step: Working through sections of the manuscript, I use post-it-notes to mark the pieces of the original work I will rewrite. At the same time, I create a list of sections, pieces and transitions that I will need to write from scratch.

Fourth step: This is definitely the fun part. I write and I write and I write, weaving together parts of my mother’s story with my own ideas and style. I have ahh moments as I come across pages of her writing that I simply must have. Then there is the slash and burn times when other pages hit the cutting room floor and I whisper to myself – sorry Mom, sorry.

Turkey Vulture[ - by Charles A.E. Brandt

(Me, the turkey vulture, chomping away at my mother’s work.)

After a read through of the first sixteen chapters, this is a portion of the feedback I received from my first reader/editor:

The story is hard-hitting and gripping. I was hooked from the beginning and I experienced intense feelings of anger and powerlessness, sadness and empathy, upset and revulsion. I could picture the people, scenes and events so clearly that they ran like a film in my head. In fact, at some point I actually thought that this book would make a good movie. It is action-packed; it evokes strong emotions; and it demands a just denouement. The characters come to life. They are complex individuals who tug at my heartstrings at the same time that they irritate and frustrate me. They are all caught in a system that controls their lives; they don’t like it, but they can’t do anything about it. The title – Maelstrom – says it all. They are swept up in a whirlpool and the reader gets drawn into it as well.

To say I was thrilled with her initial reactions would be an understatement indeed. Happy dance, happy dance!

I predict, that with another ten days of intense labour, the first draft will reach that magical – The End – moment. But those ten days won’t be in a row – this is where the pacing comes in. I have to guard my own energy levels to get through the climax. But, if all goes well, this draft will be in the drawer percolating before I break for Christmas festivities. And when I come back to writing in 2015 it will be full steam ahead with the third novel in the Crater Lake Series – Chasing Down the Night (cue the drumroll) working towards a June release date. I hope to return to second draft writing on Maelstrom as I work through final edits and formatting on Chasing Down the Night. The juries out on how that type of multi-tasking will work but rest assured, my blog followers will be the first to hear.

Violet!oilmultiplex - Bruce Witzel photo

The Alliance of Independent Authors Produce an Ethical Author Code

Alli Ethical Author Campaign

I want to spread the word today about the Alliance of Independent Author’s Ethical Author Code. The word author being defined as any writer who has published a long-form work of fiction or non-fiction, either via a trade publisher or self-publishing platform.

Here’s what the code is all about.

Guiding principle: Putting the reader first

When I market my books, I put my readers first. This means that I don’t engage in any practices that have the effect of misleading the readers/buyers of my books. I behave professionally online and offline when it comes to the following practices in my writing life:

Courtesy

I behave with courtesy and respect toward readers, other authors, reviewers and industry professionals such as agents and publishers. If I find myself in disagreement, I focus on issues rather than airing grievances or complaints in the press or online, or engaging in personal attacks of any kind.

Aliases

I do not hide behind an alias to boost my own sales or damage the sales or reputation of another person. If I adopt a pen name for legitimate reasons, I use it consistently and carefully.

Reviewing and Rating books

I do not review or rate my own or another author’s books in any way that misleads or deceives the reader. I am transparent about my relationships with other authors when reviewing their books.

I am transparent about any reciprocal reviewing arrangements, and avoid any practices that result in the reader being deceived.

Reacting to reviews

I do not react to any book review by harassing the reviewer, getting a third party to harass the reviewer, or making any form of intrusive contact with the reviewer. If I’ve been the subject of a personal attack in a review, I respond in a way that is consistent with professional behaviour.

Book Promotions

I do not promote my books by making false statements about, for example, their position on bestseller lists, or consent to anyone else promoting them for me in a misleading manner.

Plagiarism

I know that plagiarism is a serious matter, and I don’t intentionally try to pass off another writer’s words as my own.

Financial ethics

In my business dealings as an author, I make every effort to be accurate and prompt with payments and financial calculations. If I make a financial error, I remedy it as soon as it’s brought to my notice.

Responsibility

I take responsibility for how my books are sold and marketed. If I realise anyone is acting against the spirit or letter of this Code on my behalf, I will refer them to this Code and ask them to modify their behaviour.

I’m definitely signing on – taking the pledge, so to speak and I thought my own readers might be interested in how a group of independent authors has gone about defining for themselves what constitutes ethical practice. Bravo and kudos to all who worked on such a straightforward and comprehensive document

The campaign has its own hastag #ethicalauthor and, if you’re interested in signing on, you can download code for a nice graphic that you can display on your own social media sites. I’ll be putting mine up on the sidebar of my main blog page soon – well, as soon as I remember how.

Working at Simplicity

Fran - Kootenay Lake Ferry - Witzel photo

I’m coming out of a dreadful few days of flu-like symptoms and a throat so sore I had to psych myself up to swallow. I’m still feeling as though I got hit by a bus with the body aches but I am up, dressed and back to writing today and that feels like a major accomplishment.

All that being said, days of being knocked flat tends to put me in a reflective state of mind. Have you ever noticed that when you are sick, the world becomes very small? The aches and pains and discomfort can consume one’s time and energy to the point that not much else matters. But there’s also a simplicity to it all. Every day pursuits must slip away as one focuses on the all-important task of getting better. Sipping a hot cup of tea becomes akin to winning a lottery. The taste of soothing, comfort foods or the cuddly quality of flannel sheets is enough to make one cry for gratitude.

And then the morning comes when you wake up and the world has rushed back in – you’ve started to get better and life once more expands to include current events, the pursuits of others and your own work. You didn’t see it coming. A part of you thought you’d be sick forever.

This morning I woke up and remembered the long list of tasks I set myself to complete upon returning from my time away. I realize I am woefully behind on most. The cabin is tidy enough, though (to my eye) it misses some of my own brand of tender loving care. The weather, after days of rain, has become our version of fall perfection – slipping down near zero at night only to give way to glorious sunshine, blue skies and warm afternoons – and I haven’t been outside in days. Letters that I want to write remain as only passing thoughts in my head.

For one quick moment, I craved the simplicity of the past days. Then I shook my head at such a crazy thought. I embrace getting better and am thankful that illness is, for me, a passing thing. But there is a lesson here. Life doesn’t always have to be as complicated as we make it. Maybe, just maybe, we can gain a degree of simplicity without having to be flat on our backs sick. It’s something I’m going to be working on.

Fall Colours in New Denver - Bruce Witzel photo

Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life – John Updike

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home - google images

I got home yesterday after five and a half, jam-packed, fun-filled weeks away. Wow! Settling in and loving the North Island weather – sun for five minutes, rain for five minutes and repeat. I managed a quick walk out when the sun was shining and picked five small zucchini and three jalapeño peppers from the garden. You can’t knock a garden that is still producing in November.

Grizzley bear in Kananaskis Country - Guenette photo

My time away was a veritable cornucopia of experiences and impressions – everything from seeing my first grizzly bear in the wild (though I am a seasoned sighter of black bears, a grizzly is a different kind of thrill) to trick or treating with my granddaughters. Then of course there were the great people met and meals had. It will take me some time in the quiet of my lakeside home to let it all seep in.

Brit is Anna - Witzel photo       Emma is Elsa - Matt Keeley photo

Elsa & Anna find their Olaf - Witzel photo

On the way home, we stopped at Save-On Food in Campbell River and I checked out how Disappearing in Plain Sight and The Light Never Lies look on the bookshelf of a big store – pretty cool. Hope you agree.

Fran & books at Save-On Foods - Witzel photo

Sunday Morning Travelling Gift

Wedge Pond in Kananaskis Country

My husband, Bruce, and I are on a bit of an unplanned journey through beautiful British Columbia and Alberta. On this Sunday morning in Banff, I’m sending off this photo of Wedge Pond and the Rocky Mountains, taken in Kananaskis Country.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while then you know that Bruce is the photographer of our creative, travelling team. He has done me the great honour of saying that this picture (which I took) is the prize-winner for yesterday. I guess I must be learning!

Self-published authors never rest – not even on unplanned holidays. So far, on the trip, I have gifted a copy of Disappearing in Plain Sight to John in New Denver as thanks for an insightful tour of his solar home. I sold a copy to Bruce and Mary, a knowledgeable couple from Calgary who were kind enough to give us all kinds of great tips for the next stage of our trip. We met them in a pull-out yesterday on the Kananaskis Trail. I also gave out one of my cards to a paramedic in Cranbrook. No – I wasn’t in need of medical help at the time – he shared a hot tub with us at the hotel.

Beautiful sights, great food, rest, relaxation, book sales and promotion – this is the life.

Disappearing in Plain Sight by Francis Guenette

francisguenette:

Here’s a review of Disappearing in Plain Sight from one of Rosie’s Book Review Team Members. Many thanks.

Originally posted on My train of thoughts on...:

Disappearing_in_Plain_Sight

The author sent me a copy of this book (mobi format) in exchange for an honest review (member of Rosie’s Book Review Team).

My rating:  5  of  5  stars

Plot
(by Goodreads)

Sixteen-year-old Lisa-Marie has been packed off to spend the summer with her aunt on the isolated shores of Crater Lake. She is drawn to Izzy Montgomery, a gifted trauma counsellor who is struggling through personal and professional challenges. Lisa-Marie also befriends Liam Collins, a man who goes quietly about his life trying to deal with his own secrets and guilt. The arrival of a summer renter for Izzy’s guest cabin is the catalyst for change amongst Crater Lake’s tight knit community. People are forced to grapple with the realities of grief and desire to discover that there are no easy choices – only shades of grey.

Genre:  Fiction, Contemporary

Teaser


“You never know when you might…

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