Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope–Free all Weekend.

Hoping to push this up the line a wee bit with a reblog – Sale ends Sunday, August 31st.

disappearinginplainsight

Final Cover  - Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope

My book of short stories, Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope, including some of my mom’s work as well, is available FREE for the next three days – Friday August 29th through Sunday August 31st on Amazon.

If simply FREE is not enough incentive to get you downloading – please read Roy McCarthy’s review of the work.

Excellent first collection of short stories, May 26, 2014

If FREE plus a thoughtfully, stellar review doesn’t cut it . . . hmmm . . . maybe short stories aren’t your thing. No worries. I write novels, too!

Please feel free to re-blog this post. After all, who doesn’t love a freebie?

Quick tweet (just paste and use – looks like it won’t fit – but it will):

Looking for a quick weekend read? Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope FREE #freebook Aug 28-31 – spread the word http://www.amazon.com/Strands-Sorrow-Threads-Hope-Stories-ebook/dp/B00KJJEP6M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1400959180&sr=1-1&keywords=Strands+of+Sorrow%2C+Threads+of+Hope

Have a…

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Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope–Free all Weekend.

Final Cover  - Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope

My book of short stories, Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope, including some of my mom’s work as well, is available FREE for the next three days – Friday August 29th through Sunday August 31st on Amazon.

If simply FREE is not enough incentive to get you downloading – please read Roy McCarthy’s review of the work.

Excellent first collection of short stories, May 26, 2014

If FREE plus a thoughtfully, stellar review doesn’t cut it . . . hmmm . . . maybe short stories aren’t your thing. No worries. I write novels, too!

Please feel free to re-blog this post. After all, who doesn’t love a freebie?

Quick tweet (just paste and use – looks like it won’t fit – but it will):

Looking for a quick weekend read? Strands of Sorrow, Threads of Hope FREE #freebook Aug 28-31 – spread the word http://www.amazon.com/Strands-Sorrow-Threads-Hope-Stories-ebook/dp/B00KJJEP6M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1400959180&sr=1-1&keywords=Strands+of+Sorrow%2C+Threads+of+Hope

Have a safe and wonderful Labour Day long weekend, everyone.

Back Porch Splendour - Guenette photo

Picking up the Threads

Emma & Brit - Guenette photo

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King tells us that he produces a first draft over the course of one calendar season. We’ve all seen the length of some of his novels and that’s after he’s shaven off about ten percent. To accomplish this type feat, I expect Mr. King is able to stay focused. He probably doesn’t choose summer as his draft writing season while living by a lake, having family and friends visit, tending a garden and attending out of town weddings and fun-filled barbecue weekends.

Leaving the Lake - Guenette photo

Summer visitors have hauled their suitcases up the road. Our extended time of warm weather and bright blue skies seems to be coming to an end as Labour Day approaches. The calendar is blissfully blank. It’s time to pick up the threads of that first draft and get back to work.

My friends, I’m here to tell you, this task is easier said than done. Mr. King is right. Better not to take too many extended breaks while draft writing. I opened up my files yesterday afternoon and they resembled the contents of a knitting basket full of brightly coloured balls of wool after a dozen kittens had done their worst.

Brit - Guenette photo

 

 

So, like any writer worth her salt, I digress from the task at hand. I must write a blog, create a Facebook album of the granddaughters’ visit, update some of my social media sites, make some exciting announcements, clean up the cabin and . . . well, you get the idea.

 

 

I actually do have an exciting announcement. After three months of back and forth negotiation, I have managed to have both my books accepted for sale through a major BC and Alberta grocery chain – Save-On Foods. Trade paperback copies of Disappearing in Plain Sight and The Light Never Lies are now on the shelves of the Campbell River Save-On and will hopefully be showing up in more Island and lower mainland locations soon. Many, many thanks to Sylvia at the Campbell River store for working with me to make this happen.

Save-on foods logo

Lest I be misleading here, I still have to approach each store and ask if they might like to put a few copies on their shelves. I am the vendor of my books. But since I am already in the system, (all tagged and scannable) this task is more easily accomplished.

Emma - Guenette photo

Well, this blog is written, the Facebook album is up, my exciting news is out there and the cabin is clean, well . . . clean enough. Time to get to work on that basket of snarled yarn. As we say in the Twitter-sphere, #amhopeful that I will soon be #amwriting.

Family - Guenette photo

Location, Location, Location–Kristin Anderson’s novel: Green

 

bookcover_GREEN_kindle_versionThis month my location series takes us to the bustling, glittering streets of downtown L.A. and various other spots in Southern California. I hope you’ll help me give a big welcome to Kristin Anderson and her novel, Green.

Before we get to Kristin’s guest post, let’s take a few moments to marvel at her cover design. Lovely – right? As well as intriguing, this cover made me want to read Anderson’s book. Kristin tells of finding the image for her cover and the process of contacting the digital artist and working to fine tune what she knew had to be the cover of her book on her blog – do check out her post.

 

Take it away, Kristin.

During my honeymoon in Italy, we traveled through a series of small northern Italian towns in the off season. When we stepped off the train at the next destination, I announced the name of the city in an effort to gain my bearing.

“Ah. So this is Treviso,” I would say.

“No. We were in Treviso this morning. This is Belluno,” my husband would correct me. He’d been with me long enough to realize I had a little (big) issue with directions; well, with geography in general, but this was a strange step beyond reason even for me. And it kept happening. Why was I constantly referencing backward?

I share this little slice from my honeymoon over a decade ago, as it is directly relates to my author brain and the writing process. Sometimes, you have to leave a place to wake up to its beauty. When I lived on the central coast of California, the layers of mountains, the deep blue Pacific, the chaparral and oak trees lining the mountain trails were a part of my landscape. And I took them for granted. I didn’t notice them, really, any more than I noticed the details on the palm of my hand.

And so is it with my writing process. True, I started my debut novel Green while living in California where it takes place, but the majority of the story was written while living in The Netherlands. Just like that honeymoon train ride so many years ago, I was reflecting backwards, writing about a place where I used to be. Of course, I’ve long forgotten the details of Treviso, Italy, as we were only there for a few days. But I grew up in California and the thirty plus years of impressions that have etched their way into my mind are easily available to draw upon in my writing. And for everything else, there’s Google.

Green is about relationships, but also about the environment. Environmental activism plays a big role in my plot, in character development and in ethical dilemmas that challenge the lead characters. In order to make the character debates realistic, conversations need to be grounded to their location; character backgrounds need to be defined in order for the reader to better understand character development. All of this is related to place.

Downtown L.A. (3) Bruce Witzel photo

For example, my lead character Ellie Ashburn grew up in rural Idaho, but has cast off the benefits of rural life to pursue a career in the big city of Los Angeles. When she goes to a tribal gathering in rural Santa Ynez Valley, California with her new boyfriend Jake, the natural surroundings awaken a part in her she has forgotten.

She felt something loosen inside her as she glanced around at the rolling hills, not a single building in site. Ellie knew she felt at home. A dusting of soil settled into the creases of her crisp white jeans and stickers poked into her rhinestone sandals as if mother earth herself was trying to push the city girl away and bring Ellie back to her humble beginnings.

Todd Anderson - photo (2)

This sense of dusty earth coming up to claim you is something I personally relate to, having grown up in the Santa Ynez Valley of California myself. It doesn’t matter how urban you become; the rural life of your childhood is ingrained within you, and just a little contact can pull you back to your beginnings.

The majority of my novel takes place in urban Los Angeles, and thus many of the settings are in restaurants, clubs and office buildings or the city streets. How do our characters interact with their natural and, in this case, man-made environments and how do these settings inform us about the characters? Consider this passage. Ellie and her best guy friend Arno are attending an environmental art opening at a gallery.

Downtown L.A. - Bruce Witzel photo

Here is what happens when they arrive by car.

They headed to Studio City and pulled up in front of a contemporary building of steel and glass.

“Where’s the valet parking?” he asked an employee.

“There’s only valet parking for bicycles this evening, sir. However, there is a secure automobile lot two blocks away,” the attendant explained, pointing.

“Oh this is going to be interesting,” Arno chuckled as he turned toward Ellie. “You wait here while I go park my evil little gas guzzling Carmengia.”

Clearly the artist was popular as they had to wait in line to get in. When they finally reached the entrance they were greeted by two glamorous women in green sequined dresses with matching stilettos. They handed Arno and Ellie cloth napkins with a forest design signed by Earl Diamond, the artist.

“These are for your use this evening, and yours to keep. This is a waste-free event and Mr. Diamond encourages you to switch from paper to cloth” they chirped in unision.

“I hope there’s t.p in the bathroom,” Ellie whispered to Arno mischievously.

“Multi-purpose cloth in your hand there, dear,” he clamoured.

In this short passage, we learn through their reaction to the setting, that both Ellie and Arno are not entirely comfortable with environmental concepts, and address their discomfort through humour. Although the gallery in Studio City I envisioned is a figment of my imagination, I have been to events that have bicycle valet parking, and have been to a handful of contemporary galleries made of steel and glass, several in Los Angeles. Thus creativity mixes with reality.

Downtown L.A. (2) Bruce Witzel photo

Each location introduced serves a purpose; it is a catalyst to understand characters. And I believe it is best to write about locations with which you personally have experience. My latest work of fiction, an eco-thriller to be released in the summer of 2015, is set in the Netherlands, where I currently reside.

My Review of Green

A 30-something coming-of-age story set in beautiful L.A.

I recommend Green as a coming-of-age story for the 30-something crowd of readers – or those approaching that age range and the life decisions that seem to come with that territory these days. Things have changed a lot since I was thirty, married for several years, raising two children and asking what else life had in store. Thirty is the new twenty, I’ve heard. Young people are using the years from twenty to thirty to exercise their options in everything from careers to relationships and this novel illustrates well the dilemmas faced.  

Upon first blush, Anderson’s main character, Ellie, seems to have it all – a rewarding, upwardly mobile career, looks and fancy clothes, a nice home and the whirl of an exciting social life. And yet she struggles on the edge of knowing that the time has come to make a relationship commitment and reorder her well-constructed life to allow that something more to happen for her.

She meets and falls for Jake, a committed, walk-the-talk environmentalist, a guy who is nothing like anyone else she has ever known. It would seem a true case of opposites attracting as Ellie no more fits into Jake’s world than he fits into hers. The stage is definitely set for a crash or two along the road to true love.

The story is rich with details about L.A. and the surrounding area, the environmentalist movement, going green, and the lifestyles’ of several characters. Anderson’s attention to detail made me feel like I had actually gone to many of the places she describes – be it hikes in the wilderness or desert, gallery openings, fancy restaurants or a perilous bike ride down Sunset Boulevard.

sunset boulevard - yelp.com - John W. photo

My one objection, albeit a small one, is that the characters were a bit too polished perfect – in how the they saw themselves and how the world saw them. I wanted both Ellie and Jake to step of their pedestals now and then – let their hair down so to speak.

You can find, Green on Amazon I recommend you pop over and peruse a few of the twenty reviews. I won’t be surprised if you decide this novel is worth the investment of a few hours of reading time. 

Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Fran reviews A Different Place to Die by RR Gall

I review books now and then over on Rosie Amber’s blog. Pop over and check out what I had to say about R.R. Gall’s novel, A Different Place to Die. I encourage you to wander around Rosie’s blog. Lots of great book reviews and author information.

Rosie Amber

Today we have a book review from Fran. She blogs at https://disappearinginplainsight.com/

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Fran chose to read  “A different Place to Die” by RR Gall.

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Here is the review.

4 star Amazon Review – A Different Place to Die by R.R. Gall

Quirky Glasgow Investigators in a Mystery that Twists and Turns

The first thing to hook me in R.R. Gall’s mystery/thriller, A Different Place to Die, was the characters. From the start, it is obvious Inspector Tom Quiss is struggling with his work. He thinks of just jacking his job in and taking up lawn bowling with dreams of playing on the Scottish National Team – even though he has never played on a team. The way he seeks escape makes him the type of character a reader can bond with.

The author’s descriptions of the man are fresh and catch the reader’s imagination. “Quiss has become slightly more…

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Should Indie Authors Pay for Promotional Services?

Lacy Hydrangea - Guenette photo

Everything I’ve experienced over the last two years has convinced me that Linda Gillard’s thoughts on how indie authors should self-promote is the best advice on the topic anywhere out in cyberspace.

Linda is featured today on The Alliance of Independent Author’s website. Please check out what she has to say.

What really stands out for me about Linda’s post is her focus on readers over sales. She is determined to win readers, one by one.

Over the weekend, Bruce and I attended a social event – a picnic with interesting people, stunning views and great food. Among this group were at least a half dozen people who had read my books, loved them and told me how much they were looking forward to the next in the series. I thanked one woman for her kind words and she said, “No, thank you. You’ve given us hours and hours of enjoyment.” Wow! You can imagine how those words made me feel.

If I took a poll among a number of struggling indie authors, asking the question – what would you rather do, interact with readers or check out your sale stats – the answer would be overwhelmingly for interacting with readers. It’s a no-brainer. One activity makes us feel good about being writers and the other makes us feel, most days, like failures.

I know I don’t speak for everyone. There are indie authors out there who chuckle gleefully every time they check their stats as the Amazon graphs peak up and up and the money rolls in. But I’m not as naïve as I was when I started out on the path of self-publishing. I fell for the claim that all I needed to do was shell out the money for the latest how-to book and I would see similar sales. The whole indie author advice industry is costly and most people dishing out the secrets to success have a stake in the dollars we might spend.

Then, along comes an author like Ms. Gillard who has been at the self-publishing game for years and she says don’t spend money on expensive promotions. Be in this for the long haul. Cultivate your readership. Give those readers a reason for sticking with you. Keep them interested in your books and yourself.

I’ve wasted money going down the wrong paths on this self-publishing journey. I’ve squandered more than a few opportunities to be with readers and do the type of promotion that matters. And I’ve allowed a lot of useless social media activities to eat up my writing time.

Older and wiser and turning over a new leaf – though I must be honest, here – this isn’t the first time I’ve heard Ms. Gillard’s advice or written about it. Third time’s the charm.

Get back to basics.

I’m writing the next book. Yippee for me! 65,000 words in, I’m dealing with a few first draft issues but going strong.

I have my stash of quality postcards, bookmarks and business cards – now all I have to do is remember to take them along with me and give them out.

I’ll keep this blog going because the writing I do here is a means of interacting with readers as well as creating a valuable dialogue among other writers – who, by the way, are also readers. 

Port McNeill Harbour - Guenette photo

Let’s get a dialogue going on this topic. What do you think of Ms. Gillard’s advice? What have you learned along the way about how to self-promote? What would you do differently now that you are older and wiser?

Gatekeeper or Gateway–What Kind of an Educator Are You?

Closed Gate - Google images

I read a blog post awhile back now on, Whisks & Words. The blogger is writing about her experience of two different types of educators – the gatekeepers and the gateways. This is a bit of what appeared in the post:

Gate-keepers make it hard for students to succeed . . . Their reasons are varied, but their mission is clear: none shall enter without my permission. Want my permission? A lot of people do. And a lot of people get disappointed. But gateways… they’re different. Gateways see success not so much as a fortress to be guarded but as a destination to be gotten to. And they can help you get there.

The idea of educators as gatekeepers or gateways resonated with me. If I was to come up with one word to describe my varied career endeavours, it would be the word educator.

When I taught undergrad courses I was required to define my philosophy of teaching for my CV. Doing this was an excellent exercise in getting down to the nuts and bolts of why I thought I could stand in front of a classroom full of students and imagine what I had to say mattered (on a good day), or that I even had any right to say anything at all (on an average day).

Here is a small excerpt from how I defined my philosophy of teaching

My approach to teaching is grounded in a strong emphasis on narrative. When students focus on story – their own and other’s – I believe the opportunity for depth learning is present. I have been influenced by the work of Paulo Freire and the stress he places on entering into a partnership with students. Students are not empty bank accounts into which I deposit my knowledge. It is only in partnership that we create meaning. I learn as much from students as they learn from me. Authentic thinking will take place in a climate of trust. I work hard to create this climate. I strongly believe in a model of ongoing and cascading mentorship across various levels of learning and expertise. I put this concept into practice in all my work with students. I also enact this philosophy in my openness to collaboration with other instructors and the sharing of teaching resources and ideas.

I’ve always tried to be a gateway teacher. It is the idea of acting as a gateway to learning that has made it possible for an introvert like myself to stand in front of a classroom of students for three hours. Believe me, it was going to be a collaborative, shared learning experience or it wasn’t going to be at all.

Where did this philosophy and commitment come from? I was fortunate, at an early stage in the formation of my educator identity, to be exposed to a certain model of teaching. We sat in a circle, we shared our own story, we listened to other people’s stories, we were helped to connect the concepts we were trying to grasp to our own life experience. This model was drawn from the basics of liberation theology. These experiences of learning were life altering.

Open Gate - Google images

Like so many of us, I’ve had both types of teachers – those who held me back and those who gave me wings. Last night I sent an email to a very dear friend. I explained the concept of gatekeeper and gateway educators. I told her how she had always been a gateway for me. I told her that I am surprised now, that after she had read earlier versions of Disappearing in Plain Sight, she hadn’t just thrown her hands up in hopelessness at my idea of ever being a published author. I’m amazed she didn’t say, “Look, Fran, don’t quit your day job.” Assuming of course I had a day job. But she didn’t do anything like that. She encouraged me through each draft and every attempt I made to improve and strengthen my writing. Through each round of edits, this dear friend found what could be complimented in my writing and gently pointed out what needed to be changed. In every way she sent the message – keep at it, don’t give up, you can do this. I am in awe of this woman and I hope she got that message when she read my meandering email.

Miranda Bailley - Google Images

 

So – each one, teach one – I got that line from Miranda Bailey in Gray’s Anatomy. If you’ve had a gateway teacher in your life then go out and emulate that experience. Together we’ll squeeze all the gatekeepers right out of education.

 

(This is another in my series of resurrected posts from the past. Still needed editing – oh woe is me – but not as much as the last one. We live and learn.)

Facebook: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Clint Eastwood - Google images

I’ve been on Facebook for years and I must say, it’s definitely a mixed bag when it comes to enjoyment. Here are a few of the types of posts that get my proverbial goat:

Facebook adHow to write a book in a weekend and turn it into an Amazon bestseller – oh come on! Give me a break, Facebook Sponsored Ad. Why not just reach through my computer and slap me in the face.

Candy Crush logo

Invitations to play Candy Crush – leave me alone, please. I am not a fan of that deep, nightmare voice that says, “Yummy” all the time.

Diary with lock - Google imageAnything to do with anyone’s sexual desires – especially if it involves firefighters. People, people – think! Social media is not the same as that chunky diary you used to have with the little lock and key that you hid under your mattress.

 

Cheesecake photos of any guy without his shirt off – unless of course you know this guy personally and let’s face it, most of those guys we wouldn’t even ask to take their shirts off let alone put their pic up on Facebook.

Large happy face - google images     Large sad face - Google images

You’re on top of the moon happy one day and angrier, sadder, or madder than you’ve ever been in your life the next – and all over the same person or event. Unless of course you are newly fallen in love, planning a wedding or any other major event, pregnant, a new mom or dad, nursing, experiencing a major life transition, the partner of a recently retired person, on holidays, starting a new job, in school of any kind, decreasing your food intake for some reason, just starting an exercise regime, having to clean your room, house, car, motorhome, or clearly diagnosed with a mental illness of some sort.

I’ll take in stride all the pictures of your cat (or dog) doing cute (or at least you thought so at the time!) things, the monthly shots of your extending pregnant stomach, pictures of what you ate for lunch, endless inspirational quotes, links to so-so YouTube videos and a whole lot more of the minutia of everyday life.

And you know why? Because here are the things I love about Facebook:

Matt's birthday

Photos of you and your family or friends doing interesting things. (Oh, heck – even not so interesting things.) Happy Birthday, Matt! (Don’t get me wrong, I loved this one!)

Prairies - Bruce Witzel photo

Photos of beautiful places and things – I know, I know . . . beauty is in the eye of the beholder but still . . .

Updates that tell me something neat about you, your family, friends or events.

Announcements about cool things happening in your community.

Links to articles, blogs and videos that you found valuable for whatever reason.

Oh crap . . .

Funny cartoons.

Great recipes. I found one the other day for watermelon and feta cheese salad. Delicious.

Leonardo - Guenette photo

I’m off now to post a photo of our old cat, Leonardo. He’s gone now but was cute in the day. That counts, right? Please let me know how you define the good, the bad and the ugly of Facebook.

Summer Wedding Anyone?

Maranda & Jon's wedding - Bruce Witzel photo

Ah, summer. The living is easy and the wedding bells are ringing. Over the past weekend we were privileged to attend our niece’s wedding. The thing about a niece, as opposed to say a son or daughter, is that one gets to simply show up at the wedding and have all the fun without any of the stress or work. Sure can’t complain about that.

Maranda and Jon chose a British Columbia Provincial Park right on the Pacific Ocean as the place to exchange their vows. Couldn’t have been a better choice for the photographers in the crowd.

Bridesmaids & flower girls - Bruce Witzel photo

And lucky us – we got to see three other nieces all prettied up as part of the wedding party.

Maranda & Rick - Bruce Witzel photo

I distinctly heard the bride say to my brother, Rick – Okay, let’s do this!

Maranda & Jon - Bruce Witzel photo

Maranda and Jon wrote their own vows and I’m telling you, there was hardly a dry eye on the beach.

Maranda, Jon & Malakai - Bruce Witzel photo

Looks like this little guy wasn’t happy with the lengthy photo session. Hang in there, Malachi. Congratulations Jon and Maranda – we wish you many, many wonderful years ahead.

Jade & Alexis - Bruce Witzel photo

Two of the prettiest flower girls any wedding could boast of.

Now, to be sure, the pictures of the wedding are stunning. But this wouldn’t be much of a post if it weren’t about something more than my summer social calendar. I would like to share with you something special about our niece and highlight an important cause at the same time. Maranda is a strong, young woman with a social conscience that has made us very proud.

Butterflies in Spirit Dance Troupe

Maranda, is part of a dance troupe called Butterflies in Spirit. This troupe was originally formed for a one-time only performance on a downtown street in Vancouver. It was a way for several young women to raise awareness about the outrageous and systematic victimization of Aboriginal Women in Canada. Check out Amnesty International’s Report entitled – Stolen Sisters – for more information on the plight of Aboriginal women in Canada.

The founding member of the dance troupe, Lorelei Williams, spoke at Maranda’s wedding reception. She told us how she put out a call for others to join her as part of Butterflies in Spirit and Maranda showed up the first night. She praised our niece’s dedication to the group. She told of a performance in Edmonton where Maranda insisted on being part of the dance even though she was very pregnant with Malachi. Check out the YouTube video  Now, that’s dedication! 

Let us not forget the missing women, their families and friends. Let us always thirst for justice in this cause. Let us search and search for as long as it takes until the world knows what happened to each and every one of these missing women.

Ghost Dance

You don’t stand a chance

Against my prayers

You don’t stand a chance

Against my love

They outlawed the ghost dance

But we shall live again.

(Robbie Robertson/Jim Wilson)