Well-Laid Plans and Best Intentions

Early morning near Susanville,California - Oct. 3 ,2016 - bruce witzel photo

You may be asking yourself: What became of the road trip you invited us on? Life does interfere in my well-laid plans and best intentions. While contemplating a trip or in the early days of high enthusiasm, it’s easy to forget how tiring travel can be. The endings of each day get pushed later and later with the pursuit of things that must be experienced. Wi-fi connections are not always what one would like. Living in the moment soon takes precedence over everything else.

And then, to our great surprise and horror, Bruce and I succumbed to a nasty bit of traveller’s tummy. We can’t pinpoint exactly what was to blame but we have our suspicions. Bruce recovered after thirty-six hours but I took a full seventy-two hours to feel half-way normal and I still need to follow that acronym for the bland diet – BRAT – bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast. Not exactly what one looks forward to on a travelling holiday.

So, I didn’t blog any of the great travel stories I wanted to. We are on Day 14 and I have a long list of blog topics with not much writing to show for the constant barrage of ideas that come to me as I see new things and meet interesting people.

I’m guessing now the highlights of this trip will be shared after the fact but rest assured, those blogs to come will be worth waiting for.  Here is just a small taste.

Sand Mountain (2) Nevada - bruce witzel photo

This is a shot of Sand Mountain located on the loneliest highway in America which runs from Fallon Nevada to Ely. The native people compared the shifting dune to a large snake constantly slithering towards its hole in the desert floor. And they spoke of how, if you listened very carefully, you could hear that snake hissing.

The Silver Terrace Cemetery in Virginia City, Nevada

Silver Terrace Cemetery

Virginia City, Nevada is quite the place. The area’s history as an old west mining town has been used to turn the town into a tourist mecca. I’m betting that most people who visit are interested in the main street of funky western shops, bars and eateries. Well, we aren’t most travellers. We choose a quiet walk around the Silver Terrace Cemetery and we did not feel we had missed out on a thing.

Here is what I picked up from one of the informative signs. Established in 1867, the thirty-acre cemetery was once fully irrigated and sustained a wide variety of non-indigenous flowering plants and trees. A stroll through the shady, rose scented paths tapped into the senses in a transformative way. I was surprised to learn that these early cemeteries were so beautiful and inviting that they became the forerunners of the public parks system in America.

Rose bud at Silver Terrace Cemetery

Silver Terrace is an American West collective memory. Filled with symbols that emphasized a belief in everlasting life, a stroll through the cemetery immerses one in a socially infused cultural landscape.

Angel grave stone

These grounds was once described as the loveliest place of burial in Nevada. Not so anymore. A vast majority of the grave markers have been stolen or vandalized. In 2005, such theft became a crime in the state of Nevada and the cemetery is now remotely monitored twenty-four hours a day. This has served to halt the devastation.

Silver Terrace Cemetery - Virginia City, Nevada

I was taken by the sadness of this stone – baby Horace lived only one month and died on the same day my daughter was born – albeit one-hundred and eight years before!

Child's grave stone

I wondered about Mary Jane Simpson. Was she actually a mule or just a woman who could be mulish when it suited her.

Mary Simpson

And what more can be said of James F. Brown from Ireland but that after life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well. May we all be immortalized with such simple yet significant words.

James F. Brown grave stone

Day Three and Making Peace with the GPS

Road shot

Day three on the road and we have made peace with the GPS. We purchased it for a trip in 2012 and barely used it. We are old-school and we like our fold-out paper maps. It does seem a waste not to give the electronic gadgetry at least one more try.

We had a glitch on the I-5 as we tried to get past Seattle in Friday afternoon rush-hour. The GPS kept up a steady patter related to lengthening delays and offered tantalizing changes of route that would save us time. Finally, we gave in to the temptation. Four changes later and desperate to find a bathroom in the middle of nowhere, we truly considered throwing the GPS out the nearest window. Well, as my daughter said when I told her of our mishap – oh my, never leave the I-5. Words to live by.

So, imagine how surprised we were to discover, over the last two days, how useful the GPS can be. I can monitor when major turns and route changes will occur. As the directionally challenged navigator, I don’t want to be caught napping in the passenger seat.

Drum roll, please. Travel update:

By the end of our first day on the road, we had only made our way as far as Centralia, Washington. That rush hour traffic and those GPS induced detours really set us back. No worries – most of day one is always spent getting off Vancouver Island!

Crooked River Gorge



Day two we headed toward Bend, Oregon. Travelled the Mount Hood highway and had a picnic lunch at the Crooked River Gorge in Peter Ogden State Park. Bungee Jumping was possible but, as my granddaughter Britney often says – I’m just not ready.





Bungee Jumping at Crooked River

I took particular interest in the sign warning of the danger to dogs. Short of throwing your dog’s favourite toy over the concrete barrier, I’m not sure why a dog would do what the dog on this sign is doing. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

Watch your dogs at Crooked River Viewpoint

By mid-afternoon we were in Bend to enjoy the downtown Fall Festival with a delightful variety of vendors and musicians. Did I mention, they had Blackberry Cider. Very tasty.

They have Blackberry Cider

Band at the Bend Fall Festival

We lucked into seeing a whole hour of Tom Vandenavond with Larry and His Flask! Vandenavond is billed as part John Prine and a bit Mark Twain. He sang a song – How the West was Lost – inspired by his reading of Dee Browne’s book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The lyrics nearly made me weep. Well done, Tom! I’m feeling certain that Alexander is going to travel to Bend, Oregon in my next Crater Lake book and he’ll hear Tom singing that song.

Outback Scenic Highway


This morning we headed out along the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. Well worth the time. I love the high desert sights and smells. The scrub brush rolls out across the landscape like a wave of muted yellows, golds and greys. The pungent smell of the sage brush is something I would never get tired of breathing.



High Desert scrub brush

Outback of Oregon

Had a quick stop at Summer Lake Hot Springs. The setting is rustic and that high desert wind sure whistled through the boards of the old barn that houses the pool. Interesting experience.


We’ve parked ourselves at the Super 8 in Susanville, California for the night and are glad to kick back with a tall glass of wine and a couple of slices of pizza. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Rainbows, anyone?

Rainbow on the Outback Scenic hwy - Oregon

On the Road Again

Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana - bruce witzel photo

I recently wrote a blog entitled – What kind of a traveller are you? I lauded the many opportunities a trip provides for a tried and true writer’s way to fill the time – people watching. I’ll soon be at that pursuit again, folks.

Bruce and I are in the process of turning our entire home upside down in order to prepare for an extended car trip to points afar. We love the car trips. There is an exhilarating freedom that comes from packing up a vehicle that one could never experience with a mere suitcase. Of course, this freedom can lead to excess.

If there’s one chance in a million we might need it – sure, throw it in! We excel at this type of thinking. We won’t leave home without a very large unopened jar of peanut butter stowed away somewhere. No way we’ll risk the chance of being stranded without a good source of high calorie protein. You just never know!


We are constantly tuned to arranging the many items in our car in such a way that laying our hands on what we need will be as painless as possible. It takes a few days on the road for true organization to emerge – setting up a roadside picnic in a matter of moments, laying our hands on bathing suits and towels for that wonderful hot springs stop we can’t miss, finding the essential electronics when we stop for the day. But no sooner do we get into the swing of things than the early starts and late stops take their toil on our organizational skills – meagre at the best of times. The well placed suitcases, coolers and organized shopping bags start to shift. Travel guides for the day’s miles to cover and sights to see go astray, a precious chunk of cheese gets lost in the melting ice at the bottom of the cooler, and though I packed at least twenty-five hair ties, the one that is left can’t be found. All part of the joy of a road trip.

Watch for my posts as we travel the scenic byways. We’ll be in the RAV4 with all our gear perfectly organized. Not! My plan is to post every second day, keeping it short – highlights and a couple of photos. Feel free to follow along – we all love a caravan.


The Light Never Lies – 2nd Book in the Crater Lake Series – Free for Four Days

Revised -Light Never Lies FINAL COVER (2)

Rated 4.8/5 stars on Amazon, the second book in the Crater Lake Series – The Light Never Lies – will be FREE from Sunday the 18th to Wednesday the 21st of September.

Book Description:

As circumstances spiral out of control, Lisa-Marie is desperate to return to Crater Lake. The young girl’s resolve is strengthened when she learns that Justin Roberts is headed there for a summer job at the local sawmill. Her sudden appearance causes turmoil. The mere sight of Lisa-Marie upsets the relationship Liam Collins has with trauma counsellor, Izzy Montgomery. All he wants to do is love Izzy, putter in the garden and mind the chickens. Bethany struggles with her own issues as Beulah hits a brick wall in her efforts to keep the organic bakery and her own life running smoothly. A native elder and a young boy who possesses a rare gift show up seeking family. A mystery writer arrives to rent the guest cabin and a former client returns looking for Izzy’s help. Life is never dull for those who live on the secluded shores of Crater Lake. Set against the backdrop of Northern Vancouver Island, The Light Never Lies is a story of heartbreaking need and desperate measures. People grapple with the loss of cherished ideals to discover that love comes through the unique family ties they create as they go.

Take a look at what recent reviewers have to say about The Light Never Lies:

Continuation of a Great Story – I enjoyed the first book in the Crater Lake series so much that I immediately bought and read The Light Never Lies. It was as compelling as the first of the series. Sometimes I read books that are so special that I know that I will someday read them again. This series falls into that category.

I ordered this book as soon as I had finished the first book in the Crater Lake series. With unexpected plot twists and the introduction of new characters, The Light Never Lies is an enthralling sequel to Francis Guenette’s Disappearing in Plain Sight. The characters and their stories have remained with me for many weeks now, and I’m one who usually forgets the character’s names as soon as I finish a book. I’m looking forward to the third installment in the series.

Even Better Than the First – A terrific follow-up to the first book in the Crater Lake series. I immersed myself in this story with the feeling of coming home. It features a diverse ensemble cast of characters coping with a wide range of life’s problems, and Guenette handles each issue with care and sensitivity. Beautiful description of the fictional setting and distinct characters who feel like old friends are some of its many strengths. A highly enjoyable summer read reminiscent of Susan Wiggs’s Lakeshore Chronicles.

Every bit as good as Disappearing in Plain Sight – The Light Never Lies brought me right back into the fold of characters I have come to love! Just as much wit and insight as the first book with a bit more action & intrigue. Fabulous read, incredibly good writing.

I felt like all the characters in this series were family or good friends. I was “right at home” and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. Highly recommended for all.

Love this book! I love this series! It is interwoven with real life drama. I’ve devoured the books! GOOD read Ms. Guenette!

The characters are so real and believable! Everyone should read the whole series!

Captain Hardy's - LNL

Take this opportunity to read the second book in the Crater Lake Series – FREE.




What Type of Traveller Are You?

Flying over Mountains - Guenette photo  (1)

I can tell you the type of traveller I’d like to be. Get up and go with a moment’s notice. Work until the moment I have to leave. Be an organized, unflappable veteran of airport security. Squeeze every drop of life out of a trip and make it all fodder for the creative mill. Return home, get those bags unpacked and be back into the swing of things in no time flat.

Alas, I am far from my dreams. I am the person who sees the departure date looming a couple of weeks ahead and decides there isn’t much point sinking into a project because I’ll just have to pull up short to hit the road. What’s the point of that? I am as far from spontaneous as one can get. Those we know me, know better than to try surprise tactics. I can only hope I don’t look as frazzled standing in airport security as I feel. And it generally takes me a week to ten days to resettle when returning from a trip. I’m like an old dog circling the mat of my life over and over until I’m able to settle back into any type of routine.

Prairie Sky 2 - Guenette photo  (1)

Where I find success is in squeezing every drop of detail out of my experiences. For a writer, this makes the disruption of travelling well worth the effort. I’m good at taking note of details – the look of a prairie sky, the eerie feeling of an empty school yard and a long row of swings totally still in the afternoon heat, the noise a helicopter makes when it lands, what a magpie looks like, two men in conversation at a Tim Horton’s, one rubbing his jaw and saying, “Now, that, what you’re talking about right there … that’ll kill you sure as sure.”

Schoolyard swings - Guenette photo

I love to study people. On my recent trip, a woman at the airport caught me eye.

Short, sculpted, blonde hair, a chiselled jawline and a face dominated by a large mouth and gleaming teeth. I have no idea why but I can’t stop staring at her. She stands ramrod straight – her posture is admirable to the slouches among us. She’s dressed impeccably – heels, black slacks and a clinging, patterned top, the type that has an off-set neckline. The strange lack of symmetry in that throws me off somehow. She reaches casually into her black leather, designer purse and withdraws a small object. It turns out to be a miniature measuring tape. It snakes down to the ground as she goes about measuring the height and width of her carry-on bag. Maybe I don’t travel enough – I’ve never seen anyone do such a thing. I’ve watched people eye their bag up with nervous glances to and from the metal contraption near the gate that defines exactly the size of a carry-on bag. I’ve seen people trying to stick an oversize bag into said contraption, insisting it will fit. I’ve stared with disbelief while a person went so far as to tip the whole contraption over in her desperate efforts. But I’ve never seen anyone actually measure their carry-on bag. The action seems so natural to this woman, so effortless. The tape snaps back in on itself and is tucked away. I stare at her purse and imagine it containing dozens of useful items all stored in well-organized pockets. She can put her fingers on anything she might need. This woman is unflappable, I can’t imagine a scenario that could ruffle her.

And then the writer in me starts imagining …

Helicopter at Auburn Bay - Guenette photo

You put that woman with this helicopter and throw in those swings … those kinds of juxtapositions are bound to make a story.

What sort of a traveller are you?

Prairie Sky - Guenette photo

Marketing Update

Deck flowers - Guenette photo

As many of you who follow my blog know, I stepped up my marketing strategies to promote my self-published novels in March of this year. You can read about what I did and how it worked by checking out the following post: One Month Past BookBub Promotion.

I am five months down the road and the Crater Lake books are selling well. Yippee – happy dance and all of that. But here is the question you might be asking: How has she kept the ball rolling? Before I get to that, I will state two important caveats. My books are selling wildly beyond my expectations when compared with how I was doing prior to my BookBub slot in March. That having been said, my books are not selling at the same level that they did right after the BookBub promotion.

My marketing strategy has consisted of booking free days for Disappearing in Plain Sight every month or so using the KDP Select Program and promoting those free days through various venues. I’ve had different results for the money spent and am happy to share how the cost per free download panned out over the various promotional spots. Number of downloads isn’t the whole story, though. Bumps in Amazon rankings play a role in continued sales.

So here goes. All costs are rounded off and reported in Canadian funds.

In May, I ran two free days of promotion for Disappearing in Plain Sight and advertised via Free Kindle Books and Tips (130.00) and the Book Marketing Tool (20.00). I garnered just over 1000 downloads. This wasn’t enough to make serious moves up the rankings in the Amazon Free Store and I paid approx. 15 cents per download. Costly, but May and June sales of the subsequent books in the series (The Light Never Lies and Chasing Down the Night) definitely showed the halo effect from free downloads of the first book in the series.

In June, I was able to snag a spot on E-Reader News Today (53.00). I booked three free days for Disappearing in Plain Sight and as well as the ENT slot, I used FreeBooksy (82.00). Stacked up 3034 downloads. Three times the downloads for less cost than May’s promotion. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that. FreeBooksy came first, so I was able to make a rough judgement on effect. About 800 downloads for an approx. cost of 10 cents per download. ENT is the best priced option for results. 1800 downloads for an approx. cost of 3 cents per download. Not bad! Plus, rankings moved significantly and led to excellent subsequent sales.

In July, I ran three free days and used FreeBooksy again (82.00), Sweet Free Books (10.00) and Book Sends (34.00). Managed 1337 downloads. FreeBooksy performed as it did in June. Sweet Free Books was a pleasant surprise. I calculated 200 downloads for approx. 5 cents per download. Book Sends came in at about 7 cents per download. Again, rankings rose and subsequent sales over the series continued.

In August, I changed my strategy by listing my newest stand-alone novel, Maelstrom, for a two-day free event and advertised with Sweet Free Books (10.00) and BookSends (67.00). There were 1627 downloads that saw BookSends performing at the 5 cents per download level and Sweet Free Books did better than my use of them in July – getting down to approx. 3 cents per download. My aim with this promotion was to garner reviews for Maelstrom and I am still waiting to see if that occurs. It does take time to read the book!

I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the increased ranking for Maelstrom over the time of the promotion seemed to boost sales on all my books.

I have tried to capture another BookBub slot for the second book in the Crater Lake Series – The Light Never Lies – with no success so far. BookBub and E-Reader News Today continue to be the big performers when it comes to download numbers and because of that, getting in the door is quite the challenge.

My experience with utilizing Amazon’s free days and going with a variety of promotional services has shown me that even on a small budget, I can get results and keep selling over a longer haul.

I hope my experience can be of some use. I’m not saying, go out and do what I have done. The promotion of self-published books has way too many variables for that. The whole process seems to be part experimentation, part experience and part flying by the seat of one’s pants. I used categories specific to my books. Your books may land in categories that are more or less popular. I have promoted the first book in a three book series with the hope of cashing in on the halo effect. You may or may not have a series to promote. Timing may be a factor. I’ve always promoted over a weekend. In the fall, I’ll mix things up a bit and promote during the week.

Back garden - Guenette photo