BOOK REVIEW FRIDAY – CHASING DOWN THE NIGHT

It is with great pleasure that I reblog this wonderful review of Chasing Down the Night on P.C. Zick’s blog. She has been good enough to read and review all the books in the Crater Lake Series and her review gives a nice overview of the whole set. Enjoy.

P.C. Zick

CDN (book antiqua) Front Cover 6x9 JPEG Final ProofChasing Down the Night  – Crater Lake Series, Book 3 by Francis Guenette

I’m not usually a reader of novels in a series. That changed when I fell in love with Francis Guenette’s Crater Lake setting and characters. Beginning with the first book in the series, Disappearing in Plain Sight, I settled in with Izzy and Liam, Beulah and Bethany, and all the others, becoming a part of their oddly matched family as much as the stragglers who visit them throughout the three novels.

The injured souls who come to the lake and the camp on Northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, arrive with low expectations, but desperate for some type of healing. In Chasing Down the Night, characters from the first two novels, such as Dylan and Lisa, still need to find some kind of resolution from their past, but the reader is also introduced to three new residents…

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Let it Go, Let it Go

Elsa-frozen-disney - google image

How do you know when it is time to let go? I recently had a most wonderful experience that has helped me answer that question.

Earlier this week, out of the blue or rather from across the lake, the walkie-talkie crackled to life with the words – Are you going to be home this morning? I’m bringing a friend and coming for a visit.

Guests arrived and didn’t leave for hours. The time flew by. I was introduced to a phenomenal woman named Helen, a university instructor from Perth, Australia who teaches new teachers what to expect when they get into the classroom. Helen does ethno-autobiographical research with Aboriginal youth. We wandered the place inside and out as we talked and talked and talked. So much we shared from our academic lives turned out to be common experiences. We finished each other sentences and had profound moments of being brought near to tears while the next second we were bursting into peals of laughter as we pointed at one another and said, “Yes, yes, exactly.”

In conversation with this vibrant, talented woman, I realized that she was here for a reason. Like scales falling from my eyes, I knew it was time. I jumped up and said, “Come and see the books I have.” We trooped upstairs to a large bookshelf filled with numerous expensive, hardcover research books. My passion in research was methodology and I spent lavishly to have my own copies of the books that mattered on the subject. I stood in front of this book shelf with Helen beside me and waved my hand as I said, “Help yourself to anything you can use.”

The look on her face told me everything. She understood exactly what this gift meant. She appreciated what she was seeing and knew what I was giving. It was an electric moment. At first she struggled to choose as the reality of luggage weight restrictions on her return to Australia filled her thoughts. Soon enough, a plan to ship the books was decided upon. Then it was no holds barred as books flew off the shelf and into a large blue tote.

Handbook of Qualitative image coverAt one point, Helen held up Denzin and Lincoln’s huge 3rd volume of the Handbook of Qualitative Research  and said, “Are you sure you won’t want to refer to this again someday?”

I searched for even the slightest sense of regret. I had called that book my bible. It had meant so much to me at one point in my life. I found no regret. The time was right. Through prolonged conversation with Helen, I understood that research methodology is part of me. All I needed to know on the subject was right where it should be – in my mind and in my experience. Keeping a number of large books on a shelf to prove that to myself was no longer necessary.

In all sincerity, I said, “I feel liberated. I can’t tell you how excited I am to give you these books and know that you will actually use them and thereby enrich the influence you have on so many others.”

As Helen and my friend carried the heavy tote of books down the stairs to the beach, I waited for a sense of regret or loss to seep in. Nothing happened. The boat motor roared to life and soon enough my guests were disappearing into the glare off the lake as they zoomed away. Gone, my precious books with them. Still nothing. I continued to feel great and still do days later.

Long story short – I highly recommend openness to those magical moments when letting go is possible. Whether it be material objects, past experiences or emotional baggage – just do it. My hope is that you will feel as great as I did.

Lake visitors - Guenette photo

Freebies to Celebrate My Third Blog Anniversary

Cupcake flower cake - Guenette photo

Today I celebrate my third anniversary as a WordPress blogger. I’ve written 367 posts in that time. I’ve managed to garner almost 2000 followers and I’ve had over 49,000 hits to the blog over that three year period.

The WordPress reminder of this anniversary spurs me on to acknowledge that there is reason to celebrate. This blog and me have come a long way, baby.

I started blogging to create some hype around the publication of my first novel – Disappearing in Plain Sight. The blog has been right along with me through the writing, rewriting and editing of two subsequent novels in the Crater Lake Series – The Light Never Lies and the newly released – Chasing Down the Night. Over time, my little piece of cyberspace has become so much more – a showcase where I’ve featured my grandkids, my travels, and my home. It has turned into a lively archive of my life.

To the many bloggers I’ve followed over the last three years – so many thanks for all the great posts. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve shared in your successes and learned from so many of you.

No celebration would be complete without gifts. If you are new to my blog and haven’t jumped on board to read any of the Crater Lake Books, let me know. Comment below or email me at guenettefrancis@gmail.com – I’ll be pleased to send you a copy of my first book – Disappearing in Plain Sight (either mobi file for your Kindle or epub file). I’m confident that the breath-taking setting and the memorable characters will have you rushing to read the next two books!

146. Brit DPS at the Maple Ridge Dyke

Free Book News Flash – Add a comment that tells me why you’ve followed along with my blog through any portion of the last three years. All commenters names will be dropped in a hat and the winner will receive a softcover copy of the newest book in the Crater Lake Series – Chasing Down the Night.

I’m raising a glass of bubbly muscato – my all-time favourite wine – to offer a toast to all those who have followed along with me on this blogging journey. Whether it be publishing a novel or writing a post, readers make it all worthwhile. Many thanks.

Celebrate - google image

Writing a Series of Stand Alone Novels

  Growth rings on a stump - Matt Keeley photo

Beware of the person of one book – Thomas Aquinas

I was recently honoured (third time, folks!) to be invited to guest post over on P.C. Zick’s blog as part of her Author Wednesday feature.

I doubt Aquinas had authors of book series in mind when he penned the above words but I seem to have derived my raison d’entre from this thought – at least when it comes to writing.

Many thanks to Patricia for inviting me to appear on her wonderful blog. My guest post will delve into a sticky issue. How stand-alone must each book in an ongoing series be?

Windswept clematis - Guenette photo

First off, let us clear up one point. There is a distinct difference between books in a series and serialized books. Each book in a series must be (somewhat) stand-alone. The storylines introduced should be resolved by the last page – at least resolved enough so that even if the author never again laid fingers to the keyboard to continue, all would be well. Fans might be sad but such is life.

Not so with a serial. These books can leave a reader dangling over the verge of a veritable cliff and the authors congratulate themselves on a job well done. The message is clear – buy the next book if you want to know what is going to happen as the train barrels down on beautiful Mary tied to the tracks.

I suppose the most important part of this distinction is that readers know what they’re getting into before they start reading.

A series of novels can be loosely knit together or tightly woven. I see my books as falling close to the tightly woven side of things. Even so, I aim for stand-alone status. A good analogy would be to an ongoing TV series. Viewers coming in at season three or later will have to do a bit of guesswork but a well done TV show will provide enough backstory to keep all who watch in the loop.

Agreement on how much backstory is necessary can be mixed.

After reading Chasing Down the Night, a reader said, “I didn’t have a clue who Tim and Marlene were.” Soon after these characters were mentioned, I included a line that went something like – no wonder Lisa-Marie loved boarding with them when she was in high school. A reader felt sidelined when Brigit comments that Izzy has a lovely daughter and Izzy thinks that she will let that comment slide. Going into book three without having read the second book in the series, Sophie’s parentage is left deliberately vague. This is true to who the characters are; that is the first imperative for the author. And this bit of tension results in a delicious eye-widening when the truth becomes obvious.

Lacy Hydrangea - Guenette photo

Wearing my reader hat, I have often jumped into a series partway through. I enjoy the guessing game tensions that ensue. My curiosity drives me to find out if my suspicions are right by buying and reading earlier volumes. Jamming my author hat on, I am profoundly thankful for reader feedback and take seriously the feedback I receive. The next time I’m back at Crater Lake writing book four, I may decide to add more clues.

To make sense of the third book in my series – Chasing Down the Night – is it necessary to have read the first two? No. My editor and I agree on one point – give only enough information to pique the reader’s interest but tell no more than is required to move this particular story forward. Will a finer understanding of the characters be derived from reading all three books? Definitely.

I don’t guarantee that readers starting the Crater Lake Series at book two or three will enjoy an effortless read but the breadcrumbs laid out along the paths are there. I do promise a story worth the energy it takes to put the puzzle together.

Lamb's ear - Guenette photo

Tell the World You Are a Writer and You Will Begin To Act Like One

Bird in CA - Bruce Witzel photo

Hands, do what you’re bid:

Bring the balloon of the mind

that bellies and drags in the wind

into its narrow shed.

(The Balloon of the Mind by W.B. Yeats)

I’m pleased to share another guest post from my archives. To celebrate the release of Chasing Down the Night, I had the great honour of an invitation to appear on Gwen’s 4 A.M. Writer’s Blog. Here is what I had to say.

Reflective Robin - Guenette photo

In bird by bird, an inspirational gem of a book, author Annie Lamont tells us that when we go out into the world and say we are writers, a cascade of things begin to happen.

I was reminded of Lamont’s words as I read Gwen’s recent post describing how she was pinned to the wall at a local book club when a ‘real’ author put this question to her, “So, you’re the writer. What are you working on?” Though filled with trepidation, Gwen came through with flying colours and discovered people were interested in what she had to say. She tried on the writer identity cloak and it fit just fine.

Getting comfortable with owning up to being a writer is a lengthy process with ill-defined signposts to guide one along the way. I’ve just released my third novel with another due to come out in the fall. I’ve sold a decent number of books, reviews have come in and locally, people I’ve never met act as though they know me. Now, that is a strange experience. My point is that even after all of the above, I hesitate when someone asks, “So, what is it that you do?”

As Gwen discovered, after going out on a limb and admitting that one writes, the invitation to elaborate might be right around the conversational corner. This is far preferable to another possibility – the blank stare. Believe me, that stare is a brutal thing.

I, like Gwen, usually stumble through a couple of incomprehensible lines before I hit my stride and realize that, yes indeed, I do have something to say. I know about my own writing process and talking about the stories I write is not all that difficult. Shutting me up once I get going is a more likely scenario. You can ask my husband, Bruce about that.

Writing is, in so many ways, a terrifying process. I wonder how any of us have the nerve to do it at all let alone own up to that doing. We make things up … or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. The scary little voices in the back of our minds remind us that with every word we write we reveal ourselves more plainly. How could we do anything else? If that doesn’t scare a writer into catatonic silence, I’m not sure what would.

Then we writers must accept that the story we have given so much of ourselves to tell only takes on meaning in the mind of the reader. Interpretation is theirs to give not ours to impose. Out into the world our fragile children wander and they will be judged by whatever lens a particular person brings to the reading.

So, why, you may well ask, do I congratulate Gwen on taking up a writer’s identity? To paraphrase the Bard – if it were to be done, then better it be done quickly. Despite the many challenges, the urge to tell stories is so strong that we writers will simply disappear in plain sight if we don’t get on with it. And once we’re on the writing path, the desire to own that reality will come to all of us.

Embrace the inevitable. We only become who we truly are when the eyes of others reflect back to us that reality.

Baby Bird - Guenette photo

Anatomy of a Character Sketch

  Clock Tower

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to guest post over on Jill Weatherholt’s – Pursuing a Passion for Writing – blog. I wrote on the topic of character sketches and I choose to illustrate that concept today with building photos. The idea of creating a character shares some commonalities with building – working from the ground up, planning, careful scaffolding and attention to finishing details. 

Lighthouse - Witzel photo

When it comes to writing a novel, if I have any pearls of wisdom to drop, that string of luminescent beauty would be looped over the neck of how writers get to know their characters. A writer’s relationship with the characters has to go as deep as any connection to family members or BFF’s.

Character sketches are the obvious entry point to this knowing and a physical description is a good place to begin. Not necessarily the most important aspect of the undertaking, but one must start somewhere.

Ruins - Witzel photo

A physical description will naturally branch out and run all over the map – age, work, friends, family, hobbies, affectations, disabilities, talents. Dig a bit deeper and a character’s internal and external motivations begin to emerge. What makes the person tick? What drives this particular character’s actions? What makes him laugh? What makes her cry? Where is anger rooted?

Creating character sketches comes early in my writing process and it’s an exercise in wild writing – a regular free-for-all. I let myself go as I imagine everything I can about a particular character. As creator, I need to know far more about my creations than any reader will ever be subjected to.

Arts & Crafts home - Witzel photo

My daily walks become prime time for carrying out lengthy chats with all my characters. The first person the character interacts with is me. Later, when I’m sure I’m on solid ground with the relationships I have developed, I can begin to hear how they talk to one another. If I have brought the character sketch process to its logical conclusion, dialogue becomes an act of transcription.

Character sketches do not get laid to rest once I start writing the novel. Whenever I find that dialogue is not flowing or something a character is doing is not ringing true, I’m back to the drawing board of that sketch. There is obviously the need to strengthen the relationships if I’m going to hear unique voices, capture that slight waver, hesitation or tone that indicates so much.

Biltmore Hotel - Witzel photo

My books, so far, have revolved around the same group of core characters. As it is in real life, characters must grow. A series is dead in the water if this doesn’t happen. With each new book, character sketches have to be fleshed out to adequately represent the ways in which the characters have changed. Izzy can’t sound the same in book four – happily married to Liam and surrounded by family – as she sounded in book one when she was reeling from Caleb’s death and struggling with loneliness and feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Of course, there are aspects of Izzy’s voice that never change – core personality traits, her wry sense of humour and quick wit. I cherish that continuity as I tune my ear to understanding who this woman is becoming.

Downtown Portland, Oregon - Bruce Witzel photo

A writer sets lives in motion to jostle and collide against one another like so many bumper cars at an amusement park. A character sketch is the living, breathing document that keeps track of the results.